The place of knowledge and responsabilities of those who acquire it – Syed Abul Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi

All of us need to read the story below related by the esteemed scholar from the Indian subcontinent Syed Abul Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi from Nadwatul ‘Ulama in Lucknow, India, home of great scholars.

Once, some students were enjoying a ride in a boat. The time was pleasant, the air was cool, and the young men were in high spirits. With the simple- minded boatman, also, being there to serve as a target of fun and entertainment, who could make the students sit quietly ? One of them asked the boatman, “Uncle ! What subjects have you read ?” “I have read nothing,” the boatman replied. The young man sighed, and said, “Oh! Have you not read science ?” “I have not even heard its name,” replied the boatman. “But you must be knowing Geometry and Algebra,” said another young man. “These names, also, are altogether new for me,” came the reply. It was now the turn of the third student to sharpen his wit. “You would have, surely, studied History and Geography,” he said. “Are these the names of men or towns ?” asked the boatman in reply. At it, the boys burst into laughter, and inquired from the boatman what his age was. “Forty years or so,” he said. “You have wasted half of your life and learnt nothing,” remarked the young men. The poor boatman remained silent. Soon afterwards, a storm arose in the river and the boat began to be tossed on unruly waves. Disaster seemed imminent, and the students who had no experience of journey by water felt extremely nervous. They were seized with the fear of their lives. The boatman, then, asked the young- men, with feigned seriousness, what they had learnt. Failing to grasp the real intent of the boatman, the students began to give a long list of subjects that were taught in the colleges. When they had finished, the boatman said with a smile, “You have read all these things. But, tell me, have you, also, learnt swimming ? If, God-forbidding, the boat over-turns, how will you reach the coast ?” “Uncle!” the youngmen replied, “This is the one thing we do not know. We never thought of learning it.” Upon it, the boatman laughed aloud and remarked, “I have wasted half of my life, but you have lost the whole of your lives. Your education is not going to help you in the storm. Only swimming can save you today, and you do not know it,”

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