By Ishaka Mohammed
There is a clause that is capable of solving many problems, but most of us often use it only to defend our flaws. The clause is: Nobody is perfect. Instead of internalising and living with this priceless statement, we tend to remember it only when people criticise our misbehaviour or mistakes. This clause is much more than a defence tool. Its proper use comes with an invaluable gift: open-mindedness.
Almost every time I come across a war of words (especially such that involves religion) between ordinary people on social media, I quickly blame our inability or refusal to listen to alternative views. I find it unfortunate that my guesses regarding such unhealthy behaviour are usually right.
We sometimes hold certain opinions so strongly that every other view becomes repulsive. This is one reason that makes me doubt if I will ever forget the year 2007. It was a time when I realised the danger of obstinacy. I discovered that a single source or person could never attain a true scholarship. Although it is still a work in progress, when I receive an important piece of information from anyone, I try to examine it or consult other sources to confirm its reliability.
I’ll explain my point with a few examples. In my quest to upscale my communicative competence in English, I follow certain scholars online. One of them, a professor of English, once made a social media post about English grammar, and I noticed a “wrong” pattern in the post. In an attempt to know if that was an exception to the general rules, I told him what I knew about the pattern. He never replied; he only liked my comment. If it were today, I would try to ignore his “mistake” because, considering his status, such a question could embarrass him.
Three years later, I bought a book he authored, and I noticed about six “wrong” patterns, including the one I had asked about on social media. Although the book is an interesting read, when a colleague of mine asked how she could get it for her daughter, I discouraged her because I feared that the teenager might internalise some “wrong” patterns.
Much as I would refrain from stating categorically that the prof is completely wrong, all the sources I have consulted, including the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, point to that.
Away from English grammar, there is a renowned Islamic scholar who has been on the international scene for decades. Today, like many other people, he stresses the need to avoid castigating Muslims who try to mend their ways in Ramadan, arguing that the season is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. However, I once heard him criticise the same category of people, calling them Ramadan Muslims (who are disbelievers for 11 months, only to become the most sincere believers in Ramadan). I would say that his earlier statement was either a mistake or due to a gap in his understanding. He is a human being.
In addition, my little exposure has revealed certain mistakes my teachers (from elementary classes to university) made while I was under their tutelage. I have also realised some of my mistakes as a teacher. My students could discover even more.
This discussion points to one fact: Humans are fallible. If you pointed out one perfect human being today, I would argue that you do not know that person. Therefore, it is advisable to tread very carefully in our interactions with human beings. Although I respect my teachers, [religious] scholars and elders, I believe that there is no single person in the world today whose lifestyles are completely worthy of my imitation or whose statements are totally deserving of my adherence. Instead, I strive to expose myself to multiple sources before taking a stand on issues, especially religious ones. It is dangerous to be obsessed with a single scholar because nobody is perfect.
Ishaka Mohammed wrote from Kaduna. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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