Tag Archives: Critical Thinking

How Can Anyone Be Bored?!

For a long time, I have been amazed at how people ever become bored. It has always puzzled me. My amazement turns to helplessness when I find myself unable to articulate why boredom amazes me. I end up saying something like this: How can ANYONE be bored?!

Then I repeat it: How can anyone be BORED in this life?!
Unfortunately that is neither an argument nor an accurate description of my thoughts. Some, I hope, understand the rhetoric question. Why is it people always claim to be bored when I think there’s far too much to do and too little time. For instance, I am without a job, yet I find there isn’t enough time in a day. On the other hand I find many people (some even work) saying they are bored. Let us assume they are telling the truth and not simply creating small talk. Many that claim to be busy are occupied with attending one ceremony after the other; weddings, parties, awards, etc. Some just spend a large part of their day sleeping or hanging out (gisting, Hira or Majalisa for the Hausas).
I finally got an inspiration on how to go about explaining this Boredom Business. Thank God! I hope this post will shed light on the boredom; how it affects a person, and more details on how it affects a Muslim.

Quadrant of Activities
Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, classifies all human activities in to four categories by determining two things: if they are urgent (or not); and if they are important (or not). The quadrant below shows some activities and the Quadrant they fall under, given their urgency and importance.
SC Quadrants
To make it more relevant to this post, below is a refined version of the quadrant above which attempts to place a typical daily activity in the corresponding quadrant. This are the Quadrants for many Nigerians I know
SC Quadrants Nigeria
The key to understanding this Quadrant and it’s use is by realizing that there is a difference between what is Important and what is Urgent. Urgency is a matter of time; when something needs to be done within a given limited time for it to be effective. Importance on the other hand is less dependent on time but depends on a person’s values; for example for some, Family is important, Friendship, Religious Duties, Ceremonies… have different importance to different people. We shall come back to this issue of Importance.
According to the Stephen Covey, Highly effective people spend most of their time in Quadrant II (Important but not Urgent). As a result, Highly Effective People spend much less time in Quadrant I (Important and Urgent) because they would have prepared for those activities before they become urgent.
It is not difficult to see that many of us spend most of our time in Quadrant III (Not Important but Urgent) and mistakenly think we are doing something important because we mistake Urgency for Importance. When we complain about how “useless” youth appear to be, the youth in question are usually those that spend most (if not all) of their time in Quadrant IV (not Important and not Urgent). Those that tend to spend a lot of their time in Quadrant I (Important and Urgent) appear to be making good use of their time, but according to the Quadrant, they ought to plan more by spending more time in Quadrant II; which will then minimize their time spent in Quadrant I.

Explaining Boredom
The person spending time in Quadrant I calls themselves Busy, and he/she has earned it. The person in Quadrant III thinks themselves Busy, but he/she has misplaced their priorities. The person in Quadrant IV is simply wasting time. The person in Quadrant II is likely a Highly Effective Person.
When a people say they are bored, they most likely mean that they don’t have activities to do in the two Not-Important Quadrants (III & IV). Think about it. When was the last time you complained about being bored when the activities you lacked did not fall in the Quadrants III & IV. On the other hand, having no activity in Quadrant II (activities of Highly Effective People) is not considered Bordom, but rather engaging in Quadrant II is considered Boring to many.

The Way Forward
First you have to clarify your priorities in order to determine what is important and what is not. We will focus on Importance because a person has more control on that, whereas Urgency is a matter of time and a person has less control. One way to minimize being flooded with activities in Quadrant I (Important and Urgent) is to deal with them BEFORE they become urgent (i.e. in Quadrant II).
Let us take a Muslim for Example because I think I have a good idea what a Muslim’s priorities should be (you can try it for other personalities). According to the Qur’an, Man is God’s vicegerent/represetative on earth and so it is upon man to uphold the values expounded in the Quran (Justice, Fairness, Equity), which are built on the five pillars of Islam, and sustained by the five articles of faith. Next to faith, is knowledge! Some Muslim scholars have even argued that there can be no faith without knowledge because the Qur’an constantly invites Man to reason and contemplate; the more knowledgeable a person, the more awe of God through his creations (which is everything).
By knowledge, it does not mean religious knowledge only (as occasionally misunderstood), but EVERY branch of knowledge. Certainly, there is a minimum of religious knowledge which I believe many Muslims lack, and should therefore endeavour to study. It is this minimum that will regulate how one uses any other knowledge they have gained. This minimum involves the discipline to be able to perform basic investigation into the VARIETY of Islam’s positions on matters we do without thinking. Islamic Critical Thinking is needed here.
Given this brief tour into the values of a Muslim, it is unimaginable how a Muslim could ever be bored. Perhaps Muslims are not aware of what a Muslim stands for and what responsibilities God has placed on a Muslim. Remember how the Quran captures the weight of this responsibility when even the “Heavens, the Earth and the Mountains” (Q33:72) refused this burden of responsibility but Man took it. It is not for a Muslim to wait for other Men to acknowledge this responsibility, but to carry it and face the challenges that come with it.
Below is another set of Quadrants very specific to Muslim activities. Quadrant IV has been left for you to fill…
SC Quadrants Muslim
The issue of Boredom then becomes an issue of Prioritizing. Priotitizing means giving activities in each Quadrant what they deserve according to importance to one’s value system. It is said that Luck is when Preparation meets Opportunity. It is time to create your own Luck by preparing (Quadrant II) for an opportunity (Quadrant I).
Let me scare the Muslims reading this a little: Learning (recitation, understanding, using) the Quran, which belongs to Quadrant II (Important and not Urgent), preapres you for your death, which belongs to Quadrant I (Important and Urgent); so be sure to meet death prepared; as a Lucky Man or Highly Effective Muslim.
By referring to the versions of Quadrants above, I hope it is easy now to see how ABSURD it is for a person’s time to be occupied with one ceremony after another, and then even more ABSURD is when that person thinks themselves as Busy. C’mon!

Enthusiasm and The Deflation
Have you ever been inspired to change for the better after attending a program, seminar or an inspirational talk? Did you create a schedule to make yourself a improve? Did you begin you new schedule? If you did, how long were you able to keep up before loosing your momentum?
Like many, if you were not able to sustain your program for self improvement, then it is likely that you mistook Importance for Urgency. You must have thought the improvement important to pursue it in the first place, but you might have also placed it in Quadrant I (Important and Urgent) instead of Quadrant II (Important but not Urgent). The difference is that in Quadrant II, you are more likely to set realistic goals because there is no rush; remember it is not Urgent even though important. That way, activities in Quadrant II become a habit that gradually improves you. And Consistent. This is how one cultivates a reading habit, not by deciding to read too many books within a short time. For the Muslims this is why the Quran asks Muslims to read “as may be easy” (73:20) for them from the Quran so that it becomes consistent, a habit and part of a Muslim.

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Miracle… or Not: Lagos Miracle Baby

                “It is probable that improbable things will occur” – Aristotle

It is amazing how Nigerians gullibly believe miracles of events; too easily if you ask me. It is one thing to believe in miracles (as being possible) but it’s another to believe that just because someone appears to be levitating (flying) that it is a miracle. There are Muslims (perhaps Christians too) who don’t believe in miracles but I am not coming from that angle. I want to address this pernicious and pervasive credulousness that has infested us. The multi-million (Billion) Naira industry of Christian churches that market through miracles is a testament of its viral nature; but there are about 2000 sects of Christian churches in Nigeria so a few are implied here. I hear Lagos state now taxes this religious Market.

The recent headlines, for a few weeks now, has been the birth of a Baby in Lagos miraculously clutching a Quran. You can read the full account here. The jist is that a baby was born to a Christian woman while it was clutching a small Quran. When I read it, I shrugged it off casting my skepticism away especially since I couldn’t see how its truthiness or falsity has a bearing on me as a Muslim. But since then I have met with a number of people who not only believe this story but uses it to affirm their truth for being Muslims. Now that is a problem; even worse than the increasingly vocal ijaz disciples (who use scientific findings not miracles). Before I lose some readers here, let me say I actually believe in Miracles.

                When Sunday Vanguard visited where the baby was kept at 1 Shonde Street,  Ijeshatedo, Surulere,  Lagos, the place had virtually become a tourist centre, with a huge crowd converging to catch a glimpse of the baby. In the crowd were mostly Muslims from different parts of Lagos, chanting “Allahu Akbahu”. – From link above

First let me invoke skeptic thoughts by refering us to some hoax miracles from the past. A simple google search of religious miracles hoax is an entertaining exercise if you have time.

Was it the Quran or the Bible?

I was asked “why wouldn’t the Christians believe this miracle?”, I said it is for the same reason that Muslims gullibly believe it. I’ll explain.

Except for those naturally occurring “miracles” of Arabic names of God (appearing in the sky or shape tree trunk), I think most pro-Muslim and pro-Christian miracle stories are very similar. If we take the Lagos-Miracle-Story and substitute it word-for-word, what will happen; replace pastor with imam, church with mosque and Quran with Bible? Do you think the same believing Muslims will believe the story? Wouldn’t miracle-prone Christians believe it then? Belief in the story has nothing to do with the story but on the components that make the story because both believe they are on the right path to God and find it tasking to question claims about their benevolent God.

If you are interested in the polar reactions from the Muslim and Christian sides click on this link,scroll down and enjoy the comments.

UnSaid Connotations

Story telling is an art. Ask Mark Twain or anyone who enjoys a good novel or anyone who has been conned. It’s amazing how so many miracle-stories have a similar plot; not unlike when Nollywood movies used to always end with a pastor defeating a demon. At times an evil guy is shown a miracle who then repents, other times the evil doer gets punished by that miracle, and other times a nice person is shown a miracle so that they are saved. In the 3 mentioned scenarios, the stories appeal to our emotions of hope, vengeance and mercy respectively. I think the Lagos story can be seen as a story of hope or mercy; depending on a Muslim’s view of Christianity. Here are some interesting excerpts:

                “I repeatedly tried to abort the baby, but, instead, the baby kept  getting stronger by the day, which made me to give up on abortion. Then I started wearing a cross around my waist to protect the baby and myself but the cross kept cutting.” – The Mother

See how this part of the story has basically invalidated Christianity by the overwhelming powers of Islam.

                 “The amazing thing was that the family of Kikelomo is Christian. It shows that we are one from God, but came into the world to choose and go our separate ways.” – Imam of Ramatu Ishamiya Mosque in Ijeshatedo, Lagos

Uncritical Assumptions

We hear that a baby was born “clutching” a Quran. Immediately Muslims assume that is a good thing. This may not be influenced by how the story was narrated because even on reading the headlines, we take it to be something auspicious. Or could it be because it is reminiscent of Prophet Isa’s (Jesus) miracle birth? Aren’t these the same Muslims that see birth fluids as impure? The same ones that wouldn’t dare take the Quran into an impure place (like toilets)? But when the Quran comes out as such, it is a miracle?  I am surprised Muslims haven’t seen this as an insult to the Quran but I guess “miracles” out shadow religious animosity.

Follow Up

Nigeria has a deplorable journalism standard. Journalist copy and paste (make a few edits), are unoriginal and report rumors as a matter of fact. Many newspapers are actually tabloids filled with celebrity gossips/conflict (politicians are the biggest celebrities in Nigeria). In the least, even if they report a story as unsubstantiated, they do it precisely because they know their audience will be captured by such stories. The audience’ brains conveniently leave out the hints that the story’s not confirmed.

Has anyone followed-up the story? Like government contracts, we celebrate their beginnings. Has anyone bothered to investigate the story following a different channel? Has anyone bothered to confirm the “facts” given in the story?

What You Should Know About the Quran

You think the Quran is a Book? Well, not really. It is only a book insofar as a “book” means a revelation (as is used in the Quran). What the world (including Muslims) call the Quran today, is a book (usually paper) in which words of the Quran are recorded. The Quran is a Message and to limit it being a book is a pity.

There is no doubt that the Quran (as recorded during the time of the Prophet) has been preserved uncorrupted (you can ask respectable orientalists too). But copies of the Quran have their peculiarities even though the content is the same word-for-word. The extra-content may differ: page layout, fonts, page numbers, whether every page ends with the end of a verse, format of table of contents, introduction by publisher, extra supplications at the end etc. These peculiarities are usually unique to a geography e.g. Arabian peninsula may favor a different format compared to the Indian sub-continent or Iran-Turkey. There is in fact some (at least four) chapters of the Quran that are known by two names and so different geographies/publishers use one consistently. This can be checked in table of contents easily because the chapter number doesn’t change.

I am interested to know what is the publisher’s address on the first pages of the “miracle” Quran. I will like to know the format: page layout, page numbering, fonts etc. I will especially like to know which chapter-names (for chapters known with more than one name) appear in its table of contents (if it has one). This information is pertinent to any believer of this miracle; it means the format of this “miracle” Quran is the best since the divinity of this cannot be questioned.   Henceforth other formats should be discarded.

In Conclusion

Now whether the woman in the story converts to a Muslim or not is another issue. Even from the popular Muslims’ perspective, her soul is saved. But beyond her soul is the soul of the community which further exacerbates the tension between Islam and Christianity; either by Muslims thinking their superiority has been confirmed by God (if she converts) or that Christians knowingly disregard the true religion. I have heard a couple of stories about converts whose conversion shows no sincerity but exposes them to hands willing to help (economically).

If miracles are the occurrence of known physical laws in an unpredictable manner, then the physicists (second law of thermodynamics) know that miracles are not theoretically impossible only improbable. And thus any sensible person knows to make his plans/predictions/inventions on the highly probable premises.

Like I said in the beginning, I believe in Miracles. But in an age of quick-money schemes and religious hustlers, I reserve my right to be skeptical. If I come off as being insensitive and if any of the details are incorrect, may God forgive me… and you the reader should inform me.  Peace.

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