The Cyclic World

How beautifully a circle gives
the idea of completeness
of each segment
of human-life!

You must have realized that almost all events in our lives keep repeating themselves in a cyclic fashion. The concept of time was probably conceived by the cyclic nature of rising and setting of sun. The primitive people in medieval times observed that a big light source (the sun) appeared from one side of the earth and passing over them slowly went down and disappeared on the other side, putting the world in darkness; and surprisingly appearing again from the opposite side and disappearing again. (It was simply observed then that sun revolved around the earth). The cyclic nature of this phenomenon, of darkness and light, created Day and Night times. A Day was thus defined. As the time passed, and the human minds and thinking grew mature, it was observed and discovered that day, night, months, year, and all weathers repeat themselves exactly in a similar fashion in fixed intervals. It was later discovered that these cyclic appearances of all the above was due to the motions of the heavenly bodies floating in the vast space. After exhaustive space explorations it was further established that these move in their fixed elliptic orbits, following standard Kepler’s Laws of planetary motion. And these move in such a way that there exists a balance or an equilibrium in the universe, a dynamic equilibrium, and their getting out of their orbits (by the will of God) will probably be end of this world.

The huge aura and influence of the heavenly bodies, like sun, moon and the stars in earlier life times was so great that the early humans, probably being scared, worshiped them as heavenly gods. They also associated the movements of these heavenly bodies, not only to affect the physical world activities but also personal lives of people. The effects of the positioning of these heavenly bodies in space and their timings triggered the fortune tellers to try to look into the future of individuals, communities and nations. The rise and fall of nations, war victories and defeats were attributed to the motion of these heavenly bodies. The history says that when the faith of the people got deeply connected with the stars, the concerned nations, their leaders and kings got seriously worried and they put restrictions on scientific and occult study of stars and their connectivity with human lives. So much so that even death sentences were given to people practicing these. Augustus Caesar strongly prohibited the citizens of Rome from acquiring any kind of knowledge of stars, though he would himself ask the future tellers for guidance in his personal life and that of the Roman Empire through the location and motion of stars.

With the passage of time the occult and spiritual sciences were overtaken by more logical and scientifically proven theories. However; those practicing these sciences of heavenly bodies and the astrologists and astronomers in certain regions of the world still believe that the movement of the stars in the vast heavenly space has deep influences on the activities of human life on earth. It must also be known that on molecular and atomic levels a similar orbital system of movements of Micro and Nano-particles (electrons) exists in elements and compounds. Generally speaking nothing in the universe seems to be static; everything is in motion.

All physical world activities around us, whether natural, or man-made mostly occur in cyclic fashion. The water vapours rise from the water streams, rivers, and sea, in the form of clouds. Winds, created by the change in temperatures and pressures, move these clouds to desired places as controlled by the Creator of the worlds. Obeying further scientific principles, rain showers are poured. The rain water, after fulfilling the needs of the human beings and other creations, flowing on the surface of the land and underground water channels falls into the sea again; thus completing a cycle. Coming to the man-made systems, people in science and engineering fields would agree that all control systems follow similar loops. The inputs of the physical world are obtained by sensors. After processing these inputs by computing devices to required form the control algorithms initiate signals for the actuators to send outputs and bring requisite changes in the physical system thus affecting the physical environment. This is how a cycle or a control loop is completed.

Even the human life cycle repeats itself as a child grows into a young man and then enters into old age; and as he leaves this world, a new born takes his place. The new person again passes through the cycle of life, full of hard work, with a chain of unlimited aims and accomplishments, desires, accumulations of all sorts and then leaving the world with nothing in hands. And the life goes on . . . .

In everyday social life many metaphors are used giving concept of loops. Phrases like, circle of friends, and circle of influence, as if there is circle whose centre is the person himself and around him is a circle with a circumference, overlapping the circles of the other people’ lives.

Human life and its mutual relations can be visualized as consisting of many concentric circles around an individual with varying radii. The circle of a newborn or an infant only possesses himself and his mother. As the person grows, this circle widens and his concerns and responsibilities for others also grow on similar lines and more circles are generated. The area in the inner most circle is occupied by the individual himself and his Creator, The God Almighty; next circle generally belongs to him, his parents and his immediate family; further wider circle occupied by him and his extended family. Even bigger circles are occupied by the friends and other professional colleagues. Farther to that is the circle where strangers come in. In the last circle of all reside all the other creations of Allah, besides human beings. This sequence may vary depending upon the closeness of relations. Lives of people in our relatively inner circles are our major responsibilities and the outward you go in circles, lesser are the responsibilities. BUT on the contrary the CONCERN about the people in the farther most circles are more virtuous than that of the inner circles. The amount of overlapping of your circles with others depends upon the closeness of one’s relations with others. These circles of human being change with time, they keep enlarging and reducing and when the person leaves this world this circle is rubbed off.

On moral, ethical, social and religious grounds there are metaphoric circles bounding the humanity by ethics, morality and religion etc., crossing the limits of which is attributed to committing a crime. Referring to great revered poet Dr Allama Iqbal;

صنوبر باغ میں آزاد بھی ہے پا بہ گِل بھی ہے

انہی پابندیوں میں حاصِل، آزادی کو تُو کر لے

(Translation: The oak tree planted in an orchard is free to move in air but its roots are buried and grounded. We need to find and acquire freedom while remaining within in the {moral and ethical} boundaries).

When we talk of circles we need to consider the centre of the circle about which it is drawn. Many of the major religious obligations like Hajj, Umra (The pilgrimage of Muslims) and others’, require from us to move around the Holy Kaaba and around other shrines of other religions and complete some fixed circular motion counts and fulfill our religious obligations. Referring the ideological world of religions, the centre carries huge importance. The spiritual centre of the life activities of Muslims is based on the instruction from Almighty Allah (through the Holy Quran) and the life practices of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Other religious communities and mythologies do have their own centres on which their spiritual life depends.

From the points and concepts mentioned above on the subject it can be appreciated that how beautifully the CIRCLE gives the idea of completeness and compactness of different segments of our life.

Freedom

Even the thoughts of individuals are being controlled and regulated..where is freedom?

Freedom is an innate desire of any living being. If you put a bird in a big cage, it madly flies and strikes the walls of the cage and on finding any opening, frees itself and flies out. Similarly, if you put any wandering dog or a cat in a room it reaches for the door and scratches to open it. Freedom, Liberty, Independence refer to an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights, powers, and legitimate desires, or the like. Without a doubt, everyone supports the concept of freedom.

The word “Freedom” can be viewed from different perspectives. Broadly speaking, freedom can be divided into three major segments, which are, National Freedom, Political Freedom, and Individual Freedom. These three can further be expanded and divided into different parts.
National Freedom is at the highest in hierarchy, which simply means independence of a nation from foreign rule. Almost all nations want independence and are willing to fight for it, even if their own people are corrupt or the leaders are evil. Political Freedom has further divisions, though it literally means the right of citizens to choose their government; but it further goes on to freedom of speech or conscience, freedom of press, etc. Individual Freedom is the most sensitive and most sought for among all other forms; This is further divided into many shades including; individual rights and liberties given in constitutions, religious freedom, freedom to acquire education, children and women rights, rights of minorities etc. It is all about owning one’s life. Sometimes different forms of freedom are combined to name these as collective freedom or social freedom or public freedom. It is because freedom of one individual is always linked with the community.

Since the beginning of time, stronger animals and then stronger men and nations have been in charge of the world activities and had subjugated the weaker nations. Recorded human history is full of stories of human slavery and captivities on individual and collective scales. Human beings were sold like other commodities. These human slaves were forcefully deployed on manual labor to build palaces of kings, pyramids for Pharos, colloseums of Rome or driven to row big ships for transatlantic and pacific voyages.

As the capacities of human thought expanded and developed, societies were formed and human fears reduced through enforcement of human or divine laws. But tragically, the desire to control other human beings and weaker nations did not vanish but it changed shapes.

A large number of writers gave different concepts towards controlling people. Generally, all of them were of the opinion, that while forming a government people enter into a contract with the society or the government by which they have to abide by the laws and in return they are provided different life protections, like a child is protected in home by parents. But these concepts were stretched beyond acceptance and a number of philosophies of control emerged turning it to a war of state with the people and vice verse. Niccolo Machiavelli’s book “The Prince” defined citizens and crafted rules to help rulers. The book “The Plato’s Republic”, explaining how to steer man by the governments, Or “Propaganda” written in 1928 by Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, provided strategies to shape and manipulate public opinion by systematically enslaving them. The book “Tragedy & Hope”, by Carroll Quigley written in 1966 explained how one system can fund so many and spread its own collectivism and bring new world order that is completely biased to specific goals. Or the book “Open Conspiracy” written in 1928 by British Psychological warfare expert H. G. Wells gives similar concepts. George Orwell’s book written in 1948 titled “1984”; in which a Big Brother totalitarian state maintains the control of society by a massive surveillance system incorporated through a panopticon, presents a society where even the thoughts of individuals are being controlled and regulated through an illusory police force.

The long term effect of all above types of control concepts is too devastating. The self reliance and independent capacities of individuals and nations are completely diminished and paralyzed. Like German Philosopher Hagel said “We can engineer the individual’s choices by manipulating his needs”. Men and nations then become fearful of losing the life they are living and thus are enslaved. Very rightly said by (probably) Mohsin Naqvi:
جنہیں سونے کے پنجرے میں غذا مل جاۓ چاندی کی – انہیں پھر عمر بھر آزادیاں اچھی نہیں لگتیں

Even the most modern education systems of the world are designed to discipline the children and students so as to make them subservient workers. The award-winning educationist and author of a number of books, John Taylor Gatto, through his books like “The Underground History of American Education”, and “Weapons of Mass Instruction”, etc frighteningly discovered the enslaving approach of the school curricula. The problem is; there is no escape. Education has always been used to control human beings and human behavior.

Considering Spiritual domain of Freedom, Men of God have always sought freedom from bodily desires. Willful self-enslavement is sometimes a source of inner peace and satisfaction. We, the Muslims, voluntarily fast in the month of Ramadan or even in other days and refrain from eating or drinking to attain spiritual enlightenment and freedom. In other religions, people enslave themselves to become nuns, monks, hermits; this is a way of restricting the freedom of their physical needs. Even sometimes, Love is defined as surrendering one’s will for others. Spiritual Freedom is those beliefs and thoughts which exist in the hearts, minds and souls of each individual. Such beliefs are deep-seeded and can never be taken away by anyone. However, history is full of stories of a ruler trying to control Spiritual Freedom. The Spanish Inquistion and Hitler’s death camps are the examples.
Maulana Jalaal ud Din Rumi, the greatest of teachers, narrates a story for true understanding of the concept of freedom. The story goes like this: There was a merchant who while going to China asked his family as to what they wanted him to bring from China. Everyone gave his demand. He asked his parrot, Mithhu, what he wanted from China. The parrot sadly said “Tell the parrots of China that you are enjoying a free life and I am confined to a cage”. The merchant, after the round trip, brought back the gifts for everyone. To the parrot “Mithhu”, he said; there was a bad news. When the merchant gave Mithhu’s message to the parrots in China, one of the parrots fell from the tree and died. On listening that, Mithhu fell in the cage and died. The merchant sadly took its body out of the cage and placed it on the side. Mithhu flew and sat on the wall. Merchant got upset and said; Mithhu! It was not fair; “you tricked me”. Mithhu said; Not at all, “I did not trick you”. There was a message in it for him. Merchant asked what was that? Mithhu replied, “If you want to be free in life, Play Dead”.

We are so strongly attached to our material possessions that we hardly share or give away even the most unwanted of our THINGS. But then a time comes when we have to leave this world; leaving the most sacredly loved belongings, for others. For a true freedom we need to disconnect ourselves from material possessions during our life, by Playing Dead.

The concept of freedom never goes alone; it is always connected with the words like Equality, Empathy, Compassion; more specifically in Islam Freedom and Equality always go together. Last khutbah of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) gives the details of freedom and responsibility.
We must understand that being free always means being responsible: A type of freedom that respects the other. It is a type of “public” freedom, not the selfish individualistic freedom. We need to be empathetic while being free. Abusing and showing off one’s wealth, one’s family status, or the self, or other powers, is not the real freedom. Freedom is based on the principle of – No harm to others.
مناؤ جشن ِ بہاراں اس احتیاط کے ساتھ – کسی چراغ کی لَو سے کسی کا گھر نہ جلے

Dr. Akhtar Nawaz Malik