Thinking is hard

May 7, 2016

Thinking is hard

by Kassim Ahmad

A teacher in my college (Sultan Abdul Hamid College) in Alor Setar, when he posed a problem, used to say, “Come on boys, put on your thinking caps!”, as if thinking was outside the mind.

Now thinking is a function of the brain that God placed at the top of you and covered it with a hard protective cover. Surely, the brain must be special, and special it is. It is a tool given only to Man, Homo sapiens, and not to other created orders, neither to the mineral, nor to the vegetable, nor to the members of the animal kingdoms. Only to man, the Vicegerent of God, tasked to rule and change the world. What a wondrous being a man is.

Yet how many people use their brains? Most would follow their ancestors, even if doing this would lead them to certain doom. That is why many civilizations have come and gone. British Historian, Arnold  J. Toynbee, in his 12- Volume A Study of History  counted 19 major civilizations that have come and gone.

Why is thinking hard?  I presume because you have to stand outside yourself and think. Nowadays we say: thinking outside the box, the box meaning following the crowd, i.e. your ancestors. That is easy, and most people do that.

Remember, Man’s God-given task is to rule and change the world to his liking. Remember, the angles protested against the creation of Man, saying that he is a corruptor and shedder of blood. Of this destructive side of him we have seen enough. The two World Wars stand as witness. But there is another side of him that the angels did not know. That was why, to their protestations, God answered simply: “I know what you do not know.” (Quran, 2: 30)


It was as if God had gambled. What if Man misbehaves and acts as the corruptor and shedder of blood, as the angels have predicted? Where will God put His face? Who will worship Him after this? As the Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky’s psychological-realist novel Brothers Karamazov  stated, “If there is no god, everything is permissible.” That includes murder! What a horrible place the world would be then.

In another location in the Quran, when the whole created order refused the task of God’s Vicegerent and only Man excepted it, God’s response was to lightly rebuke him and said he was unjust and ignorant. (Quran, 33: 72).

Here we can see that God knows his bad side but at the same time acknowledges his capability. This capability is to create civilizations and thereby improve his life. This improvement needed courage and sacrifice, courage to go against the status quo and sacrifice to challenge current orthodoxy. The history of man tells the story of courageous individuals, the like of Socrates of ancient Athens down to the present day.  Fortunately in Modern Europe and America, such brave individuals, working good for the sake good, are no longer killed, but honoured.

Thus thinking in the best part of our world is now rewarded. Not yet in Malaysia where orthodoxy reigns supreme. Sadly Muslim nations are at the bottom of the ladder. Are our leaders thinking? Why should we be at the bottom when our divinely-protected scripture, the Quran, defines us as the best nation ever produced (Quran, 3: 110) and that our religion the one approved by God (3: 19)? That means our leaders and our scholars are not thinking. How sad.

Being sad, though natural enough, is not sufficient. We have to get out of the rut.  The wonder is that the book of guidance has been with us for more than fourteen centuries. Although it has catapulted us into the Number One community for eight centuries, since our fall in the 13th century, we have  remained a fallen community up to now.

What should we do to regain our rightful place in the world? We possess the best book of guidance. Surely, our scholars and leaders read this book. What is their answer?  Think!  Although thinking is hard, our great ancestors have done it before.  We can do it again now.

KASSIM AHMAD is a Malaysian author. His website is

2 thoughts on “Thinking is hard


    The thinker ought to be seen like the above. Stanford got it right. A bit ashamed that Columbia has placed the thinker in front of their philosophy department and placed the larger than life man in the center of a quite square at the eastern flank of its main hall. Totally distorted the artist’s point.

    Dato Din, consider changing the picture to better reflect En Kassim’s writing?😋
    Ok. Din

  2. There is a difference between “thinking” and “reasoning”

    This is not splitting hairs because, if you think about it, the differences are:-

    Thinking: Thinking is a mental process which produces thoughts.

    Reasoning: Reasoning is a mental process that uses logic.

    So if the author’s gripe is that people do not “think”, then he is wrong because anyone who has a normal functioning brain do think. We may not agree with the thoughts generated, but they do think, be them good, bad or ugly thoughts.

    I think the author is more concerned about “reasoning”, or rather “bad reasoning” by the parameters that he, in his small corner of the world, set for the rest of mankind to follow.

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