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Propagate through deeds, not words

Huzaima Bukhari

“Do not call people (towards guidance and goodness) by means of your tongues! Rather, call them by means of your good deeds―Imam Jaffer-i-Sadiq (AS) Bihaar-al-Anwaar, Vol. 5 Pg. 198

Since time eternal, humans have indulged in self-love. Whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever they do and think, whichever religion they profess, they consider them all as best, so much so that they try to convince others to forgo their own way of life and adopt theirs’s. Take for example the case of white colonialists who overpowered African, Australian and Asian nations with their might and later on constrained them to believe how uncivilized and beastly they were while they themselves were not only superior in all aspects but possessed extremely refined and cultured lifestyles. The problem was that many of these poor vanquished souls actually believed them, imitating their mannerisms to gain acceptance and this turn-around was not achieved through love but through malicious verbal propaganda against the natives.

Similarly, people professing different outlooks, especially political and religious, tend to be overly loud-mouthed about them as if their ideology is the only correct one while ferociously defying those of others. Sometimes, in defending their thoughts, they lose track of civility and tolerance resorting to verbal abuse and even assault. One witnesses these episodes almost on daily basis. People are generally willing to die and kill for their acquired notions but seldom resort to patience or sensibility. They can adopt abusive language against their rivals but ask them to practice what they preach, one finds them completely disabled. In brief, their mode of propagation is by speech and not practice.

Political games are played with loads of verbosity with one party hurling artillery of allegations against the other, with the government in power accusing the opposition of spiteful propaganda, denouncing its ideologies and on occasions even victimizing its stalwarts. The biggest malaise in these controversies is that the ruling parties forget the ordinary people’s interests being overwhelmed with saving their own necks whereas the opposing ones, instead of redressing the common man’s woes, engage his support for their own perpetuity. The most amusing point emerging from all this frenzy is that people continue to be deceived by these propagandists, keep voting them in power and getting repeatedly hurt by them, yet they fail to learn their lessons. At the other end, parties in power, clamouring for transparency and accountability fail to invoke these within their own ranks and files.

They say that children are difficult to groom, ideas are hard to explain, scientific theories are tough to conceive and propagating religion requires a great deal of commitment. Undoubtedly these are true statements. ‘Easier said than done’ is what we have been hearing all our lives and even the ones who pretend to be ethical sometimes justify their follies by using this patent excuse. When told that committed men and women of yore faced all kinds of adversities but did not let go their principles, they simply reply that they were chosen people who cannot be imitated and continue with their distorted ideals.

With this kind of situation in place how can one effectively propagate one’s views or thinking process without indulging in too much speech and definitely not employing devilish tactics of oppression and persecution. Peace-loving, sympathetic humanists peregrinate through life practicing exactly what they preach. In fact, they do not even require any particular language for this purpose because their actions are their vernacular, their jargons, their terminologies and their idioms. They impress with their good deeds, not by making formidable speeches. They attract attention by their benevolence, not by verbalizing significance of magnanimity. How beautifully Mahatma Gandhi transcribed this concept! He said: “Don’t talk about it. The rose doesn’t have to propagate its perfume. It just gives it forth, and people are drawn to it. Live it, and people will come to see the source of your power.”

Sages who keep on hammering people with words of wisdom but fail to live up to them, soon lose their credibility. Some do not even bother to give credence to their wise talk no matter how rich in thought it may be just because their actions speak otherwise. This proves beyond doubt the importance of practicing that which is preached.

Observation proves that parents who desire that their children are raised on certain principles they hold close to their hearts do not waste time in sermonizing but silently act on these dogmas. Thus, kind behaviour inculcates kindness, studious atmosphere at home creates scholars, respectfulness begets courtesy, humanistic attitude instills humanity, ethical conduct infuses the same characteristic and where elderly complain of their children’s impudence they should re-examine their earlier attitude towards their own elders. Children of such parents usually confront them on difference between their actions and words because on the one hand they may tell them that lying for example, is bad but will severely reprimand them if their innocent truth lands them in trouble.

Bob Keeshan, a famous American television producer of children’s programmes says: “Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.”

From the ancient propagators to the present day champions of ideologies, all desire immediate fame and success in conversion of people to their faith or doctrines and history is witness to all sorts of atrocities committed to attain this objective which by itself is most inauspicious. Although one naturally seems to take pride in own values but it does not imply that one must also thrust one’s thoughts on others forcefully. If these are manifested in one’s good deeds and sound character in everyday life, they will automatically attract others, persuading them perhaps to adopt the same.


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)

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