Gifts & Talents Are Treasures

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Gifts are like treasures in many ways. They are rare. Gifted people, according to certain specific criteria, constitute somewhere between two and five percent of the total population. In truth, all people are gifted in one way or another, but this is only realised if their gifts are discovered and encouraged, and they are in an environment that is conducive to their developing those gifts. Japan is described as a nation of 120 million achievers. Teachers can play a vital role in encouraging these gifts, and it is important that schools and families work together to help children realise their maximum potentials. 

Another way that gifts are like treasures is that they are extremely valuable. Gifted people surpass others in excellence. They stand out in their intelligence and abilities. Some of them are geniuses, and true genius is extremely rare, occurring in one out of every 100 thousand individuals. 

Gifts are also hidden. They are abilities, physical or mental, that lie latent in an individual. It takes expertise to identify those abilities and effort to draw them forth. Older cognitive theories discuss mental gifts in general. More recent theories refer to a wide range of abilities and aptitudes, like creativity, leadership skills, proficiencies, and initiative. 

How does being gifted relate to creativity? Gifts are specific abilities, like drawing or memorisation. Creativity is coming up with something new. It is the result of the active use of one’s gifts. Psychologists look to the future of a gifted person and look to the past of those who have shown themselves to be creative. Being gifted is a promise while creativity is its fulfilment. 

A teacher gave her fourth grade class the task of drawing flowers. She placed the flowers in front of them so they could see what they had to draw. One student drew his flowers with eyes and smiling faces, greeting each other. When the teacher saw this, she scolded him and expelled him from the classroom. However, he still insisted that his flowers were alive and interacted with each other. 

That student’s name was Walt Disney, who would go on to become the world’s most famous cartoonist and animator, and establish the Walt Disney Company and a number of theme parks. He created Mickey Mouse in 1928, a character that is still going strong today in every country of the world, and the iconic Cinderella in 1952. He won more Oscars than anyone else in the prize’s history. 

Despite the vast difference in the world’s cultures, he has made a mark on every city of the world and his characters have a presence in nearly every home. We can ask: Why is it that we cannot nurture a gifted Muslim who can provide an alternative that supports our values? 

Some friends of mine made me aware of a film which is being considered by the people who produced Avatar and which tells the story of an inspirational Islamic historical figure. Even though it is a lucrative opportunity, they have found no one to financially support it. 

Is a Gift a Singular Thing?

Wisdom is a gift from Allah. “He bestows wisdom on whomever He pleases.” [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 269] Luqmān was one of those whom Allah had given immense wisdom. Wisdom is the result of thought, deliberation, and experience. Many people possess this quality and live long enough to learn and inspire generations to come. 

There are spiritual gifts like clemency and patience. Prophet Muhammad said to Ashajj b. Qays: “You possess two qualities that Allah loves: gentleness and patience.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim] Then there is the intense faith of Abū Bakr,`Uthmān’s modesty, `Alī’s bravery, Abū al-Dardā’s wisdom, `Amr’s resourcefulness, and Mu`āwiyah’s leadership skills. 

There are spiritual gifts of an intellectual kind, like keen discernment and inspiration. Memory is one of these gifts, possessed by the great hadith scholars like al-Bukhārī and Ahmad b. Hanbal. 

Then there are intellectual gifts of a scientific bent, like mathematical genius in which many of the great thinkers of the East and West excelled. There are linguistic gifts, like those possessed by Sībuwayh, al-Khalīl, and many great poets. There are physical gifts like strength, speed, and coordination which are celebrated by the world today through sporting events and which constituted part of the heroism celebrated in the past. 

How Are Gifted People Different?

Some gifted people exhibit physical excellence. Allah says about Saul: “Indeed, Allah has chosen him over you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature.” [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 247] Such people are usually blessed with a healthier upbringing than others. 

Physical disability does not prevent people from being gifted. Ibn `Abbās was blind. The father of Arabic grammar, Abū al-Aswad al-Du’alī, was hemiplegic. However, this did not prevent him from many great achievements, including developing the system f dots for distinguishing Arabic letters and the vowel symbols used in the Qur’an. He was wise and resourceful. The great poets Bashshār b. Burd and al-Ma`arrī were both blind. American President Franklin Roosevelt suffered from paralysis. 

Psychologically, gifted people are distinguished by having control over how they react to things, self-confidence, and relatively good emotional health. They are less likely to suffer from mental illness, since they have a positive view of themselves. Socially, they are usually capable leaders and they are able to adapt more readily to changing circumstances. Mentally, they are quick to understand, have strong imaginations, and keen intelligence. 

They usually learn to speak early. This is what Prophet Muhammad noticed in Zayd b. Thābit, and this is why he chose him to learn the language of the Jews. 

When al-Kumayt was young, he recited poetry before the great poet al-Farazdaq. Al-Farazdaq asked him: “Would you be pleased to have me as your father?” 

Al-Kumayt replied: “As for my father, I do not desire any substitute for him. However, it would please me for you to be my mother!” 

AL-Farazdaq was embarrassed by this sharp answer for which he had no reply. 

It is possible for a person who does not possess many of these traits to still be gifted. Intelligence tests may help to discover a gifted person whose gifts are not anticipated, because that person lives in a bad environment or is being held back due to the jealousy of others. 

Discovering the Gifted

Ma`n b. Zā’idah al-Shaybānī noticed his nephew’s keen intellect and he preferred him over his own children. When his wife complained about it, he said to her: “I will show you the reason for it tonight.” Late that night, he told his servant to summon his children. They all came before him a while later in perfumed clothes. He then asked his servant to summon his nephew Yazīd. Yazīd came immediately carrying his weapon. He placed his spear at the parlour door as he came in. 

Ma`n asked him why he presented himself in such a stare. Yazīd replied: “You told me that you would never summon me at such a late hour except for something extremely urgent.” 

Ma`n’s wife then said: “I now understand your excuse for favouring him.” 

The environment will either encourage gifts or stifle them. 

Children can learn to refrain from being creative. Around 90 percent of children up to five years of age have creative minds. From the age of five to seven, this decreased to 20 percent. From seven to eight, this decreased to 2 percent. 

When gifted people are able to turn negative responses to their favour, they have placed their feet on the right path. They should take heed of the positive things said about them on occasion, like “clever” “genius” and “bold”, and not dismiss it as mere encouragement. 

A gift is a test and a responsibility. Allah says: “And it is He who has made you vicegerents on Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in punishment; but indeed, He is forgiving and merciful.” [Sūrah al-An`ām: 165] 

This verse tells us three things:
1. Each of us is a vicegerent on Earth, so we are all gifted in one way or another.
2. We differ in the degrees of our abilities.
3. We are all being tested in what we are given and are held responsible for it.
Gifted individuals are responsible for themselves, first and foremost. They need to ask themselves: “Am I gifted?” They should not be hasty in answering this question. They need to examine themselves carefully. 

Modern approaches test for giftedness at an early age. The state of being gifted is studied in clinical depth and attempts are made to discover gifted people through first-hand examination. Additional tools re employed to assist in this, including the following:
1. A variety of intelligence tests. 

According to IQ scores, 145 and above indicates genius, 130 to 145 indicates high intelligence, 115 to 130 is the range for above average intelligence, 85 to 115 indicates average intelligence, 70 to 85 shows below average intelligence, and weak-minded people are those who score less than 70.

2. Monitoring of behavioural traits
3. Identification by teachers
4. Identification by parents
5. Identification by peers
6. Personal accounts
There are schools dedicated to teaching gifted people. Other schools provide separate classes to those who are gifted. There are also clubs and organizations dedicated to gifted people, their interests, and the promotion of their talents. 

Stifling the Gifted

A student produces an original work of art, so the principal shouts at him: “Focus on your school work.” 

According to a Washington Post study of 430 gifted students, it was found that they were negatively impacted by the harshness of other people. 

In one instance, a 12 year old child who had an IQ score of 140 was discovered dead after hanging himself in his room due to the severe ridicule and abuse he received from his peers. Gifted people are often more sensitive to abuse than others. It can have a greater impact on them, causing them to react in extreme ways at times. 

Fear is the enemy of gifts. Many gifted people, fearing failure and non-acceptance, withdraw into themselves. It takes courage for people to turn their gifts into creative success. 

Are Gifted People Successful?

It might be best to speak about “successful intelligence”, since there are many intelligent people who amount to little and others of average intelligence who are very successful. Success can be defined as follows:
1. Employing one’s gifts and strengths in a positive way
2. Developing and honing one’s abilities
3. Psychological well-adjustment and social compatibility

Being able to work productively under a wide range of circumstances is a gift that practically guarantees success. True success is where a person can work consistently and persistently according to his or her abilities and in accordance with a proper understanding of the situation at hand. 

I have a friend who can only work when he is among a crowd of people. He cannot practice his gits unless he sees the multitudes surrounding him. Then he becomes creative. I know another who can only be creative when he is alone with paper and pen. 

I have known many people who spoke with such promise but who never made a mark. Those who break down when they meet with failure destroy their own potential, no matter how gifted they are. 

William Carey knew six languages. He worked in publishing. His publishing house produced over 300 million books in various languages. When asked how he achieved such success, he said: “If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” 

Inner strength is the ground from where the trees of success grow tall.

Sheikh Salman al-Oadah

Source: (May 14, 2015)