They Are Famous

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Albert Einstein, who set forth the theory of relativity, had an exceptional mind. He was the father of modern physics, and his name has become synonymous with genius. 

He had been unable to find suitable work as a young man. He had marriage troubles and problems with his children. German nationalists attacked him forThey Are Famous being a Jew until he had to flee to America. Before his death, he was accused by American intelligence of having communist sympathies, due to some critical comments he had made about capitalism. He said: “I am seen as seditious in my new country because I am unable to keep quiet and be patient about everything that it does.” 

Though he was Jewish and had been influenced for a time by Zionism, he was able to change his views and refused to become Israel’s president, saying: “I know a little of science, but nothing about men.” 

Speaking before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the Jewish state, saying: “The State idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with narrow-minded and economic obstacles. I believe it is bad. I have always been against it.” 

Einstein spoke about his limitations while others spoke of his talents and achievements. He made it clear what he was good at. His fate was to become one of the most famous people on Earth, but he remained a modest and humble man, seeing himself as nothing special. 

He used to say: “When I was young, all I wanted and expected from life was to sit quietly in some corner doing my work without the public paying attention to me. And now see what has become of me.” 

There is a story about how Einstein was travelling with a driver to deliver lectures at universities. During one journey, the driver remarked: “Dr. Einstein, I have heard you deliver that lecture about 30 times. I know it by heart and bet I could give it myself.” 

“Well, I’ll give you the chance”, Einstein said, liking the idea. “They don’t know me at the next University, so when we get there, I’ll put on your cap, and you introduce yourself as Dr. Einstein and give the lecture.” 

The driver delivered Einstein’s lecture without any mistakes. When he finished, he started to leave, but one of the professors stopped him and asked a complex question filled with mathematical equations and formulas. The driver thought fast. “The answer to that problem is so simple,” he said, “that I’m surprised you have to ask me. In fact, to show you just how simple it is, I’m going to ask my driver to come up here and answer your question.” 

Einstein got up from his seat at the back of the lecture hall and amazed the audience by answering the question. 

There can be no doubt that Einstein did a great service to human knowledge. However, he was not self-serving. He never took the people’s praise to heart. 

Believers in Allah should always be humble, cognizant of Allah’s greatness at all times, no matter how great their talents and regardless of what worldly success they achieve. 

Many athletes find fame. The public imagination is very easily captivated by successful young sports figures. 

In dramatic works, the main character is called the “hero”, even if he is a thief or a hit-man. 

Great orators can become famous very quickly. They are the kind of people who forget themselves when they stand before a crowd, and they might break into a sweat from the excitement of it all, even in cold weather. One great speaker was asked what the secret was behind his success as an orator. 

He said: “I stand on the podium without having a clue about what I am going to say. But then I see all the people and I become like a radio receiving signals from a radio tower. It is as if I am not really there myself.” 

Mass-media has made the road to fame easily accessible to many people. There are television programs dedicated to making people into “stars”. Those programs take young men and women for a time, turn them into celebrities, market them and make money off of them, and then dispense with them just as quickly. 

Quick fame can disorient young people, making them behave recklessly. The light of fame blinds them so they cannot see themselves properly. 

When a small child becomes famous, that child loses a degree of innocence. The child craves the spotlight all the time. 

Ibn `Atā’ al-Sakandrī said: “If you are given fame early in life, you rarely succeed later in life.” 

The road to fame is traversed today with “likes” on Facebook and Twitter and with votes on reality television. It is a path which exposes young people to morally questionable relationships. 

A young man approached me with his handwritten poetry book and sought my advice about publishing it. I asked him: “Why do you in a rush to achieve fame, when it will come to you if you deserve it?” 

Famous people have no time to form new relationships with people that are serious and deep. The relationships they have already established are often strained to the breaking point, since they spend all their time trying to please their fans and court a larger following. 

Studies have shown that most celebrities are completely indifferent to others; they are preoccupied with themselves and with inflating their own importance. They deal with others on a superficial, public level instead of a personal basis, which deprives them of healthy social interactions. Some of them get an inflated notion of how important they are and dispense with their friend. They become harsh and temperamental. Some of them turn on their families and neglect them even on the holidays. 

In the public eye, they are calm, amiable, and smiling. In private, they are bitter, impatient and depressed. 

My advice to young people is to live normally. Do not be pretentious. Ride the bus with everyone else. Make your own lunch and brew your own tea. Carry your luggage yourself. Prophet Muhammad used to mend his own clothing, repair his own sandals, and labour alongside his Companions. He helped his family with the housework. When the call to prayer was made, he would leave for the mosque like everyone else. 

A lot of celebrities are deluded about their importance. They forget how they were in the past and how they might yet again become in the future. 

Someone asked Ibn al-Mubārak was it means to be conceited. He answered: “It means to think that you have something going for you that other lack.” 

An inflated ego makes celebrities prattle on about their accomplishments. They try to get the message of their importance as widely disseminated as possible. 

Few famous people are like Ibn Bāz, al-Sha`rāwī, al-Ghazālī Ahmad Deedat and Abdulhamid Kishk. These were famous Muslim scholars who led simple, unpretentious lives even after their rise to fame. Few famous people admit their mistakes the way Ibn Taymiyah did at the end of his life when he said: “I regret thet time I wasted being preoccupied with things with other than the Qur’an.” Saying his time was “wasted” was a harsh thing to say about himself, but he meant to be harsh. 

Fame changes people, even when it comes to their spouses, children and neighbours. While they are riding the wave of fame, they might convince themselves that they are behaving appropriately for their station, but when they return to normal they find that they have lost most if not all of their friends. Fame makes us focus entirely on ourselves so we measure the worth of others by what they can do for us. 

So-and-so did not greet me enthusiastically enough. Someone else did not kiss my forehead. That person saw me but did not come over to say “hi”. 

I also advise young people that if they do not know how to descend gracefully from a high level, they will fall hard. Prophet Muhammad said: “It is Allah’s way in the world that nothing comes up except that he brings it back down.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī 

When the famous people in question are Muslim preachers and Islamic scholars, they really need to examine themselves rigorously, questioning their motives when dealing with others and how they compete in what they wear, what they drive, and where they live. 

Some of them test their public status by how they are served by others, like having their food, clothing, and shoes set out for them every day. 

They worry too much about how much they are respected. They want to know that their opinions are heeded. They want to be sure to compare well with others. 

Ibn al-Mubārak used to lament: “O reciters of the Qur’an, you are the salt of the land. And what can preserve the salt if the salt itself is bad?” 

A pure heart, free of resentment and envy, is one that loves good to come to others and rejoices in their successes. This is the greatest assurance for happiness on Earth and success in the Hereafter. 

You will find much strange behaviour among the rich and famous, from perversions to scandals to occult beliefs, down to things that are simply odd or eccentric. 

Nietzsche, Edison, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Oprah, Lady Gaga, Denzel Washington.. . 

George Washington was extremely timid. He was unable to speak in public. Tolstoy used to sweep his room and make his own shoes while wearing peasant clothes. 

In Muslim history, you will find famous writers with unintelligible handwriting, prominent people who were notoriously gullible, and a large number of hermits. The great biographical encyclopaedia Siyar A`lām al-Nubalā’ gives many examples of famous eccentrics. However, the social upbringing that existed in Muslim societies kept truly deviant behaviour to a minimum, the worst cases being found in al-Isfahānī’s Book of Songs. What we find are people like Bahlūl, an odd but famous man known for his spiritual wisdom, good advice, and moving sermons. At the same time, he was known for his flights of fancy and vivid imagination.


Sheikh Salman al-Oadah

Source: en.islamtoday.net (Jan. 17, 2015)