Islam emphasises learning in all fields of endeavour: The very first verse of the Qur'an revealed starts with the word: ‘READ, In the name of thy Lord who created man from a mere clot of congealed blood. Proclaim: And thy Lord is the Most Generous Who taught the use of the pen, taught man that which he knew not.’ (Quran 96: 1-5) The very first word revealed was “Read” and that goes without saying that in order to read, we have to learn how to read. Further the Quran says every Muslim’s prayer should be: ‘My Lord! Increase me in / with knowledge’. (Quran 20: 114).
Learning is our birth-right: Everyone – young or old, rich or poor, male or female, has access to learning. Exercise your birth-right. Remember what you have learned cannot be stolen by others, nor has anyone died because of learning. There is no age limit to learning. We have seen and heard of people aged 70, 80 or even 90 years obtaining degrees. This shows that learning is and should be a life-long process.
From the day that we are born into this world the process of learning starts right after birth. Babies cannot talk but it is an instinctive and inbred reaction for the baby to go through the stages of learning. How to talk, to walk, to smile and all those processes we all go through. The mental faculties grow from birth until death. The parents are already dreaming of the day that their child will be entering school for the first time. As we move from kindergarten to primary school then onto high school, our parents are already having dreams that their children will go further to university and attain a degree in whatever field of endeavour they may qualify into.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘Acquire knowledge: it enables its possessor to distinguish right from the wrong, it lights the way to heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless- it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends and an armour against enemies.’
In this new world we have been brought up with the phrase that ‘education is the key to success’ and also it’s been said that ‘knowledge is power’, therefore learning and education has become an important and sought after desire for us all. This desire is also driven by the dream to qualify and enter the job market so that we can sufficiently care for ourselves and our families.
Education and learning has now become an essential part of our lives because we live in competitive times in which education is one of the keys to success in this life. We all have ambitions of a better life and this drives us to further our education. However, we should realise that our education cannot only be limited to secular learning but it should spread out to religious learning and education.
Regardless of what faith we may belong to, it is essential that we learn to understand the basics and further our learning by reading our religious scriptures and other forms that give us greater understanding of it. Not only that we should inculcate into each one of us to follow and put into practice the guidance of our religious faith.
Education is not only about learning by rote; the final product cannot only be about repeating what you have learnt, but how you translate that learning into practical terms. The pleasure of learning is not necessarily confined to learning from textbooks, learning means keeping the mind open and active to receive all kinds of experience and it includes learning from all sources, books, magazines (periodicals), newspapers, T. V., radio and those around you.
Muslims are advised to focus on three main areas of knowledge: seeking it, practicing it and sharing it.
Thus Islam encourages learning including reading the Quran and following its dictates and guidance through their practice and implementation are essential. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised as follows: ‘Seek knowledge even though it be in China.’ And: ‘Seeking knowledge is the obligation of all Muslims (men and women).’ And: ‘Seek knowledge from cradle to grave’. Therefore for Muslims it is essential to seek both secular and religious knowledge throughout our lives.
A Muslim may study many books, and may possess vast knowledge of Islam, but if he does not translate that knowledge into practice, then his knowledge is of no value.
However once we gain knowledge we need to put it into practice, just as much as a doctor or, any other person who attains the requisite education in their field of endeavour, will put it into practice – otherwise they will have wasted their education. On the religious front, for example, a Muslim may know all about fasting and its virtues, rewards, etc. but does not fast then his knowledge is wasted but more so he is committing a sin.
We therefore have to gain religious knowledge and obligations but importantly to put them into practice in our daily lives. This is adequately summed up by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said: ‘Worship, without knowledge, has no goodness in it and knowledge without understanding has no goodness in it. And the recitation of the Qur'an, which is not thoughtful, has no goodness in it’.
Those among us who have been blessed of having gained knowledge and wisdom must also share it with others. The knowledge gained cannot be kept as a secret. While sharing it, however, we must do it with the utmost sincerity and honesty.
‘Are those who have knowledge and those who have no knowledge alike? Only the men of understanding are mindful’. (Quran 39: 9). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised: ‘Scholars should endeavour to spread knowledge and provide education to people who have been deprived of it. For, where knowledge is hidden it disappears.’
Just as the Bible also encourages learning: ‘Give instruction to a wise man and he will be yet wiser; teach a just man and he will increase in learning’ (Proverbs 9: 9)The pleasure of learning is inborn and instinctive and one of the essential pleasures of the human race. Without learning, survival itself is threatened, the mind continues to live, and even grows more lively and active, enjoys itself more, works and plays with more expansion and delight. Learning extends our lives into new dimensions. One should make it a point to learn at least something new each day.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘Whosoever goes on a journey to seeking knowledge, Allah sets him on the path of Paradise.’
Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.
This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.
The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.
On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members. The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.
The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.
The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed. The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.
The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.
If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.
So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.
The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption. Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.
The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus. So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS. They demand a start from a clean slate.
The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.
Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.
Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.
In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.
Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.
The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.
There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.
But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.
There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.
He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.
The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.
For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way.
I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However, the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’. Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.
No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.
I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century. Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?
The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.
In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”
The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.
Nothing happens until something moves
The secret of getting ahead is getting started
Act or be acted upon
All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD! This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.
To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts: *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide. What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.
As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.
JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated. Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”
2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.
.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.
Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!