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Speaking the language of the heart in an age of lost meaning - brahim K...


Daily Sabah

ccording to Ethnologue, an online resource on world languages,

there are more than 7,000 living languages. Some are spoken by
hundreds of millions of people, some by much smaller Articles

communities. Twenty-three languages account for more than half of the COLUMNS
world's population. All of them have the same goal and function: To The age of uncertainty and humility
communicate thoughts, meanings and feelings between humans. In the
Published COLUMNS
extremely diverse world of languages, we express our ideas and feelings
November 3, 2017 The Muslim world must wake up from
and say something to ourselves and other human beings. We state the
its slumber
meaning of our actions through words and sentences. Ideally, we resolve
our differences through rational communication. But can speaking the COLUMNS

same language always allow us to express our ideas properly? Turkey-EU relations: Is a reset
There are instances where speaking the same language does not help
overcome clashes and conflicts. This is where we need more than
linguistic capability to reach the minds and hearts of our fellow human
beings. This is where Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi enters in when he says,
"It is better to speak the same language of the heart than speaking the
same tongue." Meaningful thoughts, expressed through language, make
sense when they reach not just the minds but also the hearts of our
interlocutors. They have an effect on our souls and minds when
communicated through the language of the heart.

Words spoken through the language of the heart can be heard only when
they come from another heart. This means that we have to train our
hearts to speak to other hearts. Rumi believes that all human beings are
endowed with the capacity to speak this language. As a matter of fact, the
Islamic intellectual tradition holds that the heart is an epistemic organ as
important as the mind and the intellect. The heart is not just the abode of
feelings and emotions. It is also a depository of thoughts, ideas and
meanings. One of the costly mistakes of modern philosophy was to turn
the human heart, the seat of blissful and realized knowledge, into a
purely sentimental and psychological faculty.

The mind and the heart are not each other's enemy. To the contrary, they
make up and complete the human self. Without one of them, the human
person becomes unfinished and rough. Mind or reason by itself cannot
convey all of our thoughts and feelings because we are more than just
"thinking machines." We are also human beings who feel for others, who
pray, who cry, who enjoy beautiful things, who think about the meaning

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Speaking the language of the heart in an age of lost meaning - brahim K...

of our existence on this transient world.

The heart by itself will not be sufficient to state our thoughts and ideas in
a clear and logical manner. The heart and mind together give us an
integrated self - a self that sees the world through the eyes of rational
principles and transcendent values all at once. With our minds and
language, we create meaning. But we also reach out to meaning that is
embedded in the inherent nature of things. We approach things with
mental frameworks to make sense of them. But it is also true that things
present themselves to us as structures with meaning and significance. We
create as much as unveiling meaning. This is where the mind and the
heart feed each other off and give us a holistic understanding of reality.

Back to Rumi. Why does he prefer speaking the language of the heart to
speaking the same tongue? The reason is simple yet profound. People of
the same linguistic world may have different ideas but the heart of the
language overcomes petty differences and elevates the understanding of
human beings to a higher level of perception. It is like moving up to the
top of the mountain where we see the whole valley rather than just a part
of it. The higher we reach, the deeper is our understanding. It is this
deeper understanding rather than bulk of undigested information that
leads us to intellectual maturity, faith, virtue and compassion. It is these
values and principles that bring out the best in our humanity.

This also explains Rumi's universal appeal even though he wrote most of
his timeless poetry in a particular language at a particular time and place.
Like all sages, he seeks to reach the universal and enduring meaning of
things beyond their particular expressions. He searches for meaning
rather than form without neglecting the latter. After all, he is a poet who
is able to express the most profound meanings in beautiful poetry and
with head-turning stories. He grounds himself in meaning because he
knows that meaning is what endures. And meaning sets us free.

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Speaking the language of the heart in an age of lost meaning - brahim K...

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