Today I was looking in the New World Encyclopedia and I noticed a small reference to the United Nations with a broken link. I decided to investigate and I found the 2002 Arab Human Development Report (alternative PDF, should be same content, but haven’t checked). At first this seems quite racist to have a report about how Arabs can develop, but on the first page it says:
An accurate diagnosis of a problem is an important part of the solution. It is precisely for this reason that the Regional Bureau for Arab States has commissioned a group of distinguished Arab intellectuals to produce the Arab Human Development Report. The wealth of unbiased, objective analysis it contains is part of our contribution to Arab peoples and policy-makers in the search for a brighter future.
This was written by Arab intellectuals, so it wasn’t necessarily another Orientalist view of how the Arabs have screwed up. Upon reading some of it, it generally acknowledges that the Arabs have done quite a bit to help themselves, but that there is still much to be done.
This entire report is not the subject of this post, because I’m sure many other have covered it and my analysis would be entirely useless as I am not knowledgeable about Arab States at all. Hence I will not be writing any analysis, I will only point out two pages of this article. These two pages give me great pride as they refer to an Arab leader from the past whom I personally believe was the most just ruler of his time and his future, including today. I believe there has yet to be a ruler of his caliber to lead that many people. There have been many who led less or more people, but nobody with his amount of power was nearly as just.
I’m not referring to the whole pages either, but simply two boxes within them. Box 5.6 on page 82 (page 96 of the PDF) and Box 7.3 on page 107 (119 of the PDF). These boxes hold quotes from the leader’s book on knowledge and governance, respectively. All these quotes are taken from a book that is the compilation of all his letters to his governors and his sons across the Middle East.
Here are just a few lines from those boxes:
“No vessel is limitless, except for the vessel of knowledge, which forever expands.”
“Knowledge is superior to wealth. Knowledge guards you, whereas you guard wealth. Wealth decreases with expenditure, whereas knowledge multiplies with dissemination. A good material deed vanishes as the material resources behind it vanish, whereas to knowledge we are indebted forever. Thanks to knowledge, you command people’s respect during your lifetime, and kind memory after our death. Knowledge rules over wealth. Those who treasure wealth perish while they are still alive, whereas scholars live forever; they only disappear in physical image, but in hearts, their memories are enshrined.”
“Knowledge is the twin of action. He who is knowledgeable must act. Knowledge calls upon action; if answered, it will stay; otherwise, it will depart. “
“No good can come in keeping silent as to government or in speaking out of ignorance.”
“The righteous are men of virtue, whose logic is straightforward, whose dress is unostentatious, whose path is modest, whose actions are many and who are undeterred by difficulties.”
The Report contains more, and the book itself contains many, many more. This is a book that I strongly wish to read soon, and I would recommend based on its author to anyone looking into knowledge, truth, and governance. This book is called the Nahjul Balagha, translated to The Peak of Eloquence, and the contents are written by Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first infallible Imam of the Shia.
Side note: This book, Nahjul Balagha, is not necessarily 100% accurate, as the Shia’ who compile this book and other books do not claim any of them are 100% accurate. Instead, they leave everything in as they might have some esoteric meaning or may later be proved accurate.