I had an interesting discussion with my eldest daughter about great scholars of the past that I have read about and duly admire. I explained to her why they became great and remained so for many generations to come. They all exhibited three unique capabilities: 1) The ability to tease out patterns and trends in anything they read and research about. This enabled them to come out with new Theories. 2) The ability to make connections between many factors and variables, bringing seemingly disparate things together within a single analysis. With this synergistic frame of mind, they constructed new Concepts. 3) The ability to see things beyond what is apparent to common observation and approaching problems in a truly novel way. Through such deep insight and foresight, they developed new Methodologies. Scholars that had all of these three capabilities in them and who wrote extensively were founders of new disciplines.

Some books gain instant fame upon their first release. Others fade away as soon as they are published. And there exist a select few that are neglected, sometimes even shunned, when conceived, only to be discovered and revived by scholars who will give them life and significance in ways that the original authors could barely imagined many years after their passing. Such books are hidden gems. Indeed, they were products of brilliant minds that stand alone but were, in no doubt, far ahead of their time.

I have spent some time reading about thinkers and intellectuals who achieved great heights time and again in their crafts. All of them have one thing in common. They never feel settled, never rested on their laurels. A ground breaking scholar is always modest about success, sliding back to ground zero as soon as he has accomplished his goals. The only way to climb higher to another peak, to achieve another scholarly feat, is to traverse again in the valley of humility. Humility in the face of knowledge.

Hamka and Activism

A restless soul and constantly in search of ways to inspire the ummah (Muslim community), Hamka was soon involved in grassroots efforts across what came to be known as Indonesia. In his early twenties, He joined his father and other relatives to become a strong proponent of the Muhammadiyah movement. These were difficult times for …

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Who is Hamka?

Haji Abdul Malik bin Abdul Karim Amrullah, better known as “Hamka” (1908–81) is a renowned Southeast Asian Muslim scholar and cleric. Author of more than a hundred books and articles that touched on Islamic philosophy, theology, history, jurisprudence, ethics, literature, and culture, Hamka’s diverse writings are still read and referred to by many scholars, students …

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