Wars depriving us of good minds: Saudi scholar

By Lakshmi Kothaneth AND Mai Al Abria — Dr Salman Odah, a renowned scholar from Saudi Arabia, says the youth today are facing several challenges, especially in view of the instabilities in some Arab nations. The scholar, who has penned more than 60 books, was in Oman as a guest of Taaluf, a youth group meant for young individuals in the country and which is passionate about self-development and serving the nation.
Excerpts from the interview

What is the message you want to convey?
I have visited Oman several times before. A country like Oman should be visited a lot of times. Not only because of the nature but also because of its friendly environment. The lectures in this visit aim to enforce dialogue in a healthy manner and how to make a successful dialogue despite the differences in thoughts.

What do you think are the challenges for the youth today?

886043There are personal challenges because of the multiple alternatives available for the youth today. At present, any youth could face challenges in thought, work, study or even marriage. These challenges get harder when the world faces instabilities like what we see now in many Arab countries.
This is in addition to the destructive danger caused by technology. Now, the youth are not very connected to the family or religion much.

Do you think the instability in some Arab countries has caused a loss of education that have led to loss of young minds?
That is right. For example, Syrian children in America are some of the excellent students in schools. This means we have capabilities that are hindered by wars. I have visited camps in Syria and Turkey. The education offered there cannot be compared with the education in stable countries.
There are no places for entertainment in these camps, may be the stay was meant for months, but  in fact they suffer for years. If a child does not go to school, he will go to other places where he may  spend his free time in unhealthy activities.
When these children go back home after the situation improves in their countries, how will they rebuild their country if they do not have good education. We are losing good minds because of wars.

Historically, Islamic nations had scientists who have contributed to the world knowledge. What about today’s scientists?
There is no comparison between the scientists of today and the past. In the past, scientists were leaders and had the power to change the world, but today scientists are not even able to conduct any development projects for their nations because they have lost control and are forced to cope with the political issues in their countries.

What is the importance of cultural identity?
I always advise youth to be open to others while at the same time keeping their identity. Identity is not a prison. It encourages coexistence and learning from other civilisations.

Do you think media has a role in spreading a negative image?
Media is not always fair. It makes a small problem a very big one and vice versa.  Politics always controls the media.

886045How can we practise peace within ourselves and with others?

If a person can make peace with himself, he can easily practise it with others. I always encourage people to make an honest dialogue with themselves and avoid building negative thoughts about others. We should deal with others with sincerity.

You have written more than 60 books. What is the next one we can expect from you?
My last book was ‘My father taught me’. Talking mainly about Adam, Peace Be Upon Him, in which I have selected some terms to explain certain meanings such as the “universe means heaven” and “clay means equality between people”.
My next book is ‘Moses taught me’ (PBUH) and later — ‘Abraham taught me’ (PBUH) and ‘Jesus taught me’ (PBUH). It will be a series of books on prophets.

What has been your inspiration?
My source of inspiration is the simple life in a village with my parents. My source of satisfaction is my belief in Allah. For those who don’t have belief, I feel very sorry for them as they are losing a main source of happiness in life.