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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Learning from Our Mistakes

Adam, the first man, had two sons, one of whom killed the other in anger—while quarrelling. This was the first incident of the killing of a man in human existence and the murderer had no idea of what should be done with the dead body of his brother.

“Then God sent down a raven, which scratched the earth to show him how to bury the corpse of his brother. ‘Alas!’ he cried, ‘have I not strength enough to do as this raven has done and so bury my brother’s corpse?’ And he repented.” (The Quran 5:31)

Ever since this event took place, God has continuously been sending one creature after another to us to guide us about how we should lead our lives. But man seldom takes heed of such occurrences.

A friend, by the name of Khurshid Bismil, living in Thanna Mandi, Rajouri, once showed me a spot in his house where such an incident took place as should give rise to serious thought about the quality of human endeavor. It seems that two swallows once built a nest under the eaves by bringing small quantities of mud and laboriously attaching it bit by bit to the underside of the wooden roof. It took several days of continuous effort to make the nest solid enough for them to lay their eggs in it. Sad to say, while the hatching process was going on, the nest suddenly gave way one day, fell to the ground and was destroyed. The weight of four eggs and two swallows had been too much for it.

But, nothing daunted, the birds began fluttering around looking for some safer place to reconstruct their home. They finally found a niche with a rougher surface, which would give the nest better support. Whereas the swallows had made their first nest just from mud, they made this one from a mixture of mud, grass and straw. This combination of materials proved much stronger than plain mud and this nest was also more firmly fixed in position than the previous one. The eggs they laid in it then were successfully hatched and this new, reinforced nest continued to provide shelter for the baby swallows until they grew up and flew away to mate and make their own homes.

There is a great lesson in this for all of us: if a bird or animal fails in some effort, it seeks to understand the reason for its failure. It does not simply give up and succumb to adversity. It casts about for some other, better way of doing things and rectifies its errors by harder work and better planning. Human beings would do well to follow this example. Our planning is so often faulty and the efforts we make are so often inadequate that failures in many spheres are commonplace. But, really, all it would take to achieve success would be to give further thought to the problems besetting us and a deeper appreciation of the strategy we need to adopt. It is a wise man who learns by his own mistakes.

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