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Information Overload

While studying the world’s religions in college and prior to my acceptance of Islam, I had a profound dream. I found myself standing in a large gymnasium up to my knees in books, magazines, tabloids, and pamphlets. Everywhere I looked...popular magazines, "classics", newspapers from various cities, science texts, biographies, tabloids, history texts, and comic books. The lights were dim enough to find it difficult to read the titles, but I could recognize most of them by the layout of their covers.

I remember what I was feeling. I felt as though I were searching, that there was something I would have to uncover in this sea of text. I remember feeling unsure as to whether I was seeking a specific book, a chapter, or a simple sentence. I felt a time pressure, but was unsure how much time I was permitted.

First, I sifted through those in my immediate vicinity. Frustrated, I became increasingly overwhelmed by the shear immensity of the material. I struggled to reach other portions of the gymnasium, slipping and stumbling as I went, only to find the same vastness of useless text. None of it pointing to an end in my quest.

Finally, sweating, with my heart racing, and emotionally and spiritually nearing despair, I raised my hands palms up, bowed my head, and asked God for guidance. Eyes welling up with tears as I asked, my heart was sobbing. The old cellar smell to the gymnasium air stood still. Nothing happened. I was alone. Very alone....I curled up on my right side, hands between my knees and fell asleep.

When I awakened, I remained in that same gymnasium which somehow seemed brighter than before. At first I thought it had been so because I had had my eyes closed. I rubbed the crust from the corners of my eyelids and looked around. Two of the gym’s spotlights were on. One focused on a black and gold copy of the Holy Bible. The other, a plain green and gold copy of the Qur’an. At once, my heart was at peace. And I woke up.

Information Overload. Throughout our everyday lives we are inundated with material of varying degrees of pertinence to our lives. The "news", the comic books, the latest fashions, the newest gadgets, who wore what to the Emmy’s...are we missing something? Have we set aside the real purpose in life for other things?

I think of this dream often. Usually, I remember it while standing in line at the grocery store. Two or three tabloids here, nine or ten fashion magazines there, a TV guide, "news" about entertainment stars.....all of it rubbish. Useless distractors.

Another time I find myself reflecting on this dream is when I log onto the internet. Some call it "a wealth of information", but perhaps a better phrase would be "a poverty of the soul via excess information." We are inundated with information to such an extent that we come to mistake information for knowledge. And of course, the only true knowledge worth pursuit and stress and longing is knowledge of the soul and of the purpose behind our creation.

Regarding the End of Time, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that the Day of Judgement would not come until books become widespread and knowledge diminishes (Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, & Ahmad). On numerous occassions he mentioned the pervasiveness of ignorance in the Last Days. And I cannot help but think that these are those days. Allah knows best.

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  • The History of Information
  • TV News: Manipulating Public Opinion in the Dajjal System
  • The Islamic Response to the Secular Educational System
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