"...how intricately woven literature was in the patterns of the lives of early Muslims. Whether you studied Science, philosophy or religious sciences, literature was always a discipline of study that you grew up with. No wonder Saladin had memorised many diwaans of Arabic poetry! It had a role to play in the lives of people. Adab played an integral part in the teaching of adab! It was during my formal study of literature at the university when I realised how informally literature once made a part of the tradition that I belonged to. Education remained incomplete without it. But all this, my teachers told me, was now history – history of the tradition we belong to. A history, that, sadly, I did not even know till the nineteenth year of my life. And it is my study of literature that has inculcated in me a love for excavating this history. Literature students, after all, have been branded as Romantics (if you know what the word really means) since time immemorial. And Romanticism was all about nostalgia – being nostalgic for the times that are no longer there and the traces of which have also been usurped by the corporate culture we now live in.
For humans, aesthetic needs are as important as basic needs because they feed the soul and help to enhance it. People are always in need of an ideal. The urge to follow some principle, person etc. was built into us.
Accordingly, literature is an important aspect of the aesthetic sense and all societies need it as their source of aspirations, ideals, objectives, and visions. Yet, good literature is the kind which makes people think and plan ahead of their time. It offers role models which help to evlove ideas and ideals, and preserve and pass objectives to future generations. Above everything else, it brings together people from different backgrounds to acquire a unity of imagination, if it is equally enjoyable to the initiated and the uninitiated (and this has been a hallmark of all good literature throughout the ages, even though this is denied nowadays by those who uphold a dichotomy between "high" and "popular" cultures). In other words, good literature prevents the stagnation of society and creates unity of vision.
Hence, intellectuals become crucial for their societies since they must read the time correctly. If they stray, they bring the whole nation to the brink of destruction.
Both the masses and the elite can be fooled separately but they cannot be fooled together ("You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time," said Abraham Lincoln). Therefore, a product of literature deserves our most serious attention when it turns out to be enjoyable for the masses as well as the elite at the same time.
It may be helpful to remember, in any case, that Allama Iqbal and Quaid-i-Azam placed so much emphasis on Unity, and the Quran also asks us to hold fast to the Rope of God.
If we presume that the Rope of God is the community founded by his Prophet (and according to some Muslim thinkers, the entire humanity after the Holy Prophet), it may follow that humanity collectively cannot go wrong. This lesson can be learnt even from the most destructive wars, and even from the two world wars where the aggressors had to lose in the end. In Muslim history, even if Genghis and Halaku destroyed the Muslim world, the children of those same destroyers became Muslims and defended Islam.