TODAY’S column is not about law or politics. It is about my parting words of advice to students of constitutional law on the last day of the semester at Universiti Malaya on May 30. I spoke from the heart and this is what I managed to say:
I wish to let you all know that it was my privilege to be associated with you. You all touched my life in a nice way, and I learnt many things from our interaction. In some respect, you were my teachers. For that I wish to thank you.
Even if I did not impart much knowledge to you, I hope that I shared with you some perspectives of law and life that may stand you in good stead as you wander the meadows of the law and walk the highway of life.
In the matter of constitutional interpretation, I emphasised that the Federal Constitution’s glittering generalities are not isolated signposts but part of an interconnected whole. The articles of the Constitution must not be seen in isolation but holistically and in the light of the Constitution’s lofty ideals and assumptions.
A Constitution is not just a legal document. It has a heart and a soul and is animated by purposes. It is linked with philosophy and politics. It has as its backdrop the panorama of history, geography, economics and culture. It reflects the dreams and demands, the values and vulnerabilities of the body politic.
In the area of human rights, I submitted that in a rule-of-law society, fundamental rights are inherent. It is power that needs legal justification. Human rights provisions must be interpreted prismatically, not literally.
Life is larger than the law and the articles of the Constitution cannot possibly embrace the full richness of the dignity of human beings. The bare, black letters of the chapter on fundamental liberties should be interpreted prismatically. Once such an approach is adopted, the lifeless, static clauses acquire colours and dimensions not visible to the ordinary viewer.
As to success in your future career, there is no magic wand, no high-speed elevator to success. You have to walk up the stairs one step at a time. There are several prerequisites to high performance in your career.
Dream dreams. Visualise what you wish to become. Dreams are the foundation of reality. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. However, do not become a Mat Jenin. Draw up a realistic and attainable plan. Act, not just react, to things as they come. Sail a chartered course. Discipline yourself to execute your carefully crafted plan. Discipline is the key to success.
Set up time frames. Work hard and diligently. Hard work never goes to waste. Whatever you do, do well. Approach every task with your heart and soul. If you are someone who does ordinary jobs extraordinarily well, your bosses will likely trust you with bigger, exceptional challenges that will enable you to shine and rise above the timberline.
Develop positive attitudes. It is your attitude, not your aptitude, that will determine your altitude. If you think you can, you indeed can. You all have more abilities than you realise. There are within the recesses of each soul reservoirs of inner strength that await to be tapped. You can fly higher than an eagle if you have hope and determination beneath your wings.
Doubt your doubts, but not your beliefs. Do not let your limitations limit you.
Think big. Nudge yourself to take risks. Leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. Go where no one has gone before and leave a trail.
Do not wait for ideal conditions. Conditions are never ideal, yet our journey must go on. Sometimes there is no path in the forest but as you walk along, the path begins to take shape. Start on your plan today. Anything commenced picks up its own steam and grows like a snowball rolling down the hill.
In those moments when you feel fear and doubt, be assured that fears, doubts and insecurities are perfectly natural. Every human being suffers from them. We are all specks of dust in this universe. At the same time, we are strong enough to overcome any challenge. Life is tough but we are tougher. With a positive, never say die attitude we can convert dares into doors and adversities into opportunities.
Lay your trust in God. In the Holy Quran 2:286 it is stated: “God does not impose upon a soul a burden it cannot bear.”
Verse 40:60 invites us to “Call on me; I will answer your prayer”.
Do not give up easily. Persevere. If at first you do not succeed, try again. Falling down is not the same thing as failing. Rumi, the Persian poet, says: “What you seek is seeking you.”
To be happy, live for others. Dedicate your life to something bigger than yourself. It is not what we gather; it is what we scatter that matters.
In sum, the attainment of success is rooted not so much in ability but in positive mental attitudes and planned and disciplined hard work.
To all my young friends, I wish to leave this message: Dream dreams but as Kipling says, do not make dreams your master and thoughts your aim.
Draw up a realistic plan. Start now and sail a chartered course. Act with discipline, conscientiousness, positivity and perseverance. Think deeply. Act nobly. Leave the world better than you found it.
I wish you all the best in your endeavours. May God be with you.
Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi is a holder of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair at Universiti Malaya’s law faculty. He wishes all Muslim readers Eid Mubarak. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.