Shahid Rasheed – The Seeker of Serenity
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi
Shahid Rasheed, who is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Forman Christian College, University is one such person who found his true calling in teaching and is a source of inspiration for his students.
Hailing from a Southern Punjab village, he completed his schooling up-till the intermediate level, from the small town of Burewala. In 1991, he came to Lahore and enrolled in BSc. Electrical Engineering at the University of Engineering & Technology. The environment of the institution during those times and presence of various political and cultural groups got Shahid, interested in the works of Marx and Bertrand Russel.
“This was the period when I developed a taste for literature and philosophy.”
After graduating, he felt that he didn’t develop the flavor of an engineer. Being fond of mathematics and physics, for his future he was either going to opt for them or pursue social sciences and humanities. At the same time, he was in need of a good job and following the tradition, he gave CSS exams and got allocated in the Audit and Accounts Department.
“I joined the civil services, but my thirst for knowledge remained and it disturbed me. So then I thought that I have to leave this job and opt for teaching in which I would be able to learn a lot and contribute to my society through my learning. “
This was the period when Mr. Shahid decided that he should have a degree in social sciences and enrolled in for an LLB. The idea was to either get into academia or opt for bar politics and be able to serve his country. However, he was told that the idealistic period in which Jinnah and Nehru practiced is long gone and it’s better that he switches his field as it’s not at par with his temperament. This is when he opted sociology as a career path.
“I choose sociology because, it is a very central subject and it addresses all the aspects related to human beings, as I thought at the time, conceptually.”
When he decided to get a Master’s degree in the subject, no institution in the country gave him an admission, as they required that he get an undergrad degree in the field first. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as in the end he ended up securing admission in both, the London School of Economics and Oxford. Mr. Shahid opted for Oxford as completed his MSc. In Sociology in 2005.
“Originally I came to sociology in search of questions that are fundamental and more internal.”
Today the field of sociology has become quite quantitative research orientated but Mr. Shahid resists this with an aim to become an original thinker himself who is not subdued by the tradition of academia. Someone who believes that the real aim of education is not to bombard information, theories and data on students but to develop a kind of attitude towards certain fundamental questions. He wants to induce the quality of independent thinking in his students, for which he has developed his own line in the field of sociology.
“When I teach, I provoke my students by asking certain questions so that they can develop their own thinking and become original thinkers.”
Someone who came to sociology’s door in search of answers, at one point Mr. Shahid felt somewhat disappointed by the field. However, he shared that after all the experience he has understood that no one discipline offers the answers to the fundamental questions. They require a holistic approach. After this realization, his goal in teaching has evolved as well. He aims at developing this flavor for a holistic approach among his students as well. His method is eclectic, as he relates his readings from other disciplines and connects them to sociology and the fundamental questions.
Talking about teaching as a profession, he believes that this profession follows the path of the Prophets and great mystics and is one of the highest callings. The condition is that the individual should have a quest for knowledge, knows how to raise questions, willing to developing an independent technique of teaching that helps in the natural flow of knowledge and love for the students. He has great respect for primary school teachers, who have the responsibility of building the foundation which is the most difficult task. One of his long term goals is to open a learning institute for children as well.
“A person who has the tendency, heart and aptitude for it and instead chooses some other field, I think he or she is committing a crime.”
There is a lot of debate as to the kind of relationship that needs to exist between a teacher and student. For Mr. Shahid, it needs to be that of friendship layered with respect from both sides. The teacher needs to appreciate and respect the individuality of the student as well. Personally, he tries to create an environment where everyone can breathe and develop their unique personalities. There is no room for oppression in his class room and everyone gets to express their viewpoint without fear and engage in healthy debate.
People who know him, are well informed about his interest in different philosophies. In his own words, it is his intellectual mission to study in-depth the various traditions and civilizations of the world. To study their development, issues, critique on them etc. Though he is known for his grasp on the western philosophy, he thinks that it is important that we go in-depth about our own traditions as well and not just through the works of the orientalists but dig deep through our own resources. The crux is to get to the point where we can understand as to what both the civilizations have to offer each other, as one will find some commonalities between all the diversified opinions as well. Mr. Shahid credits his investigating skills and the need to question to the western philosophy. He finds their ability to have a serious understanding of issues and be able to maintain a sense of humor at the same time quite impressive and something he considers to be a good personality balance trait.
The subject of critical thinking in his opinion is not properly understood and as a result it has created more confusion. It is important that the young minds are taught the patterns of critical thinking and analytical skills but it is important that it is not done in a superficial manner alone but with a deeper understanding of the subject being considered for analysis.
Students have multiple pressures on them. There is a struggle of careerism and undue expectations from them which puts them in a rat race where they have to prove themselves in a short time period. This way we are losing the essence of knowledge and are looking for superficial verification stamps, be it be in the form of foreign qualification or whatever best money can buy.
“The real thing is to go through good knowledge experience and for that they need to discipline themselves. In my opinion the keys to knowledge and wisdom lies in self-discipline.”
World over an individual is judged by one’s appearance and as per that standard, Mr. Shahid would be stereotypically categorized as someone leaning on the religious right. He has experienced that at times but then he shares that once you interact with people, eventually they see you for who you really are. For him the current conflict is not between religions, it is between all religions versus the idea that human beings are self-sufficient and don’t require any spiritual guidance; relying more on materialism to measure growth and success.
“Islam gave me the meaning of life and I try practicing my religion. At the same time, I respect other religions and traditions; Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity etc. The impression that whoever practices Islam more ends up negates other traditions is not true at all and a stereotype that I would want to break.”
The best life style in Mr. Shahid’s opinion and something he practices as well; is to dedicate ones full potential to a goal or passion of choosing. One will face failures in that path but not giving up, giving up is the biggest drawback of an individual or a nation. Pursuing with all your might is a fulfilled life style.
When asked what he considers to be his contribution towards Pakistan, Mr. Shahid shared that to help develop his students’ independent thinking and if some of them at least are able to think above and beyond their individual self that is his way of serving his society and country.