Two fish were swimming when they saw a piece of meat dangling before them. The younger fish darted toward it with an open mouth. The older fish cried out, “Stop! You can’t see it, but there is a hook inside that meat. It is connected by an invisible line to a pole outside the water. There is a man holding the pole. If you eat the meat, the hook will catch in your jaw and the man will pull you out of the water. He will then take his knife to you, prepare you for cooking, and then eat you.”
The young fish turned away from the meat and the two of them swam away. But later when the young fish was alone, he thought to himself, “I didn’t see a hook or a pole.” He was so tempted by the piece of meat that he went back and grabbed it into his mouth. The hook caught in his jaw and he felt himself being yanked out of the water. He saw a pole, a man, and a knife. But it was too late, his knowledge at this point was useless.
Too often we have knowledge about something – like the importance of losing weight to live in a healthier way or the value of doing simple acts of kindness and caring for our spouse – but we act as if we are not quite convinced, like only a serious wake-up call would spur us to abide by what we know intellectually, by what we’ve been told is true. We don’t absorb the knowledge into the heart and act upon it.
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “There are two kinds of knowledge – knowledge of the tongue and knowledge of the heart which is the beneficial knowledge. Knowledge of the heart raises people in rank. It is the inner knowledge which is absorbed by the heart and puts it right. Knowledge of the tongue is taken lightly by the people – neither those who possess it nor anyone else, act upon it.”