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Had it not been for Abu Al-Hasan Al-Isfahani, radish seller would have made students of Samarra University ‘deceitful’ and ‘ignorant’ teachers

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SCANDALS related to forged academic certificates bought from “selling stores” in some universities in various countries around the world emerge on a daily basis.

This phenomenon has intensified at the Arab level after tens of thousands of people, who bought their certificates to seek job promotions, were exposed when some countries adopted the salary-raising system for those who obtained a higher education certificate while working.

Subsequently, this prompted the weak souls to seek higher education certificates to better their financial situation. In the blink of an eye, we started seeing “Dr.” for example being added in front of a large number of names.

This disease is not confined to a particular country, especially in the last twenty years. It was recently discovered that about 27,000 Iraqis obtained degrees from four suspicious universities in Lebanon. Also, there are thousands of Kuwaitis, Emiratis, Qataris, Saudis, Algerians, Egyptians, Libyans and others who obtained fake degrees from dummy universities in both Arab and foreign countries, but most of them outside the Arab world such as from the United States, Britain and France.

The most dangerous aspect about this matter is that those who obtained degrees in pure sciences, such as engineering, medicine, or law, benefited from this matter and occupied high positions in a number of ministries and institutions. It was not surprising that a group of doctors in several Gulf countries had not studied medicine at all, and some of them caused the death of a number of patients.

At a time when the Arab countries, and most of the Third World countries, continue to offer university degrees on alternative skills, the United States of America changed its standard of employment when the former President Donald Trump issued an executive order in June 2020 that changed government employment standards, as it had a significant positive impact on the private sector.

The former president ordered the federal government to focus on skills rather than college degrees when selecting federal employees.

The White House’s goal was not to eliminate degree requirements for employment, but to encourage the prioritization of job skills, making a degree or certification less important. Companies like IBM have already begun to do this, as 15 percent of its workforce were employed last year based on their skills rather than educational level.

As for Britain, which hosts 140 universities, some of which are more than four centuries old, it does not depend on university degrees for many prestigious jobs in government institutions or the private sector. This also applies to Switzerland, France, Germany and many European countries.

Few years ago, the owner of the American company Tesla, Elon Musk, whose fortune is currently about $281 billion, was asked in an interview about the university degrees he is looking for to include in his curriculum vitae (CV). He responded in the following manner –

“Despite the importance of degrees, there is an indicator to search for a person’s abilities that may qualify him to achieve extraordinary achievements other than certifications.

There are famous names in the field of technology such as Bill Gates, Larry Elson and Steve Jobs who failed to graduate from universities, but acquired a degree of achievement and ingenuity in excellence that was contrary to the trend that everyone follows.

Some work-related studies have proven that it is necessary to search for employees who would occupy positions in which no one else can provide the same effort and achievement, given that it is not a matter of the abundance of geniuses and talents in the company, but rather how such skills are managed. If you have a genius and no benefit comes from him, this is definitely a loss, not a gain.”

In Kuwait, for instance, those without degrees have succeeded in managing several companies. In fact, they have developed them to be much better than what they were. Therefore, the decision to prevent the renewal of residency permits for expatriates over the age of 60 years in Kuwait was met with rejection at all levels.

It was seen as the opening of the door to the trade of forged certificates and residency permits, while the country was losing many expertise it needed.

There is no doubt that the desire to obtain a forged university degree is the widest door to corruption. There is a Kuwaiti adage – “He who has a wind in his stomach does not rest”. Hence, the holder of a forged certificate will gather around him those who are like him in order to remain dominant, while those who keep studying and persevere to gain more knowledge will have no place among these. They will fight them fiercely, and from this angle one can read some of the intentions behind the decision to ban work permits for those over the age of 60 years old and without a higher education certificate.

In the 19th century, there was a huge university in the Iraqi city of Samarra. This academic monument was headed by the great scholar Abu Al-Hasan Al-Isfahani. Among his students was one who was very poor but had the ambition of becoming one of the pillars of knowledge.

On a hot day, this student left the class hungry and went to the market. He only had 1.5 pennies with him, and he wanted to buy a meal of bread and horseradish, which cost two pennies.

He bought a loaf of bread for a penny, and then went to the grocery to buy a bunch of horseradish. The student told the seller that he had half a penny for the horseradish, and the seller told him, “but the cost of what you want is a penny”.

The boy replied, “I will help you in a scientific or jurisprudential issue in exchange for the radish”.

The seller replied, “If your knowledge was useful, you would have earned half a penny in order to complete the price of the meal. So go and drink water until you are full”.

A few days later, the great scholar missed his noble student. When he asked other students about him, they told him, “He gave up university and started working in order to overcome his harsh conditions”.

Al-Isfahani went to the student’s house and asked him why he left the university. After he told him his story, his teacher replied, “If you needed money, you should have asked for it. Here is my ring … Go and sell it and fix your situation with it”.

The student accepted his teacher’s gift and went to a jeweler’s shop, where he sold the ring for KD 1,000.

The next day, his teacher asked him, “Where did you sell the ring?” and the student said, “In a jeweler’s shop, of course”.

So the professor asked him, “Why didn’t you go to the horseradish seller whom you accepted to value your knowledge? You have to know that nothing is valued except for those who know its value. I value you, so do not let someone who does not know your value to value you … Go back to your learning”.

When scholars submit to the ignorant, the horseradish seller becomes the one who evaluates people and values their knowledge.

How many horseradish sellers have attained prestigious positions in the Arab world, which made the nations sink in a sea of corruption and caused ignorant people to dominate in the advanced positions, thus leading to the failure of the majority of those countries?

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah

Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

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