By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief
Stock markets are falling rapidly. Mega multinational corporations are winding up their losing ventures. People are losing jobs in millions.
Countless families all over the world are engaged in the struggle to keep a roof over their heads and feed themselves. Banking industry is in shamble and housing market is almost on the brink of a collapse.
Yet, the life is as usual in those sectors of the society who have already accumulated huge wealth. The worldâ€™s less than 5 percent population is carefree even in the worst financial crisis in our recent memories..
Amidst all these, the question most people ask. Will Obama be able to solve the current financial crisis? Will he strike with his magic wand a path of economic recovery that would bring America and the world out of the recession or depression or whatever we may call it? Will he restore the banking industry? Will he help people find jobs? Will he secure the interests of the people without losing the support of the wealthiest of the world? Will he revive the stock market? Will he help the housing industry? And on and on.
Obama himself has acknowledged the difficulties he would face in overcoming the crisis the country currently faces. In his victory speech in Chicago on November 4, he talked about the difficult time ahead and invited people to inculcate the spirit of sacrifice to help people come out of the ongoing trials and tribulations.
Obama was appealing to morality to fix the ills of an economic system that does not believe in any morality other than the one it creates to sustain itself. We live in a world driven by values generated by capitalism. In our world, Capital is the currency. The more capital we accumulate, the more influential and powerful we are. Those who invest their capital in economic ventures are the ones who are deemed successful. Under this system, everyone is for himself and herself.
Capitalism believes in the nurturing of only human body. It believes that the intellect is the only ingredient for the growth and nourishment of humans. The intellect demands that each must live for one self. Capitalism demands accumulation of wealth first for oneself than for oneâ€™s children and then for oneâ€™s legacy. The race to accumulate more wealth results in the powerlessness of masses as only a few succeed to climb to the top.
The intellect does not offer any rebuttal of capitalism as it is the intellect that is its founder. Consequently, rich gets richer and poor poorer causing sufferings to millions who are reduced to a different kind of slavery where they are kept alive to produce more and more capital for a few. Capitalism promotes the age old principle of might is right and instigates the most powerful to overtake the wealth of the other. It creates fear in the masses and it makes them totally vulnerable in times of crisis.
Capitalism creates classes who find them imprisoned in a system they cannot come out. Religious hierarchy often comes to the rescue of capitalism by invoking the name of God to urge the rich to help the poor to keep them alive and to secure a better status for them in the heaven. Moreover, it always tries to pacify the suffering people by giving them the hope of a better life in the heaven. It often urges them to renounce the world or have minimum contact with it.
The capitalist world that we live in today is brutal and inhumane in its greed to acquire more wealth. Even if there are ten Obamaâ€™s trying to fix the ills of this system, they will not succeed in getting it fixed permanently. On the crutches of bail outs, this system may walk a few more steps and linger its existence, but ultimately, it will create new crisis after crisis.
The root cause of the current financial crisis does not lie in the most bizarre domestic and foreign policies of the Bush Administration.
It lies in the nature of capitalism that builds itself purely only on human experience and intellect promoting ideas of survival of the fittest and might is right No amount of fixing up can help us out of the deep ditch created by capitalism. Capitalism is the philosophy of those who in the words of the divine â€œcontinuously accumulate wealthâ€ (100:8; 14:2)). They believe that â€œthe wealth will give him eternal happiness, (104:3).
They always go after immediate benefits, (75:20; 74:28). They ignore the future and seek worldly things selfishly, (75:21; 87:16)
In the words of the Qur`an Capitalism creates animosity among people (2:36). and promotes this because it believes that nothing can harm it, (90:5)
The response to capitalism is not to fix the unfixable but to change our paradigm of thinking about the world, universe and human resources abundantly present therein. The intellect coupled with divine revelation is capable of developing this perspective. The Qur`an declares that each human being deserves a dignified existence and it demands from those who believe in the supremacy of the revelation to work for the establishment of a society where the interests of all are secure and where people are willing to sacrifice their interests for others, (51:9). The Qur`an declares that the divine is the creator of all the resources essential for human survival. Water, air, food are all offered to human beings without any divine tax.
The Qur`an says that the foundation of economic activity is labor and not capital, (20:15). It says that wealth is not be accumulated for one self. Rather it should be left open for nurturing those who are not in a position to do so. The Qur`an suggests that â€œwhatever is given to others is the only thing that helps human beings grow. The Qur`an recommends keeping open oneâ€™s resources for others in order to attain a higher level of piety, (3:91). The Qur`an suggest that such a society can be established only by those who are guided by the divine revelation in their efforts to use their intellect to negotiate with the changing situations.
The Qur`an does not ask people to renounce or denounce the world. Rather it asks them to run the affairs on the basis of guidance He has provided to humanity. It says that change will come when people will change their perspective about themselves and their cosmos on the basis of the revelations various prophets delivered to them throughout human history culminating in the Qur`an.
The Qur`an suggests that the cosmos follow certain rules and laws created by the divine and tries to convince the human mind can never think objectively for the entire humanity without the help of divine guidance in every aspect of life.
When people who believe that their responsibility is to nurture and sustain each and every individual that lives on our planet assume responsibility in regulating the resources created by the divine, things begin to change because each thinks of the other and gives away whatever is not needed by him or her. Obviously, the Qur`an talks of a massive change in oneâ€™s perspective. It does not say that by simply creating interest free banking institutions, the financial crisis can be overcome. Many among Muslims tend to think that by turning the world banking into interest free system, the problems can be overcome.
Well, during the depression in Japan, interest was dropped to zero and that did not help solve the crisis. The Qur`an talks at a deeper level suggesting that without making labor the criterion for reward and caring for each and everyone regardless of oneâ€™ religious or ideological background, whatever financial system we adopt, we will always be in perpetual crisis.
Obviously, this perspective on the nurturing and nourishment of all human beings has mostly be neglected by Muslim scholars, thinkers and government who are as much capitalist in their affairs as any other declared capitalist country is. Those who offer solution to capitalism do not see beyond interest-free banking. The current crisis is the crisis of intellect and its directions. It will not be solved only by economists or bankers or venture capitalists. Its solution would come from a critical rethinking of our existing paradigms and shifting our perspective from maximization of personal wealth to the maximization of human dignity in all its aspects. Capitalism cannot offer this perspective. Only an objective sources such as the divine who is the nourisher and sustainer of all can offer such guidance. It is to that source one must return to find solutions to the existing crisis.