Islamic Economics for Boosting Individual Income

Economic challenge is the second biggest priority for individual Muslims. First is ofcourse security of life and property. Where I live there are millions of Muslims living in very terrible conditions. Terrible in the sense they have hardly any access to a descent living compared to others in their society. Money is always lacking in these poor areas. Families cant afford to send all their children to school, usually its the girls who get less priority when it comes to schooling, especially in higher grades. Economic system in Asian countries is unfairly managed to give few urban elites the biggest chunk of the pie while the large majority is forced to live miserably. This is a challenge facing the Ummah which is unfortunately not being recognized as such by the Ulama.

The Ulama tells us that it is better to remain poor than to be rich because the poor are closer to G-d, and that is because they are not as sinful as the rich. Somehow the silent message is that being poor is good, being rich is bad, so don’t wish to be rich, instead wish to remain poor. That sounds like a conspiracy theory to me. The wealthy business owners would obviously benefit most from this un-holy alliance where the religious head preaches such nonsense to the workers.

Islam is not like this. People may become poor due to economic hardships caused by scarcity of resources, war and weather. Economic system of Islam does not permit for the exploitation of workers by the wealthy land owners or business owners. The duty of the Islamic government is basically to ensure that wealth is distributed fairly amongst the citizens. Taxation is a tool by which the socio-economic balance is held in place. Zakat and Fitrah are tools which bring social harmony between the rich and the poor. In all this, the basic needs of a society are guaranteed to each and every single individual. The question should not be ìs that possible?`because the real question ought to be `how can we make it possible?`. That is why we want experts in the Islamic Economic System to guide the policy makers.

Above is for a collective struggle to bring back the Islamic Economic System of the Khulafa-e-Rashidin. At the moment, what do we do? Do we crush our desires for a better material life for the sake of protecting our spirituality? No, that´s not how I understood my role as a Muslim. I see the necessity of every individual Muslim to work harder to improve his economic situation. He should provide for his family, invest in educating his children, build a home, encourage the religious duty of giving Zakat, and he should also organize capital for investment in business enterprises with long term goals.

A financially wealthy Muslim can do a lot for Islamic Dawah. His wealth when channeled in the right direction could go a long way in advancing the cause of Khair in Duniya and Akhirah. The question for individuals should not be whether he is allowed to increase his wealth, but the real question should be how he should increase his wealth remaining within the boundaries of Islam.

Appended below is a nice article written by a well known Islamic writer Khalid Baig. I am sure you will enjoy and benefit from his thoughts.

Seeking Halal Earning

By Khalid Baig

According to Abdullah ibn Masud, Radi-Allahu unhu, The Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said: ‘Seeking halal earning is a duty after the duty.’ In other words working to earn a halal living is itself a religious obligation second in importance after the primary religious obligations like prayers, fasting and hajj.

This brief hadith contains three very important messages. First, it points to the Islamic way out of the apparent dichotomy between the material and the spiritual worlds. We often see them working in opposite directions. Indulgence in the material world does lead one away from the spiritual world. Spiritual uplifting seems to accompany a tendency to distance oneself from the material pleasures. There is a conflict, but is there a contradiction also? Is it possible to resolve the conflict in a way that one can take care of both? Or are they mutually exclusive? This has been a central question for all religions and many in the past suggested the second answer, making hermits as the ideal for the humanity. Unfortunately not much humanity is left when one moves too far in this direction. One can read today the horror stories of Christian and Hindu monks, among others, who tried to seek spiritual purification this way.

As a reaction, others took the other course, making material pleasures the goal of this life. The western civilization today is the prime example of that. Its toll on human spirit and morality is well known and is a constant reminder that something is wrong here as well.

In between the two extremes Islam points out the Straight Path. Man is both a material and a spiritual being. The solution does not lie in denying the material needs and desires but in denying their claim to primacy. They are part of being but not the reason or goal of being. As long as they are kept in place, they are an important part of our life. The problem is not money but the love of it. Wealth itself is not bad. In fact Qur’an refers to it as ‘ … your wealth which Allah has made for you a means of support.’ [Al-Nisa, 4:5]. And another hadith praises the merits of ‘the halal wealth of a pious person.’ The effort to earn a living is not only not against spirituality, it is a religious obligation!

But this earning must be through halal means. This is the second message of this hadith. Our obligation is not just to make money but to make halal money. This is a broad statement that is the basis for Islamization of a society’s economic life. Not every business idea or possible business enterprise is good for the society. And the decision regarding right and wrong here cannot be left to the so-called market forces. Right and wrong in the economic life, as in all life, must be determined by a higher source. Shariah guides us as to the halal and haram business enterprises and practices, and at both individual and collective levels we must follow that guidance.

At times that guidance may conflict with the prevailing practices. For example riba (interest), gambling, pornography, and liquor are haram, and no matter how attractive the financial rewards of engaging in those enterprises may seem to be, a Muslim must refrain from them. This is the economic struggle of a believer, and it is obvious why it should be carried out as a religious obligation. At the individual level the obligation is to engage is halal professions and businesses. At the collective level the obligation is to establish a system that facilitates such individual efforts and discourages their opposite.

Sometimes we lose the balance between obligations at the two levels. Obviously our ultimate responsibility is at the individual level; in the hereafter we will be asked about what we did in our personal lives. At the same time, in the era of multi-national companies, CNN, IMF, World bank, and GATT, it is obvious that individual efforts alone cannot steer the economic life of a society in the direction of halal. Why avoiding interest has become so difficult today? Not because of its inherent merits as a healthy financial instrument but because it is entrenched in the system. Can we build an Islamic life style when the CNN is advertising a western life style in the most enticing ways 24 hours a day in our homes? Can we resolve the issues of halal and haram in taxation in Muslim countries when the national budgets and tax decisions are dictated to these countries by the IMF and the World Bank? (Jurists say that taxes may be permissible if they are necessary, reasonable, fair, within the ability of the payers, and if the means of collection are not harsh. Otherwise they are unjust and haram). Obviously the struggle to avoid haram individually must, of necessity, include the struggle to change the system that forces haram.

Third, all this effort for halal earning should not eclipse our primary religious obligations. Indulgence even in a purely halal enterprise should not make us miss our Salat, or hajj, for example.

This point is more important than we may realize at first. In this century, some Islamic movements made the error of suggesting that the primary acts of worship. like Salat were not meant for their own sake, but were there to prepare us for the real challenge of establishing an Islamic state. It was stated to persuade the audiences to join such movements but the speakers had gone carried away and in effect it would result in an inversion of the relationship between the two. The result is that those drawn to collective struggles, in political or economic arenas, sometimes may ignore their primary religious responsibilities, in favor of the ‘bigger’ struggle. This hadith may help us set our priorities right: The economic endeavor is a duty after the primary duties. And let us remember: In economics, as well as in religion, getting the priorities right is part of being right.

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Growing Revivalist Culture of Bangladesh

Bangladesh has always been a peaceful country. Its occasional collective outbursts managed to tear open the coats of imperialism in such fury that it left behind permanent divisions in the regional map.

In the 18th century Bengali muslims rose up against two superpowers. They opened up two fronts militarily and culturally. On the one hand they had to resist the rising power of unjust zamindars (landlords of mostly non-muslim origin), and on the other hand were the British mercenaries employed by the British East India Company.

Two names cant escape this blog. Titumir and Haji Shariatullah (followed by his son Haji Mohsin). These two Bengali Muslims ignited the passions of the freedom loving Bengali peasants. The British eyed them suspiciously fearing rebellion against the Company, while the newly crowned zamindars needed the peasants to remain subjugated like slaves for the sake of safeguarding their British blessed wealth and property.

Titumir’s Basherkella and Haji Shariatullah’s Faraizi Movement printed their immortal footprints in the history of this land.What is the connection between Titumir’s Basherkella (fortres made of bamboo sticks), or the Faraizi Movement of cultural revolution? Are’nt those stories now way too old for us in the 21st century?

The connection lies in between the colonization of Bengal by the British East India Company (with the help and support of zamindars) and the current usurpation of peoples’ freedom under domestic totalitarianism. The struggle then and now are like the two wings of a bird. It is a struggle against the power of an evil and corrupt system.

The culture that is on the rise seems quite clear if someone picks up a newspaper. More and more people are discovering their roots in the rural country side. Younger people want to know from where did our current conflicts originate? More importantly, they would like to be get a convincing reply to this, “who is right?”

To find answers to the right vs wrong questions one will have to go back and look at the sources of social set-ups and the structure that holds families together. Because this curiosity will grow larger I am calculating in the next few years Bangladesh will experience a new kind of socio-cultural understanding of their world. I know Bangladeshis had until now abandoned the human (and divinely provided) need for discovering the world around them with a broad voewpoit of the world outside Bangladesh.

The good news is when we begin to search for the truth, regardless of where we look for it, the truth will also start to look for us.

Kerala – Birthplace of Righteous Non-Arab Sahaba (ra)

So many times in the past I heard the phrase “you dont know your history”. Now looking back I think that phrase is quite right. I really dont know much about the land I claim to be mine. I was taught to learn the history of other civilizations since early school years. It was’nt until I went to live and work in the cultures I was taught to appreciate in school that I began to really learn about my own past. At least now I know why my country’s education system is failing to build enlightened world class citizens. Backward cultures tend to avoid acknowledging the face in the mirror.

Below is a face of South Asia showcasing the desire to change, to move and to make a difference in ones’ self and his society. To me, it is also the face of originality, which is a precious commodity in a country still trying to break from the chains of psychological complexity left behind from colonial raj.

Below you will find the 1400 year old story of a King from south western Indian state of Kerala. This pious king broke the traditional stereotype so intimately connected to the superstitious and mythological cultures of South Asia. The king reflected deeply on the source of all creations and connected his convictions with the purpose of life suitable for an individual and the collective society, i.e. he took responsibility for his subjects and his kingdom as a whole.

Very little is written about this noble king who should have been the pride of all the believers in South Asia and beyond. Please read below the story of the righteous king Cheraman Perumal, the legendary non-Arab companion (sahaba) of Rasool Allah sallillahu alihi wa alihi wa sallam.

 A tradition of the Holy Prophet has also been reported from one of the companions, Abu Saeed al Khudri, regarding the arrival of Cheraman Perumal:

hadith
“A king from India presented the Messenger of Allah with a bottle of pickle that had ginger in it. The Holy Prophet distributed it among his companions. I also received a piece to eat.” Hakim reports in ‘Al Musthadrak’
 
Chakrawati Farmas, King of Malabar in India, WITNESSEDthe splitting of the moon!
Kerala is a state of India.  The state stretches for 360 miles (580 kilometers) along the Malabar Coast on the southwestern side of the Indian peninsula. King Chakrawati Farmas of Malabar was a Chera king, Cheraman perumal of Kodungallure.  He is recorded to have seen the moon split.  The incident is documented in a manuscript kept at the India Office Library, London, reference number: Arabic, 2807, 152-173. As Arab merchants used to pass by the shore of Malabar on their way to China, thus a group of Muslim merchant’s passing by Malabar spoke to the king about how God had supported the Arabian prophet with the miracle of splitting of the moon.  The shocked king said he had seen it with his own eyes as well, deputized his son, and left for Arabia to meet the Prophet in person.  The Malabari king met the Prophet, bore the two testimonies of faith, learned the basics of faith, but passed away on his way back and was buried in the port city of Zafar, Yemen, where the tomb of the “Indian king” was piously visited for many centuries.”
The Indian sighting and the meeting of the Indian king with Prophet Muhammad is also reported by Muslim sources.  The famous Muslim historian, Ibn Kathir, mentions the splitting of the moon was reported in parts of India. (Al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya, by Ibn Kathir, vol. 3, p. 130)
Also, the books of hadith have documented the arrival of the Indian king and his meeting the Prophet.  Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, a companion of Prophet Muhammad, states:
The Indian king gifted the Prophet with a jar of ginger.  The companions ate it piece by piece.  I took a bite as well.” (Reported by Hakim in ‘Mustadrikvol. 4, p. 150)
The king was thus considered a ‘companion’ – a term used for a person who met the Prophet and died as a Muslim – his name registered in the mega-compendiums chronicling the Prophet’s companions.
(Al-Isababy Ibn Hajr, vol. 3.  p. 279 and ‘Lisan ul-Mizanby Imam al-Dhahabi, vol. 3 p. 10 under the name ‘Sarbanak,’ the name with which the Arabs knew him.)
It is due to this incident about their king, the people of Malabar became the first community in India to accept Islam. It is said that the contingent was led by a Muslim, Malik bin Dinar, and continued to Kodungallure, the Chera capital, and built the first, and India’s oldest, mosque in the area in 629 CE which exists today.
Subsequently, they increased their trade with Arabs, as the Arab ships used to pass by their shores on the way to China.
The old manuscript in the ‘India Office Library’ contains several other details about King Chakrawati Farmas and his travel.
 

Splitting of the Moon

One of the times when God performed miracles at the hand of the Prophet was  when the Meccans demanded to see a miracle from Muhammad to show his truthfulness.  God split the moon in two separate halves and then re-joined them.  The Quran recorded the event:
“The Last Hour draws near, and the moon is split asunder!” (Quran 54:1)
Prophet Muhammad would recite these verses of the Quran in large congregations of the weekly Friday prayer and the bi-annual Eed prayers.[1]  Had the event never occurred, Muslims themselves would have doubted their religion and many would have left it!  The Meccans would have said, ‘Hey, your prophet is a liar, the moon never split, and we never saw it split!’  Instead, the believers grew stronger in their faith and the only explanation the Meccans could come up with was, ‘passing magic!’
“The Last Hour draws near, and the moon is split asunder!  And if they see a sign (miracle), they turn away and say, ‘Passing magic!’- for they are bent on giving it the lie, being always wont to follow their own desires.” (Quran 54:1-3)
The splitting of the moon is confirmed through eye-witness testimony transmitted through an unbroken chain of reliable scholars so many that is it impossible that it could be false (hadith mutawatir).[2]
A skeptic might ask, do we have any independent historical evidence to suggest the moon was ever split?  After all, people around the world should have seen this marvelous event and recorded it.
The answer to this question is twofold.
First, people around the world could not have seen it as it would have been daytime, late night, or early morning many parts of the world.  The following table will give the reader some idea of corresponding world times to 9:00 pm Mecca time:
Country
Time
Mecca
9:00 pm
India
11:30 pm
Perth
2:00 am
Reykjavik
6:00 pm
Washington D.C.
2:00 pm
Rio de Janeiro
3:00 pm
Tokyo
3:00 am
Beijing
2:00 am
 
Also, it is not likely that a large number of people in lands close by would be observing the moon at the exact same time.  They had no reason to.  Even if some one did, it does not necessarily mean people believed him and kept a written record of it, especially when many civilizations at that time did not preserve their own history in writing.
Second, we actually have an independent, and quite amazing, historical corroboration of the event from an Indian king of that time.
Kerala is a state of India.  The state stretches for 360 miles (580 kilometers) along the Malabar Coast on the southwestern side of the Indian peninsula.[3]  King Chakrawati Farmas of Malabar was a Chera king, Cheraman perumal of Kodungallure.  He is recorded to have seen the moon split.  The incident is documented in a manuscript kept at the India Office Library, London, reference number: Arabic, 2807, 152-173.[4]  A group of Muslim merchant’s passing by Malabar on their way to China spoke to the king about how God had supported the Arabian prophet with the miracle of splitting of the moon.  The shocked king said he had seen it with his own eyes as well, deputized his son, and left for Arabia to meet the Prophet in person.  The Malabari king met the Prophet, bore the two testimonies of faith, learned the basics of faith, but passed away on his way back and was buried in the port city of Zafar, Yemen.[5]
It is said that the contingent was led by a Muslim, Malik bin Dinar, and continued to Kodungallure, the Chera capital, and built the first, and India’s oldest, mosque in the area in 629 CE which exists today.
 
 
 
The news of his accepting Islam reached Kerala where people accepted Islam.  The people of Lakshadweep and the Moplas (Mapillais) from the Calicut province of Kerala are converts from those days.
 
 
The Indian sighting and the meeting of the Indian king with Prophet Muhammad is also reported by Muslim sources.  The famous Muslim historian, Ibn Kahtir, mentions the splitting of the moon was reported in parts of India.[6]  Also, the books of hadith have documented the arrival of the Indian king and his meeting the Prophet.  Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, a companion of Prophet Muhammad, states:
“The Indian king gifted the Prophet with a jar of ginger.  The companions ate it piece by piece.  I took a bite as well.”[7]
The king was thus considered a ‘companion’ – a term used for a person who met the Prophet and died as a Muslim – his name registered in the mega-compendiums chronicling the Prophet’s companions.[8]

Night Journey and Ascent to Heaven

A few months before the migration from Mecca to Medina, God took Muhammad in one night from the Grand Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a month’s journey of 1230 Km for a caravan.  From Jerusalem, he ascended to the heavens, passing the boundaries of the physical universe to be in divine presence, meet God, and witness the Great Signs (al-Ayat ul-Kubra).  His truth became apparent in two ways.  First, ‘the Prophet described the caravans he had overtaken on the way home and said where they were and about when they might be expected to arrive in Mecca; and each arrived as predicted, and the details were as he had described.’[9]  Second, he was never known to have been to Jerusalem, yet he described al-Aqsa Mosque to skeptics like an eye-witness.
 
 
 
The mystical journey is mentioned in the Quran:
“Exalted is He who took His Servant [Prophet Muhammad] by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs.  Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Quran 17:1)
“So will you dispute with him over what he saw?  And he certainly saw him in another descent at the Lote Tree of the Utmost Boundary – near it is the Garden of Refuge (Paradise) – when there covered the Lote Tree that which covered (it).  The sight (of the Prophet) did not swerve, nor did it transgress (its limit).  He certainly saw of the greatest signs of his Lord.” (Quran 53:12-18)
The event is also confirmed through eye-witness testimony transmitted through the ages with an unbroken chain of reliable scholars (hadith mutawatir).[10]
 
 
 
 
 
 


Footnotes:

[1] Saheeh Muslim.
[2] See ‘Nadhm al-Mutanathira min al-Hadith al-Mutawatir,’ by al-Kattani p. 215.
[3] “Kerala.” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.  (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9111226)
[4] It is quoted in the book “Muhammad Rasulullah,” by Muhammad Hamidullah: “There is a very old tradition in Malabar, South-West Coast of India, that Chakrawati Farmas, one of their kings, had observed the splitting of the moon, the celebrated miracle of the Holy Prophet at Mecca, and learning on inquiry that there was a prediction of the coming of a Messenger of God from Arabia, he appointed his son as regent and set out to meet him.  He embraced Islam at the hand of the Prophet, and when returning home, at the direction of the Prophet, died at the port of Zafar, Yemen, where the tomb of the “Indian king” was piously visited for many centuries.”
[5] ‘Zafar: biblical  Sephar , classical  Sapphar, or Saphar ancient Arabian site located southwest of Yarim in southern Yemen.  It was the capital of the Himyarites, a tribe that ruled much of southern Arabia from about 115 BC to about AD 525.  Up until the Persian conquest (c. AD 575), Zafar was one of the most important and celebrated towns in southern Arabia—a fact attested to not only by Arab geographers and historians but also by Greek and Roman authors.  After the extinction of the Himyar kingdom and the rise of Islam, Zafar gradually fell into decay.’ “Zafar.” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9078191)
[6]Al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya,’ by Ibn Kathir, vol 3, p. 130.
[7] Reported by Hakim in ‘Mustadrik’ vol 4, p. 150.  Hakim comments, ‘I have not memorized any other report stating the Prophet ate ginger.’
[8]Al-Isaba’ by Ibn Hajr, vol 3.  p. 279 and ‘Lisan ul-Mizan’ by Imam al-Dhahabi, vol. 3 p. 10 under the name ‘Sarbanak,’ the name with which the Arabs knew him.
[9] ‘Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources’ by Martin Lings, p. 103.
[10] Forty five companions of the Prophet transmitted the reports on his Night Journey and the Heavenly Ascent.  See the works of hadith masters: ‘Azhar al-Mutanathira fi al-Ahadith al-Mutawatira’ by al-Suyuti p. 263 and ‘Nadhm al-Mutanathira min al-Hadith al-Mutawatir,’ by al-Kattani p. 207.

Pakistan Disowns Bounty on Anti-Islam Filmmaker

This is quite funny. A Pakistani senator announces a bounty for an American filmmaker. Why does’nt the senator consider placing a bounty for all the anti Islamic and corrupted politicians in his own country first. The presence of those very people at the helm of the second largest muslim country should be a greater insult to muslims. How would the authorities in pakistan react to a bounty like that? Answer is quite obvious…

Third world nonsense

We got to admit it. Our politicians are not at all interested in our affairs. They are interested in fulfilling their greed only. Most people I know will say “oh, we are fed up with these corrupt politicians. We hope to see some change”.

But thats quite funny because when the time comes to choose leaders they fall right back to their old position picking from the same old rotten lot. New generation leaders feel betrayed by these double standards, especially from our “educated” class.

There is no point in talking about progress, development, change, transformation, without having the minimum guts to take a position for what you believe.

Why are you always looking for escape routes to justify your sins?