We watch, with mounting gloom as share prices of investments we’ve made continue to drop, but we don’t despair. It seems, every so often, throughout history, the world goes through cycles, ever-renewing itself, almost a cleansing, sometimes natural, like earthquakes and other disasters, sometimes God-willed that nations should cease to exist and are replaced by others, and sometimes, as recent history seems to suggest, just a product of man’s avarice, i.e. The Great Depression. So I ask myself, is this the nightmare that humanity must go through to awaken from the deep slumber of materialism and consumerism? Is this not a sign, that collectively, as a species, homo sapiens, have strayed too far from the nest?
What is driving this “crisis” in my (admittedly layman’s) opinion, is Greed, i.e. the need to have, to own, to possess, to amass wealth, to be surrounded by luxury, to imagine that one is self-sufficient. How can we forgot, what Al Razaq says,
“It is We Who have placed you with authority on earth, and provided you therein with means for the fulfilment of your life: small are the thanks that ye give!”
So, what started all of this – in a very very small nutshell, people lied about their earnings and assets to get loans for homes and other things they could not afford. Banks knew this, but still lent, hearts aflutter with thoughts of all the dollars in interest that should have spilt in. Ah, so our old enemy Riba, Greed’s faithful accomplice, reigns supreme again.
Allah is very vocal about Riba in the Quran –
“Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury,” but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. ”
“That they took usury, though they were forbidden; and that they devoured men’s substance wrongfully;- we have prepared for those among them who reject faith a grievous punishment.”
Don’t know about you, but that sends shivers down my spine.
As a Muslim consumer in today’s economic climate, how has the current crisis affected my life? I have been shielded from most of the repercussions, but I watch with dread as my home currency looses face to the dollar, and listen with sympathy to my American friends’ stories of ordinary people losing their homes. I am living through troubled times, but I am relieved and thankful to be grounded in a faith that has taught me to abhor interest, to avoid debt, to steer clear of speculation, to deal ethically and to live simply. I believe this to be my saving grace.
I am firm in a belief that Islam does not fit into any “ism”, nor do they fit into Islam. Socialism, communism and capitalism, all try to optimize wealth output, at the expense of human values. Islam stands on its own, a lone candle, with the ability to illuminate the world. Islamic Economic theory in particular, based on the transcendent, ensures that humanities best interest is served, and not exploited at the evil whims of despots. It proposes some challenging alternatives to contemporary economic practice. Islam vehemently opposes the monopolization of wealth, as well as the “one for all” mentality. It strikes a middle path, calling for just re-compensation, equal opportunity and access to capital for all. Sadly, no Muslim state has been able to provide the example so desperately needed, but Medina of Muhammad (saw) still offers a glimmer of hope, of what can be.
As the global financial crisis dominates the medias agenda, dinner tables and business meetings, and as the whole world is holding its breath, waiting for the calm after the storm, I have no doubt it will come, “verily, with every difficulty there is relief”.
The first principle that any Islamic Economics student learns, is that, real ownership belongs to Allah alone. This one belief alone has the power to set the course of humanity back on its rightful path. I never can get my head around complicated economic jargon, graphs and tables, so my approach is rather simplistic, but who can disagree that if people live within their means, this whole mess can be avoided? That if banks don’t lie, try to lure people into their loan schemes, which are actually traps, trick with fine print and exorbitant interest rates, the world would be a much better place. The evils of speculation and interest have become self apparent. But will humanity learn its lesson?
To all those affected by the Global Financial Crisis, I say to them what Allah has said to humankind –
“And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is ((Allah)) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.”