I once heard Imam Siraj Wahaj describe his own actions during a speech held at Regents Park Mosque, London. He qualified himself as being the least knowledgeable speaker on the panel. While explaining his position he made a profound statement, the depth of which I have not forgot – (very loosely paraphrased):
“I am the least qualified amongst these speakers of eloquence but that has never been my fear nor my concern. What concerns me is that I have sure knowledge on what I speak of and when I know something to be undeniably true then that becomes my true position and I hold firm to that position, unmovable in the face of views to the contrary. That is the reason why I am up here and able to hold your attention and connect with you, I’m passionate about this”.
I think that statement resonated with me because at that point I could see a man who neither feared his peers nor was afraid to trust his own judgment and was passionate about what he believed in. He also struck me as a man not afraid to adopt the contrarian view. I intend to adopt the same position in an attempt to speak my mind and add to the discussion on a financial issue which has remained in the dark for far too long despite the sincere efforts of more intelligent souls to bring the issue out of the darkness and into the light.
I’ve heard it said that the majority are not always right and I think at times there is some truth to this statement, many are the messengers who brought intelligence which contradicted the common thought of the time but were eventually proved right. A lot of problems which crept into the scripture of the Judaic and Christian religions came by willful changing of the original text. Changes also appeared due to certain authorities either enslaving the custodians of the scripture and stripping them of their recorded text or by manipulation of personnel into positions of authority who then steered the religion onto an alternate path away from the original. Islam and the Quran has never been unfortunate to have suffered the exact fate of Judaism and Christianity, our text has remained intact but the physical expression of the text has not been immune from neglect and it is this very point which I wish to address.
People always make comparable observations as to what makes the best in art, music, food or cinema etc. but when it comes to a complete religion, I’ll take Islam every time. Is Islam not perfect? It truly is a perfect religion but it obviously does not exist in a vacuum. It materializes through the actions of imperfect men and we try to do our best in spite of our flaws. It is important to recognize that we are not flawless but in our attempt to be, or be seen as righteous we should not become blind to our own failures, or worst still, blame them on somebody else, that would be undeniably wrong. Now when somebody tells me that practicing Islam in a non Islamic country makes perfect sense, I know they are lying. By this reasoning our beloved and best example of the embodiment of this religion, Prophet Muhammad pbuh, would have stuck it out in Mecca and not left to start an Islamic State in Medina. He would have, had to compromise on the main political and economical aspects of his message and instead focus more on the spiritual and ceremonial elements but at least he could have stayed in Mecca.
But there were a couple of issues which flew in the face of the Meccan authorities which they could not tolerate. One problem which they detested was the Islamic call that ‘there is no God but Allah’, for them this presented a huge issue, for if there were no God but Allah, who were all these other created deities which they prayed to, what were they supposed to do with them all and who would ever need to visit Mecca if all these various gods were gone? If they agreed to this religion they knew they would have to submit to the laws of this deen. They imagined the huge impact that these changes would have on their own lives, their towns importance and potential earning power.
The other major problem they had was that Mohammed pbuh was as honest as they came. He not only dealt and traded with people in a honest manor but he would openly warn of the Meccans dishonesty in trade with the visiting pilgrims. He showed Islam’s stance on honest money, honest trade and charitable works. Suffice to say Mohammed pbuh refused to compromise.
Islam without law is imperfect. Comparably the Western Civilization would not be where it is today void of law. Within Islam there are laws which protect general society, laws which are punishable. There are also laws which appeal to the individuals idea of self regulation, which tests the believers testimony of submitting his or her will to the will of Allah swt. When people talk of easily practicing their religion in a non Islamic country a distinction should be made. It is true that in some cases they may have more freedom of speech, movement and political expression than in some so called Islamic countries but to be content with that position is a huge mistake because it is based on compromises which our beloved Prophet would not make.
They should be honest and admit to the compromise that they need to adopt in order to make as it were, a square peg fit into a round hole. The law of self regulation is practiced only, by Muslims in these foreign lands and becomes separated from the Islamic State laws which cannot be imported into the new land. And so the believer is faced with a compromise, to adopt the existing law of the land which he finds himself in and then claim it to be so identically close to Islam that its does not matter that he abandons the idea of Islamic law, or to live under the foreign law but at the very least, try to establish the revival of the Islamic State in a suitably accommodating part of the earth. Both are compromises one better than the other.
Sound money is a medium of exchange and a store of value. Without these two basic principles anything else is a pale imitation, fake, counterfeit, fraudulent. Question: what would your action be if you sold an extremely valuable item to me and after the trade had been completed you realized that I had paid you with fake money. No need to answer, your reaction would be obvious. But hold onto the mindset of that reaction and use it on what comes next. If we go back to the philosophy of determining the best things in life, then it is easy to assume that gold and silver happen to be the best examples of money used throughout history, a store of value and a medium of exchange. Each metal is not valueless until someone prints an external value on it, the value is intrinsic to the metal. You cannot flood them into existence at little or no cost, it is extremely costly in both labor and finance to dig the metal out of the ground and then fabricate it.
The supply is finite and difficult to attain which is another characteristic of real money i.e. everyone wants it but can never get enough of it. If at any time, there is not enough gold and silver in the market then alternative goods are used to exchange in trade. This was acceptable to our beloved Prophet pbuh. Now to the controversial part. How is it that we now accept as money worthless paper one indistinguishable from another save for a small difference in size and print and each costing a few pennies at most to produce. Paper money came into existence as an alternative to carrying around the goods that the receipt represent. That’s what they were, a receipt, testimony that the original owner did in fact hold the amount of gold shown on the paper within the secure premises of the Goldsmiths. A lazy but convenient method of passing on the receipt to another to settle a trade developed but the new holder of the receipt would go and redeem the gold as payment and thus, the transaction would be complete. This worked for a while until the receipts became passed around so much so that very few were ever redeemed.
The Goldsmiths, later to be known as Banks became rich especially as they would then loan the unclaimed money out at interest. Now I hope you did not merely let out all that pent up reaction at the first occurrence of the word interest. We as Muslims have been brainwashed into thinking that so long as we refuse interest on our bank accounts we have completed our duty and avoided Riba or Usury but who told us this?. Consider the money in your purse or wallet, it is irredeemable, does not hold its value, its so called value is not intrinsic but printed on its exterior and without the brainwashing holds little real value other than that of a few pennies worth. Our currencies today are nothing more than I.O.U’s that are at present irredeemable so basically have little or no value. What s worse is that each bill tells you that it is an I.O.U and this is written on top of every note, it is a message from the Bank of England, a promise to pay you the bearer the sum of £5,10,20 or 50 on presentation of that note, but exactly what would be the purpose in presenting £5 to the bank in order to receive the same £5 back in return, that would be completely insane.
But you have carried this message around with you for most of your adult life and have you not reflected on its true meaning? Of course they are supposed to pay you back with REAL MONEY, gold or silver!!! I challenge anyone to try and prize what they are owed from a bankers hands, getting blood from a stone might be easier. But a question arises, can one pay ones Zakat with an I.O.U.? I think not but of course since we do not have an Islamic State, Zakat is not wajib or so I’ve been told. So what am I doing here, am I actually paying my Zakat or not? This is how mixed up and crazy things have become. When I once tried to pay my Zakat with real money in the form of precious metal at the mosque (the name of which [mosque] shall remain nameless to protect the innocent and confused) they tracked me down within the mosque and told me to take it back and pay with real money instead! My fault I guess for being so provocative.
So we now have a merely personal Islamic existence devoid of a home, devoid of an Islamic structured framework in which to correctly practice our deen, using fake money all over the place and yet we say things are perfect, God give me strength. We are in so much trouble and don’t see, to know it. Look at the Muslim world. We are in trouble. I hope we can now look around the Muslim world and specifically at those who hold power and examine the type of currency which they provide and force their people to use under the terms of ‘Legal Tender’. How bad does it have to get before we realize the situation. Let me backtrack for a moment here, in case some of us have not guessed it yet and as a result of the money we happily use without a second thought one can only come to the conclusion that we are seriously playing with usury and just in case some of us are still scratching our heads, let me state it plainly, we are up to our necks in Riba. I think at this point we should remind ourselves of the advice of our Messenger pbuh.
Abu Said al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) had said:
“Whoever amongst you sees anything objectionable, let him change it with his hand, if he is not able, then with his tongue and if he is not even able to do so, then with his heart and the latter is the weakest form of faith”
Now lets be honest here and with regards to our money, one would have to ask as to when have we ever taken the statement above into consideration?
Concerning our condition as Muslims in the world, you have to admit we are on our knees here and considering that Allah swt sometimes starts with those he gives the trust to should we not then consider the following verses from the Quran and question whether they are also applicable to us.
Al-Baqarah Surah 2. The Cow
275. 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. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (The offense) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).
276. Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: For He loveth not creatures ungrateful and wicked.
277. Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
278. O ye who believe! Fear Allah, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if ye are indeed believers.
279. If ye do it not, Take notice of war from Allah and His Messenger. But if ye turn back, ye shall have your capital sums: Deal not unjustly, and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly.
280. If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time Till it is easy for him to repay. But if ye remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if ye only knew.
281. And fear the Day when ye shall be brought back to Allah. Then shall every soul be paid what it earned, and none shall be dealt with unjustly.
Now after reading those verses, one is surely forced to admit that we have a huge problem for even if you wished to free yourself from this situation where in the world could you operate free from riba.
You know there was a time when I would hear a particular group of Muslims speak endlessly about the need for an Islamic State and ashamedly I like most thought it important but not at the top of the to do list. But when I look at the economic, let alone the political situation of the Muslim world, it seems as if the way we are progressing or more accurately drifting, offers more questions than provides solutions. I fail to see how the true religion, the last great institution left on this earth to stand for honest money and good governance can possibly operate unprotected when its very honesty will be seen as a threat to those that compete with it. On the contrary, it would be naive to imagine that those that oppose would just sit idly by and watch whilst their own world deteriorates. I once thought that our biggest concern was the issue in Palestine but failed to recognize the direct link and importance between the lack of Islamic protection and the eventual situation in that country, surrounded as it is, by Muslim lands. I knew western politics was the enemy to a solution but never stopped to think where an Islamic solution would come from. I now revise my view and see the need for anything we can do to bring that umbrella of protection into being, as quickly as possible for the political, economical and physical safety of all Muslims around the world and those that would seek our protection.
My journey towards the world of Islam flew in the face of everything and everyone I had known up to that point, I had no physical guide to lead the way, yet the journey still had to be made and in the face of fears of the hardships I might experience along the way, from both outside the religion and inside, of which most proved to be true. But I have learned to trust my own judgment. My initial confidence in my choice came from the fact that I had read the Quran more than once before accepting Islam as a way of life and I believe that gave me good judgment at that particular time.
My judgment of the facts in front of me bring me to a depressing conclusion. As Muslims we carry an enormous responsibility that some of us fear ever so much. I think we secretly know the fear of this responsibility down to the deepest, darkest core of our very existence because we know what it represents and what it asks of us, it haunts us to the very point of distraction – “O Lordy, please let this cup pass us by, not by our will but by yours!”. If the whole world salvation, whether they knew it or not, relied on us getting it right as the vicegerent, as the Khalifah here on earth, then only God can help us. And there’s the rub. How can we be helped.
When we as Muslims, and I stand up here to be counted, progressively abandon our purpose and draw closer to the hollow success of the unbelievers, how can we then be the ones to be helped? Helped to do what? Are we not the ones to bear the burden of responsibility? If we are not the ones to be relied on due to our trust in Allah – then who is?
The non believers openly declare their ignorance and have no clue as to their true purpose in life so how can they be relied on. From whom do they seek guidance and help and what can they be helped with and to what purpose?
I found myself asking this question recently – ‘has our weakness and dependency on non believers just been exposed again? When the ‘credit crunch’ became the mainstream news issue the impact filtered belatedly onto the Muslim radar. The issues and the failures of an insatiable capitalistic appetite were raised by us as an example as to why we were experiencing such problems but our radar failed to pick up one point, the question as to our response to the test we faced at that moment. I think our weakness became apparent when we prematurely breathed a sigh of relief, when according to the media, the problem of recession had passed by with little or almost minimal damage, saved by these modern times of financial alchemy.
Its as if subconsciously we believed in the dribble spouted from personalities such as Greenspan, Bernanke, Darling or Brown in their proclaimed ability to pull off the impossible. This was our mistake and I fear we may be about to pay a miserable price for it. Have you noticed how quiet we have become on the subject.
How is it possible that we do not trust our own judgement but instead choose to defer and leave our welfare to crooks and criminals. How many failed banks have collapsed in the U.S alone since the first financial crisis happened in 2008 – 185 and still counting and how many other failures exist around the world that we have failed to keep track of. Who will be the next Dubai or the next Iceland. How close is the UK or Greece, Ireland or Spain or indeed the mighty U.S to a financial Armageddon. Surely we are the ones being tested. Surely the wheat is being separated from the chaff, the ones who desire to live by the truth and those who could not care less about truth.
The stupidity of people faced with a crisis of such magnitude is similar to that of the news anchors who present such dismal information beaming from ear to ear as if somehow their particular bubble has immunity from bursting. They fail to imagine what this holds for them individually. When the great event overtakes us and when we call upon Allah swt to help us we better be sure we know what we are asking for and what part we played in the crisis. For if a bird were to sit up in the tree on that lazy branch beaming down on a fat juicy worm and simply believed that when starvation eventually threatened to overtake him all he had to do was to pray to Allah and somehow that worm would float right on up there into his mouth and satisfy his hunger, well I got news for him, sure it could happen anything is possible but I wouldn’t count on it, would you?
He has to put in the work to qualify for Allah’s swt assistance in the same way as all other creatures put in work especially in preparation for a harsh winter. And indeed, without question, I believe that this is what we potentially may be facing in the near term, an extremely harsh and devastating financial winter, the like of which the world has never known before. Events as they have unfolded have proved themselves to be predictable, have they not? Then how is it that we still fail to trust our own judgment and see the game for what it really is? How many more countries and financial institutions must collapse before we finally concern ourselves?
This crisis came as no accident, the mistakes being made by politicians, economists and intellectual think tanks are not made because they are uneducated or clumsy it is brought on by design. Notice how they continuously invent ways of pouring fuel on the fire when anyone in their right mind faced with financial embarrassment would get some control over their spending. Suffice to say we are now between a rock and a hard place.
We are told all manner of reasons as to the causes but it boils down to two basic principles, sound and unsound money.
In this document I have touched on a possible financial meltdown that most think is behind us, I’m afraid to tell you that what passed could possibly be just the opening salvo and if we remained unscathed in that fracas and was not caught up in the cross fire we should consider ourselves fortunate. What potentially follows may start the cycle of progressive economical failures and market meltdowns the pain of which will be hard to avoid and Allah swt knows best.
No matter what the exact date may be when the first cracks start to appear, those eager to test the waters with an early baptism into the ‘recovering housing market’ you were publicly warned. I too desperately await the arrival of an Islamic leader to rectify the state of affairs but in the meantime I fear the problems may materialize quicker than the solution and besides it is us who must prepare the way for such a leader to come. The near term solution and the solution that can be acted on immediately, on an individual basis and in the absence of an authoritative shield to seek protection from is to seek it in the God given currency prescribed for us long before we strayed from the path of monetary wisdom and that is – Gold.
Let me offer a worst case scenario and let me exclaim this is merely a picture of what could happen only in a worst case scenario. Envisage a time when the writing will be so clear on the wall that individuals on a global scale seek protection from financial destruction. Many will turn to gold as a solution as is already proving to be the case now. They seek its historical financial advantage in an effort to protect their families from hardship at that time. The price by then will probably not be affordable to many. People will have given up hope of their governments ability to protect them and fear will be replaced by anger. Astronomically high unemployment numbers will exist. Taxes will sky rocket. And if energy prices soar then the cost of food and essential goods goes through the roof while people realize the danger and clear the shelves. Social benefits strain under the demand and eventually fails.
Governments pursue the policy of transferring the wealth of the affluent into government coffers whilst the public applaud. Then it becomes the middle classes turn to be the next target on the authorities financial hit list, followed by the working class as they slowly realise the full guile and inventiveness of the governments intentions. The Bank of England as well as Central Banks around the world print extreme levels of their own currency to avoid depression, money quickly loses its value as a result. Unforeseen financial events not flagged up by the industries computer modeling forecasters begin to emerge. Huge overhangs of debt from derivative markets explode one causing another, bringing down major financial institutions. Expect to see angry Muslims running with the angry protesting crowds at that time complaining of the failure of governments sympathy to their needs. As retail outlets feel the pinch and can no longer justify the costs of maintaining an outlet in impoverished areas they are left with no choice but to shut up shops for good.
Those shops that remain open in struggling areas will constantly have barely dressed shelf’s caused by the failures of supply distribution and the inconsistency of their customers to provide cash. Some people may even turn to their own allotments and backyards to grow anything to feed the family. Want and hunger may prevent rationality and reason and borderline civilized society faced with mounting debts see little reason to remain civilized and may resort to acts of selfishness and criminal behavior. Now try to imagine reasoning with people at that time and offering them the same solution we have offered them for years but yet it is still intangible, even to us, a hard sell indeed. Which is why we need practical solutions on the ground now and in advance of any difficulties before its too late. The people who might hold the public attention at that time might be the people who can offer real practical solutions that have both immediate effect as well as being the beginning of a long term solution. A world division might ensue in which the western economies burdened with debt slowly descend into a pit of failure whilst the rest of the world capitalize on cheap labor and a rich industrialized future but with an ever increasing and very real threat of imminent war from the west.
If anyone still beckons the oncoming of such events because they only believe in the total breakdown of society before people will be ready to accept Islam please stand up so that we can all get a good idea of what stupid looks like in all its glory. Reckless and destructive behavior often takes less brain power than that of design and constructive behavior. I for one support all constructive efforts to build an Islamic future based on the divinely guided blueprint first shown to us by Prophet Mohammed pbuh. Which was the only time until now when an Islamic state had to be implemented from scratch.
Unless you have been living on planet Mars recently you could not have failed to notice golds price value seem to increase since the year 2001 and unfortunately for all those involved directly after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. when the price of gold was roughly $260. According to the press its value has reached new all time highs when it penetrated the $1200 per ounce mark. Do you know why? I have news for you the value of gold has gone no where it has remained as static as it always was. The value of the dollar has collapsed at a more intense rate since 2001 and more recently as predicted, the value of all world currencies have begun to follow suit in a race to find new lows. People of wealth are finding it increasingly difficult to find vehicles to preserve their wealth and the smart money have turned their attention to gold the old barbarous relic, the most hated investment class of so called western financial masters of the universe. Major news media have begun sounding the alarm to mark the top of the gold market. Mark my words, I would not pay any attention to them and if you still scour the pages of the Times or the Guardian and god forbid the Sun newspaper to be rightly guided, ask yourself one question, if they could not see these events approaching when others could, how are they now the ones to coach us out of the difficulties. That thinking also applies to our politicians.
Please do not take any of my words as fact but take the opportunity to prove the issue true or false by your own research and reasoning.