Reaching Beyond the Stars

[bit.do/azrbs] Allama Iqbal has described a transforming moment in his youth as the advice given to him by his father. When his father passed by Iqbal reading the Quran, he told him to read it as if it was being revealed to him. Let us follow this advice for a bit, and see where it leads us. Let us start with the Quran 5:32 —  if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.

If anyone saves my life, it is as if he has save the life of all mankind – My life is very precious! But why? To me, I appear to be an ordinary person much like many others. What makes me so special that Allah T’aala, the Creator of the Universe, who Knows everything hidden and apparent, considers saving my life as being equivalent to saving the life of the seven billion people on the planet?  After pondering this question for a long time, I came to the conclusion that it is not the current reality, but the potential within me that is precious to Allah. Just like Allah T’aala has placed within every seed the incredible potential to become a tree, so He has placed within me, and within every human being, enormous potential of unique value, incomparable to anyone else in history. If I can realize this potential, I can be worth more than seven billion lives which fail to realize this potential.

So how can I realize this potential for excellence buried within my soul? The Quran 53:39 tell us “That man can have nothing but what he strives for”. So the very first step is to make the INTENTION to reach beyond the stars. Today, the ambitions of people are limited to small personal goals, and hence, they can only achieve small things. As Allama Iqbal has said (Bang-e-Dra 116)

TuHiNadaan

It was your own ignorant self who was satisfied with a few flower petals, When the Garden contained plenitude beyond your imagination.

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European Transition to Secular Thought

[bit.do/etst1a] This is the FIRST in a sequence of posts, where I will discuss and explain my article on this topic — European Transition to Secular Thought — chopping it up into small pieces and explaining each piece separately. The General Introduction below explains what the paper is about.  Then I replicate the first paragraph of the paper, and explain what it says and why it is important.

GENERAL INTRODUCTION: Over the 16th to 18th Century, a dramatic transition took place in European ways of thinking about the world. One aspect of this was the emergence of secular thought, which created fields of knowledge outside the scope of religion. Today, Western educational syllabi and curricula have spread these ways of thinking all over the world. Muslims absorb Western education without being aware of the strong conflicts between these ways of thinking and Islam. This article (pdf linked below) provides historical details of the process by which secular thinking emerged in the West, in order to create awareness among Muslims about how this happened, the damages it has caused, and how we can try to prevent this process from being replicated in the Islamic World.

PAGE 1 of ETST:

A dramatic transition in ways of thinking took place in Europe between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century. Tawney (1930) describes this transition to secular ways of thinking as follows:

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Shifting Paradigms

The revolution that Islam brought to the world involves, as a first step, learning to see the world in a different way. This is illustrated by a Hadeeth where the Prophet Mohammad SAW was sitting with the  Companions RA and two people of Mecca passed by in front of them. When asked about them, the Companions said that the first one was among those who commanded respect and honor in the society, while the second was a poor Muslim of no importance in society. The Prophet SAW explained that the in the eyes of Allah the second one was worth more than an entire world full of people of the first kind. This was a crucial piece of learning necessary to understand the Islamic point of view — houses of gold and silver are meaningless, which developing a character with qualities like by Allah, like truthfulness, courage, sincerity, etc can make one man more precious to Allah than billions without these qualities.

This large internal revolution has implication for all frontiers of knowledge. If we understand that wealth and luxuries are of no importance, then it is obvious that modern economic theory must be drastidcally revised — it focuses on increases in wealth and luxury as the purpose of our lives. THe essay below is written for economists, and explains why we need to make a paradigm shift, in order to get to a correct understanding of economics, which will not merely be beneficial for only the wealthy, while actually harming the interests of the bottom 90%. This essay explains why it is so difficult to make such a paradigm shift.

The Necessity and Difficulty of Shifting Our Economic Paradigms:

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India doesn’t need weapons, it can kill us with water

We cannot blame India for its hostile attitude towards Pakistan. Why would India not try to destroy Pakistan with drought and water scarcity when it can?

What the World Lost Due to Decline of Islamic Civilization

[bit.do/azrdm] This is a brief English Summary (2850 words) of “Ma Za Khasr Al-Alam Bil Inhitatil Muslimeen.” This books which highlights the contributions of Islam to world, and the loss the world has suffered due to the decline of Islam, has been translated into many languages. It is essential reading for every Muslim. The English Book is: Islam and World: The Rise And Decline Of Muslims And Its Effect On Mankind . Author Syed Abul-Hassan Ali Nadwi (b:Muharram 6, 1333=24 Nov 1914 to d: Ramazan 23, 1320=24 Nov 1914). Links for downloading and/or reading online, in English & Urdu, are provided.

Summary of “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of Islamic Civilization”

This book is of central conceptual importance in serving as a basis for the revival of the Islamic Civilizations. It explains the revolution which Islam brought to the world, and how the rise of Islam had beneficial impacts on spreading values of mercy, compassion, justice and tolerance, throughout the world. Similarly, the decline of Islam had adverse effects as these enlightened values were replaced by the darkness of ignorance which currently surrounds us. The history of humanity is seen from an Islamic framework, as the rise and fall of civilizations, governed by rules emanating from Divine Guidance and Justice of Allah, based on the laws explained in the Quran, but now forgotten by Muslims. The book is divided into Eight Chapters, which are briefly outlined below. Reading through this brief 2850w outline will give an idea of how the book is structured, and its central arguments.  LINKS to:  Urdu Summary & Urdu Book (shortlink: bit.do/zbksahan). Full Book in English: Islam and the World on Islamic-WorldView.Com.

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International Financial Architecture: Part II

[bit.do/azifa3] This is the second lecture on Understanding the Rise and Fall of the Gold Standard. We start with some Preliminary Observations, then we provide a brief Summary of the first lecture, and then we link the 75m Video, together with a 3100 word Outlne & Summary of the second lecture.

PRELIMINARY Observations:

My post “The Education of an Economist” explains that nearly everything I learned about economics during my Ph.D. education at Stanford was wrong. After the Global Financial Crisis, many leading economists came to the same realization; see for example, Paul Romer: The Trouble with Macroeconomics. Today, Ph.D. programs in Macro teach complex mathematics which have no contact with reality; regarding this, Krugman said that the profession as a whole went astray because they mistook the beauty of mathematics for truth .

Why is modern economics so disastrously wrong, so unrelated to reality that the Queen of England went to London School of Economics to ask “Why did no one see this coming?“. This is due to fundamental methodological mistakes which went into the creation of the subject. These mistakes must be corrected to create an Economics for the 21st Century, One these fundamental mistakes is that modern economics is stripped of its historical context, which makes it impossible to understand. To be able to understand economics, one must understand the historical context in which abstract theories were developed. The two lectures on International Financial Architecture describe and explain the rise and fall of the gold standard within its historical context. This is minimum basic knowledge necessary to understand modern monetary and financial system — because modern systems evolved out of the gold standard. However, this knowledge is not currently available in university textbooks. One can get a Ph.D. in Monetary Theory and policy without having any knowledge and understanding of this essential history.

Summary of First Lecture On the Vital Importance of Understanding International Financial Architecture — shortlink: bit.do/azifa 

The first lecture discusses the Keynesian theory that the exact level of money in an economy is critically important – too little leads to recessions, while too much leads to inflations. Furthermore, domestic business cycles, and international financial crises are caused by pro-cyclical behavior of current artificial systems of money creation and international trade. Standard macro theories make it impossible to understand the economy because they assert that money is neutral, and does not affect the real economy – exactly the opposite of the Keynesian idea that the quantity of money is all important. Standard macro model currently in use throughout the world have no explicit role of money, banks, and credit, even though these factors are of central importance in understanding the world. Once we understand the vital role and function of money within an economy, it becomes possible to understand historical events of the twentieth century – whereas this is impossible using conventional macro theories. The first lecture summarizes how the colonial system came into being, and the monetary arrangement for a hard currency at the core and soft currencies in the periphery. This system of fiat currencies works fine within one system of colonies, where the value of money is decreed by sovereign fiat. For trading between different countries, the gold backed currencies were used. As European countries prospered by exploiting resources throughout the globe within their colonies, inter-European trade increased. The optimal quantity of money required for the domestic economy is not the same as that required for stable international exchange rates. The pro-cyclical money creation which is characteristic of the system creates cycles, and large cycles lead to crises on a routine basis. World War I was partly caused by the breakdown of the colonial trading system due to the end of expansion possibilities after the completion of the conquest of the globe. Efforts to restore the gold standard after World War I failed. The second part of the lecture discusses the post World War I history, with reference to the international financial architecture that emerged in the post-Gold era after World War I.

3100 Word Summary of Second Lecture on Global Financial Architecture

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Subaltern Studies

As discussed in a previous post, History is the Conquest Song of the Victors.  Historians who have developed an understanding of this problem have created the field of “Subaltern Studies” — which studies history from the point of view of those who lost the battles. A very different point of view emerges when we look at history from this point of view. For example, according to the standard story told about how White Settlers captured and occupied the continents of North and South American, the “Indians” — the original inhabitants of the Americas were barbarians and savages who were overwhelmed by the “civilized” White settlers. The reality, which is now gradually emerging, is radically different. Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob have written the book: Telling the Truth About History  which explains how the standard histories which are popular are heavily biased towards the victors, and how we can peel through the masks placed by the victorious historians to arrive at a deeper and more accurate understanding of our past. I have written a brief summary of ONE of the chapters of this books — Re-Learning History: The Conquest of America.  This shows how the brutal realities of Indian genocide by White Settlers is hidden in the standard accounts. A far more moving treatment of the repeated tragedies which led to the destruction of American Indians is available in “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee“; this has been written by Dee West, an American Indian, with true depth of feeling about the systematic destruction of the habitat and lives of the American Indians by the White Settlers.

Over the past three centuries, the Europeans set out to successfully capture, conquer, and colonize, the rest of the world. By the early 20th Century, they had conquered about 85% of the globe. Because of their dominant position — hegemony — the only stories about this colonization available are the ones written by Europeans themselves, or by those deeply influenced by European education. It has now been widely recognized that these histories are “Eurocentric” — they portray Europeans as the only heroes on the stage of world history. According to these Eurocentric histories, civilization, science, technology, democracy, good governance, honesty, courage, capacity for rational thought, and ALL good things known to man, originated in Europe. Realizing that Europeans were an advanced civilization, while the rest of the world was in ignorance and darkness, the Europeans spread out throughout the world to bring the benefits of civilization to the barbarians and savages living elsewhere. This JUSTIFICATION of the European conquest and colonization is known as the story of the “White Man’s Burden” (the burden of their responsibility to spread their knowledge and civilization.) The truth is extremely different from this cover story. See my essay on the “Ways of the Eagles” for a short description of the reality of conquest India, compared to the Eurocentric myths that we have learned to believe. An excellent recent account is the book by Shashi Tharoor, called: “An Era of Darkness” which describes the brutalities and horrors of the “Raj” or British Rule in India, which have been suppressed and hidden in Eurocentric accounts. The true stories of European brutalities in the process of global conquest are so horrifying that sensitive human beings cannot read them without feeling pain and horror; for a small example, see my earlier post on Colonial Atrocities.

It has been my constant effort to provide some Subaltern stories — histories from the point of view of the loser of the battle — to counter the Eurocentric stories that we have learned from the hegemonic powers which dominate the world. There are SO MANY myths that we have learned and absorbed, that the job of cleansing our minds is long and difficult. We have to work on it one story at a time, piece by piece. Only after gradually cleaning the windows of our minds can the light of truth shine through. Below, I reproduce an article along these lines published in the Express Tribune on Dec 6, 2010. It is interesting that, bowing to the power of the hegemon, ET edited the article and OMITTED the part about the US Invasion of Iraq — we don’t want to displease the masters and lords of the world, do we?

The Subaltern’s Tale

Despite overwhelming superiority in firepower and strategic advantage in their attacks on unsuspecting beasts of the jungle, hunters manage to emerge as heroes in their tales about the trophies hanging on their walls. An African proverb explains that until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

For the past few centuries, people of European origin have dominated the world. Nearly all the stories being told about the world in this era glorify them, and celebrate their conquests. In Orientalism, one of the most influential books of the twentieth century, Edward Said showed that European imperialism and colonization of the rest of the world permeates all aspects of their literature and thought. A disturbing implication is that the idea of European superiority is implicitly absorbed by anyone who consumes their literary, cinematic or other intellectual or social products – a category to which virtually every reader of this column belongs. Historian Henri Pirenne showed how the attempt picture themselves at the centre stage of history at all times has led Europeans to a substantially distorted understanding of world civilizations, their close interrelationships, dependency and balances, and their contributions to weaving the fabric of global history and society. Efforts of such scholars have led to the understanding that much of our common stock of wisdom about human beings and their history in the past few centuries is “Eurocentric.” Deep and valuable insights about ourselves emerge when we try to get past these blinds.

One of the central themes of the European view of the world is the idea that whole world was in darkness and ignorance, and dawn of the age of reason first occurred in Europe. It is a sign of the weakening of European hegemony that strong evidence against this thesis is now emerging. In The Theft of History, Jack Goody documents how Europeans borrowed and adopted inventions of other civilizations, and claimed them as their own. The Incas were master botanists and created maize by cultivating and cross breeding inedible and poisonous plants. Their inventions continue to feed the planet. Muslim discoveries in mathematics, cartography, heliocentric astronomy, physics, optics, pharmacopia and surgery have been largely suppressed, and European imitators have been put forth as originators of these ideas in current histories.

The one-sided tale of European power naturally creates an inferiority complex among the vanquished. For example, a while ago, an article published in Dawn stated that the British brought concept of public education to the subcontinent.  In fact, research by historian Leitner reveals that British rulers crippled and destroyed the indigenous educational systems of Punjab beyond hope of revival, Evidence of embarrassment and shame about our ancestors, heritage, traditions, and nationality is easily found in a broad spectrum of writings of Pakistani authors. On the basis of an incident where two men were beaten to death in front of spectators, a columnist for the Express Tribune recently proclaimed that we are a nation of cockroaches; comments on this column are almost uniformly admiring and agree [later their was a strong backlash]. In Germany, millions of innocent civilians including large numbers of women and children were burned alive in ovens scientifically designed by engineers for this purpose. As the award winning sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has shown in his book Modernity and the Holocaust, this occurred with the knowledge, cooperation and tacit consent of large numbers of the German population. Yet I do not know of Germans who call themselves cockroaches. More recently, the Iraq war launched on false pretenses has led to deaths of more than a million civilian and destroyed the lives of virtually the entire population of Iraq. Yet those who are prepared to condemn all of Pakistan for two deaths, never tire in their declarations of admiration of the USA as an ideal society.

The project of telling the story from the point of the view of the vanquished has been named “Subaltern Studies,” and has made a lot of progress in India, but not as much in Pakistan. It is encouraging that what we used to call the Mutiny of 1857, our children study as the War of Independence. However, substantial additional effort is needed to overcome a deep seated inferiority complex which makes us seek foreign experts for solutions to domestic problems.

 

Central Listing for my published Newspaper Articles at: The Subaltern’s Tale ; more, related news/articles on Subaltern Viewpoints – stories from those who lost the war — in order to counter the Eurocentric Perspectives we have absorbed.