Completing the Circle: From GD ’29 to GFC ’07

This post explains the contents of Lecture 8, part II in Advanced Micro I : The lecture explains how the Great Depression of 1929 was caused by (1) excessive money creation by banks, and led to (2) excessive unemployment. Recognition of these problems led to strict regulation of banks to prevent the first and Keynesian economic theory emerged to fix the second problem. Together, these two measures led to rising prosperity for the masses — the 90% — and a dramatic decline in the wealth share of the top 1%. This led to a counter-revolution by the rich and wealthy, as the result of patient and persistent planning, described in  Alkire & Ritchie: Winning Ideas. Both of these measures were scrapped in the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, as financial de-regulation took place, and Keynesian economics was replaced by Chicago School Economics. As a result, the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 occurred, for basically the same underlying reasons as the Great Depression of 1929.  The 22m Video Lecture linked below:

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Islamic Knowledge: Still Revolutionary after 1440 Years!

Introductory Remarks:

The most important kind of knowledge is that which teaches us how to achieve the potential for excellence which exists within each human being. This knowledge provides us with a deep and meaningful purpose for our lives. Having a grand purpose makes it possible to act meaningfully, in ways designed to achieve the purpose. If someone does not know what the purpose of life is, than his life would be wasted in doing meaningless activities which do not succeed in achieving the purpose. Western education is designed to teach you how to be useful in producing wealth for others, how to be a cog in the capitalist machine, but it is not designed to teach you to develop your unique potentials as an individual — these would make you unfit for use as an exchangeable part in a machine. The first part of this article described my educational experiences at MIT, while the second part describes the Islamic approach to knowledge.

Bait-and-Switch is a well known dirty trick for generating sales of inferior goods. You advertise that you are selling a high-quality product, which is in very high demand, at an amazingly low price (but quantities are limited, so hurry). When the customers arrive, you say that “sorry, we have run out, BUT we have something just as good as what you wanted, at an even better price”.  You have an inferior good, an old model which is obsolete and not supported, but you talk it up as being the next best thing, and the customer often ends up buying this defective product.

My MIT experience:  My arrival at MIT at the tender age of 16 was an exciting experience. In the dormitory halls, we met the brightest students from all over the world, and discussed all kinds of topics. We were all eager to learn, and would use our new found liberty from home rules to stay up all night discussing everything under the sun. One of these nights, we addressed the mother of all questions, the meaning of life.  Once a meaning/purpose of life is clear, then all our actions could be focused on achieving this purpose. On the other hand, if we have no clarity on meaning, then we would just act at random on whims, and lead meaningless lives. At the end of a long night’s discussion, we were all agreed that this was a question of central importance, and also none of us had a clue as to the answer. Since we were in one of the great institutions of learning, we decided that we should ask one of our teachers. Casting around for a suitable choice, we agreed to go to our history teacher — he was the only one who ever talked about the bigger issues of life. All other teachers dealt with purely technical matters and subjects having no relation to our living experience. So, with great expectations, a group of three students went to meet him, to ask him about the meaning of life. He gave us an answer which satisfied us at the time; it was only much later that I realized that it was a classic bait-and-switch.

The Tactical Answer: Our history professor told us that we have learned that in order to be able to answer the big questions, we must first learn to answer the small questions that you are being taught.  This seemed very sensible to us at the time. We can’t learn to run before learning to walk. It was, however a DEADLY half-truth. Half-truths are much more deadly than blatant lies, because they are much easier to believe. It is certainly true that we need knowledge and experience to learn the deeper truths of life. However, what our professor did NOT tell us was that they did not have ANY answers to the big questions anywhere in the entire curriculum for any of the degrees that anyone could get. The good that we were all looking for was not in their shops, but if he had told us the truth, we might have lost interest in our studies. So we continued to study, in the hope that all this knowledge would eventually lead us to wisdom about life itself. It was only much later that I came to the realization that our professor had deceived us: by learning mathematics, chemistry, physics, economics, and history, we CANNOT learn how live a good life, how to find meaning and purpose, discover the potential capabilities within us and nurture and enhance them. These are the valuable treasures which the message of the Quran contains, which cannot be found in the books of the West.

The Islamic concept of KNOWLEDGE

is radically different from the Western concept of knowledge. Whereas West teaches us about the outside world, Islam deals with the inside world of human experience — which is what our lives are all about. One of important books in the Islamic Heritage is the one by Imam Al-Nawawi listed below. I was honored to be asked to write a forward to this classic of Islamic literature. The first few paragraphs of the forward are given below, and the whole forward can be read or downloaded via the link provided. This issue — understanding the difference between what Islam calls knowledge, and what the West calls knowledge, is of central importance for the Muslims today. Several of my earlier posts deal with it:

  • Is Islamic Knowledge Relevant for Modern Business? How doing business according to Islamic principles would radically change the way we do business.
  • An Islamic Approach to Knowledge: Talk at IBA on this theme.
  • Countering European Myths About Knowledge:  Europeans have the misconception that knowledge originated in Europe when in fact it was transmitted to them from the Islamic Civilization. In addition, the most important part of this knowledge did not actually get absorbed in Europe — only the least important part, dealing with the knowledge of the external world, or science, was partially transmitted.

EXCERPT FROM THE FORWARD,

with LINKs to the full article  Forward to Translation of Imam Al Nawawi: Ādāb al-ăĀlim waĂl-Mutaăallim wa Ādāb al-Muftī waĂl-Mustaftī The Etiquettes Of The Scholar And The Learner, And The Muftī And The Questioner

FOREWORD

 All praise and glory belongs to Allāh taʿālā alone, Creator of the Heavens and Earth and all in between, and much more that we do not know anything about.

When, in search of guidance, our Prophet Muḥammad—ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wassalam—retired to the cave of Hirāʾ, Allāh taʿālā sent him the angel Jibrāʾīl with the words of the first Waḥy, “Read, in the name of thy Lord who created.” Here Allāh subḥānahu wa taʿālā is introducing Himself to the best of the best among His Creations. And how did He choose to introduce Himself? His qualities and characteristics are such that the oceans turned to ink would not suffice to describe them.  Among all of these infinite qualities, Allāh taʿālā chose to introduce Himself as the Creator of Man, the One who gave Man knowledge of that which he did not know.  The Waḥy itself begins with the command to Read, and shows the extreme importance of knowledge, and of the transmission of knowledge by the means of writing and by the heart to heart transmission which took place between the angel Jibrāʾīl and our prophet Muḥammad—ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wassalam.

What was the impact of this knowledge which was given to the Muḥammad—ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wassalam—and imparted by him to his followers, the Companions? This knowledge brought them out from the darkness of Jāhiliyyah into the Nūr of Īmān. There was a dramatic transformation, an internal revolution, within the lives of the Companions. From the savagery of the Jāhilliyah they changed to those who were praised by Allāh because they fed others while being themselves hungry. This internal revolution was accompanied by an external revolution. The Muslims spread over the world with a burning message from God, which charged them to become the best of the communities, and to spread good, and to prohibit evil. This was the first time in the history of mankind that swords were used to free mankind from oppression, on behalf of the masses, and not for conquest, looting and luxury.

The dramatic transformation created by the teachings of Islām in the lives of the Muslims changed the tides of history. For a powerful description, see the book, Mā Dhā Khasir al-ʿĀlam bi Inḥiṭāṭ al-Muslimīn by Syed Abuʾl-Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Nadwī. Not only did oppression, darkness, and injustice of all kinds dominate the pre-Islamic world, but these were considered natural and socially acceptable. The radical message of Islām brought concepts which were unknown to the world at the time. The revolutionary effect of the teachings of Islām was foreshadowed in a prophecy which is still contained in the Bible: “I still have much to tell you, but you cannot yet bear to hear it. However, when the Spirit of Truth (Prophet Muḥammad) comes, He will guide you into all truth.” Among the many truths which the world could not bear to hear, central to Islam, is the equality of all human beings before God, of the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak, and of the rightful share of the poor in the excess wealth of the rich.

Our Prophet who was sent as a Mercy towards all the Worlds was the founder of a civilization built around the core values of concern, compassion and service for all of the creation of God. “All creatures are (like) a family of God, and He loves the most those who are kindest to His family.” The Islamic civilization was based on the ideals of generosity, cooperation, good will towards all human beings, kindness towards animals, and care for the environment as a gift of God to humankind. In contrast with dominant ideas about religion at the time, excellence in conduct was declared to be the highest form of worship: “He who cares for widows and the poor is like those who fight in the way of Allāh or those who spend their days fasting and their nights praying.” The motivation for good deeds was not to be fame, glory, popularity or wealth, but an internalized love of Allāh: “And they feed, for the love of Allāh, the poor, the orphan, and the captive …” The prophet Muḥammad—ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wassalam—was comforted in the Holy Qurʾān and told “not to kill himself with sorrow” because of his concern and compassion for all mankind. This excellence in conduct is to be emulated by all Muslims: “The believer loves and is loved by others.”

The dramatic achievements of the Islamic civilization over more than a thousand years cannot be encapsulated in several libraries, let alone a brief forward. Unique features of this civilization remain unreplicated and are ideals sorely and urgently needed by the world today. As just one example, brotherhood and equality are vigorously asserted in both Ḥadīth and Qurʾān; for example, in the last Sermon, our Prophet declared that:

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.

The transmission of these radical ideas from the advanced civilization of Andalus, Islamic Spain, to the primitive Europe of the time transformed their Dark Ages into the European Enlightenment. Among many recent writings, the books, The Enlightenment Qurʾān, Is Science Western in Origin? and The Theft of History, document both the transmission and the concealment of the Islamic origins, of the revolutionary body of knowledge from the Muslims to Europe. The slogans of Rousseau “Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality” which inspired the French Revolution and ushered in the modern age are directly borrowed from the teachings of Islam, and are strongly in conflict with the previous history of Europe based on aristocracy. Because these Islamic teachings are powerfully aligned with human nature (fiṭrah), they have carved out a place in Western thought. Recent resurgence and rising popularity of racism, the “Black Lives Matter” movement in USA, and anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe, show that these ideas have not yet been fully assimilated.

Today, after a long and complex historical process which cannot be detailed here, darkness has again fallen upon the world, and the spirit of the pre-Islamic Jāhilliyah dominates.  === [[ end of excerpt from forward. Essay goes on to explain how Islamic knowledge is just as revolutionary today as it was 1400 years ago. Complete forward is available for reading and download below]] [[Link to central listing in my publications: Forward to Al-Nawawi]]

Once more, unto the IMF?

[[bit.do/azimf]] Published in Business Recorder, 31st July 2018. Article explains why it is a very bad idea to go to the IMF. See also, Nadeem-ul-Haque’s article with the same theme, but different details. See also, Arshad Zaman: Weighing the IMF Option

So here we are again, at the doors of the IMF, begging for a bailout. Is this inevitable, part of an eternal cycle of boom and bust, written in our destiny? Some economists believe so, and argue that we should be permanently on an IMF program. It is well known to all, and openly stated by the IMF, that we purchase stability by accepting a slump or a recession in our growth. In contrast, Keynes, who discovered the solution to this problem, said that “The right remedy for the trade cycle is not to be found in abolishing booms and thus keeping us permanently in a semi-slump; but in abolishing slumps and thus keeping us permanently in a quasi-boom.”

In order to apply the Keynesian prescription, we must understand the Keynesian diagnosis, which has been suppressed, and hidden from view, since it has the power to liberate the masses from the tyranny of the wealthy who run the world today. Paul Davidson has recently provided an easily accessible description of “The Keynes Solution: The Path to Global Economic Prosperity”. We will try to summarize some his key insights in this brief article. The general public is in a better position to understand the Keynes solution compared to professional economists. This is because economic theory incorporates certain fundamentally flawed methodologies which make it very difficult to understand real world economics.

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A Deep Seated Inferiority Complex

Published in The Nation, 3rd Aug 2018.  Post is slightly modified, expanded, and has links to documentation of claims not available in the newspaper.[[shortlink: bit.do/azic]]

A recent TV show clip — interview of journalist Hassan Nisar on Geo-program Mere Mutabiq — reminded me of how strongly we have been brainwashed into believing in the superiority of white man. Hassan Nisar had a long list of items which prove that the White man is infinitely superior to the brown man, and that we are a thousand times worse than the “civilized” races. To pick a couple of items at random, he thought that the White Men are always honest, and they would be deeply insulted if they were accused of lying. Similarly, he thought that selling fraudulent medicines, and making excessive profits were faults that only Brown people like us have. It is not just that the Whites do not do such things, they cannot even conceive that civilized people could commit such heinous crimes.

Apparently, Hassan Nisar learned about Western civilization only from movies which glorify it, and is completely ignorant of the realities of the modern Western cultures. As far as lying is concerned, KellyAnne Conway had to create the notion of “Alternative Facts” to defend lies told by President Trump. In June 2018, the Washington Post reported that Trump had made 3,251 false or misleading claims in his first 497 days in office! Hassan seems to be unaware US and UK created a campaign to deceive their own public into supporting the war against Iraq, in order to cover up the true motives for the war, which was the control of oil, and the huge profits received by the military-industrial complex due to the war. He does not know about the recent case where more than half of a Havard class was caught cheating.  The article “America has a cheating crisis” shows that this is not an isolated incident, but a national crisis. Hassan Nisar’s starry-eyed idolization of the the West would  by rudely shattered by the Newsweek article: The Truth Is We Are All Raging Liars. The article states that even though Americans like to think they are honest, the truth is that: “We are a culture of liars, to put it bluntly, with deceit so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we hardly even notice we’re engaging in it.”

Similarly, the glorified idealization that there is no concept of selling fake and harmful drugs in the civilized West has no match to reality. Recently, GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug giant, has agreed to pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that the company for years knowingly sold contaminated baby ointment and an ineffective antidepressant (what we call Number 2 drugs). This is just one among a large number of similar abuses, where Pharmaceutical industry has knowingly put dangerous drugs on the market, concealing research regarding harmful effects. In a recent case filed in North Carolina, Attorney General Stein said that “As millions of Americans were becoming addicted to and dying from prescription painkillers, it appears Insys and its sales representatives [were] pushing its incredibly potent opioid on North Carolina patients just to make more money. This is unconscionable, it’s unacceptable and it’s illegal.”

Contrary to the idea that “making excessive profits” at public expense is only what uncivilized Brown people do, the Pharmaceutical Industry makes huge profits by charging enormously inflated prices for essential medicines. For just one recent  example, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim tablets from $13.50 to $750 per tablet in just one day. For more cases like this, see 6 Insane Examples of Drug Price Increases at health.com. An article entitled “Pharmaceutical Industry Is Biggest Defrauder of the Federal Government” shows that over the past decades, the Pharmaceutical industry has paid about $20 billion in fines for selling drugs with false advertisements of their supposed benefits. Unethical practices by the Pharmaceutical industry are detailed in hundreds of books and articles. One of the most prominent cases was when Senator Tauzin herded the “Medicare Prescription Drug Bill” through Congress using dirty tactics, including pressurizing and bribing opponents into changing votes. This amazing bill allows the Pharmaceutical Industry to name their prices; the government is not allowed to negotiate the price, and cannot import exactly equivalent drugs from across the border in Canada! It has been calculated that this bill amounted to a $80 billion gift to the Pharmaceutical Industry. Two weeks after getting the bill passed, Senator Tauzin resigned from the Congress to take a $2 million job with the grateful Pharmaceutical Industry as their lobbyist in Congress.This Medicare Bill was so outrageous that Obama made a campaign promise to get it repealed, but could not succeed against the powerful pharmaceutical lobby.

Perhaps the blinders on Hassan Nisar’s eyes would be removed by looking at the treatment being given to asylum seekers at the borders of the USA today. Thousands of little children have been separated from their parents and put into cages, with no mercy being shown to screaming children and crying parents – a “zero-tolerance” policy according to Trump. This is the civilization so admired by him?

It must be clarified that I do not support the idea that the East is superior to the West, or vice versa; there are good and bad people everywhere. My essay is just to dispel Hassan Nisar’s idea that only Angels live in the West, while we are all degenerate and immoral in the East. This misconception arises from centuries of colonization which has left deep psychological scars. Our traditional educational systems, which provided free education to all, were deliberately destroyed by the British, fearful of resistance to their rule from an educated public. These were replaced by an education designed to create admiration and respect for the West, together with contempt and hatred for our own heritage and ancestors. This educational system continues to this day, and creates exactly the same effects. This conquest of knowledge was a key to the ability of a handful of British to rule a huge country. In the era of the British rule, boot-licking of the British was the only way to rise in the ranks of the Government. Especially after the events of 1857, those people who admired the British and betrayed their own people got awards and honors, while those who were honest and sincere were stripped of their properties and imprisoned in British Jails. While the British are long gone, the Brown Baboo’s who have replaced them faithfully imitate and admire their past colonial masters, and proudly wear and display their chains of slavery.  They continue to believe and propagate the canard that “Hum to Zaleel Qaum Hain”, that everyone in Pakistan is corrupt, and long list of complaints about how bad we are as a nation, while in the West everyone is perfect.

In my own experience as a teacher, this inferiority complex is the FIRST barrier to educating students to achieve excellence. Coming in with the belief that we are an inferior people, it is hard for students to believe in themselves, and in the possibility that we can make great achievements. The inspirational message of Iqbal provides an excellent antidote to this poisonous inferiority complex. In order to create the desired change, we need to awaken our youth to their enormous potential, their ability to soar like the Eagles. As a sample of what is needed, I would recommend my lecture entitled “The Ways of the Eagles,” which is available at http://bit.do/azwoe

Understanding International Finance

Dr. Asad Zaman, VC PIDE –Monday, 14th May 2018 National Institute of Management, Peshawar — Training for Government Servants on International Finance. This lecture provides a shortened and simplified version of the information in two more detailed lectures on Global Financial Architecture: Rise and Fall of  Gold Standard I, and Gold Standard II. This lecture is addressed to Civil Servants and therefore covers some practical aspects related to policy, and other relevant materials not covered in above lectures. The 50m Video Lecture on YouTube is linked below, followed by an audio file of the question and answer session, and  a 2300 word outline

Question and Answer session after talk was recorded, and audio file is available from:

https://1drv.ms/u/s!AqUg6YsQpPb1gbIfx8M14kmyB3HOQg

The slides for the talk can be downloaded from:

https://1drv.ms/p/s!AqUg6YsQpPb1gbIWwaisHOfzqBeOug

An outline of the lecture, based on the slides, is given below:

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The Invisible Hand

This post is a continuation of ET1%: Blindfolds Created by Economic Theory,  The main contention of this post is that Economic Theory is not a body of knowledge — rather it is a body of propaganda designed to protect the interests of the top 1%. To expose this hidden bias, it should be relabeled at ET1% — Economic Theory of the Top 1%. In previous posts, we have analyzed how central concepts of Economic Theory appear to be neutral and equitable, but actually strongly favor the rich and powerful, and act against the interests of the bottom 90%. Similarly, in this post, we show how the Invisible Hand theory appears to be neutral but actually favors the top 1%.

As quoted and refuted in my earlier post on “Failures of the Invisible Hand“, Mankiw writes that: “The reason for excellent functioning of decentralized market economies is that all participants are motivated by self-interest. This self-interest works better than love and kindness in terms of promoting social welfare.”  

What a monstrous statement! How can any human being think such thoughts? This is what comes from cutting off human experience as a source of knowledge, removing hearts from bodies, and leaving only brains floating in vats as a the sole source of knowledge.

Our hearts — in their pure states –would revolt at the oxymoron of a society based on selfishness. However, contamination by the poisons of economic theory and fundamental methodological mistakes leads to the blindness to sources of human welfare displayed in the Mankiw quote. In earlier times, A Christmas Carol of Dickens was sufficient as a reminder the wealth is not a measure of welfare. However, modern times reflect modern mindsets, which convert greed and wealth to desirable virtues, as reflected in the Disney version of Uncle Scrooge. So, sadly, it becomes necessary to argue on logical grounds, appealing to brains in vats, instead of appealing to the heart.

First, let us note that “excellent functioning” just means maximization of wealth, and “social welfare” is also measured by the amount of wealth owned by society. At the individual level, the end-of-life psychiatric disorders of Howard Hughes have been the subject of numerous books and articles. Would anyone consider that the billions he made pursuing profits in a market economy created greater social welfare for him than love and kindness would have? What is true at an individual level is also true at a social level — The Easterlin Paradox shows that massive gains in wealth in societies have not caused corresponding increases in happiness. This is true both in time series for single countries, and for cross sectional studies across countries. As detailed and careful studies show — there is no long run relationship between happiness and increases in GNP per capita. Because this finding threatens the foundations of economic theory, economists have challenged it on many different grounds. In a review of these critiques which re-affirms their original findings, Easterlin et. al. have shown that, they do not differentiate between short and long run. The Easterlin Paradox is more accurately stated as – money does buy happiness in the short run, but not in the long run. This is exactly in accordance with my post on “The Coca-Cola Theory of Happiness” — Coca-Cola does buy happiness in the short run, but is not the formula for long run happiness.

Evolutionary biology has now discredited that idea that the survival of the fittest requires selfishness and competition; see Cooperation and Generosity leads to Evolutionary Success. It is almost obvious that groups would be strengthened by coooperation and generosity. There is no question that we would all prefer to live in a society based on love and kindness, instead of living in jungle ruled by survival of the fittest.  If “social welfare” is understand properly, instead of being reduced to a quantity of money in the bank, it is clear that love and kindness would work much better at promoting social welfare.

Why then have economists in the twentieth century insisted on attributing a mis-interpretation of the invisible hand to Adam Smith (see “Adam Smith & the Invisible Hand“) and have made this the central pillar of modern economic theory? The answer lies in ET1%: the necessity for the top 1%  in democratic societies, to invent theories which appeal to the bottom 90%, while actually favoring the rich and powerful. The Invisible Hand asks us to let everyone do whatever they want, since it will all work out to the best for the entire society. Even if the rich and wealthy appear to be exploiting others, the invisible hand will make sure that their greed is harnessed for the welfare of the society. The only way to make sense of this nonsensical message is to understand it as a clever piece of propaganda which supports the interests of the rich and the powerful, by identifying these interests with those of the society as a whole. This is very similar to the “trickle-down” theory, according to which enriching the wealthy will (eventually) bring benefit to the entire society. Even though it is easy to demonstrate “The Failures of the Invisible Hand” both empirically and theoretically, this theory dominates the pages of the modern economics textbooks. This demonstrates the main theme of my post on ET1%: Blindfolds created by Economic Theory;  modern economic theory is meant to blindfold students to the tremendous advantages the capitalist system confers on the tiny minority of the rich and wealthy, the 1%. It systematically distorts our vision and mindset to cause the tremendous inequities of the system disappear. See my paper on “The Invisible Hand: Death of a Metaphor“, for further explanation for how, with repeated use, a metaphorical usage becomes conflated with reality in the public mind. This is extremely beneficial for the 1% as it allows them to create myths which protect their interests, and have them accepted as truths in the form of modern economics. This illustrates the Power/Knowledge thesis of Foucault.

Does Islam Encompass All Knowledge?

There is an important discussion about whether or not the SECULAR view is compatible with Islam. Those who support the secular view use the following incident, narrated in  Sahih Muslim, Sunan Ibn Maja, Sahih Ibn Hibban, Musnad Ahmed and other sources.

The narration in Sahih Muslim is as follows:

After arriving in Medina, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by some people who were fecundating some date palms, so he asked them what they were doing. When they told him, he said, “I don’t think that will provide any benefit,” or in another narration, “It would be better if you didn’t do that.”

So they refrained from doing it, and that year the crop was not as good. They mentioned it to him (peace and blessings be upon him), and he replied:

“I am only a human: if I command you to do something in your religion, then take it; but if I tell you to do something based on personal opinion, then [realize] that I am only human,” and in another narration, “Yet if I inform you of something from Allah, then do it, for indeed I will never convey an untruth on behalf of Allah Mighty and Majestic,” and in yet another narration, “You know better of your worldly affairs.”

 

The SECULAR view is that there are domains of human knowledge which are outside the scope of religion. In particular, worldly affairs are outside the scope of knowledge. From this we come to the conclusion that we can study physics, chemistry, biology, and perhaps even economics, without invoking our religion of Islam. Since these are worldly affairs, the knowledge of these must be learned for the people of the world. Unfortunately, because this view is currently dominant, many Muslims have absorbed and accepted this idea. See my posts on “European Transition to Secular Thought”  and “Crisis in Islamic Economics” for more explanation of the secular view, and its effects on Islamic thought.

OPPOSED to this is the view that Islam is a complete religion, which provides us with guidance on ALL aspects of life. Nothing can be outside the scope of religion. This can be supported by the following Ayah:

Quran 16:89 —   that is why We have sent down to you this Book (The Qur’an) to explain everything – a guide, a blessing and good news for Muslims.  Alternative Translation:  We have bestowed from on high upon thee, step by step, this divine writ, to make everything clear,

So the Quran says it explains “all things”.  So how can we reconcile these two facts – on the one hand, our religion provides guidance on all matters, and on the other hand, worldly affairs are (apparently) outside the scope of religion?
TO understand this, first of all note that no-one in his right mind would conclude from (16:89) that the Quran can teach us how to build nuclear reactors.  So the Hadeeth that technical details of planting date trees, in pairs, are not covered by our religion, should not be a cause of surprise to anyone. We cannot even conclude from this that planting of trees is outside scope of religion, because there is so many Ahadeeth about the merits of planting trees and plants and the sin of cutting them down needlessly. 
 
The question is how to understand the Quran — how does it explain “all things” when it obviously does not provide any information regarding the VAST MAJORITY of current human knowledge? If we just look at the bits and bytes — there must be terabytes of human knowledge, while the Quran and Hadeeth and all commentaries would be easily covered within a few Gigabytes?
We must understand that:  Religion is at APEX – central and highest part — of knowledge.
The GENERAL in charge of the army is technically responsible for ALL affairs of the army. Even though he does not know what is being cooked in the mess and being fed to the soldiers, nor the recipe being used by the chef — he is responsible to ensure that they are fed. He provides the resources, and the relevant orders to the relevant subordinates to see that the job gets done. If there is some failure in the food supply chains, he is responsible to fix these problems and ensure that his soldiers get fed. SIMILARLY, he provides his commander with instruction on general overall strategy for the battle. But the commanders MAKE the micro-decisions on how to implement this strategy, given their troops and the terrain — they may do many things in general conformity with battle plans, but without specific knowledge of the general.
I am arguing that the secular position — that there are significant domains of knowledge OUTSIDE the purview of religion — is WRONG. I do not think any Muslim wishes to argue, on the basis of the tree Hadeeth, that agriculture or biology should be outside the purview of religion — this position is impossible to maintain.  I would like to think that all Muslims would agree with me that the SECULAR position is wrong, and that all domains of knowledge, directly or indirectly belong to the purview of religion. Religion tells us about WHETHER or not we should plant the trees, and what are the rewards or demerits from doing so, and also what our intention should be in planting trees. It does not provide us with the technical details of how deep the seed should be planted, what type of fertilizer we should use, and what irrigation scheme would be suitable.
 
I have a DETAILED first lecture on Introduction to Statistics: An Islamic Approach — the first lecture deals PRECISELY with this question — what relation does Islam have to an apparently dry and technical subject like statistics? What can the Quran tell us about calculating means and medians? Despite this apparent paradox and contradiction, there IS a deep connection, and our religion CAN provide us with deep insights — NOT available in the West — about how to do statistics. 
 
See my post linked below, for a brief introduction and links to the lecture, and the entire course. Applying Islamic insights to the development of the course (which is now complete and freely available online for all who wish to use it in teaching) led to radical changes in both the subject matter and pedagogy. I was forced to think about whether or not what I am teaching is USEFUL knowledge which the Prophet sought, or USELESS knowledge, which the Prophet sought protection from. The West does not differentiate between the two, and therefore every course contains a mixture of the two types. Differentiating between them leads to clarity unavailable otherwise:
 
This post is a continuation of an ongoing debate among Islamic Economists on how to construct an alternative to mainstream orthodox economics. The majority view is that a compromise is needed and we should take existing neoclassical theory and mix it with principles of Islam. My view is that since neoclassical theory is based on the idea of utility maximization, it takes the purpose of life to be maximization of pleasure obtained from consumption — this idea, equivalent to “worship of Nafs” — is not compatible with Islam. Therefore, we must completely reject neoclassical economics, and build on entirely different foundations — see Foundations of Islamic Economics, for a new definition of the subject, based entirely on Islamic principles. The failure of the majority of Islamic Economists to recognize the many contradictions between Islamic ideas and those of Samuelson has led to the current Crisis in Islamic Economics.
For some previous posts on this same, continuing debate, see: Another Syllabus for Islamic Economics. The deeper battleground is the very definition of KNOWLEDGE, which differs radically in the West from Islam. On this important topic, see: The Search for Knowledge, An Islamic Approach to Knowledge, The Conquest of Knowledge, and Countering European Myths about Knowledge.