Iqbal’s poetry became the inspiration for the creation of Pakistan, which changed the lives of millions of people, and turned the tides of history. Central to his thought is the vision of the transformation created by the message of Islam in the lives of the plain and simple dwellers of the desert. He foresaw the revival of this message in many of his poems — for example
The lion, from the desert, which over-turned the thrones of the Romans — I have heard from the angels that he will re-awaken.
Both Shikwa/Jawab-e-Shikwa and Musaddas-e-Hali paint the picture of the former glories of the Islamic civilization, and how modern Muslims have completely forgotten their past, and the message which illuminated the world, and created a brilliant civilization which dazzled the world for a thousand years. However, Iqbal foresaw the end of the era of Western domination –
- Nihilism: The idea that life has meaning and purpose has been lost. For my experiences along these lines, see Social Revolutions.
- Drugs: When life seems meaningless, people seek new experiences to fill the void in their lives. This leads to experiments with drugs which create new sensations. The article linked above states that: By the year 2000, opium production in Afghanistan had nearly ground to a halt. But after US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext of 9/11, production started reaching record highs. In what’s surely an unrelated coincidence, the American opioid epidemic has spiraled out of control since 2001.
- Rising Financial Inequality: Today, the top 60 people own more wealth than the three billions poorest. Increasing inequality is reflected everywhere. X-UN Secy Gen Ban Ki-Moon says that US society is deeply immoral because basic healthcare is denied to vast numbers of the poor, when trillions of excess in wealth is readily available for foreign wars which bomb and destroy millions of other lives. Millions living in misery while a few enjoy billionaire lifestyles reflects a spiritual deficit, a lack of feeling for fellow human beings, which is spreading throughout human societies. (See Amazing Inequalities)
- Erasure of History: People have lost their connections with the past. History defines who we are, and gives us a sense of mission, continuity, and a vision for the future. Imagine what life would be like if we forgot our past — we would be just like robots without character. Today, this is a common condition. For a longer essay on how our knowledge of history has been deeply distorted, and how we need to correct this problem to reclaim our human identity, see my essay: History: The Conquest Song of the Victors.
- Extreme Injustice: Legal systems in the US routinely ignore police violence — many famous incidents of police killing poor minorities without any excuse have been featured recently. This has led to the creation of the movement “Black Lives Matter” in the USA. On the other hand, minor crimes, like failing to pay a parking ticket due to poverty, can lead to prolonged jail sentences (but only for the poor). This is in stark contrast with the high standards of justice which Islam brought to the world — do not let enmity sway you from justice, and be just, even if it goes against your self-interest and that of your kinfolk. For more on this theme, see “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of Islamic Civilization.”
- Destruction of the Family: Today, the majority of children are born to woman who are not married. Children who never experience a stable family environment where they receive love, nourishment, stability and support, grow up with many different kinds of psychological deficiencies and disorders. See my webpage on “Family Breakdown in the West” with links to many articles on the topic.
You may like to read the other points on your own, from the original article. It does seem that, as Iqbal foresaw, Western society is self-destructing, by following their own desires to the extremes with complete disregard of consequences to others, or to the future generations. Unfortunately, instead of rejecting these errors which are destroying the West, we Muslims are eagerly embracing the same errors and rushing to adopt them in our lives and societies. The dagger which is likely to be the cause of the suicide of the West is also cutting our own throat as well. Instead of thinking about the decline of the West, the urgent task today is to protect our fast fading Islamic values, to work to re-create an Islamic society on the model of Madina. This can be done by renewing the promises that we made to Allah T’aala to live for Him and to die for Him, and to be first among those who Surrender completely to His Will.
My father, Mohammad Masihuzzaman, died on the blessed day of the 10th of Muharram, two years ago. He had his own theories of parenting, and the training that he gave me and my brothers has shaped all aspects of our lives. One of the greatest treasures of my life is the extra-ordinary, deep, absolute, love that he gave us. He once told me a story about his youth — apparently he had been involved with a group which was taking some violent actions against the British Raj. When the police came to investigate, my grandfather offered his own life to protect his son. It was completely clear to me that if it was ever called for, my father would also be ready to die for me. It was much later that I learnt that what I took for granted as normal parental love, was a unique and exceptional quality. Never, not even once in his life, did he raise his voice or his arms against me — even though I gave him many occasions to do so. I especially remember one incident when, at the age of fifteen, I took our car out without permission, and drove it too fast, lost control, and crashed it into our gate, causing a major repair bill. I was trembling with fear and anxiety, but, much to my surprise and relief, my father smiled and embraced me, and never said anything about the accident.
In this day and age, it seems essential to clarify that deep love and absolute commitment does not mean permissive parenting. Abba watched carefully over character development of his children, and took steps to correct what he saw as problems. Once he thought that I was being too selfish, and to rectify this, he asked me to give away as a gift to my cousin, a toy that I valued and cherished very much. He persuaded me by telling me of the virtues of generosity, and assured me that if I gave away what I loved so dearly, I would be rewarded by even greater gifts by Allah. With extreme reluctance, and against my desire, I did give the toy to my cousin, who was overjoyed to receive it. I remember that I went to my room and cried for a while at the shock of the loss, and consoled myself by thinking about the rewards for generosity that Abba had promised would result. The gift that I received from God was much greater than any material replacement for the toy would have been. Allah T’aala rewarded me with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction at the tremendous blessings that I had already been given.
The greatest gift that my father gave me was the introduction to the movement of Tableegh. After a lifetime of searching for the truth, engaging in very heated debates with many people of different persuasions, as well as participating in many different movements, he finally settled on the movement of Tableegh and Dawa, and committed his entire life to this movement. At one point he gathered all five brothers and made a very emotional speech to us. He told us that he had devoted all his resources to giving us all the best possible education and training — while his colleagues had big houses and multiple plots, and cars, he had highly educated children. He said that he had never asked for us anything before, and would not ever ask anything again, but he wanted us all to promise to do just one thing: spend four months (or forty days) in Tableegh. Of course, all of us promised to do so, and eventually, all of us did spend forty days in Tableegh — much against our own inclinations and desires. But this time spent in the path of Allah changed the lives of all of us.
After experiencing the teachings and simple lifestyle of Tableegh, I came to the realization that everything that I had learned about Islam until then was just “cultural” Islam, and had almost nothing to with the reality of the revolutionary Message of Allah to humanity brought to us by the most excellent of prophets Mohammad, may Allah T’aala shower his finest blessing and mercy upon him. It was like the lifting of the darkness and the coming of light — I understood that I had been sent here to this planet for a very short time, on mission of vital importance — there was no time to waste in idle pursuits, as minutes were slipping away while a task of burning importance remained undone. Success or failure in this task could mean the difference between eternal happiness and eternal loss. All of the worldly materials and gains — ranks, degrees, wealth, luxury, pleasures, sports, and intellectual and philosophical pursuits — these were trivialities and toys meant to tempt and distract us away from realizing and fulfilling the real purpose of our life, which is to create and build a strong connection with Allah T’aala, the Creator and Sustainer of all Dominions.
To change the purpose of life is to change life itself. As the Quran says, “Man can only have that which he strives for”. I realized that so far I had pursued worldly goals and ambitions, and so, because of my lowly goals, my life had been worth less than the wing of a mosquito. Tableegh asks for a unique merger between worldly struggle and the struggle to become friends with Allah. During the day, we must work as hard as we can on the Creation, while the nights must be devoted to the Creator. Both efforts supplement each other, and neither is fruitful in isolation. The path to progress in Deen is the one chosen by the Prophet himself — say, this is my way, and the way of all those who follow me — I invite towards Allah — There is a deep paradox in the work of Dawah, and balance between two polar opposites is hard to achieve. On the one hand, following the path of the Mercy towards the Nations requires us to be deeply concerned about the fate of the entire humanity, and to fulfill the mission of the Ummah by calling all towards the good, while forbidding the evil. After all, our Prophet was chided many times not to kill himself with sorrow over the fate of those who would not listen to him. At the same time, we are also supremely selfish — ultimately the world consists of me and Allah alone — all other creations are a source of distraction. The verses of Surah Muzammil (73:7,8) are amazing in this connection — the Prophet is busy during the day (with what? with the work of the Deen!!) so he should devote his nights EXCLUSIVELY to Allah. Many things which made no sense before — like being in this world, but not being part of it — like acting like a traveller, spending a few brief moments on this planet — like finishing the planting of the seed, even though Qiyama is upon you — now started to make a lot of sense. It is not the effect of the action within this world which matters, it is whether or not you are fulfilling the commandments of Allah which matters.
Coming back to my father, there is no doubt that the work of Tableegh took him away from us, and that this was a great loss to the family, which we all felt deeply. From roughly 1984 onwards, he became full time resident in Raiwind. He was then fully occupied with managing the worldwide movement, and had little time for us. However, his love for us was so strong that it is reported that the leader of the movement in Pakistan, Abdul Wahhab Saheb used to joke that if Masihuzzaman loved Allah T’aala as much as he loves his sons, he would have become a Wali-ullah long ago. However, as we all realized much later, the time with him that we lost, was given to hundreds of thousands of seekers of God from all over the planet, and changed their lives. I have met so many people, from all over the world, who told of meaningful encounters with Abba, and words that he had said to them.
There is so much more that I wanted to write, but this post has already become too long, and words are not enough for all that needs to be said. So I will leave it here, and hope to have another chance to write more later. The recording of my memorial speech is linked below. For more information about me, see the about me page of my main website: asadzaman.net.
Related: Farewell Talk to IIIE Students, Reaching beyond the Stars, Ways of the Eagles, and Talk/Discussion with PIDE Students. Previous post : Memorial: Mohammad Masihuzzaman (only contains the video + few remarks)
[bit.do/azrdd] Talk by Dr Asad Zaman, VC PIDE, at National Institute of Management on 6 Apr 2016 [NIM2016], at Chak Shehzad, Islamabad. Published in The Nation, 6 Sep 2018. For a talk on same topic, but with different contents and emphasis, see: “What is Development?” NIM2017. One hour Video of talk is linked below
Some Key Points from Talk are listed — for a complete transcript of the entire talk, see Transcript.— To Do Later (Summary of Part II of Talk).
Summary of Part I of Talk on Development at NIM 2016
1: Meanings of Development have varied greatly across time. Islam defines development as human development, Many cultures defined it in terms of advances in learning, philosophy, arts, etc. Great Britain defined it in terms of sea power, access to energy, etc. When it became World Leader after World War I, the USA changed the definition to GNP per capita.
2: History is the Conquest Song of the Victors: It is not that definitions are randomly chosen according to current fashion. Rather, the dominant powers define development in such a way that ensures that they are considered to be the most developed. They choose criteria which glorify, honor, and praise them, and avoid criteria according to which the powerful look bad.
3: Choice of Criteria Matters a Lot: Whatever is considered as the criteria for development, everyone strives to achieve this. If philosophy and literature are the criteria, everyone will work hard in these fields. If poverty elimination is the highest priority, people will work on that. Post WW2, both Turkey and Japan were losers, and both chose their development paths. Turkey chose to imitate European culture as the goal, while Japan chose science, technology, mathematics and medicine. Because Japan chose the right goal, it forged ahead, while Turkey was left behind because it chose the wrong goal. Because the world leaders today have defined development in terms of GNP per capita, nearly all countries in the world are trying to achieve wealth, and this is considered the highest priority for development.
4: The Wrong Criterion has been Chosen: Use of GNP per capita as the single most important criterion for development is extremely harmful. It leads to bad policy decisions. A large number of criticisms have been made of this criterion; see for example, Fitoussi, Stiglitz, and Sen Commission Report on the “Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress”. This measure ignores depletion of natural resources, degradation of environment, breakdown of communities, and many other factors which have major impact on human welfare. The sole focus on money produced in markets ignores essential parts of development. In particular, it is completely insensitive to poverty, and indicators of human social welfare, such as health and education. Because this is the central criterion, the sole measure of progress, nations ignore aspects not measured by it, and concentrate on policies which will increase wealth only.
5: The Experience of Mahbubul-Haq: Pakistan in the 1960s pursued free market growth oriented policies, which provides a practical illustration of the effects of pursuing the wrong goals. While growth did increase, the wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, and did not affect the lives of the vast majority, who were exploited for the benefit of the rich. This effect, concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, has been observed wherever free market policies focused on GDP per capita have been applied. Based on his experience, Mahbubul-Haq created the Human Development Index as an alternative measure. He argued forcefully that we must take into account at least education and health, in addition to GNP, in order to have a more reasonable measure of development. Since then, his followers have extended this to the capabilities approach, which takes into account many more dimensions of poverty. The key insight of Mahbubul Haq is that development is primarily about the enrichment of human lives; wealth is only useful as a means for this purpose, and not as an end in-itself. Even though this seems like an obvious principle, it is radically in conflict with dominant ways of thinking about economic growth and policies today.
6: An Islamic Alternative: A radically different perspective on development is available from the teachings of Islam. Every human being is born with amazing potentials for excellence. As the Quran states, if you save one life, it is as if you have saved the entire humanity. The meaning is that each human has the inherent potential to change the course of history, affecting the lives of billions. Many revolutionaries throughout history have done, most importantly our own Prophet Mohammad SAW. The correct way to measure development is to assess the extent to which we allow human being to realize their full potential – the capabilities with which they are born. Realization of this potential, does not require high standards of living. Desert dwellers with very primitive housing, food, and amenities can achieve excellence in conduct and character, as demonstrated by the early Islamic period. If we switch to an Islamic model for development, our primary focus would be to ensure that no one in Pakistan goes to sleep hungry. We would ensure that a quality education is freely available to all, with the poorest child getting exactly the same opportunities as the children of millionaires. Provision of basic needs, health and housing, would be the collective responsibility of all.
7: Community and Love: Against this dream and vision, it is frequently argued that Pakistan is too poor to afford universal provision of basic needs. In fact, this is not true. The material means are adequate, but the sense of community is lacking. The Quran states that “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers”. In this world of materialism and individualism, we are being taught to pursue personal pleasures, without any social responsibilities. It is this creation of love for each other, the feeling that all children of Pakistan are like my children, and it is my responsibility to ensure that they receive the love and affection that is required to nurture and nourish them. Today, the greatest obstacle to our development is our divisions and hatred along religious, linguistic, racial and other lines. At the heart of Islam is the feeling that we are like one body, where everyone feels the pain of others. If we can create this love, the material means to realize our dreams and visions will follow easily.
55m Video Talk at PIDE on 2 Jan 2017. Post provides a short 330 word Abstract, a detailed outline of 3300 words, and links to original paper as well as Urdu Version of Talk (67m YouTube). Homepage for paper (bit.do/bgifi) with links to related material, including Turkish translation.
330 Word ABSTRACT: Today’s talk, is about building genuine Islamic Financial Institutions. The Islamic Financial Institutions, we see today, are copies of western institutions and are not genuine Islamic Financial Institutions. The essential difference lies in the spirit behind the institution, which is not directly visible in the body of the institution. Many historians – for example Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation of Polanyi and RH Tawney in the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by RH Tawney – have documented the dramatic change in the values of Europe from the 16th to th 18th Century. Christian society was based on the idea that “love of wealth is the root of all evil”. After the transformation, George Bernard Shaw said that “lack of money is the root of all evil”. Modern Banks came into existence only AFTER it became socially acceptable to accumulate, hoard, and pursue increases in surplus wealth. Benjamin Nelson astutely describes the effects of social acceptance of banks and usury in his “The Idea of Usury: From Tribal Brotherhood to Universal Otherhood”. In contrast to this, Islam strongly encourages giving excess wealth to others, and thereby storing it up for use in the Akhira. This spirit was implemented in Islamic society by an institution which the opposite of a bank, namely a WAQF. For more than a thousand years, most wealthy Muslims followed the spirit of the Quran (which has more than 200 verses about giving to others for the sake of Allah) and gave generously to set up institution to provide for education, health, social welfare, and provide for the poor, orphans, widows, and the oppressed. The surplus wealth was used for social welfare in Islamic societies, according to the spirit of Islam, while it was used to create concentrations of wealth in power in capitalist societies, according to the spirit of capitalism, which is the accumulation and hoarding of wealth. Today, instead trying to adapt capitalist institutions designed for hoarding to Islam, we need to create radically different types of Institutions, based on the Islamic spirit.
Advanced Macroeconomics II: Preliminaries to STUDY prior to the FIRST Class on Mon 10th Sep 2018 — Teacher: Dr. Asad Zaman, VC PIDE.
Introduction: All required materials and links are available from Google Website: Keynesian Macroeconomics (https://sites.google.com/site/az4macro). This course will be radically different from routine Macroeconomics courses being taught all over the world. It is our ambition to enable the student to understand real world economics like the impact of China on global trade, the petro-dollar, Causes and effects of the Global Financial Crisis, Why IMF promotes austerity even though it harms weak economies, Current BOP Crises in Turkey and Pakistan, and a whole host of related ongoing economic issues. As opposed to this, conventional courses will teach students models and mathematics which have no bearing on reality, and which often teach the wrong lessons about how to understand and manage the economy. As a simple illustration, all major schools of macroeconomic thought agree that money is neutral, at least in the long run. But this idea is not just wrong, it is dramatically wrong, and has catastrophic consequences. Today, the most advanced Macro models (DSGE) have no role for money, banking, and credit, which is why they were blind to the possibility of the Global Financial Crisis. What is worse is that, even after the crisis, these models have not been reformed, and continue to be used for policy making at Central Banks throughout the world.