The Road to Madina

[bit.do/azrtm] On Sunday 28th April 2019, I talked about “Operationalizing Riyasat-e-Madina” at IBA, Karachi, at the Annual Islamic Conference 2019 organized by Iqra Society of IBA. This was a one hour talk in Urdu, followed by Q/A session. I gave a talk on the same topic at DHA Suffa University. A one hour English recording of the talk, together with a 1300 word summary is available from “Operationalizing Riyasate Madina”. The 1hr video-recording of the Urdu talk at IBA is linked below:

A brief abstract of the talk is as follows. Islamic teachings launched a revolution in history 1450 years ago. Today, instead of looking to these teachings, the Ummah as a whole is looking to the West for guidance, and believes that the path to development lies in learning and understanding the knowledge developed by the West over the past three centuries. This is a serious mistake and an illusion (see: The Thousand Snakes: The Appearance and Reality of Western Economics). The Quran is complete and perfect, and sufficient for our guidance today. However, the problem lies in our failure to apply the teachings of the Quran and Hadeeth, and the sciences of the Fiqh to our modern problems today. Deceived by the claims of Western expertise, we are using their political, economic, and social sciences to understand the world around us, even though our Islamic intellectual tradition is capable of providing far better solutions.

Download of original slides: Operationalizing Riyasat-e-Madina. This talk integrates a large amount of work that I have done over the past decade. The viewable slides on SCRIBD below provide an outline of the talk. Also, every other slide provides links to additional materials with more details on the topics briefly summarized in the talk. Slides, alternating with links to relevant readings, are also available from SlideShare.

This talk on the “Road to Medina” integrates a large number of ideas that I have developed over the past decade. An extensive outline, based on the slides above, with links to related posts, is provided below. For a shorter 1300 word summary, and a 1 hr English video version given at DHA Suffa, see “Operationalizing Riyasate Madina“.

Extended Outline of talk on Riyasate Madina, based on slides:

The central idea is the our Western education creates in our minds a worldview – ideas about history, knowledge, science, development, wealth, and some others – which make it impossible for us to understand and benefit from the guidance of the Quran. To combat this problem, we need to develop an “Islamic WorldView

Islam came to a world enveloped in darkness, on the verge of self-destruction. It lifted ignorant and backwards Arabs to world leadership, and launched a civilization that enlightened the world for a thousand years. It gave arts, literature, philosophy, sciences, spirituality and enriched all dimensions of human life. {see Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi: What the World Lost Due to the Decline of the Islamic Civilization?}

Central Puzzle: Does Islam have the same power today?

  • Once again the world is enveloped in darkness.
  • Might is right. Good is bad. All values have been turned upside down.
  • Modern secular civilization based on rejection of Christianity. Replacing religion by REASON.
  • Disastrous results. Environmental collapse. Millions killed in wars for power &profit. Extremes of poverty, inequality.
  • All the practices of Jahilliya exist today!

Ag Hay, Aulad-e-Ibraheem hay, Namrood Hay — Kiya Kisi Ko Phir Kisi Kar Imtihan Maqsood Hay? Today the fire is burning, and the powers that be call for obedience to them or severe punishment.

Does Islam have SAME power today?{For an affirmative answer, see: Islamic Knowledge: Still Revolutionary after 1440 years}. As Muslims, we should say yes. But all our actions and thoughts say NO! Instead, we think that:

  • Today, we must learn European Knowledge, developed over the past three centuries, to progress.
  • The project of “Islamization of Knowledge” seeks to convert European knowledge (essential to our progress) into Islamic Forms.
  • Development of Islamic Economics, and Islamic Banking and Finance – all attempts to bring the benefits of Western advances within the Islamic fold.

Is the Quran complete and perfect guidance, sufficient for our needs today? All of the above efforts say NO — we need outside help.  The linked post explains: Why are Muslims not looking to the Quran for guidance today, when Quran is complete and perfect? This is because a Western education teaches us the wrong definition of “KNOWLEDGE”, according to which Quran is NOT knowledge, and only Western discoveries over the past three centuries qualify as knowledge. {Shortlink: bit.do/azqcp}

What is the path to development today? Near-Consensus of Ummah: We are far behind the West, and must follow in their footsteps to achieve their successes. The path to development lies in acquisition of Western knowledge of the past three centuries an NOT in our heritage. This consensus that the Quran does not provide complete and sufficient guidance for us today is reflected in our collective efforts, institutions, budgets, discourse, training of youth. How did the Ummah arrive at a consensus that the Quran, which changed the course of history 1440 years ago, is no longer complete and sufficient? Today, it must be supplemented by Western guidance.

The Key Problem which led us to this faulty conclusion is that we have accepted the colonizers definition of “development”: Developing comes from acquiring power to enable you to exploit others, and rob them of their wealth. Because we have been studying history from the Eurocentric point of view – we have learned to glorify their conquests and accept anything and everything as GOOD if it leads to an increase in wealth. Justifying the brutal and savage European conquest of the globe requires more than a DOZEN myths. These myths are summarized in Development: Myths and Truths {Shortlink: bit.do/azdmt}. The Quran informs us that “We have shown him the two highways (of good & evil)” and left us free to choose. A If we seek to acquire the power and riches of the West then “There is for man only that which he strives for”. So we may get to New York, London and Paris. Instead the Quran tells us “Whoever wishes to, let him find a pathway to his Lord.” The Quran contains today, as it always has, the complete and perfect guiding to building the state of Madina: “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” The reason that Muslims no longer believe that the Quran provides complete and perfect guidance is because they no longer seek to build Madina.

Our problem can be called the fitna of “The Modern Mu’tazila” because it strongly resembles that of  the Ancient Mu’tazila, who were so impressed with Greek philosophy that they put it on par with the Quran. Today Muslims are equally impressed with Western knowledge. In case of conflict, they chose West over Quran; see “The Quran: Faith and Reason“. This has happened because Colonization is a Conquest of Minds. Because of the chains of soft power which bind us, the myths we have come to believe, the poorest countries in the world pay billions of tribute to the richest countries, without any need of force. Our consent to this exploitation is created by wrong theories of development; to overcome it, we must “Re-Define Development“.

To liberate ourselves, we have to look at historical context in which ideas are born. We must understand that History is the Conquest Song of Victors The story told from the Victor’s point of view looks extremely different from the SAME story told from the point of view of the losers. To learn the roots of our own inferiority complex, we need to unlearn the Eurocentric story which glorifies the savage and barbaric wars of conquest for looting the wealth of others. {see “Central Myths of Eurocentric History“}. We have been told that Europe colonized the world to bring us the benefits of their advanced civilization. In fact, colonization was an attempt to find markets for surplus goods created by industrial revolution. Self-sufficiency was the goal of global economies. No one wanted English goods. It was necessary to destroy local economies to create demand. But it was also necessary to find moral justification. To provide the moral justification, the Myth of the White Man’s Burden and The Civilizing Mission of the West was invented. People of East were portrayed as savage, ignorant, governed by Despotic Dictators, The truth about the barbaric and savage European conquest of the globe which involved ruthless massacres and pitiless extermination of helpless natives is now slowly coming out (see “Colonial Atrocities“}.

Like the cover story used for the Iraq invasion – supposedly to free the citizens from an evil dictator, and bring the benefits of democracy – the story of the “civilizing mission” gave an honorable face to a truly horrendous project of looting the whole world using superior power. The same process continues today as entire countries (Iraq, Libya, Syrian, and many Latin American countries) are looted and destroyed for the sake of corporate profits. The powerful dominate the media. Recently, a number of world elections have been swung by LIES propagated by social media. During the period of colonization, many deliberate efforts were made to break our will psychologically. The British dressed their door-men in the dress of Tipu Sultan, to show us that our kings were their servants. By denigrating our Ulema, they destroyed our respect for our traditions and heritage, and also make our natural leaders ineffective. By destroying the Awaqf which funded education all over the subcontinent, they created illiteracy on a wide scale. Macaulay created a system of education which creates respect and awe for the Whites and contempt for our own civilization. This educational system continues today, creating an educated elite which treats the population as the ignorant colonized masses, who are to be exploited for profits — see “The Impact of Colonial Heritage on Economic Policy in Pakistan “.

Today powerful propaganda machines shape our minds, and teach us to think in ways that create the fear of fabricated monsters, so that we cannot see our real enemies: Disinformation: Manufacturing Monsters . The colonizers own the global media, the universities, and control all sources of information. This makes it possible for them to create outrageous lies, and have these lies be widely accepted. For example “Islamic Terrorism” is a tiny percentage of all terrorist incidents across the globe, but is widely believed to be the most serious problem today. On the other hand, powerful countries like USA can bomb and destroy entire countries, killing millions of innocent civilians, with impunity.

Freeing our minds from the effects of colonization requires hard work on several fronts. One of the major myths of Eurocentric history is that “Science” is the highest form of knowledge, and that this is purely a European invention. Eminent historian Max Weber repeats a common and widespread misconception that “science” is founded on “rationality” and both are products of Western Civilization. “Is Science Western in Origin?” by C.K. Raju linked above exposes the fallacy of this myth. In order to regain our self-confidence, shattered by the the Conquest of Knowledge, we have to “explode the myths which block our minds“. The central myth of Eurocentric History is that the world was in darkness until European enlightenment. The reality is the European enlightenment came about because of the treasures of Isam knowledge which acquired via the re-conquest of Islamic Spain. As shown in The Enlightenment Quran, it was the light of the Quran which ended the dark ages of Europe. Similarly, a recent book “Jefferson’s Quran” shows that many of the revolutionary ideas upon which America was founded were inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s reading of the Quran. The reason that these historical roots, the effects of Islamic Civilization on the birth of Europe, are not known, is due to “The Theft of History”. This book by Jack Goody shows how Europeans took inventions, discoveries, and creations of other civilizations, and claimed them for their own, creating the impression that all good things originated in Europe.

In addition to revising history, we need to re-claim our lives and our identities. The central myth implanted in our minds by a Western education is the idea the Life is meaningless. This is done by never discussing the purpose of life, while giving great importance to comparatively trivial issues like trigonometry. Since how we live our lives depends on our purpose, this must be an essential part of our education – instead, a Western education indirectly implants wrong ideas about this greatest of all questions in our minds. For more discussion see “Learning Who You Are!” and “The Purpose of Life“.

Another strong mental barrier in path of the truth is the Western theory of knowledge (epistemology). European philosophers defined knowledge in such a way that it excludes human experience, and the heart and soul from the discourse. Since the most important aspects of our lives are based on our subjective experiences, the focus on the objective means that learning how to live well is not part of a Western education. See “Getting a Real Education” for a detailed discussion of how a Western education teaches us to lead meaningless lives.

After changing our conceptions of history, colonization, identity, and knowledge, we need to re-think the meaning of development. Since the West looted the world to acquire wealth, it defines development as the acquisition of wealth and power by any means possible. Islam considers the purpose of life to be the development of the tremendous potential for excellence within each human being, and acquisition of wealth as un-important. For a discussion of how current definitions of this concept prevent us from seeing the path to Madina, see “The Quest for Prosperity“.

We must conquer the inferiority complex created by the Eurocentric history and unlearn the myths implanted by Western education, to learn to “Reach Beyond the Stars”. There is no substitute in the West for Islamic Teachings. which are  Still Revolutionary After 14 Centuries.   The knowledge given to ignorant and backwards Arabs via Islam 1450 years ago transformed them into world leaders, and launched a civilization that enlightened the world for a thousand years.

The key to an Islamic education is to understand that every single human life is worth the entire planet. Human beings are created as the best of creations, and their lives cannot be bought and sold for money. Each man is like a mine, containing rare and special gems. How can we develop his/her potential. This requires personalized attention and training. See How to Inspire and Motivate Students. Turkish Madrassah Inscription: Here we don’t teach fish to fly, and we don’t teach birds to swim, My post on Teaching Fish to Fly explains that Islamic education seeks to develop each individuals unique potentials and capabilities, and must be tailored to each person. In contrast, Western education seeks to turn us all into standardized parts for the production of wealth. Therefore, it is not concerned with each person’s unique and individual characteristics. Instead, it conveys a standardized body of knowledge to all, who are forced to learn it, instead of assessing, evaluation, responding, and rejecting it. It is a form of Brainwashing versus Meta-Level Analysis, which is used in Islamic education.

An Islamic education must pay attention to the Spiritual Aspects. We must focus on purifying the intention:  And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive. Spiritual concerns are at the center of an Islamic approach. Relative to the West, there is a Very Important Inversion: Our engagement with the world is motivated by the desire for spiritual progress. The goal of service to humanity is to soften and bind hearts together in love. This cannot be achieved by government, and cannot be achieved by force, taxation. The Western model of human behavior deliberately excludes the heart and soul of man, and focuses only on the “head” – or rational – behavior. This makes attention to spiritual and emotional dimensions of human behavior impossible. This substantially distorts all Western social science theories: see “Spirituality and Development“. Our struggle to create Riyasate Madina is also meant as means for spiritual development. Human beings struggle with external environment to develop internal spiritual capacities. The goals are not to change the external environment, but rather to struggle for change out of the love of Allah, as a means to spiritual progress. This has radical effects on the nature of the struggle for change. We look for success within our hearts and souls, rather than in the external world.

So the program for Madina requires Unlearning many myths that we have come to believe, due to having been colonized, and due to our Western education. This part, the rejection of Western wisdom, can be labeled “Tahafatul Falasafa”. The second part requires Re-Learning Islam, in the following senses. We need to learn to apply Islamic principles to the solution of modern problems. While the principles of Islam are eternal, and apply to all times, the application is always fresh, and always in need of adaptation or Ijtihad. To understand this, consider the principle that Islam requires us to defend the Ummah. In the time of the Prophet SAW, this would be applied by learning to use bows and arrows, and to ride horses. In later times, this could involve learning to use cannons and ships. In modern times, it could be applied by learning the use of artillery and airplanes. As the times change, so Ijtihad is needed to adapt the eternal principles of Islams to the modern needs.

One of the central areas where such Ijtihad is needed is the Social Sciences. The West has created this field of knowledge as an rational and objective replacement for their rejected Christianity. While this is presented as a factual and scientific field of knowledge, it is actually based on a large number of assumptions arising from the rejection of religion — see Origins of Western Social Sciences.  In general, Muslims have been deceived by this pretence of objectivity, and have failed to see through the surface claims. It is urgently required to use the classical uloom of Fiqh, developed over the centuries to develop alternatives to the deadly philosophies cloaked underneath modern social sciences.  Islam is complete and sufficient for our guidance today, NOT in the sense that we can blindly apply rulings from centuries ago to solve todays problems. Rather, Islam provides us with eternal principles which must be applied with intelligence to create revolutionary new solutions to modern problems. Doing so would permit us to launch an Islamic revolution in the social sciences.  This is exactly what our ancestors did — they applied the fiqh in innovative ways to solve their contemporary problems. We cannot use their solutions; that would be like using bows and arrows in modern warfare. Rather, we must use the principles they used to arrive at the solution for creation of new knowledge. This portion of the effort may be called the “Ihya Uloom ud Deen”. These are the two pillars needed to solve the problem of the Modern Mu’tazila which currently afflicts the Ummah. It seems appropriate to call them the “Ghazali Project“.

Unlearning Western knowledge, and Re-Learning Islam is not sufficient. The third effort required is Jihad, or the struggle to implement these new solutions in our personal lives, in our communities, and at the level of the Ummah as a whole. This requires building new types of Islamic institutions in many different areas — political, social, financial, communal, etc.  My post on The Third Path: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Strategies for Reform discusses and compares alternative strategies for change. Specifically in the area of banking and finance, my post on “Building Genuine Islamic Financial Institutions” explains the steps involved in moving away from imitations of Western institutions. Today, because we are in shock and awe of the West, we are attempting to bend the laws of Shari’ah in order to imitate their institutional structures. In fact, Islam offers revolutionary alternatives in all areas: governance, markets, society, law, politics, education. Our institutions are based on generosity, coooperation and Social Responsibility, whereas Western institutions are based on selfishness, competition and individualism. The prophecy that “Islam came as a stranger, and will become a stranger” appears to have come true. But this only reinforces the basic message that, Islamic teachings are unfamiliar, and also revolutionary.

Working for re-creating the state of Madina requires struggle on many fronts. The driver for the struggle is the grand vision of a society built on bonds of mutual love, where each one feels the pain of the others, and all are ready to sacrifice personal gains for the sake of society. But the struggle itself involves taking mundane, day-to-day micro-steps, on personal and community levels. This could be summarized as “Think Big, Act Small” — that is, a grand vision guides us about the direction, but we look carefully at the next step requires for a thousand mile journey.  Some essential principles for making this effort are listed below:

  1. The First Drop of Rain: The greatness of the goal, and smallness of our efforts can discourage us. Remember that we are only responsible for our actions, and not for the outcomes. Even the smallest action, done with sincerity, earns the greatest reward.
  2. The circle of responsibility: Everyone has a limited circle of responsibilities – your family, relatives, neighborhood, and community. We waste too much time criticizing others regarding matters for which we have no responsibility. We spend too little time on working to fulfill our own responsibilities.
  3. Action is based on communities. The mosque is a place where neighbors meet on a regular basis, to solve collective problems of the community. Unfortunately, the concepts of communities and neighborhoods has been forgotten, and the mosque is now just a place of individual worship, not one of collective action. We need to turn our communities into living communities; these are the cells upon which and Islamic society is built.
  4. Learning to Value Our Heritage: The Islamic society took care of the needs of all citizens. Education was available to all who sought it, and funding was the collective responsibility of the society, not that of the scholar. Awqaf, on a community basis, provided for a large range of social welfare activities. We need to revive these institutional structures, to re-create an Islamic Society.
  5. Unite and Prosper:  The Quran warns us to not make divisions among ourselves, or else we will be defeated. The first step to the state of Madina was the powerful pact of brotherhood, between the Mohajereen and the Ansar. This created precioous bonds of love binding together the hearts of the Muslim community. Today as well the first step to re-creating the state of Madina is to create love in our hearts for each others. One of the key effective tactics used against us has been the Divide and Rule strategy,  which creates hatred and divisions, and pits Muslims against Muslims. Islam teaches us effective counters, which we must learn and follow. This is the only “Road to Madina”.

Slides for the talk, interspersed with links to relevant posts, are linked below. The origina

On Tuesday 30th April, I was invited to give the same talk at DHA Suffa University, where I recorded the talk in English. For a one hour English video of this talk, together with a 1300 word summary, see “Operationalizing Riyaset-e-Madina“. To prepare for these talks, I gave a talk on the same topic to my class in Islamic Economics. This was a 2 hour detailed discussion in urdu, explaining many of the points covered in much greater detail. This is also linked below. .Third, there is the detailed two hour talk in Urdu to my Islamic Economics Class which is available as part of Lecture L09 of IE2019.

This entry was posted in Colonialism, Imperialism, Development Discourse, Eurocentric History, Islam - Invitation, Islamic Knowledge by Asad Zaman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Asad Zaman

BS Math MIT (1974), Ph.D. Econ Stanford (1978)] has taught at leading universities like Columbia, U. Penn., Johns Hopkins and Cal. Tech. Currently he is Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. His textbook Statistical Foundations of Econometric Techniques (Academic Press, NY, 1996) is widely used in advanced graduate courses. His research on Islamic economics is widely cited, and has been highly influential in shaping the field. His publications in top ranked journals like Annals of Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, Journal of Labor Economics, etc. have more than a thousand citations as per Google Scholar.

5 thoughts on “The Road to Madina

  1. Pingback: Rebuilding an Islamic Society | An Islamic WorldView

  2. Pingback: The Ghazali Group | An Islamic WorldView

  3. Pingback: Knowledge to Change the World | An Islamic WorldView

  4. Pingback: The Third Path: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Strategies for Reform | An Islamic WorldView

  5. Pingback: Operationalizing Riyasat-e-Madina | An Islamic WorldView

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