Operationalizing Riyasat-e-Madina

IBA Iqra Society held its Annual Islamic Conference (AIC 2019) on Sunday 28th Apr. 2019. The theme of the conference centered around the question of: What can we do to convert the dream of re-creating the first Islamic State in the 21st Century?. My talk focused on the conceptual obstacles in the path of achieving this goal. These obstacles exist within our minds, and removing them requires re-organizing our fundamental frameworks of thought. For two versions of the talk in Urdu, and slides for the talk, see “The Road to Madina“. An 85 min video for the English version of the lecture, together with a 1300 word summary is given below:

1300 Word Summary of Talk about Operationalizing Riyasat-e-Madina:

We must first clarify the nature of “Riyasat-e-Madina”. Why is it a desirable goal, even now, in the 21st Century? Haven’t we made tremendous progress since those ancient times of more than a millenia ago, and can’t we now do much better? To understand the answer to this question, we must learn to re-conceptualize the nature of progress. Progress means human development – learning to be better human beings, and learning to realize the potential to become the best of the creation. As the Quran testifies, we have all been created with this potential, as well as with the potential to be the worst of the creation. An excellent articulation of the nature of the state of Madina is presented by Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi in his book on “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of the Islamic Civilization”. The revolutionary message of Islam, implemented in personal lives and communities, led to the spread of brotherhood, cooperation, social responsibility, and generosity. It led to the use of power for protecting the weak, and wealth for giving to the needy. The state of Madina is not built with bricks and stones; it is built on the foundations of deep love for Allah, which creates love for the creation of Allah.

How did it come to pass that the message became a stranger to the Muslims, who were supposed to carry this to all of mankind? How is it that the darkness of Jahiliyya, much like that of the pre-Islamic world, envelops the world today, and threatens to destroy mankind? More importantly, do the teachings of Islam have the same power today as they did fourteen centuries ago, to lead the world out of the darkness, and into the light?   Can we re-create the revolution that created the state of Madina, using the same message, and the same approach? If this is indeed possible, then why are the Muslims failing to exercise their responsibility, as bearers of the final, complete, and perfect message of God, to show the world the path out of the corruption and evil which is spread through the land, the sea, and the atmosphere itself?

To answer the last question, we note that most Muslims no longer believe that the Quran offers us complete and perfect guidance. Today, the vast majority are looking to the West, the creator of problems currently facing mankind, for the solution to our problems. The vast majority of Muslim children are learning math, chemistry, physics, biology, and the social sciences of the West. The public is convinced that acquiring Western knowledge, technology, expertise, and institutional structures is the only solution to our present problems. The ancient message of the Quran is not relevant for our modern times, and does not offer us any guidance on the pressing issues facing us today.

The only path to the state of Madina lies in the realization that the message of Islam is still complete and perfect, sufficient for our needs of today. But to arrive at this realization, we have to break the chains wrapped around our minds by the process of colonization. When Europeans conquered 85% of the globe by the early 20th Century, the frameworks of thought required to support this conquest spread throughout the world. In particular, the idea that progress and development means learning to be like them, to think like them, and to act like them was spread throughout the world by the European educational systems which we have all adopted. Once we accept the idea that development means creating London, Paris, and New York, then it becomes impossible to create the State of Madina.

The Quran (3:196) warns us: “Do not be deceived by the prosperity and power enjoyed by those who reject the faith”. Undoing this illusion, of the power and the greatness of the West, is the first step on the road to Madina. Allam Iqbal, Poet Laureate of the East, writes that my eyes were not dazzled by brilliance of Western knowledge, for they were protected by the Kohl made from the dust of Madina and Najaf. This pinpoints the problem that currently faces the Ummah – our eyes have been dazzled by the West, and we have been deceived by their prosperity and power.

Undoing this illusion requires breaking the many chains that enslave us to our former colonizers. The first chain is the conquest and colonization itself, which serves as proof of their superiority and our inferiority. This creates a superiority complex in the conquerors (Orientalism) and an inferiority complex in us, who were conquered and colonized. This inferiority complex creates awe and respect for the conquerors, and contempt and hatred for our ancestors and heritage. To overcome this, we need to replace Eurocentric history, which we have learnt during our Western education, with an Islamic Worldview. Very briefly, Eurocentric history teaches us that the world was in darkness and ignorance, and the Europeans colonized the globe to bring us all the benefits of their advanced civilization. To understand the truth, we only need to look at Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was carried out on the pretext of bringing democracy and progress to the Iraq, of protecting the world from weapons of mass destruction, and of liberating the people from oppression by an evil dictator. The reality was that more than a million civilians were killed, all infrastructure (hospitals, schools, power plants, factories) destroyed, and one of the most advanced nations of the era was sent back to the stone ages. Similarly, European colonization and conquest of the globe was carried out for looting the riches of the world, exploiting global resources for self-enrichment.  We can find the path to Madina only after we overcome the illusion that civilization means having the largest army, the largest war weapons and technology industry, imposing our will on the globe by force, ruthlessly and mercilessly destroying any nation or group which stands in the path of our domination of the world.

The key to Madina lies is the realization that human beings are the best of the creations of Allah. The Quran states that saving a life is like saving all of humanity. This means that all of us have been given the potential to change the lives of billions. To realize this potential, we must learn to be human beings. This is made difficult by our current educational models, which are designed to teach us to be human resources, valuable as inputs in processes for the production of wealth. To realize our potentials, we must undo this deception, and “Learn Who We Are”. When we recognize our true identities, and develop our potential to be the best of the creation, we will become the bricks with which the state of Madina is built. The architectural plans require Ijtihad – that is, we must learn how to apply the revolutionary teachings of Islam to the solution of modern problems. The construction of the State of Madina requires Jihad, the struggle to make the Islamic values of brotherhood, cooperation, unity, and social responsibility come alive in our hearts, in our communities, and in the world as a whole. It is forgetting this message which has reduced us to our present destitute condition, and it is remembering it, and putting it into practice that is the only solution to our current problems.

Economic Theory: Purpose of Life

Below, I provide an extensive discussion of the first question on the final examination for Islamic Economics 2019 (shortlink: bit.do/ie2019). Because this question is of central importance, and yet completely missing from conventional textbooks of economics, it is very important to study it carefully and in depth. For later questions, see Q2: Useful Knowledge, and Q3: Eurocentric History

Question 1: What does modern Economic theory teach us about the purpose of life? How does this contrast with the purpose of life as per Islamic teachings? What should the purpose of life be for someone who does not know whether or not God exists, and if so, which religion is correct?

Answer 1: Without being explicit, Economic theory states that our purpose in life is to maximize utility from consumption. Rational human behavior is assumed to satisfy this axiom. Also, the theory assumes that all humans are rational, so that all of them behave in this way. This is actually an accurate description of the behavior of someone who has taken his Nafs (desires) for a god. The theory of Utility was invented by Jeremy Bentham explicitly as an alternative to Christianity. Rejecting Christian morality, Bentham argued for the uses of pleasure and pain as the foundation of morality. If something gives us pleasure, then it is moral and good. If something creates pain, then it is evil and bad. This clarifies that Economics, even though it claims to be a positive description of observed reality, is actually a normative theory of how “rational” people ought to behave. Furthermore, “rationality” is defined in the sense in which European philosophers of the Enlightenment understood it: rejection of any unobservable phenomena. That is, rationality involves rejecting the afterlife, God, Angels, etc. because there is no empirical evidence to justify such beliefs.{See “Rationality: Economics Versus Reality”} The fact that economics is a purely normative theory, which advocates “being rational”, and therefore acting only to maximize pleasure that one obtains in this life, shows that economic theory is actually a religion, and not a science.{See “Economic Theory: Normative Judgements Disguised as Objective Realities”} Furthermore, it is a religion of worship of desires, which is is explicitly recognized and condemned by the Quran (45:23):

Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So, who will guide him after Allah? Then will you not be reminded?

Since Economics is a religion, a set of normative axioms about ‘rational’ behavior and their implications, it makes sense to reject it completely, rather than analyzing it for partial truths of value. {See “Questioning All of Economic Theory”}.

As explained in the first lecture in this course, The First Lesson that we must analyze, in order to be able to study human beings and human societies, is the purpose of life. That is because human behavior is driven by goals, and the most important goal that we set for ourselves is the purpose for our lives. Whereas economic theory defines this purpose as the fulfilment of all our desires, genuine or artificial, Islam defines human purpose as the worship of God, which involves our trying to do the best possible deeds in this brief life:

(51:56) And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me

(67:2) [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.

Economic theory textbooks start by explaining that human behavior is driven by purpose – humans try to achieve their goals. Then it is assumed, without discussion, that this purpose must be maximization of pleasure achieved from consumption. From this implicit assumption of purpose, we derive the conclusion that rational behavior consists of utility maximization, exactly along the lines of Jeremy Bentham’s religion of utilitarianism, which he invented as a substitute for Christianity. From an Islamic point of view, when we change the purpose of life, then human behavior must also change. For instance, the Quran states that:

(3:92) You can never have extended virtue and righteousness unless you spend part of what you dearly love for the cause of God. God knows very well whatever you spend for His cause.

Note that this is exactly the opposite of utility maximization – we are told to spend from that which we love the most, thereby minimizing our own utility. The goal of this giving away of our dearly beloved material things is to reduce the hold that desires have upon our behavior. We are explicitly commanded to reduce our love of worldly things:

(9:24) Say: If your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your tribe, and the wealth ye have acquired, and merchandise for which ye fear that there will no sale, and dwellings ye desire are dearer to you than Allah and His messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah bringeth His command to pass. Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.

It seems clear that those love Allah and His Prophet and make the struggle to act upon this love the purpose of their lives, would behave in ways radically different from those who have made the worship of their desires the purpose, as assumed by economic theory.

In order to construct an economic theory based on Islam, we need to understand what Islam teaches us about human behavior. Although Islam invites us to  the highest possible standards, it also recognized the potential in human beings to be the lowest of the low. To analyze actual behavior, we need to look at the range of behaviors from the most selfish to the most generous. We have described the two polar cases: Nafs-e-Ammara, which is exactly the homo economicus of economic theory, and Nafs-e-Mutma’innah, which is the extreme opposite of ideal Islamic behavior, labeled homo islamicus by some. In the middle, we have people who do not have a clear purpose. Sometimes they act in one way, and sometimes in another. The distinction between these three modes of behavior is explained in my paper on “Islam’s Gift: An Economy of Spiritual Development” If someone does not know which religion is correct – whether from among the conventional religions, or the new religion of worship of the Nafs – how should he or she behave? This is what the last portion of the question asks.

Since our entire life is governed by purpose, the first priority of such a person should be to discover what the purpose of life should be. Economics is deceptive because it assumes all rational people have one purpose, maximizing utility, without any explicit discussion of whether or not this makes sense. This misguidance about purpose of life is the most important strategy used to deceive students about their own identities, to prevent them from “Learning who you are!” For those who are not sure about what their purpose of life is (or what it should be), an open discussion of this question is the first question that should be their priority to learn the answer to. The answer chosen will determine how they live their lives. There is a lot of discussion, debates, arguments, and evidences available in connection with this question. Large portions of the Quran are addressed to such people, and provide evidence and arguments for believing in God. For a powerful collection of arguments for the existence of God, see  The Case for Allah’s Existence in the Quran and the Sunnah by Justin Parrot.  As Islam teaches us, there is no compulsion in religion. However, the purpose of life should be arrived at after discussion of the possible alternatives and consideration of arguments for and against different alternatives. Conventional economic theory assumes, without any argument or justification, that all rational human beings must worship their desires, imposing a particular religion of Enlightenment rationality upon all of us, without any discussion or arguments.

For extended discussion about the purpose of life, and the fundamental importance of thinking about this question for all human beings, see portion of Lecture 3 devoted to “The Purpose of Life” . For an interesting lecture by a convert on this topic, see “Quran on the Purpose of Life”.

The Quran: Faith and Reason

The Quran is the word of God – it takes precedence over all other words.  The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said, “The superiority of the speech of Allah compared to all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over His creation.”

When there is conflict between how I understand the world, and how the Quran explains the same phenomena, then I must reshape my understanding, instead of reshaping or rejecting the Quran. The Quran is not to be interpreted in light of my knowledge, experience, reason and feelings. Rather, I must use the Quran to modify my knowledge, my reasoning, my understanding of my experience, and my feelings. This is the attitude required to learn from the Quran. As opposed to this, the Mu’tazila argued that reason was on par with the Revelation. The Fitna of the “Modern Mu’tazila” – people who put logical reasoning we have learned from the West on par with the Quran – is the central problem facing the Ummah today.

To explain and illustrate this problem further, consider the following verse from the Holy Quran:

 (7:172] when your Lord took out the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, He said, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and they replied, ‘Yes, we bear witness.’ So you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘We were not aware of this.

We all bore witness to the fact that Allah T’aala is our Lord. So now, on the day of Judgment, if someone makes the excuse that he/she did not act on the faith, because they did not know about God, this excuse will not be accepted.  When I first read this, I reacted in the same way as many others. I said that I have no memory of making such a promise, which was made before my birth, and maybe even before the birth of the universe. How can a promise which I do not remember be binding on me? How can someone (like many atheists or agnostics currently living) who has never been informed about the religion be held responsible for finding his way to his Lord? It seems highly unfair of Allah to hold people responsible in this way, by making them promise something, and then making them forget it, and yet STILL holding them responsible for the promise.

At this point, there is conflict between my understanding of the Quran, and the message of the Quran. The Quran states that God is Just and Merciful, but from this verse, it seems that He is not being just, in holding me, and many others like me, responsible for a promise that we made, that we do not remember ever having made. Also, the promise was made without our adult and responsible understanding, in a mature and experienced segment of our lives. We might say that the promise was made without our informed consent. Surely, if Allah T’aala called me today, and showed me His signs, and I made a promise, I would be responsible for this, but why should I be responsible for a promise made without my conscious knowledge of it?

The WRONG way of resolving this conflict is to re-interpret the Quran. There are many ways that we can twist the meanings of the verses so as to remove the problem described in the previous paragraph. But the RIGHT way is to re-shape our understanding so that it comes into conformity with the Quran. This is how we learn from the Quran. We say that the Word of God must be true, and therefore my understanding must be wrong. Now we spend our energies on re-shaping our understanding, to make our thoughts conform to what the Quran say, instead of spending energy on re-interpreting the Quran.

This is actually my own experience. I took it as a given that what Allah T’aala say is true – we were indeed created in the World of the Souls (Alam ul Arwah) and we recognized our Lord, and we made a promise to live with this recognition. Furthermore, we are responsible for this promise, even though we do not remember it. This is taken for given as the Truth from our Lord. Now my job is it reshape my understanding to make this make sense to me.

After struggling with it for some time, I realized that a lot of knowledge that we have is built into our bodies, hearts, and souls, without our conscious awareness of this. The baby knows how to suckle milk, cry for attention, and smile and laugh when it is happy. Just like this, the promise we made Allah T’aala has been built into our nature. Once I realized this, this understanding was confirmed by a lot of additional evidence. The Ahadeeth mention that Islam is the Deen of Fitrah – we are all born with it – but we can be trained away from it. For a powerful collection of evidence for God, see  The Case for Allah’s Existence in the Quran and the Sunnah by Justin Parrot.  The natural tendency for human beings to believe in God is so strong that even atheists have noted it, and attempted to explain the existence of such a tendency. For a detailed discussion of our natural tendency to believe in God, see Hamer, Dean H. The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes.

The Quran calls itself a “reminder” – it reminds us of the promise that we made to God originally, and of the message which is built into our nature. From personal experience, I have learned that when the eternal truths of the Quran are spoken to an audience who has been educated to believe the opposite all their lives, the message makes a powerful impact. People cannot learn to think differently in one instant; this only happens because the message is aligned with a powerful truth which is built into human nature. One example of the powerful truth which strikes a chord in the hearts of the people is that human beings are created with the potential to be the best among the creation, and that each life is worth that of the entire humanity. This overcomes a lifetime of training in the idea that we are commodities for sale in the labor market – see “Learn Who You Are”.

If we want to learn from the Holy Quran, we must operate in this way – we must reshape our understanding to fit what the Quran says. Unfortunately, all too often, we operate in the opposite way. That is, we re-interpret the Quran to fit our incorrect understanding of the world generated by our false theories and accidental experiences. Several examples of this have been given in “The Spiritual Obstacle to Understanding the Quran”. We list just one example below, to explain how it has become common to put reason above the Holy Quran. The following discussion is based on “Islamic Econ Lec 02: Review and Scarcity

Consider the problem of scarcity. Many verses of the Quran mentions the limitless bounty of Allah T’aala. Based on this, the first generation of Islamic Economists confidently rejected the idea of “scarcity,” currently taken as the foundation of economic theory. However, the second generation, which was trained in modern economics, was indoctrinated into believing that ‘scarcity’ is an objective fact about the external reality which cannot be denied by rational people. A great deal of effort has to be spent on reconciling the message of the Quran with the message of ‘rationality’. For this purpose, the concept of “relative scarcity” was invented. The sole purpose of this concept (which is not found in the thousand year tradition of Islamic scholarship, nor in the corpus of three centuries of Western scholarship) is to re-interpret the bounty of Allah mentioned in the Quran in a such a way that it does not contradict the fundamental principle of modern economic theory. Only after this is accomplished, does it become possible to construct Islamic Economics on the same foundations as conventional modern economics.

Consider, instead, the alternative. Instead of taking scarcity as the sacred truth, and re-interpreting the Quran to conform to it, let us take the Bounty of Allah as the sacred truth, and re-arrange our ways of viewing the world, our experience, our reasoning and our feelings, to conform to the Quran. This requires an act of faith. We see abject poverty, together with tremendous riches all around us. The vast majority of people, ourselves included, struggle very hard to acquire more goods. Evidence of scarcity surrounds us. How can we reject the evidence of our eyes, our experienced reality, and the foundation stone of modern economics?  This is what faith in the unseen requires of us: reject our experienced reality, and the observational evidence of our eyes, that fire burns, and assert that it only burns by the (unseen) order of Allah, and it can turn cool and comfortable by the order of Allah.

The challenge then becomes: how can we reshape our understanding of the world so that it aligns with the truth of the Quran?  An important clue is furnished by deeper examination of the Quran, which encourages us to eat, drink, but not to waste. We are allowed and encouraged to consume freely what we need, and to give thanks to Allah. But pursuit of idle desires is strongly discouraged and prohibited. In contrast, modern economic theory treats wants and needs alike, and makes our goal (as economists) the fulfillment of all demands, whether natural or artificial. This position is against the teachings of Islam. There is a very important difference between needs and wants. As stated in Saheeh Ahadeeth, wants expand when they are fulfilled – give the man a valley of gold, and he will want a second one. On the other hands, we achieve satiation in needs. Once they are fulfilled, we do not want more (or, more is harmful for us, as in over-eating). Once we differentiate between the two, it is easily seen that there is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. At the level of needs, there is no scarcity, and Allah T’aala has provided bountifully for all. But at the level of greed, there is massive scarcity, because idle desires can never be fulfilled.

So, what accounts for the scarcity that we see around us? We reject the modern economists’ explanation that there are not enough goods, and so the solution for scarcity is economic growth. The root cause of the problem is our failure to understand and implement the orders of Allah, in our personal lives and communities, and to spread the good to all of humanity. Corruption and Disorder has appeared on the land and the seas because of the evil deeds of human beings. We have failed to restrain our idle desires, contrary to the order of the Quran. We have failed to command the feeding of the poor – a tiny percentage of budgets of the wealthy would suffice to wipe out hunger on the planet. We have failed to enforce, or even recognize, the rights of the poor in the wealth of the rich. We have failed to enforce the rules of Halal earnings, creating social acceptability for those who were once termed parasites – who make money on their wealth without doing any productive activity. We have failed to create the circulation of wealth demanded by the Quran. We have failed to create and to strive for contentment of the hearts, which is the true wealth. We have failed to practice and preach generosity, compassion, cooperation, and social responsibility, to encourage those who have more to take care of those who do not. We have failed to acquire Taqwa and Tawakkul – trust and faith – so that Allah T’aala provides rizq for us out his infinite treasures, from where we cannot calculate or account for.

The Easterlin Paradox has opened the eyes of many modern economists that acquiring more and more goods is not the solution for scarcity. Despite a century of rapid growth, with massive increases in living standards, average levels of happiness in the population have not risen. A small minority of heterodox economists have started to study the behavior of human beings, and the economics of happiness. It is unfortunate that instead of studying and apply the Quranic solutions to economic problems of mankind (listed in the previous paragraph), we are content to follow the lead of orthodox economists and think of the central problem as being scarcity – lack of sufficient goods for all – and the corresponding solution of growth – increased production of goods. This is what comes of molding the Quran to our reason, rather than shaping our thinking along the lines of the Quran.

The teachings of the Quran transformed the destiny of mankind fourteen centuries ago, and they hold the same power today. To launch “An Islamic Revolution in the Social Sciences“, we need to overcome our enchantment with the West, and recognize that after rejecting heart and soul they have a very impoverished understanding of the nature of human beings. Our thousand year old intellectual tradition offers us a much richer framework upon which to build a science dealing with human beings and societies. This rejection of Western approach, and utilization of Islamic tools to solve modern problems lies at the heart of the Ghazali Project.

Real Statistics: An Islamic Approach

In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Beneficent

Introductory remarks (regarding Draft of Introductory Chapter of a Planned Textbooks on this topic) The title creates a strong negative reaction in most people — what is the need to bring Islam into everything? Must we have an Islamic approach to adding 2+2, to distinguish it from the Western approach? The problem is that over-enthusiastic reformers have indeed done such things in the past. In the zeal to show how Islam applies to everything, they have misrepresented both Islamic teachings and the stock of existing knowledge, creating distrust and suspicion for similar efforts. But just because there are a thousand religions which are wrong, this does not mean that we should abandon the effort to paint Islam as the unique true religion. Just because there have been a lot of unsuccessful efforts at the Islamization of Knowledge does not mean that the task is impossible. A cornerstone of the Ghazali project of Ihya Uloom ud Deen is the demonstration of how Islamic teachings offer us a fresh perspective on modern subjects, invented in the West. In this introduction, it is my hope to demonstrate that the Western approach is fundamentally flawed — this is all I have done so far, and it is already quite lengthy at 3000 words. So the remaining portion, the illustration of how Islamic insights help us in constructing an alternative approach, will have to wait. I would be very happy to get readers reactions, positive or negative, so that I can polish this draft further. POSTSCRIPT – After much consideration, I have realized that the philosophy and methodology which has gone into preparing this textbook and approach would require several chapters to explain. This would not be suitable for an introductory textbook. Instead, I am going to do a learning-by-doing approach. Methodology will not be explained very much. We will just show the student how we work with numbers, providing on-the-job-training without explaining the underlying philosophy. The material below would be gathered into a separate article or book on the ideas which led to the construction of the course. For a more personal introduction to HOW I arrived at these ideas, see: “My Journey from Theory to Reality“. This post was written when I was planning my currently ongoing online course on Real Statistics: An Islamic Approach. I was hoping to create a textbook for it, writing it up chapter by chapter as we progressed through the course.  ADDENDUM to Original Post: Since then, I have now written up the first lecture, and posted it in four parts — Real Statistics (1/4): Fundamentals of an Islamic Approach, Real Statistics (2/4) Teaching Statistics as an Act of Worship, Real Statistics (3/4) Statistics as Rhetoric, and Real Statistics (4/4) The Illusion of Objectivity. I have also created a free, self-paced, online course, as a supplement to the textbook. Register for the first module of this course (on general principles of an Islamic Education) by filling in form: Registration: PIE. Students will be provided with a sequence of lessons, which they can work through at their own pace, to complete the course.

The material below has not been superceded. It provides the historical background and context which explains why conventional statistics is seriously defective and provides motivation for creating a new approach. This is not covered in the current lectures, which take this as background information.

Start of Introductory Chapter of Planned Textbook

Allah T’aala is the Noor of the Heavens and the Earth. He guides the believers towards His Noor, while those who reject God are guided away from the light and towards the darkness. This course in statistics is an illustration of the truth of these verses from the Holy Quran. We will show how rejection of faith has led to an extremely deficient approach to the subject of statistics by its creators in the West. We will also show how applying basic Islamic principles allows us to re-construct the entire discipline on new, sound, foundations.

Let us begin by seeking the protection of Allah from the deceptions of Shaitan, and from being led astray by our vain desires. The Quran tells us not to be deceived by the apparent power and luxury of those who do not believe. Statistics, as currently practiced, is a powerful tool for deception. This has been acknowledged and admitted by many practitioners. For instance, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”, and “All (statistical) models are false, but some are useful (for deceiving others?)”, are popular and widely accepted propositions. Since it was published in 1954, Daniel Huff’s “How to Lie With Statistics” has sold more copies than any other statistical text. It has also been followed up by a huge literature, with many articles and books explaining the use of advanced techniques for deception. One particular widely used technique of regression analysis is almost guaranteed to create deceptive results, and is a popular powerful tool used by Economic Hit-Men. Joan Robinson said that “The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.” This textbook aims to teach both how to avoid being deceived and also how to use numbers correctly to gain useful knowledge about the world we live in.

Al-Baqarah, the first Soorah of the Quran, explains that this is a book about which there is no doubt. It contains certain guidance for those who are conscious of God. The first of the characteristics of those with God-consciousness is that they believe in the Unseen. This characteristic is sufficient to distinguish them from current practitioners of statistics, who are committed (often without knowledge of this fact) to a methodology which rejects the unseen, and puts faith only in what can be seen (and measured). The story of how it happened that Western intellectuals came to deny the unseen is long and complex. We provide a very brief sketch of events which led to this outcome, with links to more detailed explanations. This is necessary as a minimal background to explain why we need to take a new approach, and the ways in which the approach is differentiated from the current standard orthodox approach to statistics.

Rejection of God and the Unseen: In 1492, the reconquest of Spain was completed, and ended the dark ages of Europe by providing Europeans with access to millions of books in the libraries of Al-Andalus, Islamic Spain. Over the next two centuries, the Catholic Church, weakened by infighting and corruption, fought a rear-guard battle against the influx of new knowledge, often radically in conflict with established religious dogma. This battle of “Science and Religion” led to a breakup of the Church into Catholic and Protestant factions, and centuries of hostility, bloodshed, and extremes of barbaric violence, pitting neighbors against each other, all in the name of religion. This historical experience showed Europeans that religion is a source of perpetual warfare, and led to the search for alternative bases on which to found society. {For more details, see “European Transition to Secular Thought”  }

Secular Modern Thought: Every society needs a set of commonly agreed upon principles to function. Since the matrix of religious unity had been shattered, European intellectuals found it necessary to construct, from scratch, a new set of principles on which social consensus could be created, without appealing to religion. Historical necessity led Europeans to the construction of “secular knowledge”, apparently objective ideas (without basis in religion), which all reasonable human beings would accept. At the outset, when this idea was first introduced, there were strong objections that religion informs and sheds light on all domains of knowledge, so that there is no such thing as secular knowledge. However, gradually, the idea gained strength, and eventually became dominant. Through the process of conquest and colonization, Europeans gained control of about 85% of the globe by the early twentieth century. Models of Western education dominate the world today, implanting this idea in all minds. One of the central objectives of this course on statistics is to show that this idea is false. The concept of “Secular Knowledge” – there exist domains of knowledge which are outside the scope of Islam – is false. In fact, the body of knowledge constructed by the West over the past few centuries is itself a religion, which poses as neutral, objective, and value-free. This pose has deceived most people into accepting this body of knowledge on its own terms, with the result that this is now the biggest common religion of mankind. One of the central objectives of this course on statistics is to deconstruct these claims, to show how moral judgments are buried within apparently objective frameworks. An alternative framework for the study of statistics is also constructed on the basis of Islamic foundations.   {see “The Second Poison: Secular Knowledge”}

Central Claims of Secular Modernity: At the heart of secular modernity, the religion of the West, and now of the East as well, is the idea that there is a vast body of objective knowledge which we can use to guide our social lives. There are observable facts out there, which are part of the external reality, which are independent of the observer. All rational people in possession of their faculties of observation should agree on these objective realities. We also have internal personal realities, based on our emotions and subjective experiences. Religion operates within this subjective reality, but does not have any significant relationship to the objective external reality. That is why religion is a personal matter, where everyone is free to believe whatever they choose to, but there can be no disagreements about the objective reality. Secular knowledge must be objective, verifiable, and universally acceptable, without any reference to religious belief. Statistics is an important tool among the methods by which this body of secular knowledge is constructed. This is why it is especially important to explain the illusions of objectivity created by standard methods of statistical analysis.

Seeing Through Modernity: Post-Modern Western intellectuals came to the realization that the claims to objectivity of Western Social Sciences are clearly false. Michel Foucault’s work shows that the ‘universal scientific truths’ that modern human sciences (biological, psychological, social) purport to offer about human nature that are, in fact, expressions of ethical and political commitments of a particular society. This concealment of morality within apparently objective frameworks has been noted and established by many different authors.   For example, Julie Reuben writes on “Poisoning the Well: How Economic Theory Damages the Moral Imagination”, Robert Nelson on “Economics as Religion”, and countless books exist discussing the role of value and ethics within economics. {See post on “Economic Theory: Normative Judgments disguised as Objective Reality”}.

Rationality and Objectivity: European intellectuals continue to believe firmly in objectivity and rationality, against overwhelming evidence of the subjectivity and irrationality of many of their arguments. This itself requires explanation: how can apparently intelligently people seriously believe in such enormously absurd and foolish ideas? For example, consider the idea that human beings behave according to the axioms of economic rationality, labeled as homo economicus. Both our internal personal experience, and an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence regarding actual human behavior strongly contradicts these axioms of rationality. Yet, economic theory textbooks continue to teach these same theories today, completely oblivious to the entire field of behavioral economics. The stubbornness with which economists hold onto invalid theories has been noted by many observers – see Quotes Critical of Economics, for a sample of quotes by leading economists which testifies to this. The problem can be traced back to the historical origins of secular modernity. The necessity of upholding “science” against religion led to the necessity of painting science as being certain and the only source of truth, whereas in fact, science just encapsulates tentative and conjectural knowledge acquired by experience and experimentation. This can and does change with time, as new experiments yield new results, often in conflict with earlier conjectured “laws”. Famous examples are the Copernican revolution and Einstein’s overthrow of Newtonian Physics. As Karl Popper stated clearly, scientific laws are all tentative, and can never be proven. Once the truth of this is realized, the methodological error of assuming “knowledge” must be Certain (Justified True Belief) becomes clear: A scientific law can NEVER be knowledge in this sense, because the next experiment can always contradict this law. {See “Methodological Mistakes at the Heart of Economics and Econometrics”}

Objections to Objectivity: Western epistemology (theory of knowledge) today is founded on the assumption that only objective knowledge is scientific knowledge and hence valuable, while subjective knowledge does not qualify as real knowledge, and is not of great value. This stance is completely untenable, and has led to dramatic distortions in the body of knowledge that has been generated by Western Intellectuals, especially in the social sciences, and to a lesser extent in the physical sciences. Damage is caused by the necessity of concealing subjectivity, in order to create the pretense of objectivity required to make a knowledge claim according to current methodological norms in Western social sciences. Our own stance on objectivity and subjectivity can be described as follows. There is a spectrum, a range of positions, between the two polar extremes, as shown below:

Objective Knowledge <=> Mixture of Objective and Subjective <=>Subjective Knowledge

Subjective knowledge is based on our personal experiences, which cannot easily be communicated to others. Objective knowledge is that of external reality. Unfortunately, as human beings, we have no direct access to objective reality. We can only perceive the external world through our subjective mechanisms of perception. From the Islamic point of view, we can assert the existence of a common external reality because God talks about it in the Holy Quran. Those who reject faith can make no such argument. Idealist philosophers like Berkeley argued, correctly, that logic and empirics cannot provide any proof that a common external reality exists out there. Based purely on reason and observation, there is no way to rule out a Virtual Reality world, where we are all wearing helmets which feed us the image of external reality that we perceive.

We do not challenge secular modern thought on the assumption that there exists a common objective external reality that we all perceive, because we agree with this idea. We do object to the idea that this assumption can be made on purely logical grounds, but we grant this claim because this is a peripheral issue, relative to the main argument. The main argument is the most of our knowledge is based on a mixture of the objective and the subjective, and the two are “inextricably entangled”. There are two polar extremes. (1) Purely subjective knowledge: internalized personal experiences not accessible to anyone else. (2) Purely objective knowledge – matters which all human beings with access to the relevant observations would agree to. But the vast majority of the knowledge that we have is contingent and subjective. It is based on interpretations of an experienced subjective reality which has a tenuous relationship with the objective external reality. We cannot live and act in the real world, in our personal and social lives, without such subjective and experience-based knowledge. A major source of disagreements between people arises from the fact that each person derives truths from their own experiences and then takes the truth to be an objective reality, when in fact it is a subjective result based on personal experience. {Parenthetically, on a macro scale, European social “science” is a result of generalizing the results of specialized historical European to the whole world. For example, European experiences of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants can lead to the false conclusions that religions always lead to wars.}

The Necessity for Pretense of Objectivity: Because Western epistemology does not accept subjective knowledge as real knowledge, and yet the vast majority of our knowledge is experience-based, subjective and conjectural, Western intellectuals are faced with the necessity of presenting the subjective as if it was objective, in order to qualify as being knowledge. The preference for objectivity, and the rejection of subjectivity was initiated by Descartes, the most influential of Western philosophers, who stated that “I think, therefore I am”. Here Descartes gives preference to the appearance of objective rationality, and rejects our direct and immediate experience of breathing, heartbeat and innumerable body sensations. This argument shows the weakness of rationality, because the argument is circular. When the word “I” is used, existence of the subject whose identity is under discussion has already been assumed. The “I” is a crystallization of a subjective experience, and there exist many exercises which show how we can change and re-define our identities, and thereby change our life experiences. So while the argument claims to be objective and rational, it is actually grounded on a subjective experienced reality of the self. The crucial point here is the following: Logic and sensory observations cannot establish the existence of anything. All arguments which purport to use only observations and logic for this purpose are fallacious.

The foundations of modern statistics can be traced to Hume, among the most influential of the Enlightenment philosophers, who said:

“If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”

Not only does Hume glorify objective knowledge, he asks for the burning of books containing subjective experiences. In fact, the vast majority of human literature describes dreams, visions and life experiences of tragedy and sorrow, or success and joy, of love and hope. All of this would be committed to the flames following Hume’s dicta. The important thing to note here is that modern Western epistemology is strongly aligned with Hume. In the intellectual and academic literature, we are forbidden to talk about spirituality, emotions, and grand objectives of our human struggles; this does not count as knowledge. On the other hand, statistics is pure quantity and number, and hence the ideal form of Western knowledge.

Hume’s expression was, at that time, a matter of his taste and preference and not an agreed upon philosophical proposition. However, since then, a concerted effort was made by Western philosophers to find a rigorous proof for his idea. The philosophy of science was the name of the effort made to prove that science leads to certain knowledge, while religion is pure superstition. These efforts reached an apparently successful conclusion in the early twentieth century with the emergence of the philosophy of logical positivism. This became wildly popular and came to dominate the intellectual scene, because it was provided a proof which Western intellectuals had been searching for, for centuries. Even though the philosophy had a spectacular collapse later, its central propositions continue to be widely believed. These failed methodological propositions are at the heart of modern approaches to statistics, econometrics, data analysis and economics. This is why an alternative approach, based on radically different epistemological foundations is necessary. This is what we aim to provide in this textbook. {See “The Search for Knowledge”.}

Consequences of Glorification of Objectivity and Concealment of Subjectivity: Statistics is designed to create an illusion of objectivity, which is why it is one of the standard methods to convert subjective and qualitative information (which is not admissible as knowledge under current Western definitions of knowledge) to a quantitative form. Often, this is done in underhanded ways, which conceal the subjective information introduced in the process of conversion. We will discuss and point out these techniques later, in much greater detail. These techniques will teach us “How to Lie With Statistics” (title of the most popular statistics text ever written). To conclude this introductory segment, we just point out a few common ways in which the subjective is converted to the objective, even though the conversion is not at all justifiable.

Intelligence is a unmeasurable and multidimensional phenomena; western epistemology does not allow for a direct discussion of this, since it is unobservable. However, we can talk about scores on a multiple choice exam as a measure of intelligence, since these are objective and quantitative. Western denial of unobservables creates the paradoxical position of affirming that the IQ score measures more than just the test score of person X at time T on a particular set of questions Q. It indicates some real unobservable internal characteristic which is invariant across time; otherwise, the score is just another random number. At the same time, denial of relevance and importance of unobservables leads to rejection of this internal characteristic as being an object of scientific knowledge.

In economics, this tension between external observable indicators of internal unobservable qualities led to the formulation of revealed preference theory by Samuelson. The internal unobservable preferences of the heart were replaced by the observable choices which reveal this preference. Stanley Wong’s classic critique of the “The Foundations of Samuelson’s Revealed Preference Theory” shows that the stability of the observed choices can only be assumed if they represent some underlying internal unobserved preference. Thus, the elevation of the objective and observable over the subjective and unobservable cannot be justified.

Despite the fact that logical positivism has been conclusively rejected, the central ideas of positivism continue to be increasingly popular. Instead of attempting to deal with the unobservable quality of research, we routinely convert this to the measurable quantity of articles produced. This is like attempting to measure love by the pressure per square inch applied while hugging. Modern philosophy of business insists on quantification and measurability of goals, and “you can’t control what you can’t measure” is offered as a piece of priceless wisdom. Utilizing Business School methods in the Vietnam War, McNamara implemented heartless policies emphasizing quantitative goals like kill ratios, and ignored the central issues related to winning the hearts of the Vietnamese.  Voices of sanity like Mintzberg, author of “Managers, Not MBA’s” have been ignored and sidelined. Thus, an approach to statistics which emphasizes and brings out the subjective and qualitative nature of most statistical measures is the need of the hour.{See “Beyond Numbers and Material Rewards”}

End of Draft of First Part of the Introductory Chapter – there is a lot more material to be added on the techniques which are used to convert qualitative to quantitative, and to conceal subjectivity. Just like an artificial and false division has been created between the objective and the subjective, so dualities and divisions dominate the Western approach to knowledge. It is these dualities which enable the concealment of the subjective, as we hope to show. An alternative is to offer a unified theory of knowledge, which is based on the Islamic principles of ensuring that only “useful” knowledge is worthy as an object of study. This requires eliminating the divisions between Theory and Practice, the fragmentation of knowledge into separate fields, and the  split between the heart and the mind.  Each of these topics requires deeper discussion.

But perhaps it is better done in context of applications. Also, I am faced with the dilemma that I would like to use this as an introductory textbook for a first course in statistics. My anticipated student audience would not necessarily be very mature, and able to absorb complex philosophical ideas. Perhaps all of this material should be put in a Teacher’s Guide, so that the student can start out directly by analyzing numbers. Suggestions and comments are most welcome.

POSTSCRIPT: I am about to launch a new ONLINE course on the basis of these new concepts. Anyone who would like to take the course should get registered for the course using the online Google registration form linked:  Registration: RSIA

Getting a Real Education

English Summary of an Urdu Lecture to PIDE Students on Thursday 3rd Nov, on how we blindly accept everything taught by the West, even though there are fundamental mistakes in the foundations of the impressive looking mathematical textbooks. The lecture explains how we can create a revolution in economics and social sciences simply by understanding that social science must be situated within a historical context. An English summary of points covered in the urdu video lecture, also provides links to detailed explanations of each point.

  1. Current education system is a fraud (0:00 mins) – it deceives us into selling ourselves cheap, as commodities on the labor market – see: Learn Who You are!.
  2. Capitalism teaches us to make money the purpose of our life – see: The First Lesson
  3. Money is a means and not an end — see: The Pursuit of Wealth.
  4. Despite my extensive and global exposure to education, I never found out what was the purpose of my entire education — see “Recovering from a Western Education
  5. Capitalism requires workers, not humans. This is why capitalist education is designed to turn us into human resources, not human beings — See my Talk at Iqra University, on this topic.
  6. Turning human beings into human resources requires implanting many different poisons in our mind. See: The Third Poison: Worship of Wealth
  7. For this reason, in modern education of economics, extra effort is put into giving very nice costumes to this ugly set of theories. See: The Illusion of Scarcity
  8. Real education teaches us how to live — for example, see: The Secrets of Happiness
  9. Every human is unique, even twins. Each one requires and deserves unique and specialized training to develop their own unique potentials. A Western education is a form of Brainwashing, which teaches everyone the same thing, to turn them into standardized parts for use in a capitalist machine for production of wealth. See Teaching Fish to Fly to learn about personalized, REAL, education.
  10. Every person carries a potential – just like a seed. If the right environment is given, it can turn into an amazing thing. (9:00 min). See “Reaching Beyond the Stars
  11. Capitalism tries very hard to prevent this potential from being realized to ensure its own goal of mechanization of humans for profit maximization. See ET1%: The Blindfolds Created by Economic Theory.
  12. Indoctrination is done such a way that we all internalize the idea that our earning capacity is our only value. (11:00 mins) See The Quest for Prosperity.
  13. After my own experience in Western education, I realized that a lot of necessary stuff is not taught and a lot of stuff which is not needed are taught at insane lengths (13:00 mins) See The Higher Goals of Education.
  14. As a metaphor, I was taught the entire science of building a car from scratch – carburetor, radiator, spark plugs etc but was never taught how to drive. (14:00 mins). See The Education of an Economist.
  15. My advisor of research in econometrics told me that there are two kinds of researchers – those who work on real scenarios – they are the low league and are treated as workers and laborers while the other kind works on theory and they are treated as the executives and prestigious rank in the world of economics. (15:00 mins). See “Islam and Econometrics?
  16. When I came back to Pakistan, I thought about teaching students the ‘science of building the car’ but that was not possible here. Also, at the same time, I was realizing how important it is to ‘drive’ the car. (16:00 mins). See “A Realist Approach to Econometrics“.
  17. The data used during teaching is mostly exhibit data, not real data. We are trying to teach “Theory” by illustrating use of techniques on toy data — real applications will be done later. This is the fundamental flaw in the current approach to teaching statistics — the idea that theory and practice can be separated. See: Teaching Statistics./
  18. The contradiction between real world experiences and economics theory teachings exists because their is a deliberate effort made to create a theory which protects the interests of the upper class elites. See “Ideological Macroeconomics and Increasing Inequality.
  19. There is now some realization of the harms of theory/practice split. In other fields, there is an effort to develop an Integrated Curriculum where theory and practice are done together. This also needs to happen in economics and econometrics.
  20. Engine knowhow and driving skills are not necessarily correlated. It is possible to teach how to drive without necessary teaching how the car is made. (19:00 mins)
  21. I have developed several courses based on the principle that the knowledge we teach should be directly applicable to real world problems. Furthermore, the theory should be taught by showing how it works in practice. See Replacing Western Courses with Islamic Ones.
  22. At the heart of the problems we face in the Islamic world today is that we are so impressed by West, that we cannot accept the idea that they have made major blunders in their academic disciplines. This is because we suffer from a Deep-Seated Inferiority Complex, created by the process of colonization and the conquest of knowledge.
  23. In fact, their errors are so huge that it is flabbergasting. It requires some explanation to understand how anyone can make such major mistakes — See The Emergence of Logical Positivism for an explanation.
  24. The major flaws in the foundations of economics became obvious to all after the Global Financial Crisis. For quotes showing how leading economists have acknowledged these flaws, see Quotes Critical of Economics.
  25. Macro-economics is currently in its own dark ages. (25:00 mins) In Dark Ages, people often died from remedies as much as they did from the original ailment. The prescriptions used to solve economic problems today often cause more damage than doing nothing. See Romer’s Trouble With Macro.
  26. Because economics is in a dark age, what they teach as knowledge is really ignorance. Even if we start from zero and make a small contribution, we can make advances in the field. This creates a golden opportunity to build a new economics based on Islamic principles. See An Islamic Revolution in the Social Sciences.
  27. Given the apparent success of the West, it is hard to believe that they have made such major mistakes, and this requires some explanation. An important point at which they went astray was when they started to look for universal scientific laws of human behavior, rather than working with historical and cultural context, which must change from time to time. See Method or Madness for an explanation of how this happened.  (29:00 mins)
  28. Actual information and study is based in history and economics is based on mathematical and scientific laws. The actual facts are never taught in the economics studies and are looked at with disdain. (30:00 mins) See Methodological Mistakes at the Heart of Economics and Econometrics
  29. Economic theory teaches us about how rational humans behave — by maximizing utility. Psychologists who also study human behavior analyzed these economic theories and showed that they are wrong. This has created the field of Behavioral Economics, which studies actual behavior of human beings.  (31:00 mins). The dramatic differences between actual behavior and economic theory are discussed and explained in Behavioral Versus Neoclassical Economics
  30. Instead of changing theories when they are contradicted by the data, economists stubbornly stick to their own theories, and refuse to accept the conflicting data. For some evidence about this, look at How the Methodology of Economics handles Conflicts Between Theories and Facts?
  31. Just as human beings do not maximize utilties, so firms do not maximize profits.
  32. A research of firms showed that 75% of firms said that if they produce more, for the next units, their DMC would be lower which contradicts the economic theory. [paper by Avi J. Cohen ??] (34:00 mins). See my lecture  AM06: Firm Behavior, based on Hill and Myatt Anti-Textbook.
  33. Modern economics is a theory designed to justify policies which exploit the poor to increase the wealth and power of the rich. We must learn economic theory in order to avoid being deceived by economists (as stated by famous economist Joan Robinson). See the Power of Economic Theory, Graphically Illustrated.
  34. Econometric Theory is a particularly powerful tool of deception. As explained in Confessions of an Economic Hitman, powerful and sophisticated math is used to deceive nations into pursuing false policies. In fact, econometric methodology is so bad that any data can be used to prove any result. This is why it is easy to use econometrics to deceive people. See Methodological Mistakes and Econometric Consequences.
  35. A Western education teaches us to value scientific theories, which have universal validity. History is not of value because it is particular — one event happens once, and will not repeat, so you cannot get universal laws out of it. This is a huge mistake. History is of central importance in understanding the world around us. For example the Battle of Dien Bien Phu  has a lot to do with contemporary economics. This was a turning point in history, when a colonized nation defeated a European power in combat for the first time. Since this goes against the Central Myths of European Superiority, Western textbooks do not often mention it, or point out its significance and importance
  36. Because a Western education destroys our abilities to think, and poisons our minds with false myths, we must self-educate ourselves. We must learn to re-write history from an Islamic point of view, in order to develop “An Islamic WorldView: An Essential Component of an Islamic Education.
  37. Between 41:00 mins and 51:00 mins, a documentary is shown about Battle of Dien Bien Phu. It was a battle which proved to be the death knell of colonialism in which the native population, while being poor and short of resources, did something the French thought was impossible and defeated the French. Note that French sources are heavily biased and we should look into the Vietnamese accounts. (51:00 mins)
  38. Even though Woodrow Wilson had promised to support the right of self-determination of all peoples, instead of letting the Vietnamese achieve freedom, he took steps to ensure their continuing enslavement and colonization, replacing the French masters by new US puppeteers. This eventually led to the Vietnam War by the USA, which led to overprinting of dollars to finance the war, and made it impossible to maintain the gold standard backing for dollars. This shows how we must learn history, in order to understand economics. The concept of “Entanglement” says that theories cannot be understood without their historical context, and history cannot be understood without learning theories used by human beings to understand that history. See 22m Video Lecture on “Entanglement” —
  39. In 1971, Nixon suspended convertibility of dollars for gold, leading to a new era of fiat currencies with floating exchange rates.  This has led to the current system where unbacked dollars are used, instead of gold, as backing for other currencies. This creates “A Lopsided Monetary System” where the USA can earn foreign exchange just by printing dollars, while all other countries must export real goods and services to earn dollars.
  40. Dollar was made necessary for petro trade by agreement between US and Middle East rulers. The power and value of US Dollar is based in politics and is not intrinsic to it. Mahathir Mohammad first realized this American technique. One of the major problems we face in understanding the complexities of modern finance is obsolete economic theories, created for the times of the gold standard, and not updated to keep us with current realities. See Modern Monetary Theory for further explanation.
  41. What is the practical importance of these revolutionary ideas for students writing theses in economics today? My advice is to run regressions but also to study reality. Even though regressions typically lead to useless results — see “Choosing the Right Regressors”, for an explanation of why -, we must run them because our thesis would not be acceptable without some data analysis. But at the same time, we should try to support this analysis with a study of real world factors, which is not part of typical econometric or economic analysis.
  42. Even though economic theories coming from the West are disastrously wrong, we are all so impressed with Western achievements in the physical sciences that we accept them without question. See “The Thousand Snakes: Image and Reality of Western Economics“, to see how what appears to be a powerful, sophisticated and complex theory is just an illusion – ignorance masquerading as knowledge.
  43. Because Western education, especially the social sciences, is built of fraudulent foundations, we must reinvent education. Instead of abstract theories which pretend to be universal laws, we must teach theories within their historical context. Today, discontent with conventional economic theory is widespread, but no one has come up with a good alternative. This creates a golden opportunity for us to launch a revolution in education, based on the teachings of Islam, which are “Still Revolutionary, after 1440 Years.”
  44. I invite readers to participate in launching this revolution on the basis of the twin pillars of the Ghazali Project, which involve rejecting Western wisdom, and applying Islamic teachings to the solution of modern problems.

Islamic Approaches to Knowledge

The previous post — “Diagnosis: Absorption of Secular Thought” — we argued that the central problem facing the Ummah is the acceptance of Western ideas which are directly in conflict with Islam, without realization of this conflict. The most important of these ideas is the idea of “Secular Knowledge“: there exist domains of knowledge which are outside the purview of religion. It is worthwhile articulating the problem to clarify its scope and dimensions before suggesting a solution. Does all of modern university education lie outside the purview of religion? For precision and clarity, let us focus on the subject of “Statistics”, as currently taught in universities all over the world, including the Islamic world. Does Statistics lie OUTSIDE the scope of Islam?  Do the Ahadeeth about the merits of seeking knowledge apply to students who are making efforts to learn Statistics? SHOULD we follow the rules described in the book of Imam Al-Nawawi on Etiquettes of the Scholar and the Learner for the study of this subject? Should we tell our students that seekers of knowledge of statistics will have the path to paradise made easy, and that the ink they use will be weighed like the blood of the martyrs?

Or should we NOT tell them this, because this knowledge is NOT the knowledge which the Ahadeeth refer to? Accepting the idea of secular knowledge leads to this position. Statistics is not part of “Knowledge”. However, this position causes even greater difficulty. The Prophet Mohammad S.A.W. made dua seeking useful knowledge and also made dua seeking protection from useless knowledge (See “Useful Versus Useless Knowledge“). If Statistics is “Useful Knowledge”, included in this Dua, then it must be classified as a form a knowledge to which the standard merits of knowledge apply. Consequently, we must study it following the Etiquette of the Scholar and Learner, laid out in so many textbooks of Islam. But if Statistics is NOT “Useful Knowledge”, then can it be permissible to study it at all? If it is useless knowledge from which the Prophet Mohammad SAW sought the protection of Allah, then surely it must be Haram to teach it and to study it. It might actually even be harmful knowledge of the kind taught by the Angels Haroot and Maroot, which was forbidden, and given as a test. At the very least, we must make a determination on “What kind of knowledge is Statistics?”, before we can determine whether or not it is permissible to study statistics, and also on HOW we should approach such a study.

The traditional books of FIQH cannot provide us with the answer to these questions, because the subject of modern statistics was invented in the 20th century. A superficial look at the subject also cannot inform us about the answer. Western education provides us with seriously misleading answers to the questions regarding the relation of religion and morality to the subjects that they teach us — for instance the idea that economics is positive, and not normative is just absurd. It is the blind acceptance of the idea that Western Social Science is OBJECTIVE, impartial, neutral, value-free, and rational, that is at the root of the crisis of knowledge facing the Ummah today. We need to learn and recognize that “The Origins of Western Social Science” lie in the rejection of Christianity and hence are antithetic to fundamental Islamic principles.

Today, the concept of secular knowledge poisons the minds of nearly ALL muslim students, because they study so many subjects which do not mention Allah T’aala and the revelation. The proportion of time we spend on Islam shows the students, BY DEMONSTRATION, the importance we attach to the final message of Allah. If we do not mention Allah in the entire course, then we show the complete irrelevance of the final message. It is said that when Napolean asked Laplace why, in a volume on astronomy, he had made no mention of God, the creator of the universe, he said “I have no need of that hypothesis”. A Western education teaches us Laplacian philosophy — that God and Religion have nothing to do with secular subjects — by DEMONSTRATION. When we teach calculus, we never mention religion or morality, so we teach students that calculus — and mathematics — has no relation to religion. Therefore we prove, by demonstration, that there are EXTENSIVE fields of knowledge which have no relationship to religion. In fact, Islam provides us with NO GUIDANCE on nearly ALL of relevant and useful knowledge, to which we devote sixteen to twenty years of study,  This is what we are teaching our students in the ENTIRE course of a Western education. When a Ph.D. student spends 20 years studying the irrelevance of religion to all practical matters of life, it becomes difficult to explain to him why Islam matters.

Today this position is nearly universally accepted, by secular modernists, as well as Islamic scholars. When Islamic scholars exclude a subject from their study, then they implicitly declare the subject to be outside the scope of religion. In my view, revival of religious today depends on showing that this is FALSE. We must show that all domains of useful knowledge lie within the scope of religion. That Islam has something HIGHLY relevant and useful to say about how we should teach statistics and how we should do statistics — as well as all other supposedly secular subjects. This is something NEW, which has to be DEMONSTRATED, because we will not find an Islamic treatment of statistics in the traditional books of FIQH.

Deep analysis of Western epistemology, as expressed in their approach to statistics, leads me to the conclusion, that statistics as currently taught, is based on logical positivist philosophy. This philosophy starts with rejection of the unseen, and states that only observables matter for human knowledge. Observables can also be measured, and these measurements lead us to the best and most precise form of knowledge. Even though this is not explicitly mentioned, it is the subtext, and this makes the positivist message even more powerful, because it is hidden and fed into minds which are not prepared to reject it. This way, we learn atheistic and anti-Islamic philosophies without even being aware of them. Based on this analysis, I come to the conclusion that the standard secular approach to “Statistics”, as taught and presented in conventional textbooks on the subject, is actual “Harmful Knowledge” of the type that is not permissible to teach or learn. The same is true of Economics, which teaches us that rational behavior consists of maximizing the pleasure we obtain from consumption of goods and service.

If my analysis is correct, then we have only two choices. We can completely abandon all fields of secular knowledge (not much of a choice), or we can complete revamp them, eliminating the poisonous elements from them in order to Islamize them. My course on “Statistics: An Islamic Approach” is intended as a DEMONSTRATION of how Islam guides us in ALL FIELDS of knowledge. The first lecture — linked below — deals SOLELY with the question of WHY we need an Islamic approach to what appears to be a value-neutral and objective subject, which should be the same for all observers. This is a 41m short version of a longer, 90m lecture on the same topic linked in The Second Poison: Secular Knowledge. [Shorter Intro – 41m Lecture]

POST-SCRIPT: It is essential for Muslims engaged in the project of Islamization of Knowledge to realize that what the West calls “Knowledge” is completely different from what Islam calls “Knowledge”. In more technical terms, Western epistemology is radically different from Islamic epistemology. For more details on this point, and the huge difference it makes in our theories of education, see “The Search for Knowledge“.

Diagnosis: Absorption of Secular Thought

There is widespread agreement on the decline and current misery of the Islamic Civilization (see “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of Islamic Civilization“), but there are sharp disagreements, and enormous diversity, in the diagnosis as to the causes of this decline. This matter is of central importance because the remedy must be prescribed according to the diagnosis, and errors in diagnosis will lead to the wrong remedy being applied. The excerpt below describes a variety of diagnoses:

The decay and decline of the Ummah, and the rise of the West, is a problem which has concerned all Muslim leaders, ever since the early 20th century where liberation movements succeeded in freeing the Muslim lands from colonial rule. Different leaders have come up with different diagnoses, and accordingly proposed different remedies. The vast majority of the Muslim leadership has placed emphasis on following the West, adopting their systems in economics, politics, education, as well as science and technology, as the sole route to revival. More religiously minded leaders have placed emphasis on different dimensions of Islam. The Salafis and Wahhabis felt that our current decline is due to the adoption of bidʿah and weaknesses in ʿaqīdah. The Ikhwān felt that political rule must be grasped by the Muslims. A more extreme form adopted by certain groups felt that we must re-establish the Khilāfah as the first priority. The Jamāʿah Tablīgh waʾl-Daʿwah feels that the main responsibility of the Ummah is to spread good and prohibit evil by the means of daʿwah. Some Muslim groups have emphasized service. Others have emphasized dhikr, yet others religious education. Other groups are working on creating harmony, tolerance, as well building the character of Muslims and creating distinctly Islāmic forms of education.

from “Forward” to Imam Al-Nawawi’s Etiquette for Learner and Teacher

Differing from the mainstream views above, the Ghazali Project identifies our central problem as the absorption of secular modern European thought by Muslims. This process started with colonization and conquest of the Islamic world, which led to a defeated mindset, and a deep seated inferiority complex.   This is reinforced and refreshed by a Western education which is designed to create respect and admiration for the West, and contempt and shame about our own Islamic culture and heritage. The Ummah has forgotten the Quranic imperative:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ

Say: Let them rejoice in the bounty and mercy of God; that is better than what they amass.(Yunus; 58)

Allāh taʿālā’s greatest gift and blessing to mankind is the Qurʾān, and the knowledge within it is far greater than all that can be gathered by mankind. After having been granted this gift, to look elsewhere for guidance is the greatest ingratitude and disrespect, as well as ignorance which harms only us. Even though Allah T’aala tells us that the Quran provides us with complete and perfect guidance, sufficient for our needs until the day of Judgment, most Muslims no longer believe this. Instead, they look to the West for models of development and progress. This creates a Spiritual Obstacle to understanding and implementing the teachings of Islam. The first pillar of the Ghazali Project involves rejection of Western wisdom (Tahafatul Falasafa), and recognition of the infinite superiority of the message of the Quran, which was embodied in the life of our Prophet Mohammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah T’aala be upon him. 

BUT, it is not enough to say that the Quran provides us with complete and perfect guidance. It is necessary to DEMONSTRATE this by showing how the teachings of Islam provide a solution to pressing problems of mankind (Ihya Uloom ud Deen). For this purpose, it is necessary to show the deep defects in body of secular knowledge generated by Western academics and intellectuals over the past few centuries, and show how to replace it by newly generated knowledge based on Islamic teachings. The greatest obstacle in the path of this revival of religious sciences is the false concept of “Secular Knowledge” which was created in the West, but has been absorbed by Muslims today. According to Western scholars, certain fields of knowledge are based on objective and demonstrable phenomena, and outside the purview of religion. These fields include the traditional subject matter of Western education — mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, political science, economics, sociology, history, etc. etc. etc.  In general, Muslim scholars have accepted these claims, and confined their studies to the traditional domains of knowledge contained in the Quran and the Hadeeth. This is a grave mistake, for it amounts to an admission that the Quran and Hadeeth do not provide us with guidance regarding urgent problems facing mankind today. In fact, modern Western social sciences are based on disastrously damaging assumptions about the nature of human beings. When the West rejected Christianity, they also rejected the heart and soul as parts of human nature, and instruments of cognition for higher truths. This has led to an enormously harmful approach to the social sciences, with consequence visible all around us in terms of massive inequality, injustice, and harm to the entire planet. Muslims now have the Golden Opportunity to show the world how Islamic teachings provide humanity with solutions to burning problems currently facing the entire mankind, which are far superior to anything developed in the West over the past three centuries. See “Launching an Islamic Revolution in the Social Sciences” for some indications on how this can be done. I have also developed a course on “Introduction to Statistics: An Islamic Approach”  to demonstrate how Islamic teachings apply to non-traditional fields of knowledge, developed in the West in the recent past. This is the challenge facing Muslims scholars and intellectuals today: Use the solid foundations provided by the teachings of Islam to provide solutions to modern problems.

The CHALLENGE: We need to reconstruct the entire body of knowledge created by the West over the past few centuries on secular foundations, by re-linking them to their roots (which have been concealed and distorted) in the creation of the Universe, and the purpose of creation of man, as explained by Islamic Teachings. More details about how this can be done are given in – The Ghazali Project for the Revival of Deen. Those who would like to actively participate in this project are invited to join The Ghazali Group

Beginning steps required for the Revival of the Islamic Sciences — “Ihya Uloom ud Deen” — are described in the “Forward” to Imam Al-Nawawi’s: The Etiquette of the Scholar and the Learner, and the Mufti and the Questioner, which is also linked below. This describes how an Islamic education, and conception of knowledge is radically different from Western concepts. See also “Islamic Knowledge: Still Revolutionary after 1440 Years!” for my personal experiences with Western education, which appears glorious on the outside, but is hollow on the inside. 

Footnote: From forward of translation by Majid Khadduri of Al-Risala of Imam Shafi’i: “… discusses briefly the place of the Qur’an in the Islamic religion and the duty of the Muslims to obey the orders of Muhammad, and concludes that it is the duty of all those who seek legal knowledge to gain it by constant appeal’to God’s Book as communicated to the Prophet. For “ no misfortune will ever descend upon any of the followers of God’s religion for which there is no guidance in the Book of God to indicate the right way.” This is an explicit denial of the possibility of secular knowledge by Imam Shafi’i — All problems which we face in our personal and communal lives, the Quran will provide guidance on how to solve them. Details of how the directions are to implemented may vary with local conditions, and are not specified.  

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Tariq Mustafa has sent me a 250 word summary of my post on the Ghazali Project, for propagation on social media channels where the length of the item must be kept short. His condensed version is given below. Based on my extensive experiences in attempting to propagate these ideas, I will provide a line by line analysis of what is said and how it should be paraphrased to account for and ward off possible hostile and adverse responses. Here is his summary, which is a fairly accurate description of what I actually wrote. However, when propagating the message, we must be very sensitive to the audience we are addressing. On my blog, with title “Islamic Worldview” we are not going to get secular readers who may even be hostile to Islam. But in general audiences this can happen quite often. The main goal of the Ghazali Group is for each participant to absorb and own the message and to spread it to their own circles of influence. A line by line discussion of this summary below will give me a chance to provide the results of my own decades of experience with trying to do this.

Tariq Mustafa’s 241 word Summary:

Today’s Islamic civilization differs vastly from the original Islamic civilization. The rise of the European civilization, which is based on the rejection of Christianity, in the past 400 years, have deeply impacted those who study it from the positing of awe and shock. The gifts of the original Islamic civilization are well documented but are often ignored by modern minds which have lost their ability to judge the Western education, economic system and social order and institutes. This impressed body, referred to as the WWBD, considers Western education, economic system and social order as the sole remedy of all that is wrong with the Islamic civilization of today. Project Ghazali is based on the bedrock principle of the finality and completeness of Quran as the World of God in its ability to diagnose and provide remedy of problems of all times ancient or modern. Project Ghazali challenges WWBD and attempts to answer the fundamental question – ‘Are Islamic teachings still relevant and revolutionary as they originally were?’. While WWBD answers this in a ‘No’, the Ghazali Project gives a ‘Yes’ by serially demolishing the many blindfolds  of today’s modern mind one by one. These blindfolds, as they exist, do two things a) inspire an awe of the Western civilization so great that it prevents the observer from observing the fractures and defects in it and b) it prevents the modern conditioned mind from seeing the brilliant out-of-the-box solutions Islamic teachings provide.

Line by Line Discussion of Summary

Today’s Islamic civilization differs vastly from the original Islamic civilization

For those who believe in the glory of the past Islamic Civilization, this shows that the present is worse. However, those who have swallowed Eurocentric History don’t think much of the original Islamic Civilization. According to Eurocentric History, civilization started in Europe in the 16th Century, and all others were barbarians and savages. So, we were nothing than and we are nothing now, so this sentence does not provide much information.

If we face a hostile audience, this message needs to be rephrased as follows. Islam transformed ignorant and backwards Arabs into leaders of the world. This is acknowledged by all (see Hodgson – The Venture of Islam, or Hart: The 100 most influential man in history).

Now the question is HOW did this happen? How did Islam change lives? Answer lies in the special KNOWLEDGE that was given to the Muslims. What was this knowledge, and does this knowledge have the same power today? It is clear that Muslims are ignorant and backwards today, so can we use Islamic teachings to change our conditions, as the early Muslims did? In this connection, see “The Search for Knowledge“. This way of presenting the topic avoids confrontation and hostility, in my experience

The rise of the European civilization, which is based on the rejection of Christianity, in the past 400 years, have deeply impacted those who study it from the positing of awe and shock

This sentences contains several different messages, each of which can be explained at long length. Depending on the audience, different aspects of these messages would require emphasis.

The Rise of the West: The standard story in the minds of most audiences would be that Europeans made spectacular progress in order to conquer the world and to become developed. The rest of us were left far behind, and hence we are under-developed. This myth of progress and development of the West is the strongest illusion that we need to counter. See “History: Conquest Song of the Victors” for the alternative viewpoint that progress of the West was really a decline of morality and an increase in barbarism and violence that we see in the world today. See “What is Development?” for the Islamic view that development means learning to be human beings and to behave in a civilized way towards each other — excellence in conduct, not accumulation of wealth.

Rejection of Christianity: The standard European story is that when we learned think rationally and scientifically, we realized that religion was just superstition. To protect Muslims students, we need to teach the real story about how Europeans lost their faith in Christianity, which is not easily available. See “European Transition to Secular Thought“.

Shock-and-Awe of the West: It takes some effort and reflection to become aware of our internal psychology of shock and awe created by the global conquest of the West, and the Western systems of education now dominant throughout the world. For some antidotes, see “Overcoming Shock and Awe of Western Science“, and “Islamic Concept of Knowledge

To be continued

As you should be able to see — this is a long and hard struggle. Almost everything we have been taught via our Western education is wrong — see “Recovering from a Western Education“, for my own account. It is not possible to correct all the mis-understandings in one shot. For conveying the message, it is best to focus on ONE SMALL PIECE at one time. Let go of, and do NOT contest, all issues. Agree on 99 things – even though they are all wrong — in order to dispute 1 thing only. My own message was to the Ghazali group, who I assume are already agreed with the project, so I don’t have to work on convincing them.  For them I am just laying out a road-map of central ideas which are required to revive the Deen of Islam today. However, when we take this message to a neutral or hostile audience, we have to be careful to focus attention on a small part of the message. The small part should be adapted to the audience — different audiences will be attracted to different parts of the message. It should also be adapted to our own capabilities. We should be working primarily on our OWN SELF — No one is immune to the poisons of a Western education, and we all have absorbed substantial numbers of myths of Western superiority. Focusing on self-understanding, to “Learn who you are” is the best route to personal progress. This focus is also one of the best and most efficient ways of conveying the message of the Ghazali Project. This is because we all sense that we are unique and precious creations of God. This is why it is easiest to attack the deception created by Western education that we are standardized commodities for sale in the labor market.

 

 

 

 

 

Impact of Colonial Heritage on Economic Policy in Pakistan

[http://bit.do/azich] In this post, we provide a video-lecture and a summary of comments by Guest Panelist: Dr Asad Zaman on  a Research Presentation by Syndicate-1: “Task Force on Governance”  at National Institute of Management on Thursday, 23rd May, 2019 from 12:00-13:00 hrs. The task force developed plans for effective economic security of Pakistan, according to Terms of Reference provided by the trainers at NIM. I provided comments and feedback on these plans. A Video Recording of my comments, entitled “Economic Policy for Pakistan: Recognizing and Overcoming the Colonial Heritage” is linked below. A written summary of the issues discussed is also provided below the video

As Vice-Chancellor of PIDE over the past five years, it was my main job to provide research support to any number of government organizations, to allow for better planning and more informed decisions. The bitter lesson from from this experience is: nobody wants to listen to research advice. Whereas it is commonly believed that we lack the knowledge and research required for good planning, this is not actually true.  There are many instances when we made brilliant plans, and even brilliant execution. Our steel mill was a far-sighted investment, launched at around the same time, and with nearly the same technology, as the Korean Steel Mills. While Korean Steel has been spectacularly successful and is among the worlds best today, our steel mill is the biggest budgetary burden for the nation. PIA was once among the worlds leading airlines, and supplied the expertise and skills to launch dozens of airlines throughout the middle east. Now these newbies have taken the lead, while PIA is a model of corruption and inefficiency. Dozens of cases can be cited where brilliantly researched and well-executed plans came to disastrous ends.

So the question is “why”? Why cannot good organizations which serve the public interest thrive in Pakistan? A big clue towards the answer is furnished by the exit speech of Marc-André Franche Country Director UNDP, who said that “ You cannot have an elite that takes advantage of very cheap and uneducated labour when it comes to making money, and when it is time to party it is found in London, and when it’s time to buy things it is in Dubai, and when it’s time to buy property it invests in Dubai or Europe or New York. The elite needs to decide “do they want a country or not.”

To put the matter more starkly, there is not one, but two Pakistans, as Tariq Rahman writes in his book “Denizens of Alien Worlds”. The upper class elites speak English, go to different schools, receive different education, health care – they live entirely different lives from the majority of the population, who cannot afford to give their children medical treatment which is received by cats and dogs of the elites. This class structure is the legacy of colonialism, which created bureaucratic structures purely for the purpose of ruling the country for orderly extraction of resources. This structure is designed to keep power and voice away from the public – you cannot give power to the exploited for they would only revolt against you. The Americans did revolt successfully against colonial rule in 1776, while our own revolution in 1859 failed, and this accounts for the differences we see today. It is worth noting that the American revolution succeeded because the British could not act as ruthlessly towards their fellow white men, as they could and did towards the inferior black races inhabiting India.

In order to understand the roots of our current problems, it is essential to understand the methods by which a handful of British ruled our huge country.  This is not widely realized, but colonization is primarily a process of conquest of minds – a  few thousand people cannot rule over millions without their willing consent. The soft power essential for power and control is based on creating a Deep-Seated Inferiority Complex in the enslaved masses. It is based on creating the myth of the “Civilizing Mission”, so that we come to believe that the British came to educate and civilize us, instead of looting us of trillions of dollars. It is based on a Divide-and-Rule strategy, which keeps us fighting each other instead of recognizing our real enemies and oppressors. But most importantly for our present purposes, Colonial rule depends on an educational system designed to create respect and admiration for the British colonizers, and contempt and hatred for our own society and ancestors. Absorbing these myths of Eurocentric history creates a substantially distorted picture of history and of our place within it, making it very difficult to “Discover Who I am?

There are two important results of this multi-pronged attack on our societies. One is that the institutional structures of colonization were not designed to serve the people — they were designed to support the process of ruthless and extreme exploitation. The bureaucracy, judiciary, police, military, were all institutions to impose and maintain imperial order and prevent revolts. Furthermore, people inducted into these imperialist services were educated into becoming a “Coconut Class” – brown on the outside, but white on the inside. The major problem for us today is that the nature of the institutions, and the people who control them remains the same as it was in colonial times. Although the name is “Public Servants”, our bureaucrats are rulers of the country, and have the mindset required for extraction of revenue. This is also something our institutions were designed for – extraction of revenue from an unwilling and oppressed public. With this background in mind, we can now look at the measures recommended for enhancing economic security by the NIM Task force on Governance. Summary below discusses a few selected points, while the video-lecture discusses all the recommendations of the report.

One recommendation is to reduce the size of the informal economy, to bring it into the tax net. But given an exploitative government structure, not designed to serve the people, why should we try to give it more power. Other studies show that in terms of charity and generosity, Pakistanis are well above average. If we could find ways to create transparency in tax collection, and show people how tax money is used to provide services, they would be willing to contribute more. Corruption and in-efficiency in tax collection is the biggest reasons for the low tax revenue, and it is not fair to ask for more taxes without undertaking serious reforms in the collecting process, ensuring fairness and equity. The fact that our government is exploitatitve and extractive is also of great relevance in the debate on “Privatization of State Owned Enterprises”. Global experience shows that essential services should not be given to private sector, because the p[rofit motive leads to exploitation of the public. When the government is also motivated by exploitation and extraction of revenues, this creates a dilemma which cannot be solved except by creating changes  in mindsets of the people.

Regarding the issues of government budget – raising taxes, reducing expenditures, attempting to balance the budget, and lowering the deficit — Modern Monetary Theory offers radical insights into this matter, which differ greatly from conventional wisdom of standard macroeconomic theories. For a detailed discussion of these aspects, see “Modern Monetary Theory“.

The persistent deficit in Balance of Payments is a consequence of persistent over-valuation. For understanding of why this has happened,  as well as remedies for the problem, see my posts on “Rupee Over-Valuation“, “Fear of Floating” and “Burning Billions“.

To achieve economic security, we must tackle the Central Economic Problem, which is to ensure the use of all idle resources in the productive process. The Most important idle resource is Unemployed Laborers. The Key Keynesian Insight was that a market economy routinely creates unemployment, and we must use monetary and fiscal policy to achieve full employment.  Modern Monetary theory builds on these insights and offers methods to create “Employment for All“. 

We are now in a position to answer the question posed initially – why do brilliantly planned projects fail? Why is no one interested in listening to research advice? For a bureaucracy bent on increasing its perks and power, and in extracting revenues, there is no relevance of research which shows how best to serve the public. They have no difficulty in analyzing which policies will gave them greatest personal advantages, and have no interest in research. Attempts to gain private benefits at public expense frequently leads to the ruin of well-designed projects. One of the key elements required to improve performance of projects is an effective process of monitoring and evaluation. For an extensive list of recommendations on how to do this, see “MPDR Seminar: Improving Planning and Policy“.

In terms of planning, we pay too much attention to material resources and external circumstances, and not enough to the software of development. In fact, all episodes of development can be traced to changes in the spirit and motivation of the people. Ideas which energize and unite people to work together for a common goal are the most powerful drivers of change. For more details, see “Pakistan Economy in the Global, Regional, and Domestic Context

Concluding Remarks: The central changes that we need to make are in the software – healing the divisions and hatreds created by colonization. This requires changing the narratives from Eurocentric history to an Islamic WorldView.. It requires breakiing the chains of colonized thought in order to “Learn who you are“.  It requires restoring the self-confidence shattered by colonization and Western education, so that we can recognize and honour our heroes like Mahbub ul Haq who created the concept of Human Development, and Akhtar Hameed Khan, who created the concept of Community Driven Development. Pakistan is endowed with immense resources, and great human talent. The Quran says that Allah T’aala does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves. It is this internal change of creating peace and harmony, and working together for common goals, which is needed for us to “Unite and Prosper“.

 

The Ghazali Project

This is the first in a sequence of posts in which we will describe various aspects of the Ghazali project which is aimed at the revival of Islamic Civilization today. Here we provide a background and an introduction to the ideas which lie at the heart of the Project (described briefly in previous post on The Ghazali Group).

Not just Muslims, but all who study history are well aware that Islamic Civilization of today has very little in common with the thousand year civilization that was launched by the teachings of Islam 1450 years ago. Today  our politics, economics, educational systems, judicial systems, and our ways of organizing our personal, social and communal lives are not shaped in patterns which were created by the teachings of our beloved prophet Mohammad, may Allah T’aala shower his finest blessings and peace on him. All leaders of Muslims in thought and actions – scholars and activists – have pondered the causes of the decline, in order to formulate a suitable remedy. By far the dominant school of thought among Muslims, in terms of numbers, is the following.

The Wrong but Widely Believed Diagnosis (WWBD): For complex reasons, Muslims gradually lost touch with the heart of Islamic teaching over the course of centuries. Some say that this happened when Muslims rejected the Mu’tazila, who argued that reason and rationality should be given equal weight with the Revelation. Others say that it was due to the closing of the gates of Ijtihad, when a consensus emerged that we should NOT creatively innovate in applying the teachings of Islam to our modern problems. Some trace the decline to the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols, who razed our cities, burnt our libraries, demolished the House of Wisdom, and created mountains of skulls and rivers of blood. The tragedy destroyed our inherited storehouses of knowledge, and extinguished our love of learning. WWBD allows for substantial variation as to the timing and causes of the decline, but there is agreement on the effects of this decline. Islam was a dynamic and ‘worldly’ religion, which taught us how to engage with the world, to pursue advances in all fields of knowledge, to enjoy life, acquire material wealth, to give thanks for all the worldly blessings the Allah T’aala has provided for us. However, Muslims radically misunderstood the teachings of Islam, and converted it to a monastic religion. That is, a collection of forms of worship, and spiritual practices. We restricted the application of Islamic teachings to the domain of the Mosque, and the Khanqah, and abandoned all other domains of life and knowledge.

As we fell behind, other civilizations emerged and took the lead. In particular, the European Civilization became the world leader in all fronts, with amazing accomplishments in the fields of science and technology, economic and political systems, and in terms of providing freedom and comforts to citizens. Today, the Islamic Civilization is far behind the West in every dimension of life. The remedy for our current ignorance and backwardness is to catch up by acquiring the vast treasure of knowledge which the West has created over the past three to four centuries. Learning and implementing this knowledge will remove the deep curtain of ignorance which currently envelops Islamic Societies all over the world. This is the only solution to our current serious problems, and the only way to create revolutionary change in Islamic Societies today. The path out of the darkness lies in acquiring the light of Western knowledge

If we accept this diagnosis, the course of actions for Muslims becomes very clear. We must teach our children the Uloom of the West – Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Economics, Political Science, etc. etc. in our colleges and universities. We must also implement the findings of these teachings, in our societies, by imitating Western institutions. That is, should organize our economic systems around the capitalist methods of production currently dominant in the West. These methods have created massive wealth in the West, and our failure to adopt them has created massive poverty in Islamic societies. We should organize our politics around Western democratic institutions. In all domains, we should look at the practice of the world leaders and try to follow these best practices, so that we too can become world leaders.

The Ghazali Project is based on a radically different diagnosis, and therefore gives a radically different solution. We start with the fundamental bedrock assumption that the Quran is the infallible word of God, complete and perfect:

This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.

Because the final message of God for mankind is complete and perfect, both the diagnosis and the cure for our problems should be sought within the teachings of Islam. To understand the problem, we must first go back to the origins, and examine the effects of the teachings of Islam, when they first came to the desert-dwellers of Arabia. These teachings created a radical transformation in the lives of the followers of Islam. People who buried their daughters alive, and fought and killed others for trivial reasons, became those who cared about the suffering of birds and animals, and those who would feed others while remaining hungry themselves. This internal transformation led to an external transformation. The tides of history were turned, and darkness which enveloped the world was transformed into light. The treasures which Islam gave to the world in every dimension of knowledge have been elaborated in a large number of books. For an internal Islamic account, see “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of the Islamic Civlization” by Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi. For an external account, see “The Venture of Islam” by Marshal Hodgson. For a popular account, see “What Islam Gave the World”. This is just a small sampler on a topic about which there is a wealth of information and books available.

After all of this background and preparation, we can state the fundamental question to which the Ghazali Project offers an answer: Are the teachings of Islam just as revolutionary today as they were 14 centuries ago? Do these teachings still have the power to transform the lives of Muslims, who have become ignorant and backwards? Are these teachings complete and perfect, sufficient for our guidance towards the path of progress today, just as they were 14 centuries ago? According to the WWBD, the answer to these questions must be given in the negative. Western knowledge acquired over the past few centuries, which has no contact with our inherited Islamic scholarship, is essential for our progress today. We must go outside the domains of knowledge contained in the thousand year old scholastic traditions of the Islamic Civilization, in order to achieve development.

The Ghazali Project challenges this conventional, widely held belief. Islamic teachings are just as revolutionary today as they were fourteen centuries ago, and they contain the complete and perfect solution to our modern problems. However, our modern education creates a large number of obstacles in the path of understanding the teachings of Islam, and how they apply to our modern societies. This is the first in a sequence of posts in which we will try to remove the large number of blindfolds on our eyes which prevent us from seeing the brilliant, out-of-the-box, solutions that Islam provides. The key to this understanding is the following couplet of Allama Iqbal:

My eyes were not dazzled by the brilliance of Western knowledge, They were protected by the Kohl made from the dust of Madina and Najaf.

Today, centuries of colonization, and the shaping of our minds by Western education, has created shock-and-awe of the West, and an extraordinary respect for the achievements of the West. This shock-and-awe prevents from seeing the deep defects in bodies of Western knowledge, and also prevents us from seeing what the message of Islam has to offer us today. The effects of years of training in learning to think like European intellectuals, who rejected Christianity, cannot be undone in a short time. It requires painful reflection on our internal thought processes, which have been conditioned by methods of education alien to our heritage, to reject the truth, and to accept and admire falsehoods coming from the West. In later posts, we will discuss many of these obstacles one by one, and attempt to remove them, in order to allow us to see how Islamic teachings can be applied to launch a revolution today. One earlier post which is most relevant to the current discussion is linked, and briefly discussed below:

The Modern Mu’tazila: Introspection, extraction of alien ideas that we have swallowed and adopted, is difficult and painful. So it is useful to compare the modern situation with an earlier episode in Islamic history which is very similar in some ways to our modern problem. Just as Muslims are in shock-and-awe of Western knowledge today, so many centuries ago, Muslims were extremely impressed with complex and sophisticated Greek philosophy, which had been translated into Arabic. So much so that the Mu’tazila held that Greek Philosophy (labeled as “Reason”) should be accepted as being on par with the Revelation. Today, we face the same problem. Muslims in shock and awe of the West give Western knowledge the same status, or even a higher status, than the Quran. In case of conflict between Quranic teachings and Western teachings, Western teachings are accepted, and the Quran is re-interpreted to make it conform. This makes it impossible for us to understand and benefit from the Quran.

For a continuation of this discussion, see “Diagnosis: Absorption of Secular Thought“. We absorb many poisons in the course of our Western education. Perhaps the most deadly among them is the idea that there is a domain of knowledge which lies outside the reach of religion. Learning how to apply Islamic teachings to all domains of knowledge is the only way to overcome this illusion. As an illustration of how this is to be done, I am constructing a course on “Real Statistics: An Islamic Approach