PP2 Building Confidence

This website is meant for general purpose Islamic WorldViews, while technical educational posts will be placed on a new blog “WEA Pakistan Chapter“, Re-launched and Re-activated,  recently for this purpose. See link for an intro to a soon-to-be-launched online course on Principles of Islamic Pedagogy (PIP)

A previous post explained the most fundamental and basic concept of (Real) “Statistical Distributions”, a concept which is the fundamental building block of all more complex concepts in probability and statistics. Unfortunately, for complicated reasons, this concept is never actually explained or defined in conventional treatments of the subject. One of the reasons is that probability is treated in an abstract and theoretical way, using a mathematical and axiomatic approach. One of the keys to the “Real Statistics” approach is to discuss all concepts in relation to real world applications. Our treatment of this concept begins with a case where there are no complications created by probability and randomness. We provide a brief review of the previous post on “Understanding Statistical Distributions 1“. The main purpose of this post is to discuss some pedagogical problems in great detail. PP2 stands for Pedagogical Principle 2, which is building confidence of the students. For previous post in this sequence, see PP1 The First Principle of Pedagogy, which is all about making the right intentions.

Review of Real Distributions: Let P be a population consisting of N elements {h1, h2, … , hN}. A function F(h) describes characteristics of each element of the population. For example, we could have the Age function, or the Gender function, or the Height Function, and many others. Each function creates categories within the original population – all members of the population which have common characteristics belong to the same category. For example, the Gender function divides the entire population into two categories. If Age is defined extremely accurately, then each person would have a different Age and every category would consist of exactly one person, since everyone would have a different Age. If we define Age in years, then all people with same Age in years would belong to the same category. Within this setup, the DISTRIBUTION of the function is just the proportion of the population which belongs to each category. Before going on to pedagogical principles, we provide some examples to illustrate this concept.

Example to Illustrate the concept of Real Distributions: Our population consists of 30 students enrolled in a Statistics Course at a University. The Age function of the students, rounded to the nearest year, creates five categories. There are 2 student of age 17, 5 students of age 18, 12 students of age 19, 6 students of age 20, and 5 students of age 21. The Age distribution of the students can be pictured as follows:

Distribution2

Alternatively, we can write the distribution by listing the percentage belonging to each category –  (17:6.66%,  18:16.66%, 19:40%, 20:20%, 21:16.66%). The “laws of probability” say that each percentage is non-negative, and the sum of all percentages equals 100%.

Pedagogical Principles:  The most important obstacle to learning is created by a lack of self-confidence. Every human being is born with infinite potential, as the best of the creations of God. Every human being can master any kind of knowledge that any other human being has acquired, if he or she receives the right training. It is not true that there are different types of human beings, some of whom are extra-ordinarily talented, and can master complex concepts, while other people are born without the required talent, and cannot ever understand more complicated ideas. Everyone has the capability of learning everything, if it is broken into steps which are small enough.

Learning Failures Caused by Big Jumps: It is very important to understand the REASONS why we have failed to understand many things which were taught to us in the past. This is not because we are born with some learning defect, or some shortcomings in our background, culture, character. The fault lies in trying to take a learning step which is too large for our current capabilities. If someone can take a step of one foot, and we ask him to cover a distance of three feet in one step, he will fail to be able to do so. Different people have different capabilities, and other students might succeed in learning. Then the student will be convinced that the fault and defect is within him, that he cannot do what others can do easily. He will not understand that the step was too big for him, and he can get to the same goal just by taking smaller steps. It might take him three times the effort that it takes for other students who may have larger step size, but he CAN DO IT, if he puts in the time and effort, AND receives proper guidance.

Learning Failures Caused by Lack of Connection to Reality: Another major problem that makes learning difficult is that concepts are introduced which have no relation to anything ever experienced by the student. Almost all standard textbooks today introduce probability theory via the Kolmogorov Axioms on abstract probability spaces. Even though textbooks contain examples with coins, dice, and cards, which are concepts students can relate to, the mathematical formulation is so complex that no one understands how the random variables, defined as real-valued functions on sample spaces, are related to the facts of our daily experiences, such as flipping a coin, or drawing a card at random. Probability starts out on the basis of incomprehensible foundations, and builds superstructures which are even more impenetrable, making it impossible for students to understand what the subject is all about. The point of “Real Statistics” is that all concepts introduced should be related to experience of students. A “Real Distribution”, as defined above, is something easily understood, since classes of students, grouping into categories by age groups, and percentages belonging to each group, are concepts familiar to the students. Many educational experiments show that students will fail to solve problems which they know very well how to solve, if the problems are expressed in unfamiliar language, and in contexts which they do not recognize. At the next stage, we will introduce new concepts which are not familiar, but we will build them on the basis of known concepts so that all new and unknown materials are built out of known and familiar materials. It is failure to follow this Learning Principle that leads students to throw up their hands in despair, and give up on the idea of learning altogether.

Learning Failures Caused by Inappropriate Challenge Level: It is well known that learning requires mastering challenging tasks. If the task is too easy, then learning does not occur. If the task is too difficult, then again learning does not occur, and the student gets discouraged by failure, and learns to feel inadequate, creating lack of self-confidence which is a barrier to future learning. So, learning occurs when the student is given a task which is just suitable for his or her personal level of current skills. This means that lessons have to be tailored to students’ capabilities. This is very hard to do in our current educational systems which are designed for mass production of standardized human resources. When we try to move all students together at the same pace, then some of them will fail, and will be made to feel inadequate. These students need specialized attention, where the material that is too complex to grasp in one step, is broken down into smaller pieces so that they can arrive at the same place in a sequence of smaller steps. In our educational systems, the teacher is given the task of “COVERING” the book, regardless of whether students understand the material or not. The teacher proceeds at the speed required to cover all the chapters, even if this speed is too fast for the students to follow. As a result, only a very few students are able to learn anything. The rest of students acquire the feeling that they cannot learn anything, and they just try to survive by doing whatever is necessary to pass the course, without even TRYING to understand the material that is covered in class. Long and bitter experience has taught these students that they CANNOT learn, because whenever they tried to do so, they failed. They do not understand that the failing lies with the amount of material covered, the methodology of teaching, the mismatch between the size of the step required of them, and their own learning capabilities at that time.

REMEDY: The remedy involves avoiding the attempt to “teach fish to fly.” Courses have to be tailored to students. This requires re-designing the entire educational process. Models of such educational processes exist in the Islamic past. In fact, the concept of a university, where scholars would be shielded from worldly concerns so that they could devote their lives to learning, was first introduced in the Islamic civilization, because of the overwhelming importance placed on knowledge in Islamic teachings. Using modern technology, we should also be able to take advantage of methods of online learning, supplemented by groups working together. Creating radical changes in educational processes is a long-term project of great value. For immediate use, I would recommend the following steps to the students.

Building Confidence: Even though this is among the first steps, it is tricky and subtle. There is the trap of unjustified confidence: students are told to believe in their own abilities, without acquiring skills. This leads to overconfidence, not justified by performance. There is also the trap of under-confidence: learning skills without acquiring confidence. Confidence should be built in proportion to the amount justified by the competence acquired. The following steps are recommended for this purpose.

Give thanks for what you have acquired. Learn to appreciate small steps. For example, if you have understood the simple concept of the “real distribution”, thank Allah T’aala for the understanding you have been given.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي بِنِعْمَتِهِ تَتِمُّ الصَّالِحَاتُ

Alhamdulillahil lathee bi ni’matihi tatimmus saalihaat means: All praise and thanks are only for Allah, the One who, by His blessing and favor, perfected goodness/good works are accomplished.

Appreciate the little knowledge that you have been given, instead of worrying about what you have not been given. Giving thanks leads to the multiplication of the gifts of God. Have confidence in the words of God, that we have been created in the best of forms, the best of the creations of God. Trust in Allah for providing you with whatever knowledge you need, despite our own lack of competence and capability. Repair your relationship with God by seeking forgiveness for past carelessness and sins. Cleansing the heart by Istighfar is necessary preparation for the Noor of knowledge to enter the hearts. Regularly before going to sleep, make thanks for all the blessings you have been given that day, and make a promise and a commitment to Allah T’aala to give him the best performance that you can for the next day. Learn the prayers for acquisition of knowledge and use them in the mornings, and before starting studies. Ask Allah T’aala to develop your capabilities so that you provide your best services to the creation of Allah, for the sake of the love of Allah. Understand that knowledge is among the greatest treasures given to Man by Allah T’aala, and seek this knowledge with dedication, passion, and hard work. These spiritual practices will lead to steady progress in learning, so that a journey of a thousand miles can be completed, one step at a time.

In every course I teach, the first lecture is devoted to inspiring and motivating students to give their best performance. In this connection see my lecture for teachers on “How to Inspire and Motivate Students“. See also “ The Ways of the Eagles ” for a lecture to students on how to overcome training to think low, like crows, and instead, learn to soar the skies, like eagles. For an online course on the topic, see: 1-PIP: Principles of Islamic Pedagogy

The Software of Development

childmath

The Express Tribune, 21/12/15. Explains how human hearts matter more than factories. 

Conventional economic theory focuses on the hardware of development: industries, technology, exports, infrastructure, and so on. Social welfare is regarded as an obstacle to development — to the extent that because you have to feed people, you cannot spend this money on building up capital. This trade-off takes a mathematical form in the Solow growth model, which states that the less we consume, and the more we invest, the faster we will grow. As this model was applied all over the world, many planners became aware of the harsh realities concealed beneath the mathematical beauties: we must deprive our population of basic necessities in order to accumulate the capital required for growth. Experience with implementing such policies and watching the brutal outcomes led Mahbubul Haq to revolt against this economic orthodoxy. He went on to formulate the Human Development Index (HDI), which includes education and life expectancies as proxies for the human component of economic development. The insights of Mahbubul Haq about the central role of human beings have had a profound impact on development planning everywhere. He expressed this insight pithily as follows: “…after many decades of development, we are rediscovering the obvious — that people are both the means and the end of economic development.”

The surface simplicity of this statement conceals a depth of meaning. It encapsulates at least three critiques of current development practices, and also points out a radical alternative. First, by focusing on capital, economic theory neglects the crucial importance of human beings as producers of growth. The Solow trade-off between feeding the hungry and building up capital is a false trade-off. Human beings are the best means of development, superior to all alternatives. People have much more potential to promote growth than the machines we can buy with the money saved by starving them.

Second, by putting growth over human lives, we not only sacrifice our best tools for development, we also achieve inequality and injustice as a result. The split of society into haves and have-nots has disastrous social effects. Mahbubul Haq noted this in his famous remarks about the 22 families who ran Pakistan. Although conventional economics has no place for them, practitioners have come to recognise the importance of social cohesion and trust in the process of growth. Mahathir Mohamad generated miraculous growth by getting diverse groups in Malaysia to work together to increase the size of the pie, instead of fighting one another for shares in a diminishing pie. The ties between economic inequality, social unrest and many types of crimes, including terrorism, are well known.

Third, the fact that human beings are the ends of development means that it is not permissible to sacrifice their lives in the pursuit of other goals. The HDI takes a first step to correct conventional GNP measures by incorporating important elements of the human life experience. Furthermore, developments in this direction have been made in the capabilities approach of Amartya Sen, which has been operationalised in the multidimensional poverty framework. The key insight of multidimensional poverty research is that income-poverty is just one small element of the problem. Enriching the lives of the poor involves providing support in many different dimensions. The hardware components of this support are well known. What is extremely surprising is that the software components are little known and completely neglected. We are familiar with stories of children who studied in candlelight, under the trees, with unpaid teachers and went on to spectacular successes. Recent research confirms that the magic missing ingredient (from conventional policies) is inspiring teachers, who motivate students to set high goals and to struggle to achieve them. When this software is there, success stories will come out of very poor material environments. If we fail to light the spark in the hearts of the children, then the best educational facilities will churn out cogs, who fit into the production process without individuality, personality or creative genius.

Every seed is a living miracle — put it in the ground and it extracts necessary materials from the soil and fashions roots, barks, leaves, fruits, thousands of complex chemicals arranged in a perfectly coordinated fashion. To those who reflect, it is amazing how, not just a tree, but the power to produce a forest is packed into a seed, which has no moving parts, no hands, no eyes. All the seed needs is the right environment, and rest it does without any help. The message of Mahbubul Haq provides a radical alternative to conventional development theories. Every child is an even greater miracle than the seed. If we can just provide all of the children of Pakistan with the nourishment, sustainment and love that they deserve, they have the capabilities to amaze us all. They will accomplish all the things we desire, such as advances in technology, growth in exports, building of infrastructure and much more. The blueprints for excellence are already built into them; all they need is a chance to flourish.

On the recent anniversary of the tragedy of December 16, the nation united in the outpouring of love for the innocents who were massacred. Let us also channel this love towards the living children of Pakistan, and vow to provide them with all the opportunities forcibly taken away from those who have found their place in the folds of the mercy of their Creator. Because there are millions of children, the task seems overwhelming. However, if each person does his and her share, and takes care of the needs of just a few children within easy reach, an enormous amount of change can be created. Instead of only complaining about ghost schools and out-of-school children, let us create the change that we want to see in the world. It does not require much in the way of material resources to change lives. A kind word, a smile, sharing of knowledge — small changes easily within our capabilities can have dramatic effects.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st,  2015. Asad Zaman

Myth of Oriental Despotism

Development: Myths and Truths describes 12 myths about development.  Materialism Versus Idealism –  covers the first 3 myths: Central Myths of Eurocentric History: Covers myths 4,5,6 regarding the Rise of the West.  Myth 7: Racial Superiority of Whites: This post covers Myth 8, which states that governance systems in Europe in infinitely superior to those of the East. Addendum: I found a pair of videos (5m Explains the Myth, 7m Debunks the Myth)  – They are linked at the bottom of the post.

MYTH #8 ORIENTAL DESPOTISM

According to this myth, Europeans developed the best political systems of governance, with democracy and rule-of-law, while the rest of world was ruled by arbitrary dictators, who inflicted their will upon the people. To understand the truth, it is useful to look at the recent invasion of Iraq. It was justified on the pretext of bringing the benefits of democracy to the people of Iraq, and freeing them from an evil dictator. However, the entire infrastructure of the country (hospitals, schools, factories, power plants) was destroyed, and more than a million civilians were killed, in the quest for control over the oil reserves of Iraq, the real reason for the war. In exactly the same way, the idea that the East is governed by evil dictators, and lacks democracy, has always been an excuse for colonization and exploitation of the people.  Many authors cited in Development: Myths and Truths  provide a detailed discussion of this, with references to the literature on the subject.  For instance, Armagan (Myth of Ottoman Despotism) documents how the idea of “despotism” has been used for centuries as a means for slandering systems of government which differ from western systems. Balahnova (2005-6) provides a lot of examples demonstrating that there were some democratic states among Eastern societies, and even in the societies where the royal power was really strong, the kings were limited in their desires by law. And even such social categories which we consider slaves were protected under the law.

Edward Said’s (1978) book “Orientalism” is the classic study of how myths about the East were manufactured in the West. The unfortunate part is that even the Orientals learn their own history from these western accounts and therefore end up believing these myths. Thus, they believe that democracy was invented in the west, that our societies have always been autocratic, and that this is one of the reasons that we are “backwards”, and will remain backwards.

TRUTH #8: DESTRUCTION OF WELL FUNCTIONING SOCIETIES.

Entirely contrary to the enlightenment myth, the world was not in darkness when the Europeans managed temporarily to forge peace among themselves by agreeing to conquer the world instead of fighting each other. All over the world, in all cultures, there was a wide variety of functioning systems for education, health, social welfare and justice. These systems were of no use to the imperialist invaders, and were completely destroyed in the process of colonization. The destruction was so thorough that not even the memory of what was lost remained within indigenous populations:   Oh! the loss of the treasures of the caravan; Even worse, the loss of the sense of loss. – Allama Iqbal (free translation)

Creation of the Coconut Class

It is extremely important to understand that a small group of colonizers (a thousand Englishmen) cannot control a population of millions of natives, without their consent. This consent – the agreement of slaves to willingly be enslaved, is created by two powerful weapons. One is an educational system which teaches the superiority of the West, and the inferiority of the East. This system was put in place by Lord Macaulay, and continues to function in the same way to this day. This educational system creates a Coconut Class (Brown on the outside, White on the inside) “a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern,  –a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” In return for power, wealth, and special privileges granted to them by the European ruling class, the Coconut Class betrayed the interests of their own people by acting on behalf of the imperialists.

Psychological Warfare

Machiavelli revolutionized political theory in Europe when he argued the power was best maintained by creating fear, by ruthlessly crushing the spirit of the enemies, so that they would not even think of rebellion. This is the doctrine of shock-and-awe that has been used in invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and many other countries. The colonization of the globe by Europe was accompanied by psychological warfare designed to crush the spirit of the colonized, so they would not even think of revolting. The scars of this brutal treatment are with us today, in the form of a defeated mentality, which cannot think of challenging the narratives of the superiority of the European civilization and intellect.

The real story of the ruthless brutality of colonization is so horrifying that records have been suppressed and destroyed, and myths of benefits of colonization invented to replace them. The truth is now slowly emerging, as the power of the colonizers to control the narrative has lessened. Shashi Tharoor in “An Era of Darkness” has documented the horrors of British Colonization of India. Caroline Elkin (2005) in “Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya” writes that the British colonizers  found it necessary to psychologically torture  “almost the entire Kikuyu population of 1.5 million”.  In order to ‘civilize’ the natives, “Bottles (often broken), gun barrels, knives, snakes, vermin, and hot eggs were thrust up men’s rectums and women’s vaginas. The screening teams whipped, shot, burned, and mutilated Mau Mau suspects, ostensibly to gather intelligence for military operations, and as court evidence.”  Similarly, Adam Hochschild in “King Leopold’s Ghost” tells us about “genocidal plundering of the Congo,” looting its rubber, brutally killing ten million people, all in the name of civilizing the natives. The King taught the Congolese Christian work ethics by holding hostage families, forcing husbands to produce rubber, and chopping of hands of those who failed to meet their quotas, leaving them to bleed to death in front of their families. See Colonial Atrocities

LESSON #8: REBUILDING FROM RUINS

Over the past few centuries, Colonization and Conquest, Physical and Mental, has destroyed large numbers of ways of living, cultures, languages, ways of thinking about the world, and ways of relating to other humans.  Machiavellian politics says that the power to destroy other civilizations confers the right to do so. The new generations in the colonies have been brought up on the myths that their ancestors were inferior sub-humans, and that hope and progress lies only in imitation of the west. The resulting inferiority complex prevents the formerly colonized peoples from thinking for themselves. Instead, foreign experts tell us what problems we face, and how we can solve them. This dependence on foreign experts has deprived us of our greatest asset: the Quran, which led ignorant and backwards desert bedouin to world leadership, and launched a civilization which dazzled the world for a thousand years. Even though the Quran tell us that it is the greatest gift of God to mankind, and provides us with complete and perfect guidance, Muslims no longer look to the Quran for guidance – instead, we believe that following the ways of the West will lead us to progress and development. This is the greatest tragedy of our times. See Rebuilding an Islamic Society for a discussion of how we can rebuild an Islamic society in modern times, when the ancient Islamic societies have been destroyed, ruined, and forgotten.

Postscript – While planning to make a video to explain concepts discussed in this post, I found a good pair of videos which illustrate and explain the concepts discussed here. I am providing a link to the two. The first one sets out the MYTH – what it is, why it got started, and how it is still widely believed and taught, and shapes thought and action in policy circles. This video is five minutes:

The second video is seven minutes about James Blaut: Colonizer’s Model of the World, which debunks the myth of the Oriental Despot. Among historians, the myth has been completely discredited, but unfortunately, not in popular textbooks, and minds of the general public.

ISOSS: Real Statistics, Islamic Approach

Talk at ISOSS on 22/9/2019 – URDU –Date: Sunday, 22 nd September 2019 Time: 11.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.Venue: ISOSS House: Plot No. 44-A, Civic Centre, Liaqat Chowk, Multan Rd, Sabzazar, Lahore.  English Versions and Writeup will be uploaded later, insha Allah. Previous English talks on same topic are available from a draft first lecture on Introduction to Statistics: An Islamic Approach (ISM01). Below, I provide an Urdu Video of the Original 65m talk, and an audio file of hour long discussion following talk, as well as slides of the talk. For a previous version, see first lecture of Introduction to teaching Statistics: An ISlamic approach.,

An hour long Q&A session and discussion which followed — Audio Recording provided below

Slides for the talk can be viewed/downloaded from ISOSS Slides

Subsequent posts which provide English writeup will be linked here when they are available,.

Launching An Islamic Revolution in Economics

[bit.do/azai4] Final Part 4 of talk on “How Islam applies to Economics” By Dr. Asad Zaman, Ex-VC PIDE  English Re-Recording of Original 1hr talk in URDU at Econ Dept. Karachi University Monday 16th Sept 2019 — 14m Video of Part 4:

So we started this talk with the question: “(How) Does Islam apply to modern economics?”. Conventional textbooks seem to be completely unrelated to Islam. As we have seen, this is because conventional economics is about a market society based on humans lives for sale in a labor market, competition, greed, individualism, and hedonism. These values are opposed to Islamic values. Islam does NOT apply to modern economics – it tells us to reject the whole thing, and build a new economic system on entirely different foundations. Islam works on TRANSFORMING human behavior towards Cooperation, Generosity, Social Responsibility. Of course, we may object that this is too idealistic – we can never create a perfect society, where everyone acts like an angel. The answer to this objection is that Islam is concerned with PROCESS, not with OUTCOMES. That is, we are required to WORK for change, to struggle for a good society. We are not responsible to achieve success. The Prophet SAW was tasked with the responsibility of taking the Deen of Islam to all of mankind, but he was told that Guidance was solely in the hands of Allah. Similarly, we are asked to struggle to spread the ways of Islam, but the outcomes of our efforts are solely in the hands of Allah.

How can we work to create change? One effective technique is to replace conventional economics courses with radical replacements, which provide a critique of standard theories, and provide Islamic alternatives. I have developed many courses which provide alternatives to conventional courses on the basis of these principles. Before I discuss the courses, I want to provide some general advice to Muslim students and teachers of economics.

Advice to students: Students frequently become frustrated and unhappy when they learn that they have been taught false theories. It is important that you don’t give up, drop out, abandon study because all economics is based on wrong ideas. Even though economics is all wrong, these ideas are running the world today. We cannot understand what is happening in the world without learning these ideas. To have any chance of creating a viable alternative, we must understand these ideas. So we must study harder, to learn the weapons being used by the enemies.

Advice to teachers: We must teach economics in a DIFFERENT way. Don’t teach it as the TRUTH. Teach it as a theory which is used to make policy decision. Don’t focus on micro-details; how to do the calculations. Instead, understand and teach the CONCEPTS beneath the theories. See through math and technicalities, as discussed earlier. Learn how these theories are used to make policies. Teach students how to DRIVE the car, not how the ENGINE is constructed. Since the Western educational model does not teach these things, you will have to learn them on your own. My courses, described below, will provide a lot of help with them. Become a student, and learn along with your students. Use Fellow Traveller model: we are all learning together, but I am a senior learner, a little bit more experienced than the students. See my lectures on How to Become A Great Teacher for more details.

SOME NEW COURSES: As explained, I have developed alternatives to conventional courses. One of these courses is Advanced Microeconomics I [shortlink: bit.do/az4micro] This starts out by covering the Hill & Myatt: Anti-Textbook on Microeconomics. The purpose is to create a link with conventional micro. The student will learn all of the basic concepts taught in conventional micro, but in a critical fashion. The textbook goes through standard theories of micro – in context of how they are USED in the real world. Explains why the theories are wrong, and why they lead to wrong policies. There is a serious question which emerges – why do wrong theories continue to be taught, even though there is huge amount of evidence against them? The answer has to with how Power shapes Knowledge. Theories which are taught serve the interests of power. Theories like Marxism are rejected and ridiculed, not because they are wrong, but because they are harmful to the rich and the powerful. As I have explained in detail, modern economic theory is really Economic Theory of the Top 1% (ET1%) – it protects the interests of the rich and the powerful, while pretending to be objective and neutral.

This is why Islam help us launch a revolution in Economics. We need to construct a theory of the bottom 90% – ET90% – which protects the interests of the weak and powerless masses, against the rich and wealthy. As a first step, we must learn to see through the deception of conventional economics. We must study conventional theories, not as an apprentice learning the truth, but as an external observer watching a magician to learn the secrets by which he deceives the public – see Thousand Snakes: Image and Reality of Western Economics.

One of the key deceptions is the WRONG model of human behavior: homo economicus. The idea that we are all selfish and greedy, and that this is rational behavior, serves to justify and allow the rich an powerful to do whatever they want. Actually, this concept is contradicted by actual human behavior. This theory is used to justify laissez-faire economics – just let everyone do whatever they want. By the ridiculous theory of the invisible hand, if everyone behaves selfishly, the society will automatically reach the best results. See Game Theory for Humans with Hearts.

The Islamic Perspective on this is that economists have the wrong model of human behavior, and also the wrong model of what makes us happy. We can create a new basis for Micro if we start by differentiating between NEED and WANT (as discussed earlier, and in greater detail in “Scarcity: East and West”). There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. If we make the objective the fulfillment of NEEDS, discouraging fulfilment of Wants, and encouraging people with excess to give to those who are in need, this is enough to launch a  Revolution in Economics.

I have developed new courses in Microeconomics, which are a compromise between the full ideal Islamic course, and the current neoclassical economics courses. Advanced Microeconomics I is based on using existing alternative approaches. One of these is Behavioral Economics, which studies actual behavior of human beings, instead of the axiomatic behavior which is mathematically predictable. As we have discussed, many development in Islamic Economics can be brought into the picture, to provide genuine alternatives – see Islam’s Gift: An Economy of Spiritual Development. Closely related is Experimental Economics, which engages students in real world experiments, which allows them to see that actual human behavior is very different from what economic theories say. In particular, human beings do not optimize; they use heuristics for decision making. This makes it impossible to calculate outcomes using simple mathematical formula. A solution is provided by the techniques of Agent Based Modelling. This allows us to deal with Heterogeneity (many different types of agents). Instead of mathematically calculating outcomes, we can simulate results on a computer.  This allows us to go beyond the “equilibrium” theories of economics, which belong to nineteenth century physics. Another new development discussed in our new approach to micro is Evolutionary Game Theory. This allows to model change over time, without having any equilibrium in mind.

Advanced Microeconomics II (2018): This course is based on Holt & Davis text on Experimental Economics, it examines conventional micro theories within an experimental framework. By being subjects in experiments and by running experiments themselves students learn the vast differences and contradictions between economic theories and real-world markets. Course provides students with deep intuition about real world economics which is not available by studying formulas as in conventional courses.

Similarly, I have developed pedagogical materials and videotaped lectures on more than TEN courses. These educational materials have a Radical Design, based on Islamic Pedagogical Principles. Testing them on students, we find Radically improved educational outcomes. The principles involve teaching students how to DRIVE, and not technicalities of the Engine manufacture. That is, our courses equip students with real life skills of value in solving real world problems. This is based on the Islamic principle of providing BENEFICIAL knowledge, and of avoiding useless knowledge. In addition, teachers and students should make the intention to use knowledge to serve mankind, out of love of God. For more details about these courses, Lookup ONLINE COURSES on asadzaman.net  In particular, for  Advanced Macroeconomics, see: bit.do/az4macro  This course is based on integrating history with macro – the goal of the course is to study the real world events which led to the development of macro. Students will learn about the Great Depression, the Gold Standard, and its replacement by the Dollar in the Bretton Woods Agreement. Many aspects of the changing and evolving global economic and financial systems are discussed and studies in the new advanced macro course. The point is to enable the student to understand real world macroeconomics issues, rather than mathematical theories based on bizarre assumptions made just to make it possible to do the calculations with pencil and paper.

End of Part 4 of 4. For the earlier parts, see Part 1: How Islam relates to modern economics?, Part 2: Conflicts between Islam and Economics, Part 3: The Shock and Awe Factor. This concludes the four part lecture. May Allah T’aala make it beneficial for the Ummah of Muslimeen, and for humanity as a whole. Ameen.

Shock and Awe: Barrier to Islamic Approach

[bit.do/azai3] Part 3 of talk on “How Islam applies to Modern Economics”, re-recorded in English. Original one hour Urdu talk on Monday 16th Sept at Econ Dept, Karachi University by Dr. Asad Zaman, Ex-VC PIDE. For previous parts, see Part 1 and Part 2. 18m English Video:

1800 Word Summary of Part 3

The challenge we face today is to Re-think economics from GROUND UP. The greatest obstacle in our path is shock-and-awe of the West, and the Western intellectual apparatus. WE must not be scared of conventional economics – its is DESIGNED to shock-and-awe, and prevent us from thinking. We must not be discouraged from this study; Economics is the new religion of mankind, and the driver of policy, thought and action, all over the world. This religion idealizes a society based on individualism and competition, driven by greed and hedonism. As opposed to this, Islamic teachings aim to create a society based on cooperation, generosity, and social responsibility.

Mathematics is used a weapon, to prevent outsiders from criticizing economics. Many top economists have criticized the over-use and abuse of mathematics. For example, Krugman said that “Economists went astray because they mistook beauty of mathematics for truth.” For a detailed discussion, with many quotes and references, see “The Overuse of Mathematics in Economics: Nobel Resistance”. One simple example of absurd mathematical models is the theory of utility maximization, which all economists learn. If I were to say to you the following: “See that old lady purchasing tomatoes? Do you know what she is doing? She has a multivariate utility function. She is now computing the first order partial derivatives with respect to the goods she is planning to purchase. Now, she just put in the budget constraint, and is solving the system of n nonlinear equation. Great! She just learned that she must purchase 3 pounds of tomatoes to maximize her utility!”. Every economics students laughs – but they all took it seriously when it was taught to them in their textbooks. This is how shock-and-awe operates. Completely absurd theories, contradicted by our personal experiences, observations, and thoughts, are accepted on the authority of the West.

In fact, Nobel Laureate economists, who have spent their lives in the profession, also recognize the absurdity of the theories currently dominating economics. For example, Robert Solow remarked that theories of Lucas and Prescott are based on crazy assumptions, and to discuss mathematical details of these theories means that you have accepted these assumptions. Instead, you should just laugh at these theories. See “Quotes Critical of Economics” for a large set of quotations deeply critical of current economic theories. A large amount of recent work shows that complex systems cannot be described via mathematics – the formal symbols are not built to handle real-world complexity. Instead, we must use computer simulations, which can deal with the level of complexity which exists in the real world.

Instead of being deeply impressed by fancy mathematics, we must learn to see through the fancy assumptions and complex Mathematics. The way to do this is to note that all analysis must start with some real world problem, which we can all understand. This problem is then translated into symbols and fancy mathematics, on the basis of simplifying assumptions which are actually quite crazy, if you can understand them. The trick is that no one understands the mathematics, so you can get away with murder. After translation into mathematics, a mathematical solution is produced, and then explained in real world terms. If we realize that all the fancy mathematics is useless, misleading and wrong, then we can see through the deception. Just Look at the Question (understandable) and look at the Answer (also understandable). IGNORE the math which is useless. Instead of the wrong mathematics, look at the MOTIVATIONS which lead to these answers. We illustrate this process by a few examples below.

Economic theory tells us that Price = Marginal Cost in competitive markets. If someone was pricing above marginal cost, than a competitor could sell the product cheaper and make a profit. Instead of the mathematics, look at the world around you. We find that Insulin prices are $300 in USA, and $10 in LDCs Similarly, a vial of life-saving Epinephrine is around $600 in USA, and $1 in Pakistan. The same drugs which sell for $30 in Canada, sell for $300 in USA. Is it possible for price to be marginal cost in such situations. Instead of mathematics, think about WHY this argument is being made. Actually, it is being made to justify the extortionary prices being charged by greedy corporations, which bankrupted millions of households to make profits in the Global Financial crisis. Economic Theory teaches us that firms are Price Takers, but a Survey by Alan Blinder shows that more than 80% of firms SET prices. They are Price Makers. Lots of empirical evidence exists to show that price equals marginal cost theory does not work in the real world. Why do textbooks keep on teaching these theories, which are easily proven false? Because these theories support the rich and the powerful corporations which are actually running the world, behind the cover of democracies.

Consider another basic principle of economic theory. Does Wage = Marginal Product of Labor? Consider all people in Govt Grade BPS 19 – They all receive roughly the same pay – are they all equally productive? Similar categorization occurs in all industries.  CEO pay is now 300 times median worker. This has increased from 30 times since financial deregulation in the 1980s. Productivity of CEOs has not gone up, but their pay has become ten times greater. Similarly, Labor productivity has increased greatly, but real wages have remained stagnant. Why do economists insist that wages equal marginal productivity in face of all this evidence to the contrary? This is because it allows billionaires to say, like Qaroon, that the money I have earned is due to my cleverness – it is justified reward from my productivity, instead of use of power for exploitation of the weak and powerless. Looking at the power structures of a society gives us a deeper understanding of the Marginal Productivity theory compared to the understanding of the mathematics behind the theory.

As a final illustration, let us look at the most fundamental of all economic theories. Is price determined by Supply-Demand? Card & Krueger: Myth & Measurement: Data on Minimum Wage shows that increasing minimum wage leads to increased employment, contradicting the Supply and Demand models. A huge amount of empirical evidence exists to show that supply and demand theory does not work in the labor market. The central argument of Keynes in his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money was that real wages were NOT determined by Supply and Demand. A simple evidence and proof of this was that high unemployment persisted for more than ten years – the real wage did not adjust downwards to eliminate excess supply of labor. For more details, see “Understanding Macro: The Great Depression

So, we come back to the core question addressed in this talk: How can Islam help us launch a revolution in Economics? FIRST: We must master conventional economics – not as a body of KNOWLEDGE – but as a (wrong) conceptual framework which is currently used by vast numbers of people to understand the world around us, and to make policies which affect the lives of millions. A key problem with this framework is that it uses completely wrong models of human behavior. Islam provides us with alternatives based on REALISTIC theories of human behavior, from Islamic sources. As we will discuss in part 4 of this talk, correcting fundamental methodological mis-understandings at the heart of Western Social Sciences allows us to launch a complete revolution in Micro-economics, Macro-Economics, Statistics, Mathematics, Econometrics. From being third rate followers, copiers and imitators of the West, we can become world leaders in these fields. More details will be given in the final Part 4 of this talk. Here we provide a brief description of the process by which economic models currently in use are constructed, to debunk their mystery.

APPENDIX (not covered in video/talk): The NATURE of mathematical models in Economics and Econometrics. “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

Everyone, economists included, realizes that the real world is too complex to be described mathematically. A MODEL is built by simplifying the world to make it possible to apply mathematics. What most people do not realize is that the simplification is NOT done on the basis of what describes reality best. Rather the simplification is done on the basis of what mathematics we have available to us – the world is re-shaped to fit calculus, rather than expanding mathematical tools to fit the world. Human behavior is too complex to model, so human beings are replaced by the robots – homo economicus – who behave according to mathematical laws. If we put more than one human being in our model, the formulae become too complex, so DSGE models contain only ONE human being! Completely absurd assumptions are made, because the mathematical calculations can ONLY be done if the world fits these absurd assumptions. Recently, Agent Based Models are becoming more popular. These allow for more complex and diverse forms of human behavior and allow for hundreds of agents within a model. The outcomes cannot be calculated mathematically by hand, but it can be fed into a computer to get simulation results. When we do this, we find that the real economy is drastically different from simplified mathematical models used by economists. There is no surprise that economists and econometrician completely missed the Global Financial Crisis. Their models were too simple to capture the elements which created the crisis. Robert Solow remarked that with only one person in the model, it is not possible for one agent to deceive another, which was the cause of the GFC. What is surprising is that after the crisis, there has been no change in the economics profession. Despite solid evidence that these theories are wrong, they continue to be taught. The established economists have too much to lose by allowing a revolution, so that are preventing all attempts at change. This makes an Islamic approach all the more promising.

Conflicts between Islam & Economics

[bit.do/azai2] Part 2 of Talk on “How Islam applies to modern subjects” By Dr. Asad Zaman, Ex-VC PIDE at Econ Dept, Karachi University, Mon 16th Sep. 17m English video is followed by 1800 word summary of this portion. FULL 1hr talk in Urdu: How Islam Applies to Economics.

1800 word summary of Part 2

Let us begin with a quick summary of Part 1:Applying Islamic Teachings to Economics . Modern Economics textbooks make no mention of religion or morality – creating impression that Islam is irrelevant. But this is very strange because ethics and morality are involved everywhere in economics. Pricing of food, medicines, and education is a key to providing for basic rights to everyone, and this obviously involves ethical considerations. So, it is a puzzle WHY modern economics completely ignores these issues. To understand the answer, we must think about HOW this subject of modern economics came into existence. This requires looking at the history of Europe in greater detail, because this subject was born in a particular context, and created for a particular purpose.

Very briefly, cutting a long story short, European history shows almost continuous religious warfare until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 (see European Transition to Secular Thought). This led to the necessity of creating a science of politics and economics which would be equally acceptable to all parties, regardless of their religious beliefs. This was required to create a basis for peace among the different parties with different religions and different moralities. Now, Economics CANNOT be done without morality. So new sciences of Politics and Economics were created which PRETEND to be Objective Knowledge equally acceptable to all human beings. However, this objective knowledge HIDES morality under the neutral label of rationality. This led the creation of a NEW RELIGION for mankind, which pretends NOT TO BE A RELIGION.

As European intellectuals became disenchanted with religion, they reject Christianity, afterlife, Day of judgment, and God. Jeremy Bentham called himself a Prophet of new religion, meant to replace Christianity. This religion is named and condemned in the Quran as ‘the worship of desires’. Once we deny the afterlife, it is RATIONAL make the Goal of life “the Maximization of pleasure from consumption.” Some of the Keys Beliefs of the religion of Secular Modernity are summarized below:

  1. Goal of life: Maximize Wealth, Pleasure, Power.
  2. Everyone has right to pursue these goals.
  3. All is fair in love and war – No rules in international arena
  4. Rule of Law within one nation, to minimize conflicts.
  5. Laws are created by votes, votes can be purchased, laws created to favor rich and powerful.

Internationally, no one has power to enforce rules upon other nations, so all nations can pursue their desires, without anyone to stop them. Anyone who has the power can do whatever they want – might makes right. The power to carpet bomb a nation, killing millions of innocent civilians, and destroying all infrastructure of the country – schools, hospitals, factories, power plants, etc – creates the right to do so. Within one nation, it is better to have peace and harmony, and the nation has police and power to enforce laws. So, conflicts between goals of different people are resolved by the rule of law. Of course, laws are passed by votes and votes can be purchased, so it is easy to document that laws are made to favor the rich and powerful over the common people all over the world.

The unique characteristic of this new religion of secular modernity is that it sells itself as rational and objective knowledge. This has created a situation where the power and glory, the global dominance of the West, has caused this Religion to be spread to all of mankind. Muslims have adopted this religion without any realization of the conflicts between Islam and an economic and political theory derived from the religion of secular modernity.

The Religion of Economics is portrayed in textbooks as being Positive, Descriptive, Rational. But deeper examination shows that this is not true. Human beings DO NOT maximize Utility. MANY experiments establish this conclusively. One very simple experiment is called the Dictator Game (variant of the Ultimatum Game). We pick two people A and B, and put PKR 1000 on the table between them. Player A is made the dictator and he can choose ANY SHARE to keep for himself. The remaining portion is given to Player B. According to economic theory, player A would maximize utility by taking all of the money for himself, leaving none for player B. However, human beings do not behave like this. Around one third of the people split equally, and the vast majority, more than 90%, leave something for the other player. This means that the vast majority DOES NOT MAXIMIZE. The very few that do take everything are almost always economists! While ordinary people understand that normal human behavior is to cooperate, share, and help each other, economists are blinded by their theories, and find it very hard to understand generosity, cooperation, sharing, etc.

Conventional economics is based on a theory of human behavior – called homo economicus – which has human beings who are heartless and soul-less. Islam provides us with new foundations to construct a radically different theory of economics. (Q7:31) “O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but waste not by excess consumption. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” This provides a clear statement of the moderation of Islam – we can freely eat, drink, and even wear beautiful clothes – enjoy life, so as to be thankful to God for His great blessings. BUT we should not be wasteful. We are encouraged to fulfill our Needs and even Comforts, but we are strongly discouraged from following Idle Desires. (Q45:23) “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?” Following idle desires is strongly prohibited in many different Ayat of the Quran.

In contrast to this, Samuelson and Nordhaus (1989, p. 26) state that economists “must reckon with consumer wants and needs whether they are genuine or contrived”.  Stigler and Becker (1977) say that “Tastes are the unchallengeable axioms of a man’s behavior”. According the standard assumption of consumer sovereignty, an economist is not allowed to question how tastes and wants are determined. This creates a radical difference between Conventional Economics and Islamic Economics, going to the foundations of the subject. The JOB of the Islamic Economist is to Fulfill Needs of all of humanity, and even of all of the creation of God. At the same time, we should DISCOURAGE people from wasteful and unnecessary consumption. Our job is to Feed the Hungry, and take care of basic needs of ALL human beings, and of ALL the creation of God. In dramatic contrast, Western Economists say that we should fulfill Needs AND WANTS. This is what leads to scarcity. Needs are fixed and low, and can easily fulfilled with currently available resources. But when we want fulfill BOTH needs and wants than this is an impossible task. Idle wants are beyond fulfillment, and they expand as more material is generated. Furthermore, according to economic theory, production takes place to fulfill demand which is backed by money. This means that if poor children demand bread but have no money, this does not count. Instead, production of Mercedes Benz for billionaires who can afford them has much greater priority. Even though this is clearly a moral judgment, it is not depicted as such in economic textbooks.

The Main Problem of Western Economics is SCARCITY, which is created by the attempt to fulfill all of the wants of everyone – an impossible task. The strategy is GROWTH – if we produce more, then maybe we can fulfill all of the wants. In fact, this is impossible, because wants expand as they are satisfied (unlike NEEDS, which can be fulfilled). This is now known as Easterlin’s Paradox – even though growth has created huge amounts of goods, people have not become happier. More and more wealth DOES NOT lead to a happy society. Greed, selfishness, individualism, and hedonism lead to misery for everyone on the planet. See The Illusion of Scarcity.

Islam provides us with a different diagnosis and accordingly, a different solution. First, we insist on fulfilling basic needs, and actively discourage fulfillment of WANTS. Desires of anyone should have less priority than needs of others. The prohibition of Israf & Tabzeer would free up lots of goods, which could be used to fulfill basic needs. For example, today the money being spent on OBESITY, caused by excess consumption, would be enough to feed the entire planet. This means that excess and wasteful consumption not only harms the consumer, it keeps essentials away from those who need them. The solution to these problems lies in changing social norms. The Prophet Mohammad SAW came to an ignorant and backwards society. The message of Islam transformed those who enjoyed killing their enemies, into those who would feed others while remaining hungry. Those who killed their own daughters by burying them alive, became those who would feel the pain of a bird deprived of its nestling. The solution Islam provided to the economic problem is based on the concepts of Cooperation, Generosity, Social Responsibility. These are opposed to the foundations of modern economics which are competition, greed, individualism and hedonism.

Today’s Challenge for Muslims is to Re-think economics from GROUND UP – we need to change the foundations; we cannot make minor modifications. The greatest obstacle in our path is the Shock-and-Awe of the West. We believe that they are so smart, and so far ahead of us, that we are not permitted to do our own thinking. Instead, we must borrow from them and copy them blindly, without thinking. This disease, an inferiority complex, has been created by centuries of defeat. The remedy is to NOT be scared of conventional economics. The mathematics they use is DESIGNED to shock-and-awe, to prevent us from thinking about the cruel concepts which are hidden inside the complexity. It is important that students SHOULD NOT be discouraged from studying economics, EVEN THOUGH it is completely false. This economic theory is the common religion of mankind, and is the driver of policies all over the world today. So we must UNDERSTAND it, in order to be able to oppose it. This is the most important intellectual battle we face today. To stop studying economics means to abandon the battlefield and run away. Instead we must learn deeply the thoughts which shape the minds of nearly all of humanity today. But we need to change the WAY we study. Study economics NOT as the TRUTH from the WEST, but as a WEAPON which is being used against us. See An Islamic Revolution in Social Sciences

End of Part II of the Talk about an Islamic Approach to Economics. Part 1:Applying Islamic Teachings to Economics provides the first part in English and also a link to the original one hour talk in Urdu.

Applying Islamic Teachings to Economics

[bit.do/azai1] Part 1 of Talk by Dr. Asad Zaman, Ex-VC PIDE on Monday, 16th Sept. 2019 at the Econ Dept., Karachi University.  First 11m, re-recorded in English, with detailed writeup, are given in this post. The FULL one hour talk in URDU is also linked at the bottom.

Let us begin with a question: “Does Islam provide us with any guidance regarding economics, macro, monetary, econometrics, and modern subjects?”

It would seem that the answer is NO! All of the textbooks we have read on these subjects make not mention of God, Quran, Hadeeth, or anything Islamic. So it seems clear that Islamic teachings are not relevant for these modern subjects. Even  Islamic Economists define the subject of Islamic Economics (IE) as being more or less the same as Western Economics, with some minor modifications. According to a famous formula: IE = Capitalism + Zakat – Interest. Of course, capitalists and conventional secular economists laugh at the idea that Islam, or any religion, could have anything to say about modern subjects like Economics, or Econometrics. Modern Ulema stay away from these modern topics, because of a newly created divide between worldly and religious knowledge.

This situation reminds us of 19th Century, when Laplace – famous French mathematician – wrote a book about mathematics of planetary movement. Napoleon asked him why he did not mention God – He said: “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis”. In fact, Laplace was wrong. The mathematics of astrophysics shows that the entire Universe was created from a single point, at a single point of time – the question of WHO created it comes straight from the mathematics (see The Big Bang).In fact, Islam provides us with revolutionary insights about how our economic system work, and how they can be made to work much better. Islam provides us with DEEP and POWERFUL insights, which are NOT AVAILABLE to Ph.D. Economists from Harvard, and NOT Available to Nobel Prize Winners today. This creates tremendous OPPORTUNITY for researchers in Islamic World, to make unique contributions, desperately needed by all of humanity today. Wrong economic theories, in widespread use, have led humanity to the brink of destruction, and have destroyed vast amounts of immensely precious planetary resources.

There is a paradox here – how is it that Islam provides us with guidance about economics, when the whole world is studying economics from textbooks which make no mention of Islam, or anything remotely related to Islamic teachings? To find out the answer to this puzzle and paradox, we have to study European history, to learn how these subjects came into the world for the first time. As we will see, Europeans were forced by historical necessity to invent the concept of “secular knowledge” – that is, knowledge which fall outside the domain of religion. However, Islam actually has relevance to all domains of human knowledge, so that the fundamental concept of Secular Knowledge is WRONG!

To understand this, we must study the creation of Concept of Secular Knowledge. This occurred when Europeans rejected their own religion of Christianity. How did this happen? This is a long story, with some key details given in the European Transition to Secular Thought. Here we just provide three key points:

  1. Catholic popes and religious leaders had lots of money and power, and engaged in open displays of luxury and corruption, which made people turn away from religion.
  2. Protest against this behavior led to the creation of different factions of Christianity (Protestantism), which led to violent, brutal, ruthless fights among Christians. This again led people to think that religion is only a cause of battle and bloodshed.
  3. Christianity preached monastic ideals like no marriage and no material wealth, which were not natural. This led people to believe that religion is just hypocritical talk, which even the leaders cannot practice.

Since religion provides guidance in all dimensions of human behavior, rejection of religion led to the NECESSITY for creation of “secular knowledge” – so that all different factions could agree on common principles to follow. See Origins of Western Social Sciences for more details. The first of these branches of secular knowledge was “Politics”. Religion had taught that the society is like one body with common goals. Secular political theory developed under the assumption that there are different groups with different goals and different moral principles. It was necessary to create secular laws by agreement and consensus (not by religious authority), and this led to the invention of democracy and the rule of law.  Many major changes were created by this re-conceptualization of society as  a collection of different communities, instead of a single community. One of them was the promotion of FREEDOM and WEALTH. Both MEANS to ends, NEITHER is GOAL. But there was no agreement on goals, so a secular society could ONLY agree to allow all different factions FREEDOM to pursue their own goals and allow everyone to collect WEALTH to make it possible. Gradually – SURPRISINGLY – means became ENDS, valued for themselves. Today, people have the goal of making money, for itself, without thinking about how the money will be useful for our lives. Similarly, rejection of God and Afterlife led to the promotion of individualism and hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure in this world. These trends have caused a lot of damage.

Just like politics, it became necessary to construct economics on secular grounds. Initially, economics was a branch of Moral Philosophy. Adam Smith, professor of moral philosophy, wrote the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The fact is that Economics CANNOT be separated from morality. What should be the pricing of medicines, health and education? What is our social responsibility towards the weak and the oppressed? In a market society, people (and their families) get to eat only if they can find work. Is this morally justifiable? What about the concentration of wealth and power created by capitalism? Nearly all issues related to economics are moral issues. So HOW can we separate economics from morality?

On the other hand, European society REQUIRED the development of a SECULAR basis for economics, because there was no agreement on religion and morality. This PARADOX and DILEMMA was resolved by HIDING MORAL judgments within framework/foundations of economic theory. Instead of openly stating moral judgments, they are concealed within axioms, mathematics, and framing assumptions (for an example, see “The Pareto Efficiency Swindle”). This has led to a strange situation where Secular Modernity has become the new Religion of Mankind. Because this religion was packaged as being a set of objective facts on which everyone from all different religions could agree, the hegemony of Europe over the globe led to its widespread acceptance.        The solution to the problem of how to find common ground between different competing religions was found by creating an illusion of “Objective Knowledge” based solely on Facts and Reason.

Supposedly, reason provides a complete and perfect guide for us in all dimensions of human existence. In the new religion of Secular Modernity, The MORAL judgments were HIDDEN under the label of RATIONALITY. This also deceived others, so Muslims also accepted it! A recent textbook on Islamic Economics discusses the “rationality” assumption and argues that Islam is all for rationality, which is certainly correct. However it is extremely important to distinguish between E-rationality (European, Economics) and I-rationality, because this word is used differently in Economics and in the Enlightenment philosophy which developed in Europe. In particular, it is irrational to believe in things without empirical evidence, according to E-rationality. Thus we reject God, religion, afterlife, and any other basis for morality. This leads to the selfish utility maximization behavior, which seeks to maximize pleasure in the world, without regard for others, as the hallmark of “rational” behavior. Clearly E-rationality is not compatible with Islam.

End of Part I of this lecture. See link to: Part II. FULL one hour lecture in URDU is linked below.

Countering Arguments for Atheism (Urdu)

On 22nd November 2016, I gave a talk at Darul-Uloom Karachi (in urdu) on the need to develop a new Ilmul Kalam — a discourse – to counter new arguments for atheism. Today, arguments against existence of God are being made aggressively, and form an important element of Western philosophy and education. These are, naturally, influencing minds of the Muslim youth all over the world. There are now very strong NEW arguments for the existence of God. Ironically, these arguments have been discovered by atheists while they searched for arguments for the NON-existence of God. Research on what they were hoping to prove led to results opposite of what they expected to find. These results need to be picked up and incorporated in order to protect the Muslim youth. For an ENGLISH article on this topic (based on different arguments) see: Does God Exist?

At the heart of the attraction of atheism lies an extraordinary respect for Western knowledge. So it is necessary to attack this idol as well – to explain how the entire structure of social sciences constructed in the West is built on wrong assumptions about the nature of human beings. I had hoped to write up my urdu lecture (linked below) in English, in a condensed form, but I have not had time to do so yet. So I am just attaching a link to the video recording of the lectures at Darul Uloom – I will try to provide an English version sometime later — if one of the blog readers can volunteer to translate the lecture into English, and provide me with the notes, I would appreciate it very much – It would help me to write it up in a better way. If someone wishes to do so, just indicate in a COMMENT on this post — that way there will be no duplication of efforts. You-Tube Videos of the talk at Darul Uloom (part 1: 60m) (part 2: 30m)

Above is first hour, and below is the final half hour segment

Finally, I provide a link to the full AUDIO file from my OneDrive Recording (The Need for a Jadeed Ilmul Kalam to Counter Atheism)( – this is the same lecture as above but in audio format only —

A writeup and summary of the arguments in URDU is given in the following document, written up by Moulana Yasir Ahmad Zeerak:

First Steps Towards Light

The previous sequence of six posts was about “How to become a Great Teacher“. I would like to follow up by providing advice on “How to become a great student”! The methods of education currently in use all over the world are extremely harmful to our hearts and souls – As the Prophet Mohammad SAW taught us, people are born on the Deen of nature (Islam) and then trained away from it by the educational process. A western education teaches physicists how to build bombs, but does not provide any moral training regarding how it is wrong to kill innocents. Islam teaches us that even taking one life is like killing all of humanity! However, if you listen to the first lecture on “The Moral Side of Murder” at Harvard by Michael Sandel, you will come away believing that it may be OK to murder innocents, in pursuit of a higher cause. It is not just that a Western education does not teach us about morality – rather, exactly the WRONG lessons are taught, which poison our minds, and teach us to think, act, and feel in the wrong ways. With TV games teaching children to enjoy killing and bloodshed from young age, it is no surprise that there is a mass shooting nearly every day in the US, on the average. It is a copy of this same education that we receive here in Pakistan, which is designed to turn us into feelingless robots and money-making machines. We will get soul-killing jobs which will involve denying loans to the poor who desperately need money, and denying essential medicines to the poor who cannot pay for them, or selling products like baby milk-powder in order to make profits by killing babies.

What happens when we do not train hearts of students to feel compassion!

Because we have travelled thousands of miles away from the pure Deen given to us by our Prophet Mohammad SAW, God’s Mercy to all Mankind, we have to take a large number of steps to get back to the original message of Islam. One of the first steps is to realize the value of our lives, as the best of the creations (see The Value of Human Lives). But, much more than philosophy, we need to take practical steps to put our lives back on track. A good place to start is by recognizing the tremendous gifts and blessings of God that have been given to us:

Ubaydullah ibn Mihsan reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever among you wakes up secure in his property, healthy in his body, and he has his food for the day, it is as if he were given the entire world.”  Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2346

Training of the heart starts here — when we wake up in the morning, praise Allah for giving us a new life, after the small death that is sleep. Today is the first day of my life. Today I have been given the entire world as a gift from God. Feel as happy as you would if you were granted everything that you have every wanted — these blessings that we have been given are better than what has been given to the greatest kings and the wealthiest and all those whom we are used to envying. Billions of people living on this planet do not know who created them. Billions do not know the purpose of our life on this planet, they do not know what will happen after we die, they do not know what actions are beloved to God and will be weighed heavily in the scales, and they do not know what God does not like. So the knowledge of Islam that we have been given is much more valuable than all the Economics,Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and Biology that we have struggled so hard for so long to learn.

First let us fill our hearts with gratitude towards our Creator for not only giving us this great gift of life, but also of giving us the knowledge about His own existence, and even more – asking us to take Him as our friend! Just imagine: God the Lord of the Entire Universe, has given us an opportunity for friendship!

Q2:257-Allah is the Protecting Friend of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light.

Not only has Allah T’aala promised to be our friend, and to protect us, but also to guide us out of the darkness into the light. That is, out of ignorance into knowledge. Allaa T’aala is the source of ALL knowledge, and HE gives portions of this knowledge to whomsoever HE desires.

To fill our hearts with gratitude, reflect on all the millions of blessings we have been given. Think about the poor, unfortunate, deprived, people — millions of them – who do not have enough to eat, fear for their lives, have uncertain futures, or live in poor health, and cannot enjoy life. Reflect on your own body. Feel the regular pumping of your own heart, the blood rushing through the veins, the tingling of the skin, and the thousands of pleasant sensations the body produces — each sensation is a witness and a testimony to a well-functioning system for our well-being — even if a single nail of our hand grows in the wrong direction, or our tooth aches, or some small portion of the body is disturbed, our whole life experience becomes unpleasant. Even one instant of the joy of living that is granted to us is such a tremendous blessing of God that we can never pay back for the gift that has been given to us.

Gratitude for the blessings a great first step, because Allah T’aala has promised to increase his blessing to those who give thanks. Next, given that we have been granted one more day of life, let us use it in the best possible way. Think about what we can do that would be pleasing to Allah. Plan to make this day valuable. Allah T’aala created life and death as a competition to see who among us would do the best of deeds. How can I win TODAY? What is the best that I can do for my God today, in recognition of the great gift that He has given to me?  AGAIN to answer this question, we need GUIDANCE from our Lord – we need guidance at EVERY STEP, to ensure that this step is going towards Allah, and not towards His anger, nor towards ignorance and darkness. So pray to Allah that I devote this day to you and please guide my footsteps towards your Noor, and increase me in knowledge and protect me from sins, from ignorance, from the tricks of the Shaitan, from the evils in my own Nafs, and from your anger. These are first steps on the path to knowledge.

POSTSCRIPT: After I wrote this up, I found the following quote from Imam Abu Hanifa which confirms and strengthens the message above:

یں نے علم حمد اور شکر سے پایا کہ جب بھی کوئی علمی نکتہ سمجھ آتا یا فقہ و حکمت کی کوئی بات ہاتھ آتی تو میں کہتا: الحمدللّٰہ، یوں میرا علم بڑھتا گیا۔ (سیدی امام ابوحنیفہ رحمہ اللّٰہ)
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‏قال أبو حنيفة رحمه الله: إنما أدركت العلم بالحمد والشكر، فكلما فهمت شيئًا من العلوم ووقفت على فقهٍ وحكمةٍ، قلت: الحمد لله، فازداد علمي.
[تعليم المتعلم للزرنوجي: صـ٣٨]

For related materials, see: Farewell to IIIE Students, Similarly my video on “Secrets of Success, Lessons from my Life Experiences”, which was my farewell talk at PIDE, is linked in the following post: Important Message for Students. Both of these talks contain a lot of advice for students. I will try to unpack these messages and present them in a step by step and simplified way for implementation by students who would like to learn  How to become human beings instead of human resource. To summarize and recap – try to develop feelings of intense gratitude towards Allah for all the great Gifts that we have been given. This requires looking inside our bodies and souls, looking outside at the wonderful world which supports our lives, and looking at great knowledge provided to us by the greatest teacher. Next, in recognition of this gift, try to use THIS day in the best possible way, to do the best possible deeds, and to take a few steps towards Allah, after asking HIM for guidance on how best we can do this TODAY – not sometime in the future.