Successful Development Strategies

If an alien species were to descend on Earth today hoping to learn about economic development from the human species, what would they take away from us? If they were rational, they would sift through history and take the bits that were the most successful in producing results. It follows that we should be doing the same thing to develop our own strategies for development going forward but for reasons that we explain in this article, we are not doing that. We continue to try and implement economic theories that have repeatedly failed and ignore the ones that have produced provable results. Why?

History is the conquest song of the victors. Since ancient times, these songs have glorified victors and grossly exaggerated their virtues, while denigrating and vilifying the losers. From them, the defeated learn an extremely biased picture of the world which prevents access to the truths necessary for liberation.

In graduate school, we learnt about Rostow’s theory of the stages of economic development. This theory places all existing non-European civilisations at ground zero and argues that development will require them to imitate the path taken by England in the 18th century in the course of its rise to global world power. This idea is patently absurd. Current global conditions bear no resemblance to those faced earlier by European countries. Contrary to the idea of ground zero, India had advanced shipbuilding, glass, and textiles industries. De-industrialisation took place as many of these industries were deliberately destroyed during the process of colonisation. Economic theory was used as a weapon to argue that India’s comparative advantage lay in supplying raw materials to British industry.

Another reason the comparison is flawed is political realities; European countries enjoyed a degree of sovereignty not available to current developing countries. Weak and corrupt governments and massive debt burdens allow rich countries to set policy. How can one make effective development policy while paying billions in interest on non-productive loans? Rostow’s prescriptions for growth do not take current political circumstances into account and are uninformed by history.

Despite numerous flaws, Rostow’s ideas undergird modern economic growth theories. This is a testimonial to the power of victors to dominate discourse. The spectacular accomplishments of the losers of World War 2, Japan and Germany – who went on to become economic superpowers – receive no mention in economics courses. Similarly, very little attention has been paid to the experience of the East Asian tiger economies, which accomplished something unprecedented in history: sustained rates of growth of seven per cent per annum. The famous Industrial Revolution that we struggle to replicate à la Rostow had growth rates of only 1.5 per cent, tripling the previous historical average of 0.5 per cent. This seven per cent growth rate has been justly labelled the East Asian Miracle. Their experience is far more relevant to modern development strategies than the 18th century experiences of England.

Not a single Nobel Prize has been awarded to an East Asian economist. Instead, it is deeply ironic that Milton Friedman, the prophet of the free market, received the Nobel Prize. Policies designed and supported by him were implemented to the last detail over a period of 20 years by a group of economists known as the ‘Chicago boys’, under General Pinochet in Chile. Despite Friedman’s repeated assurances that these would bring about an economic miracle, Chile experienced high unemployment, a sharp increase in income inequalities and poverty and a highly erratic economic performance. The Economist, a magazine which ardently supports free market policies, had to confess that the “hair of the Chicago boys has gone grey, waiting for the free market to give results.” Pinochet eventually fired the Chicago boys.

A similar disaster occurred in Russia, as a result of the implementation of Friedman’s ideas. After the collapse of communism, there was widespread agreement on the need for a transition to free market policies. The debate was only between the gradualists and those in favor of a rapid transition. Supported by the IMF, the ‘shock treatment’ party implemented a sudden shift to free market policies. As a result, production in Russia fell by 50 per cent in one year. In an economy previously able to feed its population, extreme poverty and starvation occurred on a large scale, accompanied by the creation of a new small group of billionaires.

Instead of looking to those responsible for numerous crises, including the recent global financial crisis, wouldn’t we be better advised to consult those few countries, including China, that have been success stories of development over the past few decades?

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2010 by Dr. Asad Zaman: author page on LinkedIn. Links to Other Works: Index.

Successful Development Strategies

Myth of Racial Superiority

Development: Myths and Truths describe 12 myths about development. The first three myths (1,2,3) are covered in Materialism Versus Idealism. The second set of three myth (4,5,6) are covered in “Central Myths of Eurocentric History“.  This post is about the 7th myth of Racial Superiority of the White Race. The 8th Myth is Oriental Despotism – that West has good governance while the East has bad governance.

Before we discuss our topic of the myth of racial superiority of the White Races, and the corresponding racial inferiority of he Brown and Black races, we will discuss the general framework within which this discussion is placed. Because no one tells us how to think, we imagine that our thoughts are our free choices. The reality is that history shapes our thoughts far more heavily than we realize. To liberate ourselves from the conquest of our minds, created by centuries of defeat and colonization, we need to learn some new strategies. One of the keys is meta-thought: learning to think about the thought-process itself. Why do people believe what they believe? It is much easier to see how “other” peoples thoughts have been shaped by history, because we are outsiders, not emotionally involved. To apply the same insights to ourselves requires being able to detach ourselves from our immediate circumstance, acquire a higher level perspective (meta-thought) and view our own minds and thinking process from an external point of view. We have come to believe in an enormous number of falsehoods, planted in our minds through years-and-years of Western education. There is no quick route to freedom – these chains must be unwrapped slowly, one-by-one, in a gradual process.  The guiding light which serves as a central goal and target is to trust in the Quran as being complete and perfect guidance. Even this fundamental principle requires work, because we have been trained to view the Quran in light of logic, empirical evidence, and scientific reasoning. When we find a conflict between dominant views and the Quran, we re-interpret the Quran in the light of “reason”, and therefore, we become unable to understand the message of the Quran (see Quran: Faith and Reason). Below, we will list some of the key historical trends which have shaped our thoughts. Standing outside the streams of history, and watching how these streams shape the thought of those caught within the tides, is very helpful in terms of learning how we can liberate ourselves.

  1. Global Conquest and Colonization by Europe: This created a superiority complex in the West (see Orientalism), and an inferiority complex in the East.
  2. Global Spread of Capitalism: This creates market societies, where everything is for sale. Wealth becomes the most important marker of social status. This leads to a society where pursuit of wealth is the goal of life for everyone. See The Third Poison: Pursuit of Wealth.
  3. Loss of Faith in Europe: For reasons explained in European Transition to Secular Thought, Europeans lost faith in Christianity. This led to the adoption of a materialistic outlook on life. Rejection of the heart, soul, the invisible world, and deeper meanings of life, and focus on what we can touch and see. See: Materialism Versus Idealism. (myths 1,2,3)
  4. Eurocentric History: History is the conquest song of the victors. Because Europeans colonized the globe, they also wrote the history of this colonization in a way that glorifies the Europeans and makes non-Europeans appear inferior. See Central Myths of Eurocentric History. (myths 4,5,6)
  5. Causes of Muslim Decline: Edward Said’s influential book on Orientalism created the realization that history looks very different when told from the perspective of the defeated (see Subaltern Studies). In particular, we Muslims have swallowed stories told about our defeat told from a European perspective. We need to unlearn these myths and relearn the truth. Of the three widely believed myths about the causes of Muslim decline, we will deal with the only one: the myth that we are racially inferior, or that our civilization was inferior to the Western one.

My paper on “Development: Myths and Truths“, studies a dozen myths about development that we have absorbed as part of our Western education. Discussion of Myths 1 to 6 is provided in posts linked in points 3 and 4 above.  This post is about myths #7, .

Myth #7: Racial Superiority of Whites: We like to think that we have advanced beyond this folly, but the truth is that racial superiority myths are very much a part of the world we live in, and also a part of the way we think. As far as the external world is concerned, the politics of hate and bigotry is getting increasing votes all over the world. But more important, and more difficult to see, is the reflection of racism in our own mindsets – how it shapes our thoughts. Nobody likes to feel inferior, so we hide this from ourselves. So let us stand apart as an external observer, objective and detached, and go through the closets of our own minds to bring out the stored thoughts, sometimes even hidden from our own selves:  Nobody can deny that Europeans have made astonishing achievements, leaving the rest of humanity far behind. Their inventions have transformed human life, with amazing advances on every front, and continuing every day. No one else has done anything comparable. Our ancestors, yes, they contributed to poetry and literature, BUT … science and technology — ZERO! Yes, we can make tall claims to console ourselves. Al-Khwarizmi, Ibnul-Haytham, etc. etc. – a long list of forgotten names. Some of our ancestors did some primitive things resembling science a thousand years ago. YES, today, Japanese, Chinese, Asians, Africans, all are involved in the race, and many have outdone the White races. But only because the Europeans generously shared their knowledge with us. Maybe its not race, maybe it’s just historical accidents and geography, but massive superiority of European civilization over all others cannot be denied by anyone who has two eyes to look around and see the world. 

Truth  #7: Brotherhood of Man: The Quran informs us that we are all brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of Adam and Hawwa (AS). No one is superior to anyone else except by virtue of Taqwa (God-consciousness). As explained in Quran: Faith and Reason, we must learn to put teachings of the Quran above the evidence of our senses, reason, and empirical evidence. How can we make sense of this apparent contradiction between the massive superiority of European knowledge, and the Quranic assertion that the knowledge given to the Muslims is far better than anything that they can gather? This is such a HUGE idol that we cannot take it down with one blow. The correct strategy is to chip at it one small piece at a time. So let us just take one small part of the claim of European superiority: European conquest and colonization of the globe. Does this entitle Europeans to feel superior, and should we feel inferior because they conquered us, and we did not conquer them? Throughout history, barbarians have overcome civilizations which became corrupted by luxury. Does this pattern prove the “superiority” of the barbarians, or just that they were better at fighting? When the Mongols destroyed Baghdad, was it because of their superior civilization, greater intelligence, or better fighting skills? When the USA carpet bombed Iraq and killed a millions plus civilians, and destroy the infrastructure of the country,  does this mean that we should all learn to follow their example?

Defeat in war does not mean inferiority. If someone points a gun at me, and loots all my wealth, it does follow that I should learn the ways of life from him. In fact, it is a long established tradition, that defeat does lead to a defeated mentality. The victors define the criteria by which development is judged, and they change these criteria to ensure that they are on top. What appears to us to be an objective fact – that Western civilization is developed, and we are under-developed and primitive — is actually a mirage. This is achieved by defining the development criteria in a certain way. If wealth and power are the criteria of development, then Qaroon and Fir’aun and Namrood would be the most advanced of people. INSTEAD, if we were to define civilization as meaning humanity, compassion, minimal killing of innocent civilians, minimum incidents of random violence and crime, minimal suicides, divorces, children growing up in happy families, and a whole host of other factors, we would find that the world leaders could easily be made to have very low rankings. A lecture on “Re-Defining Development” shows how the criterion for development continuously keeps changing as the victors re-define it to ensure that they come out on top. This would just be a beginning, a first step in undoing the illusion of Western superiority. Many other dimensions of superiority need to be addressed, each one separately. At the heart of it all is the Western conception of knowledge itself, as knowledge of the external world. The criterion for success suitable for conquerors of the globe is power and wealth. Success is defined by the power to loot the world, kill and enslave millions, capture global resources. When the only criterion for success is power, wealth, and luxury, western knowledge is the only way to go. Islamic knowledge is designed to develop the unique capabilities that all human beings are born with, so that we can become the best of the creation. The knowledge required to provide a nurturing environment, to create spiritual growth, is harmful according to Western criterion, because it will hinder us from oppressing and exploiting others, and enriching ourselves at the expense of others. For more details on the differences between Islamic and Western conceptions of knowledge, see “The Search for Knowledge“.

Lesson #7: The Courage to Make a Difference: The Quran asserts that man can only get what he strives for. The false idea of racial inferiority, and the false idea that our ancestors never accomplished anything worthwhile, limits the range of our ambitions. Once the lesson of brotherhood of all human beings is absorbed, it becomes possible to strive for the highest goals that humans have tried for. These highest goals are NOT the maximization of power, wealth, and pleasure derived from consumption. Rather, every man has been given the potential to become superior to the angels, and also the capability to be worse than the beasts. Depending on the environment and the efforts made, men can develop to a greater or lesser extent. Those who remain undeveloped spiritually can, like Machiavelli, prefer to rule by fear, because they have no compassion, and cannot sense the warmth in the hearts of fellow men. They can drop fire bombs on cities, frying human beings on hot pavements, without feeling any pity, or guilt. Spiritual development leads to an awareness of the linkages between all human beings (see Spirituality and Development for a deeper discussion). The most developed of all human beings was our prophet Mohammed S.A.W. who was sent as a mercy for all mankind. His heart was so full of compassion that Allah T’aala counsels him in the Holy Quran not to kill himself with sorrow on the behalf of those who would not believe and thereby condemn themselves to eternal suffering. Our goal in life is to try and emulate this excellence, to the extent possible for us. This is the only way to achieve our potential to become “the best of the creation”, the highest of goals open to men and women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Steps

This is a continuation of my previous post on “A Journey of a Thousand Miles“, which explains how I acquired an inner conviction in my heart that Islamic teachings are just as revolutionary today as they were 1440 years ago, even though this idea did not make sense to my head. The strong empirical evidence of the power and glory of the West which surrounds us, also suggests that the necessity of learning essential lessons from the West.  But this does create a mystery: If western teachings are necessary for progress, then how did the early Muslims create a spectacular civilization which led the world for a thousand years without these teachings?

The first major clue towards the solution of the mystery came from the brilliant book on “Orientalism” by Edward Said (A Palestinian Christian, Said is actually Sa’eed), my ex-colleague at Columbia University. This book was amazingly influential in discrediting an entire field of study. Departments of “Oriental Studies” shut down, and scholars discreetly dropped the label “orientalist”, replacing it by “area studies” and “regional experts”. The basic thesis of “Orientalism” was stark and simple. The European conquest of 85% of the globe by the means of incredible brutality, ruthless violence, and unbelievable atrocities inflicted on millions of people required an intellectual justification. The “Orient” was invented as a creation of European scholars to provide such a justification. Deep and serious scholars have proposed explanations of the “Rise of the West” by many distinguishing characteristics: honesty, thrift, initiative, respect for property rights, and openness to new ideas. rationality, science, technology, etc. The “Orient” is defined by the opposite characteristics — orientals, all the billions, are incapable of rational thought, science is beyond their mental capabilities, they are lazy, spendthrifts, lack initiative and originality, are born thieves with no respect for property rights, and so on. One might think that this is a gross exaggeration which no respectable scholar could make. James Blaut’s book on “Eight Eurocentric Historians” documents contemporary and influential historians who have propounded such absurd theses, characterizing billions of people via shallow stereotypes.

The idea that all good things known to man were invented by Europeans, and that human history is really European history because no one else on living on the planet ever did anything significant is such a wild exaggeration that it is unnecessary to produce empirical evidence to prove that it is false – there is simply too much evidence that can be used for this purpose. Despite the fact that these ideas are patently false, why are they so widespread and widely believed all over the world, in the West and in the East? In the long-run, this line of thought proved to be very fruitful, although at that time this was not at all clear to me. This is Meta-Theoretical thinking — or Meta-Thought. That is, we need to think about the nature of thinking itself. Why do people think like they do? Why do people disagree, especially on things which seem obvious? Why does person X believe belief B and person Y believe belief C? My education at MIT in Mathematics and logic had trained me to believe in Binary logic. Thoughts are ideas which are either true or false. If thought T is true than everyone should believe it, and if it is false than no one should believe it. If there is a disagreement between beliefs B and C, then one person is right and the other one is wrong. Our goal is to discover the truth – find out who is wrong and who is right.

Meta-Thinking rejects this way of looking at the problem. Instead of trying to find what is true and what is false, we think about how the idea B became the belief of X, and how the idea C became the belief of Y. This requires looking at the experiences of X and Y, and the kind of education and training they received.  Orientalism is Meta-Thinking at a very high level. Edward Said is examining the ways of thinking for all scholars trained in “Oriental Studies” and called Orientalists. He argued that these ways of thinking were created by the need to justify and rationalize the conquest of the globe by the European powers. Examining whether the thoughts were “true” or “false” was not a very interesting question from the historical perspective taken by Edward Said.

The dramatically ambitious scope of the Edward Said’s project was breathtaking and inspiring. Single-handedly, he successfully attacked an entire discipline. Scholars stopped calling themselves “Orientalists” because Said had shown that this was just a name for a prejudiced European way of looking at the world. The words “Developed” and “Under-Developed” and Modern versus Traditional societies reflected this prejudice and bias of Western superiority and Eastern inferiority.

For me, the work of Said created the hope and the dream that perhaps I could do something similar in Economics. That is, perhaps I could show that Economic Theory was also an Orientalist project, a way for the West to control and dominate the East. This was a very plausible conjecture. The field of “Development Economics” had its roots in “Colonial Economics” which was designed to teach the ruling classes how to govern the colonies in such a way as to create maximum revenue for the colonizers at minimum cost, while preventing revolutions or costly disturbances in the colonies. I did not think that “economics” was wrong (that thought came later). Initially, I just thought that it was the theory of the colonizer, and would not be helpful to the colonized in developing an independent economy.

An attack on Economics was just part of a larger project of showing that Western knowledge was not as all important and useful as it appears to be, and that Islamic ideas could help us develop alternatives which would allow us to achieve freedom from colonial influence. Edward Said’s book covered a vast range of literature spanning many centuries and covering many disciplines. It was clear to me that this was HUGE project. Attacking the entire discipline of Economics constructed over the past few centuries in the West could be a lifetime effort. I was encouraged by the example of Imam Ghazali who said that he took out ten years to examine the claims of the Sufi’s. Devoting large chunks of life to acquire expertise on a whole field of knowledge was justified by the importance of the project.

PRACTICAL ADVICE: As a practical matter of work-discipline, it is essential to break down huge projects into small bite-size pieces. I could not take down the entire discipline of Economics in one day. Instead, I would focus on very small manageable pieces, one at a time. Furthermore, even on a small piece, it is important to focus on subtasks which can be completed in one day. Organize the tasks – which involve reading, absorbing and understanding the material, and writing up an expression of your understanding – into units which are small enough. Then reward yourself for completing one small step. Count each completion of a very very small piece of the task as success, one step forward towards a grand goal. And make sure that you achieve at least one success every day. Give thanks to Allah for opening your heart to knowledge, and for whatever progress you are making, so that He will increase your blessings. Most students tend to do the opposite — instead of counting the small number of steps successfully completed, they look at the huge distance remaining to the goal, and get discouraged. Working in this way is essential for students engaged in research, especially Ph.D. research. The task of finishing up a Ph.D. thesis is dauntingly large. To do it, you should break it down into small parts, and make sure to make progress on one small part every day. This is a very important skill that must be learnt: how to break up a large task into small and manageable pieces. Slow and steady wins the race. For more details, see my post on Guidance for Research for M.Phil/Ph.D. 

RELATED MATERIALS: “Orientalism” is an illustration of an extremely important idea of Michel Foucault: Power/Knowledge. In dramatic contrast to the binary theory of knowledge as being (true/false) which I had learnt at MIT and Stanford, Foucault shows that knowledge is a manifestation of power. The powerful do not control the world by brute force. At their maximum, there were only about a thousand Englishman who were physically present in India to control and dominate a population of millions. The controls exerted is psychological. Colonization is really a conquest of knowledge. Our minds are shaped by theories which inform us that being colonized is better for us than being free. This is done by creating a Deep Seated Inferiority Complex, which is the counterpart of the superiority complex created among the Europeans by their global conquest. This complex was created by a deliberate policy which destroyed the excellent indigenous systems of education, and replaced them with a system designed to create admiration and respect for the West, and hatred and contempt for our own heritage and culture. This system, designed by Lord Macaulay, continues to function with the same results today, creating an elite class which identifies with the West, and holds the “natives” in contempt. For more details see “The British Educated and Civlized Us?

Postscript: To get automatic notifications about later posts in this sequence, scroll up to the top of this post. A button marked “Follow” will appear somewhere near the lower part of the right hand side. Click on it and follow instructions register for automatic notifications about posts on this blog.

 

 

Value of Human Lives

How did Islamic teachings launch a revolution, which changed the course of human history, 1440 years ago? This question is puzzling when examined from a modern materialist perspective. We do not find any invention, any new techniques of warfare, any industry, production process, or other material cause, which lifted the early muslims from the depths of ignorance to world leadership. The causes are to be found in the internal and spiritual changes creates by the teachings of Islam. Allah T’aala “Taught man that which he knew not.” (Q 96:4). This knowledge created a revolution in the hearts and souls, which in turn led to an external revolution. One of the central components of this revolutionary knowledge given to the early Muslims was the value of human lives:

  1. We have been created as the best of the creations.  That is human beings have been endowed with enormous potential; with the ability to rise above the angels. This same potential can be used negatively to make us the worst of creation.
  2. He who saves one human life, is as if he has saved the entire humanity. And he who takes a life, is as if he has killed the entire humanity.
  3. Adam AS was created, and given knowledge, and the angels were ordered to prostrate before him, as a sign of the honor given to man by God.
  4. Allah T’aala Himself offers to purchase our lives and wealth in return for paradise.
  5. The entire universe was created for our benefit, while we were created for God.

There are many more indicators of the enormous value placed on human lives by Allah T’aala. It is important to understand that this value is “potential” and not necessarily actual. Just like every seed has the potential to become a tree, so every human being has the potential to reach tremendous heights, if he or she strives in the path of Allah, making the effort that is required for this purpose. Human lives are of little value if this effort is not made and the potential remains unrealized. As the Quran mentions, Man can only have that for which he strives. So it is left up to us to set high goals for ourselves. If we set ourselves low goals, then we will end up with very little in the way of achievement. The was the secret of the revolution launched by the early Muslims – they were taught to “Reach Beyond the Stars“. This is also the secret of our current dismal state. We have been taught to aim low, and sell our lives cheaply. A previous post on “Learn Who You Are!” explains how the many powerful actors, who wish to purchase our lives cheaply, teach us to place low value on our lives.

To a far greater extent than we realize, our thoughts are shaped by history. We are carried along by the great tides of history which surround us, in directions which are not chosen by us, without our conscious awareness of this. In order to liberate ourselves from the prison of thoughts imposed upon us, we must learn to rise above these tides. This requires learning to think at a Meta-Level; that is, thinking about how history shapes our thoughts. There are three major historical tides which have shaped thoughts of nearly all human beings on the planet. These are listed below:

  1. Great Transformation: Excess industrial production transformed transformed traditional European society to a Market society, where everything is for sale. The lesson is that human lives are cheap, saleable for money.
  2. Global Conquest: By early 20th Century, Europeans had conquered and colonized about 85% of the globe. This created a superiority complex in the West, and an inferiority complex in the colonized East. The lesson is that we are inferior human beings.
  3. European Transition to Secular Modern Thought. Rejection of religion led to emphasis on materialist thought, and rejection of God, Hereafter, Morality, and all invisible, unobservable, and unmeasurable aspects of our lives. The lesson is that we are reducible to our material body, an insignificant speck in a gigantic universe. Our hearts and spirits, ambitions and visions, are of no importance.

These trends were spread throughout the world by the Western education required for functioning in the global capitalist economy which currently envelops the planet. In a previous post on “The Underground Railroad: Path to Liberation“, I have discussed how we can liberate ourselves from the ways of thinking we have learned, as a consequence of these tragic events. Below, I provide a summary and a recapitulation of this:

The Market Society: In a market society, everything is for sale. Human lives are commodities, for sale in the labor market. Instead of getting respect and affection as “Mother Earth”, which provides resources for our sustenance and habitat, the planet is subjected to merciless exploitation for making money. The history of how this way of thinking emerged in European society is described briefly in “The Great Transformation in European Thought“.  To undo the effects of this not-so-great transformation, we need to learn “How to be a Human Being, Instead of a Human Resource“. An Islamic education is about development of our capabilities for excellence, the infinite potential every human being is created with. In contrast, a Western education is about learning to make money.

Colonization and Slave Mentality:  To justify brutal  and ruthless conquest of the globe, which involved countless genocides, and destruction of well-functioning societies throughout the planet, the Europeans had to invent many myths which would put a good face on an ugly business. They invented the myth of the “White Man’s Burden” and the “Civilizing Mission” according to which the purpose of the colonization and the conquest was to bring the benefits of their advanced civilization to the rest of the world, which was cloaked in ignorance and superstition. This is very much like the cover story for the recent invasion of Iraq, which was to bring benefits of Western democracy to the Iraqi population, and protect the world from an evil dictator. In both cases, the real motive was the use of power to exploit resources belonging to others, on the basis of the barbaric principle that “Might makes right”. Unfortunately, both the colonizer and the colonized have swallowed the myths created to justify the conquest. The superiority complex created among the Europeans has been described by Edward Said in his classic work “Orientalism“.  For a description of the inferiority complex created among the colonized, see “Deep Seated Inferiority Complex.” In order to liberate ourselves, it essential to understand that colonization is actually a process of conquest of minds. The Eurocentric history we learn depicts Europeans as glorious and powerful, instead of treacherous and brutal. We need to unlearn Eurocentric History, and replace it by a history based on an Islamic WorldView.  We need to re-acquire self-confidence, to counter the inferiority complex generated by centuries of colonization. This requires substantial re-engineering of the educational process in the Islamic countries.

European Transition to Secular Thought: According to the standard European narrative, science emerged as dominant in Europe after a long battle with religion. Science represents enlightenment and rationality, while religion is synonymous with ignorance, superstition, and dogmatism. This leads modernized Muslims to come to regard religion as an obstacle to progress. This is puzzling because it was the religion of Islam that created the most amazing example of rapid progress ever seen in history. How can Islam, which led ignorant and backwards Arab Bedouin to world leadership, become an obstacle to progress? Again, the first step in resolving this problem is to REPLACE the false popular accounts, by the truth about this transition, which is radically different. For this purpose, see my article on: European Transition to Secular Thought: Lessons for Muslims. Instead of being an obstacle, spiritual progress is the key to the revolution launched by Islamic teachings fourteen centuries ago.

I have described three major blinders on our thought processes created by the great tides of history, of which we are a part. We human beings have been created with the potential to rise above the earthly circumstances and context. The exciting and revolutionary message of Islam reveals to us the amazing potential with which we have been created. Just like a seed cannot imagine becoming a tree, so we cannot imagine the heights that we can reach if we strive to fulfill our potentials. This requires maximum efforts — Allah T’aala has promised that “Those who struggle in (our cause) we will surely guide them to our pathways”. Today we have deceived by our education to waste our lives in pursuit of wealth, power, and luxury – in imitation of our conquerors, who have spent their entire history in doing this, and do not know any better. Our true potential as human beings remains undiscovered and unsuspected. Islamic teachings have the capability of creating the inner revolution within us, which leads to an external revolution in the world around us. To accomplish this we need to replace the meaningless education we receive, designed to turn us into a commodity for sale in the labor market, by a “Real Education“.

POSTSCRIPT: This post is part of a learning module on “Islamic Principles of Education” which if being offered as a free online course. The goal of this course is to change the process of education all over the Islamic world, to use an Islamic approach, instead of the Western approach we are mindlessly imitating today. To register for this module, fill in the form Registration: PIE. All students will be given a sequence of lessons, split into modules, which they can complete at their own pace. This first module is of general interest to all Muslim teachers and students, while later modules will be developed in more specialized areas related to statistics, as well as other courses currently in planning stages.

 

IE2019 Final: Eurocentric History

As I have come to realize recently, modern Muslims no longer believe that the Quran offers complete and perfect guidance for our modern problems {see “The Quran: Complete and Perfect Guidance“}. This is reflected in our thoughts and actions: The Ummah as a whole is investing a huge amount of time and effort in learning newly developed knowledge of the West, and neglecting our own thousand years of intellectual heritage. There are two important reasons for this failure. Over the past two centuries, the Ummah as a whole has suffered major defeats on multiple fronts. The process of colonization of the globe by the Europeans created a superiority complex in them {see “Orientalism“} and a corresponding inferiority complex in the colonized {see “Deep Seated Inferiority Complex“}. This is reinforced by a Western education, which trains us to believe that the purpose of life is to earn money and enjoy life.  One we accept this idea, then we evaluate the teachings of Islam in terms of how much we can earn by using them, and find that these teachings do not appear to have much value — we cannot get jobs, and have successful careers, by learning Islamic teachings . This is what leads us to prize and value Western knowledge, and neglect and ignore our own intellectual heritage. The Ghazali Project has been designed in the light of these understandings.

The course on Islamic Economics 2019 which I taught last semester at IIIE, IIUI {see IE2019 – bit.do/ie2019} was designed to enable students to see through the illusions created by our colonization, and our Western education. In previous posts, I have discussed the first two questions on the Final Exam for this course:

Q1: What does Economic Theory teach us about the purpose of life? This post shows how economic theory teaches us to believe that the purpose of life is the pursuit of desires, without our being aware that we are being taught to believe this.

Q2: Useful Knowledge: Once we come to believe that the purpose of life is to earn money, then only Western knowledge appears useful to us. To understand why the teachings of the Quran just as powerful today as they were 1440 years ago, we must realize that we are human resources – commodities for sale in the labor market — as Western education teaches us to believe. Once we understand that we are the most precious of the creations of God, and that our goal in life is to develop the hidden amazing potentials with which we have been created, THEN and only then can we understand the value of the Quranic teachings.

This post provides a discussion of the third question on the Final Exam for IE2019, which deals with Eurocentric history. This is a set of lies about history which are at the foundation of a Western education. To undo the damage which they cause, we must learn to recognize them, and understand why they are false.

Q3: According to Eurocentric History: (A) history starts with the Enlightenment of Europe starting around the sixteenth century. Since then, (B) Europe has made fantastic progress on all fronts, leaving the rest of humanity behind. (C) Europe conquered the globe as part of their civilizing mission, to spread their knowledge and advanced civlization to the whole world, which was in darkness. What is the COUNTER-NARRATIVE? That is, explain why A,B,C, are false, and explain what Islam says about these three items

Ans 3A: The idea that the whole world was in darkness until the sun of reason first rose in the West, sometime in the sixteenth century, has been debunked by many Western historians. In particular, Fernand Braudel, Henri Pirenne, and followers who developed World systems theory, have emphasized how all human civilization have participated in weaving the colorful and rich fabric of human history.  The basis for an Islamic counter-narrative is provided by Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi’s important book: “What the World Lost due to the Decline of the Islamic Civilization“. This shows that it was the teachings of Islam which enlightened the world, and removed the darkness of the age of ignorance – Jahiliyya. Furthermore, the Europe was in its own dark ages, while the Islamic Civilization of Al-Andalus was far more advanced. After seven hundred years — far longer than current European civilization — Islamic Spain learned to love the pursuit of luxury and went into decay and decline. This “Rise and Fall of Civilizations” is an iron law from which there is no escape.  This decline made possible the re-conquest of Spain, which was completed in 1492, and gave Europe access to the treasures of knowledge contained in millions of books in the libraries of Islamic Spain. Thus it was actually the light of Islamic knowledge which ended the dark ages of Europe and created what is called the Enlightenment of Europe. This fact is suppressed in European accounts, which make it seem like the Enlightenment happened spontaneously, without any cause. In particular, it is widely believed that “science” originated in Europe, and is a unique European contribution to the body of human knowledge. In fact, famous sociologist Max Weber went so far as to say that the European civilization was uniquely capable of rational thought, and this was what enabled them to develop science, unlike any other human civilization. In fact, science originated in the Islamic Civilization, and was absorbed and adopted by the West from the Islamic textbooks which they acquired in the conquest of Al-Andalus. For details see “The Islamic Origins of Science”

Ans 3B: Has Europe made fantastic progress on all fronts? From the Islamic point of view, progress does not refer to becoming wealthy. Progress means learning to better human beings. This is reflected in Mahbubul Haq’s concept of Human Development, which is based on Islamic foundations.  Again, a western education indoctrinates us into believing that “progress” means accumulation of wealth and power. Once we accept this idea, then the Eurocentric thesis automatically becomes the truth. However, if we look at Islamic ideals, the best of times was that of our Prophet Mohammad S.A.W. The early Muslims were not distinguished by their wealth and power. Instead, Islam taught them how to be better human beings. Indeed, they became models of excellence for all of humanity to follow. People who were killing each other for minor causes, burying their own daughters alive, and acting in many types of savage and barbaric ways, were transformed by the message of Islam. As the Quran testifies, their hearts become united by bonds of love, they developed compassion and kindness, they learned to feed others while themselves being hungry. This is the meaning of progress according to Islamic standards. See posts on “Re-Defining Development” and ” Re-Defining Prosperity” to see how Western definitions of development and prosperity are radically different from the Islamic definitions. Once we change our perspective regarding progress, then we can ask: has Europe made progress on the human front? Have they learned to be better human beings? There is an enormous amount of evidence that the opposite is the case. There has been a significant decline in morality in the West. The concept of building character has been removed from Western education; see “The Marginalization of Morality” and “The Higher Goals of Education“. The Global Financial Crisis occurred because of massive fraud — large numbers of people in the finance industry collaborated in schemes which would make them rich, and wipe out the lifetime savings of millions of poor people. Today, an environmental catastrophe threatens the future of humanity on the planet, because selfish greed for quick profits is over-riding considerations of the future welfare of all. Judged in terms of morality, and development of character, the rise of Europe has been a disastrous failure.

Ans 3C: By the early 20th Century, Europeans had conquered about 85% of the planet. The question is Why? Why did they conquer the world? The Eurocentric story is that they did it for the welfare of humanity, in order to bring the benefits of their advanced civilization to lesser beings, living in darkness and ignorance. A Western education indoctrinates us into believing this story, which teaches us that we were all ignorant and backwards, while the West was an advanced civilization. This story is called “The White Man’s Burden” or “The Civilizing Mission” of the Europeans. In fact, this is just a cover story, developed to hide the real motives of loot and pillage of the rest of the world. We have all seen this process of covering up true motives in the recent destruction of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was conducted on the pretext of freeing the population from an evil dictator, bringing them the benefits of democracy, and protecting the world from weapons of mass destruction. The truth was revealed when aerial bombings destroyed all  Iraqi infrastructure (schools, hospitals, factories, power plants, etc.) throwing one of the most advanced and developed countries in the area into the stone ages. The not-so-hidden real plan was to control and exploit the vast oil reserves of Iraq, and to bomb the country into becoming dependent on US aid for development.

For a more detailed discussion of the points above, with links to further references, see “Central Myths of Eurocentric History“.

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.

Knowledge to Change the World

One segment of Lecture 12 – IIIE, IIUI, on Islamic Economics 2019 (bit.do/ie2019) – Friday 5/17/19.

Islamic Teachings created a Revolution 1450 years ago (see “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of the Islamic Civilization“). How can we use these teachings to create the same revolution today? Summary of the Video Lecture is given below.

The message of Islam places supreme emphasis on The Value of Knowledge. The angels prostrated to Adam (a.s.) because of his Knowledge.The revelation starts with command “Read!” and goes on to describe Allah T’aala as the One who gave knowledge to man of that which man did not know. The knowledge that was given to ignorant and backwards Arabs transformed them into leaders of the world, and launched a civilization that enlightened the world for a thousand years. What was the nature of this knowledge, and does this knowledge have the same power today? We discuss this below.

The Rise and Fall of Civilizations” explains how the dominant power in the World changes from time to time. Today we are living in an Age of Crisis & Transition. The European powers have been dominant for the past few centuries, but they are now in decline. The world power is shifting again towards the East. Evidence for this shift can be seen in the rapid decline of morality in the West. Over the twentieth century, the goal of character building and the teaching of morality was removed from college education. Julie Reuben has discussed this change in great detail in “Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality”. One of the reasons for this change was the emergence of the philosophy of logical positivism, which argued the morality was just a feeling, and was not part of scientific knowledge. The result of this failure in educating students about morality has been rapid & progressive loss of moral values in West; for more details see “The Marginalization of Morality” and also, links to many articles on “Decline of Morality in the West

The main reason for decline of morality is the loss of faith in Christianity, that occurred in Europe. See European Transition to Secular Thought – bit.do/etst1a for more details about how this happened, and the lessons for  Muslims. Since religion provides the basis for morality, loss of faith led to gradual loss of all moral values. Secular modern societies were built on the idea that reason by itself would provide us with guidance on behavior, previously provided by religion and morality. However, this idea has failed disastrously, on many different fronts of human existence.

Rejection of God and afterlife led to an emphasis on Materialism and Empiricism. The idea is to believe in ONLY what we can see, touch, hear or (observe).  For more details, see “The Emergence of Logical Positivism”. This philosophy, which is dominant today, rejects knowledge of the unseen. This leads to the idea of Materialistic Determinism, which says that it is material resources which drive history – human beings, their dreams and visions, do not matter. This philosophy under-values man, and over-values materials. In fact, history has always been driven by the “Power of Ideas”. The rise of ignorant and backwards Arab to World Leadership was because of the powerful knowledge of Islam that was given to them. Throughout world history, leaders with visions have been the source of great change. The philosophy of Karl Marx, that people should receive according to their need, inspired revolutions in Russia and China, and shaped the history of the twentieth century. This is especially ironic because Marx himself believed in materialistic determinism, and not in the power of ideas.

Allama Iqbal prophesied that the Western Civilization will commit suicide because it is built on the wrong philosophical foundations. The rapid decline of morality, with more than half the children being born out of wedlock, shows that families and communities have broken down in the West. Children are being brought up without receiving the essential nourishment of a secure, protective, and loving environment. This is the consequence of materialist, individualistic, and hedonistic society. The same forces are at work in Islamic societies, and we are rapidly following in the footsteps of the West. This, too, was prophesied: the Ummah will follow the ways of the Christians and Jews, even to the extent of crawling into lizard holes after them.

So the question is: How can we create change? What can we do to make a difference?

To understand the answer, it is useful to start with a discussion of the Butterfly Effect. This is a name for the concept that sometimes a very small effort can have a HUGE impact. For instance, it is possible that if a butterfly flaps it wings somewhere in Japan, it may lead to a thunderstorm in Brazil six months later. To understand the butterfly effect, think of a huge ball which is precariously balanced on top of a hill. Just a small disturbance, like the air from a butterfly’s wing flapping, could set it in motion. It could go down in any of a number of directions. As it rolls down, it could cause an avalanche, and perhaps wipe out a village at the bottom of the hill. The point of this is that we can make a small effort to create change, and, by the will of Allah, it can have a huge effect.

Islam created a transformation in the lives of the Muslims, who went on to change the world. What was this transformation? How can it be carried out today? What will the effects of this transformation be? To answer these questions, we must consider the reasons/causes for the sudden rise of the early Muslims from the bottom to the top of civilizations of the world.

If we search for material causes, we will not find any. Unlike other nations who rose to global dominance, the early Muslims did not have wealth, technology, skills in warfare, industrial strength, or other material sources of power which account for the rapid rise of the Islamic Civilization. Searching for the hidden causes, we find that the message of Islam created a third for knowledge in the hearts of the Muslims. The revelation (Wahy) starts by emphasizing knowledge, and the Quran and Hadeeth are full of exhortations to Muslims to acquire knowledge. The impact of this teaching is evident in the incident at Badr, where prisoners were released in exchange for teaching Muslims how to write. In fact, reading and writing were not prized in the Arab culture, while war booty was very much prized, so exchange of prisoners for teaching was very much a cultural shift. This thirst for knowledge was displayed in many ways throughout history in the Islamic Civilization. There were millions of books in the libraries of Al-Andalus. The re-conquest of Islamic Spain gave Europeans access to these books, which ended their dark ages, and started their Enlightenment – this fact is concealed in books of Eurocentric history.

Once we trace the cause of Muslim ascent to the thirst for knowledge, then a good guess at the root causes of muslim decline must be the Loss of thirst for knowledge. The complex causes of the decline, which spanned centuries, can be simplified to the gradually increasing interest in power and wealth, and declining interest in the quest for knowledge. Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi has discussed “What the World Lost Due to the Decline of the Islamic Civilization”. While all are aware of it, there is substantial disagreement about the causes of the decline, which also leads to disagreements regarding the suitable remedy for it. Different groups of reformers have attributed it to (1) lack of western knowledge, (2) failure to do Amr Bil Maroof, (3) Loss of the Khilafa, (4) failure to enforce the laws of the Shari’ah in Islamic societies, (5) Rise of Bid’ah and corruption of Aqeedah, (6) rigid adherence to the past and closure of gates of Ijtihad, (6) Abandonment of Jihad, and others as well. In my post on “Rebuilding An Islamic Society”, I have explained that we are away from the genuine teachings of Islam in nearly all dimensions of our lives, and hence efforts for revival are needed on all fronts. All of the groups working on revival of any one dimension are partners in a collective effort to find the “Road to Madina”.   In this post, we focus on what may be a central problem, the loss of knowledge created by the loss of the thirst for knowledge. It was the acquisition of knowledge which led the Muslims to global dominance, and it was the loss of this knowledge which accounts for our current backwardness. But WHY and HOW did this loss of knowledge occur? This is a crucial question, the answer to which is not widely known.

The decline of the Muslims created the possibility of global conquest by the West, which was duly accomplished. By the early twentieth century, the West controlled about 85% of the globe. The Europeans explained the global conquest as being due to their superior intelligence, bravery, skills and knowledge. This created a superiority complex in the West, as documented in “Orientalism” by Edward Said. The hidden real reasons for the rise of the West, are explained in “Central Myths of Eurocentric History”.  The process of colonization is, in the first place, a conquest of knowledge. However, the myths of European superiority were transmitted by an education designed to create respect, awe, and admiration, for West and Western knowledge.  This education, combined with defeats on numerous fronts, created a “Deep Seated Inferiority Complex” in the East, especially among Muslims.

The key problem, not understood by most Muslim intellectuals, is that the West has re-defined the nature of knowledge. According to current Western epistemology, knowledge is ONLY of the external world, which is concrete, observable, and verifiable by all. As an important consequence, subjective knowledge of our internal conditions, spiritual and emotional, do not classify as knowledge. Since Islamic teachings are mainly about how we can learn to make spiritual progress, and how we can realize the hidden potentials for excellence within our souls, these teachings appear worthless to those trained by a Western educational system.

Islamic epistemology classifies knowledge into two kinds – useful and useless. Our prophet Mohammad SAW made dua to be given useful knowledge, and also made dua for protection from useless knowledge. The West does not recognize any distinctions between these two kinds of knowledge. Islam tells us that useful knowledge enters the heart, while the West denies the existence or the importance of the heart as an instrument of knowledge. See Useful Versus Useless Knowledge for more discussion on this point.

The most powerful kind of knowledge teaches us how to spend our precious few moments of life. This knowledge transforms human beings and leads them from being Asfala Safeleen (the lowest of the low) to Ahsan Taqweem (the best of the creations). The entire spectrum of modern Western knowledge has nothing to say about how we can learn to be excellent as human beings. In fact, Western knowledge is designed to turn everyone into interchangeable human resources, useful as parts of a machine for the production of wealth. In contrast, Islamic education develops unique potential within each human being; see “Teaching Fish to Fly”.  Our eyes have been blinded by the brilliance of Western civilization, and we have been deceived by the apparent power and luxury of those who do not believe. This leads us to be unable to see the revolutionary value of the teachings of Islam – see “The Spiritual Obstacle to Genuine IE”.

How can we recover from our current degeneration? Early Islam started on an individual basis, transforming people one by one, until a sufficiently large group was created to form the nucleus of a society. The “Road to Madina” explains many of the practical steps we need to take to recreate the revolutionary society originally created at Madina. Some of the key points are discussed below.

Change always begins with individuals. It is the inner revolution within our hearts that leads to the external revolution in the world around us. The first step in creating this inner revolution is to purify our intentions – The worth of our actions depends on the intentions. Today, a western education has trained us to sell our lives for money, and to live for the purpose of earning and accumulating money. To create a revolution in our own personal lives, we need to change the purpose of our lives. See my talk on this topic to Iqra University students on “How to become a human being, instead of a human resource”.  The key is to make the intention to serve the creation of Allah, for the sake of the love of Allah.

Today, a Western education has deceived us into thinking of ourselves as cheap commodities for sale in the market for labor. It is extremely important for us to UNDO this deception, and UNLEARN what the West has taught us (see “Exploding Myths which Block Our Minds“). We have only one chance to live. We have been given unique and precious capabilities and opportunities, which no one in history ever had before, and none will ever have in the future. Our lives are worth what we make of them; if we sell ourselves cheap, our lives will be cheap. To make our lives precious, we must set big goals for ourselves. Then, we must make big efforts to achieve these goals, giving the effort everything we have. See “Important Message for Students” for more detailed advice.  It is the passion and commitment with which we serve the Deen of Allah, driven by the love of Allah, which leads to the powerful results achieved by the early Muslims. For those who would make the same efforts, the same results are possible today:

ہ وہ عشق ميں رہيں گرمياں، نہ وہ حسن ميں رہيں شوخياں

نہ وہ غزنوي ميں تڑپ رہي، نہ وہ غم ہے زلف اياز ميں