Friday, January 30, 2009

Lecturing......


“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as if it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” George Orwell


I was told by my Head of Department the courses that I am going to teach in semester one (June or July 2009). Altogether there are four sections (two courses) I have to lecture. Three sections for ‘Introduction to Sociology’ (SOCA 1010) and one section for ‘Sociology and Anthropology of Organization’ (SOCA 3540). It is a bit weird isn’t it? I did my master in cultural anthropology specializing in organizational anthropology, yet I have to teach ‘Introduction to Sociology’. Hehehehe... Actually taklah pelik sangat kerana sosiologi adalah cabang disiplin di bawah antropologi, cuma ada sedikit sahaja perbezaan. Tak banyak pun. It is not difficult for anthropologist to teach sociology courses, but it is difficult for sociologist to teach anthropology courses. Hah macam mana tue? :P

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interesting....

On Jan 24, 2009, Hanan commented on Boycott - this is my reply)

Dear Hanan,
1. I agree entirely with you that building a great nation doesn't only take brains, but as you said it sure does help.
2. However brains alone without a heart (feelings) can produce a monster.
3. Israel is undoubtedly a great nation, becoming great through the brains and the numerous achievements you have listed. Yes I have used Israeli originated products like Microsoft Windows and Pentium chips (made in Malaysia) by Intel, an American company.
4. In fact I owe my life ultimately to Israel because there must be something invented by Israelis in the numerous instruments used in heart surgery. However most of the products used were invented and produced by Japanese.
5. I am amazed at the number of Nobel Laureates Israel has produced. I admit we have not produced even one.
6. But when the brain is without a heart it does not care for the misery resulting from the products of the brain.
7. The atom bombs which killed 100,000 men, women, children and babies are the product of Israeli (Jewish) brain. Most of the diabolical weapons now being used to kill millions of people are also the creation of Israelis on Zionist Jews. The depleted uranium and phosphorous shells being used in Gaza are also the product of Israeli brains.
8. The current financial crisis which is destroying the economies of the U.S. Britain and in fact all the countries of the world is due to manipulations of banks, financial institutions and the monetary system by Jewish supporters of Israel.
9. The negation of the freedom of speech when it comes to the alleged killings of Jews in World War II are also inspired by Zionist Jews.
10. But worse of all is the seizure of Palestinian land to create the state of Israel. Not content with the area given to the Jews by the United Nations you have seized more Palestinian land, built settlements on many parts of Palestine, disallowed the use of roads built on Palestinian land to the Palestinians, erected your own check points at the borders of Palestine with Jordan and built your version of the Berlin Wall through Palestinian villages on land that is not part of Israel.
11. Before the creation of Israel, the Jews and Arabs in Palestine lived in peace. Historically Jews had always sought refuge in Muslim countries when the Europeans conducted pogroms against them. This only stopped after the U.S. offered asylum.
12. All the terrorism that we see today, whether state initiated or by irregulars, started after the U.S. backed Israel against Arab attempts to regain their land through conventional wars. Because they were outclassed in terms of weapons by the U.S, / Israel, alliance, then only did the Arabs resort to what is called terrorism. The Israeli response have always been with greater terrorism as is seen in Gaza.
13. I have asked an American what he would do if Texas was given to the Jews to create the state of Israel. He did not answer. But I believe he would fight to get back Texas, employing all the weapons at its disposal.
14. Yet had the United States been willing to create the nation of Israel in the lands under U.S. control or in the U.S. itself, there would be no terrorism in Palestine or in the Middle East. There would be no terrorism in America either because Israel would be wiped out by the U.S. forces. The world would remain peaceful.
15. The brutality committed by your forces in Gaza is out of all proportion to the puny rocket attacks by Hamas. That attack was the result of Israel and the U.S. failing to accept the results of a properly conducted election.
16. Hamas could only establish their Government in Gaza. But you blockaded Gaza, denying them food, medicine, power, fuel etc. If you had not done that I doubt that Hamas would fire rockets at you.
17. Malaysia is well aware that total boycott of Israel is not possible. We are in fact boycotting American products which is an even more impossible task. We would not be able to bring America or Israel down.
18. But what we aim to do is to demonstrate the disgust and the anger that we feel over the inhumanity of the brainy but primitive peoples of Israel and America.
19. You can collect Nobel prizes and other prizes but the world will look down upon you as very primitive people who robbed land through terror against perfidious British and subsequently used your control over the world's greatest military power to oppress the people whom you had robbed.
20. You have nothing to be proud of, unless of course you take pride in being heartless, in being primitive brutes.
21. The only mitigating factor is the presence among Israelis of a small number who are ashamed of what you have done to the people of Gaza.
Hanan:

Dr. Mahathir,

Very well established a logical basis leaning on an ex Reagan administration that is having microphones and cameras in the Bush administration, Mr. Paul Craig Roberts. You are always collecting the facts not from the first source just from the second hand washed cloth. Of course an anti Jew will look on anti Jew information. You may refer to Al Qaeda humanitarian organization for more information, they have plenty of it.

You are saying:"1. I would like to have the Malaysian Armed Forces attack the United States and Israel."
Oh, great hero. You had the chance to do it while you were the PM in service. Why didn't you tried out the strength of the Malaysian army and its skills? You had a good chance to become the Muslim hero committing Jihad on the apes and monkeys. To become the Salah ed Din of the modern times. How could you miss that opportunity to demolish both, America and Israel and leaving Iran to do it solely? Oh great rhetoric, do you know how a war looks like?

You care about the babies of Iraq, Palestinians, etc... How lucky we are you don't need to care about the Jewish children suffering daily rockets from Hamas who is a Muslim charity organization. Oh, their 8 years of rockets in a quantity of thousands were full of candies ammunition that was spreading sweets to the children of Sederot and the Negev.

Since Jews are controlling everyone by proxy, I'm not sure you, Dr. Mahathir are not controlled by them as well. You'll say that you are not controlled, but I can assure you that I'm controlling you. Can you deny it? Even Malaysia is manipulated by Jews, that's why they are not attacking the US and Israel. You should check very well among your government ministers and officials and find the Trojan horses there.

You hate Israel not because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but you hate only because the hatred of Muslims against Jews, the apes and swine. Your hate is not political, but religious. You are just sinking into the modern era darkness.

You said once in one of your speeches that Muslims should use their brains to get rid of 13 Million Jews dominance among 1.3 billion Muslims. Are you a role model? Do you have the wisdom to do it? Do you have the power to do it? Do you know why your plan is not accomplished? It is because it is not true, not logical, unjustified, not because the Jew are controlling the world by proxy. History is stronger than any empire, leader or people. The Jews survived more complicated events then you are planning, so don't be hoping too much, we survive your approach as well.

Shalom from Hanan, a Jew, Israel.
From:
Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad
Former Malaysian Prime Minister, 1981-2003.

Cinta....


Gambar yang lawa. Kain yang sangat panjang. Ayat yang menarik. Tapi betul ker???

Dr. Juanda Mufti Perlis

KANGAR 27 Januari
Bekas Naib Mufti Sarawak, Dr. Juanda Jaya (gambar) hari ini disahkan sebagai Mufti Perlis yang baru bagi menggantikan Dr. Mohd. Asri Zainul Abidin yang mengosongkan jawatan tersebut sejak November lalu.

Menteri Besar Perlis, Datuk Seri Dr. Md. Isa Sabu ketika mengesahkan pelantikan itu berkata, Dr. Juanda, 37, yang juga Ketua Penolong Pengarah Bahagian Dakwah Jabatan Agama Islam Sarawak dipinjamkan oleh kerajaan Sarawak bagi memenuhi kekosongan jawatan Mufti Perlis untuk tempoh dua tahun.

Katanya, pemilihan bekas Naib Mufti Sarawak itu juga telah mendapat perkenan Raja Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail.
‘‘Beliau dijangka memulakan tugasnya sebagai Mufti Perlis awal Februari ini selepas urusan pemindahannya selesai dengan kerajaan Sarawak dan Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA).

‘‘Saya juga berterima kasih kepada Ketua Menteri Sarawak, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud yang sudi meminjamkan Juanda bagi berkhidmat di Perlis,” katanya.

Beliau berkata demikian selepas Majlis Sambutan Tahun Baru Cina di Dewan Khoon Aik di sini hari ini.

Utusan Malaysia, 28 Januari 2009.

Netanyahu Ikrar Perluas Penempatan Yahudi

BAITULMAQDIS 27 Jan
Calon pilihan untuk memenangi pilihan raya Israel bulan depan, Benjamin Netanyahu semalam berikrar akan memperluaskan kawasan penempatan haram Yahudi di Tebing Barat jika beliau dipilih menjadi Perdana Menteri baru.

Pendirian Netanyahu itu disiarkan oleh agensi berita AP yang antara lain melaporkan:

* Netanyahu akan membenarkan kawasan penempatan Yahudi diperluaskan bagi menampung ‘pertumbuhan’ semula jadi iaitu bercanggah dengan tuntutan pelan damai anjuran antarabangsa yang menjadi asas rundingan damai.

* ‘Pertumbuhan semula jadi’ merujuk kepada pembinaan perumahan baru bagi menampung keluarga yang semakin besar di kalangan pendatang Yahudi. Sikap Netanyahu itu dijangka cetuskan pertelagahan dengan Amerika Syarikat.

* Tinjauan pendapat di kalangan penduduk Israel menunjukkan pemimpin parti Likud itu memiliki peluang terbaik memenangi pilihan raya yang akan diadakan dua minggu lagi. Netanyahu pernah memimpin Israel pada 1996 hingga 1999.
Utusan Malaysia, 28 Januari 2009.

My Hope....


I hope that I will be here soon. To leave everything behind. To be with, only, myself......

My Dream.....


Nice place. Dream to go there soon......

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

General Characteristics of Islamic Civilization


Islam was destined to become a world religion and to create a civilization which stretched from one end of the globe to the other. Already during the early Muslim caliphates, first the Arabs, then the Persians and later the Turks set about to create classical Islamic civilization. Later, in the 13th century, both Africa and India became great centres of Islamic civilization and soon thereafter Muslim kingdoms were established in the Malay-Indonesian world while Chinese Muslims flourished throughout China.

Global Religion

Islam is a religion for all people from whatever race or background they might be. That is why Islamic civilization is based on a unity which stands completely against any racial or ethnic discrimination. Such major racial and ethnic groups as the Arabs, Persians, Turks, Africans, Indians, Chinese and Malays in addition to numerous smaller units embraced Islam and contributed to the building of Islamic civilization. Moreover, Islam was not opposed to learning from the earlier civilizations and incorporating their science, learning, and culture into its own world view, as long as they did not oppose the principles of Islam. Each ethnic and racial group which embraced Islam made its contribution to the one Islamic civilization to which everyone belonged. The sense of brotherhood and sisterhood was so much emphasized that it overcame all local attachments to a particular tribe, race, or language – all of which became subservient to the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of Islam. The global civilization thus created by Islam permitted people of diverse ethnic backgrounds to work together in cultivating various arts and sciences. Although the civilization was profoundly Islamic, even non-Muslim “people of the book” participated in the intellectual activity whose fruits belonged to everyone. The scientific climate was reminiscent of the present situation in America where scientists and men and women of learning from all over the world are active in the advancement of knowledge which belongs to everyone. The global civilization created by Islam also succeeded in activating the mind and thought of the people who entered its fold. As a result of Islam, the nomadic Arabs became torch-bearers of science and learning. The Persians who had created a great civilization before the rise of Islam nevertheless produced much more science and learning in the Islamic period than before. The same can be said of the Turks and other peoples who embraced Islam. The religion of Islam was itself responsible not only for the creation of a world civilization in which people of many different ethnic backgrounds participated, but it played a central role in developing intellectual and cultural life on a scale not seen before. For some eight hundred years Arabic remained the major intellectual and scientific language of the world. During the centuries following the rise of Islam, Muslim dynasties ruling in various parts of the Islamic world bore witness to the flowering of Islamic culture and thought. In fact this tradition of intellectual activity was eclipsed only at the beginning of modern times as a result of the weakening of faith among Muslims combined with external domination. And today this activity has begun anew in many parts of the Islamic world now that the Muslims have regained their political independence.

A Brief History of Islam: The Rightly Guided Caliphs

Upon the death of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, the friend of the Prophet and the first adult male to embrace Islam, became caliph. Abu Bakr ruled for two years to be succeeded by ‘Umar who was caliph for a decade and during whose rule Islam spread extensively east and west conquering the Persian empire, Syria and Egypt. It was ‘Umar who marched on foot at the end of the Muslim army into Jerusalem and ordered the protection of Christian sites. ‘Umar also established the first public treasury and a sophisticated financial administration. He established many of the basic practices of Islamic government. ‘Umar was succeeded by Uthman who ruled for some twelve years during which time the Islamic expansion continued. He is also known as the caliph who had the definitive text of the Noble Quran copied and sent to the four corners of the Islamic world. He was in turn succeeded by ‘Ali who is known to this day for his eloquent sermons and letters, and also for his bravery. With his death the rule of the “rightly guided” caliphs, who hold a special place of respect in the hearts of Muslims, came to an end.

The Caliphates: Umayyad

The Umayyad caliphate established in 661 was to last for about a century. During this time Damascus became the capital of an Islamic world which stretched from the western borders of China to southern France. Not only did the Islamic conquests continue during this period through North Africa to Spain and France in the West and to Sind, Central Asia and Transoxiana in the East, but the basic social and legal institutions of the newly founded Islamic world were established.

Abbasids

The Abbasids, who succeeded the Umayyad, shifted the capital to Baghdad which soon developed into an incomparable centre of learning and culture as well as the administrative and political heart of a vast world. They ruled for over 500 years but gradually their power waned and they remained only symbolic rulers bestowing legitimacy upon various sultans and princes who wielded actual military power. The Abbasid caliphate was finally abolished when Hulagu, the Mongol ruler, captured Baghdad in 1258, destroying much of the city including its incomparable libraries. While the Abbasids ruled in Baghdad, a number of powerful dynasties such as the Fatimids, Ayyubids and Mamluks held power in Egypt, Syria and Palestine. The most important event in this area as far as the relation between Islam and the Western world was concerned was the series of Crusades declared by the Pope and espoused by various European kings. The purpose, although political, was outwardly to recapture the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem for Christianity. Although there was at the beginning some success and local European rule was set up in parts of Syria and Palestine, Muslims finally prevailed and in 1187 Saladin, the great Muslim leader, recaptured Jerusalem and defeated the Crusaders.

North Africa and Spain

When the Abbasids captured Damascus, one of the Umayyad princes escaped and made the long journey from there to Spain to found Umayyad rule there, thus beginning the golden age of Islam in Spain. Cordoba was established as the capital and soon became Europe’s greatest city not only in population but from the point of view of its cultural and intellectual life. The Umayyads ruled over two centuries until they weakened and were replaced by local rulers. Meanwhile in North Africa, various local dynasties held sway until two powerful Berber dynasties succeeded in uniting much of North Africa and also Spain in the 12th and 13th centuries. After them this area was ruled once again by local dynasties such as the Sharifids of Morocco who still rule in that country. As for Spain itself, Muslim power continued to wane until the last Muslim dynasty was defeated in Granada in 1492 thus bringing nearly eight hundred years of Muslim rule in Spain to an end.

Islamic History after the Mongol Invasion

The Mongols devastated the eastern lands of Islam and ruled from the Sinai Desert to India for a century. But they soon converted to Islam and became known as the Il-Khanids. They were in turn succeeded by Timur and his descendents who made Samarqand their capital and ruled from 1369 to 1500. The sudden rise of Timur delayed the formation and expansion of the Ottoman Empire but soon the Ottomans became the dominant power in the Islamic world.

Ottoman Empire

From humble origins the Turks rose to dominate over the whole of Anatolia and even parts of Europe. In 1453 Mehmet the Conqueror captured Constantinople and put an end to the Byzantine Empire. The Ottomans conquered much of Eastern Europe and nearly the whole of the Arab world, only Morocco and Mauritania in the West and Yemen, Hadramaut and parts of the Arabian Peninsula remaining beyond their control. They reached their zenith of power with Suleyman the Magnificent whose armies reached Hungary and Austria. From the 17th century onward with the rise of Western European powers and later Russia, the power of the Ottomans began to wane. But they nevertheless remained a force to be reckoned with until the First World War when they were defeated by the Western nations. Soon thereafter Kamal Ataturk gained power in Turkey and abolished the six centuries of rule of the Ottomans in 1924.

Persia

While the Ottomans were concerned mostly with the western front of their empire, to the east in Persia a new dynasty called the Safavids came to power in 1502. The Safavids established a powerful state of their own which flourished for over two centuries and became known for the flowering of the arts. Their capital, Isfahan, became one of the most beautiful cities with its blue tiled mosques and exquisite houses. The Afghan invasion of 1736 put an end to Safavid rule and prepared the independence of Afghanistan which occurred formally in the 19th century. Persia itself fell into turmoil until Nader Shah, the last Oriental conqueror, reunited the country and even conquered India. But the rule of the dynasty established by him was short-lived. The Zand dynasty soon took over to be overthrown by the Qajars in 1779 that made Tehran their capital and ruled until 1921 when they were in turn replaced by the Pahlavis.

India

As for India, Islam entered into the land east of the Indus River peacefully. Gradually Muslims gained political power beginning in the early 13th century. But this period which marked the expansion of both Islam and Islamic culture came to an end with the conquest of much of India in 1526 by Babur, one of the Timurid princes. He established the powerful Mogul empire which produced such famous rulers as Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan and which lasted, despite the gradual rise of British power in India, until 1857 when it was officially abolished.

Malaysia and Indonesia

Farther east in the Malay world, Islam began to spread in the 12th century in northern Sumatra and soon Muslim kingdoms were established in Java, Sumatra and mainland Malaysia. Despite the colonization of the Malay world, Islam spread in that area covering present day Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines and southern Thailand, and is still continuing in islands farther east.

Africa

As far as Africa is concerned, Islam entered into East Africa at the very beginning of the Islamic period but remained confined to the coast for some time, only the Sudan and Somaliland becoming gradually both Arabized and Islamized. West Africa felt the presence of Islam through North African traders who travelled with their camel caravans south of the Sahara. By the 14th century there were already Muslim sultanates in such areas as Mali, and Timbuctu in West Africa and Harar in East Africa had become seats of Islamic learning. Gradually Islam penetrated both inland and southward. There also appeared major charismatic figures who inspired intense resistance against European domination. The process of the Islamization of Africa did not cease during the colonial period and continues even today with the result that most Africans are now Muslims carrying on a tradition which has had practically as long a history in certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa as Islam itself.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Rightly Guided Caliph


The word ‘Caliph’ is the English form of the Arabic word ‘Khalifa,’ which is short for Khalifatu Rasulil-lah. The latter expression means Successor to the Messenger of God, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The title ‘Khalifatu Rasulil-lah’ was first used for Abu Bakr, who was elected head of the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet.

The Significance of the Caliphate

The mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), like that of the earlier messengers of God, was to call people to the worship of and submission to the One True God. In practice, submission to God means to obey His injunctions as given in the Holy Quran and as exemplified by Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet). As successor to the Prophet, the Caliph was the head of the Muslim community and his primary responsibility was to continue in the path of the Prophet. Since religion was perfected and the door of Divine revelation was closed at the death of the Prophet, the Caliph was to make all laws in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah. He was a ruler over Muslims but not their sovereign since sovereignty belongs to God alone. He was to be obeyed as long as he obeyed God. He was responsible for creating and maintaining conditions under which it would be easy for Muslims to live according to Islamic principles, and to see that justice was done to all. Abu Bakr, at the time he accepted the caliphate, stated his position:

“The weak among you shall be strong with me until their rights have been vindicated; and the strong among you shall he weak with me until, if the Lord wills, I have taken what is due from them... Obey me as long as I obey God and His Messenger. When I disobey Him and His Prophet, and then obey me not.”

The Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Al-Khulafa-ur-Rashidun)

Those Caliphs who truly followed in the Prophet’s footsteps are called ‘The Rightly-Guided Caliphs’ (Al-Khulafa-ur-Rashidun in Arabic). They are the first four Caliphs: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Uthman and Ali. All four were among the earliest and closest companions of the Prophet (peace be on him). They lived simple and righteous lives and strove hard for the religion of God. Their justice was impartial, their treatment of others was kind and merciful, and they were one with the people - the first among equals. After these four, the later Caliphs assumed the manners of kings and emperors and the true spirit of equality of ruler and ruled diminished to a considerable extent in the political life of Muslims.

It should be clearly understood that the mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), and hence that of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, was not political, social or economic reform, although such reforms were a logical consequence of the success of this mission, nor the unity of a nation and the establishment of an empire, although the nation did unite and vast areas came under one administration, nor the spread of a civilization or culture, although many civilizations and cultures developed, but only to deliver the message of God to all the people of the world and to invite them to submit to Him, while being the foremost among those who submitted.

The primary responsibility of an Islamic government is still the same as it was in the days of the early Caliphs: to make all laws in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah, to make positive efforts to create and maintain conditions under which it will be possible and easy for Muslims to live an Islamic life, to secure impartial and speedy justice for all, and to strive hard in the path of God. Any government which is committed to such a policy is truly following the message delivered by the Prophet (peace be on him).

The First Caliph, Abu Bakr (632-634 A.C)

"If I were to take a friend other than my Lord, I would take Abu Bakr as a friend." (Hadith)

Election to the Caliphate

The Prophet’s closest companion, Abu Bakr, was not present when the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) breathed his last in the apartment of his beloved wife of later years, Aisha, Abu Bakr’s daughter. When he came to know of the Prophet’s passing, Abu Bakr hurried to the house of sorrow.

“How blessed was your life and how beatific is your death,” he whispered as he kissed the cheek of his beloved friend and master. When Abu Bakr came out of the Prophet’s apartment and broke the news, disbelief and dismay gripped the community of Muslims in Medina. Muhammad (peace be on him) had been the leader, the guide and the bearer of Divine revelation through whom they had been brought from idolatry and barbarism into the way of God. How could he die? Even Umar, one of the bravest and strongest of the Prophet’s companions, lost his composure and drew his sword and threatened to kill anyone who said that the Prophet was dead. Abu Bakr gently pushed him aside, ascended the steps of the lectern in the mosque and addressed the people, saying:

“O people, verily whoever worshipped Muhammad, behold! Muhammad is indeed dead. But whoever worships God, behold! God is alive and will never die.”

And then he concluded with a verse from the Quran:

“And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Many Messengers have gone before him; if then he dies or is killed, will you turn back upon your heels?” [3:144]

On hearing these words, the people were consoled. Despondency gave place to confidence and tranquillity. This critical moment had passed. But the Muslim community was now faced with an extremely serious problem: that of choosing a leader. After some discussion among the companions of the Prophet who had assembled in order to select a leader, it became apparent that no one was better suited for this responsibility than Abu Bakr. A portion of the speech the first Caliph gave after his election has already been quoted in the introduction.

Abu Bakr’s Life

Abu Bakr (The Owner of Camels) was not his real name. He acquired this name later in life because of his great interest in raising camels. His real name was Abdul Ka’aba (Slave of Ka’aba), which Muhammad (peace be on him) later changed to Abdullah (Slave of God). The Prophet also gave him the title of Siddiq - The Testifier to the Truth.

Abu Bakr was a fairly wealthy merchant, and before he embraced Islam, was a respected citizen of Mecca. He was three years younger than Muhammad (peace be on him) and some natural affinity drew them together from earliest childhood. He remained the closest companion of the Prophet all through the Prophet’s life. When Muhammad first invited his closest friends and relatives to Islam, Abu Bakr was among the earliest to accept it. He also persuaded Uthman and Bilal to accept Islam. In the early days of the Prophet’s mission, when the handful of Muslims was subjected to relentless persecution and torture, Abu Bakr bore his full share of hardship. Finally when God’s permission came to emigrate from Mecca, he was the one chosen by the Prophet to accompany him on the dangerous journey to Medina. In the numerous battles which took place during the life of the Prophet, Abu Bakr was always by his side. Once, he brought all his belongings to the Prophet, who was raising money for the defence of Medina. The Prophet asked “Abu Bakr, what did you leave for your family?” The reply came: “God and His Prophet.”

Even before Islam, Abu Bakr was known to be a man of upright character and amiable and compassionate nature. All through his life he was sensitive to human suffering and kind to the poor and helpless. Even though he was wealthy, he lived very simply and spent his money for charity, for freeing slaves and for the cause of Islam. He often spent part of the night in supplication and prayer. He shared with his family a cheerful and affectionate home life.

Abu-Bakr’s Caliphate

Such, then, was the man upon whom the burden of leadership fell at the most sensitive period in the history of the Muslims.

As the news of the Prophet’s death spread, a number of tribes rebelled and refused to pay Zakat (poor-due), saying that this was due only to the Prophet (peace be on him). At the same time a number of impostors claimed that the prophethood had passed to them after Muhammad and they raised the standard of revolt. To add to all this, two powerful empires, the Eastern Roman and the Persian also threatened the new-born Islamic state at Medina.

Under these circumstances, many companions of the Prophet, including Umar, advised Abu Bakr to make concessions to the Zakat evaders, at least for a time. The new Caliph disagreed. He insisted that the Divine Law cannot be divided, that there is no distinction between the obligations of Zakat and Salat (prayer), and that any compromise with the injunctions of God would eventually erode the foundations of Islam. Umar and others were quick to realize their error of judgment. The revolting tribes attacked Medina but the Muslims were prepared. Abu Bakr himself led the charge, forcing them to retreat. He then made a relentless war on the false claimants to prophethood, most of who submitted and again professed Islam.

The threat from the Roman Empire had actually arisen earlier, during the Prophet’s lifetime. The Prophet had organized an army under the command of Usama, the son of a freed slave. The army had not gone far when the Prophet had fallen ill so they stopped. After the death of the Prophet the question was raised whether the army should be sent again or should remain for the defence of Medina. Again Abu Bakr showed a firm determination. He said, “I shall send Usama’s army on its way as ordered by the Prophet, even if I am left alone.”

The final instructions he gave to Usama prescribed a code of conduct in war which remains unsurpassed to this day. Part of his instructions to the Muslim army was:

“Do not be deserters, nor be guilty of disobedience. Do not kill an old man, a woman or a child. Do not injure date palms and do not cut down fruit trees. Do not slaughter any sheep or cows or camels except for food. You will encounter persons who spend their lives in monasteries. Leave them alone and do not molest them.”

Khalid bin Waleed had been chosen by the Prophet (peace be on him) on several occasions to lead Muslim armies. A man of supreme courage and a born leader, his military genius came to full flower during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Throughout Abu Bakr’s reign Khalid led his troops from one victory to another against the attacking Romans.

Another contribution of Abu Bakr to the cause of Islam was the collection and compilation of the verses of the Quran.

Abu Bakr died on 21 Jamadi-al Akhir, 13 A.H. (23 August 634 A.C.), at the age of sixty-three, and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). His caliphate had been of mere twenty-seven months duration. In this brief span, however, Abu Bakr had managed, by the Grace of God, to strengthen and consolidate his community and the state, and to secure the Muslims against the perils which had threatened their existence.

The Second Caliph, Umar (634-644 A.C)

“God has placed truth upon Umar’s tongue and heart.” (Hadith)

Umar’s Life

During his last illness Abu Bakr had conferred with his people, particularly the more eminent among them. After this meeting they chose Umar as his successor. Umar was born into a respected Quraysh family thirteen years after the birth of Muhammad (peace be on him). Umar’s family was known for its extensive knowledge of genealogy. When he grew up, Umar was proficient in this branch of knowledge as well as in swordsmanship, wrestling and the art of speaking. He also learned to read and write while still a child, a very rare thing in Mecca at that time. Umar earned his living as a merchant. His trade took him to many foreign lands and he met all kinds of people. This experience gave him an insight into the affairs and problems of men. Umar’s personality was dynamic, self-assertive, frank and straightforward. He always spoke whatever was in his mind even if it displeased others.

Umar was twenty-seven when the Prophet (peace be on him) proclaimed his mission. The ideas Muhammad was preaching enraged him as much as they did the other notables of Mecca. He was just as bitter against anyone accepting Islam as others among the Quraysh. When his slave-girl accepted Islam he beat her until he himself was exhausted and told her, “I have stopped because I am tired, not out of pity for you.” The story of his embracing Islam is an interesting one. One day, full of anger against the Prophet, he drew his sword and set out to kill him. A friend met him on the way. When Umar told him what he planned to do, his friend informed him that Umar’s own sister, Fatima, and her husband had also accepted Islam. Umar went straight to his sister’s house where he found her reading from pages of the Quran. He fell upon her and beat her mercilessly. Bruised and bleeding, she told her brother, “Umar, you can do what you like, but you cannot turn our hearts away from Islam.” These words produced a strange effect upon Umar. What was this faith that made even weak women so strong of heart? He asked his sister to show him what she had been reading; he was at once moved to the core by the words of the Quran and immediately grasped their truth. He went straight to the house where the Prophet was staying and vowed allegiance to him.

Umar made no secret of his acceptance of Islam. He gathered the Muslims and offered prayers at the Ka'aba. This boldness and devotion of an influential citizen of Mecca raised the morale of the small community of Muslims. Nonetheless Umar was also subjected to privations, and when permission for emigration to Medina came, he also left Mecca. The soundness of Umar’s judgment, his devotion to the Prophet (peace be on him), his outspokenness and uprightness won for him a trust and confidence from the Prophet which was second only to that given to Abu Bakr. The Prophet gave him the title ‘Farooq’ which means the ‘Separator of Truth from Falsehood.’ During the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar was his closest assistant and adviser. When Abu Bakr died, all the people of Medina swore allegiance to Umar, and on 23 Jamadi-al-Akhir, 13 A.H., he was proclaimed Caliph.

Umar’s Caliphate

After taking charge of his office, Umar spoke to the Muslims of Medina:

“...O people, you have some rights on me which you can always claim. One of your rights is that if anyone of you comes to me with a claim, he should leave satisfied. Another of your rights is that you can demand that I take nothing unjustly from the revenues of the state. You can also demand that... I fortify your frontiers and do not put you into danger. It is also your right that if you go to battle I should look after your families as a father would while you are away. O people, remain conscious of God, forgive me my faults and help me in my task. Assist me in enforcing what is good and forbidding what is evil. Advise me regarding the obligations that have been imposed upon me by God...”

The most notable feature of Umar’s caliphate was the vast expansion of Islam. Apart from Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Iran also came under the protection of the Islamic government. But the greatness of Umar himself lies in the quality of his rule. He gave a practical meaning to the Quranic injunction:

“O you who believe, stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it concerns rich or poor, for God can best protect both.” [4:135]

Once a woman brought a claim against the Caliph Umar. When Umar appeared on trial before the judge, the judge stood up as a sign of respect toward him. Umar reprimanded him, saying, “This is the first act of injustice you did to this woman!”

He insisted that his appointed governors live simple lives, keep no guard at their doors and be accessible to the people at all times, and he himself set the example for them. Many times foreign envoys and messengers sent to him by his generals found him resting under a palm tree or praying in the mosque among the people, and it was difficult for them to distinguish which man was the Caliph. He spent many a watchful night going about the streets of Medina to see whether anyone needed help or assistance. The general social and moral tone of the Muslim society at that time is well-illustrated by the words of an Egyptian who was sent to spy on the Muslims during their Egyptian campaign. He reported:

“I have seen a people, every one of whom loves death more than he loves life. They cultivate humility rather than pride. None is given to material ambitions. Their mode of living is simple... Their commander is their equal. They make no distinction between superior and inferior, between master and slave. When the time of prayer approaches, none remains behind...”

Umar gave his government an administrative structure. Departments of treasury, army and public revenues were established. Regular salaries were set up for soldiers. A population census was held. Elaborate land surveys were conducted to assess equitable taxes. New cities were founded. The areas which came under his rule were divided into provinces and governors were appointed. New roads were laid, canals were lug and wayside hotels were built. Provision was made for his support of the poor and the needy from public funds. He defined, by precept and by example, the rights and privileges of non-Muslims, an example of which is the following contract with the Christians of Jerusalem:

“This is the protection which the servant of God, Umar, the Ruler of the Believers has granted to the people of Eiliya [Jerusalem]. The protection is for their lives and properties, their churches and crosses, their sick and healthy and for all their coreligionists. Their churches shall not be used for habitation, nor shall they be demolished, nor shall any injury be done to them or to their compounds, or to their crosses, nor shall their properties be injured in any way. There shall be no compulsion for these people in the matter of religion, nor shall any of them suffer any injury on account of religion... Whatever is written herein is under the covenant of God and the responsibility of His Messenger, of the Caliphs and of the believers, and shall hold good as long as they pay Jizya [the tax for their defence] imposed on them.”

Those non-Muslims who took part in defence together with the Muslims were exempted from paying Jizya, and when the Muslims had to retreat from a city whose non-Muslim citizens had paid this tax for their defence, the tax was returned to the non-Muslims. The old, the poor and the disabled of Muslims and non-Muslims alike were provided for from the public treasury and from the Zakat funds.

Umar’s Death

In 23 A.H., when Umar returned to Medina from Hajj, he raised his hands and prayed:

“O God! I am advanced in years, my bones are weary, my powers are declining, and the people for whom I am responsible have spread far and wide. Summon me back to thyself, my Lord!”

Some time later, when Umar went to the mosque to lead a prayer, a Magian named Abu Lulu Feroze, who had a grudge against Umar on a personal matter, attacked him with a dagger and stabbed him several times. Umar reeled and fell to the ground. When he learned that the assassin was a Magian, he said, “Thank God he is not a Muslim.”

Umar died in the first week of Muharram, 24 A.H., and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him).

The Third Caliph, Uthman (644-656 A.C)

“Every Prophet has an assistant, and my assistant will be Uthman.” (Hadith)

Uthman’s Election

When Umar fell under the assassin’s dagger, before he died the people asked him to nominate his successor. Umar appointed a committee consisting of six of the ten companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) about whom the Prophet had said, “They are the people of Heaven” - Ali, Uthman, Abdul Rahman, Sa’ad, Al-Zubayr and Talha - to select the next Caliph from among themselves. He also outlined the procedure to be followed if any differences of opinion should arise. Abdul Rahman withdrew his name. He was then authorized by the committee to nominate the Caliph. After two days of discussion among the candidates and after the opinions of the Muslims in Medina had been ascertained, the choice was finally limited to Uthman and Ali. Abdul Rahman came to the mosque together with other Muslims, and after a brief speech and questioning of the two men, swore allegiance to Uthman. All those present did the same, and Uthman became the third Caliph of Islam in the month of Muharram, 24 A.H.

Uthman’s Life

Uthman bin Affan was born seven years after the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). He belonged to the Umayyad branch of the Quraysh tribe. He learned to read and write at an early age, and as a young man became a successful merchant. Even before Islam Uthman had been noted for his truthfulness and integrity. He and Abu Bakr were close friends, and it was Abu Bakr who brought him to Islam when he was thirty-four years of age. Some years later he married the Prophet’s second daughter, Ruqayya. In spite of his wealth and position, his relatives subjected him to torture because he had embraced Islam, and he was forced to immigrate to Abyssinia. Some time later he returned to Mecca but soon migrated to Medina with the other Muslims. In Medina his business again began to flourish and he regained his former prosperity. Uthman’s generosity had no limits. On various occasions he spent a great portion of his wealth for the welfare of the Muslims, for charity and for equipping the Muslim armies. That is why he came to be known as ‘Ghani’ meaning ‘Generous.’

Uthman’s wife, Ruqayya was seriously ill just before the Battle of Badr and he was excused by the Prophet (peace be on him) from participating in the battle. The illness Ruqayya proved fatal, leaving Uthman deeply grieved. The Prophet was moved and offered Uthman the hand of another of his daughters, Kulthum. Because he had the high privilege of having two daughters of the Prophet as wives Uthman was known as ‘The Possessor of the Two Lights.’

Uthman participated in the Battles of Uhud and the Trench. After the encounter of the Trench, the Prophet (peace be on him) determined to perform Hajj and sent Uthman as his emissary to the Quraysh in Mecca, who detained him. The episode ended in a treaty with the Meccans known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya.

The portrait we have of Uthman is of an unassuming, honest, mild, generous and very kindly man, noted especially for his modesty and his piety. He often spent part of the night in prayer; fast every second or third day, performed hajj every year, and looked after the needy of the whole community. In spite of his wealth, he lived very simply and slept on bare sand in the courtyard of the Prophet’s mosque. Uthman knew the Quran from memory and had an intimate knowledge of the context and circumstances relating to each verse.

Uthman’s Caliphate

During Uthman’s rule the characteristics of Abu Bakr’s and Umar’s caliphates - impartial justice for all, mild and humane policies, striving in the path of God, and the expansion of Islam - continued. Uthman’s realm extended in the west to Morocco, in the east to Afghanistan, and in the north to Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his caliphate a navy was organized, administrative divisions of the state were revised, and many public projects were expanded and completed. Uthman sent prominent companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) as his personal deputies to various provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the condition of the people.

Uthman’s most notable contribution to the religion of God was the compilation of a complete and authoritative text of the Quran. A large number of copies of this text were made and distributed all over the Muslim world.

Uthman ruled for twelve years. The first six years were marked by internal peace and tranquillity, but during the second half of his caliphate a rebellion arose. The Jews and the Magians, taking advantage of dissatisfaction among the people, began conspiring against Uthman, and by publicly airing their complaints and grievances, gained so much sympathy that it became difficult to distinguish friend from foe.

It may seem surprising that a ruler of such vast territories, whose armies were matchless, was unable to deal with these rebels. If Uthman had wished, the rebellion could have been crushed at the very moment it began. But he was reluctant to be the first to shed the blood of Muslims, however rebellious they might be. He preferred to reason with them, to persuade them with kindness and generosity. He well remembered hearing the Prophet (peace be on him) say, “Once the sword is unsheathed among my followers, it will not be sheathed until the Last Day.”

The rebels demanded that he abdicate and some of the companions advised him to do so. He would gladly have followed this course of action, but again he was bound by a solemn pledge he had given to the Prophet. “Perhaps God will clothe you with a shirt, Uthman” the Prophet had told him once, “and if the people want you to take it off, do not take it off for them.” Uthman said to a well-wisher on a day when his house was surrounded by the rebels, “God’s Messenger made a covenant with me and I shall show endurance in adhering to it.”

After a long siege, the rebels broke into Uthman’s house and murdered him. When the first assassin’s sword struck Uthman, he was reciting the verse,

“Verily, God suffice thee; He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing” [2:137]

Uthman breathed his last on the afternoon of Friday, 17 Dhul Hijja, 35 A.H. (June 656 A.C.). He was eighty-four years old. The power of the rebels was so great that Uthman’s body lay unburied until Saturday night when he was buried in his blood-stained clothes, the shroud which befits all martyrs in the cause of God.

The Fourth Caliph, Ali (656-661 A.C)

“You [Ali] are my brother in this world and the next.” (Hadith)

Ali’s Election

After Uthman’s martyrdom, the office of the caliphate remained unfilled for two or three days. Many people insisted that Ali should take up the office, but he was embarrassed by the fact that the people who pressed him hardest were the rebels, and he therefore declined at first. When the notable companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) urged him, however, he finally agreed.

Ali’s Life

Ali bin Abi Talib was the first cousin of the Prophet (peace be on him). More than that, he had grown up in the Prophet’s own household, later married his youngest daughter, Fatima, and remained in closest association with him for nearly thirty years.

Ali was ten years old when the Divine Message came to Muhammad (peace be on him). One night he saw the Prophet and his wife Khadijah bowing and prostrating. He asked the Prophet about the meaning of their actions. The Prophet told him that they were praying to God Most High and that Ali too should accept Islam. Ali said that he would first like to ask his father about it. He spent a sleepless night, and in the morning he went to the Prophet and said, “When God created me He did not consult my father, so why should I consult my father in order to serve God?” and he accepted the truth of Muhammad’s message.

When the Divine command came, “And warn thy nearest relatives” [26:214], Muhammad (peace be on him) invited his relatives for a meal. After it was finished, he addressed them and asked, “Who will join me in the cause of God?” There was utter silence for a while, and then Ali stood up. “I am the youngest of all present here,” he said, “My eyes trouble me because they are sore and my legs are thin and weak, but I shall join you and help you in whatever way I can.” The assembly broke up in derisive laughter. But during the difficult wars in Mecca, Ali stood by these words and faced all the hardships to which the Muslims were subjected. He slept in the bed of the Prophet when the Quraysh planned to murder Muhammad. It was he to whom the Prophet entrusted, when he left Mecca, the valuables which had been given to him for safekeeping, to be returned to their owners.

Apart from the expedition of Tabuk, Ali fought in all the early battles of Islam with great distinction, particularly in the expedition of Khaybar. It is said that in the Battle of Uhud he received more than sixteen wounds.

The Prophet (peace be on him) loved Ali dearly and called him by many fond names. Once the Prophet found him sleeping in the dust. He brushed off Ali’s clothes and said fondly, “Wake up, Abu Turab (Father of Dust).” The Prophet also gave him the title of ‘Asadullah’ (Lion of God).

Ali’s humility, austerity, piety, deep knowledge of the Quran and his sagacity gave him great distinction among the Prophet’s companions. Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman consulted him frequently during their caliphates. Many times Umar had made him his vice-regent at Medina when he was away. Ali was also a great scholar of Arabic literature and pioneered in the field of grammar and rhetoric. His speeches, sermons and letters served for generations afterward as models of literary expression. Many of his wise and epigrammatic sayings have been preserved. Ali thus had a rich and versatile personality. In spite of these attainments he remained a modest and humble man. Once during his caliphate when he was going about the marketplace, a man stood up in respect and followed him. “Do not do it,” said Ali. “Such manners are a temptation for a ruler and a disgrace for the ruled.”

Ali and his household lived extremely simple and austere lives. Sometimes they even went hungry themselves because of Ali’s great generosity, and none who asked for help was ever turned away from his door. His plain, austere style of living did not change even when he was ruler over a vast domain.

Ali’s Caliphate

As mentioned previously, Ali accepted the caliphate very reluctantly. Uthman’s murder and the events surrounding it were a symptom, and also became a cause, of civil strife on a large scale. Ali felt that the tragic situation was mainly due to incompetent governors. He therefore dismissed all the governors who had been appointed by Uthman and appointed new ones. All the governors excepting Muawiya, the governor of Syria, submitted to his orders. Muawiya declined to obey until Uthman’s blood was avenged. The Prophet’s widow Aisha also took the position that Ali should first bring the murderers to trial. Due to the chaotic conditions during the last days of Uthman it was very difficult to establish the identity of the murderers, and Ali refused to punish anyone whose guilt was not lawfully proved. Thus a battle between the army of Ali and the supporters of Aisha took place. Aisha later realized her error of judgment and never forgave herself for it.

The situation in Hijaz (thc part of Arabia in which Mecca and Medina are located) became so troubled that Ali moved his capital to Iraq. Muawiya now openly rebelled against Ali and a fierce battle was fought between their armies. This battle was inconclusive, and Ali had to accept the de facto government of Muawiya in Syria.

However, even though the era of Ali’s caliphate was marred by civil strife, he nevertheless introduced a number of reforms, particularly in the levying and collecting of revenues.

It was the fortieth year of Hijra. A fanatical group called Kharijites, consisting of people who had broken away from Ali due to his compromise with Muawiya, claimed that neither Ali, the Caliph, nor Muawiya, the ruler of Syria, nor Amr bin al-‘Aas, the ruler of Egypt, were worthy of rule. In fact, they went so far as to say that the true caliphate came to an end with Umar and that Muslims should live without any ruler over them except God. They vowed to kill all three rulers, and assassins were dispatched in three directions.

The assassins who were deputed to kill Muawiya and Amr did not succeed and were captured and executed, but Ibn-e-Muljim, the assassin who was commissioned to kill Ali, accomplished his task. One morning when Ali was absorbed in prayer in a mosque, Ibn-e-Muljim stabbed him with a poisoned sword. On the 20th of Ramadan, 40 A.H. died the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs of Islam. May God Most High be pleased with them and grant to them His eternal reward.

Conclusion

With the death of Ali, the first and most notable phase in the history of Muslim people came to an end. All through this period it had been the Book of God and the practices of His Messenger - that is, the Quran and the Sunnah - which had guided the leaders and the led, set the standards of their moral conduct and inspired their actions. It was the time when the ruler and the ruled, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, were uniformly subject to the Divine Law. It was an epoch of freedom and equality, of God-consciousness and humility, of social justice which recognized no privileges, and of an impartial law which accepted no pressure groups or vested interests. After Ali, Muawiya assumed the caliphate and thereafter the caliphate became hereditary, passing from one king to another.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Global Economic Meltdown


Often referred to as a sub-prime mortgage collapse, this obfuscates the real reason of the economic crisis of 2008. By associating tangible useless failed mortgages, at least something “real” can be blamed for the carnage. The problem is, this is myth. The magnitude of this fiscal collapse happened because it was all based on hot air.

The banking industry renamed insurance betting guarantees as “credit default swaps” and risky gambling wagers were called “derivatives.” Financial managers and banking executives were selling the ultimate con to the entire world, akin to the snake-oil salesmen from the 18th century but this time in suits and ties. And by October 2008, it was a quadrillion-dollar (that's $1,000 trillion) industry that few could understand.

Propped up by false hope, America is now falling like a house of cards.

History of the Crisis

It all began in the early part of the 20th century. In 1907, J.P. Morgan, a private New York banker, published a rumour that a competing unnamed large bank was about to fail. It was a false charge but customers nonetheless raced to their banks to withdraw their money, in case it was their bank. As they pulled out their funds the banks lost their cash deposits and were forced to call in their loans. People now therefore had to pay back their mortgages to fill the banks with income, going bankrupt in the process.

The 1907 panic resulted in a crash that prompted the creation of the Federal Reserve, a private banking cartel with the veneer of an independent government organisation. Effectively, it was a coup by elite bankers in order to control the industry. When signed into law in 1913, the Federal Reserve would loan and supply the nation’s money, but with interest. The more money it was able to print, the more ‘income’ for itself it generated. By its very nature the Federal Reserve would forever keep producing debt to stay alive. It was able to print America’s monetary supply at will, regulating its value. To control valuation however, inflation had to be kept in check.

Great Depression

The Federal Reserve then doubled America’s money supply within five years, and in 1920 it called in a mass percentage of loans. Over five thousand banks collapsed overnight. One year later the Federal Reserve again increased the money supply by 62 percent, but in 1929 it again called the loans back in, en masse. This time, the crash of 1929 caused over sixteen thousand banks to fail and an 89 percent plunge on the stock market. The private and well-protected banks within the Federal Reserve System were able to snap up the failed banks at pennies on the dollar. The nation fell into the Great Depression and in April 1933 President Roosevelt issued an executive order that confiscated all gold bullion from the public.

Those who refused to turn in their gold would be imprisoned for ten years, and by the end of the year the gold standard was abolished. What had been redeemable for gold became paper ‘legal tender’, and gold could no longer be exchanged for cash as it had once been.

Abolishing Gold Standard

Later, in 1971, President Nixon removed the dollar from the gold standard altogether, therefore no longer trading at the internationally fixed price of $35. The US dollar was now worth whatever the United States decided it was worth because it was “as good as gold.” It had no standard of measure, and became the universal currency.

Treasury bills (short-term notes) and bonds (long-term notes) replaced gold as value, promissory notes of the US government and paid for by the taxpayer. Additionally, because gold was exempt from currency reporting requirements it could not be traced, unlike the fiduciary (i.e. that based upon trust) monetary systems of the West. That was not in America’s best interest.

After the Great Depression private banks remained afraid to make home loans, so Roosevelt created Fannie Mae. A state supported mortgage bank, it provided federal funding to finance home mortgages for affordable housing. In 1968, President Johnson privatized Fannie Mae, and in 1970, Freddie Mac was created to compete with Fannie Mae. Both of them bought mortgages from banks and other lenders, and sold them to new investors.

Creating Consumerism

The post World War II boom had created an America flush with cash and assets. As a military industrial complex, war exponentially profited the United States and, unlike any empire in history, it shot to superpower status. But it failed to remember that, historically, whenever empires rose they fell in direct proportion.Americans could afford all the modern conveniences, exporting its manufactured goods all over the world. After the Vietnam War, the United States went into an economic decline. But people were loath to give up their elevated standard of living despite the loss of jobs, and production was increasingly sent overseas. The sense of delusion and entitlement kept Americans on the treadmill of consumer consumption.

In 1987, the US stock market plunged by 22 percent in one day because of high-risk futures trading, called derivatives, and in 1989 the Savings and Loan crisis resulted in President George H.W. Bush using $142 billion in taxpayer funds to rescue half of the Savings and Loan Crisis.

To do so, Freddie Mac was given the task of giving sub-prime (below prime-rate) mortgages to low-income families. In 2000, the “irrational exuberance” of the dot-com bubble burst, and 50 percent of high-tech firms went bankrupt wiping $5 trillion from their over-inflated market values. After this crisis, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan kept interest rates so low; they were less than the rate of inflation. Anyone saving his or her income actually lost money, and the savings rate soon fell into negative territory.

Creating Tailspin of Debts

During the 1990s, advertisers went into overdrive, marketing an ever more luxurious lifestyle, all made available with cheap easy credit. Second mortgages became commonplace, and home equity loans were used to pay credit card bills. The more Americans bought, the more they fell into debt.

But as long as they had a house their false sense of security remained: their home was their equity, it would always go up in value, and they could always remortgage at lower rates if needed. The financial industry also believed that housing prices would forever climb, but should they ever fall the central bank would cut interest rates so that prices would jump back up. It was, everyone believed, a win-win situation. Greenspan’s rock-bottom interest rates let anyone afford a home. Minimum wage service workers with aspirations to buy a half million-dollar house were able to secure 100 percent loans, the mortgage lenders fully aware that they would not be able to keep up the payments.

So many people received these sub-prime loans that the investment houses and lenders came up with a new scheme: bundle these virtually worthless home loans and sell them as solid US investments to unsuspecting countries who would not know the difference. American lives of excess and consumer spending never suffered, and were being propped up by foreign nations none the wiser. It has always been the case that a bank would lend out more than it actually had, because interest payments generated its income. The more the bank loaned, the more interest it collected even with no money in the vault.

It was a lucrative industry of giving away money it never had in the first place. Mortgage banks and investment houses even borrowed money on international money markets to fund these 100 percent plus sub-prime mortgages, and began lending more than ten times their underlying assets. After September 11, George Bush told the nation to spend, and during a time of war, that’s what the nation did. It borrowed at unprecedented levels so as to not only pay for its war on terror in the Middle East (calculated to cost $4 trillion) but also pay for tax cuts at the very time it should have increased taxes. Bush removed the reserve requirements in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, from 10 percent to 2.5 percent. They were free to not only lend even more at bargain basement interest rates; they only needed a fraction of reserves. Soon banks lent thirty times asset value. It was, as one economist put it, an “orgy of excess.” It was flagrant overspending during a time of war. At no time in history has a nation gone into conflict without sacrifice, cutbacks, tax increases, and economic conservation. And there was a growing chance that, just like in 1929, investors would rush to claim their money all at once.

Nothing from Nothing

To guarantee, therefore, these high risk mortgages, the same financial houses that sold them then created “insurance policies” against the sub-prime investments they were selling, marketed as Credit Default Swaps (CDS). But the government must regulate insurance policies, so by calling them CDS they remained totally unregulated. Financial institutions were “hedging their bets” and selling premiums to protect the junk assets. In other words, the asset that should go up in value could also have a side-bet, just in case that it might go down. By October 2008, CDS were trading at $62 trillion, more than the stock markets of the whole world combined. These bets had absolutely no value whatsoever and were not investments. They were just financial instruments called derivatives — high stakes gambling, “nothing from nothing” — or as Warren Buffet referred to them, “Weapons of Financial Mass Destruction.” The derivatives trade was “worth” more than one quadrillion dollars, or larger than the economy of the entire world. (In September 2008 the global Gross Domestic Product was $60 trillion). Challenged as being illegal in the 1990s, Greenspan legalized the derivatives practice. Soon hedge funds became an entire industry, betting on the derivatives market and gambling as much as they wanted.

It was easy because it was money they did not have in the first place. The industry had all the appearances of banks, but the hedge funds, equity funds, and derivatives brokers had no access to government loans in the event of a default. If the owners defaulted, the hedge funds had no money to pay ‘from nothing’. Those who had hedged on an asset going up or down would not be able to collect on the winnings or losses. The market had become the largest industry in the world, and all the financial giants were cashing in: Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, and AIG. But homeowners, long maxed out on their credit, were now beginning to default on their mortgages.

Not only were they paying for their house but also all the debt amassed over the years for car, credit card and student loans, medical payments and home equity loans. They had borrowed to pay for groceries and skyrocketing health insurance premiums to keep up with their bigger houses and cars; they refinanced the debt they had for lower rates that soon ballooned. The average American owed 25 percent of their annual income to credit card debts alone.

Misleading Solutions

Just as they had done in the 20th century, JP Morgan swooped in and picked up Bear Stearns for a pittance. One year prior Bear Stearns shares traded at $159 but JP Morgan was able to buy in and take over at $2 a share. In September, Washington Mutual collapsed the largest bank failure in history. JP Morgan again came in and paid $1.9 billion for assets valued at $176 billion. It was a fire sale. Relatively quietly over the summer Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the publicly traded companies responsible for 80 percent of the home mortgage loans, lost almost 90 percent of their value for the year.

Together they were responsible for half the outstanding loan amounts but were now in debt $80 to every $1 in capital reserves. To guarantee they would stay alive, the Federal Reserve stepped in and took over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. On September 7, 2008 they were put into ‘conservatorship’: known as nationalisation to the rest of the world, but Americans have difficulty with the idea of any government run industry that required taxpayer increases. What the government was really doing was handing out an unlimited line of credit. Done by the Federal Reserve and not US Treasury, it was able to bypass Congressional approval.

The Treasury Department then auctioned off Treasury bills to raise money for the Federal Reserve’s own use, but nonetheless the taxpayer would be funding the rescue. The bankers had bled tens of billions from the system by hedging and derivative gambling, and triggered the portfolio inter-bank lending freeze, which then seized up and crashed. The takeover was presented as a government funded bailout of an arbitrary $700 billion, which does nothing to solve the problem. No economists were asked to present their views to Congress, and the loan only perpetuates the myth that the banking system is not really dead.

Paulson’s Coup

In reality, the damage will not be $700 billion but closer to $5 trillion, the value of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae's mortgages. It was nothing less than a bailout of the quadrillion dollar derivatives industry which otherwise faced payouts of over a trillion dollars on Credit Default Swaps (CDS) mortgage-backed securities they had sold. It was necessary, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, to save the country from a ‘housing correction’. But, he added, the $700 billion taxpayer funded takeover would not prevent other banks from collapsing, in turn causing a stock market crash.

In other words Paulson was blackmailing Congress in order to lead a coup by the banking elite under the false guise of necessary legislation to stop the dam from flooding. It merely shifted wealth from one class to another, as it had done almost a century prior. No sooner were the words were out of Paulson’s mouth before other financial institutions began imploding, and with them the disintegration of the global financial system - much modelled after the lauded system of American banking.

In September the Federal Reserve, its line of credit assured, then bought the world largest insurance company, AIG, for $85 billion for an 80 percent stake. AIG was the largest seller of CDS, but now that it was in the position of having to pay out, from collateral it did not have, it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Global Domino Collapse

In October the entire country of Iceland went bankrupt, having bought American worthless sub-prime mortgages as investments. European banks began exploding, all wanting to cash in concurrently on their inflated US stocks to pay off the low interest rate debts before rates climbed higher. The year before the signs had been evident, when the largest US mortgage lender Countrywide fell. Soon after, the largest lender in the UK, Northern Rock, went under - London long having copied Wall Street creative financing. Japan and Korea's auto manufacturing nosedived by 37 percent, global economies contracting.

Pakistan is on the edge of collapse too, with real reserves at $3 billion - enough to only buy a month’s supply of food and oil and attempting to stall payments to Saudi Arabia for the 100,000 barrels of oil per day it provides to the country. Under President Musharraf, who left office in the nick of time, Pakistan’s currency lost 25 percent of its value, its inflation running at 25 percent. Meanwhile energy costs had soared, with oil reaching a peak of almost $150 per barrel in the summer. The costs were immediately passed on to the already spent homeowner, in rising heating and fuel, transport and manufacturing costs.

Yet 30 percent of the cost of a barrel of oil was based upon Wall Street speculators, climbing to 60 percent as a speculative fear factor during the summer months. As soon as the financial crisis hit, suddenly oil prices slid down, slicing oil costs to $61 from a high of $147 in June and proving that the 60 percent speculation factor was far more accurate. This sudden decline also revealed OPEC’s lack of control over spiralling prices during the past few years, almost squarely laid on the shoulders of Saudi Arabia alone. When OPEC, in September, sought to maintain higher prices by cutting production, it was Saudi Arabia who voted against such a move at the expense of its own revenue.

Europe then decided that no more would it be ruined by the excess of America. ‘Old Europe’ may have had enough of being dictated to by the United States, who refused to compromise on loans lent to their own broken nations after WWII. On October the 13th, the once divided EU nations unilaterally agreed to an emergency rescue plan totalling $2.3 trillion. It was more than three times greater than the US package for a catastrophe America alone had created. By mid October, the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 had erased all the gains they made over the previous decade.

Greenspan’s pyramid scheme of easy money from nothing resulted in a massive overextension of credit, inflated housing prices, and incredible stock valuations, achieved because investors would never withdraw their money all at once. But now it was crashing at break-neck speed and no solution in sight. President Bush said that people ought not to worry at all because “America is the most attractive destination for investors around the globe.” Those who will hurt the most are the very men and women who grew the country after WWII, and saved their pensions for retirement due now. They had built the country during the war production years, making its weapons and arms for global conflict.

USA: No Longer Powerful

During the Cold War the USSR, former Soviet Union, was the ever-present enemy and thus the military industrial complex continued to grow. Only when there is a war does America profit. Russia will not tolerate a new cold war build-up of ballistic missiles. And the Middle East has seen its historical ally turn into its worst nightmare, be it militarily or economically.

No longer will these nations continue to support the dollar as the world’s currency. The world’s economy is no longer America’s to control and the United States is now indebted to the rest of the world. No more will the United States be able to demand its largest Middle Eastern oil supplier open up its banking books so as to be transparent and free from corruption and terrorist connections lest there be consequences — the biggest act of criminal corruption in history has just been perpetrated by the United States.

It was the best con game in town: get paid well for selling vast amounts of risk, fail, and then have governments fix the problem at the expense of the taxpayers who never saw a penny of shared wealth to begin with.

There is no easy solution to this crisis, its effects multiplying like an infectious disease.

Islamic Banks

Ironically, least affected by the crisis are Islamic banks. They have largely been immune to the collapse because Islamic banking prohibits the acquisition of wealth via gambling (or alcohol, tobacco, pornography, or stocks in armaments companies), and forbids the buying and selling of a debt as well as usury.

Additionally, Shari'ah banking laws forbid investing in any company with debts that exceed thirty percent.

“Islamic banking institutions have not failed per se as they deal in tangible assets and assume the risk” said Dr. Mohammed Ramady, Professor of Economics at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

“Although the Islamic banking sector is also part of the global economy, the impact of direct exposure to sub-prime asset investments has been low” he continued. “The liquidity slowdown has especially affected Dubai, with its heavy international borrowing. The most negative effect has been a loss of confidence in the regional stock markets.”

Instead, said Dr. Ramady, oil surplus Arab nations are “reconsidering overseas investments in financial assets” and speeding up their own domestic projects. Eight years ago, in May 2000, Saudi Islamic banker His Highness Dr. Nayef bin Fawaaz ibn Sha’alan publicly gave a series of economic lectures in Gulf States. At the time his research showed that Arab investments in the United States, to the tune of $1.5 trillion, were effectively being held hostage and he recommended they be pulled out and reinvested in the tangibles of the Arab and Islamic markets.

“Not in stocks however because the stock market could be manipulated remotely, as we have seen in the last couple of years in the Arab market where trillions of dollars evaporated” he said.

He warned then that it was a certainty that the US economic system was on the verge of collapse because of its cumulative debts, ever-increasing deficit and the interest on that debt. “When the debts and deficits come due, they just issue new Treasury bonds to cover the old bonds due, with their interest and the new deficit too.”

The cycle cannot be stopped or the debt cancelled because the United States would no longer be able to borrow. The consequence of relieving this cycle would be a total collapse of their economic system as opposed to the partial, albeit massive, crash of 2008.

“Islamic banking”, said Dr. Al-Sha’alan, “always protects the individuals’ wealth while putting a cap on selfishness and greed. It has the best of capitalism — filtering out its negatives — and the best of socialism — filtering out its negatives too.” Both systems inevitably had to fail.

Additionally, Europe and Japan did not need to be held accountable and indebted to America anymore for protection against the Soviets.

“The essential difference between the Islamic economic system and the capitalist system”, he continued “is that in Islam wealth belongs to God - the individual being only its manager. It is a means, not a goal. In capitalism, it is the reverse: money belongs to the individual, and is a goal in and of itself. In America especially, money is worshipped like God.”

USA Now

In sum, the crash of the entire global economic system is a result of America’s fiscal arrogance based upon one set of rules for itself and another for the rest of the world. Its increased creative financing deluded its people into a false sense of security, and now looks like the failure of capitalism altogether.

The whole exercise in democracy by force against Arab Muslim nations has almost bankrupted the United States. The Cold War is over and the United States has nothing to offer: no exports, no production, few natural resources, and no service sector economy.

The very markets that resisted US economic policies the most, having curbed foreign direct investments into America, are those who will fare best and come out ahead.

But not before having paid a very high price.


Tanya Cariina Hsu
Political Analyst
International Fellow
Institute for Research: Middle Easter Policy
Note: Written in October 2008 and published by http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10651, entitled "Death of the American Empire"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Masyarakat Madani......



Banyak yang telah diperkatakan bilamana kita berbicara tentang melahirkan masyarakat yang berilmu. Tuntutan, desakan, aspirasi dan jua kehendak yang perlu dijana dalam melahirkan masyarakat berilmu adalah merupakan isu-isu yang acapkali diperbahaskan, samada dikalangan para pemimpin negara, politikus nasional, cendekiawan-cendekiawan mahupun masyarakat Malaysia keseluruhannya.

Menurut Yang Berbahagia Profesor Emeritus Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. Abu Hassan Othman, Profesor Adjung, Jabatan Sosiologi dan Antropologi, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia, masyarakat berilmu, ataupun masyarakat madani, dapat dilahirkan melalui beberapa proses. Ini dapat dilihat apa yang telah berlaku di Barat. Masyarakat Barat tidaklah berterusan dari dahulunya, sebagai sebuah masyarakat yang berilmu. Barat telah melalui ‘zaman kegelapan’ dimana diskusi ilmu dilarang sama sekali. Malahan pada ketika itu, kuasa dan autoriti gereja sama sekali tidak boleh dipertikaikan. Bilamana lahirnya ilmu-ilmu baru yang menyongsang, ataupun berlawanan dengan apa yang dibicarakan oleh Injil, ianya sama sekali akan ditolak dan dianggap mempunyai unsur-unsur kesyaitanan (demonic elements). Pelopor-pelopornya pula akan di bunuh atau dipenjarakan oleh pihak gereja. Waktu itu, Barat begitu mundur dan melalui ‘zaman kemandulan ilmu’ (rujuk History of Western Civilization tulisan Robert B. Bogdan). Berbeza dengan Tamadun Islam, kemajuan ilmu berkembang pesat di kota-kota Islam. Cordova dan Baghdad telah menjadi pusat rujukan ilmu oleh para ilmuwan dan sarjana dari segenap pelosok dunia. Tokoh-tokoh cendekiawan Islam telah melahirkan teori-teori baru, dan telah menambak-baik teori-teori yang diambil dari sarjana Greek dan Parsi. Waktu itu, nama-nama seperti al-Razi, Ibn Sina, al-Khawarizmi, Ibn Haitham dan banyak lagi, begitu masyhur dan karya-karya mereka diburu untuk dijadikan panduan dan dikaji untuk tujuan penyelidikan.

Setelah beberapa ketika, Barat melalui zaman kegelapan, muncul golongan yang dahagakan ilmu dan diskusi ilmu dikalangan mereka, dan telah mempertikaikan kewibawaan dan autoriti pihak gereja dan kesahihan kitab Injil yang menjadi panduan mereka selama ini. Golongan ini telah menjadikan kemajuan sains dan teknologi yang telah dikecap oleh masyarakat Islam sebagai asas sandaran hujah mereka. Natijahnya, Barat telah membelakangkan gereja dan menjadikan sains sebagai ‘tuhan’ mereka. Maka berlakulah ‘zaman kebangkitan’ di Barat, dimana mereka telah mencedok ilmu-ilmu yang telah dikembangkan oleh sarjana-sarjana Islam dan dengan bangganya mengisytiharkan ilmu-ilmu tersebut adalah hasil kajian dan penyelidikan mereka. Contoh mudah yang dapat dilihat antaranya ialah lapangan ilmu antropologi. Ilmu antropologi telah mula diperkenalkan oleh Muhammad Abu Rayhan al-Biruni bilamana beliau telah melakukan kajian intensif budaya dan struktur sosial masyarakat Hindu di India (untuk keterangan lanjut, rujuk The Book of India tulisan al-Biruni) menggunakan kaedah pemerhatian-ikut serta (participant observation). Namun Barat telah menafikan kebenaran ini dan mengatakan bahawa ilmu antropologi telah dipelopori oleh Bronislaw Malinowski dimana beliau telah mengkaji masyarakat Melanesia secara intensif jua mengguna-pakai kaedah pemerhatian-ikut serta (untuk keterangan lanjut rujuk Argonauts of the Western Pacific tulisan Malinowski). Malahan melalui kajian ini, Malinowski telah mendapat kredit bilamana beliau telah diiktiraf sebagai orang pertama yang telah memperkenalkan kaedah pemerhatian-ikut serta (sila rujuk Essays on Social Anthropology tulisan Margaret Mead). Namun hakikatnya, hampir 150 tahun sebelum Malinowski tiba di Kepulauan Melanesia, al-Biruni telah pun mengguna-pakai kaedah pemerhatian-ikut serta untuk memahami budaya dan struktur sosial masyarakat Hindu di India. Jua perlu dinyatakan di sini, Malinowski sendiri telah dituduh tidak betul-betul mengaplikasikan kaedah pemerhatian-ikut serta dalam kajian beliau. Beliau, seperti yang dinyatakan oleh J.B Singh, lebih banyak menghabiskan masanya bersama para pelayar British dan telah mengupah beberapa penduduk tempatan untuk menjalankan sesi temuduga dengan penduduk tempatan yang lain dan untuk mendapatkan informasi-informasi lain berkenaan budaya masyarakat Melanesia (untuk keterangan lanjut rujuk Argonauts of the Western Pacific Revisited tulisan J.B. Singh). Inilah sikap Barat……

Namun begitu, zaman kebangkitan telah memberi impak yang sangat mendalam ke atas masyarakat Barat. Hingga ke hari ini, kita dapat saksikan mereka masih lagi menguasai dunia kesarjanaan. Teori-teori baru banyak dilahirkan oleh mereka dan kajian-kajian ilmiah lebih banyak dilahirkan oleh mereka berbanding umat Islam. Umat Islam, yang telah mendahului mereka dalam kemajuan ilmu, kini pula yang melalui zaman kemandulan ilmu. Kenapa? Di sini, perlu kita kaji secara terperinci apakah yang telah membelenggu masyarakat Islam untuk keluar dari penyakit kemandulan ilmu ini….

Tidak usah kita berbicara tentang masyarakat Islam lain, cukup sahaja dengan di Malaysia. Kita dapat saksikan budaya membaca bukanlah satu budaya dikalangan kita hari ini. Pembacaan ilmu ditolak ketepi, atau lebih sedih lagi langsung tidak diambil kira. Kita lebih mengagungkan pembacaan yang berunsurkan hiburan semata-mata. Kita jua lebih mengenali selebreti-selebriti hiburan dari tokoh-tokoh ilmuan. Bilamana golongan artis berkahwin, mereka diraikan umpama raja dan permaisuri, ditaja itu dan ini, sampaikan disediakan sebiji helicopter. Tapi bila pihak universiti ingin menganjurkan diskusi ilmu, samada peringkat nasional mahupun antarabangsa, tiada siapa pun yang mahu menaja!! Sedih sekali… Sebab itu, bila kita bertanyakan masyarakat Islam hari ini samada mereka mengenali Muhammad Fethullah Gullen, sebagai contoh, tidak ramai yang akan mengenali beliau. Sedangkan beliau telah dinobat sebagai tokoh sarjana yang popular tahun 2008 oleh majalah Times. Ini adalah sebab-musabab mengapa kita masih lagi berada dalam zaman kemandulan ilmu. Begitu jua dengan bentuk pembacaan. Tidak dinafikan dengan wujudnya internet, segala macam informasi boleh kita dapatkan dengan hanya menekan butang tetikus. Tapi persoalannya, adakah informasi yang kita terima itu sahih dan boleh dipercayai? Tidak dinafikan terdapat sesetengah tulisan dan jua laman web yang amat baik dan dapat membantu perkembangan minda, namun banyak jua informasi-informasi yang ada disalurkan tidaklah begitu tepat. Oleh yang demikian, sumber ilmu yang terbaik adalah melalui pembacaan buku. Namun ini membawa kepada masalah yang lain pula – harga buku yang terlalu amat tinggi. Aku tidak bermaksud untuk berbangga-bangga, namun suka untuk aku kongsi bersama bahawa aku telah menghabiskan hampir empat ribu ringgit Malaysia dari Januari hingga Disember 2008 hanya untuk buku sahaja. Pun begitu kuantitinya tidak banyak kerana sesetengah buku mencecah beratus-ratus ringgit Malaysia. Sepatutnya kerajaan boleh membantu dengan memberikan sedikit subsidi. Ini sama sekali tidak akan merugikan kerajaan kerana akhirnya ia dapat membantu melahirkan masyarakat Malaysia yang berpengetahuan. Bukan kah itu yang kerajaan impikan?

Apa yang penting, budaya membaca perlulah disemai dikalangan kita semua. Sikap dahagakan ilmu dan rajin membaca perlu ditanam dalam diri kita. Melalui pembacaan ianya dapat meluaskan pengetahuan dan mencambah benih-benih pemikiran kritis dan kreatif. Inilah yang Islam cuba sampaikan, dimana wahyu pertama yang diturunkan kepada Nabi Muhammad s.a.w. dengan jelas bermaksud, “Bacalah! Dengan nama Tuhan mu yang telah menciptakan.” Alangkah bagusnya jika semua umat Islam dapat menghayati wahyu Ilahi ini…….

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dingin.....


Dingin malam yang menyelubungi
Hening sayu dalam hati
Berbicara bersendirian
Ku rasa resah
Selama dibuai rindu
Pada cinta yang terlalu
Terpendam di dalam khayalan
Kan ku leraikan impian indah
Kepadanya ku berserah
Mungkin tak daya
Ku tawan cinta yang sama



Dinginnya getaran asmara
Sentuhan mula bermadah
Ku tak bisa juarai
Jiwa yang ku tak punya
Dinginnya bila kau berkata
Ruang buat ujiannya
Memoriku gengamilah
Biarkan aku beralah

Dalam hatiku tiada dendam
Walau impian semalam
Masih mekar dalam ingatan
Kan ku leraikan impian indah
Kepadanya ku berserah
Mungkin tak daya
Tawan cinta yang sama


Dinginnya getaran asmara
Sentuhan mula bermadah
Ku tak bisa juarai
Jiwa yang ku tak punya
Dinginnya bila kau berkata
Ruang buat ujiannya
Memoriku gengamilah
Biarkan aku beralah
Mungkin tak daya
Tawan cinta yang sama


From the same source I have not taken,
My sorrow; I could not awaken,
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.

Crisis in the Muslim Ummah


The contemporary Muslim world is afflicted by numerous diseases which have spread to almost every aspect of its being. Moral torpor and intellectual paralysis, subversion from within, subjugation from without, the absence of justice and fair dealing, exploitation and corruption, extremes of ignorance and disease, poverty and waste, dependence and insecurity, discord and internecine strife - the list is long and painful. The number and gravity of these afflictions are capable of wiping whole nations and peoples off the face of the earth, even though some may be well-endowed with wealth and resources.

Beset by such catastrophic afflictions, one wonders in fact how the universal community of believers - the Muslim Ummah - has survived. That this Ummah has been spared and continues to exist to this day must be due to the fact that it still holds the legacy of the Qur'an intact as well as the example of God's final messenger to mankind, may the peace and blessings of God be on him. It may also be due to the fact that there still exist some elements of righteousness in this community who continue to depend on God and genuinely seek His guidance and forgiveness. This we may infer from a Qur'anic verse which says that God did not choose to punish even a disbelieving people because the Prophet himself was among them and there remained the possibility that they might yet repent (al-Quran, 8: 33).

Arguably, the most dangerous disease which now afflicts the Muslim Ummah is the disease of disagreement and discord. This disease has become all-pervasive and affects every area, town and society. Its appalling influence has penetrated into ideas and beliefs, morality and behaviour, and ways of speaking and interacting. It has affected both short and long term goals and objectives. Like a dark spectre, it finally envelops people's souls. It poisons the atmosphere and leaves hearts sterile and desolate. Multitudes of people are left contending with one another, and the impression is given that all the Islamic teachings, commands, and prohibitions at the disposal of the Ummah are there only to spur people on to discord and make them revel in internecine strife. This is a trend which is in total contrast to the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah (Sunnah literally means "path." It refers to the example of Prophet Muhammad which consists of all that he said, did, approved of, or condemned). After stressing the paramount duty of affirming the oneness of God (tawheed), both the Qur'an and the Sunnah stress one thing above all: the unity of the Muslim Ummah. Their object is to treat and rid the Ummah of any disagreements which disturb the peace and harmony in Muslim relationships and ruin the brotherhood of believers. It may also be true to say that after the abomination of associating others in worship with God there is nothing more repugnant to the teachings of Islam than discord in the Muslim community. The commands of God and His Prophet are abundantly clear in calling for the unity and solidarity of Muslims, reconciling their hearts, and marshalling their efforts in a single cause.

Since the Muslims have pure faith in and worship God alone, since their Prophet, their scripture, the direction they turn in salaah (salaah refers to the special act of worship or prayer performed in the manner taught by the Prophet) and the acknowledged reason for their existence are all one and the same, it must follow that they should be united in a common endeavour: "This, your community," says God in the Qur'an, "is a single community and I am your Lord and Sustainer; therefore worship Me" (21: 92). In spite of this, Muslims have unfortunately forsaken the uncompromising belief in and worship of God alone and abandoned the call to join forces with one another.

We need to be fully conscious of the dangers of this situation and make sincere attempts to deal with the roots of the crisis of Muslim disunity. To begin with, we need to restore "the dimension of faith" in the hearts of Muslims. This dimension has almost ceased to be the primary factor in regulating Muslim relationships. This is the result of a distorted understanding of Islam, harmful practices, and the pressures and impositions of non-Islamic societies. The restoration of the faith dimension and a sound understanding of Islam are the only true guarantees for rectifying our relationships, getting rid of our differences, and removing all traces of rancour from our hearts. How comforting and how delightful this would be! A sound knowledge and understanding of Islam would give us a proper appreciation of the various categories of actions: what is recommended or permissible, what is compulsory or obligatory, and so on. We would be able to keep before us the higher objectives of our striving and be wary of constant jostling with one another via argumentation and discord. We have undoubtedly lost the ethics and norms of proper Islamic behaviour and the proper regard for moral imperatives and have thus fallen an easy prey to internal disintegration and internecine strife. This is the legacy of what the Qur'an calls "a narrow and constricted existence" and a life of failure. We have ended up in impotence and ruin. Such indeed was the warning of God: “And do not dispute with one another lest you fail and your moral strength deserts you” (8: 46).

The Qur'an relates to us the history of the followers of earlier prophets that we may derive lessons and warnings from them. It shows clearly how nations rise, how civilizations are built, and how they flourish. It also shows how they decline. We are warned that decline and downfall are direct consequences of disunity and the disease of discord and sliding into narrow factionalism:

“And be not among those who ascribe divinity to any but Allah, [or] among those who have broken the unity of their faith and have become sects, each group delighting in what they themselves believe and follow” (30: 312).

Disputes which lead to division and disunity are tantamount to abandoning the guidance of the Prophet and becoming alienated from him. God addresses the Prophet Muhammad in the Qur'an with regard to "those who have broken the unity of their faith and have become sects" and says: "You have nothing to do with them" (6: 159). This verse expresses a condemnation of all sectarianism arising out of people's intolerant, mutually-exclusive claims to being "the only true exponents" of divine teachings.

This verse is applicable to followers of revelation which predated the Qur'an; their problem was not that they had too little knowledge or that their knowledge was misleading; their undoing was that they used that knowledge to commit injustice and sow mutual antagonisms: "The followers of earlier revelation differed among themselves only after knowledge had come to them, out of mutual jealousy" (3: 19). In the light of this verse we may well ask if Muslims are really the proper custodians of the last authentic divine revelation and the true knowledge and guidance it contains, or whether they are inheritors of the weaknesses of these followers of earlier revelation, their tendency to mutual jealousy and hatred, and the other patterns of destructive behaviour they have set.

Disagreement, mutual jealousy, and religious schism were thus the factors which contributed directly to the undoing of the Jews and the Christians in pre-Qur'anic times and the superseding of their religions. Their history is a clear and permanent lesson for those who hold the legacy of authentic scripture (the Qur'an) and Muhammad's prophethood. This fact is made more poignant if it is realized that there will be no replacement and no abrogation of the Qur'an. In one sense, however, this fact does provide some optimism that the diseases with which the Muslim Ummah is now afflicted are not terminal. They may either continue to fester with the Ummah persisting in a state of feebleness, or they may be cured. This is the outcome which many yearn for. Should it come to pass, the internal disintegration will cease and the Ummah will be back on the right course, healthy and full of vitality. These are possibilities which the final divine message holds out, and this is the responsibility and the challenge which it places on the Muslim Ummah.

How do we achieve this outcome? We should first recognize that there are natural differences in the way different people view things and conduct their affairs. There is an inherent uniqueness in each individual who contributes in large measure to the diversity which is essential for the building of human society. It would be impossible to establish social relations between people who are all alike and who have the same capacities. There would then be no scope for interaction, for giving, and for improvement. Diversity in talents and skills stem from diversity in individual mental and functional skills. When these inherent and acquired differences combine they make for human betterment. In all this we see the manifestation of God's power and wisdom. If differences of opinion operate in a healthy framework they could enrich the Muslim mind and stimulate intellectual development. They could help to expand perspectives and make us look at problems and issues in their wider and deeper ramifications, and with greater precision and thoroughness. Sadly, with the waning of the Ummah, this is not the case. All of the positive advantages that can stem from healthy differences have given way to the chronic disease and deadly poison of discord which is weakening and eroding our spirits and putting us on a self-destruct course. The situation has reached such a state that some of those who hold divergent positions actually engage in physical annihilation while others take to regarding the enemies of Islam as closer to them than their fellow Muslims who share the same basic beliefs. Recent and earlier Muslim history has witnessed many sad and painful scenes when the vast energies and resources of the Ummah have fed and continue to feed the flames of discord, strife, and civil war which only seem to increase in intensity with each passing day.

Often people are unable to look at matters in a balanced, holistic way and see the various dimensions of an issue. Their narrow perspectives only allow them to see a minor aspect which is then inflated and blown up out of all proportion and given an importance to the exclusion of any other aspect or issue. This minor aspect is constantly commented upon and promoted. It becomes the basis for judging, disdaining, or accepting others. To strengthen this aspect, help from the enemies of the religion might even be sought against other Muslims who happen to have a divergent view.

It is related that Waasil ibn `Ataa' (Waasil ibn `Ataa' is regarded as the founder of the Mu`tazilah tradition of thought, he died in Basrah in 131 AH) was with a group of Muslims and they came upon some people whom they recognized as Khawaarij. Waasil's company was in a critical situation and faced possible annihilation at the hands of the Khawaarij, who were of the opinion that Muslims who did not share their views should be killed. Waasil told his group that he would deal with the situation. The Khawaarij came up to him and asked threateningly: "Who are you and your companions?" Waasil replied: "They are mushrikoon (those who associate others in worship with God) seeking protection so that they may listen to the word of God and know His laws." "We grant you protection," said the Khawaarij and Waasil asked them to teach him. This they proceeded to do according to their own positions. At the end, Waasil said: "I and those who are with me accept [what you have taught us]." Thereupon the Khawaarij said, "Go in company with one another for you are our brothers in faith." "That is not for you to say," replied Waasil as he recited the following verse of the Qur'an:

“And if any of the mushrikoon (those who ascribe divinity to any but God) seeks your protection, grant him protection, so that he might hear the word of God, and thereafter convey him to a place where he can feel secure” (9: 6).

"Allow us then to get to our place of security," continued Wasil. The Khawaarij looked at one another and said: "That you shall have." Wasil and his group were allowed to go on their way and they all arrived at their homes safely.

The anecdote shows how the severity of differences had reached a stage where the Muslim with a divergent view on minor issues had no alternative but to pretend to be a non-Muslim to escape terror and possible death at the hands of a dissident Muslim group who regarded itself as alone possessing the genuine, unadulterated truth. The non- Muslim enjoyed more security at the hands of these dissidents than a fellow Muslim!

Violent disagreement (ikhtilaaf) and selfish, egotistic motivations (hawaa) have a tendency to develop and grow larger and larger. They penetrate deep into a person's psyche and take hold of his mind, attitudes, and feelings. Eventually that person loses sight of the overall, total view of things. In the process he ignores the common, lofty goals and objectives of Islam and its basic principles. Such a person lacks vision and insight and forgets the elementary requirements of Islamic behaviour. He loses all sense of balance and of priorities. Speech not based on knowledge comes easily to him, as do verdicts without enlightenment and practice without supporting evidence. With people like these around, accusations proliferate, people are branded as deviant and sinful, and others are declared unbelievers (kuffaar; singular: kaafir).

A person afflicted with these shortcomings fall easy prey to blind fanaticism. His world is filled with darkness and gloom which in reality is but a reflection of his own miserable self on which the light of knowledge, wisdom, and prudence does not shine: “And whoever does not have light given by God, he truly has no light at all” (24: 40).

At the hands of blind followers and inexperienced folk, schools of jurisprudence and legal judgments and opinions arrived at by persons of insight and ability have degenerated into a sort of pseudo-intellectual factionalism and political fanaticism. Verses of the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet are used selectively to support one position or another, and every verse or saying that does not agree with a stand of a particular faction is considered inapplicable or abrogated. The net result is that fanaticism increases and we are thrown back to the sort of ignorance which existed in pre-Qur'anic days when the prevailing dictum was: "The liar of the tribe of Rabee`ah is better than the one who tells the truth from the tribe of Mudar" - in other words, "My people, right or wrong."

The early Muslims did have disagreements. But theirs were differences of opinion and not reasons for estrangement and schism. They differed but they did not separate. This was because the unity of hearts and of objectives was far more important to them than selfish considerations. They managed to rid themselves of personal weaknesses and were keen to recognize and correct any lapses they committed. The Prophet, peace be on him, once told his companions about a man who was among the best of them and about the good news that he was of those destined for paradise. They examined the person's attitudes and conduct to understand the reason for his supreme achievement. The Prophet eventually told them that the person's achievement was due to the fact that he never went to sleep while there was a trace of rancour in his heart against any Muslim. The source of the calamity which afflicts us today is within us, in our hearts. Our tendencies towards isolationism are merely an expression of self-betrayal. In external aspects, we might not differ much from others. God says: "Keep away from all sin, open and secret" (6: 120).

On the level of the Ummah, we can look back and see that the Muslim world was once one state claiming its highest legitimacy from attachment to the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Now it has become some seventy-eight small states with innumerable and extensive disagreements among themselves. Each one of these states loudly professes unity, but in each state one finds several often conflicting entities as well as of ficially sponsored "Islamic" bodies. Often those working for the cause of Islam today who are ostensibly connected with the task of restoring the Ummah are not in reality in a better situation than the official organizations which they manage.

Our crisis is in fact an intellectual one, and it is very serious. When intellectual activity and output in the Muslim world is sound and when the Muslim Ummah once again derives its fundamental and highest legitimacy for its existence from attachment to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, it will then be able to uphold the message of Islam and build a civilization despite the hardships and severity of our material circumstances. We are assured in the Qur'an that “with every difficulty there is ease” (94: 5).

Our deviation from the Qur'an and the Sunnah has landed us in disputation and ruin, for God says: “Obey God and His Apostle. And do not dispute with one another lest you fail and your moral strength deserts you” (8: 46). Islam put an end to petty groupings and internal Arabia, each tribe or grouping had its own god to which it gave obeisance; Islam obliterated all these false gods.

Muslims as a whole today need not complain about scant material resources or about a straitened existence. They are in the midst of the consuming nations, whether of ideas or commodities for living. Their real malaise lies in the loss of the all-embracing significance of their faith and the consciousness of unified and common objectives. Also gone from them is the consciousness of a greater purpose and legitimacy in their lives. Paralysis has afflicted both their resolve and their decisive intellectual endeavour.

How do we get out of the intellectual paralysis which afflicts the Muslim mind and the moral crisis which affects Muslim behaviour except by tackling the roots of this intellectual crisis and rectifying the methodology of thought? There must be a renewed stress on intellectual formation and the recovery of a sense of priorities. These goals must feature prominently in the training of new generations.

There is no way to achieve all this except by returning to the legacy of the early Muslims who were noted for their unswerving attachment to the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Part of this legacy was the unremitting search for true knowledge and the application of this knowledge. We need to recapture the spirit of this search and provide guarantees for ensuring that it continues. The link between knowledge and ethics must be restored. The principles and rules for inference and deduction to regulate independent reasoning also need to be put in place. Studies to ensure the unity of the Ummah must be developed, and areas of mutual cooperation defined with the object of achieving Muslim solidarity. All this must be done and pursued in a clear, systematic way through God's grace.

One should, however, be wary of aggressive ignorance, the arrogant claims of fanatics, the troublesome and contentious nature of those who are obstinate, and the intrigue and plotting of conspirators. Refuting all of these tendencies head-on and clearly and frankly exposing the conflicting positions and interests of the various Islamic groupings will not in my view bring about peace, calm, and cooperation in the Muslim arena. However, arming Muslims, in particular the youth, with a clear knowledge and perception of Islamic ethics and norms of behaviour (adab) is a prerequisite and a guarantee for achieving such peace, harmony, and cooperation, God willing.

Knowledge of Islamic ethics and norms in dealing with differences, the consciousness of its principles on the part of various contending groups in the Ummah, and training Muslims to live according to these norms will undoubtedly release an abundance of energies in the Ummah - energies which are now dissipated and wasted in the theatres of futile internal conflicts. When the Muslim mind becomes conscious of its civilizational role it will seek to win back those who belong to the Ummah but who are alienated. Conscious workers for Islam are responsible for the urgent task of building a sound and stable base for the restoration of the unity and health of the Ummah, and eventually for rebuilding the civilization of Islam. A single moment separates life and death. If our determination is sincere there is nothing that can prevent us from recovering Muslims from anti-Islamic influences for, according to the promise of God, a day will come when the believers will rejoice in the help of God and lost will be, then and there, all who tried to reduce to nothing the truth they failed to understand.