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Summary of 8.4 "Consumption"

In the previous program we started to apply the broad principles in Islamic economic foundation on specific topics.  We started dealing with the question of consumption.  In order to make it easy to understand we compared the Islamic view of economics compared to the Western way of looking at it.  The comparison included five basic points.  First, we addressed succes and we indicated that in Islam success is not only economic success but has to do with success in this life and the hereafer.  Second, we addressed the time horizon of disicion making.  We said that for a Muslim this involves short term, medium range as well as long term: this life and the hereafter, this generation and future generations.  Third the idea of wealth is not viewed as all evil or all good but a means rather than ends.  The fourth point is the notion of economic comoduty or goods which is not simply what someone wants or somthing that can be consumed because in Islam an item is not regarded as good if it is contrary to moral laws like drugs or other vices.  Finally, the fifth point was that in consumption there are certain ethics that the Quran astablishes such as avoiding miserlyness or excessiveness and keeping a reasonable ballance.


8.5 Production: Qur’anic Foundation


Host:  What in your opinion motivates a true Muslim to be productive?


Jamal Badawi:

Based on the fundamental principles, those covered in the first program of this series, the human being is created as the trustee of God.  One of our duties as human beings is to establish a civilization which combines moral values as well as material values.  We indicated that God created the universe and all the resources in the universe in order to help us fulfill this duty of trusteeship.  It follows that exploration of the various resources and harnessing them is not permissible but is a duty, similar to the duty of worship or certain acts of prayer because worship in Islam involves all aspects of life.  To specifically address motivation for productivity a Muslim shares with others one aspect of this motivation as people need to be productive in order to survive economically and improve their wellbeing.  There is no dispute that a Muslim economist would look at it in the same way.  Beyond that a true Muslim would have a strong motivation to be productive, not only to survive or improve but to obey God.  The Quran exhorts the human to be active and to be productive and to benefit from the resources that God has provided for which they get reward not only in this life but in the here after.  This expands the view of a person and keeps them motivated at a much higher and stronger level.  One of the supplications that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to say is “Oh God I seek refuge in you from worry and grief and from helplessness and laziness.”  So he considered helplessness and laziness as something that is negative and we should seek refuge from it and try to avoid it.


Host:  This seems to be the opposite of what the media in the West which portrays Islam to be opposed to progress?


Jamal Badawi:

This notion which is common nowadays is a myth.  This is incorrect conceptually and untrue historically.  There is not a single verse in the entire Quran that can be construed as giving a negative attitude or approach towards legitimate progress and improvement of the human lot.  The contrary is true as the Quran is full of verses and directives for one to benefit from the universe and to benefit humanity at large.


Host:  What are some of the examples that are found in the Quran?


Jamal Badawi:

Some things that were quite crucial in any age but throughout history we looked at agricultural resources, water resources, fisheries and animal resources.  In regards to agriculture in the Quran in (13:4) it says “And in the earth are tracts (diverse though) neighboring, and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees - growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who understand!”  There is reference there as to how to benefit from agricultural resources and regard it as a bounty or blessing from God.  Water resources as it relates to agriculture is found in the Quran in (22:5) “Thou seest the earth barren and lifeless, but when We pour down rain on it, it is stirred (to life), it swells, and it puts forth every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs).”  There is frequent reference in the Quran to rainfall long before scientists could make the clear connection between rainfall and springs and water that is soaked up into the earth.  In (39:21) “Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth? Then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colors: then it withers; thou wilt see it grow yellow; then He makes it dry up and crumble away. Truly, in this, is a Message of remembrance to men of understanding.”  In addition to the benefit of water for agricultural purposes the Quran encourages using the seas for sea faring purposes.  In (45:12) “  It is Allah Who has subjected the sea to you, that ships may sail through it by His command, that ye may seek of his Bounty, and that ye may be grateful.”  Seeking the Bounty of God in this case does not only refer to sea fairing but is a reference to all kinds of resources that could be harnessed.  We mentioned that the third example is in the area of fishing and again in the Quran refers to this in more than one place.

In (16:14) the Quran says “It is He Who has made the sea subject, that ye may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and that ye may extract therefrom ornaments to wear; and thou seest the ships therein that plough the waves, that ye may seek (thus) of the bounty of Allah and that ye may be grateful.”  We hear about the resent “Laws of the Sea” and the various conferences which deal with the various utilizations that can be made out of the oceans whether we are referring to tidal powers or minerals, while the Quran opens the door wide for exploring all these resources and benefiting from it.  The fourth example I suggested was animal wealth as we find in the Quran in (16:5) which is a reference not only to animals as a source of food but to the variety of uses and industries that may grow as a result.  This verse says “And cattle He has created for you (men): from them ye derive warmth, and numerous benefits, and of their (meat) ye eat.”  Warmth refers to leather industries and hides, it also refers to numerous benefits which refers to the various resources they provide and the meat ye eat refers to the various meat industries.  Then it continues in (16:6-7) “And ye have a sense of pride and beauty in them as ye drive them home in the evening, and as ye lead them forth to pasture in the morning.  And they carry your heavy loads to lands that ye could not (otherwise) reach except with souls distressed: for your Lord is indeed Most Kind, Most Merciful.”  This is perhaps an early mention of the trucking industry; it talks about animals carrying our loads and if God has given us the resources in order to replace animals with trucks or cars this is a reference to the area of transportation.  These are only a few examples among many others found in the Quran.  In fact it can all be summarized in one verse which is found in the (2:29) “It is He Who hath created for you all things that are on earth.”  All created everything on earth available to us so where is the contradiction to progress and creativity in the basic moral teachings of Islam?

Host:  Is it permissible to explore things in out of space and derive benefit from it?


Jamal Badawi:

In several verses in the Quran when God talks about making everything on earth subservient to humans many of them also say ‘and in the heavens.”  An example of this is found in (45:13) “And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect.”  This shows that it is not only permissible to use these forces if one wants to discover and benefit from things that are in Mars or the Moon.  This contrasts some ideas that proceeded Islam or even succeeded Islam where the exploration of space or learning about the starts was regarded heretical or an encroachment on the domain of God.  The Quran doesn’t look at it this way, it says that the God created it for us and if we have the ability, technology and science to explore and benefit from space then we should go ahead.  This not only includes harnessing possible resources that might exist in space but also trying to understand the laws that God created in nature.


Host: We can infer that the study of natural laws and phenomena is encouraged by the Quran?


Jamal Badawi:

It is not only urged but we find numerous references in the Quran trying to open our eyes to these laws that God has created.  For example the alteration of day and night as it relates to many other phenomena which relates to economic prosperity.  We find in in the Quran in (24:44) “It is Allah Who alternates the Night and the Day: verily in these things is an instructive example for those who have vision.”  In a very moving passage in the Quran which opened the door wide for exploration of the various phenomena in the universe (3:190-191) “Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding,-Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): “Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.”  This is a spiritual verse that deals with the worship of God, supplication, with the knowledge and proof of the existence and the hand of God in the creation of this universe.  That spiritual part is inseparable from the part of the verse that says “and contemplate” which is encouragement to study the wonders that God has placed in the universe.


The study of rain is directly related to economic aspects.  I will leave it to scientists to judge how in the 7th century a person revealed this kind of revelation.  In the Quran in (24:43) it says “Seest thou not that Allah makes the clouds move gently, then joins them together, then makes them into a heap? - then wilt thou see rain issue forth from their midst. And He sends down from the sky mountain masses (of clouds) wherein is hail: He strikes therewith whom He pleases and He turns it away from whom He pleases, the vivid flash of His lightning well-nigh blinds the sight.”  Again this questions whether or not humans have not thought, studied this phenomena in nature.  In the Quran in (36:36-40) we find an interesting reference to a number of phenomenas in nature which again encourages us to study them “And a Sign for them is the Night: We withdraw therefrom the Day, and behold they are plunged in darkness; And the sun runs his course for a period determined for him: that is the decree of (Him), the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing.  And the Moon,- We have measured for her mansions (to traverse) till she returns like the old (and withered) lower part of a date-stalk.  It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).”  Not only does the Quran endorse humanity to search, understand and learn the various phenomena that God has created but it even blames or criticizes those who do not use this capability.  There are many verses in the Quran that emphasizes if they have not contemplated the domain of heavens and earth and what God created therein?

Host:  What is the attitude of Islam regarding learning science?


Jamal Badawi:

Islam does not considers knowledge and science to be the antithesis of faith.  Faith in Islam doesn’t mean the acceptance of dogmatic assertions or acceptance of things which are totally incoherent and logically impossible.  We are not saying that Islam says that reason is a god to be worshiped and there are certain things that are beyond the ability human intelligence but this is different from saying that a human being is required to accept something that is totally contradictory to the logical stand point.  In fact it suffices to say that the very first word, no even verse, revealed in the Quran was Iqra’ which means recite or read.  The very few verses that were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when he was contemplating in the cave of Hirra outside of Mecca included teaching with the pen.  This shows use of the possible tools of learning.  We also find that the Quran, in numerous verses, praises learning regardless of the field (science, humanities etc) including the mandatory requirements of his or her faith.  All these types of learning are highly praised.  In fact the Quran indicates that through learning God will raise people in degrees those who are believers and those who are given knowledge.  The Quran makes it clear that we can not equate knowledge with the lack of it.  In the Quran (39:39) it says “Say: "Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition.”

In fact the Quran in there is a verse that makes a connection between science and fear of God and that those are really given knowledge are those who heed God.  The same kind of attitude towards science and learning.  For example in Al-Bihaqui it says seeking knowledge is mandatory on every Muslim.  He said seek knowledge even in China (he was talking to people in Arabia) which means even if one has to travel far distances one has to seek knowledge.  In a saying narrated in Abu Dawood and al-Tirmidhi  the Prophet says that any person who takes a path towards knowledge, God will facilitate a road for him towards the Heavens; the angels would lower their wings to the person in satisfaction; a person who who is knowledgable has everyone in the heavens and earth seeking forgiveness for him (even the fish will ask for forgiveness for him).  The advantage of a person who is learned over one who is worshipping without knowledge is like the advantage of the moon over other stars.  The scientists or people who are given true knowledge are the hairs of the prophets (who have never left money behind) who left knowledge.  It is so highly praise worthy that it is equated with jihad.  In al-Tirmidhi the Prophet says he who goes out in the pursuit of knowledge is actually struggling in the path of God.

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