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Foreword
by: (Reverend Canon) Peter Challen
to: Vol 4 of “Science and Epistemology in the Qur'an
by: Professor Masudul Alam Choudhury

All the great faiths seek surrender to God - and that is the literal meaning of "Islam". If people of other faiths and humanist traditions could graciously concede that the use of the word 'Islam' is a moral response to that surrender which is available to all persons of free will, then the way will be opened for a serious examination of the model that some Muslim scholars are seeking to apply to contemporary complexities in the social and economic order.

The key to that model lies in understanding the nature of surrender. In the past, surrender was often viewed rather narrowly as a personal concept, of submission of the individual will, while the obligation towards others was only one of charity. The more comprehensive view, however, is that surrender is a social concept - a surrender of individual selfishness in favour of serving others - and the obligation towards others is the far more extensive one of a duty to work for the overall, beneficial, restructuring of society. Indeed, we nowadays believe that, unless an active societal concern for others is the main part of our relationship with God, all else is at naught.

The change in understanding the nature of surrender is closely connected with change in the nature of physical reality. In times gone by, implementing a substantial and enduring help for others was difficult - the fate of most people was a grim unjust poverty for which charity was often the only, and usually totally inadequate, remedy.

Today, however, the situation has changed. The poverty remains but with the vast difference that we now have the technological capacity to eliminate it. Thus any failure to eliminate poverty is a failure to serve God; and the essence of morality, incumbent on us all, is a duty to work for inclusive structural justice. In the present world of conflict, furthermore, such justice is the only concept capable of uniting people of faith, and of good faith (1), in an impelling cause — transcending cultural and political boundaries — for the betterment of humankind.

Leading the cause with a remarkable range of extensive and profound books is Masudul Alam Choudhury. Choudhury's starting point is the Islamic concept of Tawhid — the Law of Divine Unity — which upholds the unity of knowledge in the analytical and observed world-system. Tawhid goes wider than knowledge, however, to embrace all aspects of life — social and economic systems, morality, finance, environment — so that there is an overall sense of relatedness and comprehensiveness. That sense also exists in the other great faiths which have concepts such as the reign of God, Shalom and Dharma etc to depict the totality and Unicity of the presence of God in everything.

The sense, however, does not mean we can assume that, one day, we shall be able to understand everything and see the connecting detail between all aspects of the universe. Indeed, in matters of human knowledge we are, in practice, forced to recognise that, at our present imperfect level of intellectual development, the everyday reality is often of observations, facts and interpretations which appear to be inconsistent with each other, even which tell against Unicity. In such circumstances, we have little alternative but to be patient and hope for better resolution and consistency when our knowledge improves. This has been recognised by Stephen Hawking who for many years has upheld the possibility of discovering a Grand Unified Theory (2). The goal of the GUT is a theory that unifies the four fundamental forces of nature — gravity, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force. Such a theory, Hawking opined in 1988, would enable us to "see into the mind of God".


Recently, however (2004), Hawking has expressed the view that the GUT is no longer possible (3). The main apparent problem in producing a GUT is that quantum mechanics and general relativity have radically different descriptions of the universe. Moreover, in 1931 Kurt Godel demonstrated that there are mathematical statements that can never be proved, the implication being that a theory of everything is certain to be either incomplete or inconsistent.

A similar point has been made by Anne Primavesi who doubts that any form of mere language — be it theological or scientific — can ever fully express the reality of "all there is". With recognition of the limits of language comes awareness that a God who eludes verbal categories has broken other bounds as well.—

(Thus) the usual confines within which we place and then describe God are seen to be all on our side of the horizon. Paradox shows them up for what they are, and dismantles them sufficiently to give God room; room to be God of the whole earth system; enchanting and terrible, giver of life and death, not separate from and not confused with the world and its sacred gift events. (4)

In sum, therefore, we can sense that the universe has Unicity but, in matters of scientific, even theological, knowledge, until as such time as Unicity is revealed to us in more extensive detail, we have to do our best with the information and understandings at our present disposal. In one huge respect, however, there is an undoubted Unicity and that is the duty, incumbent on us all, to work for structural justice.

Which raises the question — What is meant by "structural justice"? Generally, structural justice includes the need for:—

— all individuals to be continually and sufficiently productive so that they have income sufficient for their reasonable needs
— a basic income for all
— societies to rule themselves and not be ruled by outsiders
— reasonableness and fairness within societies
— a lessening of rich-poor division
— good health and education systems
— a focussing of financial activity on the real, productive economy
— an end to a financial system bent on putting the whole world into debt

To which can be added two matters of, at first sight, only Islamic - but, in fact, universal - concern. They are the need for:-
— a revival of the ummah (or comity of Islamic nations) - this is essentially the need of all societies to achieve the best flowering of which they are capable
— an end to the imposition of riba (interest). Riba is not only wrong in the eyes of Islam but wrong in the sense that the continually debilitating imposition of interest, in any society, is not necessary.

Generally stating a concept and its several aspects, however, is far from enough. Ideas are ten for a penny but, unless their important aspects are highlighted and embodied in practical mechanisms, they might as well not have been stated in the first place.

Of first importance is the creation of wealth for, without wealth, we have little hope of improving the lot of our fellows. As for the practical mechanism to create wealth, experience indicates the virtue of a genuinely free and open market. But - and it is a very big "but" - the present so-called "free market" of neo-classical economics is not a genuinely free and open market. Nor is it, as the neo-classicists claim, an efficient market. Nor are its outcomes just and fair. Since 1989, of course, there has been much arrogant boasting about the alleged merits of the "free market". Those alleged merits, however, stem only from the fact that, compared with the miserable material performance of communism and socialism, the present "free market" is undoubtedly the more efficient (5). However, as compared to what is possible, the "free market" is massively unfree (working well only for the few), massively inefficient, massively unjust, and massively unfair (6).

Now consider the existence of private property. Because private property is intimately related with the workings of the market, "free market" rhetoric robustly upholds its worth. But - and it is another big "but" - private property at present (in particular, the ownership of productive capital) is not owned by all and, in practice, is owned only by the few.


And there is a third major matter. Neo-classical economics upholds Say's Theorem (Law). The Theorem says that, in a market economy, the total market value of the wealth produced is equal to the total purchasing power created by the process of production and therefore that supply creates its own demand. The Theorem also requires that producers and consumers must be the same people. But, at present, there is undoubtedly a huge potential supply which does not create its own demand. Moreover, producers and consumers are not the same people. That is to say, at present, Say's Theorem (Law) most certainly does not work in practice. In other words, things at present are not half as perfect as they are claimed to be and the prowess of the so-called "free market" is in considerable doubt.

All of which raises some fascinating questions: -

Suppose the "free market" did work efficiently for everyone (as opposed to the few), and was patently fair and just? Suppose private property, in particular, the ownership of productive capital, was spread, on market principles, to all individuals throughout the population? Suppose supply did create its own demand because producers and consumers are the same people?

Indeed, if "free market" rhetoric were to be a genuine reflection of actual reality, then would there not be a situation of huge inherent possibility?

At which point attention is drawn to a fourth, and very extraordinary, matter. Just as the lack of freedom in the "free market", the narrow ownership of productive capital, and the inoperativeness of Say's Theorem are rarely commented upon (at least by neo-classical economists) so, even rarer, is comment made on the crucial fact that, today, the supply of new money for our economy is created out of nothing by private bankers. Yes, the money which is central to our economy and an extensive part of our daily lives, is not created by the State but by the banking system which does it at the touch of a computer button. The banking system then adds interest (which is distinct from administrative charges) and demands repayment. In the UK, an amazing 97% of the new money supply is interest-bearing loans created in this way.

Which might not matter too much if the new money were to be directed at productive capacity, a capacity having new owners coming from those who were formerly without capital. But, alas, today's money supply goes into ripping off consumers, inflating existing assets, building up upside-down pyramids of derivatives which could bring down the whole global financial system and, in particular, into putting country after country into a huge debt which can never be repaid. Society's money supply — society's money supply — is now in the hands of the few who care only for their own interest and not that of the society. The situation is shocking yet the neo-classicists economists ignore it.

Fortunately, a new thinking is arising and Masudul Choudhury is giving the lead. In essence, distinction is made between exogenous and endogenous money. Exogenous money is either money coming from abroad or money created by the international banking system operating within a country. It takes the form of interest-bearing loans which are not directed at productive capacity and furthering the needs of society; and which hand control of society either to a narrow elite or to outsiders.

In happy contrast, endogenous money, although repayable, bears no interest and is always directed at productive capacity. "Endogenous" means coming or growing from within. Thus an endogenous money supply means a money supply arising from within the society. In the case of Islamic societies, that means money issued by the bayt al mar — the Islamic Treasury — and in the case of other societies, money issued by the central bank.

An endogenous money supply is of immense importance because it is capable of ensuring, among other things:—
i) economic and social justice
ii) an end to riba
iii) a direct linking of new money to productive capacity
iv) a widespread ownership of productive capital
v) an increase in political freedoms
vi) an efficient wealth creation
vii) a basic income for all inhabitants
viii) policy to unite inhabitants who have different linguistic, religious, geographical and ethnic backgrounds
ix) an ability of a society to control its own destiny as opposed to being ruled by outsiders and others
x) a new economic system (7) which, by a proper use of interest-free loans, spreads productive capacity to all individuals in the population so that they produce (and thus earn) independently of whether or not they also have a conventional job. The result is a combination of efficiency with social and economic justice (8).

The new endogenous money ensures that a society's currency is always backed by productive assets. Taking the form of state-issued, interest-free loans (administered by the private banking system) it is directly related to the real economy, made repayable and, when repaid, is cancelled or cancellable. It has four main uses (9) :—

Public capital investment thereby allowing hospitals, roads, bridges, sewage works, fire stations, schools etc. to be constructed for one half, or one third of the present cost. Over time, the National Debt would reduce. However, the capital projects can still, if wished, be built by the private sector, managed by the private sector, even owned by the private sector. The key point is that the cost, at the very least, is being halved.

Private capital investment if such investment creates new owners of capital and is part of policy to enable all individuals, over time, on market principles, to become owners of substantial amounts of productive capital. By using state-issued interest-free loans, administered by the banking system on market principles, a company/corporation would get cheap money as long as new shareholders are created (11).

Green capital investment, particularly for clean, renewable energy. At present, using interest-bearing loans, a lot of green technology is not financially viable. With interest-free loans, however, it would become viable. Thus we could have, for example, clean electricity through tidal barrages, dams, windmills, wave machines, solar electricity, and geothermal power stations.

Small and start-up businesses thereby freeing them from the crushing pressure of interest-bearing debt. (In the case of small and start-up businesses, there would be no requirement for wide ownership.)

These uses would combine with a genuinely Islamic Banking (which, unlike conventional banking, does not create money out of nothing, nor use riba - interest). They have huge practical implications not least that the cost of all productive capital investment is reduced to a half or less of what it costs at present (12). Moreover, there would be a money supply whose origin is not fraudulent because it is directly and continuously related to the real economy with counter-inflationary effect (13).

Perhaps best of all, the widespread ownership of productive capital would give all owners a stake in the economic success, and social cohesion, of their society. By profoundly involving all individuals in the economy through individual capital ownership, political unity can be built. Countries with different ethnic, religious, linguistic or other groupings will be able to give all their people a strong sense of common cause and purpose.

Please note that Complementary Currencies are endogenous money already in widespread use as a medium of exchange in many local trading systems. Complementary currencies are:-
a) created within the society
b) directly related to provision of a good or service
c) cannot be inflationary
d) have no interest attached
e) have no debt to the banking system
f) are not created out of nothing

It is not suggested that this form of endogenous money is a complete substitute for a national currency, but it enables goods and services to be produced (and in effect directly monetised, but without using ordinary money) to facilitate socioeconomic intercourse.

If there ever was a time when fertility, positive attitude and momentum are required to achieve extensive change, it is now. In the case of Islamic societies, the implementation of the new thinking will see the rise of the ummah as a new comity of proud, self-reliant societies giving a lead to a world sorely in need of such a lead. Non-Islamic and secular societies will be able to achieve their best potential (as opposed to being prevented from achieving their best potential which is the situation at present).

Any society - Islamic, or non-Islamic - which embraces the new thinking will not only have a huge material success but, just as importantly, will be in a position to give a moral and material leadership to the rest of the world.

These, then, are the underlying aims of the great and ongoing work of Masudul Choudhury. We shall diminish ourselves if we fail to follow his lead.


Footnotes:

1. The phrase "of good faith" covers those having religious faith and honesty of intention as well as those who may lack the religious faith but still have the honesty of intention.

2. Stephen Hawking holds the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University, UK, the most famous academic Chair in the world. A previous holder was Isaac Newton.

3. http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/strtst/dirac/hawking/

4. The underlying problem is that if there are mathematical results which cannot be proved, there are physical problems that cannot be predicted. Thus we are not angels or gods viewing the universe from the outside. Rather, humans and any mathematical models they make are on the inside - they are part of the universe they are attempting to describe. So, far from there ever being a GUT, there will always be something new to discover.

5. Anne Primavesi, Sacred Gaia - holistic theology and earth system science. The great Italian scientist Galileo expressed a similar view. The way, he observed, is paradoxical. '"The (Christian) Bible shows us the way to go to Heaven, but it does not show us the ways the heavens go." This pithy statement encourages us to sense the paradoxical nature of a loving, creative God who is affected by earthly contingencies.

6. Since the fall of communism in 1989, the apologists for neo-classical economics (which now prevails throughout the world) boast that so-called "free market" capitalism has won; that it cannot be bettered; and that history (in the sense of the possibility of any substantial change to economic and political systems) has come to an end. See Francis Fukyama, The End of History and The Last Man, 1992.

7. The reader may wish to consider the following questions:- Why is it that when there is undoubtedly sufficient productive capacity in the world, there still exist widespread unmet needs and wants? Why are 20% of the world's population existing on under $1 per day; 40% existing on under $2 per day; and 55% existing on under $3 per day - with the situation likely to get worse in the coming decades? Why are there huge strata of misery and poverty within the purported "free market" societies, the USA, for example? Just the asking of these questions - at a time when everybody knows that the worldâs factories and farms are physically capable of solving material problems - points to large-scale failure thus putting into considerable doubt the claim of neo-classical economics that it promotes a system which cannot be substantially bettered.

8. The monetary system needed to express Islam must be different from that at present existing in the West - Masudul Alam Choudhury, Money in Islam (Routledge, 1997). See also, Masudul Alam Choudhury, The Islamic World-system (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004).

9. Rodney Shakespeare & Peter Challen, Seven Steps to Justice (New European Publications, 2002). See also http://www.globaljusticemovement.net

10. Very significantly, these four uses — for public capital projects; private capital projects if wide ownership is involved; green capital investment; and small business — would back the currency with assets, break the grip of usury and, because they are directly related to productive capacity, would be counter-inflationary. The counter-inflation would happen because, once the capital project is built, and the money is repaid, the money is cancelled, leaving the productive capital asset behind. The four uses, moreover, would implement a genuine free, fair and efficient market; throw off foreign and financial elite control, and address social and economic justice through the spreading of wide capital ownership and its associated capital income.

11. The techniques for doing this are those of binary economics. "Binary" means "composed of two" and there are two factors in production — labour and capital. Thus there are also two ways of genuinely earning — either though owning your own labour and/or through owning capital. The main object of binary economics is to ensure that all individuals in the population have access to both ways of earning. All really does mean all — carers, retired, sick, unemployed, women, children and men. Everybody, over time, on market principles, comes to own an increasing amount of productive capital paying out its full earnings. Binary economics gives a capital acquisition right, to every individual. Operating on market principles, this right enables any individual to acquire efficient, income-generating capital assets. The assets pay for themselves out of their earnings and, thereafter, with full payout of earnings, provide capital income to the owners. See Binary Economics - the new paradigm, by Robert Ashford & Rodney Shakespeare, (University Press of America, 1999).

12. Governments borrow interest-bearing money from the banking system in order to finance public capital projects. As a result, the UK National Debt costs every person £8/9 per week - which sum is paid out of taxes. Since people resent too much taxation, the solution is interest-free loans for public capital investment.

13. In The Islamic World-system, Masudul Alam Choudhury proposes that the issuance of money should be linked to gold with a 100% reserve requirement i.e., if a sum of money is issued, there must be gold of equivalent value held in reserve.

Peter Challen, London, 2004

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