Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Islam and Economics

I want to briefly devote a blog to economics and Islam. I have personally undergone a difficult financial period during the past year due to the sluggish economy and was reflecting on how Islam protects our economic freedom and sanity. I want to illustrate an important point with a simple economic paradigm - that of the farmer and the masses. To a large extent, a landowner or farmer can be seen as the first economic agent of modern civilization since industrialization is a product of agrarianism. Let's examine these concepts closely. Let us take the simple organizational model of the family farm. Here, a farmer who owns a piece of land is able to utilize simple or advanced farming methods to cultivate the land and produce crops that sell on the market. He might own farm tools such as wheelbarrows and plows, pitchforks and spades. He might also raise livestock and employ traditional or natural methods of farming and irrigation. The farmer is ultimately responsible for his farm and his machines, methods and know-how are essential for his continued productivity. The tools also depreciate in value as they are used over time. There is a unique balance that must be met for this type of economic activity to occur. Quality agriculture is almost always based on fairness and shared work ethics. The ability of the farmer's methods and machines to produce economic benefit is also an appreciable asset. The spade, one concludes, has investment potential and has depreciation value. Thus, the use of these tools must promote fair economic practices or they would be ill-used. Thus the farmer must maintain a unique agricultural balance to be profitable. The entire operation of the ideal farm is an economic greenhouse of sorts that sustains itself through a self-sufficient process. In reality, the farm benefits others who depend on the agricultural production. Thus, the farm supports civic and community life through the provision of food supplies to the masses. The masses must therefore be able to acquire the food at reasonable rates and apply it for their own sustenance or other needs. Thus, the farm is an essential component to the dynamism of civil life. For the farm to continue to operate in a proper way it must be supported by the masses, who in turn need to be highly sophisticated economic consumers. If this does not occur, the entire economic balance of the farm and the community it serves is threatened. This is where Islam can be most effective. Why - because its central tenets encourage good economic practices that support the natural order of economic conditions. It asks the masses to build homes, roads, mosques and schools to create thriving economic conditions that ultimately support and uphold agricultural efforts. Both are symbiotic and complementary. Ultimately, the burden is on the economic agents to fulfill their duties. Islam teaches us to be fair and fearful of God - and that is the ultimate check on our actions - thus, the farmer who is righteous will reap an abundant harvest and the public who buys his goods will also be well served if they are mindful of their roles and duties. Thus, the economy will thrive and individuals will prosper, civic life will flourish, peace and prosperity will spread and natural economic progress will be preserved. The farmer and the masses are a good basis for any discussion on Islam and economics.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Biology and Time

I'd like to follow-up my previous blog that addressed the topic of faith and time and the need for worship with a current blog on biology and time. Biology and time are important concepts and again share a symbiotic relationship. While time exists irrespective of biological beings, biology is a time sensitive matter. Why is that the case? We measure human and animal years in terms of time and over time, biology dramatically changes from the time we are born to the time that we die. Biology is an interesting concept and advances in science help us to prolong our physical states and increase our time on the planet. The planet too ages as we learn from scientific data and carbon dating, but does time age? Thus our relationship to overall time itself, is irrespective of our existence. Does science conflict with destiny? The answer is plainly no since science is a measurement of our collective human progress and is the result of our collective destiny. Why does time seem to evoke such wonder and awe for human beings. Animals and other biological organisms seem to accept life and death despite scientific intervention. One can contend that all is the result of divine destiny since biological inference doesn't preclude biology itself and only offers a vague objective view of the world around us. When we measure time, we learn that human beings as biological creatures have an average life span that they use to fulfill existential obligations like shopping, eating and working. However, when human beings utilize their free will for ill purposes, they undermine the value of time for the worship of God, which is our ultimate goal. While science prolongs our time, crime and other random occurrences can abruptly and arbitrarily end someone's life without a sufficient justification for time - though one can contend that all is the will of God. However, while we exercise free will, we acknowledge that crime and violence are a fundamental misuse of our time as it relates to universal laws. Time is the great onlooker that never lifts or rears its head to acknowledge our woes and suffering. Therefore, human beings must rely on each other. They must help each other cross the bridge of time that they traverse on their own two feet and worship in a collective manner to seek the favor of God. It is in our nature to accept the finite value of biological time when we are born and seek the infinite value of God's blessings. How do we cope as biological beings when faced with the uncertain and unpredictable nature of time and space and use our willpower to achieve good. Religion seems to be the key to unravel our worst fears. Every action that we take in this world is also inextricably bound to the dimensions of time and we must pursue our worldly goals in a way that does not obstruct our faith. We are able to love, pray, worship and care for one another not that this is a futile destiny but that this is our biological, human obligation. Time seems to stand outside of our ourselves and we seem to stand inside of time. What we endure as biological beings should not defile our souls nor our transcedence when we have carried out the will of God. We must heed the solemn words of Shakespeare when he writes:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death, —
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, — puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know naught of?

And like Othello too, we must obey time and let time not slip but to seize the moment like a sharp sword and carry out God's will so that God will slightly reach out his hand. Our life is meaningless without sufficient adulation and praise for God.