Monday, 28 November 2016

Imam al-Ghazali on Communism, plus the true story of Thanksgiving

An early warning against central planning, and where Thanksgiving comes from


Please watch this video and learn how Thanksgiving was the result of settlers discovering property rights and the free market. For the first several years, they starved to death in droves because their leaders implemented a collectivist policy: each according to his ability, each according to his need. Inevitably, the needy greatly outnumbered the able and man-made famine was the inexorable result. Socialism, communism, collectivism, whatever you wish to call it, causes death and destruction on a massive scale. What was unique about the settlers in Virginia in the early 1600s CE was that there was no previously accumulated wealth that they could fall back on, and thus starvation and famine were the immediate consequence. When collectivist/leftist/Marxist ideas are implemented in a more developed economy, it takes a bit longer for those same results to come to fruition because the economy can keep going a bit longer based on whatever wealth it has accumulated. The European Union and United States are clear examples of this, but the result will be the same if there is no drastic change of course.

The point about need immediately reminded me of Imam al-Ghazali's words in his The Book of the Lawful and the Unlawful. What we have below is a brilliant and scathing critique of Marxism avant la lettre, or before its time, by about 800 years. The important part is in the last two paragraphs and the emphases added in italics are mine:

'I say: If the unlawful in this world were so widespread such that it was known with certainty that nothing lawful remained in the world, I would say that we start again, laying down stipulations from our time and pardoning what has preceded us. We also say that what goes beyond its limit is turned back into its opposite,[1] such that when everything is unlawful everything is lawful. The proof is that if this were to happen, the possibilities would be five:
The first: It is said that people abandon eating until the last of them has died.
The second: That they restrict themselves according to the minimum amount they need to keep body and soul together, struggling for as long as they can until death.
The third: It is said that they consume according to their need however they want; theft, wrongful seizure, or mutual consent without distinguishing between different kinds of wealth and different sources of wealth.
The fourth: That they follow the stipulations of the Revealed Law and they resume applying its principles without any restriction according to need.
The fifth: That they restrict themselves, along with the stipulations of the Revealed Law, according to need.
As for the first, its falsehood is obvious.
As for the second, it is decisively false, because if people were to be restricted to keeping themselves alive, struggling all the time in weakness, plague would spread amongst them. All work and industry would come to an end and the world would be completely ruined, and the ruin of the world would mean the ruin of the Religion, because it is the plantation of the Hereafter. The rulings of the caliphate,[2] the judiciary, the administration and indeed most of the rulings of jurisprudence, have the objective of preserving the interests of this world, so that through them the interests of the Religion can be fulfilled.
As for the third, which is restriction according to need and not going beyond it while all forms of wealth regarded as equal, regardless of whether they are acquired by way of wrongful seizure, theft, mutual consent, or however an agreement is made, this is removing the barrier of the Revealed Law between those who sow corruption and the various kinds of corruption, for hands will reach out to wrongfully seize, steal and commit other kinds of oppression, and it will not be possible to prevent them from doing so. Hence, the owner of something is not distinguished from the rest of us by being deserving of it, for indeed it is unlawful for him and unlawful for us. The owner can only have the amount that he needs. If he is in need then we are also in need. If what I take as my right is surplus to what I need, then I have stolen what was surplus to his need for that day. If the needs of each day and each year are not taken into consideration, then what do we take into consideration and how do we regulate? This would lead to the administration of the Revealed Law being nullified[3] and the temptation of the people of corruption to commit corruption.
Thus, nothing remains but the fourth possibility, which is to say that every owner owns what he has, and he has priority over it. It is not permissible for it to be taken from him by way of theft or wrongful seizure. Rather, it is taken with his consent, and mutual consent is the way of the Revealed Law. If it is only permissible with mutual consent then mutual consent also has a method in the Revealed Law, and interests are attached to it. If it is not taken into consideration, then the foundation of mutual consent is not specified and its details are suspended.
 As for the fifth possibility, which is restriction according to need along with earning in the way of the Revealed Law for those who have ownership, it is the one that we view as befitting of carefulness for the one who wants to travel the path of the Hereafter. However, there is no way[4] to make it obligatory for everyone, or to include it within a fatwā for the masses. This is because the hands of oppressive rulers extend beyond the amount they need and into the hands[5] of people. The same goes for the hands of thieves, everyone who robs and plunders and everyone who steals when they have the opportunity. He says that he has no right except the amount that he needs, and I too am needy. Nothing remains except it being obligatory for the ruler to extract everything that is surplus to need from the hands of owners and use it to accommodate the people of need and cause the wealth to flow amongst everyone day after day, year after year. This contains excessive burden and a squandering of wealth. As for the excessive burden, it is that the ruler cannot carry this out with such a large creation. Indeed, this cannot be imagined at all.
As for the squandering, it is that what is surplus to need, in terms of fruits, meats and grains, should be thrown into the sea, or left until it decomposes. Indeed, the fruits and grains that Allah creates are surplus to what would allow the creation to live in comfort and luxury, so how can it be according to their need? Then it would lead to the breakdown of the Pilgrimage, zakāt and financial expiations for sins, and every other act of worship that is conditional on being independent of people, if people come to own nothing except according to their need, and this is extremely repulsive. Indeed, I say that if a prophet were found in this age it would be obligatory upon him to resume the affair[6] and set down in detail the means of acquiring property through mutual consent, and all other ways, and he would do what he would do even if all wealth were lawful without any difference. What I mean by saying that it would be obligatory upon him is that if he were a prophet who had been sent for the benefit of creation in terms of their Religion and their worldly affairs. Hence, propriety[7] is not achieved by pushing everyone back to what they need and what is absolutely necessary. If he were not sent for the sake of propriety this wouldn’t be obligatory. We say that it is possible for Allah to decree a cause through which the creation destroys each other, and thus their worldly affairs are relinquished and they become misguided in their religion, for indeed He misguides whom He wills and He guides whom He wills. He causes to die whom He wills and He causes to live whom He wills. However, we evaluate the matter according to the standard practice of Allah the Exalted in sending Prophets for the propriety of the Religion and worldly affairs.'[8]

May Allah reward Imam al-Ghazali for his insight and may He cause us all to benefit from his knowledge and widsom, ameen. For Muslims in the Anglosphere, and especially the United States, it helps to know where holidays and special occasions come from. Secondly, it helps to recognise and acknowledge that the lessons to be learnt were taught by our own scholars, several centuries prior, and with Allah alone is every success.

[1] (tn): and this is similar to the maxim that whenever a matter is constricted, it is expanded, i.e. the unlawful becomes lawful in dire circumstances. (Zabīdī p.53)
[2] Ar. al-khilāfah
[3] (tn): i.e. completely (Zabīdī)
[4] (tn): Ar. wajh, which also means cause, or reason.
[5] (tn): or pockets
[6] (tn): i.e. of Islam
[7] (tn): Ar. ṣalāḥ
[8] (tn): These last two paragraphs are a refutation of communism. Not to go beyond one’s needs is praiseworthy, but it cannot be forced upon an entire society without causing destruction on a massive scale.

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