by Mustafa Howard August 1, 2016
[a note from the author: in this article, I will use the name God in place of Allah, although this is not my typical preference. It is my hope that this article will be read both in and beyond the Muslim community. The name God is preferred for clarity to all.]
If you are living in the U.S., your Deen [way of life] is capitalism. It doesn’t matter which religious label you ascribe to. Secularism does not permit Islam as Deen, only as religion, to be practiced in your private space and time. Public and political citizenry are defined and contained by the laws of state-implemented capitalism, the only Deen that is allowed to dictate public policy. This presents a serious problem for Muslims, though it’s never spoken of; we’re not allowed to accept any Deen other than Islam.
وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الْإِسْلَامِ دِينًا فَلَن يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
And whoever seeks a way of life other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.
Capitalism Began with Land Enclosure
“God only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.”
“It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein.”
“He who emigrates (from his home) in the Path of God, will find on earth many dwelling places and plenty to live by.”
Karl Polanyi discussed one of the major changes that predicated capitalism and the beginning of market-society: the “enclosure” of land. Open “common” lands, once occupied by nomads, small villages, and the peasant farmers living for free on the land of a nobleman, were drawn into parcels, assigned ownership, bought, sold, and rented. This forced humans to begin paying rent just for a place to sit or sleep. It also forced urbanization; the move from country to city for seeking “wage employment”, a newly-created disaster which was previously uncommon.
Another effect is that land itself began to rapidly increase in monetary “value”. Meaning that simply existing as a human started to incur the cost of rent, and that rent was rapidly increasing, forcing many into debt. The new utilization of land for profit-generation was deemed “improvement”, but only by those who were profiting. The poor were immediately disadvantaged and forced into a newly created “wage slavery” and “rent slavery”. This raises a serious moral question that was ignored and forgotten: does any human being, born on this earth by the Providence of God, owe another human being payment for the right to occupy space, to farm, or to sleep?
So, here I highlight the contrast between the Qur’anic Earth, belonging to God and lent to humanity, and the capitalist Earth, owned by the individual or the corporation, leaving no rights to humanity; rather, the obligation for rent and wage-slavery.
Now, industrialization is destroying the planet. Poisoned rivers and aquifers. Acidic oceans. Topsoil that will be eroded to nothing by 2070. And an Earth gifted to us by God that we are baking as though in a giant oven of greenhouse gas.
In his thesis Obligations to Future Generations, mufti Musa Furber lays-out the Shari’a arguments that we are obligated to preserve the Earth and its resources, as God has given them to us, for future generations.
A Capitalist Profits from Labor Exploitation
Our Beloved Prophet S.A.W. said: “Whoever oppressed another for a hand span measure of land will have a collar of seven lands placed around his neck on the Day of Judgment.”
And in The Qur’an: “so give full measure and full weight and do not short-change mankind in their goods, and work not corruption in the earth after the fair ordering thereof. That will be better for you, if ye are believers.” This verse is incredibly significant. Singularly, it ties together:
- giving full payment without under-payment
- tied to the ideas of corruption vs. fair and proper order
- and that this is part of being Believers
Human beings were forced off of their common land which was then assigned to private ownership by arbitrary legalization. By that, I mean a monarch, a noble, a judge, or a parliament made an arbitrary decision to legalize the private ownership, typically consigning full rights to everything on the land or under it, while other decisions could have been made. Human beings were then left with the options to be exploited as workers on the land, typically forced to pay rent therefor, or to relocate into the squalor of towns and cities. It was during this time and situation that the dismal writings of Charles Dickens emerged, which typically exposed the contrast between Haves and Have-nots.
The unemployed, Karl Marx’s “reserve army of labor”, became an immediate problem. The economy of working, sharing, and bartering was largely destroyed. It was replaced by the economy of efficient processes, served by the exploited few, while multitudes existed with neither land nor any means of production. Polanyi explained that this was a horribly unnatural circumstance: the joyous, independent labor of self-productivity replaced by a “labor market”, in which labor itself is a commodity, typically a cheap one. The abundance of unemployed “redundant” humans ensured that those employed would never receive a decent wage. It was too easy for the capitalist to replace one dissatisfied worker with another who was starving. It is rarely thought of, but this is actually a violent, heinous form of compulsion; the miserable “choice” between starvation and slave-wages.
Technological Displacement and Barrier
“At the heart of the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century there was an almost miraculous improvement in the tools of production, which was accompanied by a catastrophic dislocation of the lives of the common people. We will attempt to disentangle the factors that determined the forms of this dislocation, as it appeared as its worst in England about a century ago[19th century]. What “satanic mill” ground men into masses? How much was caused by the new physical conditions? How much by the economic dependencies, operating under the new conditions?” – Polanyi
One should not confuse a critique of technology with any Luddite anti-technology attitude. My critiques here are specifically addressed to a few questions:
- who has the right to technology developed by humanity?
- who will profit from the technology?
- is the technology used as moral means to moral ends?
- when technology displaces job opportunities, who will compensate the loss?
Since the onset of capitalism, technology has been produced to various ends. Some is for marketable goods. Some for the power to kill and destroy. And some is produced to replace human labor. The latter seems innocuous, until its context is expounded. One might consider:
The human being was forced from his land, resources, and natural activity into an urban center amassed with other newly-redundant humans. Under threat of starvation, he was compelled to accept an exploitative relationship with a highly privileged individual: the capitalist. The capitalist provided subsistence wages while the worker toiled to develop and build a new technology. By year’s end, the capitalist announced that due to technological advances, 1/3 of the employees would no-longer be needed, and would be sent back to the redundant human pool. The “successful” worker earned 1 year’s wages by creating the technology that would displace 1/3 of his co-workers, putting them back in starvation !
I hope you can not only sense the injustice, but sense it strongly. The entirely arbitrary ground-rules of capitalism uprooted humanity from a natural disposition and mechanically forced us, by fear of hunger, into a constant state of self-paradox, where we are valuated 24/7 as redundant pieces in the machinery of exploitative production, marginally employed in the endeavor to replace ourselves with a technological contraption or “improved process”. Is there any doubt why 30% of Americans suffer mental-illness? That we live in a perpetual state of anxiety over our legally-enforced insecurity has led to the coining of a new term to describe us: the precariat. Precariat being the large sector of working-class society (proletariat) who live in near-constant precariousness.
Technology also provides another “benefit” for the capitalist: in economics, it’s known as “barriers to entry”. The machinery and expertise housed in a capitalist operation make it nearly impossible for an individual or start-up enterprise to begin a competing operation. Whether on the first day or 10 years later, you would be bankrupted by the attempt. Many Muslims may know how hard it is to open a simple restaurant and survive in the highly-competitive food market, while not having credit that appears at the snap of one’s fingers like most corporations. And food-service is a relatively simple operation.
Facts and Quotes
The Qur’an (59:7) – What Allah has bestowed on His Messenger (and taken away) from the people of the townships,- belongs to Allah,- to His Messenger and to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; In order that it may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. This is the khams, a 1/5th tax portion taken from the victorious soldiers after a battle. The portion that our Prophet collected was distributed to the needy. The key concept is that wealth must make a complete vertical circulation in society, not just be hoarded at the top.
The Qur’an (2:188) – And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as bait for the judges, with intent that ye may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of (other) people’s property. A verse outlawing bribery, which is so common, and now legalized, under capitalism.
The Qur’an’s utter condemnation of hoarding wealth, greed, and equating such with the qualities and manners of Disbelievers: Who hoard their wealth and enjoin avarice on others, and hide that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty. For disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom. (4:37)
An article from The Guardian: 62 People who now own HALF the wealth in the world
The Citizen’s United and McCutcheon federal cases essentially legalized the direct funding of policy-makers in the U.S. For example, in 2016, the infamous criminals Charles and David Koch have committed an estimated $900Million to finance pro-corporate Libertarian/Republican candidates into office. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/us/politics/kochs-plan-to-spend-900-million-on-2016-campaign.html?_r=0
An example of how such corruption impacts humanity and our planet: climate-change denial. Exxon knew that fossil-fuels caused global-warming in the 1970’s, yet they buried their research until independent researchers/journalists uncovered their internal reports. Climate change denial has been an agenda item for the corporate political organization ALEC for decades. ALEC provides corporate-friendly legislation to politicians after those politicians have been funded into office by the same corporate parties.
Growth-starvation – Capitalism Needs War
One can do a simple search on the history of regime-change, war, and covert operations conducted by the U.S. and find hundreds of examples. It’s been stated that the U.S. has been at war for 223 of its 240 years. Much of its state military and covert operations have been to gain access to or control resources, to decapitate governments and install “business friendly” despots, or to destroy countries seeking to operate outside the rules of capitalism or defy the international banking institutions.
Capitalism cannot exist without
- state protection by law, police, and military
- labor exploitation
- access to and control of resources
The last one is often over-looked. The basic rules of economics dictate that profits dwindle over time. New markets are the surest way to secure profits for the exploiters. We can see massive change since the 1970’s, when it was realized that the U.S. market had reached a point of equilibrium, its markets no-longer providing enough exploitation.
- efforts to bust the unions. Union membership was around 35%, now only 6%
- efforts to deregulate. Corporations count health, safety, torts, and environmental regulations as a profit-drain. ALEC and The Heritage Foundation were established to legislate deregulation.
- “Free-trade” – these secretive agreements that few citizens fully understand allow corporations to exploit cheap labor in other countries, provide access to sell goods in foreign markets, and ease the off-shoring of taxable profits. They also provide the most direct method of avoiding regulations.
- Financialization – citizens go deeper in debt to “buy” homes, cars, gadgets, and even food, while the banks create un-real money to play games with. While citizens are in record-setting debt, capitalists have record-setting wealth seeking a home to protect it from inflation and market crashes. They have turned to financing governments while tying a legal noose around the necks of entire countries. Iceland, Spain, Italy, Greece and many others have fallen victim to this legalized starvation called “austerity”. Here’s a list of 51 municipalities in the U.S. that have filed for bankruptcy. www.governing.com/gov-data/municipal-cities-counties-bankruptcies-and-defaults.html
- War throughout South America, Africa, the Middle-East, and Asia. Just as the 70’s showed that capitalism had reached its limit in the U.S., it is now desperate to control massive populations in other parts of the world. One doesn’t even have to dig to find the market incentives underlying America’s numerous, longer-than-ever wars. War is good for capitalists, but bad for those who die, who have their lives and dwellings destroyed, and those American taxpayers who pay the financial cost.
The late 1960’s were the closest American families ever came to state-wide socialism. In fact, Richard Nixon proposed a Guaranteed Annual Income as an addition to New Deal and Great Society provisions that had been supported by both political parties. In contrast, many of today’s Democrats are sheepish on living-wage implementation. But the early 70’s brought the arrival of Neoliberalism, taught by Milton Friedman and most of the Chicago School economists, including Alan Greenspan. ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Koch’s CATO were the primary brain-trusts set up to flood the American political, media, and educational institutions with unregulated-market ideals. Every U.S. President since Reagan, including the Democrats, has been a neoliberal, some more extreme than others, while all have contributed to the advancement of corporate power and massive wealth accumulation at the expense of the general welfare, and democracy itself.
Monopolization of the Media
The very First Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights speaks to the necessity of maintaining the free expression of thought and the open dissemination of knowledge and news. The very First Amendment because the freedom of humanity depends on them. But legal actions taken during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have created the conditions for media consolidation. Today, 90% of U.S. media is owned by 6 corporate conglomerates. This media manipulates public opinion during elections, has spread Islamophobia, has given voice to science-denial, has promoted wars and hidden the bloody realities of war, and keeps the heads of Americans in constant spin by the incessant use of a novel term: “spin”. The arts and sciences of turning lies into facts, facts into lies, good into evil, and up into down. The near-perfect manifestation of Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth”. The First Amendment was written to protect the possibilities of truth. Corporate media has sought to own and rewrite the very meaning of truth. Here’s a timeline of the corporate destruction of our free-press:
This piece is just an introduction to the problems of capitalism – the primary problems being private/individual control of massive capital accumulation that is accrued via planetary destruction and terrible exploitation of human labor, the concentration of corrupting power this creates, and the incredible difficulty that humanity now faces in overcoming political institutions that are now essentially OWNED by a few corporations and individuals.
The concepts of “market” and trade in Islam’s history are very different from the same terms used in capitalism. “Market” under capitalism is a set of arbitrary rules, institutions, and social machinery that both envelop and penetrate every aspect of our existence, including marriage, child-rearing, social relations, psychology, and mental health. A “market” in our Prophet’s community was a place people met to exchange goods. Our Prophet’s market had rules for fair exchange and fair payment, and the Caliphs even established special police to oversee the market. This is entirely different from the lawlessness, arbitrariness, and corruption that is prevalent throughout the capitalist world, and capitalism’s history.
In Islam, all things and actions are for benefit, goodness, virtue, and widespread well-being. Participating in destruction is Haram (prohibited) throughout Islamic Law. The institutions of capitalism usurp the general welfare, corrupt the politicians and the masses, and now threaten the extinction of humanity. Destruction and corruption are now so endemic to capitalism that when we work, we are contributing to our own destruction. And when we spend our meager take-home pay, we are again contributing to our own destruction. But this is hidden from us by the smoke-screens of how money is produced, transferred, accumulated, and utilized once we hand it back to the corporations who basically OWN our entire system of life.
This situation is unsustainable. It’s estimated that by 2025, we may see 25% unemployment due to technology replacing human workers. Households are deep in debt. Young people are breaking their backs with college-expenses, which delays their purchase of a home, and has the potential to ruin their credit before they even get started in life at the ripe-old age of 25. The U.S. “war on terrorism” has been going 15 years while the Pentagon admits that their 20-year projections don’t see an end to it. There are 65 million refugees and displaced humans, mostly Muslims. 25,000 humans die every day of starvation. The oceans are dying. Ground-water is drying. The planet is baking.
Capitalism was created by arbitrary decisions, and it can be modified or uncreated by new decisions. In 300 years, capitalism has caused global wars, created shocks, convulsions, recessions, depressions and system-wide collapses. Each time, it is bailed-out by the austere suffering of the working-people who contribute their taxes and economic losses to resuscitate the defunct system. That’s actually socialism, but it’s reversed. It’s capitalism surviving by the welfare of the working-class. Capitalism is a crime conducted by non-working, non-earning parasites who can’t make a moral decision to save humanity or the planet by accepting reasonable public policies. The overthrow, arrest, and incapacitation of such vampires is a moral obligation, and a necessity of human survival. Dog-eat-dog is not a human way of life (Deen). Islam and capitalism are antithetical. Muslims cannot accept to live under the conditions this immoral system so widely creates. Muslims are obligated to join hands with all human beings who are actively seeking to replace this system. We hope it’s not already too late.
- Global economic production will cease meeting population growth by 2030
- Oceans will be depleted of edible fish by 2048
- No topsoil will remain on earth by 2070
- CLIMATE CHANGE IS ACCELERATING AND NOTHING IS BEING DONE !