As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, I am a retired Presbyterian Pastor who has a love and respect for the Shii Muslim Community – its history, tradition, ethos, and future.
As a Son of Ibrahim, I read the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testsment, and the Holy Qur’an each and every day. In Part 2, I want to introduce many of you to the late Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al Sadr. A prolific writer, I was introduced to his works by Iraqi and Iranian students when I was in graduate school 30 years ago at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
Ayatollah al Sadr was a notable Shii cleric who was greatly influenced by the great Shii Jurist, Theologian, and Philodopher — Allama Tabatabaii. al Sadr was born in 1933 in Iraq and was tragically executed by Saddam Hussein in 1980.
The al Sadr family is a prominent family in Shii Islam. The historic Shii communities in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon have all benefitted from the leadership that this family has given. al Sadr attained the highest rank in the Shii tradition, Ayatollah. Shii students from all over the world moved to the Holy City of Najaf to study under this Faithful Scholar.
His notable works include “OUR PHILOSOPHY, OUR ECONOMICS, FADAK, THE REVEALER AND THE REVEALED, MAN AND THE SOCIAL PROBLEM, as well as many other works.
When I started to read the works of this venerable scholar, I was impressed with his unlimited knowledge of Islam. I was also struck with how much he read and understood the great writers of the Western World. He understood, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Feuerbach, Marx, Engels, Adam Smith, Nietzsche, and many others. al Sadr moved between the Western snd Islamic worlds with understanding and with ease. I give thanks to God for al Sadr who helped me to understand my own world!
I want to make some observations about his greatest work — OUR ECONOMICS — which is in 4 parts and is about 1100 wonderful pages long.
He makes a great case for an Islamic understanding of Economics which blends Finance, Ethics, and History. I should tell you that as one who came from the Christian tradition, I believe that the best three centuries of the Christian tradition were the best. It all changed in 313 AD when Constantine became Emperor and started the Conciliar Movement. Most decisions at the Church Councils were motivated more by Political reasons — not Theological reasons. What thus has done, over time, is to make Capitalism a Religion– not an economic system to provide goods! In this system, “Profit” becomes a pursued God. Capitalists will do anything they can to obtain profit. RIBA became the preferred tool to obtain profit!
One of the worst beliefs produced by the Protestant Christian Tradition was the “Two Kingdom” doctrine which wrongly suggested, i believe, that we live in two worlds and have two systems of Ethical behavior. This contradicts the Islamic understanding of TAWHID.
The “Two Kingdom” doctrine may have lead Max Weber to write “THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE RISE OF CAPITALISM.” One of the problems of Western Capitalism is that there is no Ethic. Capitalists move in between these two worlds and exploit people for monetary gain. This behavior leads to exploitation, Imperialism, poverty, and Colonialism. The end result is, you guessed it, “income inequality!” Thus false belief is justified — because, done say, we live in two different worlds. Such a belief is not Islamic — nor is it Christian!
There was a man in one of the Churches I served. He was a very successful and wealthy businessman. He came to me one day, and told me the following: “…… I need to come to church each and every Sunday. You see, during the week, I cheat people, use them, exploit them, and hurt them. I need to gone here to receive forgiveness from God — so I can go back to work on Monday and do it all again!”
I see no Ethics, whatsoever, in this behavior!
al Sadr begins “OUR ECONOMICS” with the best insight I have ever seen into Capitalism and Socialism. He then moves into the heart of his thesis – income inequality between people and nations. He then introduces us to an understanding of an “ISLAMIC ECONOMY” which acknowledges both private and public property. He provides for us a system that is both just and ethical for Muslims and non Muslims. Unlike the Capitalist view of the acquisition of commodities, al Sadr provides an Islamic view which is just and fair for all. He argues that minerals, precious metals, and oil are “….given by God for the benefit of all…..”
al Sadr concludes with his brilliant conclusion. He states that there should be, unlike Capitalism, two Distributions, one before production and the second being after production! Thus, is brilliant and is certainly insight that is given by God!
As I read this brilliant work, I come to one conclusion: if this economic system were globally present, wars would have been stopped before they even hit started!! Why? Because in THIS Islamic economic system, income inequality would have been non existent!
What a gift of God thus certainly would have been!!
Well, the works of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al Sadr have indeed survived his tragic and early death. May we honor him by living his “Economic Ethic” each and every day!!!
To God be the Glory!!
Be on the look out for Part 3 in this series. I will examine the works of Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr and his understanding of “Perennial Philosophy.”
Dr Nasr, a Shii Muslim from Iran, is the first Muslim ever to be asked to give the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh.