In the wake of global warming, pollution, poverty, recession, inflation, and wars over resources, it is important to examine the causes to these problems as well as the responsibility we each bear in this tragedy. In an alarming statistic stated in the October 22, 2006 edition of The Dallas Morning News, �Boom or Bust� says that while the U.S. population only accounts for 1/18 of the world population in 2005, the energy consumption per capita in the U.S. accounts for seven times that number on a global scale. Carbon dioxide emissions in The U.S. are six times that of other nations. While the U.S. accounts for a fraction of the world population, it uses a disproportionate amount of natural resources. This disparity creates tension between nations, which is problematic politically. It is important to examine the role each of us plays on the global stage of allocation and scarcity of resources, which contribute to the current economic crisis. Nevertheless, it is the sum of individual behaviors which contribute to the current global crisis of economic unrest. Consequently, it is important to analyze this problem on a small scale so that we can identify the causes of this crisis. The root causes are materialism, wastefulness and the lack of knowledge many people have of the natural law, Allah and their purpose here on this earth. It is at times like these that we need to reflect upon the inspiration of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the lifestyle he led. He showed us how to optimize the little resources he had and conserve as much as possible for the sake of social justice as well as personal satisfaction.
At the national level, it seems as though the national debt, inflation, energy crisis, deflation of the dollar, interest rates, mortgage crisis, foreclosures, greed, and wastefulness are all interrelated. It is the misallocation and waste of resources, however, which have brought us to this crisis as so identified by many politicians. If wasting resources is the cause of these problems, then conservation is the solution. Conservation is the key to get back on track. Unless each individual learns how to conserve and exercise some self-regulation, no public, fiscal policy or economic stimulus packages will solve the problem. Just as individuals face debt when they spend money they don�t have, the government also faces the same plight by running such great deficits. Many people live on borrowed money, for they have forgotten the basic motto of living within their means. How can we spend money that we do not have? Somehow, we fool ourselves into believing that we will pay it off later. Little do we know that later never comes and inflation makes the debt grow larger very quickly. Like most wise men, 18th century scholar and economist Adam Smith understood that running after wealth and status are pointless ends, yet he discerned that the widely held belief that they are worth chasing has been a beneficial lie to civilization. It is this deception which keeps us productive in hope of becoming rich and famous someday.
Attaining a national balanced budget will remain a dream for politicians as long as conservation is not part of their mindsets. Without balance, there can be no social harmony or peace. Raising taxes to pay off debts or printing money only contributes to inflation, and the vicious cycle goes on. It becomes apparent how the root cause of our economic problem is actually a moral one. Self-control is a necessary virtue for conservation, as it is for all other virtues. Allah tells us in the Qur�an that being miserly is sinful, and being wasteful of time and resources is like �being brothers of the devil� (Surah Bani Israel: 17: 26-27). So, the only accepted way is conservation in order to maximize efficiency. Allah regards being wasteful as being ungrateful for His bounties. Usury, gambling, loans, hoarding, greed and wasteful spending are all sinful acts. Economics should be reconnected to moral values. When we regain our moral compass, we will be able to make that link.
Allah is the Creator and, therefore, the owner of all things. All resources such as land, crops, forests, oceans, minerals and all other natural resources on this earth belong to Him. We, as representatives of Allah are only trustees. So, all of these resources and material wealth are gifts and bounties from Allah to be spent in ways pleasing to Him. Livelihood is to be earned through honest labor of productive investment. The acquired means is not to be hoarded nor wasted for purposes of show nor used for bribery or in any other way which results in oppression or harm to others. A Dallas Morning News article about how Collin County residents were drowning in debt highlighted the role envy plays in driving spending. �Keeping up with the Joneses� is a never-ending struggle. This status anxiety can be destructive. By the same token, the economic resources of a nation are for the benefit of the people collectively. These resources are to be developed efficiently and allocated justly for the benefit of all people, rather than the powerful few. Sharing rather than exploiting and cooperation rather than competition are the guiding principles exemplified by the inspiration of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in all economic, social and political affairs.
Allah warned us of the effect of wastefulness in the Qur�an. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) showed us how to conserve. He led a very simple lifestyle. As he was making ablution, he did not waste one drop of water. He patched his own shoes and mended his clothes, in which he had one garment for the winter and one for the summer. He milked his sheep, tied and fed his camel and helped to knead his bread. He also ate and slept on the floor and lived simply with little furniture or material goods. He was efficient with what he had and certainly lived within his means. Can we learn to live within our means too? Materialism is neither rejected nor shunned in Islam. Wealth is the reward for hard work. Yet, it is to be kept in proper perspective. Wealth is a means to an end; it is not an end in and of itself. Does this Earth belong to us alone? Could we ever be content with such a wasteful lifestyle? Can we even afford it? While we suffer from the disease of excess, the rest of the world suffers from poverty. Will we choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem?
What is truly amazing is that modern economists and others find through empirical research that Prophet Muhammad�s lifestyle and ideology presents solutions to the economic crisis of the 21st century. E.F Schumacher, the late economist who embraced the ancient Greek notion that the meaning of life is in the purification of character, not in the accumulation of things, is one such researcher. All of the statistics, research and conclusions confirm the teachings of the Prophet (SAW). How much more evidence do we need? Economists and philosophers agree that the one who can control his desires and spending habits will find himself to be the richest of all men. Such was Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He exemplified this model they described. Indeed, there are no conflicts between his ideology, lifestyle and the model proposed by the social scientists! Will we join the �going green� movement to protect our environment and allocate resources properly, or should we just continue to spin our wheels? Are we willing to risk losing wealth and status for a chance to achieve a more lasting measure of contentment? We have the power to choose how to make money and spend it. It is a slippery slope! The straight path is paved and illustrated by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It is the shortest distance between two points. Why go the long way to the point of no return? Our wealth and resources are a trust from Allah for which we will be accountable. Will we pass this test?