Friday Sermon: The Attribute of Razzaq (The Provider) and the present global Economic Crisis

October 31st, 2008

“Have they not seen that Allah enlarges the provision to whomsoever He pleases, and straitens it to whomsoever He pleases? In that are Signs for a people who believe. So give to the kinsman his due, and to the needy and to the wayfarer. That is best for those who seek the favour of Allah, and it is they who will prosper. Whatever you pay as interest that it may increase the wealth of the people, it does not increase in the sight of Allah; but whatever you give in Zakat seeking the favour of Allah-it is these who will increase their wealth manifold. It is Allah Who has created you, and then He has provided for you; then He will cause you to die, and then He will bring you to life. Is there any of your ‘partners’ who can do these things? Glorified be He and exalted above that which they associate with Him.” (30:38) - (30-41)

Huzoor (aba) recited these verses after Surah Al Fatihah and opened today’s sermon by reminding us that Allah is Razzaq i.e. The Provider. He it is Who causes wealth to increase or to decrease. A true believer is never troubled by these ups and downs; in fact it is a source of progress in his faith when God manifests this attribute by His grace.

The financial crisis has enveloped the entire world these days. All nations of the world, the developed and the underdeveloped countries alike, are trapped in this tangled web. Some countries that previously enjoyed strong economic conditions, so much so that they believed they could rule the world because they possessed the most advanced technologies (science, food, weapons, medicine) and other nations would forever be dependent on them for their own existence, are seeing their economy break down before their eyes. The truth of the matter is that these economies were based on frail policies which have collapsed, resulting in a global economic crisis. The true controller indeed is God, but these superpower nations fail to acknowledge this fact. The solutions they are now coming up with to save their economy are again not long-lasting, nor reliable. The real solution lies only in gaining nearness to God and following His teachings. Unfortunately, the Muslims nations are also involved in similar practices instead of following the guidelines laid out in the Holy Quran and these nations have no sense of guilt or shame. The heads of these countries are extremely selfish and are interested in filling their personal bank accounts. Middle Eastern countries (oil-rich nations) managed to build the most modern infrastructure for themselves, but they did not use their resources as God has commanded i.e. to help the poorer Muslim nations. Instead, they have been investing their profits and excess wealth in Western countries so that they may accumulate interest on their deposits. On the other hand, they developed a system of Islamic banking for display purposes in their own countries, which in fact is just a sugar-coated label given to the same system of interest and usury and does not follow the true Quranic teachings.

Allah, The Provider, admonishes the believers to spend on their relatives, on the poor and on the wayfarer, in order to gain the pleasure of Allah and to prosper spiritually and materially as well. A true believer is not one who merely utters empty words from his mouth, but he is one who has firm faith in God, Who provides for all his needs, and he out of his earnings spends according to the will of God. In light of this, we must remember that a Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. Similarly, Muslim nations are duty-bound that they should help other under-privileged Muslim nations and not regard this help as charity, but as a fulfillment of their religious responsibility. Had the wealthy Muslim nations fulfilled this responsibility instead of investing in western countries to earn interest, they would have earned the pleasure of God, but they failed to do so and are now suffering the adverse affects of the global economic crisis.

Huzoor (aba) then explained in simple words the root cause of this economic crisis, pointing to the fact that the lending institutions in the western countries actually use funds deposited by their wealthy clients and forward this money as loans to those wishing to buy homes and other personal items. The money is scarcely loaned out for productive projects, which would actually render the economy stronger by creating more resources. These loans are handed out on easy terms (such as low down payments, and in some cases, 0% deposits). The borrower does not pay attention to the amount of money he will be paying in interest during the term of the contract. Since his income is limited, and he has to run the household along with repaying the loan, he finds himself sinking deeper into the abyss of debt, making it impossible for him to repay the loans in certain cases. When the repayments from such clients stopped, banks stopped lending money because funds were no longer readily available. The result is a global economic crisis. Any country that claims they are unaffected by this crisis (such as some Middle Eastern countries have claimed) are making false statements, firstly because their foreign investments have diminished in value and secondly because the worth of the natural resource they are so reliant upon i.e. oil has also diminished greatly. A recent editorial entitled “Sea of debt” stated that the US economy has plunged to such depths that an easy recovery is impossible. In fact, the entire world is facing a similar situation. In the US, the excessive use of credit card had spoilt the individuals to the extent that they were involved in reckless spending. Now that funds are not so readily available and there are more restrictions from credit card companies, these individuals are refraining themselves from spending. Car sales have plummeted to a record low and air travel is on the decline. This has resulted in decreased consumption of fuel which has caused the oil prices to fall. In addition, individuals are spending less on all that comes under the umbrella of personal entertainment, which again will result in the rise of depression (i.e. mental health will be compromised).

Therefore Allah says that those who use interest as a form of income are similar to those who are smitten with insanity by Satan (2:276). At another place, Allah has declared interest to be “haram” (unlawful). Use of interest causes one to fall into a vicious cycle, making it extremely difficult to break oneself away from it. Huzoor (aba) quoted a joke at this point: “If my neighbor loses his job, it is recession. If I lose my job, it is depression.” This joke only points to the present detrimental global situation, where thousands upon thousands of jobs have been lost. Huzoor (aba) cautioned the world in strong words, saying that if there is an iota of sense left in you, abandon the use of interest. Instead, invest in trades that are Islamically viable, suggesting that Muslim nations should take lead in this. Huzoor (aba) then gave the example of countries such as Pakistan and other African nations, where the heads of the countries have become extremely corrupt and disloyal to their countries, adding fuel to fire. Such nations have been surviving on loans from wealthier countries, but have no clue as to how these loans are to be repaid. These countries are blessed with natural resources, but it has become their shameless practice to beg for funds time and time again. The truth of the matter is that they have forgotten the teachings of God Almighty and will incur a greater wrath of God. Huzoor (aba) said that the system of interest/usury creates an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, but the Islamic system i.e. the system of Zakat creates harmony among all members of a society. Huzoor (aba) advised that everyone, and more specifically the Muslims should stop taking loans; this will prevent from such economic crises to recur every few years.

In the verses recited at the beginning of the sermon, Huzoor (aba) reminded that Allah did not only create us but promised to provide for His creation, on the condition that we follow His commandments. The instability and frustration and the sense of imminent war that exists in the world today is a result of the wealth of the world revolving only among the privileged few, whereas the underprivileged can view them only from a distance, never securing a share for themselves. Another reason for the destruction of world peace also stems from the fact that the richer nations have been eyeing the natural resources of the underdeveloped countries to be used for their own benefit. Islamic traditions strongly condemn this. Huzoor (aba) said that the world must understand the following golden rules to put a stop to such economic crises:

  1. Learn to stay within your means, at a personal and a national level. Be content with what you can easily afford and do not be dazzled with bigger houses and bigger cars forcing yourselves into the system of debt.

  2. Refrain from interest/usury.

  3. Wealthy nations should abstain from trying to gain control over natural resources of other countries. The underprivileged countries should have the confidence that their resources will be used for the benefit of their country only even when there is international intervention.

  4. Heads of nation should be loyal and patriotic to their country.

  5. The rights and obligations of poor must be fulfilled.

    These rules are based on Islamic teachings, therefore it is Islam that presents the most sound solution to the crises the world faces today. Huzoor (aba) said that Taqwa is a must if you wish to prosper. There is no salvation if we do not pay heed to the Word of God and believe in the Imam of the day. Huzoor (aba) read out from the writings of the Promised Messiah (as) where he has reminded us that we should be grateful to Allah Almighty that He has blessed us by revealing the spiritual light that we so desperately need for our salvation in this day and age. Huzoor (aba) prayed that may Allah guide the world to the right path and enable them to practice the true teachings of Islam, Ameen.