Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi
Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi
On the End of Capitalism and the Revival of Islam1
by Dr. Riyad Asvat
The inspiration for this article came from my research for a book on the political writings of Shaykh Abdalqadir (1930-2021), may Allah be pleased with him. The article is long because it is very difficult to condense and summarize Shaykh Abdalqadir’s teaching on any issue. There are two reasons for this difficulty. Firstly he was the most important Islamic scholar of the last hundred years as well as the most important Western intellectual of this period and he was a prolific writer whose literary output spanned well over sixty years. Secondly he was able to unify the outward (physical), the inward (psychological) and hidden (spiritual) dimensions of reality whilst our education has trained us to do the opposite, that is, to divide, compartmentalize and analyze. Shaykh Abdalqadir’s greatest contributions to humanity have been: (1) his analysis of contemporary society; (2) his description of the original Islamic phenomenon; and (3) the steps he outlined for Islamic revival. He did not put a time frame for the Islamic revival. It might well take a hundred years. After all, the capitalists abolished the caliphate in 1924 through a process of modernization that began in 1789. Almost a hundred years later Islam still does not exist as a socio-economic and political reality.
Shaykh Abdalqadir said: “No?one, not one kafir2 intellectual has grasped that the mechanism of their disaster is not a breakdown of a system, but the logical and mathematically inevitable completion of its programme. It is a process of expropriation, seizing lands, commodities and peoples. The expropriators are an oligarchic class comprising bankers, media and corporation chiefs, its servants are the under?class of politicians. What is being played out now, with massive power?shifts inside the system – emergent power groupings in China, Brazil and India, each with billions of enslaved ‘citizens’ – is not an evolutionary process of growth. It is, rather, a Darwinian descent into barbarism which already indicates the beginning of the end of the species.” This is bad news for homo economicus, the capitalist man and women. At the same time it is great news for those who are prepared to re-establish Islam just as it was practiced by the first three generations of Muslims in Madina.
During the global financial crisis of 2008 governments had bailed out the financial system with funds intended for health, education and infrastructure projects. Shaykh Abdalqadir pointed out that the result of the financial crisis of 2008 was to reduce the number of mega-banks and increase their wealth substantially. People were shocked and outraged but the police took over the responsibility for the state’s stability. Shaykh Abdalqadir warned that civil war would become the norm of the future. This became evident with the invasion of the United States Capitol in Washington on 6 January 2021, disrupting a joint sitting of congress.
Up to 2019 being a good citizen meant being a good consumer: someone who was docile, thoughtless and contented. People were kept occupied by means of continual new amusements, alcohol and drugs. As Shaykh Abdalqadir wrote in 1982: “Now at last you are taken care of, you need fear nothing. … A guarded tranquillized atmosphere will be assured. Soothing music will ooze out of the walls of the shopping mall where you will exercise your freedom in the open choice of consumer objects made to your demand according to your own free taste. The market will obediently follow your desires.” However capitalism, based as it is on the model of extraction and consumption, is always in crisis and this phase has become untenable.
Due to a combination of resource decline, increasing demand, rising pollution and the growing expense of extracting increasingly scarce resources modern industrial capitalist civilization, must lead to a slowdown and then collapse. What we can see all around us today is a slowdown in the growth of the economy. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has acted as an accelerant, it is not the ultimate cause. For example the increasing costs of extracting energy are not paying for themselves. The global economy runs on fossil fuels, but the rising costs of extraction mean that those fuels are no longer economical besides the fact that they are altering the planet’s climate. Renewable energy sources, meanwhile, are not available to power the global economy. Other signs of slowdown are petrol shortages, supermarket shelves running out of basics, shortage of workers, container ships queuing up at ports and a global shortage of semiconductors, the silicon chips which power every digital device. This chip shortage is affecting everything from Internet connectivity to the production of cars and gaming consoles. All of this was predicted in studies for the last fifty years.
Just prior to the Covid-19 epidemic the world economy was on the verge of another colossal meltdown. In June 2019 the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the Central Bank of all central banks, warned that there was “overheating … in the leveraged loan market”, where “credit standards have been deteriorating … reminiscent of the steep rise in collateralized debt obligations that amplified the subprime crisis [in 2008].” In January 2020 the corona virus coincidentally or accidently or by design struck and the Chinese government put Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province into lockdown. The WHO investigation into the source of the virus has proved to be inconclusive. In March 2020 the World Health Organisation’s director general declared Covid-19 a pandemic. “Joining the dots is a simple enough exercise. If we do so, we might see a well-defined narrative outline emerge, whose succinct summary reads as follows: lockdowns and the global suspension of economic transactions were intended to 1) allow the Fed [the US central bank] to flood the ailing financial markets with freshly printed money while deferring hyperinflation; and 2) introduce mass vaccination programmes and health passports as pillars of a neo-feudal regime of capitalist accumulation.” (Fabio Vighi) This does not mean the virus is not real. It is very real and deadly, having already killed over 5.18 million people worldwide. The issue is not whether the Covid-19 epidemic was coincidental or accidental or by design. The issue is that the financial collapse was averted by another bailout but this time under the cover of a virus. The old saying among the capitalists, as famously stated by Winston Churchill is: “Don’t waste of good crisis.” This is exactly what happened.
In 2019 the world economy was suffocating under an unsustainable mountain of debt which was the same sickness that had caused the 2008 credit crunch. The only way to defuse the contagion was by injecting more than $9 trillion into the banking system. This is what the Federal Reserve did between September 2019 and March 2020, equivalent to more than 40% of US GDP. The narrative should therefore say: the stock market did not collapse in March 2020 because lockdowns had to be imposed; rather, lockdowns had to be imposed because financial markets were collapsing. “With lockdowns came the suspension of business transactions, which drained the demand for credit and stopped the contagion. In other words, restructuring the financial architecture through extraordinary monetary policy was contingent on the economy’s engine being turned off. Had the enormous mass of liquidity pumped into the financial sector reached transactions on the ground, a monetary tsunami with catastrophic consequences would have been unleashed.” (Fabio Vighi) The money that was injected into the economy was created out of thin air, “printed” on a keyboard. As Shaykh Abdalqadir said: “The chains of the tyrannical planet-destroying monetary system are not of iron. They are mental. The money – the so-called currencies – which are daily in use – simply do not exist.” This statement will be explained below.
It was in Europe that the dominant modernist worldview that pervades the entire world, including Muslim society, developed. Capitalism was the end result of modernity. It developed an elaborate ideology and a range of institutions that enabled it to function. Besides Shaykh Abdalqadir’s views on the processes by which capitalism came to dominate the world there are two other prominent narratives. One, we will refer to as the Weber/Taylor narrative and the other as the Benjamin/McCarrarher narrative. After briefly noting these views we will proceed to see how Shaykh Abdalqadir’s differs from them and more importantly he shows how Islam and capitalism are antithetical to each other.
The sociologist and historian Max Weber spoke of the disenchantment of the world. This meant that with the advent of modern society there was a radical break from the pre-modern, to use Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor’s expression, “context of understanding”. In pre-modern society the presence of God was seemingly undeniable. The natural world displayed order, design, divine purpose and action. The fertility of the earth, abundance of sustenance and fresh water, shelter from the elements, as well as floods, earthquakes and forest-fires were seen as acts of God. Kings ruled in the name of God and society was ordered in ways that involved revealed guidance and worship. The existence of God and His direct involvement in the cosmos was apparent. Europe went through various phases on its way to its present modern worldview. The transformation of pre-modern Christian society involved the eclipse of God’s control of individual and social action. It also involved the rise of the belief in the self’s power to morally organise society. This is the basis of Humanism, which resulted in the secularisation of society. The world, according to this view, lost its wonder and enchantment.
In the Benjamin/McCarrarher narrative capitalism is a religion. “Christianity in the time of the Reformation did not encourage the emergence of capitalism, but rather changed itself into capitalism” wrote Walter Benjamin. Eugene McCarrarher argues that far from being an agent of disenchantment, capitalism has been a technique of enchantment and “renaming of our intrinsic and inveterate longing for divinity.” McCarraher says that the animating spirit of capitalism is money, its theology, philosophy and cosmology is economics and its sacraments are the material culture of production and consumption of commodities and technologies. Its moral codes are contained in management theory and business journalism and its priests are the corporate intelligentsia made up of economists, executives, managers and business writers. Its icons consist of advertising, public relations, marketing and product design. For McCarraher: “Under capitalism, money occupies the ontological throne from which God has been evicted.” In other words for capitalists Money is god and ecstasy can be bought with it, in spite of the fact that capitalism sanctions the printing of counterfeit paper money.
In 2011 Shaykh Abdalqadir pointed out that capitalist society is rapidly collapsing. He said: “The very frame, structure, pattern of society, which had until now seemed actual, solid, founded on material itself has now begun to fragment, disintegrate and collapse. As it does so, a further condition is revealed, simply that that very frame was in itself illusory, a simulation of stuff, a non-existent presence sustained by a mathematic of ever multiplying dementia so that where before it had a decimal connection to things, that in turn had so increased that from hundreds to thousands it had hurtled into being millions. In the final phase of its enmeshing power it had turned into billions and ultimately, trillions.” Shaykh Abdalqadir uses the term dementia here not in a poetic or metaphorical way, he used this word to mean that we have a serious mental disorder which affects our ability to think, remember and behave normally. Elsewhere he used the term psychosis. He said: “It is the unarguable condition of mankind which permits us to define the technic society as a psychosis.” Shaykh Abdalqadir has taught us that capitalism is not a system, it is a psychosis. Psychosis means to lose touch with reality, that is, to perceive the world and how it works in a way that is false. Mediating between ourselves and the reality of the world around us is our brain, that is, our intellect. The intellect creates a series of structured pictures by which we understand the world around us. We view ourselves and the world around us through the prism of capitalism. The root of the problem is: “The psychosis of numbers-wealth. This is the state of the one who thinks modern money exists. So, firstly, the need to grasp the nature of money, the non-existent nature of ‘money’ itself.”
What Shaykh Abdalqadir is referring to is fiat money, which is the currency of modern states that is imposed on the populace by government regulation or law. There are two parties involved in the creation of the currency, the government on one hand and the privately owned banking cartels known as Central Banks (called the Federal Reserve System in the US) on the other. Governments benefit from this arrangement because it allows them to create an unlimited amount of money out of nothing without having to burden the tax payer with direct taxes. The banking cartel benefits by being able to create a perpetual flow of unearned wealth in the form of interest on money made out of nothing. As such the money supply is a fraud (fractional reserve banking), riba (usury/unjustified increase) and theft (fiat money inflates prices for everyone and is stealing from future generations). With regards to the printing of paper money Shaykh Abdalqadir stated that the process involves two elements that are prohibited by the Shari‘a3 – the issuing of receipts over and above the deposits held and the lending of those receipts on interest. Both of these practices constitute unjustified increase, that is, riba. The paper money created in this way is technically a promissory note, a promise to pay a debt and once again this practice is prohibited by Islamic law, which stipulates that a debt cannot be paid by a debt. The creation of money out of nothing is no secret and just in case we have forgotten the statements made by the founder of the Bank of England, William Paterson in 1694, they issued another statement in 2014 stating that “most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong.” In fact the statement continues to say: “In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it’s backwards. When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU.”
The 19th century witnessed the emergence and evolution on the world stage of banking. The bankers took advantage of the great technological advances that were taking place around them and banks evolved from being usurious clearinghouses of currencies into powerful institutions of technological project investment. They acted as middlemen between governments and these technological projects. As mentioned before governments gave privately owned Central Banks control over the money supply on the condition that they guaranteed government expenditure. At that point the power nexus of states moved from the political to the economic. The operational model of political economy became oligarchy with liberal democracy acting as the public relations interface for it. The national state and its institutions, both executive and judiciary, have no access to or control over the financial system. In order to receive a loan the recipient country must adhere to the political programs designed for them by the IMF and the World Bank, the financial oligarchs. Shaykh Abdalqadir explained that such a view as described above is not a conspiracy theory. Rather it is a continuously existing historical fact. As Ronald Syme says: “In all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic, democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the façade.” It was the same in pre-Islamic Arabia and it is no different in China where the world’s biggest banks are owned by the Communist Party. Thanks to globalization and neoliberalism the wealthiest 1% of people in the world today have more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people combined.
Shaykh Abdalqadir had a remarkable insight into political economy. In 2000 he wrote: “The truth which we must now uncover is very simple. The technological process, technological procedures and technological networking, even on a global scale, do not run themselves. Political Democracy in this new epoch has been reduced to being nothing more than a political front for banking. … Yet the wealth system does not submit itself to a summary statement of the discrete financial institutions, in an as it were a grand total addition, rather its character, genius and energy lie in an altogether more dynamic model. Today wealth is constantly moving. The ownership of a company planes out into a corporation, which in turn connects itself as a wholly owned subsidiary of another corporation, which then becomes part of a Holding Company. Accounting moves from company to corporation, to bank to offshore, to superbank. Debts become loans and loans become investments. .. In this phantasmagoria that is meant to bring you to a halt, convinced that you cannot decode and dismantle the great system. Banks, do not enslave the world’s masses, expropriate their wealth, their commodities, their land and their children. Bankers do.”
Let us apply the above template to our situation twenty one years later. Corporations have now decided that they will not continue to hide behind such strategies as lobbying, political campaign donations and bribery whilst they have such enormous wealth, some are world empires in their own right with their own global rules and private armies. “The biggest global corporations are each far larger than most countries in the world. General Motor’s annual sales are larger than the gross domestic product of Denmark. Wal-Mart is bigger than Poland. Ford is larger than South Africa, and DaimlerChrysler is bigger than Greece. Phillip Morris’s sales are greater than the GDPs of 148 countries. Of the hundred biggest economies in the world – counting both corporations and countries, fifty one are global corporations. The top ten alone in terms of sales GM, Wal-Mart, Ford, Exxon Mobil, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, GE, Royal Dutch/Shell, IBM, and BP Amoco – are each larger than about 140 of the 190 nations of the world. The top five corporations are each bigger than 182 of 190 countries.” (Charles Derber) The investment company BlackRock controls assets of $12 trillion which is more than the economies of all countries except for the US and China.
The game plan has changed. At the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2021, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned: “I am here to sound the alarm. The world must wake up. We are on the edge of an abyss—and moving in the wrong direction. Our world has never been more threatened or more divided. We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetimes… A surplus in some countries. Empty shelves in others. This is a moral indictment of the state of our world.”Guterres called for a total overhaul of all human collective behaviour, thinking and traditions. This is what was called the Great Reset of capitalism and formed the basis of a strategic partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum (WEF) which was signed in a meeting held at United Nations headquarters between Guterres and World Economic Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab. The WEF represents the world’s largest corporations. The partnership identified six areas of focus: financing the 2030 Agenda; climate change; health; digital cooperation; gender equality and empowerment of women; and education and skills. In reality the Great Reset is a coup d’état, a corporate takeover of global governance under the cover of ‘stakeholder capitalism’. According to Nick Buxton, stakeholder capitalism is a trick, a sleight of hand and “the World Economic Forum actually looks to entrench the power of those most responsible for the crises we’re facing.” The WEF is promoting the idea that global capitalism should be transformed so that corporations no longer focus solely on serving shareholders but become custodians of society by creating good outcomes for customers, suppliers, employees, communities and other ‘stakeholders’. There are now over one hundred global standard-setting multistakeholder initiatives (MSIs) establishing guidelines and rules for a wide range of products and processes such as health care, cyber security, climate change etc. The most famous of these is COVAX (a worldwide initiative aimed at the distribution of vaccines), not surprising, since we are in a pandemic.
When we take a closer look at COVAX and how MSIs work we find that the World Health Organization is just one of a few partners in COVAX but really it is being controlled by banks, corporations and corporate interests. 78.6% of the funding for COVAX comes from governments, 13.7% from Foundations, 1.2% from corporations and 0.3% from non-profit organisations. The board of COVAX is dominated by banks because governments rely on them to borrow money to pay for their share. This is how banks disguise their involvement in the process. The template we have been using works, it is exactly as Shaykh Abdalqadir said, bankers “enslave the world’s masses, expropriate their wealth, their commodities, their land and their children.”
Shaykh Abdalqadir showed the way by which Islam can be revived again; “The quickest way both to see what went wrong and to put it right is to turn to Islam when it was paramount and powerful. Shah Waliullah4 said that given the assault on Islam in his time the only way to recovery lay in starting from basics, by that he indicated that he meant the first great formula of the Islamic social nexus in Madina – the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik, may Allah honour his high place.” Madina was a nomocracy5 governed by the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in accordance with the Qur’an. Shaykh Abdalqadir explained that: “Limits of human behaviour remain decreed by the revelation until the end of the human situation. … Thus all ijtihad6 and all analogical extension of these basic elements must derive from the basic Islamic model of Madina, during its phase when it functioned as the primary model for the future of mankind. The Madina of the Salafi7 community was neither a primitive nor a formative society but a complete blueprint for Islamic societies from then on. It is clear that in Madina at the time of the Salafi communities man was at his greatest and the social contract at its healthiest and most balanced.”
In the Muwatta, Imam Malik provides a composite picture of life in Madina including the judgments of the caliphs, governors and scholars up until the time of its compilation in the middle of the second century AH (Islamic dating). For Imam Malik the actions of human beings are the “text” and the Muwatta is a book primarily about ‘amal (action). Prof. Yasin Dutton points out that this view “allows us a fundamentally different perspective on Islamic legal history where the true expression of the law is seen as being preserved not in a corpus of texts but in the actions, or ‘amal, of men.” A similar assessment is made by Shaykh Abdalhaqq Bewley who says that for the Madinans the Qur’an and Sunna8 were a matter of direct transmission. They had been conscientiously and scrupulously preserved and passed down as a lived reality through the two generations after the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and his Companions. Shaykh Abdalhaqq Bewley said “The textual sources were, for them, sounding boards or yardsticks against which their ongoing practice should be measured to make sure that there was no deviation and the road remained clearly delineated.”
The wealth of the world has been robbed from the people by a tiny group of billionaires who are at this moment destroying society and our planet. Shaykh Abdalqadir asked us to remember that physical and military opposition are the lifeblood of capitalist atheism. The revival of Islam is dependent on step by step turning away from capitalism. He said that: “They will not be defeated by military or guerrilla resistance. That is already covered in their system. They will be destroyed by the withdrawal of the God-obedient from the endebtment of numbers and contracts and their (our) setting up and usage of real-wealth currency, trust-based contracts of trade alongside a community aerated by a collected Zakat. Its being collected, not given, the cure for the retentive psyche.” Shaykh Abdalqadir has indicated that Islamic revival requires that we move away from capitalist modalities – currency, banking, taxation – to exchanges with gold, silver and commodities. According to Imam Malik money has to be a commodity, with intrinsic value, that is commonly accepted as a medium of exchange. This will lead to the abolition of capitalist supermarket distribution and the restoration of hand to hand trade locally and usury free container caravans around the world.
It is not only the correct moral behaviour of an individual that is required by the Shari‘a but social behaviour as well. If the socio-economic and political duties are fulfilled the society will be transformed. Harmony and social stability depends on the methodology (usul al-fiqh) used for determining just behaviour. Shaykh Abdalqadir has demonstrated that the source for this methodology is ‘amal ahl al-Madina (the practice of the first three generations of Muslims in Madina). Shaykh Abdalqadir said: “We insist – Islam is not a political movement, but it IS a market movement.” He explained that Islam is transactional. “The deen9, as it is declared in a renowned hadith, is MU‘AMALAT. In other words Islam while making supreme governance khilafa10, as categorically insisted on by Imam al?Qurtubi, leaves the issue of local governance an open matter. What is non?negotiable is the deen itself. And the deen is Mu‘amalat.” The deen is comprised of ibadat (worship) and mu‘amalat (social transactions) and what this hadith is emphasising is that the deen is not only ibadat. If it were so, that will be secularism which is alien to Islam. Mu‘amalat is an integral part of the deen and has to be conducted according to the fiqh11. Shaykh Abdalqadir explained that: “All ‘ibada, the first half of the deen, is expressed in fiduciary metaphor, debt, profit, gain, loss – all these indicate the spiritual transaction. All fiqh regulates every single fiduciary event as a spiritual metaphor. It is in its totality a socio?financial system devoid of usury, abhorring stored wealth, inviting expenditure, and looking on debt as dreadful.” To illustrate this point Shaykh Abdalqadir lists the chapter headings from the Mudawwina al?Kubra, which is the assembly of laws by the students of Imam Malik, Imam Dar al?Hijrah12. The first seven chapters are about ibada: wudu, salat, fasting and jihad. Up until the thirtieth chapter it is about personal law and inheritance. All the rest up to chapter sixty five is about fiduciary contracts. It finishes with those who wage war against Muslims, capital crimes and fines for bloodshed.
Shaykh Abdalqadir said that among the governing elites one process is at work which assures them power. “Usury is the common factor, but the arena of activity is banking, media and commodities.” It is banking that motors the commodities and media corporations. Capitalism, that is, the processes and procedures of riba, is destined for extinction because riba is contrary to nature, it is irrational, There cannot be infinite growth in a finite world. Shaykh Abdalqadir’s teachings with regards to the end of capitalism and the revival of Islam can be taken to be a commentary on verses 277 and 278 of Surat Al-Baqara (chapter 2) of the Qur’an: “You who have iman!13 Have taqwa14 of Allah and forgo any remaining riba if you are muminun.15 If you do not, know it means war from Allah and His Messenger. But if you make tawba16 you may have your capital without wronging and without being wronged.”
1Article by Riyad Asvat, November 2021
2A person who rejects Allah and His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
4Shah Waliullah (1703-1762) of Delhi, the capital of the Mughal Sultanate
6Exercise of personal judgement in legal matters
7Salafi here refers to the first three generations of Muslims in Madina
8The practice of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace
9The religion of Islam, literally life transaction
11The science of the application of the Shari‘a
12The Imam of Madina
14Awe and fear of Allah
16Asking for Allah’s forgiveness and returning to correct action after error