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{For Video & More details, see: }Behavioral bases for an Islamic society are gratitude, contentment, and trust. These are radically different from the characteristics of homo economicus, the basis for modern economics. Even though it claims to be descriptive, modern economics is actually a normative definition of "rational" behavior. However, this rationality is actually very foolish in human society, where cooperation, generosity, and social responsibity lead to far better outcomes. This lecture is the first in a new approach to Islamic Economics, which seeks to create an Islamic society on foundations of Islamic values.

{For Video & More details, see: }Behavioral bases for an Islamic society are gratitude, contentment, and trust. These are radically different from the characteristics of homo economicus, the basis for modern economics. Even though it claims to be descriptive, modern economics is actually a normative definition of "rational" behavior. However, this rationality is actually very foolish in human society, where cooperation, generosity, and social responsibity lead to far better outcomes. This lecture is the first in a new approach to Islamic Economics, which seeks to create an Islamic society on foundations of Islamic values.


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Gratitude, Contentment, & Trust in God

  1. 1. • "In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. • Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and blessings and peace be upon our Master Muhammad, the last of the Prophets, and upon his family and companions, and all those who follow them in goodness until the Day of Judgement. • O Allah, I ask You, by Your wisdom which comprehends all things, to make me among those who are eloquent in their speech, and to grant me the ability to speak about Your religion.
  2. 2. O Allah, I ask You to make my works sincerely for Your sake, and to make my intentions solely for Your pleasure. O Allah, I ask You to make my love for You greater than my love for anyone else, and to make my fear of You greater than my fear of anyone else. O Allah, I ask You to make me among those who are guided by You, and to make me among those who are guided to You."
  3. 3. A New Approach to Islamic Economics Dr. Asad Zaman Lecture 1: Gratitude, Contentment, and Tawakkul = Shukr, Qana’at, and Trust.
  4. 4. Structural Details One Live Lecture, every month on First Sundays. Same time, same ZOOM link. For more details about course, see: ADDITIONAL, supplementary materials, sent on weekly basis to members of mailing list: Course Materials will also be available from the Al-Nafi Portal via: Shortlink:
  5. 5. Gratitude
  6. 6. And remember when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.'" - Quran 14:7 The secret for success in THIS life!!
  7. 7. Strategies for being Grateful to God And if you should count the favors of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. COUNT the blessings of Allah. When you wake up, be grateful for being given life after a mini- death, and resolve to make the best use of this day granted to you – which may be the LAST of your days! Be grateful for health, security, clarity of mind, food, time, youth, energy, while knowing that you cannot count the blessings.
  8. 8. Our Prophet SAW is the Perfect Example Al-Mughirah ibn Shu’bah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would pray until his feet were swollen. It was said to him, “Why do you do this when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?” The Prophet said, “Shall I not be a grateful servant?” Worship with a feeling of gratitude. Personal Example: Laziness at Fajr Salat, dispelled by a Sha’r from Iqbal: Iqbal: You do not love me, you love the comforts of sleep!
  9. 9. Two Habits for Gratitude & Contentment (Sabr) In worldly affairs, look to those who have less than you, and give thank. In religious matters, look to those who are more advanced, and seek to follow them. Allah T’aala will count you among those who give thanks, and those who are content with what they have been given.
  10. 10. The Small Things The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever is not grateful for small things will not be grateful for large things. Whoever does not thank people has not thanked Allah Almighty.” When you wake up, give thanks for being given life after the small death. Give thanks for health, security, comforts, and the precious day. This day is an opportunity to buy the Jannah with good deeds. Success lies in here and now – it DOES NOT lie in achieving desirable outcomes. When you eat, reflect on how many miracles have created this food.
  11. 11. Ingratitude: From Excess "And let not the abundance of (worldly) goods divert you, O man, from the remembrance of Allah; and whoever is ungrateful, then verily Allah is Self-sufficient, above all wants." - Quran 28:77 And if Allah were to enlarge the provision for His slaves they would surely rebel in the earth, but He sendeth down by measure as He willeth. Lo! He is Informed, a Seer of His bondmen. (Qur’ān, 42:27) Qaroon, when asked to spend of his wealth, says that he is entitled to it – he earned it due to his knowledge.
  12. 12. No Envy (4:32) Do not covet what Allah has conferred more abundantly on some of you than others. Failure of Gratitude => Feeling Superiority or Equality. Remedy: Think of yourself as the worst person on the planet. How? What you have done is in relation to what you have been given. When you see someone in worse condition, give thanks that Allah T’aala has protected you from their condition. When you see someone in better condition, make dua for them that they may succeed in this difficult test, and make thanks that you have not been placed in this test.
  13. 13. Attitude: When you see someone in worse condition, give thanks that Allah T’aala has protected you from their condition. When you see someone in better condition, make dua for them that they may succeed in this difficult test, and make thanks that you have not been placed in this test. NO!
  14. 14. And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me." But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."
  15. 15. Contentment • Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet said: Wealth is not in having vast riches, it is in contentment. (Bukhari, Muslim).
  16. 16. Deep Strategy for Contentment Learn that success lie in finding and obeying the orders of Allah pertaining to the current situation. It DOES not lie in reaching a desirable outcome. This requires overcoming a lifetime of training. We have learned that some states of the world are better (for us) than others. Our job in life is to work to create a better external reality. This leads to DISCONTENT: We do not like some aspect of external reality, and work to improve it.
  17. 17. Process Versus Outcomes In every circumstance, success lies in obeying orders of Allah. The King and the Peasant are equally capable of passing and failing. Giving a piece a date as Sadqa can bring the reward of mountains. Sacrificing one’s life in holy Jihad can be in vain. EVERY circumstance is equally a Test (though some are hard and others are easy). The issue is not to improve circumstances, but to find and obey orders of Allah suitable to present circumstance.
  18. 18. (Allah) who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed - and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving Our goal is to collect the BEST DEEDS. These can be done in ANY circumstances. Abu Aqil (a sahabi) gave a handful of dates, earned by labor, on the occasion of Tabuk, when others were giving huge amounts. Prophet SAW appreciated his effort, and Allah T’aala revealed (Q 9:79) in his support, when some hypocrites ridiculed this small contribution.
  19. 19. Goal of Life: Doing the BEST deeds • The smallest of deeds, done with sincerity, counts heavily with Allah. • The greatest of deeds, done without sincerity, counts for nothing. In any circumstance, good or bad in outlook, it is possible to do greatest of deeds. Thus, there is no point in striving to improve our circumstances. Instead, we should look towards the best we can do (to please Allah) in the current circumstances. In fact, Allah T’aala has CHOSEN the circumstances we face, as the ideal training ground for us, to make progress in journey towards Allah.
  20. 20. Quran: Focus on the Hereafter 1-In one place, Allah informs us in Surah Al-Kahf that we should not over indulge in the good things; i.e., wealth and children:” Wealth and sons are allurements of the life of this world. But the things that endure, good deeds are best in the sight of your Lord, as rewards, and best as the foundation for hopes.” (Al- Kahf: 46) My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings Look upon my works, ye might, and despair
  21. 21. Quran: Focus on the Hereafter 2. In another place, Allah informs us in Surah Al-Hadid that the worldly affairs are temporary entertainment where people may be deceived:” And what is the life of this world, but goods and chattels of deception?” (Al- Hadid: 20)
  22. 22. Quran: Focus on the Hereafter 3. In another place, Allah instruct us in Surah Al-Imran not to be overwhelming by the worldly enticements, and its attractions:” Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: women and sons; heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded for blood and excellence; and wealth of cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to God is the best of the goals to return to.” (Al-Imran: 14)
  23. 23. Strategies for Contentment Never complain about personal situation, or the world, except to Allah. We are in this world for only a moment – focus on eternal success. All situations are tests: Excess wealth and less than enough. Focus on what Allah T’aala wants from you, to get closer to God in all situations. Concentrate on doing the best deeds – service to creation of God, for the sake of the love of God.
  24. 24. Tawakkul: Trust in God.
  25. 25. Tawakkul: Trust in God. And whoever puts all his trust in Allah, He will be enough for him. (Q 65:3) And put all your trust [in Allah], if you truly are believers. (Q 5:23) He is Rabb of the east and west, there is no deity except Him, so take him as your Protector. (Q 73:9) Put your trust in the living Allah who never dies, and celebrate His praise. (Q 25:58) In Allah should the trustful trust. (Q 14:12)
  26. 26. No Regrets over What Might Have Been No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being - indeed that, for Allah , is easy - In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exult [in pride] over what He has given you. And Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful -
  27. 27. No Anxiety or Worry Carry out the orders of Allah, and put your trust in Allah to create the best outcomes. Even if outcomes APPEAR unfavorable, even highly unfavorable, BELIEVE that Allah T’aala has hidden great KHAIR in them.
  28. 28. Patience and Perseverance All troubles occur for a reason. Trouble: Cause of forgiveness of sins Trouble: Sent to turn you back towards Allah Trouble: To cause elevation in your degrees So, no need to lose heart, TRUST in Allah that HE has created the best possible circumstances for you, that there is KHAIR hidden in apparent difficulties.
  29. 29. Empowerment and Confidence "And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him" (Quran, 65:3) "And whoever fears Allah - He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent." (Quran, 65:2-3)
  30. 30. End of Part 1: Gratitude, Contentment, Trust
  31. 31. Part 2: Many Questions The discussion above raises many questions, and even more among those trained as economists. This part provides answers to some of these questions.
  32. 32. Economic Theory claims to be POSITIVE: An objective description of reality. Is this true?
  33. 33. The Normative Positive Question The material is presented is NORMATIVE – it tells us about ideal forms of behavior. It is PRESCRIPTIVE: how one should behave. Science is POSITIVE – it describes actual behavior (DESCRIPTIVE). Modern Economics is a positive science.
  34. 34. Answer: Behavioral Theory of Economics: Modern Economics: Rational Behavior consists of maximizing the pleasure we obtain from consumption of goods and services. Is this DESCRIPTIVE? “Rational” is a normative label. Someone who does not behave like this is Irrational. The question is DO people behave in the way described in Micro- Economics textbooks? Answer: Overwhelming Empirical Evidence AGAINST utility Maximization.
  35. 35. Ultimatum and Dictator Games One Person is asked to share a pile of money with Second Person. He can take as much as he likes for himself. The Second Person gets what he leaves in the pile. Rational Behavior: Take EVERYTHING. Actual Behavior: 50-50 splits are most common (about 30%). Vast majority of people take between 50% and 80%, and leave at least 20% for others. ONLY people with training in Economics take everything, and even then, only a few of them.
  36. 36. Empirical Evidence Rejects Economics theory Field of Behavioral Economics created by psychologists, because utility maximization does not match actual behavior. “The Empirical Evidence Against Neoclassical Utility Theory: A Review of the Literature” IJPEE, V. 3 n. 4, 2012-
  37. 37. Major Areas of Conflict Economic Theory: Humans are selfish, competitive, unemotional. Reality: Humans are generous, cooperation, and emotions often trump reason and calculation. Prime Example: Prisoner’s Dilemma – people often cooperate, contrary to utility maximization model. Economists have spent fifty years trying to explain this cooperation as a case of long- run selfish behavior. But these explanations FAIL!
  38. 38. Conclusions Economic Theories CLAIM to be positive, but are in fact normative. They do not describe human behavior – they prescribe standards for “rational” behavior. Many papers show that those trained in Economics learn to be selfish!
  39. 39. Three Questions 1. It is well-established that utility maximization (and variants) do not explain human behavior. WHY do economics textbooks around the world continue to use this rejected theory of behavior? 2. What about the idea that science is POSITIVE and not NORMATIVE? If modern economics is normative, why not move to a positive theory? 3. Clearly, even most Muslims do not have these characteristics of Gratitude, Contentment, and Trust. How can we build a theory based on utopian ideals?
  40. 40. Q1: Why do Economists Persist in Using Theories Strongly in Conflict with Data? Photo 108198141 © Vchalup |
  41. 41. After the Global Financial Crisis: Romer: For decades, macroeconomics has gone backwards, losing precious and hard-won insights. Today, modern macro produces wildly incorrect predictions, based on fundamentally flawed doctrines. The Queen of England went to London School of Economics to ask: Why did no one see it coming? For a complete discussion, see: A Critique of Conventional Economics – For many quotes critical of economics, by leading academics, see:
  42. 42. The Keynesian Revolution & The Monetarist Counter-Revolution • Keynes argued that free markets did not create full employment. Governments must intervene to do so. • Following Keynesian policies led to prosperity for the masses, but reduces power and wealth share of top 1%. • Top 1% plotted a counter-revolution. Chicago school led the theoretical front, while Reagan- Thatcher implemented these policies. • This led to a reversal of fortunes. The masses were impoverished, while the top 1% made enormous gains, and inequality increase massively. • For details see:
  43. 43. Central Insights Marx: Capitalism works not by forcibly exploiting laborers, but by making laborers agree to their own exploitation. This agreement is created via education, into false economic theories. Modern Economic Theory is a tool of propaganda, built to create the impression that our woefully bad economic system is the best for all people. There are many propaganda techniques used to accomplish this goal. The deceptive nature of economic theory is one of the most powerful.
  44. 44. Exactly Why/How is Economics Deceptive? See: The Grand Deception: Social Science Economics was a branch of moral philosophy. It CONTINUES to be a branch of moral philosophy, but the morals have been concealed, under the pretense that Economics is an objective description of reality – a science.
  45. 45. The Production Function Bergmann: Needed, A New Empiricism – ( To learn about their behavior, Biologists studied bottle-nose dolphins for hundreds of hours. HOWEVER, economists' theories of firms are based on ZERO hours of study of real world firms. Alan Blinder’s Survey of real firms: Asking About Prices – contradicts all economic theories of firms found in textbooks. Again: Why do Economists persist in presenting false and refuted theories to students all over the world?
  46. 46. The real arguments are CONCEALED. • Marx argued that capitalists exploit labor. • The production function creates symmetry between labor and capital. Both get their marginal product – that is both get the just reward for their contribution to production. • Moral argument concealed by mathematics. • Assumptions require competitive markets – they do not work if there capitalists have market power and labor does not. • Also, the mathematics is WRONG – The Total Product CANNOT be partitioned into marginal product for labor and capital in most cases.
  47. 47. Normative Foundations of Scarcity Scarcity arises from confusing (deliberately) needs and wants. Islam encourages fulfilment of needs, and DISCOURAGES pursuing idle desires. If those with excess above their needs are encourage to give to those with needs, then there is no scarcity. Fundamental economic problem is not scarcity, but GREED, encouraged by capitalism. ANTIDOTE to this problem has already been described. See: Scarcity: East and West:
  48. 48. Q2: Science is Positive, not Normative Material Objects in the Universe DO NOT have free will. Therefore, they are subject to physical laws. We can OBSERVE them, and study their laws of motion. Human Beings have free will. Therefore, there cannot exist any laws of motion to describe their behavior.
  49. 49. DEEPER QUESTION: How did “social scientists” make such an OBVIOUS mistake? One cannot apply methods of physical sciences to study of human beings! See: The Puzzle of Western Social Science – Social Science consists of lessons extracted from European historical experience. The word “science” makes a false claim that these are universally applicable. Many books and articles show that “social sciences” are NOT science.
  50. 50. Massive Methodological Mistakes • The Battle of Christianity and “Science” (inflow of knowledge from Islamic Spain). • Era of Religious Wars for over a century leads to rejection of Christianity as basis for organizing society. • This leads to birth of Social Science on secular ground. Rejection of God, Judgment, Afterlife, leads to maximization of pleasure, power, and profits in this earthly life as goals. • These are embedded in the foundations of Western Social Science.
  51. 51. Q3: Most Muslims do not have these qualities So, how can we build a theory on them? Even in the best of times (Khairul quroon) there were many hypocrites and non-Muslims within the Islamic society. First, we must reject Western understanding of, and methodology for, the so-called social sciences. Then we must introduce a new methodology.
  52. 52. Uloom-ul-Umran: Islamic Alternative to Western Social Science Three Dimensional Approach: 1. Positive/Descriptive 2. Normative/Prescriptive 3. Transformative All three dimensions are central to study of societies.
  53. 53. Islamic Methodology • Our Prophet Mohammad SAW is the ideal model for us in all dimensions. • Even though this normative ideal is not attainable, it provides us with the direction for our efforts. • Some aspects of his character, especially those related to economics, were given in this lecture. • If we strive to create a society based on these qualities, there would be no scarcity. The fundamental principles of economics would change. • Even if these ideals are un-attainable, the struggle create them will create good results.
  54. 54. Deeper Issue: Different Epistemology • Western Knowledge is only of external reality • Eastern Knowledge combines subjective internal reality with external. • Primary basis for learning is EXPERIENCE – which impacts our hearts, souls, nafs, and minds • The four-dimensional model for Islamic psychology originates with Ghazali, and has received substantial development in modern times.
  55. 55. Concluding Dua’s • From Anas bin Malik ( ‫رضي‬ ‫هللا‬ ‫عنه‬ ) that he heard the Messenger of Allah (‫)ﷺ‬ supplicating: • َّ َّ‫م‬ُ‫ه‬َّ‫ل‬‫ال‬ ‫ي‬ِ‫ن‬ْ‫ع‬َ‫ف‬ْ‫ن‬‫ا‬ ‫ا‬َ‫م‬ِ‫ب‬ ‫ي‬ِ‫ن‬َ‫ت‬ْ‫م‬َّ‫ل‬َ‫ع‬ ، ‫ي‬ِ‫ن‬ْ‫م‬ِ‫َل‬‫ع‬َ‫و‬ ََّ‫م‬ ‫ا‬ ‫ي‬ِ‫ن‬ُ‫ع‬َ‫ف‬ْ‫ن‬َ‫ي‬ ، ‫ي‬ِ‫ن‬ْ‫ق‬ُ‫ز‬ْ‫ار‬َ‫و‬ ‫ا‬ً‫م‬ْ‫ل‬ِ‫ع‬ َّ َ‫ف‬ْ‫ن‬َ‫ت‬ ‫ي‬ِ‫ن‬ُ‫ع‬ َّ ِ‫ه‬ِ‫ب‬ • Allahumman fa’nee bi-maa ‘allam-ta-nee wa ‘allim-nee maa yanfa’u-nee war zuq-nee ‘ilman tanfa’u-nee bih • (O Allah benefit me with what You have taught me, and teach me that which will benefit me, and grant me knowledge which will benefit me) • [Collected by an-Nasaa’i 4/444, al-Hakim 1/ 510, Bayhaqi 1/158 & authenticated by Albani in Silsilah No. 3151]