Common Ground: Toward a Global Vision of a Greater Spring

Common Ground: Toward a Global Vision of a Greater Spring

by Dr. Robert D. Crane


I.          Forecasting and Planning through the Nazm of Fractal Tawhid

          The principal limitation in human thought and action is the fragmentation of knowledge resulting from the lack of transcendent purpose.  The essence and principle contribution of classical Islamic thought, which is found in all the world religions, is the paradigm of tawhid.

      The best illustration of tawhid is the internal coherence of the Qur’an, known as nazm, whereby each ayah or verse illustrates the meaning of the surrounding ayat, and each such grouping represents the meaning of its parent surah or chapter, and each chapter represents a set of surrounding surahs, and each such set explicates the entire Qur’an.

      This paradigm, writ large and known in classical Christian thought as scientia sacra and more generally among religions as perennialist traditionalism, perceives a unitary coherence beyond the apparent chaos of diversity in the created world.  This coherence points to the Oneness of the Ultimate, known by Muslims and Arabic speaking Christians as Allah.

      Observation of the physical laws of the universe, including human nature, as a source of knowledge, known in Islamic thought as ‘ain al yaqin, corresponds with the teachings of divine revelation, known as haqq al yaqin.  The purpose of rational thought is to understand these two sources through a methodology known as ‘ilm al yaqin.

      Again, fortunately and perhaps “inevitably”, the most striking methodology developed by modern mathematicians but present also in traditionalist thought is known as fractal analysis, which provides scientific evidence of tawhid as a governing paradigm of existence. This methodology, popularized by Benoit Mandelbrot, is based on the finding that all things in the universe are made up of parts that mimic the whole.  An example is the fact that all processes from atoms to planets to Sufi hadara revolve counter-clockwise.  This is the opposite of fractured analysis popularized by Andre Weil, who saw reality and mathematics as abstract sets unconnected to anything outside itself. 

      Students of artificial intelligence (IT), chaos theory, and the dynamics of paradigm shifts, as suggested in my book, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response, published in 1997, have studied the Mandelbrot theory and models of fractal mathematics, because they have found that, “its infinite complexity and dizzying, ever-changing depths notwithstanding, the object results from an astonishingly simple algorithm”.  In his last talk before his death three years ago in October, 2010, Mandelbrot summarized in a single sentence his two most important books, namely, Fractal Geometry of Nature, first published in 1975, and Fractals and Chaos, published when he was in his 80s.  According to Mandelbrot’s autobiography, reviewed by Brian Rotman in the November 7th, 2013, edition of The London Review of Books, Mandelbrot declared shortly before his death, “Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules … repeated without end”.

What he had found is the essence of Islamic art and architecture and of its expression in normative jurisprudence, known as the purposeful maqasid al shari’ah.  He was articulating also a possible iterative methodology to identify the causes for failure and success in the Arab Spring and the similar causes that should be followed or avoided for a Global or Greater Spring, as well as vice-versa.

II.  Paradigm Displacement: The Crash of Keynesian Economics

The best current model of failure is Keynesian economics, which is followedalso by so-called Islamic banking.  In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Alan Greenspan, long the world’s “most authoritative” financial wizard, admitted that in 2008 the top-down Keynesian econometric macro-modeling ignored the externalities of exogenous human behavior.  It ignored what can be called fractal systems analysis, which is at the heart of natural law as reflected in Islamic Thought and classical Islamic jurisprudence, but not adequately in Muslim societal behavior in the sense of virtue or akhlaq.

For professional long-range global forecasters this admission by Alan Greenspan is revealing.  During Richard Nixon’s preparations for the 1968 presidential elections, Greenspan walked through the campaign offices like a Greek god.  He ignored the issue of economic justice, because he insisted on the rationality of his own thought and denied the value of any spiritual and moral dimensions. 

He also ignored the lessons subsequently established at Charles Williams Associates in a contract with the National Security Council to analyze the gross failures in all of the top ten global forecasts prior to 1980, including Herman Kahn’s The Year 2000, published in 1966.

  All ten of these global forecasts were grossly inaccurate by assuming either human rationality at the top of the decision tree or innate human irrationality at the bottom or an incoherent combination of both.  This is where fractal systems analysis comes in, which teaches that what one finds at any level of decision-making obtains at every other level.  This teaches that academicians are invariably wrong in their over-optimism about their own pet theories, such as Keynesian economics, which since 2008 has been discredited, as well as in their over-pessimism and rejection of alternative theories, such as Louis Kelso’s theory of binary economics as a just third way beyond socialism and capitalism. 

This tawhidian or Islamic approach of binary economics rejects the Marxian labor theory of value, which teaches that labor, not capital, produces value.  Binary economics emphasizes the interdependent roles of capital and labor in order to sustain an input-output balance through broadened or even universal, individual ownership of the means of production, so that contributive justice will produce an equally broadened distributive justice for balanced production and consumption. 

  Thirty years ago, this balance was termed the systems coherence of “harmonic justice”, based on the Islamic theory of tawhid, whereby the seemingly chaotic diversity in the universe points to the coherence of the whole and to the Oneness of its Creator.

III. The Nazm of Mizan

  This coherent balance in economic justice, known as haqq al mal, as well in each of the highest purposes of the maqasid al shari’ah and in all of them together, we might call the nazm of mizan, namely, the coherence of balance and moderation. 

This is relevant to analysis of the successes and failures of the Arab Spring as a universal model for the successes and failures of a more universal Spring, whereby, according to fractal mathematics, the dynamics at each level, both vertically and horizontally, mirror the dynamics at every other level and throughout the entire system.  Conversely, the conclusion should be that forecasting and planning toward a Global Vision of a Greater Spring is essential for local and regional success in avoiding the worst of the Arab Spring and building on the best of Persian, Afghan, and Pakistani Springs, as well as potential Springs in Burma, China, and elsewhere in the future.

      In the initial workshop on November 12, 2013, at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies to evaluate the Global Vision of Shaykha Moza’s Qatar Foundation, agreement was reached to accept the suggestion of the Reverend Canon Alistair Macdonald Radcliff that the project name be changed from Global Spring to Greater Spring.  Agreement was also reached on identifying and prioritizing at least seven variables or issues, but with differing views on how to address each of them.

      These key variables were:

1)  The nature of human nature.
2)  Definitions of secular and spiritual and the importance of each.
3)  Political versus economic priorities in the Arab Spring.
4)  Community and nation versus state in the context of asabiya.
5)  Geographical uniqueness in each manifestation of the Arab Spring.
6)  The role of doctrine in the interfaith future.
7)  Shifting energies globally from West to East toward transformative change.

The greater purpose of the Greater Spring is to bring together the best of all civilizations and religions in order to universalize their spiritual awareness and plurality of wisdom by interfaith cooperation in pursuing the vision of peace, prosperity, and freedom through the interfaith harmony of transcendent and compassionate justice for everyone.


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