The Third Jihad: An Introduction and Foreword to an Epistemological Inquiry
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
One of the most significant new books to appear in recent years is Professor Masudul Alam Choudhury’s pioneering study, Islamic Economics and Finance: An Epistemological Inquiry.
This advanced study in philosophy and moral theology brings to bear the universal principles of all the world religions on the socio-politico-economics of globalization. It contrasts the bottom-up paradigm of capitalism based on the autonomous individual as the ultimate source of truth and justice with the top-down paradigm of higher truth embodied in a transcendent source, known in Islam as tawhid.
Tawhid is both the Oneness of God and the coherent unity of all Creation, which our own human nature prompts us to understand intuitively. This produces a responsibility to derive from this understanding through our own reasoning capabilities some general ethical guidelines for human action, known in Islam as maqasid al shari’ah or the irreducibly highest purposes and universal principles of jurisprudence. Put in the philosophical terms used in moral theology and in the scientific search for knowledge, this is the task of epistemology in relating the ontology or Being of God to the axiology of transcendent justice. Man cannot create this axiology or knowledge of justice by himself but must seek it from divine revelation, scientific observation of the material world, and reasoned interpretations of both, which are known in Islamic thought, respectively, as haqq al yaqin, ‘ain al yaqin, and ‘ilm al yaqin.
Based on many years and even decades of thought and writing, Professor Choudhury develops in this book a third way of self-actualization through an evolution toward social consciousness, which he calls “the third level of reality”, other than socialism, which is the collectivization of individuals, and capitalism, which is the denial of moral community, in order to avoid the collapse of civilization from current trends of globalization. This book is designed for an elite audience capable of developing the tawhidi core of the maqasid al shari’ah for a new generation of scholars who must address the barriers to justice in the existing institutions of globalization and thereby develop globalization as a mercy rather than as a threat to humankind.
In stark terms, Professor Choudhury suggests that the conflict paradigm inherent in capitalism, where order is supposed to arise out of conflict among individuals seeking power, prestige, plutocracy, and wanton pleasure, can produce the end of history in a series of cataclysmic events that will trigger a decline into global entropy, which, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, is the dissipation of energy eventually into the stasis of permanent immobility and death, otherwise known as the end of civilization.
Since man controls his own destiny and is capable of learning wisdom from the above three sources of knowledge, haqq al yaqin, ‘ain al yaqin, and ‘ilm al yaqin, the faith-based scholars and wise leaders in the world religions must hope and build toward a societal transformation through the ideals, praxis, and enactment of ethical moral precepts arising from a unitary and symbiotic way of thinking that emanates especially from the Islamic world view but is inherent in all the world religions.
Professor Choudhury explains how the extension of the “liberal mind based on self-interest, conflict, competition, and hegemony of self” has now extended to the macro-level where it governs the institutions of money, credit, investment, and all economic and political priorities. Although rational choice in effectiveness of action is rewarded, nevertheless ignored and evaded are questions of whether any of this is moral in the sense of reflecting a systems-based unity of knowledge allowing for the evolution of thought and practice toward what is morally good.
Based on the belief that everything in the universe has a purpose inherent in the consciousness that created and sustains and pervades it, the task is to develop a “reversible entropy” through a morally centered vision of the human future where all systems of human thought and action converge in a unified field of consciousness.
A great merit of this magnum opus is its detailed explanation of the universal principle or maqsad of haqq al mal through specific recommendations designed to reorient Islamic thinkers and human thought generally. The aim is to expand both vision and policy beyond the narrow focus of those who, for example, merely want to “Islamize” banking so that it could claim to be Islamic but would still regard money, credit, and debt as commodities to be sold at a profit, and those who promote investment not for the production of real goods but for unproductive “financial services”, which in 2008 in America accounted ironically for a third of the official gross national product.
This book addresses many myths, such as the un-Islamic and unrealistic myth of economic scarcity, which ignores the unlimited potential of human creativity to find and develop the bounties of nature for human use.
Another key myth that Professor Choudhury exposes is the assumption of an inevitable clash between capital and labor. He points the way toward cooperative mechanisms that promote “ the social and institutional privileges of participation in sharing costs, risks, and benefits”. He speaks of “just property rights” based on “joint venture and joint production”. Institutional mechanisms could include the perfecting of banking, corporate, and tax priorities toward expanding capital ownership, so that, for example, credit could be based on future wealth rather than only on past wealth accumulations.
This breakthrough in economic thought could open up the trillions of dollars of future wealth to everyone as a universal human right. It would also obviate pressures to attack the sacred nature of private property by stealing the wealth of existing owners through governmental redistribution to the poor as a cheap means to avoid revolution. Such thinking “outside the box” could reverse the otherwise inevitably growing wealth-gap within and among countries, which is one of the major causes of terrorism.
Islamic scholars and scholars of all faiths can benefit in expanding their own horizons by studying this seminal exploration of the maqasid al shari’ah as a dynamic force in the continuous advancement of understanding, searching, and discovering diverse possibilities within the framework of the classical Islamic concept of tawhid.
This is precisely the challenge in the world today announced 1,425 years ago in the Qur’anic message calling for the jihad al kabir or intellectual jihad. This is the only form of jihad specifically mentioned in the Qur’an: Surah al Furqan 25:52: Wa jihidhum bihi jihadan kabiran, “Strive with it (divine revelation) in a great jihad”. This is the axiological challenge of the epistemological mission announced in Surah al An’am 6:115: Wa tamaat kalimati rabika sidqan wa ‘adlan, “The Word of your Lord is fulfilled and perfected in truth and in justice”.