Just published in May, the 50 Economics Classics is the latest in the series of great books distilled into one volume; written by Tom Butler-Bowdon, an accomplished author and literary critic. Previously published volumes in the series include 50 Philosophy Classics; 50 politics Classics; 50 Prosperity Classics and 50 Success Classics. Published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, 50 Economics Classics is your shortcut to the most important ideas on capitalism, finance and the world economy.
In paperback,it has 50 chapters, 360 pages; seven pages of 50 More Economics Classics for those in need of further inquiry; then two pages of chronological list of titles; three pages of book editions used in researching this book and finally, a page of acknowledgements. The 50 Classics series has sold over 300,000 copies. This Economics volume is the smart person's guide to two centuries of conversation on the global economy.
From Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations to Thomas Piketty's best selling Capital in the Twenty First century, here are the great bards, seminal ideas and texts clarified and illuminated for all. This book is all the more relevant, coming as it did in Nigeria's period of economic turmoil and depression. Economics may drive the modern world but sadly, we lack the knowledge of the ideas, thinkers and writings which constitute the discipline.
Spanning 50 books, hundreds of ideas and two centuries in time, 50 Economics Classics is an enquirer's guide to the global economy; taking you on a journey from the Industrial Revolution to the second machine age of the internet and artificial intelligence. This is neither a history nor an encyclopedia of economics. This is only a guide to the great thinkers and their seminal ideas old and new.
When in 1765, Edmund Burke (1729- 1797) said: "The age of Chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded," he was right that economics, finance and money are at the heart of modern civilization; in the way honor, chivalry and religion were to the Middle Ages. If in the past, a person's fate was settled by the social circumstances of his birth, today each of us is at the mercy of economics, for we must produce things of market value if we are to survive and thrive. "All your life," Economist Paul Samuelson said, "from cradle to grave and beyond- you will run up against the brutal truths of economics."
The importance of economics is that it is at the root of human prosperity. If voting gives freedom and power in theory; in practice it means little if we cannot even sustain ourselves and our families. Which is why cracking the code of economic prosperity for a person, firm or nation is crucial to peace and well-being of the people. Fifty Economics Classics gives you the knowledge to make you prosperous as a person or nation. John Maynard Keynes, the creator of the Keynesian economic superstructure, thought economics was built so we could enjoy the good things in life.
To Keynes, this was only possible with a stable and growing economy in which the damaging cycles of boom and bust were ironed out. Economists, Keynes said, are the trustees, not of civilization but of the possibility of civilization. The economist Hyman Minsky warned that, unless it is well regulated, capitalism will eventually go to extremes and produce instability. He went on to say that only an economics that is critical of capitalism can be a guide to successful policy making. Until economic policy stops being a tool for one group's advantage, it will be hard for capitalism to fully realize its goal of increasing the well-being of all.
This book by Tom Butler-Bowdon is a terrific compendium of the greatest books ever written on finance, economics and prosperity from famous classics to the hidden; distilled to the point of poignant clarity. Tom was the one who announced to the world in 50 Prosperity Classics the arrival of Donald Trump on the world stage as the 47th greatest thinker on prosperity. And by his victory as the 45th president of the United States Trump validated Tom's foresight.
The only African writer on the pack is Liaquat Ahamed, author of The Lords of Finance. In 2010, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke, was asked by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission what books he would recommend to understand the crisis. He mentioned just one, Lords of Finance, a work of economic history which won the Pulitzer prize in the same year.
Then Federal Reserve Bank's investment adviser, Liaquat Ahamed first had the idea for his book when reading a 1999 Time magazine story on the Committee to save the World and its successful efforts of Alan Greenspan, then Federal Reserve Bank chairman to stave off the Asian financial crisis, which threatened to bring down the global economy.
In a nutshell, Lords of Finance says, fixed ideas in economics can have disastrous results. The world hung onto the gold standard long after it had stopped being a means of creating stability and growth in the world. Born in Kenya, Ahamed studied economics in Cambridge, UK and Harvard, United States. He became economist to the World Bank before becoming the chief executive of a New York firm of economists.
For the author, Butler-Bowdon is most notable for the 50 Classics series, which provide key commentaries on the world of knowledge. An Australian by birth, Tom, Acting President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo and I did graduate work at the London School of Economics. While Tom researched on public policy, Yemi did his own in the law of evidence and i did mine in public finance. Tom gained experience while advising various Australian prime ministers. It was in the course of his job that he discovered the need for the Classics series. He sent me the book shortly before it was published last May. I recommend the book for the Aso Villa economic management group.
Many countries, especially those colonized escaped the cultural imperialism of the West: They rejected the imposed language and culture, but embraced the technology and knowhow of the Whiteman. They therefore, escaped being sentenced to a perpetual state of modern slavery. Among those that escaped are, India, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Dubai and the Gulf States of Qatar, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi; unfortunately we did not escape.
After the Korean War ended in 1953, and the US aid and help including subtle attempt at cultural imperialism, the Koreans still held on tenaciously to their language and culture. Today, Korean engineers have succeeded in building the world’s largest ocean-going cargo vessels that are capable of carrying more than 18000 containers each; built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd (DSME), one of the "Big Three" shipbuilders of South Korea (including Hyundai and Samsung). They are also the three biggest shipbuilders in the world. Yet, South Korea was nothing in the 50s and 60s. One of the Four Asian Tigers: The South Korean economy experienced rapid transformation called the ‘Miracle on the Han River’. Today, it is the world's seventh largest advanced economy and fifth largest exporter. It is the world's third least ignorant country. It has the world's third highest health adjusted life expectancy and fourth most efficient healthcare system. It is the world's largest spender on R&D per GDP: Leading the OECD in graduates in science and engineering. Home of Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia, it is the world's most innovative country for 4 consecutive years since 2014. The world's first country to fully transition to high-speed Internet and today has the world's fastest Internet speed and highest Smartphone ownership, ranking first in ICT Development, e-Government and 4G LTE coverage.
Yet, it has not allowed religion to supplant its development: It has a majority Buddhist population and shamanism has survived: Now we know why such countries excel! They are not bogged down with fasting and prayer conventions: But hard work!
The case of Dubai is illustrative of an Islamic country that has refused to engage in spiritual hypocrisy. Today, less than 5% of the emirate's revenue comes from oil. Dubai is a ‘miracle in the desert’. Its Western-style model of business drives its economy with the main revenues now coming from tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. At a time when our own Emirates are planning on setting up Cattle ranches or Zangos and bent on dipping the Quran into the Atlantic Ocean, the city has become iconic for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings (3rd in the world, 178); in particular Burj Khalifa, the tallest building and manmade structure in the world; it also contains the world’s highest mosque on the 158th floor (of 160), the world’s highest swimming pool, on the 76th floor, and the world’s highest viewing platform, on the 124th floor.
There are two major commercial ports in Dubai, Port Rashid and Jebel Ali; which is the world's largest man-made harbor: When the father of the present ruler ordered the construction of the port, he was asked by his son why he was constructing a port in the desert. The father told him that water will come to the port: The Creek was eventually dredged and water came to the port which today is the biggest port in the Middle-East and 7th in the World.
In 2016, Dubai International Airport was the 3rd busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic handling 83.6 million passengers. And is also the busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic.
Emirate Airline which started on March 25, 1985 with 2 leased aircrafts is today the proud flyer of the largest Wide-Body Fleet on Earth; Emirates ranks as the largest airline in the world by international seating capacity, according to the latest annual report by IATA. At the Farnborough Air Show in 2006, Emirates signed an agreement for 10 Boeing 747-8F in a deal worth $3.3 billion, and in 2007 Emirates signs contracts for 120 Airbus A350s, 11 Airbus A380s and 12 Boeing 777-300ERs, worth an estimated $34.9 billion, at the Dubai Air Show. Yet, here we are with a defunct national airline and still owing its staff their last salaries and pensions. There was a country!
Dubai as a city is not as wealthy as, New York or London. Dubai has no oil left, only 2% of its GDP is based on oil: But it has become a ‘miracle in the desert’. Dubai can only be described in the superlative degree of comparison. Burj Al Arab is the only “7-star” hotel in the world, and it is one of the most photographed monuments in the world.
The Palm Islands are the largest artificial islands in the world and one of the most ambitious developments on earth. Dubai Marina is the largest man-made marina in the world. Dubai Mall is the largest shopping center in the world by area: And attract more than 750,000 visitors every week. Dubai Fountain is the largest dancing fountain in the world. And it’s visible from space, making it the brightest spot in the Middle East.
Ski Dubai is a 22,500-square-meter indoor ski resort that offers the incredible opportunity to enjoy real snow in the desert all year round:And the largest indoor snow park in the world.Dubai Aquarium is the largest suspended aquarium in the world and provides unique views of 33,000 submarine animals behind the world’s largest acrylic viewing panel. The luxurious JW Marriott Marquis Dubai Hotel is the tallest hotel in the world. Incredibly developed in the middle of the desert, Dubai Miracle Garden is the largest natural flower garden in the world. It has entered the Guinness Book of Records with the world’s biggest flower clock. What do we have in comparison; except the largest gathering of ‘state robbers’ in the world?
With a population of more than 1.3 billion, it's no surprise that India runs the largest national school system in the world. With more than 700,000 schools in operation: The Indian Constitution provides for free and compulsory education as a fundamental right to children between the ages of 6 and 14; all in local language. 80.5% of Indians are Hindu. Indians are very proud of their language and culture. They have one of the largest higher education systems in the world after China and the United State. Indian is a nuclear power and an industrial giant. Bangalore is India’s answer to Silicon Valley. Most of our banks and financial institutions operate on software developed in Bangalore. India is also the home of Tata, an industrial conglomerate. Religion is never on their ‘front burner’; though it sometimes assumes a crisis proportion.
As at February 2017, there were 789 universities and 37,204 colleges in China; which has turned out to become the factory of the world. In 2008, China had over 20 million enrolled in the universities and graduated more than 6 million students. It is instructive to note that China has 1 in 5 college students in the world. Majority of Chinese are Buddhist: And God created them too! But, they do not live on fasting and prayers.
According to research carried out by the World Economic Forum, Russia churns out 454,000 graduates in technology, engineering and construction, annually, with exception of India and China. And they learn in their mother tongue. Under Communist rule, all religion was suppressed; and Russia was still the first to send a man into space.
Most of these countries are not defined by religion, but by sound early education where children are taught in their mother tongues. A common thread that runs through them is that they are able to produce cheap skilled labour for the manufacturing industries. It is this abundant, skilled and cheap labour that attracts US manufacturers to China. It is also this skilled cheap labour that enables China and other Asian Tigers to compete favorably with the West.
Our leaders at independence had all the opportunities to set us on the road to development like the Asian and Chinese peoples. The self governing regional system we practiced then, gave the regions much powers to shape our lives the way they liked; seeing as it were that these regions had their own constitutions; and they had a free hand in deciding the education policy of their regions. But the leaders were not challenged like the leaders in many of these countries that escaped the Whiteman’s noose. People like Gandhi in India, Kwan Yew in Malaysia and General Park in South Korea, made sacrifices for their countries and set them on the road to self sustained development. If only leaders like Awolowo and Azikiwe had done more along the line of self sustained development we would not be where we are today. Rather, due to their selfishness and myopia, they were hell-bent on controlling the central administration and failed to follow in the footsteps of India, China and Singapore. Their inordinate competition for control resulted in the military seizing power; not to better our situation but to send us spinning into the abyss of backwardness and war. While General Park was laying the foundation for self sustained development of Korea and General Ayub Khan was doing the same in Pakistan, our ‘kamikaze military’ kleptomaniacs were busy lining their pockets with our common patrimony.
Today other countries are leaving us behind, including our Arab brothers who were nowhere near us even in the seventies; all because they are today able to master western technology in their own language. Today, the computer keyboard comes in various languages including Arabic, but no African language.
We are only content with accusing each other of religious and ethnic domination. We have nothing to write home about in terms of national achievement. We ape the Whiteman both in our imperfect language and nuances; while we attempt to be more Christian than Jesus and more Muslim than the ‘Guardian of the 2 Holy Mosques’. Like the proverbial bat, we are neither rat nor bird. Instead of exporting refined petroleum and other finished goods to the world, we are busy exporting Christianity to those that taught us about Jesus: Exporting coal to Newcastle! But there is hope. If only we can have a rethink and retrace our steps.
Colonialism had a total influence on the society and the life of the colonized. Not only did it affect their culture and values, it engendered a lasting influence on the mindset of the colonized, especially their values and religious orientation; particularly their conception of God.Today, rather than concentrate on the needful and think of how to catch up with the rest of the world, we are daily engaged in unprofitable debate and discourse about religious domination and hegemony. We waste quality time and energy on mundane issues mostly ethnicity and religion, as if these would translate into better life for our people.
Our God from ages past is Olodumare, Chukwu, Ubangiji, Osanobwa; who has all the attributes of God espoused in Deuteronomy in the Bible: The same God whom the children of Israel refer to as Yahweh. We refer to him asOlorunwhich in ordinary parlance means theOlu Orunor the King of heaven. He begets none and neither is he begotten. We can only contemplate him and he is the creator and owner of heaven and earth.Up there in heaven, there is only one God:"Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, is one!Deuteronomy 6:4. We also find the same theme in: Mark 12:29; Job 23:13; Mark 12:32; Romans 3:30; Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5;Zechariah 14:9; 1 Corinthians 8:4; James 2:19; Ephesians 4:6;For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13
Every people have a consciousness of God and the Supreme Being is encountered in different cultures and tradition. The God of Israel and His Covenant with his people is the basis of the Old Testaments which perceives Yahweh as an exclusive God to the exclusion of the Canaanites and other people’s mentioned in the books of the Old Testament. Who then, is the God of thePhilistines, Edomites, Jebusites, Hivites, Hittites, Maobites, Ammonites, Perizzites and Midianies? This is the paradox of religion and the particularization of God. Paul in The New Testament widened the scope to include the Gentiles and later, peoples of other nations. But He was not to be the God of the Arabs and Muslims who were regarded as foes; And with whom many wars were fought.He was definitely not the God of the Africans as espoused by racial bigots and anthropologists:“Africa as the “Dark Continent” where people had no idea of God and where the Devil in all his abysmal, grotesque and forbidden features, armed to the teeth and with horns complete, held sway.”These theorists had fantastic tales to tell about Africa. And one such tale was recorded in a Berlin journal which Leo Frobenius (an ethnologist and archaeologist and a major figure in German ethnography.) brought to our notice: “Before the introduction of genuine faith and higher standards of culture by the Arabs, the natives had neither political organization nor strictly speaking any religion ....Therefore, in examining the pre-Muhammadan conditions of the negro races, to confine ourselves to the description of their crude fetishism, their brutal and often cannibal customs, their vulgar and repulsive idols and their squalid homes.”
Emil Ludwig, an eminent biographer said:“How can the untutored Africans comprehend God? Deity is a philosophical concept which savages are incapable of framing.”Can you imagine?
These show the ignorance, racial prejudice and arrogance of these theorists. These are the people who brought Christianity to us. Racist and patronizing, they still see us as less that human. They dismissed Africa as a spiritual desert: While some scholars admitted that the whole of Africa could not be a spiritual vacuum, they raised doubt as to whether the God that the Africans believed in was the “real God” or their own God. What racial and spiritual arrogance!
Whatever religion they met us practicing were denigrated, vilified and condemned with dehumanizing epithets.The colonial situation, Georges Balandier, French sociologist, anthropologist and ethnologist, defined as the domination of one people by another, acting in the name of racial, religious, cultural, and technological superiority: We were not only denied our God but our humanity was deprived of and denigrated. Though Islam preceded Christianity in our region, the colonizers did not see anything good in Islam too, so much so, that when the Christian missionaries opened their schools, Muslim students had to change their names and sometimes their faith before they could gain admission. However, it is clear that the denial of our religious traditions and all its meanings for our spiritual existence, led to the debasement of our culture and its values. At that point, they stole our God!
Before the advent of these faiths, did our forefathers not have the concept of God? Were they polytheists as we are being made to believe? What is the concept of Olodumare, as espoused by late Professor Bolaji Idowu, President of the Methodist Church, in his book,Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief:The most referenced book on the Yoruba concept of a supreme God.
Yet, we hold this truth to be self-evident that God is one, not many; and thatto the one God belong the earth and all its fullness.1 Corinthians 10:26.The God of Abraham is also the God of Babatunde and the God of Chinaka. The Quran is also very explicit on this theme:
Say: He is Allah. The One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (Quran 112:1-4)
It is this God, therefore, who reveals himself to every people on earth and whom they have comprehended according to the degree of their spiritual conception, expressing their knowledge of Him. It would be looking at facts through the spectacles of racial pride and superiority to deny this: It would be blasphemous to say that while the loving God cared for a particular section of His world, He had nothing in a clear, unmistakable way, to say to, or do with the rest.
The societal values and sanctions of the old religion have been proven to be more effective than the new faiths. Despite our Bible thumping and Quran mouthing, there is more corruption, crime, delinquency and waywardness in our society today. Our religiosity has become a transparent sham, and our prayers to God and opaque sham. Our leaders do not fear God anymore. They are today more brazen in their thievery.We continue to live a lie and our whole lives have become truncated; our education, progress and development as a people are stunted.
Religion has its own evolutionary trend and Christianity and Islam are not exempt. We could trace the Bible to thousands of years before Abraham. Most stories in the Old Testament have their original sources in Sumer: Most outstanding is the story of the flood, which is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Churches are decorated with ‘graven images’ and there are widespread beliefs in patron saints, angels and even demons. Belief in evil spirit abounds; if not, what did Jesus cast out of the woman in the Bible. The Christian Cross predates Christianity by thousands of years, as it was a symbol common in Babylonia and Egypt. Even the Psalms are found in the Sumerian epic.
Misleading terms have been conjured over the ages to denigrate us and we accepted them with relish. Among such terms are; primitive, savage, fetishism, juju, heathenism, paganism, animism, idolatry and polytheism: The etymology of these words do not justify their application to our beliefs. Today many of our ignorant brothers and sisters use these terms too, to describe their brethrens; particularly our ignorant Muslim brothers; without any apology!
They coined all these unsavory epithets to condemn our culture and values, to make us develop a spiritual inferiority complex.Rather than chart a new course for ourselves, we are busy fighting and killing ourselves over religions we know next to nothing about. Millions of Muslims in this country have no idea what the Imam is saying when leading the prayer, while millions too, including many Imams cannot recite most chapters of the Quran in our language. Like the Catholic Church of old that conducted its services in Latin, many of us are spectators at Juma’at services conducted in languages other than our own. This is the fate of a Yoruba who attends service in a Hausa mosque. Wahala de oooo! I had to ask my friend Mustapha the meaning of the words we were chanting during Hajj as none of us spoke Arabic except him; just as millions of Muslim pilgrims do not know why they have to circumambulate the Kaaba 7 times! What then is the way out?
My friend, veteran film-maker, Tunde Kelani opined: We therefore should focus on pressing issues, security, food, economy, health, education and good governance. And God knows, we have to also unlearn because we have been so miseducated over time. The fact that this discourse is carried out in the language of our enslavers is a disgrace enough. Very few lettered people today in Yorubaland can write a page in Yoruba: Ditto for Igbos and many others. Very disgraceful! Neither can millions read D.O. Fagunwa’s,Ogboju Ode! Yet, we have the capacity to rethink and start a process of reorientation, at least for the sake of our children and our children’s children.We should return to our indigenous language and culture and take the advantage offered by science and culture to leapfrog into the 21st century; our culture and language are already dead but hasn't disappeared.
We need an urgent reawakening and the sooner the better. Recently, the Yoruba Socio-Cultural Group, Voice of Reason (VOR) suggested among other things that schools in the Yoruba country should enforce the use of Yoruba in learning from Primary to Secondary School; a suggestion made earlier by late Professor Babs Fafunwa. This could be a new beginning.
Finally, we should realize that religion; all religions are man-made and evolved from the values, culture and perception of a people, be they Hebrews, Arabs, Kikuyu, Azande, Indians or Chinese; including the idiosyncrasies they have evolved to uphold these values; which today we call religion. Echoing Jesus; the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Let us leave religion to take care of our moral and spiritual precepts. It should not matter if you are Muslim, Christian or other faiths; there is only one God up there. And only one moral principle:Do onto others as you would love them to do onto you.
Let us face our real problem which is catching up with those who have left us behind: Seek ye the political kingdom and every other thing shall be added unto you. We owe it to our children and children’s children to lay a sound socio economic foundation on which sustained development can be built. Quod Erat Demonstrandum!
1,439 years ago Holy Prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina in what has become known as the Hegira and from thence the Muslim calendar commenced. The situation in Medina at the time was akin to what obtains in our clime today; a clash of cultures and religions, and all its attendant upheavals and acrimony.
The clash of civilizations, cultures, tribes, and religions seems to be prevalent throughout all of history. Many conflicts seem too complicated for an agreement to be established on just one point, whether or not the conflict revolves around territory, religion, or ethnic discrimination. So what approach is best to mediate issues in a contemporary world that seems to be driven by economics, natural resources, and ethnic or religious ideologies? The Medina Charter, promulgated by the Prophet, serves as an example of finding resolve in a dispute where peace and pluralism were achieved not through military successes or ulterior motives but rather through respect, acceptance, and denunciation of war. Pluralism was advanced and instated in Medina and reflecting on such a document could help avoid the hiatus and misunderstanding plaguing much thought, rhetoric, and media today between Muslims, Christians, and other faiths in our dear country and elsewhere.
Medina, was "a mixture” of different tribes (predominantly Arabs and Jews), who had been fighting for nearly a century, causing "civil strife,” and a lack of governance and on many occasions, deepened the divides and fueled conflicts. Karen Armstrong explains aptly the mentality and workings of the tribe: "The tribe, not a deity, was of supreme value, and each member had to subordinate his or her personal needs and desires to the well-being of the group and to fight to the death, if necessary, to ensure its survival"(Armstrong, Karen. 2006. Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time pp24). Such a system was, in a political sense, representative of the little cooperation between the tribes in Medina and it reflects what we are experiencing here today; albeit in a more forceful and dangerous proportion.
Our country today is peopled by power hungry leaders (someone said, looters), with emphasis on ethnic leaning and religion. The political climate is pregnant with apocalyptic drums of war that portends an end to this polity as we know it; to be replaced by a Hobbesian state of nature, which promises to be ‘nasty, brutish and short’.
We have not been lucky with a messiah who will descend from the Olympian heights with the promise of peace and unity, spreading the gospel of a community or Ummah, made up of diverse groups as we found in Medina during the time of the Holy Prophet. Those who have been thrown up by the system are merely pretenders, impostors and charlatans; delusional and men of doubtful spiritual and messianic pedigree. Being part and the main cause of the problem they are ill-suited to offer reasonable and acceptable solutions to our problems. Rather, their postulations are capable of exacerbating our problems and sowing the seeds of more divisions. The Promised Messiah is someone acceptable to all factions and should not be perceived as part of the problem or a major beneficiary of the solution. If our emergency messiahs are asked the question put to John the Baptist, how would they answer: They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." John 1:21. Pretenders, they would have lied and answered in the affirmative. But you cannot mock God.
It is in this vein that we look at the Prophet’s panacea to the Medina conundrum and the promulgation of the Medina Charter, which is too long to be reproduced in this short piece. However, the kernel of its provisions is that it proclaimed all the peoples of that troubled city as one ‘community’ with rights and obligations meant to weld them together as one Ummah. And it worked.
Peace was achieved through contemplation and through seeking agreements in which tribes felt they had benefited from the charter and had not been robbed of status or unresolved antagonism from the past. Islam places great emphasis on reason - the reasoning of the universe, of life, and indeed, of religion too. Al-Ghazali said, "Doubt is to find truth. Those who do not have doubt cannot think. Those who cannot think, cannot find truth."
The Prophet managed to take leadership and create a lasting peace. The first clause, "They are a single community (Ummah)," depicts the ultimate message and goal of the rest of the charter. It marked the creation of a community, and the Charter served as a unifying document in a city of diverse groups, cultures, religions, and languages.
We can achieve the same result here too, if only we can see our society as a single community, where ‘though tongues and tribe may differ’, we stand in brotherhood and in which we would all be proud to serve our fatherland.
"It is for this tolerance in the Islamic view that Muslims have looked at the religion of the people in the lands they conquered with respect; they did not intervene with their beliefs nor touch their churches".
Clause 25 epitomizes the level of tolerance in the charter and also serves as an example of Islam in practice. "The Jews ... are a community (Ummah) along with the believers. To the Jews their religion and to the Muslims their religion." This statement ties in with the verse from the Quran which says:
"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: Whoever rejects Evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. (Quran 2:256)
For in the eyes of God, as it says in the Quran:
Those who believe (in the Koran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, --any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, shall have their reward with their Lord: On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Quran 2:62).
By differentiating between beliefs, we neglect that under one sun we all pray to a greater entity, a greater being. We were all created by God, so unity seems imperative and practical.
The Medina Charter is very relevant to current tensions existing between our peoples. Unfortunately, it seems that ignorance, fear, suspicion, disrespect, and primordial stereotypes plague the interaction and relationship that exist between us.
The Prophet did not create an Ummah through denouncing all ways of life except for Islam or by recognizing Islam as the singular religion; instead he united all inhabitants of the city under one banner of ethical living and moral principles - commonalities between all humans and all religions.
It is believed that we could emulate the Prophet and fashion out a more inclusive community here too. If only our leaders have the will to do so; instead of sowing the seeds of discord among our peoples.
May Allah direct them to do the right thing for us and save us from the impending Armageddon; Amen.
Elsewhere, we have answered the question, What is democracy? Now we are concerned with the story of this admirable system of government. The word democracy was invented by the ancient Greeks about 500 years before Christ. It was formed from the Greek words, a noun that means people (demos) and a verb that means rule (kratein).
The idea of democracy grew out of the people's desire for a way of living that would give them protection as well as personal liberties and above all, happiness. These ideas and way of life were best expressed by Thomas Jefferson and are to be found in the American Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
In the earliest days, people lived together in family communities under their own laws, later people grouped together in clans and tribes and gradually in larger organizations- villages, cities, states and vast countries under a single government.
However, the earliest government that called itself a democracy was in Greece, under the leadership of Pericles. He lived 450 years before Christ. But Greece was not a single nation but a collection of city states. It was in Athens, the most important and powerful of these city-states that Greek democracy flourished.
The ideal of democratic movement in Athens was that all adult male citizens should have equal right to take part in government. Thus, Greek democracy was the business, not of some small exclusive group of noble families, but of all the citizens. Such idea was a great step forward in politics and government at that time. Athens was the first government of major importance actually to try out such an idea.
By the beginning of the modern age, around the 17th century, democracy gained greater momentum. Around this time in England, fearless thinkers and leaders maintained the doctrine that government is the servant of the people rather than that the people are the servants of government. One of the brilliant spokesmen in England, for democracy, John Locke, was persecuted by government, just like the radical lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, is being persecuted in Nigeria today.
The struggle for democracy moved to the Americans in the second half of the 18th century. With the British Government continuing to levy taxes upon the American colonies without their consent and without giving them representation in Parliament. The resentment of the colonists grew and in April 1775, at Lexington, the mounting tension led to the American Revolutionary War. The war which was fought for eight years, gave birth to a free and independent nation. "The Fourth of July," is celebrated in America every year in recognition of July 4, 1776, the day the colonies asserted their formal Declaration of Independence.
After the final victory over the British forces, the Articles of Confederation set up as the basis of Central Government for the states proved unsatisfactory because they did not give the government enough authority to operate efficiently.
The success of revolution in America fuelled discontent in France where King Louis XIV had avowed himself the state. In 1789, the French people rebelled, proclaiming the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man- a document which went further than the American Declaration of Independence. The French document abolished feudalism, whereas the US Declaration did not stop slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863 by the order of President Abraham Lincoln during the civil war.
This far is the journey of democracy. Since this form of government rests on the consent of the governed, thus, the underlying philosophy is not that the common man is all wise but only that he can govern himself better than anyone else can do it for him.
This article was first published here on January 26, 1993. Today marks the silver jubilee anniversary of its author Chief Ogunmupe as a weekly columnist of The Guardian.
Self reflection is good but you should not indulge in it. The question of happiness haunts us because at every stage of our lives we hope to seek meaning in everything we do. In an age we're encouraged to daily evaluate our position in the world and how we feel about being it; the search for happiness not only becomes tedious, it becomes discouraging. Thus, self reflection becomes a forced part of our culture, compelling us to reevaluate our relationships, homes and lives ever so often.
Actively looking out for happiness only creates feelings of unhappiness. Psychologists found that the more people value happiness, the more likely they will feel disappointed. Even when life changes for better, we still continue to feel hopeless and lonely. Then, what's the solution to this problem? The solution, a study found, is not to pursue happiness but meaning. People who pursue meaning end up being more positive in life, acquiring better attitudes for everything pleasing- from pleasurable relationships at home and at work to outright happiness in life.
While searching for meaning may be less a task as pining for happiness; experts say there are significant differences between them. Indeed, it is easier to establish meaning early in your life by following these steps: One,controlling your perception of life. Often when you sit down to reflect, you become more unhappy; then you retreat and feel defeated. But when you strive for meaning, you instead look beyond the current situation and look at the bigger picture. As life is filled with ups and downs you get yourselves riled up by the bumps in between moments of happiness creating feelings of despair in your lives.
However, finding meaning in your life depends on whether you are happy at the moment or not; which allows you to find a solution that will keep you happy from time to time. That makes you look beyond the present knowing fully well that how you feel now does not define your entire existence. The second step is in finding things bigger than yourself. When you look at things bigger than you and what you know, you seek transcendence. Transcendence isn't anything spiritual; it is in allowing yourself transcend being self centred by blending into a bigger reality.
Transcendence is experienced by the elation of belonging to a higher vision. Transcendence would then plunge you into reflection and self awareness. You evoke transcendence by placing yourself in situations that juxtapose you and the world, allowing you to clearly experience a bigger reality other than your own. Three, surround yourself with love. By so doing you attain happiness. We often turn to the people around us for happiness and with meaning, there wouldn't be any difference. While you might not be able to test yourself against the universe, there are ways to assure yourself of a sense well being through belonging to your family.
With friends and loved ones and by surrounding yourself with people who love you, you are able to realize that your existence has meaning. Of course this is different from being popular because of things you have or places you belong in. Deep connections go beyond actions and thought. By establishing kinship with someone, you are able to relate to people outside your world view and find meaning beyond the ordinary.
Finally, by creating a purpose for your life, you gravitate towards the universe of things and public figures.A purpose isn't defined by your paycheck or schedule or any agency. Your purpose is defined by joyful ability to give to others and change lives. It isn't strange to find purpose in our jobs; as long as we can contribute to the common good and the well-being of others. On the other hand, finding channels where we can affirm our sense of well-being, where we can passionately help others find direction in life are worthy purposes.
However, the goal of finding meaning in things isn't tied to finite things. Jobs can end, relationships often disappear; money fades away; what is left when all else collapses is your sense of purpose which no one can take away from you. This residue constitutes meaning in your life and ending up to making yours a happy life.