One of the central covert themes of neo-liberalism is to keep the money at the hand of the rich few and keep the rest poor. An unhealthy symptom of any society is when money is revolving and remaining in the hand of the rich. Read how eloquently it is pointed out in the Quran 59:7

And what Allah restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns - it is for Allah and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and orphans and the [stranded] traveler - so that it will not be a perpetual distribution among the rich from among you. And whatever the Messenger has given you - take; and what he has forbidden you - refrain from. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.

The pathetic part is when this group of neo-liberals took the poor as a subject of their business. Big UN agencies, like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), send their officers by first-class tickets to meet and discuss how to solve the problem of poverty over luxury dinner on five-star hotels. They used to brand the name third world countries for a long time, although recently they felt a bit shy and replaced that term with developing countries.

The biggest problem we face in the injustice and inequality and lack of sincerity from our leaders to combat it. I said ‘sincere’ because sometimes you would find it addressed in a way that is not pro-poor albeit they are under programs to combat inequality. For example, see all the noise that IMF/World Bank made post-WWII on the need for countries to make structural adjustments to catch-up with developed countries. This advice were not pro-poor rather to facilitate the big companies and neo-liberals to extract the bounties of these resourceful countries. This is truly foreign non-military invasion in our modern times.

I described in a previous post how Abu Bakr had a clear vision to bring this inequality to control by checking the power of the powerful.

Greediness of the West made them look into nature of things through the prism of money. Hence we have GDP and GNP for measuring the nature of who is poor. Things started to be better when the world realized that human elements were somehow neglected, and hence we started to see Human Development Index as a better proxy incorporating elements of health, knowledge, and standard of life. Oxford university formalized matters better in their Multi-dimensional poverty index.

When a researcher looks into the subject through the prism of Islam, he/she feels a Copernican shift in seeing things. First and foremost, there is a life hereafter. The stick and carrot under Islam are really the World Hereafter, but one unique aspect of Islam is the progressive nature embedded within this hereafter view. In other words, you work for the hereafter, but you can not neglect the cultivation and development of this world. You can not be a hermit living in a jungle in isolation of society, family, and politics. You should not beg and sit idle, rather work and cultivate to feed your family and lead a self-content life.

Associated with this view are the moral imperatives, altruism and the empathy towards other fellow human beings, animals and the environment at large. With this view, the entire Earth becomes like private property to a Muslim that was given to him by Allah, and he needs to care for it. That is the very concept of khalifa under Islam.

Divine decree and predestination is another central theme whenever we discuss poverty, or for that matters, richness in Islam. Allah distributes provision on earth, which is not correlated with Allah’s satisfaction or anger. So, Allah can given provision to a non-believer and withhold it from a believer. This is well rationalized when we know that what matters is the world hereafter and not the rank and richness of this world. Indeed, the entire world in the view of Allah is less significant that a wing of a mosquito, as mentioned in a hadith.

Given the above world view, while a field officer from a Western neo-liberal organization lecture a poor Muslim in rural Bangladesh on virtue of being rich, the poor might laugh and whisper within himself “but I am already happy in my village and beside my mosque”.

Surah Quraish, which is a very small Quranic chapter (no. 116) and almost every Muslim child memorizes it by heart, tells the story of development in less than 20 seconds.

For the accustomed security of the Quraysh - Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer - Let them worship the Lord of this House, Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear.

A very clear path to development that goes from worship of Allah to the developmental outcome of alleviating hunger and granting peace and security. Today, a big portion of the subjects of development agenda (i.e., the poor) are in Muslim countries. Millions of these subjects take spirituality very seriously and find in it a source of assurance at difficult times. If the development agenda leverages on this aspect of spirituality while designing these development intervention, then it is a win-win situation. The only problem is the neo-liberal and secular ideologies (sponsored by World Bank, IMF and the like) deliberately renders such potential power as taboo word and never to be spoken about.