We are told “more” is better and “less” is on the losing side. More money gains prestige, more votes win elections, more sales make NY Times bestsellers, and so on. This frenzy behind “more” is hardcoded into the psyche of our times. More likes, more subscribers, more views, and more of everything.
Once the tenant of “more” is established, the elders and engineers start to ‘manufacture’ consent and hypnotize the society to get the ‘more’ from everything, in elections, in youtube views, Facebook likes, and everything.
The revolution in science and technology worsened the matter and reinforced the tenants of ‘more’. Statistics, data, Internet-of-things, mobile devices, surveys, AI, Machine Learning, and social media all enabled better collection of data. Now it is easy to show the “more” and bless it and show the “less” and damn it. Science and technology themselves are agnostic of any value or ethics, and hence can be used both in good or bad causes. Unfortunately, given the greed of corporate capitalism they are predominantly used to enrich few elites, particularly those in the Silicon Valley who are exponentially getting rich.
One major problem in the rulebook of ‘more’ is the reduction of complex matters into generalized quantifiable indicators. Quantification comes always with abstraction and reduction. Individualized niches get lost, and sometimes these (what appear to be niches) are important. Quantification is a quick and dirty approach to sorting things into generalized buckets. For example, millions of students are judged through multiple choice questions, and millions of voters are subjected to either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes. No voter can say, “I prefer candidate X for such and such matters, but I want candidate Y for these and that matters”. All such details are lost in the playbook of ‘more’ or ‘less’. With automated technologies, there is no human agent who meets people, goes deeper, hears their emotions, and shows empathy. Rather, in the age of hustle capitalism powered by technological steroids, the masses are reduced to objects on an assembly line. We live in a world that combined the worst of Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ and Orwell’s 1984.
God has created our knowledge processing system in such a way that it needs time to digest inputs bit by bit. It would be counter productive to dump huge pile of information and expect us to get the knowledge and wisdom out of them. The flourishing of Internet and the ‘more’ mentality has created a counterproductive environment that allows us no time to digest information slowly. Like zombies we scroll our social media feeds and bombard our input system with tons of information and then soon we end the session forgetting everything and preserving zero wisdom. This is akin to a mental dynsentry that throws out the input as waste without extracting any nutrients or minerals.
Let me search for historical evidence in support of the above. Can we find historical evidence that ‘less’ could be more rewarded than ‘more’?
Noah was saved in the ark with the ‘less’ of his tribesmen, and the ‘more’ was drowned because they did not join his call.
Lot was saved only with a ‘few’ of his relatives and the ‘more’ was destroyed including his wife.
David and his army who were ‘less’ in quantity - but more in quality - won the battle against Goliath and his army who were ‘more’ in quantity - but less in quality.
Muhammad with 317 believers won the battle of Badr over the Meccan army who were three times as many.
When Caliph Omar was dying he initiated a process for selection of the next leader. This process would remain the best election process that should be studied and applied as an alternative to elections in current Western democracies. He appointed six persons from whom one should be the next Caliph. All were from the tribe of Quraish. He ruled out his son to be among this exclusive group. Abdur Rahman ibn Aouf was among these six candidates but excluded himself and volunteered to act as the election commission. He started on a personalized journey of meeting people and taking their opinion. Finally, he shortlisted the candidates to Uthman and Ali. Then he worked day and night to seek everyone’s opinion on who would be the finalist. This process was free from vote manipulation, nepotism, or opening up the vote for the rule of ‘more’ without guided and conscious selection.
This historical event shows many things. It shows the respect for selection as well as election. Selection that preserve the heritage and family (hence Caliphs must be from Quraysh tribe), but is overridden by more important consideration; which is justice for all. No nepotism, no extracting other’s rights in favor of growing personal gains. It does not allow opening up votes to the crowd unguided. It would certainly lead to chaos and anarchy. It emphasizes supervision of the voting by sincere and competent people. Above all, it not a government ‘by people’ rather it is ‘by Allah’ but it is ‘for people’. Legislations and rules are dictated by Allah and scholars ensure the right interpretation and the government ensures a just implementation.
A true Muslim leader when is entrusted with such role takes it his responsibility to preserve the rights of the weak. This is in contrast of many politicians today who sale promises before the election and turn into a dictator after winning. Here I quote and inaugural speech of the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr. You can read more extensive commentary on this speech I wrote some times back.
“O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me. Truthfulness is trust, and lying is treachery. The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs, insha Allah. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me, until I take from them what is rightfully (someone else’s), insha Allah. No group of people abandons military/armed struggle in the path of Allah (i.e., Jihad), except that Allah makes them suffer humiliation. And evil / mischief (e.g., spread of illegal sexual activities, sodomy, etc.) does not become widespread among a people, except that Allah inflicts them with widespread calamity. Obey me so long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. And if I disobey Allah and His Messenger, then I have no right to your obedience. Stand up now to pray, may Allah have mercy on you”.
Now let me turn to the most powerful source: the Quran and investigate the Quranic perspective on the subject.
Here is an excerpt from the story of Saul marching with an army ( that had David with them) to meet Goliath (verse 249 of Surah Baqarah)
When Saul marched forth with his army, he cautioned: “Allah will test you with a river. So whoever drinks ˹his fill˺ from it is not with me, and whoever does not taste it—except a sip from the hollow of his hands—is definitely with me.” They all drank ˹their fill˺ except for a few! When he and the ˹remaining˺ faithful with him crossed the river, they said, “Now we are no match for Goliath and his warriors.” But those ˹believers˺ who were certain they would meet Allah reasoned, “How many times has a small force vanquished a mighty army by the Will of Allah! And Allah is ˹always˺ with the steadfast.”
In the verse above it is clear that quality wins over quantity and the main source for the quality of the believers is their “fear of Allah”.
Let us take another example. Here is verse 23:78 which shows that the majority of mankind does not utilize the tools to acquire knowledge, but only a minority does.
He is the One Who created for you hearing, sight, and intellect. ˹Yet˺ only a few give any thanks.
The ultimate result is that most of those who perish on the Day of Judgement are those who are not believers. Here is a hadith in support of this. Ibn Masoud narrates that:
There were, about forty of us with Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) in a camp when he said, “Aren’t you pleased that you will constitute one-fourth of the inhabitants of Jannah?” We said, “Yes”. He again said, “Aren’t you pleased that you will constitute one-third of the inhabitants of Jannah?”. We said: “Yes.” Upon this he (ﷺ) said, “By Him in Whose Hand Muhammad’s soul is, I hope that you will constitute one-half of the inhabitants of Jannah; and the reason is that only Muslims will be admitted into Jannah; and ** you are no more compared to the polytheists than as a white hair on the skin of a black ox, or a black hair on the skin of a white ox. **”
Importance of quality over quantity is very much evident in the following verse (al-Mulk, 2):
˹He is the One˺ Who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving.
What matters is ‘best’ deeds not ‘more’ deeds. Less deeds but with quality overweighs more deeds without quality. Quality in this context means to do acts of worship with sinceretiy and according to the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. Showing off, doing acts of worship for other than Allah (i.e., Shirk), or not following the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (i.e., Bidah) will invalidate the deeds even if they are huge in amounts.
A small minority today is controlling the masses through softpower that is powered by technology and media. By ‘controlling’ I mean suppressing their rights and exploiting their resources in return of enriching the comfort and luxury of the elite class. Long ago, Pharaoh has subjected the masses to forced labour and built huge construction. Today the process has changed yet the end goal remains the same.
A true leader on the other hand empowers the mass population with knowledge and guide them towards their rights and protect them from any exploitation. So, in the question of ‘more’ or ‘less’, the answer is ‘less’ who works to gurantee the well being of the ‘more’.
Let me end with this verse from Sura al-Furqan
Or do you think that most of them listen or understand? They are only like cattle—no, more than that, they are astray from the ˹Right˺ Way!