THE WORK-ETHIC OF AL-RAGHIB AL-ISFAHAINI AND SAID NURSI
Prof. Dr. Yasien Mohanmad
In this paper we compare the economic ethics of a classical Islamic philosopher, al-Raghib al-Isfahalni (d. 1060)1 and a modern Islamic philosopher, Said Nursi (d. 1960).2 They are nine centuries apart, and lived in different worlds, yet they have a similar work ethic. We will explore these parallel ideas, without hinting at any direct influence of the one thinker upon the other, but simply to compare similarities and differences in their thought. In previous publications we have demonstrated the affinity between the ethical ideas of Isfahalni and Ghazzalli, and we have concluded that Ghazzalli used Isfahalni's al-Dharicah ila Makalrim al-sharicah as a source for his ethical treatise, Mizaln al-camal. However, apart from some passing references to notes on Ghazzalli's views, we will not speculate on how some of these common ideas on economic ethics by Isfahalni have filtered through to Said Nursi. We will merely be demonstrating the affinity of thought between the two thinkers, and suggest that the work ethic of Nursi is a continuation of thought in the eleventh century as represented by Isfahalni. This paper will compare the views of Isfahalni and Nursi on the merits of labour and frugality.
Both Isfahalni and Nursi base their economic ethics on the Qur'an, which they quote from extensively. Striving is an important part of the work ethic, and the Qur'an clearly indicates its importance when it states that 'Man will get nothing but what he strives for'(Q. 53:39); also, 'For men is the benefit of what they earn. And for women is the benefit of what they earn (Q.4:32). Prophet Muhammad (s) himself exemplified the work ethic. He used to pasture sheep and encourage others to do likewise to earn a living. Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said: If one of you should take a rope and bring a bundle of firewood on his back and sell it (to earn a living), it would be better for him than begging from others (Bukhari).3
Another aspect of the work ethic is that of consumption of wealth. The Qur'an prescribes the golden mean between the extreme of asceticism, which denounces worldly pleasures, and materialism which in which people lose themselves in the enjoyment of carnal pleasures. The Qur'anic approach is to enjoy the lawful pleasures of life moderately, and to follow the golden mean between the excessive expenditure on the gratification of personal desires and the abstention from the enjoyment of pure, lawful things of life. 'O you who believe, forbid not the good things which God has made lawful for you and exceed not the limits' (Q. 5.90). In other words the Qur'an teaches that Muslims should be frugal or thrifty in their consumption and spending.
They should spend their money lawfully on the satisfaction of lawful needs, and should not waste their wealth by handing it over to immature individuals. 'And make not over your property which God has made a (means) of support for you, to the weak of understanding, but maintain them out of it. (Q. 4:5). The Qur'an teaches that one should maintain the mean between miserliness and extravagance. One should not be so attached to wealth, which is part of the transience of life, that one becomes miserly; nor should one despise wealth, which is an importance means of support and human sustenance. Extravagance may be defined as the spending of wealth on unlawful things such as gambling and drinking, and also on excessive expenditure on lawful things which are not essential. The Qur'an condemns this kind of expenditure: And squander not (your wealth) wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the devils brethren.
And the devil is ever ungrateful to his Lord (Q. 17: 26-27). Thus, Islam prescribes reasonable expenditure without being wasteful and economy without being miserly. It advocates moderation in both spending and saving. One should neither be so wasteful as to spend all ones wealth carelessly on luxuries and other needs beyond ones needs, nor should one be so miserly as not to spend anything on oneself or ones family or other good things of life, according to one's means. In short, people should spend their wealth according to their means. The Qur'an makes plain the moderate way:
And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes) (Q. 25: 67). With this preface to the Qur'anic work ethic, we are able to assess the extent to which Isfahani and Said Nursi derived inspiration from the Qur'an for the development of their own conception of the work-ethic. We are not able to trace any direct influence of Isfahani on Nursi, but certainly, we can say, that they both derived inspiration from a common source, the Qur'an.
1. The Work-Ethic of Isfahalni
A key Islamic concept with regard to the acquisition of wealth is kasb (gain, acquisition). As a world-affirming religion, Islam encourages the lawful earning of livelihood. The Prophet himself was a merchant, and so were many of his companions. Theoretical reflections on the acquisition of wealth were more prevalent from the third/ninth century. It was positively affirmed, provided it was the fruit of honest toil.4 As has been noted, wealth, according to Isfahalni, is one of the moderate virtues, which could lead to either good or evil. Thus, he states: 'The external acquisitions like wealth and rank are termed average (moderate) good deeds because they sometimes attract to virtue and sometimes to vice. They lead to good if they go with the intellect; and evil, if with ignorance.5
1.1. In praise of striving, earning and working:
Wealth for Isfahani is one of the external virtues; it is a virtue if it acts as an aid to happiness. Thus, a noble person does not hoard wealth, but spends it in order to acquire virtues leading up to happiness. Wealth is acquired through the effort of ones craft, or some luck of inheritance. But which ever way one acquires it, one needs effort for it to be used for the nurturing of moral character. 'But as for those who desire the Hereafter and strive for it, as they should, while they are believers, their effort will be appreciated (Q. 17:18-19).
Thus, striving is a prerequisite for one to obtain the virtue of the Hereafter, at least for those who have faith in it (imaln).6 But God's decree that a date must becomes a date palm does not imply no human effort. As the date pit still needs to be nurtured, man still needs to nurture his potential to acquire happiness of the Hereafter.7 God created worldly accidents as a means to a greater end, but most people make the worldly accidents their end.8 Wealth is a trust for the wise to use profitably;9 knowing that it must be returned to its Owner.10
Work is essential; from its wages one can provide the essentials of food, shelter and clothing. A person who works for his basic needs should earn a decent salary, and should not be exploited for his services. Compensation in the form of money is an instrument of justice.11 The fear of poverty is natural to humans, and helps drive people to work, but there are limits to this fear. A rich man should be frugal, not wasteful; the poor man should trust God, and be content with the little that satisfies his essential needs.
It is lawful to earn a livelihood, but compulsory when it relates to prescribed worship.12 If a person has to employ others to fulfil his basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), he should pay them, others he is an exploiter.13 Isfahani is critical of those extremist Sufis who prefer to beg than to work..
For this [reason] the Sufi pretender is to be censured for not wanting to work [for a living]. One can gain no knowledge from him, nor is he a model for righteous actions. He should be rebuked; his only aspiration is to satisfy his stomach and his sexual desires. [Like a parasite], he profits from people, but does not benefit them, and cramps their livelihood. Such idle vagabonds spoil the drinking places and are the cause of high prices. Because of this, cUmar ibn al-Khattalb (May God be pleased with him) used to ask a holy man whether he had a craft. If his reply was negative, cUmar' would have a lower estimation of him. The Prophet praised the group of cAbd Qays when they were asked: 'What is manliness (murul 'ah)', and they said: 'temperance and professional skill.'14
Furthermore, Isfahalni states that God rebukes the one who wastes his wealth through extravagance. Also, one who works hard because of his poverty should be satisfied with what will suffice him for his present need, and should not worry about his future need.15 Thus, the poet states: 'Whoever strives to gain wealth out of fear of poverty, his effort is poverty itself.' Also: 'If you truly rely on God for sustenance, He will give you sustenance like the bird that goes hungry and returns full.'16
Earlier Isfahalni spoke of poverty as a positive driving force for work, but he condemns the excess fear of poverty whereby a person is not satisfied with the little he has. Rather, a person should depend on God for his sustenance, and work for his present basic needs, but not be paranoid about his future state of poverty. Thus, fear of poverty as a driving force for work should be balanced out with trust in God as the real Sustainer.
But there is a deeper driving force within innate human nature that impels people to work, and that is the spirit of 'restlessness'. Man's fear of poverty is connected to his external condition of poverty; but this innate restlessness is aimed at satisfying man's basic needs, the needs of the three faculties of the soul. Indolence, sloth or laziness militates against it, and should be condemned. 'Whoever is idle and inactive is stripped of humanity, even of animal existence, as he is like a dead body.'17 This 'restlessness' comes from his three faculties of the soul. The concupiscent faculty, to be satisfied by earning a livelihood; the irascible faculty, to be protective; the rational faculty, which requires knowledge for guidance. The rational faculty, which makes one think, will eventually lead to happiness. Thus, Isfahalni states: 'Furthermore, [he should apply his intellect] to realize his restlessness (idtiralb 18), and to effect his means of subsistence which is a fact [of human nature] and which is the cause [of moving from] humiliation to dignity, from poverty to wealth, from lowliness to loftiness, and from simple-mindedness to cleverness.'19
Whoever is slothful because he wants to rest, in reality he has no rest, for leisure and laziness will lead to his suffering of disease. Thus, it is said : 'Beware of laziness and tiredness; laziness makes you disinterested in fulfilling the rights of others, and tiredness makes you persevere in the pursuance of the truth.'20 God created animals with movement to obtain sustenance, and man, with thinking to
be used, not to be idle, for then his soul will be tainted. 'As laziness spoils the body, the neglect of insight and reflection will spoil the soul which will become dull and revert to the class of animals. Man's duty is not to waste his time, but to perfect his religion and his world , and thereby correcting the matters relating to the Hereafter and caring for it.'21 Thus, there is no hope of attaining high rank without effort and struggle.
Thus, Is?fahalni commends striving, and condemns sloth and the wasting of one's valuable time. Also, he encourages one to use all one's talents and faculties, especially the rational faculty, which will not benefit one if it falls into disuse. The rational faculty should be directed at taking care of the affairs of this world as well as the Hereafter.
1.2 The moderate seeker of worldly goods
There are three seekers after worldly goods.22 First, there is the one who unthinkingly indulges in worldly goods, hoarding them and being dependent on wealth.23 The second is one who partakes of the world, but is content with less than his needs, in order to eke out an existence. According to Isfahalni, the Sufi way is to partake only of less than one's basic needs, making it compulsory (faridah) upon themselves, even if
they are permissible (mubalhan). And they make the supererogatory (nawalfil)compulsory upon themselves.24 The third is one who partakes of the world, but, as God's trustee, confines himself to only what he needs, leaving the rest to others in need.25 Such a person will become the vicegerent of God.26 The third approach is the moderate way as suggested in sura 28, verse 77 27. Most people are engrossed in the indulgence of worldly goods, and therefore fall into the first category. The Sufis support the second category, which is an important means of discipline, and therefore it is helpful in reaching the ideal state of moderation. The third category is the moderate way as one is able to partake of the essential worldly goods, and only according to what one requires. Corresponding basically to these categories of seekers are, according to Isfahalni, three kinds of people who care for the affairs of the world and the Hereafter.28 First, the munhamiquln are engrossed in the world, but pay no attention to the Hereafter. Secondly, the mukhallifuln are delighted with the Hereafter but pay no attention to the welfare of the world. Thirdly, the mutawassi are in between these two types, fulfilling the rights of both the Hereafter and the world. The third category, which includes the Prophets, are the best.29
1.3 Frugality in spending
There are two kinds of spending: the praiseworthy type, such as charity (sadaqah) and spending on one's family; the blameworthy type, such as extravagance or miserliness. Extravagance is to spend excessively and inappropriately. To give money to an unjust person and to spend it on wine are examples of inappropriate and unlawful spending.
Although both extravagance and miserliness are vices, the former is a better quality as it is easier for an extravagant person to make the transition to being frugal than a miserly person. Furthermore, the extravagant person might benefit others, but he will harm himself, but the miserly person will neither benefit himself nor others.30 There are also distinctions in the various kinds of miserliness. Miserliness with one's own wealth, miserliness with the wealth of others (spent on others), and miserliness with the wealth of others (spent on one's self). The third kind is the worst.31
There are also categories of generosity, a praiseworthy quality that is connected to faith.32 There are five types of generosity: 'Divine generosity, which is to give to all people according to what they deserve; kingly generosity, which is to give wealth to the deserving, rich or poor; the subject's generosity, which is to give to the beggar; the vagabond's generosity, which is share among themselves; and the public's generosity, which is to give to one's relatives. The highest form of giving is Divine generosity, which is to give to all those who are deserving and needy'.33
1.4. The Natural Inclination and Practice of the Crafts
Like the Ikhwaln, Isfahani holds that people are created with different natures and abilities, which cannot be all found in one person. So for the practice of the crafts and the enhancement of material and spiritual life, people will need to co-operate with one another.
It is difficult to live alone and acquire basic needs without the assistance of others. Consider, for example, the effort involved in producing a piece of bread, from the time of sowing the wheat to the making of flour and bread. In addition, it is also difficult to account for all manufacturing of equipment to produce it. To be sure, it is difficult to take account of it all. Thus, man needs to gather in groups to co-operate and assist one another. It is said: Man is political (madani) by nature 34, that is, he cannot live in isolation, rather, he needs other people for the welfare of religion and the world.35
Man's natural inclination for particular crafts is part of divine determination; yet, each person should be free to choose whatever craft he wishes to pursue.36
He created a hidden relation and a Divine congruence between their crafts and their natures, making each person prefer his own craft- loving it and pursuing it with the endowed faculties suited for it. If the person were to be given the responsibility of another craft, 37 (other than what he has been endowed with), he would have been disinterested and dissatisfied with it. God has created each person to pursue his own specific craft. If not, the whole of mankind would choose one craft, by which nourishment 38 (through the help of others) and mutual assistance (within each craft) would be nullified. Furthermore, they would all choose the best names, countries, crafts and actions, and be proud of that. But God in His wisdom created man free to choose a craft; yet determined his inclination for a particular craft. [That is to say, man is born with an inclination for a particular craft, but at the same time he has a choice as to the craft that he pursues.] If he chooses the craft that conforms to his natural inclination, he will be happy; if not, he will be sad. Man, therefore, is either contented with his craft, like a contented tailor not wanting any change of craft, but finding fault with the cupper, or like the cupper who is content with his craft, but finds fault with the tailor. In this way their affairs are organised.39 Or man is discontented with his craft, struggling with it as he finds it detestable, not having an alternative.40
Thus, the Prophet said, 'Everything is made suitable for what it was created for'41 and the people will remain good as long as they are different, but if they are equal, they will be destroyed.'42 By citing this quotation, Isfahalni wishes to emphasise that differences in people's preferences for the crafts brings about unity rather than disunity; he compares this notion of unity in diversity with the dissimilarity in the forms of writing that make a system of writing possible.43 Therefore, one should take proper care of one's lawful craft.44
Apart from the psychological fear of material poverty that drives people to pursue the crafts, there is a deeper drive, intrinsic to the human soul, which Is?fahalni calls idtiralb (restlessness). This 'restlessness' is man's will to work in order to satisfy his physical, emotional and rational needs, which emerge from the faculties of the soul. The soul's innate restlessness determines all things around it; perpetually impelling man to rise above his dependence, helplessness and ignorance.
On the classification of the crafts, Isfahalni follows the Ikhwaln in identifying three essential crafts, namely agriculture, building and weaving, which serve the basic human needs of food, shelter and clothing, respectively. In his classification of the crafts, Is?fahalni adopts the three essential crafts from the Ikhwaln, but adds a fourth essential craft, namely, the craft of ruling (siyalsah), which also includes the Prophets.
Isfahalni states that there are three categories of crafts.45 First, there are the essential crafts, without which the world cannot continue in an orderly way. Its subdivisions are: agriculture (al-ziralcah 46), weaving (al-hiyalkah), building (al-binal' and ruling (siyalsah 47). These satisfy the basic needs for food, clothing and shelter, and also the fundamental need of society to be organised. The craft of ruling is the noblest of the four. Secondly, there are the complementary crafts. They serve the essential crafts, as smithing complements agriculture, and carding (separating the cotton threads from their seeds) and threading complement weaving.48 Thirdly, there are the aesthetic crafts, which serve to beautify and adorn with commodities such as silk and perfume. They adorn the essential and complementary crafts, as milling and baking adorn agriculture and tailoring adorns weaving. The noblest of crafts is ruling,49 which has four sub-categories: the prophets rule over the elite and the masses on the extrinsic and intrinsic level; the governors rule over the extrinsic, but not the intrinsic beliefs of the elite and the masses; the sages rule over the internal condition of the elite; and the jurists 50 and preachers rule over the internal beliefs of the masses.51 Note below the classification of Isfahalni's crafts into the following orders of importance: the essential, the complementary and the aesthetic. Four essential crafts are mentioned, of which 'ruling'is considered to be the most important. We have provided our own examples of the secondary crafts, as Is?fahalni did not specify any. 52
ISFAHAINI'S CLASSIFICATION OF CRAFTS
The classical classification of crafts by Isfahalni (followed by Ghazzalli paved the way for later classifications, and we note some parallels in a much later figure, Ibn Khaldun, who also acknowledged the three essential crafts as natural ways of earning a livelihood, the importance of human labour, the unnaturalness of political professions and government positions, and the vice of sloth emerging out of the sedentary lifestyle of the city.
3. The Work-Ethic of Said Nursi
We will now provide an exposition of the work ethic of Said Nursi, based mainly on his treatise on frugality.53 Two aspects will be covered in this section: Man's zest for work and his suitableness for it; and frugality.
3.1 Man's zest for work and his suitability for it
We have noted above that Isfahalni has the view that individuals have certain natural aptitudes for certain kinds of work, and this is innate within their nature. While the idea of natural aptitude and inclination for a particular craft is present within the though of Said Nursi, its innateness is not as clearly emphasised as it is done in Isfahani.
Said Nursi states that if a person has a passion for work or business enterprise, he will undertake his task with great zest, and thus become more efficient.
Worldly striving is not divorced from the otherworldly end, for, this world is a tillage for the hereafter. Nor is the otherworldly orientation detached from worldly striving, for tawakkul (reliance on God), does not mean waiting upon others to make things happen, and not make one's own effort. One should make the effort and leave the outcome to God; otherwise, to leave the effort to someone else would amount to laziness as Said Nursi states:
'To 'leave it to others' in planning the preliminaries of a matter is laziness,
while in awaiting the outcome it is reliance on God. Resignation with the fruits of one's labour and with fate is contentment, and strengthens the wish to strive. Whereas making do with what exists is to lack enterprise. …[Surely] the reward of idleness is poverty, [and] the reward of effort is wealth.54
Reliance on God is part of belief; it leads to the happiness in this world and the next. However, it does not negate causality. Nursi states: 'Reliance on God is not to reject causes altogether; it is rather to know that causes are a veil to the hand of power and have recourse to them. Knowing that attempting causes is a sort of active prayer, it is to seek the effects only from Almighty God, recognize that the results are from Him alone, and to be thankful to Him'.55 Thus, Nursi supports the view of divine destiny and man's dependence of God, but at the same time he acknowledges that the Qur'an clearly makes provision for human free will, which makes it possible for man to strive and to take responsibility for his actions.56
Another important consideration for the developing of an efficient work ethic is that of a person's propensity and capacity for a particular craft. The more a person is inclined towards a particular craft, the more such a person will be efficient in it. Nursi states: 'It is grievous disobedience towards the laws of creation for a man to give up one thing for which he has a propensity and capacity, and to attempt another for which he is incapable. For its mark is …respect and love for the criteria of the craft, conforming to its laws…in short; it is losing himself in the craft'.57 By identifying with ones work one is bound to excel in it, becoming proficient and efficient in it. Often, parents enforce a particular craft on their child who has no interest or inclination for it. It is detrimental to follow family tradition and custom blindly, and to pursue a craft entirely against one's will. One should rather explore the possibilities that are open to one, and suited to one's capacity.
Nursi is in fact urging the Muslims of his time not to merely confine themselves to the work of their forefathers, but to face up to the challenges of modern science and technology. One should have an open mind, and consider other options for work, then what one is previously accustomed to, and one should become equipped in the sciences and technology so that the ummah can retrieve its lost intellectual heritage and become strong again. Duran calls this 'Merchant Islam' and states that it follows the principle that wisdom is the lost property of a Muslim, and so one should pursue it no matter from what source it comes from.58 Scientific methods of production, even if they come from the West, should be pursued so that Muslims can rise to the challenges of the time and become powerful again.
To place Said Nursi's work ethic into its proper metaphysical perspective, one needs to link up the whole concept of human striving with the concept of qadar (divine destiny). We have already alluded to Nursi's view in this respect, and we need to restate that Nursi rejected the view of divine destiny that leads to the kind of
tawakkul (dependence on God), devoid of human effort. The concept of tawakkul is important for Nursi as it its vital to the cultivation of contentment. The kind of contentment that leads the believer to accept the little or many bounties that God has bestowed upon him or her. A Muslim strives for certain bounties, but the outcome of his striving is in the hands of God, and it is in accepting these outcomes that one shows contentment, and one depends on God. It is not a question of making a choice between professional ambition and contentment with God's bounties; one has to embrace both. Thus, there is no place for fatalistic resignation; nor for human effort without acknowledging God's power. The notion of tawakkul must accompany human striving, and cannot be an excuse for sloth, stagnation and inertia.
3.2 Frugality 58
Frugality means basically to be thrifty; it is the mean between the vices of extravagance and miserliness. To be frugal, one has to be wise and disciplined. Wise in not being extravagant and wasteful, and disciplined in being content with little and
in managing one's time and resources effectively and profitably.
In the sphere of economic production, one has to exercise wisdom to yield the optimum production with the minimal effort, which requires division of labour. Duran describes it as follows: 'As the production sector divides into many sections, every one becoming expert in branches of production suitable to their abilities and propensities; and not working in any professions unsuitable to their abilities, even though it may be highly esteemed by society'.59
As mentioned, it is important to nurture students to have a critical mind. By so doing, they will be able to choose the kind of work that suits their inclination and talent. If not, they will defy nature itself, a pathological condition, which leads to failure and destruction. The madrasa teacher, for example, should be kind and open-minded, rather than dictatorial in their approach. Such authoritarian teachers will stifle the student's natural inclination for a particular craft; 60 hence, their creativity and innovation. Instead, they encourage blind obedience and passive learners that have no ambition for science and technology and for innovative economic enterprise.
Thus, Said Nursi wanted educational institutions to nurture individuals who are independent learners, creative in thought and innovative in enterprise. He wanted students to cultivate a critical mind; to question everything, even the teacher, even the shaykh. Said Nursi said to his students: 'Do not accept them without weighing them carefully, for there are many debased words on the market. My words too; do not look favourably on them just because I said them and accept all of them. Perhaps I too am corrupt, or without knowing it, cause corruption. So do not give everything said a place in you heart' 61
Said Nursi also opposed dependence on government, and regarded official posts to be an unnatural means of livelihood, which leads to sloth and arrogance. 'We laid hands on the official posts of every sort to be unnatural means both of accumulating wealth and economic development, which also led to laziness and encouraged arrogance.'62 These kinds of official posts such as chiefs, lords and pashas have caused the natural ways of production to be largely neglected. Said Nursi states:
The natural, licit and vital ways of seeking a livelihood are industry,
Agriculture, and commerce, while the unnatural ways are official posts and public works of every sort. In my opinion, under whatever name, those who make official posts their means of livelihood are sort of beggars and medicants; and those who are dishonest…I think that those who undertake official posts should do so only out of zeal and to serve. For if they do so only for the livelihood and the benefits, they become gypsies of a sort. Thus, since all the official posts and army posts were our (the Muslims), we handed over our wealth to the hands of wastefulness, prodigally spent our younger generations and suffered loss. If it had continued thus, we too would have been lost. 63
Thus, Said Nursi is suggesting is that we should not depend on the state, but should
develop our own business enterprises through our own efforts.
We turn now to the concept of frugality itself, and one of its facets is to develop a frugal form of consumption; one that is devoid of extravagance and wastefulness. Said Nursi recommends an ascetic life-style; one devoid of the capitalistic vices of greed, luxury and extravagant living. Said Nursi states:
Wastefulness is contrary to thanks, and slights the bounty and causes loss. Frugality, however, shows respect for the bounty and is profitable. Yes, frugality is both a sort of thanks, and shows respect towards the Divine mercy manifested in the bounties, and most definitely is the cause of plenty. So too, like abstinence, it is health-giving for the body, and, since it saves a person from the degradation of what is in effect begging, is a cause of self-respect. It is also a powerful means of experiencing the pleasure to be found in bounties, and tasting that pleasure in bounties, which apparently afford no pleasure. 64
As a point of departure for his theory of consumption, Nursi provides a commentary of the verse, 'Eat and drink, but do not waste' (Q. 7:31). 'Wastefulness' for him is a principle of unlawful consumption; it upsets the balance of consumption and conservation on the individual level, and affects the distribution of resources on an international level.
The modern economy is based on waste and excess of need. People are duped by effective advertisements to believe that their artificial needs are essential needs, and so they become victims of a consumer culture whereby they only consume what is artificial and disposable. Thus, production serves the artificial needs of the rich rather than essential needs of the poor and low-income groups. This imbalance in the production of resources is due to the neglect in the payment of zakat and the increased income of interest. This leads to an imbalance of income and expenditure, and eventual material loss and debt. Those who succumb to their lower desires are attracted to these artificial goods, and they would even turn to crimes such as bribery, preferential treatment, embezzlement and even adultery, just to obtain them. Both the capitalist and socialist economic systems encourage this kind of wasteful consumption and ingratitude to God's bounties. 65
Man is required to show thanks for the bounties God has bestowed upon him, and to use them for his essential, rather than, artificial needs. Isfahalni and (followed by Ghazalli also makes the distinction between essential needs and crafts (food, clothing and shelter) and non-essential needs (secondary and aesthetic) needs. People die not because they are deprived of artificial needs; but because of deprivation of the essential needs. Governments who focus more on people's secondary needs are the cause of starvation in the world.
In commenting on a hadith which states that, 'he is not of us who eats while his neighbour is hungry', Said Nursi states that illicit goods may be taken to the minimal degree, and so someone who is starving may in fact eat dead meat in order to survive. But he cannot eat fill his stomach with it, as there are many others who are starving.
Fortunate people who can satisfy their basic needs should therefore be grateful for God's bounties. But if they are wasteful, it means they are ungrateful as they 'slight
[God's] bounty and causes loss'. For example, one should not leave half the food on our plates, and then throw the rest away. It is an insult to God's bounty, not respect for it. It is being wasteful not being frugal (iqtisad). The science of economics (iqtisad) is based on this understanding of being frugal in consumption and in spending. Frugality, then, is the quintessence of economics, and basically it stems from respect for God's bounties.
3.3. The Seven Points of Frugality:
Frugality expresses thanks: Man is made of a body and a soul, and so although he would satisfy his body with essential needs, deep within his soul, he feels the need to be grateful to God for the bounties, especially food.66
Frugality shows respect towards divine mercy: Man should think of the bounties as part of divine mercy, which God has bestowed on all creatures, and has promised man's sustenance; some will receive plentiful sustenance and others, scanty sustenance.67
Frugality is the cause of plenty: God provides greater abundance to those who practise frugality, and he removes the bounties from those who are wasteful. Poverty and deprivation is the order of the day in Muslim countries. This is because the poor are not content and the rich are extravagant. The division and hostility among Muslims make it difficult for them to co-operate with one another in the division of labour. The result, Muslim countries are in debt to foreigners who supply the goods. And even the arms that they use against each other, are not produced by themselves, but are bought from the enemies of Islam.68
Frugality is healthy, medically and spiritually: Reasonable consumption of food carries the body, but excess is carried by the body. When one eats, one should eat a little, and only as much as one can digest easily. Over-eating is burdensome for the stomach.69
Frugality leads you to self-respect and therefore prevents begging. Hadith: 'He who is thrifty will not have family difficulties as regards livelihood' . The frugal person will not suffer hardship in feeding his family. [Anecdote: Rich leader offered him money but he refused]. Frugality allows one to experience the pleasure in bounties. [Anecdote: Three friends, three pounds of honey. Three friends shared the honey, and ate in excess; finished it all in three days. Said Nursi ate moderately and it lasted him for the month of Sha'ban and Ramadan].70 Another example of pleasure is that a dry piece of bread is greater than a king's pleasure of best baklava, eaten with a lack of appetite due to excess.
Nursi makes a distinction between true sustenance, which God guarantees, and metaphorical sustenance, which are artificial goods, and which God does not guarantee. Poor suffer calamities because metaphorical sustenance is made essential. The import of luxury goods lead to debt. In some African countries the colonialists use the land to produce cocoa instead of wheat and maize.
Frugality is not stinginess
It is surprising that some dissolute and extravagant people accuse the frugal and economical of being mean and stingy. God forbid! Frugality is dignity and generosity. Stinginess and meanness are the inner face of the apparently noble qualities of the wasteful and extravagant. [ Anecdote: Abdullah ibn Umar]
The vice of wastefulness leads to another vice: greed, which has three consequences namely: a) dissatisfaction, which destroys the zest for work; b) disappointment, which can only be remedied by contentment; c) and the destruction of sincerity.
To conclude, the key vice is wastefulness, which leads to a chain reaction: it leads to
lack of contentment, which leads to loss of zest for work, which leads to laziness, which leads to complaints, hypocrisy, loss of self-respect, and finally begging. The key virtue is frugality, which also leads to a chain reaction with positive consequences: it leads to contentment, which leads to self-esteem, which in turn leads to effort, which leads to enthusiasm for work, thanks, independence and sincerity.
4. The Implications for Globalization
Today, because of globalization, the ways in which people earn their income and spend it, and the way they save their wealth, are linked to the income, spending, and saving of people in other countries.
If Muslims can be more frugal in both their spending and consumption, they will be economically stronger in terms of building up their capital.
Furthermore, if they cultivate the work-ethic as suggested by Said Nursi, they will be able to concentrate on labour intensive products, and aspect of strength that which can complement the superior technologies of advanced countries. In this way, they can contribute to the global economy, and to their own countries.
An elementary feature of world trade is that countries specialize in the production of different goods and services, exporting those in which they specialize and importing other countries' specialities. But that perspective has to be modified when we try to examine some of the complexities of world trade. The classic explanation of international trade is the theory of comparative advantage, which argues that countries will specialize in producing those goods and services in which their cost advantages are greatest. Countries' specialities are determined by their relative supplies of labour and capital (factors of production). A country with a large labour force and a low stock of capital-like many Third World countries-will specialize in producing labour-intensive products, while a country with a small labour force relative to its stock of capital-such as the United States-will specialize in capital-intensive products. That process represents a globalization of production itself. A Division of labour on a global scale.
Muslim countries have to cultivate the work-ethic so that they can be a source of power with respect to labour intensive products. In this way they can improve their national economy, and at the same time co-operate with the advanced countries for the sake of mutual benefit, such as gaining finance and investments in their countries to create more employment etc. They can become part of the process of global division of labour, whereby the labour-intensive products can be manufactured in their own countries, and these can be exported in exchange for goods that require more resources and sophisticated technology, and in exchange for supply of capital, without which no production can take place. Individual Muslim governments, on a national scale, have less power to determine the global economy, but with co-operation, they can definitely be an economic force and shape the global economy to their advantage.
1- Isfahalni is an Islamic ethical philosopher who died around the middle of the eleventh century. He wrote an ethical work called al-Dharicah ilal Makalrim al-Sharicah (The Means to the Noble Qualities of the Law), which became an important source for the ethics of Ghazzalli. For some details on his life,works and ideas, see, Yasien Mohamed, 'The Ethical Philosophy of al-Ralghib al-Isfahalni', Journal of Islamic Studies, 1996, 6(1) 51-75; also, Yasien Mohamed, Knowledge and Purification
of the Soul. An Annotated Translation with Introduction of Isfahalni's Kitalb al-Dharicah ila Makalrim Sharica ( 58-76; 89-92). In: Journal of Islamic Studies. 1998; 9 (1) :1-34.
2- In the third international symposium two scholars have dealt with this topic, but none of them have compared the views of Said Nursi with that of Isfahalniç Sabahaddin Zaim, 'The Treatise on Frugality', Third International Symposium on Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, vol. 1, tr. S. Vahide, S?zler Nesriyat, Istanbul, 1997, pp. 174-184; B?nyamin Duran, 'The 'Awf Work Ethic and Upholding the Word of God', Third International Symposium on Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, vol. 2, tr. S. Vahide, S?zler Nesriyat, Istanbul, 1997, vol.2, pp. 169-187).
3- Afzalur Rahman, Muhammad: Encyclopaedia of Seerah (II), London, 1982, p. 504.
4- Cahen, 'kasb' in Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed. 4, p. 690f. The author alludes to the influence of Bryson on Islamic economic thinking. Contrary to honest labour, some of the false Sufis taught spiritual poverty to the extent of begging, and to living on the labour of others. Later we will see that this will the practice in the eleventh century, and Isfahalni's condemnation of sloth was with reference to these pseudo-Sufis.
4- al-Dharicah, p. 131.
5- The comment following the verse differs in the 1980 edition, which conveys a different meaning, that is, that striving is not a condition of faith; nor is the Divine will (iraldah) and wish ( mashi'ah) a condition for the Hereafter. If this was the case, they could never be transcended (tacaddal by human effort. [note the printing error in cAjami's edition; the negation lam is omitted].
6- al-Dharicah, pp.392-393. Compare the chapter on divine decree in al- Ictiqaldalt. The intelligent person should realize his goal, and upon attaining it, he should continue to pursue it. In al-Ictiqaldalt, p. 271f., Is?fahalni makes a distinction between iraldah and mashi'ah : 'The mutakallimuln make no distinction between them, but their derivatives indicate a distinction. The latter is more specific and denotes the divine wish that conditions and precedes human action as in Q. 81: 28; however, such constraints do not proceed from God's iraldah. When mashi'ah is used for God it pertains to what he creates, and used for humans it pertains to what they acquire. If all things, including human actions, were not based on divine wish , people would not utter conditional expressions as 'if God wishes' with regard to specific actions which ultimately rest on God'. Cf. Mufradalt, p. 211f. and p. 278 for the linguistic and semantic definitions of iraldah and mashi'ah respectively. The style here is similar as al-Ictiqaldalt except that there are more Qur'alnic verses.
7- al-Dharicah, p. 396; Isfahalni cites Q. 34: 13; 61:10-11.
8- Q. 20; 115.
9- al-Dharicah, p. 396f. Isfahalni concludes the section with another vivid anecdote.
10- See Chap. 7, and section 3.5 below.
11- al-Dharicah, p. 380; cf. trans.
12- al-Dharicah, p. 380; Isfahalni cites Q. 5:2; 9:71.
13- al-Dharicah, p. 380.
14- al-Dharicah, p. 381.
15- Cited in al-Dharicah, p. 381. Authentic hadith by Tirmidhiç See note in addition Muhaldaralt, p. 515.
16- al-Dharicah, p. 382, 2-3.
17- See Lane: Id'araba fi umulrihi: 'He went back and forth, occupied in his affairs for the means of subsistence.'
18- al-Dharicah, p. 382, 3-7. This concept of restlessness is a fresh contribution by Is?fahalni; see concluding remark of this section.
19- al-Dharicah, p. 382, 10-12.
20- al-Dharicah, p. 382, 4-7.
21- al-Dharicah, p. 398f. Cf. Quasem, The Ethics of al-Ghazzalli, p. 128, al-Ghazzalli, in trying to harmonize the concept of superfluous wealth with the Sharicah, he identifies five conditions of beneficial wealth. The third condition concerns us here as it corresponds to the third condition of Isfahalni: 'to preserve the necessary amount for oneself, and the excess for the needy, and to give this to them when they approach'. The fourth condition also corresponds to Isfahalni's third condition: to be cautious in spending, that is, to be content with little in ones own case and moderate in spending money for others. Contentment [in contrast to greed] is also a philosophical concept, but philosophers consider it a main factor in preventing sorrow in this world; however, al-Ghazzalli considers it a way of preventing harm in this world and in the hereafter. See, Quasem, The Ethics of al-Ghazzalli, p. 129.
22- Q. 104:3
23- Sulfi abstention is to refrain from food, drink and sexual intercourse; and to partake of food within the limits of one's need. See Winter, al-Ghazalli On Disciplining the Soul, p. XXXf. Although Isfahalni condemns the sloth of Sufi pretenders who do not want to work, he supports here their kind of abstention. This shows that Is?fahalni is not anti-Sufi but condemns those who escape from the world of economic responsibility. It is therefore the moral discipline of the Sufis that he finds praiseworthy.
24- The 1980 print, p. 282, gives the opposite meaning that makes no sense in the context.
25- Isfahalni supports the moral discipline of the Sufi , but favours the third approach. The Sufi approach appears to Is?fahalni to fluctuate between extremity and moderation. The third approach is the moderate way of the khalifah who enjoys the world, but takes of what is sufficient for one's needs, and leaves the rest to the needy. This way is unlike the Sufis approach that fluctuates between the obligatory and the supererogatory. Isfahalni's citation of the verse above refers to the third approach.
26- al-Dharicah, p. 399f. ; Isfahalni further supports it with numerous other Qur'alnic verses: Q. 7:32; 21:105; 21: 106; 53:42; 2:198; 4: 32. Further, on having a positive attitude to the world: Q. 10:7; 11: 61; 30: 9.
27- al-Dharicah, p. 402, 1-10; cf. Mizaln, p. 382, 20-23; 383, 1-8, for similar passage; and for identical passage corresponding to the same theme: al-Dharicah, 403, 5-8; Mizaln, 384, 2-6. Compare also with Muhaldaralt, IV, p. 404, where the content is similar but the terms are different; he uses hallikin for the first category, cabidin for the second, and al-mukhaltirin for the third.
28- al-Dharicah, p. 403ff.
29- al-Dharicah, p. 409f.; concerning extravagance Isfahalni cites, Q. 17: 27; Q. 17: 29; Q. 7: 81; Q. 44: 31; Q. 10: 83.
30- al-Dharicah, p. 113f.
31- Q. 2:3; Q. 64: 16; Q. 6:125
32- al-Dharicah, p. 415; Isfahalni ends the entire chapter with poetic verses from Abul Nuwwals and Ibn Rumiç On the glory associated with wealth see al-Dharicah, pç 410; cf. Muhaldaralt, p.496.
33- Cf. Miskawayh, Tahdhib, p. 140/trans. Zurayk, p. 127; Aristotle, Politics, I, 1. 1253a, 2ff./ trans. Barnes, II, p. 1987, 36ff; see chap. 8, sec. 2. 'Man is a political animal' is a famous expression from Aristotle; it comes from the Greek politikos (political) , and polis (city, city-state). The Arabic madani is the equivalent of politikos. One could also translate it as 'civic' insofar as it pertains to the citizens of the city-state. The word 'political' has a narrow usage today. In the Greek context it is not divorced from ethics, and in the context of Isfahalni's work, it includes the ethical, material and the religious welfare of the community.
34- al-Dharicah, p. 374. Isfahalni cites the following authentic Tradition: 'Similarly, in their love and mercy, the believers are like a single body, if an organ is in pain, the rest of the body suffers of sleeplessness and fever.' There is an echo of this idea of man's need to co-operate for a civilised existence in Jalall al-Din al-Dawwalni (1501); cf. Fakhry, Ethical Theories, p. 146. This idea that co-operation allows for division of labour is also found in Ibn Khalduln; see A. Battah, Ibn Khaldun's Principles of Political Economy, p. 87.
35- By 'craft' we not only mean a particular manual skill, but also occupations that require intellectual ability and religious knowledge. Isfahalni uses the term in a wider sense than in the Rasal'il, as he includes the craft of ruling as one of the four essential crafts. See further.
36- al-Dharicah, p. 375; cf. Rasal'il, I, p. 290ff. Isfahalni and the Ikhwaln agree that man has an innate inclination for a particular craft, but they differ as to how it comes about. For the Ikhwaln, it is mediated through the stars, and for Isfahalni, it comes directly from God. There is no similarity in style except that they both use the term sinalcah for craft.
37- Although the Arabic connotes nourishment through food, the context of the craft suggests that reference is being made to every kind of basic need, even clothes. In section 3.1., reference is made to the process involved in producing a piece of bread, and the various human skills and technical tools required for it.
38- Q. 23:53.
39- al-Dharicah, p. 375, 4-14; Q. 43:32; 25:20; 17:84. There is an element of predestination here in the fact that man's inclination for a craft is predetermined, but he nevertheless chooses whatever craft he pursues either freely or through force of circumstances.
40- Bukhari, Qadr, 2; cf. Wensinck, Concordance de la Tradition Musalmane, VII, 364 for the original Tradition which Isfahalni adapted.
41- Not a Tradition. See edition, al-Dharicah, pp. 161, 376. See 'The Translation'.
42- Different crafts are separate and different according to the separate and various letters of the Arabic alphabet. Without the distinctive identity of each letter, there can be no unity, no system to the written language, and consequently no sense can be made of it.
43- al-Dharicah, p. 376.
44- al-Dharicah, p. 385, 1-11; cf. Mizaln, pp. 328, 14-21; 329, 1-5. Ghazzalli brings in this idea in the section on knowledge and the intellect. The passages are almost identical. In single instances Ghazzalli changes certain words and terms: p. 328, 17: muhayya' tah replaces murashshahah; p. 329, 9: hadab replaces yad.
45- The Rasal'il uses the term al-hiralthahç
46- The Rasal'il mentions only the first three. Isfahalni uses the same terminology except for 'weaving'. Isfahalni adds a fourth primary item, 'government'. Since it is not mentioned by the Ikhwaln al-Safal', it is not a necessity of human life as it is for Isfahalni. See Rasal'il, I, p. 285; cf. Lewis, 'An Epistle of Manual Crafts', p. 148f. who also lists the crafts or occupations relating to the sub-divisions of the primary, ancillary, and luxury group of crafts mentioned in the Rasal'il.
47- Lewis mentions that this principle was applied by the guilds in Istanbul: the salt-makers and water-carriers were ancillary to the bakers, as water and salt are necessary for the making of bread (see Lewis, 'An Epistle on Manual Crafts', note 5, p. 148).
48- al-Dharicah, p. 385, 12-17; cf. Mizaln, p. 329, 10-19, for identical passage. Ruling is the highest of the essential crafts, and therefore Isfahalni's concept of craft is not limited only to agricultural, commercial and aesthetic crafts. In his hierarchical scheme of crafts, some are more noble than others. However, each craft should be accorded due respect, and it can be superior on account of its excellent craftsmanship and inferior on account of its poor craftsmanship. The craft of ruling is absent in Ikhwaln al-Safal.' They do not go beyond the crafts of agriculture, weaving and building.
49- al-Dharicah, p. 251. Contrary to p. 385, Isfahalni does not mention 'the jurists' on p. 251.
50- al-Dharicah, p. 386, 13-17; cf. al-Dharicah, p. 251, 4-6 for identical passage; cf. Mizaln, p. 328, 13-20 for almost identical passage. Ghazzalli adds to the second category khulafal' (Caliphs), and to the third culamal' (scholars).
51- Ghazzalli adopted the classification of the four essential crafts from Isfahalni without any alteration. Ghazzalli also adopted from him the four-fold scheme of the craft of ruling. Following this classification, Isfahalni discusses wisdom, the rational faculty and vicegerency. These passages are also identical in content and style in the Mizaln (see above). Al-Dharicah therefore served as a direct source for these passages in the Mizaln. A noticeable difference is that whereas Isfahalni places the whole discussion under the subject heading of 'The Classification of Crafts', Ghazzalli places it under the heading of 'The Nobility of the Intellect, Knowledge and Learning'.
52- Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, 'On Frugality', From the Risale-i-Nur Collection: The Flashes Collection, tr. S. Vahide, S?zler Nesriyat, 1995, Istanbul, pp. 189-119.
53- Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, From the Risale-i-Nur Collection (2): The Letters, tr. S. Vahide, S?zler Nesriyat, 1995, Istanbul, p. 552.
54- Nursi, The Words, p. 292; p. 322].
55- See my paper on 'Predestination and Free Will in the Thought of Muhammad Iqbal and Said Nursi',
International Symposium, the Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture, 24-26 September, 2000.
56- Nursi, Flashes, p. 39.
57- Duran, The Awf Work Ethic, p. 180.
58- This section is based on the Nursi's treatise on frugality. See Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, 'Iktisad Risalesi' (The Nineteenth Flash) Lem'alar, Istanbul, Sozler Yaymevi, 1986, 134-42/'The Treatise of Frugality', The Flashes Collection (Eng. Trans.), Sozler publications, 1995, 189-199 [tr.]
59- Ibid, p. 184.
60- Duran, The Awf Work Ethic, p. 181.
61- Nursi, Flashes, p.49.
62- Ibid, 77f.
63- Ibid, pp. 77-79.
64- Ibid, p. 189.
65- Zaim, 'The Treatise on Frugality', pp. 175-176.
66- Nursi, Flashes, p. 189.
67- Ibid, p. 190.
68- Ibid, p. 191.
69- Ibid, p. 192.
70- Ibid, 193.