Monday, June 18, 2012

Economía de Alá

Some things are definitely meant not to be, like the Prophet Mohammed teaching capitalism to the West.
One great confusion in the otherwise already greatly confused societies of Islam is the combination and interaction of spiritual and temporal powers. Unlike the West where Church and State are separate, independent and each sovereign, Islam unites State and Religion together with less than auspicious results. Because State and Religion are one and only, for centuries Muslims have developed ways to integrate religious beliefs with the external economic realities of the nations they lived in. This has had varying degrees of compatibility with the empires and customs they encountered. For example, commerce has adapted to "al-urf", the custom. But to adapt merchantism is one thing, to build a national financial structure with which to supervise and monitor all economic aspects of a country is quite another. The West has done it, sure ... after two-thousand years of history, trial and errors. How can Islam even remotely hope to do it in twenty years.
Since the mid 80's Muslim bankers and religious leaders have tried to develop ways to integrate Islamic Law on usage of money with modern concepts of ethical investing. By carbon-copying western financial systems and adapting them to the religious tenets of the Qu'ran, the idea was to reinvent the wheel. But the result is a hybrid of Capitalism mixed with Socialism and sprinkled with a heavy dose of politicism so characteristic of Islamic leaders - a kind of Frankenstein with a wicked soul, so to speak. Unfortunately this notion of Islamic economics and finance bound by religious tenets is a dysfunction of economic realities and an inhibition on the development of the regions of the world where Islam is most influential, and where traditional Islamic Law remains a factor in the Middle East ongoing economic disappointments. The weakness of the region's private economic sectors and its human capital deficiency stand among the lasting consequences of the application of traditional Islamic Law to commerce and finance.
The pivotal point upon which this entire Islamic financial system is based, is that it operates on the basis of 'zero interest' in accordance with Qu'ran teachings. Because the Qur'an spoke against usury in the context of early Muslim society, it generally entails trying to remove or redefine interest rates from financial institutions. In doing so, Islamic economists hope to produce a more 'Islamic society'. The new Islamic economic theory postulates that in Islam, much like the West, central banks would be the sole issuer of credit and money and this for very telling reasons: Islamic central banks should be moved by public interest and their very existence should be considered a social prerogative, so that the power to create money should be vested in them exclusively. In a 'zero interest' society, of course, manipulation of interest rates cannot exist. Therefore the tool of Islamic monetary policy is to be found in the expansion and shrinkage of base money supply, which would be allotted by central banks to individual banks to be administered. It is further postulated as obvious, that the larger the money supply, the more productivity it generates and the more spending it spurs. This idea, for now, does not seem to have worked well.
Clearly, the first problem - and perhaps the biggest - arises in trying to model the Islamic system to the West, where fluctuations in cost of lending are paramount to monetary policies enacted pretty much everywhere. Monetary policies, as it is widely known, are technically demand-side macroeconomic policies that work by stimulating or discouraging spending on goods and services. Economy-wide recessions and booms reflect fluctuations in aggregate demand rather than in the economy's productive capacity. Above all monetary policy is not a supply-side instrument. Central banks have no handle on productivity and real economic growth. Under Islam, banks would be in competition with one another, but they would be coordinated in effect via a central bank under the patronage of an Islamic State dedicated to the people. The essence of this idea is that the State determines the policy of the central bank. Furthermore, under Islam the central bank together with the State would guard against tendencies of concentration of wealth and power, and would take suitable steps to maintain the equilibrium of wealth for the sake of the public interest, welfare and fraternal living.
To have the State telling central banks what to do brings us all the way back to the times of Leon Trotsky and the Bolshevik Revolution. In its early times, in fact, and prior to the break-up with Stalin, Leon Trotsky advocated a 'permanent Leninist revolution' in which the State would control all aspects of life including, of course, the economy. The State would dictate production and supply and direct monetary quotas to be used by the citizenry to purchase the available inputs. During the First and, most notably, the Second World War approximately fifty-million Christians perished fighting over the truthfulness, fairness and applicability of this idea. And whereas in fact the death of all those many people could not solve the mystery, it ultimately was the peaceful collapse of the former Union Of The Soviet Socialist Republics that revealed the ephemeral nature of the State-controlled economy.
Additionally, as Islamic countries may or may not have noticed, the United States is the single biggest importer of Islam's number one product - oil (not explosives, like I am sure some bad mouth out there is muttering out aloud) - and the single largest payer of Petrodollars, the lifeline of economic longevity for many Islamic nations. I am willing to bet that it would be somewhat problematic, to say the least, to convince the Americans - especially the Bush Administration - that a centralized economic system based upon a Trotskyst Bolshevik-style, Marxist - Leninist State-run model is the best alternative and most viable option to capitalism available anywhere in the Universe. Not even Vladimir Putin, the current president of the Russian Federation and former KGB officer and FSB boss, talks about State-centralized economy anymore. This new idea sounds too much like a very old one or, to use one of America's favorite expressions, 'different day, same s..t'.
The second problem created by the 'zero interest' society is that the fundamental characteristic of charging interest, i.e. charging a premium, on the principal amount of a loan for the time value of the loaned money, is not truly eliminated in Islamic banking. Rather, the interest is merely hidden and re-labeled. A fact this, all and by itself, which goes against Qu'ran teachings in the matter of not deceiving your fellow Muslims.
Usually, time value of money is compensated to the lender by the lender charging the borrower interest on the principal amount of the loan. In the case of Islamic banking, the lost time value is compensated by charging a mark-up on the product that the client might be seeking to purchase by way of a loan. The ownership of the product, whether a real capital asset or personal property, remains in the name of the bank until the principal loan including the mark-up has been paid. In the case of a business loan, instead of charging interest over the time that the principal amount is loaned out, an Islamic bank will demand a certain percentage of the borrower's business profits for an indefinite period of time. Furthermore, under a conventional interest-based loan it is possible to 'call' the loan if the interest rate drops and the borrower discovers that he can find cheaper financing. However, there is no way to call a loan issued by an Islamic bank. Thus, while the borrower from an Islamic bank is protected against interest rate increases, the borrower cannot benefit from interest rate drops.
All this, coupled by less than efficient social structures and political systems in many Islamic states, contributes to the existence of quasi-feudal living standards for the vast majority of Muslim individuals and businessmen alike. Ironically, in the few areas where this new Islamic economic reality has been and is now being tried and tested, rather than finding the much coveted equilibrium the 'Islamic initiative', as it has come to be known, seems to have exacerbated the polarization of wealth.
Certainly it does not appear that Allah can be either proud of or happy, at least for the time being, for the financial under-achievements of Her devout followers.

The 99 beautiful divine names of Allah

"And Allah's are the best Names, therefore call on Him thereby, and leave alone those who violate the sanctity of His Names; they shall be recompensed for what they did; God's alone are the attributes of perfection; invoke Him, then, by these, and stand aloof from all who distort the meaning of His attributes." Quran Al A'Raf 7:180
"Say: 'Call upon Allah or call upon the Beneficent God; whichever you call upon, He has the Best names.' Say: 'Invoke God, or invoke the Most Gracious: by whichever name you invoke Him, He is always the One -- for His are all the attributes of perfection.'" Quran Al Isra 17:110
"Allah is He, other than Whom there is no other god; Who knows both what is hidden and what can be witnessed; He is the Most Compassionate and Merciful. Allah is He, other than Whom there is no other god; the Sovereign, the One, the Source of Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Security, the Exalted, the Compelling, the Supreme. Glory be to God, beyond any associations. He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: Whatever exists in heaven and earth declares His Praise and Glory. And He is Exalted in Power, the Wise." Quran Al Hashr 59:22-24
"He is the First and the Last and the Ascendant (over all) and the knower of hidden things, and He is Cognizant of all things. He is The First (Al-Awaal) and The Last (Al-Aakhir), The Outward (As-Zhahir) and The Inward (Al-Batin); He is The Knower of All Things." Quran Al-Hadid 57:3
The Divine Names
As humanity evolved along the path of spirituality, various aspects and attributes of divinity were sensed. Climbing higher on the scale of the holy path, Man discovered more facets of Allah, or whatever one may call the Absolute. Gradually, the hidden Isis unveiled, and is still unveiling her beauty--her naked Truth. This revelation is an on-going process, for humanity will not cease to struggle for enlightenment being unsatiated with the crumbs or the milk of the Word.
Discovering himself, man discovered God; and the more he grew in self-awareness, the more he discovered the treasures, the various divine elements unawakened within his essence. This was how the various names of God came into existence. Primitive cultures might have referred to the unseen Intelligence with a single appellation, but as they grew in maturity, in awareness, wisdom and understanding, as they unfolded their own innate divinity, more attributes were realized and names were assigned to the God they worshipped, for man inherently felt that the awakened virtues he had are possessed in full perfection by the Source of All. The amount of God-names expands as man develops his Spirit-awareness.
What man formally understood broadly, he now began to apperceive the details, the minor rays of the One Light; and these details, he may subsequently discover, further differentiate themselves ad infinitum. These divine rays or virtues of Allah were personified by the ancients ushering man from the animistic stage to the polytheistic phase. Almost all of the ancient cultures had their pantheons of gods and goddesses, representing externally the inherent, and somewhat dormant spectrum of divine virtues lying hidden within man. Though man be made in God's image, possessing the seeds of divinity, he still reflects poorly the divine attributes and aspects of his Progenitor; thus humanity still needs to grow into God's image and attain its own beautification, acquiring the state of perfection, the evolutionary stage called "Insan Kamil," or "Perfect Human Being."
Polytheism is not merely a concept or untrue. Human beings do evolve into perfection and attain god status as exclaimed by the prophets, "ye are (intrinsically) gods!" An adept on the spiritual path might make a divine virtue a predominant part of its expression that the embodiment of the attribute causes the adept to be universally and celestially recognized as a god of the divine ray itself. Thus, we have Venus, the goddess of Love, Kwan Yin, the goddess of Mercy, Thoth, the god of Wisdom, etc. The gods are embodiments of the ideal and various esoteric practice revolves around the assumption of the forms and characteristics of the gods and goddesses in order to quicken the magician's own divinity and to produce occult effects. The gods, however, do bow in reverence to Allah, the One Essence recognizing and understanding more than what is known to mortal minds.
In Islam, and in al-Hikmah, in general, human figures are not permitted to represent Allah or the divine attributes, as they are considered sacrilegious. Even the portrait of the Prophet was not saved for posterity. This was to avoid making a cult around the personality of the Messenger as was unfortunately done with the Piscean Master.
One of the teachings of Islam is that angels do not descend into houses filled with dogs and images. Though fundamentalists may adhere to the rule of the letter, esoterically, this refers to the unrestrained desires and the idols of the mind. The Divine Ray of the Holy Spirit has trouble entering man through the crown chakra blocked with psychic toxins generated by the impure mind and emotions. This is the esoteric interpretation of Christ knocking at the door and waiting for entry. He who would not purify himself causes the portal to remain barred.
There is an interesting account about images: during the early days of the promulgation of Islam by the walis or saints in Indonesia, the Islamic leaders encountered a problem as the indigenous people of Java were fond of the shadow-puppet theatrical plays. These puppets were in the shape of human figures. In keeping with the Islamic law that human icons were not allowed to be portrayed, they sought to ban this traditional entertainment but feared causing an uproar as a consequence. One of the Walis known as Sunan Kalijaga, intervened, however. His keen mind saw the potential of the plays as a media in conveying the moral teachings of Islam and suggested to the council of the "9 Saints" to allow the continuance of the practice. To comply with the teachings of Islam, he proposed that the human figures of the puppets be caricaturized. Thus deformed images of the shadow-puppets came into being. Samples of these may be found all over our website.
The Divine Names in Islam that have traditionally been passed on to us are 99 in number; the word "Allah" rounds the number to 100. The "Beautiful Divine Names" is probably the development of the 72 divine names of the Schemhamphoras, the 10 God-Names of the Qaballistic Tree of Life, and the other numerous appellations of God to be found in Jewish scriptures. Scholars of Islam may debate as to the legitimacy of the 99 names as a whole, whether they are a revelation from God and a true teaching of the Prophet, or whether they are simply concocted by man; but as occultists, this is of no import. The names are archetypal and may be experienced as realities within the recesses of one's psyche.
Each letter of the Arabic alphabet has a numerological value and is said to be associated with khodams, or angelic servants. The letters are embodiments or are representative of cosmic energies. The combined letters forming the Divine Names are in turn associated with other spirit khodams or classes of the angelic hierarchy. Having numerical values, the combined letters of the Divine Names represent metaphysical structures mathematically-based that possesses esoteric significances. Practitioners normally chant the Names the number of times in accord with its total value. The numerical value of a Name resonates with the power that it represents. Thus chanting the value of a Name or one of its expression mathematically derived therefrom, invokes the power, grace and virtues of the Name into the magician's consciousness. The figures in the table below, extracted from old manuscripts, is the result of just one numerological method of calculating the value of the Names. The Arabic letters, not the Latin, have been used as a basis for this calculation; the various methods of acquiring the value of a Name will not be given here as they are related to initiatic transmissions.
The khodam familiars assigned to the Divine Names may actually represent an angelic class rathers than to specific individual spirits judging from the vague statements of certain Islamic authors. Various lists assign different angels to the Divine Names, however, most of these are probably due to the variations in pronunciation/spelling of the angelic names. According to our compilation of the list below, some angels are associated with more than one Divine Name; thus for instance we have 'Athfayail as the guardian of Al-Lathif and Ash Shakur. As to the accuracy of the list, we leave that to the practitioner to discover through direct experience.
Practical Usage
Above we initimated that the angels of the Divine Names may be known through direct experience. In the occult practices of Ilmu Hikmah, the beautiful appellations of Allah are recited for thousands of times per day, sometimes for consecutive months in order to evoke the khodams to "material" appearance. The purpose of the evocation are varied. The angelic servers may be called upon to assist the practitioner in solving the varied problems of life; to provide familiars, to acquire occult powers and abilities, mystical objects, general information and magickal knowledge; to assist in magickal operations, etc.
In Islamic occultism, the interaction with angelic spirits are preferred to the socializing with jinns or the trafficking with demons. Jinns are unpredictable and deceptive while demons are malicious. Orthodox Islam as a rule, does not condone the practice of conjuration as it presents too many dangers for the evolving soul. Al-Hikmah, however, teaches the subject but with the stipulation that the novice be fully guided in the process and apply the strenuous disciplines that refines the soul, awakens the heart and will, and uplifts the intelligence so as to offer protection against the temptations, illusions, deceptions, glamor and maya along the way. Conjurations in al-Hikmah are confined to angels and jinns, and in rare cases to human spirits. "Demons" are not sought for except by the strayers of the path.
Methods of conjuration are numerous. They may be done through the methods of the magickal schools of the Western Tradition (the Golden Dawn, etc), the shamanic process, or the simple zikir in Tasawuf, or Islamic mysticism; though the latter, viewing from a spiritual perspective, does not consider conjuration as of any importance or even as causing obstacles along the path. Al-Hikmah, being eclectic, combines many methods, depending upon various factors. Different methods are also used by different schools of the al-Hikmah tradition. These occult lodges guard their methods with secrecy--or sad to say, with a price.
So far we have mentioned the lower goals and effects of the recitation of the Divine Name. This comes under the province of thaumaturgy. We would like to point out that the chanting of the Divine Names has a more lofty purpose and this is theurgical in nature. Islam refers to the chanting of Divine Names as "zikr." It is widely practiced in the tarikat aspect of Islam. Zikr means "remember." It is the remembrance of Allah, done through contemplation of the name and not mere mechanical chanting. Practitioners of Tasawuf recognize the psychic effects of zikir but stand aloof from them. Their purpose is to unite with Allah, the "unio mystica," through his Divine Names. Zikr somewhat plays the same role as the occult practice of the assumption of godforms.
In the teachings of the Asma ul-Husna or the "Divine Names" of Islamic mysticism, the first step is to know and memorize the names intellectually. Then one contemplates upon the Names, striving to express the divine attributes in daily life. Concomitant to this, one would chant the Names in one's daily practice until overshadowed by them. Knowing all of the Divine Names, not merely intellectually, but experentially is part of the gnostic stage of Islam. Termed "marifat," the gnosis offers the practitioner a greater awareness of the Spiritual Source. Zikr of the Divine Names is just one method of attaining the gnostic state. It leads to the Inner Light and Sound emanating from the Divine Throne.
The Divine Names, like the Urim and Thurim of Judaism, long vanished, may be used as a divinatory system approximating the spiritual consultation system of the I Ching. Chips with the Names inscribed thereon may be constructed and consecrated with the associated Name. These are placed in a talismanic pouch. Inquiries may be made and the chip/s drawn to answer the questions. We will not over-dwell on the mechanics and process of this, leaving it to the ingenuity of the practitioner to develop his/her own methods and reading style. We would just like to add that our many inquirers were amazed at the accuracy of the system as we presented it to them.
Spiritual Discipline
Before engaging in any magickal practice, one should undergo a strenuous period of purification, sensitivity training, the unfoldment of the heart and will, the spiritual culture of one's character, the accumulation and comprehension of essential knowledge, the practice of goodwill, and the development of intuition. These would greatly protect and shield the practitioner from assorted problems presented by astral glamor and the illusions on the mental plane.
Such a period of discipline ought to be supervised by a spiritual adept or his representative. This is essential for various reasons; one being that the novice may not know the appropriate standard or criteria with which to evaluate his advancement. Lacking the overseership of an adept might cause the novice to be filled with illusions of personal grandeur, pride, vanity, etc. The pitfalls are indeed numerous. Being predominantly a magician or a mystic causes problems. The way of the heart and the head/will should be in equilibrium. It is the magi that balances both qualities to perfection.
How to Invoke
Prior to commencing a rite of invocation of one of the Divine Names, undergo an ablution--a holy wash. Then sit in a quite room and do some rhythmic breathing. If you are conducting your obligatory prayers at the same time, then begin the chanting of the Divine Names after the prayers; if not, offer a general prayer of worship to Allah prior to the zikr. If you know the Al-Fatihah verse, commence with this.
Carefully choose a Divine Name in accord with your need, or you may pick one from your divination pouch as explained earlier. Then recite the name for the amount of times equal to its value; or you may multiply the value with the sacred numbers 19 or 11 to be found structurally in the Quran and chant the resultant amount.
Another method is to chant the Name until you feel that you have reached an inner response. In some specific rites you may be asked to chant for a certain number of times unrelated to the value of the Names. This is permissible so long as there is ground for this. There is much leeway in the practice of the Divine Names. We might also point out that Allah loves odd numbers.
To count the number of chants, a tasbih (rosary) may be used. Use one tasbih for one Divine Name, Mantra or Prayer, as this would charge the rosary with a specific energy and not fill it with cross vibes derived from charging with too many different Names. They may cancel each other out. Stick to this rule--one mantra or Name--one rosary. This would transform the counter into a powerful talisman as the energy of the Name accumulates. Practitioners have found that rosaries are the best counting device, as mechanical counters and watches tend to dysfunction because of the influence of the energy build-up.
When reciting do not phrase the Names with the prefix Al but begin with Ya; and add the suffix "u" to it. Thus for instance, "Al Jabbar" is invoked as "Ya Jabbaru." "Ar Rahim" as "Ya Rahimu."
Begin the recitation with a voice volume-level neither loud nor soft.You may then shift to whispers or to a mental recitation; and back and forth--for variations. Avoid monotony. Recite with full focus, mentally and emotionally, on that attribute of God of the Name in question. Let your consciousness absorb the power of the Names. Do not chant mechanically, but do it with feelings of awe, respect, love, and admiration for the Divine Attribute. Visualize yourself as being filled with rays of light from the celestial realms. Contemplate the names. Chant with a sense of devotion and faith expecting no rewards. Conduct the chanting rite for no other purpose other than to approach closer to the Throne.
After completing the zikr close the session with a brief prayer of thanks.
Other Effects of the Names
Regular chanting of the Divine Names affects one psychologically. The practitioner tends to express strongly in his everyday life the Name that he regularly recites in his spiritual disciplines. This is one of the great benefits of the Divine Name recitation. Transforming one's character and evolving the soul should take precedence over the acquisition of earthly possessions. The practice of the chanting also have its effects in the improvement of mundane affairs or unfolding the dormant psychic faculties. This should be considered as blessings and not as the main purpose of the discipline.
Evoke the Angel, "Qanyail"
Chanting the Divine Names as mentioned before may be done for thaumaturgical or theurgical purposes. Physical needs should be met so that greater time, energy and resources are available for spiritual works. So long as there is a realization that the goals of mundane life do not represent life's purpose, they may be temporarily attended to by any harmless means at one's disposal. Magicians resort to magick.
Below we present an example of a rite of evocation in al-Hikmah of an angel:
If you are interested in evoking the angel Qanyail to assist you with your needs, recite daily after the 5 obligatory prayers the Divine Name "Al'Aziim" (Recite "Ya Aziimu") 1020 times. Do this in a clean room and wearing clean clothings. Repeat this rite daily for two months (perhaps more) on a vegetarian diet until the angel appears. When the spirit manifests, state your need. At each session after reciting the Divine Name for the stated amount of times say the following prayer once:

Difference Between Islamic Banking and Conventional Banking

SLAMIC bankers, caught between scholar and layman, devote much of their time to educating an often skeptical public about the authenticity of their products. Time well spent. The purgative effects of ridding the Islamic financial sector of pretenders (and there are many) at the hands of an educated consumer are obvious. Too often, however, this educational process is long on theory and short on practical relevance.
Perhaps the easiest way to determine whether Islamic banking is true to Qur'an, Sunna and customer is to see how it actually works in practice. The Islamic banking discussed here is the same one that earns consensual acceptance from the field's leading scholars of the traditional schools of jurisprudence. And while unscrupulous banks do exist, increasing market regulation and customer sophistication ensure that those Islamic banks that are truly Shari'ah-com-pliant lead the industry. By learning the basics about these banks, individuals will be better able to stand their ground when not-so-Islamic bankers push non-compliant instruments in the name of Islam.
At the outset, though, it is necessary to emphasize two important points. First, just because an Islamic product and a conventional product are identical does not render the Islamic pro- duct impermissible. As obvious as this seems, it is an argument detractors often use to discredit Islamic banking. The vast majority of Islamic financial instruments bear a strong resemblance to their conventional counterparts, particularly equity-based ones (see "In Your Interest", Islamica, winter 2003). What distinguishes them from conventional instruments is usually nothing more than a set of processes, which leads to the second point.
In Islam, the difference between whether something is forbidden, offensive, permissible, recommended or obligatory usually depends on a validating process. Two couples, one married the other unmarried, may look the same, but the agreement of a simple marriage contract makes the one Islamically valid and the other not. Two hamburgers, one using Islamically slaughtered meat the other not, may look the same, but a simple process makes one valid. So too, two financial products, one Islamic the other not, is differentiable by a set of steps: ostensibly cosmetic, Islamically defensible.
The following are among the most commonly asked questions by customers new to Islamic banking (ordered in increasing degree of complexity).
There was no Islamic bank during the Prophet's (Allah bless him and give him peace) time, so how can there be Islamic banking now? Sounds like a bid'a (innovation)
Microchips, potato chips and Islamic banks are examples of permissible things for which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) gave us no specific guidance. Rather, he forbade us from engaging in blameworthy innovations (bid'a) that would contravene the Islamic Sacred Law (Shari'ah), rather than from new things that possess no intrinsic blameworthiness. The bid'a is in the blameworthiness, not in the newness.
Admittedly, some Islamic banks do carry out impermissible transactions, but that implicates the entire field of Islamic banking no more than the sins of a few Muslims incriminate the entire Islamic community.
As for the claim that Islamic banking is just part of the "system" and is therefore best avoided, is to put one's head firmly into the sand; romantic anachronists need not apply. As long as Muslims, money and capital markets co-exist,there will always be a need for Muslims to put their money into some kind of a market (even a little money in a checking account circulates into global capital markets). The question Muslims should really be asking themselves is: What now? Whether they would not rather keep their money in the most Islamically acceptable manner available to them given the options. And while new customers might be forgiven some level of healthy skepticism, we should all under- stand the limits of our own unqualified ijtihads1 when declaring something a bid'a.