Moroccan society is not American society or Russian society or Chinese society. But as humans we have many things in common. We may experience unemployment, for example, in many different ways. But the basic feelings of an unemployed person remain more or less the same. When you fail to find a job very often people would deal with you in a bad manner. You may even be surprised to see friends or family members turn their backs on you. You start asking existential questions. So you need to know about other people’s experiences in order not to repeat the same mistakes. That’s what I am doing now. I am sharing my experience with you.
My life has taught me that dreams are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. A good Muslim should have dreams in the worst possible cirumstances. When you cease to dream you cease to be hopeful, and that’s the worst thing that a Muslim believer can do. If I don’t have dreams I can’t move up from Islam to Iman. But there are dreams and dreams. There are dreams that can be fulfilled and dreams that will never come true. As a believer, I should be realistic. I should take into account all "the data", as I said before. Age 50 is not like age 20. An only child living in a suburban villa is not like a young boy living with his brother or sister in a small room in a small apartment in an under-privileged area. The child of well-educated, religious parents is not like the child of illiterate parents interested in money only. Living in a country where social security and healthcare are commonplace is not like living in a country where social security and healthcare are a luxury. If I personally can make do with as little as one dollar per month, another person would need at least 500 dollars per month. If I personally can find someone to feed me when I lose my job, another person may not find anybody to give him a loaf of bread. My own hardships may be very, very hard –for me–, but they may be nothing compared to another person’s hardships. That’s why Islam calls to humility. "And walk not in the earth exultant. Lo! thou canst not rend the earth, nor canst thou stretch to the height of the hills." (17: 37) If I have eyes, I should think of one who doesn’t have them. If I have legs, I should think of one who doesn’t have them. If I have a roof, I should think of one who sleeps in the street. That’s how I will feel how God has loaded me "with His favours both without and within." (31: 20) And God says to me: "and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loveth not corrupters." (28: 77) In other words, I should think of giving before I think of receiving. It doesn’t take a lot to be a benefactor: I can give as little as a smile or a nice word. That’s Islam how I perceive it.
A century ago young people in many parts of the world would live with their parents until they were married. Most people, even illiterate people, had homes of their own. There was plenty of work for everybody. The youth could go to school and thus live a better life than their parents’. Massive destruction caused by war led to massive reconstruction and the massive drift to towns in colonized countries increased the number and size of the cities everywhere in the world. New jobs were created, new trainings, new lifestyles. Everybody wanted to be "modern". Each country had its own economic boom. And then each country had its economic crisis. Unemployment, a relatively new concept, became a problem. Economic crises became cyclic. Employers became increasingly demanding. Education became increasingly expensive. The (unlucky) masses were growing (in numbers) faster than the lucky few. Young people had to contract long-term loans to finance their homes. The newer generations were asked to work harder in the hope of achieving half of what their illiterate parents or grand-parents managed to have. The result of all this: France, a rich country, is now alleged to be the fourth most pessimistic nation in the world. The truth is, pessimism is everywhere. Analysts are telling us that the crisis is systemic, the problem is with the System. There are rich countries that will never be able to repay their debts. Fewer and fewer countries will be able to control their budget deficits or even their currency. Unemployment is now a chronic disease in many countries. Robotisation and Uberization are a big challenge. Investors of today would prefer placing their money in banks or in stock exchanges rather than bet on manpower-consuming industries or farming projects. And yet it’s the individual citizen who would be blamed for not finding a job. Little blame would be laid at the door of bankrupt companies or even the government. In theory, the state is at the service of the citizen, but increasingly it’s the citizen who serves the state more. In many states of today many people pay taxes and on top of that they pay for their children’s education, healthcare, etc. But what can the state do, in many cases? Fewer and fewer states would have the means to provide free or low-cost education and healthcare without further widening the budget deficit or resorting to debt. It's a vicious circle. Each new government tries to give itself a good conscience, but it is not always easy to recover from a general crisis. It’s regrettable. It is all the more regrettable that many of us continue to put a lot of hope in our governments, in the state in general.
We have believed in a certain image of the modern man. The cinema, the media, school, the family, society at large… all have contributed to the dazzling image of the successful man or woman. In a way, that image is not entirely new. Even in old times people had a certain materialistic image of the successful man. The Quran relates the story of "Korah" who "was of Moses' folk." (28: 77) "(…) Then went he forth before his people in his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of the world said: Ah, would that unto us had been given like of what hath been given unto Korah! Lo! he is lord of rare good fortune (...)" (28: 79) What’s new is that this image has been popularized to the point that almost everybody believes he/she can be that successful person. At school we were taught "If you work hard you will succeed." In my country, for example, many low-income families (lower-middle class, if you will) spend as much as half their income on their children’s education, insisting on scientific subjects, because everybody believes his or her child can be a doctor or an engineer. Literature, philosophy, history, geography…have all become taboo. But even now the state is hiring less and less people, be they doctors or engineers or whatever.
Those trivial things I said about how people lived a century ago and how we are today have become terribly important to many people now. Many people have discovered that life calculations are not like mathematical calculations. They have discovered that the state is not the government, and the state’s financial capabilities under one government may end under the next. So pressure on the government does not work always.
Now, what does Islam say about all this? Well, when the Muslim state, under Caliph Umar, for example, had the means, most men, if not all Muslim men, got a certain income from the state. And yet Umar once said: "No one of you should refrain from earning a living and say, 'O Allah grant me provision.' when he knows that the sky will not rain down gold and silver." The state is supposed to help me when it can afford it. And when the state can’t afford it, what do I do? When pressure on the government doesn’t work, what do I do? I give in to pessimism? I give up hope? I cease to dream? Well, that’s the worst thing a good Muslim could do.
But there are other important questions too. What do I want? Do I want to just lead a decent life or to live a better life than others? Which wages would I accept? Which lifestyle do I want? If I were a doctor, would I accept to work far away from the cities? Would it be a disgrace for me –as a doctor– to serve in a small village? Wouldn’t my children be able to live in a good way with the children of poor countrymen? Or would I want them to become doctors from generation to generation ? If I had the opportunity to work in a private hospital for a better salary, would I give up my work in a public hospital for material reasons only ? Is it a matter of working conditions or a matter of money ? If I were a state-employed teacher, would I leave my classes in public schools and go and work in private schools for an extra amount of money ? If I were a good writer and wrote a good book, would I share it with Web users or withhold it until I were paid for it ? What would I do with the money earned from that ?
What about people who have nothing, no money, no skills? They are unfortunately just put on the side. This gives the impression of living in a world greatly influenced by the haves. But the truth is very different, though. The world has always belonged, and will always belong, to the One who created it, to God. Everyone agrees that here in Morocco economic activity depends greatly on rainfall. But when it rains little or not at all at the right time, rogatory prayers are performed in all the kingdom's mosques upon orders of the King. This means that your fate, mine, and the fate of everyone does not depend on the propertied, (or on the government, by the way) and that God alone is the Lord of the world. Normally, we are supposed to think of God in good and bad. God says: "Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned." (21 : 35) What does that mean ? It means that you and I ought to think of God, and not forget Him, when we are hungry, when we have something to eat and drink, when we are naked and when we have something to wear. As a believer, I ought to think of God when I am tired and when I go to bed, etc., etc. I ought to think of God by way of gratitude, whatever the shape I’m in. Why ? Well, it's because God says: "Therefore remember Me, I will remember you. Give thanks to Me, and reject not Me." (2 : 152) "Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting, and reclining, and consider the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and say): Our Lord! Thou createdst not this in vain. Glory be to Thee!" (3 : 191) If I believe that God is the Lord of the world, I ought to think of Him before thinking of anyone else. I ought to think of Him when I make my decisions about my job, my place of work, the salary I should accept, etc., about my marriage, the schooling of my children, etc., etc.
For some the problem that is the root of all our problems is not so much the economy, but rather lack of social justice, it is unfair redistribution of wealth, it is the tax havens, it is corruption. Precisely, the prophet (pbuh) says: "The virtue of a nation determines the virtue of its leaders and politicians. (literally: as you are, you are ruled)." If everyone thinks only of money why should God think of us? Why should He see to it that we have the right leaders? God warns us in the Quran: "O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah. And let every soul look to that which it sendeth on before for the morrow. And observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Aware of what ye do. And be not ye as those who forgot Allah, therefor He caused them to forget their souls. Such are the evil-doers." (59 : 18-19) "The hypocrites, both men and women, proceed one from another. They enjoin the wrong, and they forbid the right, and they withhold their hands (from spending for the cause of Allah). They forget Allah, so He hath forgotten them. Lo! the hypocrites, they are the transgressors." (9 : 67)
Everyone wants to be modern, and this kind of (theological) thinking may not rhyme with modernity, is no longer up to date. Companian Abu Bakr Asidiq (RA) said : "We folks don't eat unless we are hungry, And when we eat we don't get full."
Who applies this in his life, actually? Me ? Not at all ! I too am far from being vaccinated. I grew up like everyone else, in the same schools, in the same neighbourhoods, in the same stream of thought. But I know that (some) people have lived well on very, very little. People deprived of everything except their faith, and yet they enjoyed their lives. These people loved God because they saw in this world (full of contradictions, full of inequalities, full of suffering, full of what have you) –(in spite of everything) they saw a sublime beauty inside and outside themselves. They liked to see gold without wanting to grab it, as they liked to see the moon or sunset without wanting to own the moon or the sun. They loved God for the wonder He created in them. Yet for many of them, they gave up only what was not so essential to them. They too ate and drank, they too married and had children, they too had their homes. Only they were not obsessed by the desire to have everything. Some had the doors of worldly life open wide to them after their renunciation. They had the choice to give up all luxuries to the extent humanly possible or to fully enjoy the pleasures of life. Islam does not forbid you to live in a palace or in a luxurious villa. But this palace or any other good must remain in the hand and not in the heart. It is God and God Alone that must be in the heart. That's the difference between a believer and a non-believer. If you live in a hut you will see the beauty and goodness of God in this hut. If you live in a luxurious villa you will see the grace of God in all its corners, in all the roses of the little garden. You will express your love for God whether you are in the hut or in the palace. It’s the same Qur'an that you will read there. It’s the same prayer that you will perform there. This love entails a responsibility on your part. You must do what God has created you for. I speak to you here as I speak to myself. I'm preaching myself. If God meant me to play a particular role in a particular place at a paticular time, I should strive to play that role in the best way possible. There may be other people who were chosen by God to play similar roles. I am in a competition. I should not think of the prize before the competition is over. "for this let (all) those strive who strive for bliss -" (83 : 26) If I were a doctor, would I count how many patients were cured at my hands or would I count my money ? That’s golden education. If I were a teacher, would I count how many of my former students became successful people, or would I count my possessions ? That’s golden education. If I were a lawyer, would I count how many people were saved at my hands, or would I count my money ? That’s golden education. If I were a successful writer, would I count how many people found my work useful or would I count my royalties ? God does not choose only believers to play such roles. "And with Him are the keys of the Invisible. None but He knoweth them. And He knoweth what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falleth but He knoweth it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, naught of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a clear record." (6 : 59) "Lo! Allah! With Him is knowledge of the Hour. He sendeth down the rain, and knoweth that which is in the wombs. No soul knoweth what it will earn to-morrow, and no soul knoweth in what land it will die. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware." (31 : 34) That’s God’s DATA, as I said before. That’s how God manages His Creation with His knowledge and His power. "Lo! He is Knower, Powerful." (42 : 50) God knows how many teachers, doctors, engineers, grocers, hairdressers, nurses, policemen, pilots, computer scientists, street sweepers… are needed to serve His bondmen. That’s part of God’s design when He willed that the whole universe should be at the service of man. "Hast thou not known that Allah knoweth all that is in the heaven and the earth? Lo! it is in a record. Lo! that is easy for Allah." (22 : 70) "Is it they who apportion thy Lord's mercy? We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labour from others; and the mercy of thy Lord is better than (the wealth) that they amass." (43 : 32) "And We have given you (mankind) power in the earth, and appointed for you therein livelihood. Little give ye thanks! " (7 : 10) "And we have given unto you livelihoods therein, and unto those for whom ye provide not." (15 : 20) Different jobs, different occupations : "Lo! your effort is dispersed (toward divers ends)." (92 : 4) God knows the pace at which every community, every nation, every state develops ; God knows every single development in History. That’s because God wants to make Himself known to all mankind. "Messengers of good cheer and of warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise." (4 : 165) One day God, Allah, will be known and adored in every part of the earth much, much more than today. He will be worshipped more and more on the land, on the continents, on the islands, on the sea, en route in the sky, everywhere, night and day. This wonderful tool, the Internet, is a gift from God to mankind, it’s a tool for mankind to know God more ; it’s a tool for believers to express their gratitude to God. "remember Allah, as He hath taught you that which (heretofore) ye knew not." (2 : 239) God shared some of His knowledge with us ; those among us who have some knowledge have to share it with their fellow human beings. And yet God does not care how many billionaires or new millionaires will be there, how many people will make money of this process. God will care for those who care about Him.
As I said earlier, what you learn at age 50 is not what you learn at age 20. Wisdom comes with time. Wisdom means knowing one's possibilities and limitations. Wisdom means that one should not blame others for one's woes. If there is an economic crisis, or social unrest, even if they were willed by God, everyone should examine one’s own behaviour first. "That is because Allah never changeth the grace He hath bestowed on any people until they first change that which is in their hearts, and (that is) because Allah is Hearer, Knower." (8 : 53) The responsibility for all our problems lies with us in the end. "Whatever of misfortune striketh you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgiveth much." (42 : 30) "Whatever of good befalleth thee (O man) it is from Allah, and whatever of ill befalleth thee it is from thyself." (4 : 79) "And whatever of comfort ye enjoy, it is from Allah. Then, when misfortune reacheth you, unto Him ye cry for help. And afterward, when He hath rid you of the misfortune, behold! a set of you attribute partners to their Lord." (16 : 53-54) "Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men's hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return." (30 : 41) For example, if the currency plummets, this, say the economists, has to do with the trade balance; when our imports exceed in volume and in value our exports there is foreign trade deficit. The question is, why all these imports? Are they all useful, are they all indispensable? Is it not our way of life that influences our trade balance and therefore our money and our purchasing power? It is easy to say that we have to put an end to certain practices that only maintain a sense of superfluous development. But who will start by fixing the damage? If we are told that every year thousands of people join the ranks of the unemployed, or that most jobs are precarious, who is responsible? Who are these people who opt for robotization, for uberisation, for offshoring ...? Aren’t they members of our society? Multinationals, who manage them locally? What would I do if I had the means to create a medium sized business?
Many people suffer so much that everyone tends to think that the fault lies with others. All I have tried to do in this chapter is to say that it may be necessary to start by sweeping in front of one’s own door. Wisdom teaches me that one should not complicate things. Even when I want to move up from Islam to Iman, and from Iman to Ihsan, I have to proceed slowly. One can very well enjoy life within the limits prescribed by the Quran. "O ye who believe! Forbid not the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you, and transgress not, Lo! Allah loveth not transgressors." (5 : 87) Why would I spend my time crying and sighing except when it comes to repentance ? The ulema, who have understood the faith, say: (1) Warding off evil takes precedence over bringing benefits. They also say : (2) Necessities permit prohibitions (or Necessity removes restriction). (3) That without which an obligatory duty cannot be done is obligatory. These are (some of) the general rules. If I have good faith I will not break these rules. I will do my best to at least respect the spirit of the Quran. In any case, God alone will know what is in my heart and God Alone will judge me. Wisdom also says that I should not overly raise the level of my faith requirements because I can never know what the future holds for me. It would be better for me to proceed slowly than to suffer within myself what I am not quite capable of assuming.