6. The Psychology of Wealth and Money Making – The Self and Money

6. The Psychology of Wealth and Money Making – The Self and Money



بسم اللَّه الرحمن الرحيم وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى ءاله وصحبه أجمعين وسلّم




Title: The Psychology of Wealth and Money Making – The Self and Money

Author: Abdalhamid Evans

Publication date: 18/10/2014


As-salamu Alaikum and good afternoon,


This is the sixth lecture of the Muslim Faculty of Advanced Studies’ module on ‘The Question Concerning Economics’ and the topic that I will be addressing this afternoon is the ‘Psychology of Wealth and Money Making’.


This particular topic is a complex one that I was given by Hajj Abdassamad Clarke and Hajj Uthman Morrison. In an attempt to simplify it I am calling it The Self and Money. This will really be a kind of existential analysis of these two phenomena of the self and money and an attempt to get an understanding of where we find ourselves in the relationship between these two elements of our lives. 


Interestingly enough this particular topic, the relationship between the self and especially the kind of money we find ourselves dealing with today, is almost without any serious study or investigation. No one has really delved into this in any deep way to look at the effects of the usury economy and the nature of modern money and the effect that it has on the self. So, as I explored what in a sense is kind of uncharted territory from one point of view, I found that it was very challenging and I hope that I will be able to open it up in a way that will clarify and simplify it to be of use and interest insha’llah. I have divided this topic into eight different sections and to begin with I am just going to outline them, as follows:

The abstraction of money

The colonisation of the self

A fatal injection

The commoditisation of everything

Chaos is the new order

The pivot point

Surat al-Asr

Formula and vision


First, I want to look at what I call the abstraction of money in the sense that money has become totally abstract today; it has no physical reality at all and I would argue that it has even gone past being a digital reality. I also look at this notion, what I am calling the colonisation of the self, of what has happened to the self of modern man. I then move on through a series of other sections and in a way paint a picture that gets darker and darker. I then go on to try and see what kind of way out there is of the situation in which we find ourselves.

 

I want to start with a quote from Sidi Ali Al Jamal of Fez, a Sufi scholar and teacher who lived about two hundred years ago in Fez. He said in his book The Meaning of Man, that the self is like the bee; the place in which it settles to take its dinner, it takes home with it on its legs. We can recognise that as the bee goes to take its nourishment, the nectar, from a plant, part of that plant, the pollen, clings to the legs of the bee. Similarly, where and how the self goes for its provision, it takes some of that with it, some of it clings to the self. I find that that is very much the case with ourselves today and the world that we live in.


I want to start by giving you a picture of two different engagements with money.


A man rises at dawn, he prays, has a light meal with his family, and then he takes his goods or his produce to market. Maybe he goes by horse and cart, or drives a well-worn truck. During the day, he buys, sells and barters. He returns home with an empty wagon and a full pocket. It is enough for him. He thanks God, feeds his family and tends to the affairs of this world that concern him, and he leaves the rest. He recognises that his days will come to an end, and that his actions have consequences, and that he will be asked about them. His transactions with himself and his Lord, with this world and the next are clear and without guile. He is unlikely to ever be rich, but he has a good chance of being content.


Another man rises at dawn, leaves a note on the table of his one night stand, gets in the car, grabs a drive through soya latte, extra shot, extra hot, texts his wife as he drives…sorry about last night, late one at the office again, I stayed in town. At the office he sits in front of multiple screens, a flickering readout of the past, current and future prices of equities, shares, commodities, currencies, options, futures and packaged derivatives, all displayed in numbers that a few might understand, but none fully comprehend. He is intent on reaching his bonus threshold so that he can make a down payment on the condo and a new car…so he can BE someone, maybe even go for his boss’s job. He trades hundreds of millions of dollars before going home, his wallet full of plastic debt, his mind in a turmoil. His transactions with himself, this world and the next are amorphous, shifting and full of fear, guile and uncertainty. 


So we see that while our relationship with money has a simple foundation, what we have arrived at today is something that is actually extremely complicated. 


Last year Dr Dalmau gave a paper here where he looked at the idea of homeostasis that is an inbuilt function of the self, of the human creature, that it tries to keep things balanced. He referred to this as something that is an inherent quality of the human being, both physically and psychologically. There is an inbuilt desire for self-preservation whether it is to do with the body or the sense of self. When you get cold your body will try and warm up, if you get hot your body will try and cool in order to maintain the balance which is necessary for optimum human survival. This is not a decision; it happens. 


The self also does a very similar thing, and it is an inherent element in the nature of the self that it will try and preserve itself at all costs. Self preservation, on both fronts, is a primary core human function, it forms a bedrock upon which our health and sanity rest. Or not.


Think about the earliest experiences that the human creature has; first coming into the world, coming out of the warmth and safety of the mother's womb into the alien environment of the outside world and when experiencing the first cold air in it’s lungs and on it’s skin. The first experience of the self is one of separation, anxiety and fear. This forms a kind of experiential ground for the human creature. Western psychologists talk about this anxiety being an existential anxiety. Existential anxiety is like a background hum in our lives and if we look at that image of the newborn child we can see that makes sense. The first experience the human creature has is one of separation that is then matched or swaged by the contact with the mother, with the mother's breast, with food, comfort and the union that provides safety, pleasure and fulfilment. 


At the core of the human self you have an existential anxiety at the reality of being brought into the world without consent. We just arrive into an alien environment and we're confronted by the first experience of the self, which is one that has fear and anxiety at its core. Twin fundamental drives kick in: to remove anxiety and fear; and to find nutrition, comfort, safety and pleasure. These drives precede conscious self-awareness by a long measure; they are innate, part of what we are, as creatures, not just something that we do.

 

Take that first element of anxiety and just hold it to one side as a kind of key element of the human creature. We will return to it. 


I want to look and trace how both the nature of money and the nature of the self have undergone a process of abstraction; they have both become increasingly abstract as time has passed.


The Abstraction of Money

First, we are going to look at the abstraction of money. Various things have been used as money, as a means of exchange, from elements like salt, leather or tobacco, what we could call improvised money, then became minted metal money with gold and silver and other metals being used as a specific means of exchange, then to paper money, completely removed from its precious metal origins, that then became the digital money we use today. Digital money is also riba money. It is born as interest-bearing debt and it continues the process of accumulating and generating interest from its moment of inception. 


I would propose that at this stage money has even gone past this digital reality; money is now more like a psychic projection. As the money is created out of nothing, what is it before it becomes digital? In someone's consciousness money gets created as abstract figures; it exists in the minds of the ones who create it and I would say that money now is more like a psychic projection, which is in turn fuelled by the fear of the ones who create it. Now that money comes into existence, as a kind of psychic projection which then meets with the selves of people. 


If we look at the development of self in the last two hundred years, there is what I would call a Nietzschean self, a self that is in a default reactive mode. Nietzsche put forward the idea that modern man is driven by ressentiment; he is not acting simply out of his own wholeness but his action is based on a reaction to the Other. For example, you identify someone else as being bad, and you oppose them and in doing so you can define yourself as being good - rather than being good by your adherence to things that are actually good. It's like a mirrored image. Nietzsche presented this as a kind of default psychic stance of contemporary man, that rather than being affirmative and his action being genuinely pro-active, he is actually being reactive. Reacting to things that have happened or might happen, or even reacting to what he thinks will be the reaction to his action. So, he said it is like there is a mirror image, we think we are acting but actually we're reacting. He said this is the position of modern man. If you listen to the classic examples, such as a political debate, you'll see exactly that. They define their goodness in terms of how terrible someone else is rather than actually embodying goodness themselves.


If we follow this progression into the early 20th century, we have what I think is a kind of watershed in terms of the form of the self. Something pivotal happened during Freud's exploration of the self in that at a certain point in the development of his theory he stated that an imagined event had as much impact, in terms of trauma or effect on the self, as actual event. In the time when he was developing his theory he was looking at the current incidence of childhood trauma that was going on in his society, and he initially linked trauma to an actual event. At a certain point he changed his position, saying rather than the actual event being the cause or the trigger for trauma, he put forward the idea that a wish fulfilment or even fantasy would have the same impact in terms of shaping the self. So, I think what really developed was a picture of the self that is, in this sense, unclear about whether something was event or whether it was just an idea or a fantasy. There have been a lot of instances, especially in terms of issues to do with childhood abuse, of people not knowing whether something actually happened or not. Was it imagination or did it actually happen? 


R D Laing then put forward the idea that, in terms of looking at the psychology of man, whether you have psychosis and schizophrenia at the extreme end or whether you have, you could say, quirkiness or mild neurosis at the other end of the spectrum, this is all the same phenomenon. It is just a split that occurs at the core of the self and that if that split is just a small thing it manifests as some kind of neurosis, and if the split deepens, you can reach the kind of psychotic state of where someone doesn't know whether they are really engaging with event or fantasy. Is what's going on in their head the reality or is the world out here the reality? 


The Swiss psychologist Medard Boss, who took many of the ideas of Martin Heidegger in terms of looking for a new definition of the self, further refined this notion of this split in the self. Boss redefined the pathology of the self with the idea that we get ‘caught in the psyche of the Other’, so that the self, rather than drawing its identity from within, takes its identity from a reflection of the Other. A simple example of that is someone who says, “I'm studying law but the truth is I really wanted to be a singer… but my dad wanted me to study law.”


So that person is caught up in the psyche of the Other, caught in the wish or the desire of someone else that becomes the driving force in their own life. Boss put forward the idea that in order to become whole you have to reclaim yourself from the psyche of the Other. You must determine whether what is driving you was actually your own ambition, your own desire to reach your own highest potential or whether you were really just trying to please someone else, someone alive or even someone who might be dead. People often continue to play out an engagement with someone who isn't even there and their lives, if examined, would turn out to be not actually doing what they wanted, but doing what they think someone else wanted them to do… or the opposite of that, of not doing it, precisely because it is what someone else wanted them to do, “I'm absolutely not going to do that!” Neither of which are actually direct actions. So these are like manifestations of Nietzsche’s perspective that you think your action is an action, but in reality it is actually a reaction.


These are all examples of splits within the self and as this phenomenon develops, it produces a hall of mirrors where you see people thinking about doing something and then imagining what someone else might think of them if they did that and then thinking maybe I won't do that, maybe I'll do this instead. There is a whole fantasy engagement with imagined others, prior to your actually doing anything at all. There is a fantasy engagement of what someone else might think about what you do. 


I have described this as a kind of progression. If we consider the kind of extreme position that we've arrived at today with this split within the core of the self, and if we then think about the nature of money as a kind of psychic projection, it is as if money has lodged itself in the crack in the core of the self. 


So, let us return to our existential anxiety, which is at the core of the experiencing human self that begins with the infant and carries on through our lives, and it is normal that there is a background hum of some sort of anxiety about things.  It is as if our anxiety got hijacked or as if a middleman planted something in the deep core of the human creature and it seems to me that this forms part of the role that money now plays. 


Money has become so abstract that not only is it not precious metal, it is not paper, it is not even digital. Yes, there is paper and digital money but that is just the counting…but what is it counting? As I reflected on it and thought about my own self and the selves of others, it is as if money, this fear-based debt money has lodged itself – or been lodged - somewhere deep within the core of the human self, in what I would call an act of colonisation. 


I am putting forward this picture that the usurers create money as a negative force, a minus that comes into existence as a debt, a debt which will bear interest. It is a negative force prior to being money; it is a negative force driven by fear that has lodged itself in the selves of the human being today. It is as if our existential anxiety, the actual ground of our anxiety, has been colonised and hooked to the notion of money so that there is this sense that my anxiety can be assuaged by having money. If I have money I can have pleasure, I can reach fulfilment or I can be secure, I can save myself, I can get the things that I need, I will be protected with food, clothing and shelter. 


 We can recognise that the same people who create this money are also the ones who dominate the physical market place today, whether it is the high street, the malls or the money markets and the banks, or the movement of commodities. They have defined that market arena that we step out into every time we walk outside the door or when we turn on our televisions or open the newspaper… we are continually being talked to about something that will provide us with safety, or that will provide us with pleasure or fulfilment. They address the core experiences of the human creature in the first moments of his waking life outside of the womb. So that, driven by this natural anxiety, we find that we are pushed from within and at the same time we are pulled from without to engage with this notion of money that is really a projection of fear. 


Again let's think about the reality of the people who invented this money and what they've done with it and the way that they've inserted money everywhere and created these economies out of interest bearing debt. We are propelled from within and we are pulled from without to make us engage in this way, and in doing so, something happens to the self. It is as if our self worth becomes quantified, our self worth is no longer based on qualities that we might have. If you look at the term wealth, the origin of the term is not solely to do with material possessions or with money although it is includes that, but inherent in the notion of wealth was a sense of contentment. Like the term common wealth, like the sense of contentment that a people might have, a sense of well being that has really disappeared from the notion of wealth. The current idea is that wealth is just about having money so that the value of my self is inextricably connected with how much money I have. So what happens if my number is a negative number? What kind of self worth do I have if I'm this debtor creature whose value is based on a negative number? It forces the self to have very little value, very little self esteem and to continue looking for affirmation from the outside world to bring some sense of fulfilment or identity to the experiencing self. 


So what has happened to the locus of the experiencing self? Think about online gaming, where is the self in that experience? Is that really an engagement with the world? What kind of world is that an engagement with? Is that an engagement with the physical world? Is that an engagement with an unseen world? When we shop online, where is the self? Where is the place of engagement? It is extremely abstract, both in terms of what the outer world has become and the money that is being used but also where the self is in terms of its engagement with this non-located reality; it is a very strange and new place that is not a place as we have known it before. 


The self has become abstract and split, and money has become abstract and valueless, and is now located within the split. Within the self, money has become a psychic force that has colonised the inner core of the human creature. Alongside that, within the outer world we find that everything has become a commodity, everything in the outside world has become a commodity. Heidegger put forward the idea of a technological gestell or enframing in which every thing becomes a standing reserve. Everything, including the human being, is there to be utilised for the technological project. 


I would say that the enframing that we live in now is what we could call a usury enframing or a market enframing where everything has been commoditised, including money, in the sense that money has ceased to be purely a medium of exchange. A medium of exchange has certain parameters that define how you use it, whereas money now behaves also like a commodity, and is traded like any other product or commodity. So everything is being treated like a commodity and not only is the whole outer world commoditised, our inner world is also commoditised. Our fear has market value, our anxiety has market value, and our desire for pleasure has market value and it seen in that way by the market makers. The market makers within the big commodity exchanges and the money markets of the world recognise that fear, greed, desire and anxiety are all valuable and powerful commodities that can be used as part of the dynamics that move the markets.


Our inner states and our emotions have been commoditised in that they can move markets and they can also be bought and sold. So our inner world has become commoditised, and our outer world is commoditised. We no longer really have an actual medium of exchange, it is all in a state of flux and it is like we are another market commodity in a marketplace where everything is for sale and yet nothing really has any value. Value is only an expression of quantity now. What’s the value of something? So many dollars, so many pounds. That's the value. Value has a whole other set of meanings that really are not given any value in today's marketplace. 


The German world schuld or debt is also the same word for guilt. It is as if our unfulfilled potential actually has rights on us. You glimpse your potential, but until you fulfil it, you are indebted to it, so it produces an inner guilt that you have not fulfilled your potential. At the same time we live within a debt-based outer reality as well. So the enframing that we live in is characterised by this sort of nihilistic sense of debt and guilt, incompleteness and lack of value with loss of meaning. This is where the selves of modern men and women are and it is also the same place that our money is. Somehow it is as if the nature of the self and the nature of money have gone on this parallel path because they’ve both become increasingly separated from their whole reality. They somehow match each other in terms of abstraction and this sense of indebtedness.


Part of what happens within this picture is that meaning suffers, meaning gets lost. Look at the language that gets used in the financial world; words like trust, credit, guarantee, equity, value and this term ‘high net worth individual’ that they like to talk about today. The actual meanings of all of these words have been twisted, all of these terms have been stolen by the moneymakers and the real meanings of these words have been covered over. Part of the price that we have paid in all of this is that the inherent meaning of things has been stripped away from the words and stripped away from our lives. So we find that there’s a form of chaos that has become the new world order that we live in. This really is a turning up side down, and a turning inside out because if our order is chaos then we don’t know where we are. I think, in terms of the core self of modern man over the last hundred years or so, we’ve seen increasingly that man does not know what he stands for or what his meaning is, or what his purpose is. Part of what has happened is that numbers have dominated and conquered words. 


Take the term value that we looked at a little while ago; the dominant meaning of human value is that it has been quantified. Numbers have played almost a magical role in terms of stripping away meanings from the words. So we have this idea that the natural order has been turned up side down and rather than man being at the centre of his own existence and at the core of the universe, we find that man is like a lost entity floating in space somewhere, unsure of his own centre or what his direction is or what his purpose is.


Part of what has happened in this inversion is that the negative is presented as a positive so that value of money is presented as something that is worth something, but actually it is a debt. All of money is debt; all of money is actually a negative number but it is presented as a positive number. So the idea of walking about with an IOU, I promise to pay the bearer on demand, that notion of money being a promissory note has drifted away from it and like a psychic projection flipped over in a kind of inversion that this debt instrument is projected as a positive. A negative is projected as a positive. This I think is also true of the self, in our actions, where reaction is seen and thought of as action, and this mirrors the money, where negative money is actually presented as a positive. 


So the whole sense of the natural order has really been turned upside down. In the current domination of nihilism what happens is that meaning basically disappears and becomes negotiable, something could mean this or it could mean that depending on how you position it. This kind of reactive stance is, somehow, at the core of modern man now and this destroys modern man’s inherent ability to give meaning to things in the world, to have meaning himself and to allow the meanings of the phenomena of existence to appear as what they actually are or as Goethe said, to let things stand in their own ground and disclose themselves as what they are. This capacity has almost disappeared.


 Now, it seems to me that what I’m calling this ‘psychic money’ also talks. This modern money talks to our selves and like an idol it places itself between our experiencing self and our engagement with the world. The whisper of money tells us that we need it; we need it in order to fulfil ourselves, we need it in order to be safe, we need it in order to have pleasure. As a result, we no longer simply engage with the phenomena of existence directly, as a simpler or more natural human being would, we engage as if from a distance with this other element at the core of our beings talking to us continually. If you listen to what comes out of the television, pay attention to what is there when you open a magazine or newspaper, when you go online, or you look at billboards and shop promotions as you walk down the street, there is a continual conversation, you are continually being talked to by money or by the makers of money. 


This conversation, what money says to us, is really a psychic projection from the ones who created the money in the first place. So we have this picture of modern man with a split in his being, unsure of what is real and what is not, engaging in the world via a medium of money that is inherently of no value, and yet it exerts a very powerful force and actually shapes the identity of modern man. It shapes the self within the modern world. 


So we ask ourselves what are we to do about this? Is this simply something that we are stuck in? Or is there a means of turning this around? Its like we’re stuck in a hall of mirrors where we don’t know which is the actual image, which is the reflection, and which is the reflection of the reflection, which is the positive or which is the negative. This is not helped by notions that everything is relative; the centre of the universe could be anywhere, the centre of your own self could be anywhere, you could be anybody, so who do you want to be today? The essence of all of it is in a complete state of flux. 


So the task that is in front of us is to try and close that gap within ourselves and come back to ourselves, what Boss called reclaiming ourselves from the psyche of the Other. So while we might initially have ideas of having to reclaim ourselves from the psyche of our parents or our boss or our spouse or siblings who have exerted a psychic force within us, where we might be acting out their values and thinking that they are actually our own, there is more than this going on. That inner reality exists within a compelling framework that is also continually talking to us and we are also caught within the psyche of that Other. The Other that in a sense is represented by this force of money, this non-physical reality of money today that is simply like a force field that we swim in. 


How are we to deal with this? How is identity to be freed from this psychic force of riba money and how do we get rid of the colonising force that has somehow inserted itself into this split within our being? 


If we take the Qur’an as our guidance and we understand that if what we have is something that is false, we know that if the Real appears, the false has to vanish. The nature of falsehood is that if the real appears the false vanishes. So we would ask ourselves what is the Real that we need to bring? And what will that be like? If we also take a statement of Rumi where he says that the reality of the lie is that ultimately the lie affirms the truth. The purpose of the lie, from the liar’s perspective, is to cover up the truth, so without the truth the lie has no reality. The actual reality of the lie is ultimately to disclose the truth.  The false self, the split self that we find within ourselves or that we find ourselves inhabiting, and the false nature of money that is this sort of psychic force, this forms an energy field that we spend our days moving through, they both need to be somehow be confronted with the Real. What is that for us within ourselves? What is that appearance of the Real that will cause the false to disappear? 


It seemed to me as I looked at this notion of our existential anxiety, as our initial experiencing reality coming into the world, somehow there within that separation; the separation of birth, the separation that produces an anxiety, that there something needs to happen at the core of our existential anxiety. I think that if you consider the purpose of our natural existential anxiety, you could say that it exists to turn us towards the Divine. Perhaps you could say that the reality of our anxiety is that it is really at that pivot point between fear and hope. That is where our anxiety has its true reality. The essence of our anxiety is that in fact it is at this pivot place between fear and hope. That, ultimately, is fear of Allah’s displeasure and hope for His pleasure, fear of the fire and hope for the Garden, hope for goodness and fear of evil. In that place is where the anxiety needs to return to its natural place of being a kind of motor force that drives us to recognise our helplessness in the face of the Divine, so that our anxiety is something that returns us to the Divine. 


For the infant, anxiety turns them to the mother, the mother responds and that sense of fulfilment, comfort, safety and nourishment all happens within the encounter. It really is no different as we become weaned and as believing adults we engage with the world and the creation and the Creator. Our fear, hope and our anxiety turn us to make that engagement one that is real. We recognise our helplessness, we recognise Allah’s power and we surrender to that reality and so a sense of safety returns, and our anxiety returns to its proper place. 


In terms of when the Real appears the false departs, what is that appearance of the Real for us? It’s as if the self needs to recognise the Lord of the selves. In order to recognise its place within that relationship between the slave and the Lord, the self recognises the Lord of the selves and so finds its place within the relationship. 


Sidi Ali Al Jamal commented in the Meaning of Man that the self is not overcome by opposing it; the self is overcome when it recognises its Lord. So if we think of the false self, it is something that we need to overcome. We should think of our false self as this colonised entity that is the ground wherein the riba money, this psychic reality of money, has somehow enslaved us and our societies and the world that we live in to the detriment of the natural world and ourselves. 


This is the time when the dust of riba has settled on everything, both visible and hidden. The overcoming of this false self is not so much by fighting with it, particularly if we consider that we’re trapped in a hall of mirrors, where we don’t necessarily know which is the original and which is the image, and within the hall of mirrors the images stretch out ad infinitum.  What breaks this trap open is some sort of engagement with the Real that allows us to come back to ourselves. Your self comes back to you, you reclaim it and it simply becomes itself again and recognises its place in the greater order of things.


Shortly after I knew I was going to have this topic I started to reflect on how I was going to approach it. In the mosque in Norwich, our imam Hajj Abdassamad Clarke, gave a discourse on Surat al-Asr in the khutba1 on Friday, perhaps a month ago. I reflected on it during the khutba and also afterwards and it seemed to me that actually this notion of Allah making this oath by the time, the sense of time in the afternoon and the sense of the passage of time and the passing of time and that man being in a state of loss, our anxiety is naturally connected to that sense of loss. 


The correct perspective for our existential anxiety is that we are anxious because we are at a loss. It is part of the state of the human creature. For modern man it is a particularly complicated state but it is the general state of mankind that we are in loss, “except the ones who have iman and who have trust and have good actions.”


I reflected on when we previously studied the relationship between salat and zakat and where Allah couples things, puts them together repeatedly, the commentators say that  because Allah has put them together it indicates that these two things are connected and are interdependent. I looked for that coupling, “except for those who believe and do right actions”, and how often those two terms are put together in the Qur’an and I think it was more than seventy times. I reflected on that and it is clear that these two things are interdependent, because our iman without action is incomplete and our action without iman is also incomplete. We can take that purely from the perspective of the deen, that our action must be a manifestation of our iman. 


What we do has to be a reflection of our trust and our ability to trust reality. These two things, trust and action, have to come together, as these two things genuinely belong together. Goethe actually looked at this idea of things that belong together and he concluded that you could have ‘belonging together’ where the emphasis is on the together or you can have ‘belonging together’ where the emphasis is in the belonging. You could say two things belong together because they just happen to be together, so they belong. Two other things may really belong to each other, and so of course they are together. This sense of things belonging together in this Goethean sense, indicates that these things are actually inseparable, and therefore have a magnetic force between them. 


If we engage with ourselves and the world in this way, it acts like a magnet that will close the split within the self so that the anxiety that is related to our inherent state of loss actually becomes healed and the split closes; and action simply becomes action again, based on our iman. Action ceases to be a reaction; you’re not doing something because of what someone else has done, or because of what you think someone else might do. Your action is a manifestation of your trust in Allah and that inner landscape if iman, of what you believe and trust. 


Action becomes a manifestation of that trust, so our actions become pro-active engagements with reality. Action in the world actually becomes an engagement with the Creator of the world and that heals the split within the self in a very practical way.  Avoiding having to go into the complicated psychological theory of how we might have been traumatised as children or what our idea of self worth is and all of these concepts about engaging with the pathology of the self. It may be that this age we are in has gone beyond being something that can be diagnosed and prescribed for. It seems to me that what Surat al-‘Asr indicates is a very simple prescription. We know it, we recite it, but if we actually took it as a remedy, as a medicinal element within our lives, then it would actually heal that crack within the self so that the colonising force would disappear and the Real would appear. 


The coloniser would be kicked out and the self could simply turn to itself and to its inherent reality of recognising the Lord of the selves to whom we must surrender in order to have those things like fulfilment, safety, provision, pleasure, joy and all the things that come from that transaction. In that healing of the self, our action simply becomes a manifestation of what we believe and what we trust, allowing meaning to return to the things of the world. Self can be the self, money can become money, the creatures are just the creatures, the earth is the earth, it no longer has to be defined within the enframing of this negative psychic debt reality that somehow seems to have re-defined everything. Every atom, every sub-atomic particle and quiver has somehow become defined within that enframing. 


This other way of being in the world breaks that order. Nietzsche described nihilism as the separation of order and location. Order could return to place, and it seems to me that the first place, the first location where order must return is within the self. The locus, the location, the focus of awareness that is the self, order must return there first if order is to be imposed on the outside world.


 So we can say that the self must create money, money must not create the self; the self must define money, money must not define the self. This recipe of “except for those who believe and do right actions” from Surat al-‘Asr, believing and acting correctly becomes an affirmation of trust. This is for the individual self, that you trust and you act, and those things are one inseparable reality. Its one event, your action is your trust. This is the recipe for the remedy for the reality of the self.  


The rest of the ayat is a defining of the social engagement whereby we encourage each other to the truth and to patience, and so it not only becomes an individual process but it becomes something that we all encourage for each other, that we want that for each other and we encourage it for each other, so that you begin to build another consensus reality that redefines the enframing that we live in. The enframing itself is like a vast complex psychic projection, but if we change it, one by one by one, through this sense of encouragement with each other, that transformative process has a contagious element to it that becomes the foundation for a sane and just society. And because this is a difficult thing to do, and requires struggle, we must also encourage ourselves and each other towards patience because that transformation does not happen quickly. Within that short ayat we have not only the recipe for the split in the self, but also the trigger for the return of money to simply become money again, to become just an agreed upon means of exchange. 


It is as if we have the seed for something, and we must plant it in the depths of the earth of ourselves and nurture it and try and make it a transformative process for ourselves. I don’t believe that we will transform the outer world until we have transformed our inner world and allowed things to return to their proper place, and put order and location back together, breaking the challenge of this nihilism that we are confronted with.


So if we plant that seed and nurture it what would it grow into? This is the question, because we do not have any real example for this time of ours, so even to glimpse it and imagine it is a creative challenge. And I don’t necessarily have an answer but I want to leave you with the question: If this is the seed then what does the tree look like? If this process of transformation happened what would the economic reality start to look like in this modern age that we live in? If we are to purify and transform this complicated reality that we live in now, what would that look like? I don’t necessarily have a picture that I can leave you with, but I certainly want to leave you to think about the answer to the question. 


I started with a couple of pictures of two kinds of men engaging with money and I’m going to leave you again with two kinds of pictures. One is a formula and the other one is an image. 


The one that is a formula is from Sidi Ali Al-Jamal whose writing is almost algebraic in its patterning. One of the things that he wrote about in The Meaning of Man is that Allah has given two himmas to mankind, and that in those twin himmas, Allah has placed the keys of the two kingdoms, the hidden kingdom and the visible kingdom. He said that one of these is an inner yearning in the heart and the other one is outward action with the limbs. Because of how Allah has set up reality, if these two himmas are united and joined on a matter then that matter must come into being. This is part of the sunna on which Allah has created existence, that if those twin himmas within the human creature are joined, the inner yearning and action with the limbs, then that thing must come into being.  So I leave you with Sidi Ali Al Jamal’s formula of the two himmas.


 The image that I leave you with is in a statement from Rumi, and I want to connect it to the idea that I gave you of this seed that we must plant and what it might grow into. Rumi said to consider the rose. What did Allah say to the rose that made the it form a bud, and blossom and open and give perfume and colour and beauty… what was said to the rose to make that happen? He said that we must consider this, because whatever was said to the rose…the same thing was also said to each of us.


And I leave you with that.

As-salamu alaikum.



1 http://www.muslimsofnorwich.org.uk/khutbah/khutbah-31014-notes-the-age/