Spirituality and Development: Part 2, Development

Part 2 of Lecture on Spirituality and Development: Friday, 27th Jan 2017 by Dr. Asad Zaman, VC PIDE — for Students of Religion & Development Paper, Center of Development Studies, University of Cambridge. Link for part 1: Spirituality . 50m Video lecture:


    1. The meaning of development has varied dramatically across time, space, cultures.
      1. When Britannia ruled the Waves:
        Development definition suited Britain: Sea-Power, Coal Mines, Industry, Climate, Race
        No entry for “democracy” in Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1930
      2. Post-War Rise of USA
        Initial Definition: Democracy, GNP per capita – both criteria serve to ensure leadership of USA.
      3. Later, some Oil Economies had Higher GNP/Capita than USA
        So REDEFINE Development to include Income Distribution, so as to keep US on top
      4. Later, Switzerland, Japan and some other Scandinavian countries had Higher Wealth + Lower Gini. How to measure development to ensure USA is on top? Answer: Redefine Development to include Infrastructure
      5. Conclusion: Definition of Development Changes to suit the powerful. Criteria are chosen to ensure that the powerful are on top.

    1. Foucault: Power IS the ability to DEFINE knowledge.
      1. Important Corollary:
      2. Power of the 1% [8 people who own more than 3.5 billion] lies in their ability to define goals and methods for achieving goals.
      3. Using the power/knowledge paradigm, we could say that “under-development” is an imperialist term for weak, impoverished by conquest and looting.
    2. Does this mean that “development” is arbitrary? Not a well-defined concept?
      1. We can easily pick out criteria for development which would reverse conventional rankings.
      2. For example REVERSING Criteria: suicides, crime, loneliness, psychotherapy, inequality, injustice.
      3. Even if we talk about corruption,conventional rankings list Pakistan at bottom. However the USA government ran a multi-million dollar propaganda campaign to deceive citizens into war with Iraq using deliberately false claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction, and non-existent connections with Al-Qaeda. This war cost millions of Iraqi lives, destroyed the infrastructures of the entire nation for the sake of profits of multi-national corporations engaged in re-building efforts. Similarly, the amount of corruption documented at Enron is larger than the GNP of many countries ranked higher in corruption than the USA. Obviously, changing metrics would allow us to reach radically different conclusions about the extent of corruption in different countries.
      4. Possible conclusion: Defining Development is a power game. Those with power make the rules, as they wish. No right definition.??? Actually,  this is not our intent, in this lecture
    3. Changing Paradigms/Definitions of Development is Essential to get Justice for the Poor, Weak, Oppressed.
        1. Current Paradigm: GDP/capita is the SOLE target of development.
        2. How wealth is distributed does not matter. Discussion of distribution actively discouraged by arch-capitalist Chicago School Economists:

      Lucas:  “Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution … (growth will help poor much more than re-distribution)

      1. Wrong Development Theories are significant factors which contribute to disastrous development outcomes!
      2. It is because current development theories pay no attention to income distribution that in the USA, since 1980’s all economic growth captured by the rich.
      3. Rapidly rising inequalities: 2010 – 380 people own half the wealth 2015 – 62 people own half the planetary wealth. Top 8 people have more wealth than bottom 3.5 billion. This is permissible only because development definitions do not incorporate inequality.
      4. 7 Trillion in Official flows from poorest countries to richest; 14 Trillion, counting unofficial flows. This massive flow of aid-in-reverse, with the poor dying of malnutrition and hunger to support luxuries and wealth accumulation of the rich is enable by development theories which pay no attention to the human condition. Spiritually blind theories of development.

    1. Defining Development requires paying attention to the GOAL of our striving on this planet.
      1. Max Weber defines the spirit of capitalism as: “… the earning of more and more money, combined with the strict avoidance of all … enjoyment of life. It is … purely as an end in itself, that from the point of view of the happiness …, it appears entirely transcendental and absolutely irrational. Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. Economic acquisition is not … for the satisfaction of his material needs. This reversal of what we should call the natural relationship, so irrational …”
      2. Keynes recognizes Irrationality & Monstrosity of pursuit of wealth, but approves of it:


“pseudo-moral principles [pursuit of wealth] have hag-ridden us for two hundred years. … we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. … The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life —  … is a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease … “

      1. Why make a mental disease (pursuit of Wealth) a goal for the economic system?

But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight” (Keynes, 1930 cited in Skidelsky, 2001).

      1. Even though Keynes was a genius, he was wrong about this idea that unleashing the forces of greed would lead to prosperity for all
    1. As a result of the unconstrained Pursuit of Wealth, legitimized by capitalism, we see massive and increasing inequality
      1. Loss of Happiness in Market Economies, as people prioritize wealth over social relations, even though social relations leads to happiness, while wealth does not. (Easterlin, Lane)
      2. Legitimizing pursuit of wealth lead to concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority. Also, power has become concentrated in multi-national corporations which are now wealthier than most nations.
      3. Looming environmental catastrophes, potentially extinction of humankind
      4. Loss of Wisdom in West

Aristotle (1999, Book 1, Chapter 5, N. 8, p 5): “wealth is not the good we are seeking and is merely useful for the sake of something else.”

Q (9:34) They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom.

Bible: “love of money is the root of all evil,” &  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”.

Lao Tzu: “Do not race after riches … or you will let slip the Heaven within you.”

  1. The Great Transformation: Transition to Secular Thought
    1. Freedom & Wealth are MEANS to achieve GOALS.
    2. Secular Society CANNOT agree on GOALS.
    3. Both Freedom & Wealth were CONVERTED into GOALS, instead of MEANS to HIGHER GOALS in the West.
    4. Considering Means as GOALS, and OTHER complex historical processes, have led to LOSS of understanding about GOALS of LIFE.
  1. Wealth & Freedom as GOALS
    1. There is no answer to: What will you do with WEALTH?
    2. There is no answer to: What will you do with FREEDOM?
    3. Pursuit of Selfish Pleasure is (paradoxically) Self-Defeating. We value MOST being loved selflessly by others. We cannot get what we cannot give
    4. RESULT: Massive increase in loneliness, loss of happiness, breakup of essential social structures like family, community, society.
    5. Thatcher: There Is No Society
  1. Life is not about wealth, power, fame
  2. Islamic Views on Wealth: Complex
      1. Islam forbids asceticism:

    O CHILDREN of Adam! Beautify yourselves for every act of worship, and eat and drink [freely], but do not waste: verily, He does not love the wasteful! (7:31)
    “And as for monasticism, they innovated it – we did not prescribe it to them” (57:27)

    1. Islam Enjoins Moderation
    2. Moderation in Consumption: Eat, Drink, but do not Waste.
    3. Do not consume to create envy in others.
    4. Send fruit to your neighbors, OR bury the peel.
    5. Be neither too generous, nor too stingy.
    6. Three companions vowed to fast, abstain from sex, worship, continuously. The Prophet Mohammad SAW forbade this excess.
    7. Hadeeth: Kissing your wife is an act of virtue – brings rewards!
  1. Balance External & Internal Goals; that is, internal personal & individual with social goals.
    1. Spiritual Growth: Meditation in a Cave, Retirement from the world
    2. Islamic View: Use the world as a means to pursue spiritual goals.
    3. Give away what you love best.
    4. Serve, for the love of God, all of the creation of God.
    5. Dual/Simultaneous efforts are required on External & Internal fronts.
  2. Dual Nature of Wealth

Hakim! Wealth has a deceptive appearance. It appears to be very sweet (but it is really not so). It is a blessing when earned with contentment of heart, but there is no satisfaction in it when it is got with greed.

Wealth, spent on others, leads to spiritual purification and progress.

92:18 he that spends his possessions [on others] so that he might grow in purity

Earned with Greed, spent selfishly, leads to misery.

Q (9:34) They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom.

  1. Correcting Priorities: put Ultimate Goals FIRST; pursue means according to how relevant or necessary they are to achieve ultimate goals.
      1. Every human being has infinite potential:

    If you save a life, it is as if you have saved the entire humanity (Quran, Bible)

    1. Goal of Life: Developing our capabilities.
    2. Spiritual Progress, is one of the important human capabilities.
    3. Spending Wealth is a MEANS to achieve spiritual progress

You cannot attain to piety, unless you spend of that which you love.

  1. Social Responsibilities: Islam Emphasizes Communities
      1. Great Emphasis on Taking Care of Needs of Neighbor;
      2. Service to others prized over Worship.

    (8:63) Bringing together of hearts of a community is more precious than all the treasure in the world.

    1. Family, Community, Society, is built upon sacrifices – individuals taking pleasure in giving, rather than getting. Empirical Evidence supports generosity as long run driver of pleasure and happiness.
  1. Islam emphasize Process over Outcome
    1. Opposite of Americanism: “Winners Talk, Losers Walk” – rather, ‘Its how you play the game, not whether you win or lose.”
    2. Outcome orientation: An Ideal State is described, Success measured by outcome – how close we can come to achieving this ideal state. This leads to frustration when ideal is not achieved and disappointment when it is achieved. Life about the journey, not about the destination.
    3. The question is “How can we work to bring positive change” – success is achieved instantly, when we align our efforts with the good; regardless of outcomes.
    4. Difficult Circumstances are training grounds. Our personal and spiritual development is fostered by the struggle for achievement of good, and for elimination of evils.
  2. Islamic Development: Individual: Realize the infinite potential buried within you – this is development.
    1. Social Development: Structure society so as to allow all members to develop their potential.
    2. An essential element in achieving this is the reversal of widely taught norms of greed and selfishness. Instead, we make our goal the service of humanity, in a way to help all others to achieve their potentials. – this is the strategy for development. All of the creation of God is the family of God, and serving the creation is highest form of service to God, ranking much higher than personal worship, meditation, and the like.
  3. Spirituality: Realization of our common humanity. Connecting our hearts.
    1. Weakening the hold of the selfish ego.
    2. Many Stages of Spiritual Growth.
    3. Primitive undeveloped man is all ego – homo economicus.
    4. Higher stage is concerned with others, conscious of social responsibilities, aware of conflicts between personal pleasures and social welfare. Observations of behavior show that very few behave purely selfishly. Empirically valid theories of behavior require taking into account spiritual growth, and how it can be fostered and nourished. Julie Nelson “Poisoning the Well” shows how economic theories stunt spiritual growth.
  4. Islamic Views: Beyond Binaries
    1. Simultaneous realization of opposite truths.
    2. On the one hand we are all the same, subject to the same trials & temptations
    3. On the other hand, every individual is unique, every moment is unique, offers unique opportunities.
    4. Islam lies Between Love and Awe of God.
    5. Also do not give up earning in this world that you may become needy (and others may have to care for you). Also do not get involved so much in this world that you may lose your Hereafter.
    6. Fast (abstain from fulfilment of worldly desires) to gain control of your Nafs (ego?), but not so much as to weaken you physically, and keep you from service and worship.
  5. Spirituality sruvived (barely, and is under attack by modernity)  in East. This has led to Thought Leaders for Radical Change
    1. Mahbubul Haque: GNP/Capita. è Human Development Index. Wealth is not the goal. It is how wealth impacts on human lives – education, health & social welfare.
    2. Amartya Sen: Development of Human Capabilities is the goal of development
    3. Akhtar Hameed Khan: Community Driven Development
    4. Muhammad Yunus: Micro-Finance – methods for providing money to the poor.
    5. Abdul-Haq Bari, Abdus-Sattar Edhi: Islamic Concept – society is collectively responsible for social welfare of all. Implemented by Waqf – money or property consecrated to service in perpetuity. The basis for the concept of the Foundation in the West.
  6. Golden Words of Mahbubul Haq: Human Beings are Means and Ends of Development
    1. Contrasts with Conventional Wisdom: Human Beings are resources for use of production of wealth.
    2. FIRST produce wealth, THEN distribute to the poor.
    3. Social Welfare is Burden on Budget
    4. Mahbubul Haq & Amartya Sen: REVERSE development priorities and strategies.
    5. Wealth is resource to be used to create satisfactory lives.
    6. Improve Human Lives and THEY will create wealth.
    7. Social Welfare is ESSENTIAL for development.; not a luxury to be obtained after development has been achieved.

For links to readings on related topics: see: An Islamic Approach to Humanities.

5 thoughts on “Spirituality and Development: Part 2, Development

  1. Thanks for the lecture. In addition to the material cited here, much is going on in psychology — in particular the Positive Psychology movement — scientifically supporting many of these ideas. Life gratification as process rather than outcome is a good part of the concept of Flourishing, which is an emerging model to account for psychological fulfillment. Too, there are studies which expose Instrumentalism — angling for outcomes — as a poor method for achieving personal reward.

  2. Personal identity and individual development are not given in nature. They are the result of human evolution, both biological and cultural. Before any individual human can exist or have a separate identity/self human culture and collective life must exist. So, understanding personal development depends first on understanding cultural and biological development and how these provide the foundations and building materials for creating a self, a personhood, or a coordinated face to the world.

  3. Reblogged this on An Islamic WorldView and commented:

    Contemporary economic policy focuses purely on aggregate material growth, mistaking a means for an end. Material growth is valuable only to the extent that it can nourish and enrich human lives. Human have hearts and souls, in addition to stomachs, arms, and brains. This talk, outlined below, explains how spirituality matters for economic development

  4. Dear Asad, Brethren, Allies & Humane witnesses – I am inspired & greatly encouraged by this masterful outline of a rational Islamic approach to the problem. Yet, it seems unfortunate that EF Schumacher’s insights & his essay on “Buddhist Economics” is not part of the domain of discourse.
    Clearly, ideally, the Islamic approach involves a more holistic, integrative approach, requiring qualitative analysis, necessarily involving real values that support a bioethical sociocultural paradigm, enabling a nonecocidal socioeconomic system and a nonpsychopathic cilvilization. Hence, I suggest contemplation of the following:

    Re: Goal of Life: Developing our capabilities. That would include enjoying our optimum appreciation of QOL & QOC, optimal quality of life & culture, while supporting optimal liveliness of the biosphere.
    Re: Spiritual Progress, one of the important human capabilities. Globally, that can only be framed in & supported by a holistically humanistic, realistic context of ecotopian bioethics, supported by a unanimous or pervasive acceptance of the principles of bioethical sprituality.
    Re: ‘Spending’ Wealth is a MEANS to achieve spiritual progress. That can only be realized & sustained with a bioethical sociocultural paradigm that fosters & sustains a Gifting/sharing way of cultural economy.. That way defines “wealth” as the capacity to give/share & enhance QOL, not as one’s capacity to take/control/hoard more than others.

    I look forward to your response. Thanks agian, sincerely ~ M

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