The Middle Path

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Hamza Yusuf

Channel: Hamza Yusuf

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Episode Transcript

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Masato samata Sina Mohammed

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shot Eleonora

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from

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masala, Hamada Sina, Mohammed Juana, Karen

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Ani and Ali hamdulillah. Yeah.

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First of all,

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it's it's a very

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bizarre experience that I think a lot of us are having here in the United States of late.

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I think the social disintegration that's happening so rapidly. And as things begin to unravel.

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And even a lot of people that I know immigrants are talking about maybe going back

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to places they came from, which don't look that appetizing, either now in a lot of areas, but one of the things about Muslim countries, even when things break down,

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people really do

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recognize the word, brother, and sister. Like that word actually means something.

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In many, many places around the world, and I've experienced the beauty of that word, not so much as it's articulated yet.

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But the real lived experience of somebody treating you like a brother or like a sister.

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I, you know, I was thinking a lot about united against poverty.

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I actually think it'd be better if we were united against wealth.

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Because

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I've actually lived in the poorest countries in the world. I mean, literally, the poorest like, I was in Nigeria. I was in Mali. I was in Mauritania. I lived in a place in Mauritania, where

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the rich people had all of their possessions in one box.

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And the poor people didn't have a box.

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I mean, really,

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and my own teacher, Mater, hadj law preserve him.

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He was actually considered relatively wealthy, because he had a few cows

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that were milked every day, and that's where they drank their milk, the milk in Twain, but it is organic milk.

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It's not pasteurized homogenized. It's not 1% or zero fat. This is right out of the utter.

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So what I noted about living in the poorest places, and I literally lived in a shanty town, I mean, a complete like open sewage. The houses were made out of Chinese tea boxes, literally, that were disassembled from tea boxes, and that's how they made their houses. And I lived with a man, a mockery from the masoumeh clan, in his little hut made out of tea cartons. And these were some of the richest people I have ever known.

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They were rich in community. They were rich in culture.

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They were people that could quote, the greatest Arabic poetry ever written.

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Most of them memorize the Quran by heart.

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And for entertainment, they would discuss grammatical points.

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These were really rich people. They were not impoverished unless you want to identify poverty as material poverty. And I'm not really against material poverty. But I'm very much against cultural and spiritual poverty. Because I think what's happening in this country is we are the most culturally and spiritually impoverished nation

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in the world.

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The fact that the number one best selling novel right now, is a pornographic novel. I have no literary merit according to the critics that have read it.

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But this is what's happening.

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spinning in. In America every, every airport I've been to has a whole row of these novels just lined up for people just to devour them off the shelves.

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That is poverty.

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It's poverty not to have if you're from this culture, it's poverty not to have ever read

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Melville so that when somebody like Chris Hedges can tell you about the P quad, or Ahab's quest, you don't have any cultural references, to know what that means, despite the fact that even the poorest Americans 100 years ago, had very often read that book.

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Because literature is not the property of the wealthy. Historically, literature as has actually been the property of the most impoverished people. Some of the greatest writers were impoverished people read the life of Edgar Allan Poe, somebody's constantly in debt,

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a drug addict,

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dealing with the despair of living in the United States at that time, and a lot of his literature is about that. Those aspects, dusty of ski,

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read about their lives, and yet they produce this great body of literature because they were not culturally impoverished, they may have been materially impoverished, but they were not culturally impoverished. One of the most celebrated authors, one of the most celebrated artists in Western tradition is Van Gogh. And he was a completely impoverished person supported by his brother never sold a painting during his own life, time. Another very tortured person, but somebody who

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had a richness of vision, that people are still entranced by his paintings.

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So, I think that a lot of what's happening in this country is actually from luxuria. It's actually from luxury, it used to be one of the seven deadly sins. That's the Latin term for for lust, luxuria, you know, gluttony and lust, that were a surfeited culture, we're, we're, we're too full. There's too much when people talk about the 99 and the 1%, we're 5% of the world's population, and we're devouring most of the world's natural resources. The average American is in the 5%. The other part of the world is the other 95%. So when we're talking about the 1%, and the 99%,

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some of the people in that 1% are drug dealers in inner cities.

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Really. So the whole dichotomize ation is this desire to kind of split the world into good people and evil people, to me is a false dialectic that I think as Muslims, we should reject, we should reject it. There are wretched demonic people amongst the poor, and there are decent, angelic people amongst the wealthy.

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And the prophets, allies, Adam had poor people with him, and he had wealthy people. And without the wealthy people, he could not have done what he did for the poor people.

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But he transformed the motives of the wealthy. He transformed their motives. He didn't create a class warfare. He didn't make the poor people hate the wealthy people, or the wealthy people feel contempt for the poor people? No, he gave us a different criterion to judge people. We were talking earlier today about intellectual arrogance. Because you see so many people in academia that are filled with intellectual arrogance, a sense of their inherent superiority, because if you learn even a little bit, you quickly see how far ahead you are from a lot of people out there. And that can lead to a type of contempt. Because you have some kind of intellectual training that other people do

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because you can work things out quicker than other people can work out. Because, you know, these references and other people don't know these references. But the reality of it is, is that Islam put a different criterion for excellence than intellectual excellence. It's spiritual excellence. It's being a human being, and that is open to the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich, and that's what separates people. So that street sweeper, that janitor

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might have more humanity, ounce per ounce, then that PhD professor at Yale University,

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he might have better character, more moral

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Integrity, he might be a better father,

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a better civic member of society. Because the real Judge of people in Islam is a judge of character. It's not anything else. The prophets Alliance system standard was a standard of character. And he said, in fact, the standard of that standard was how you treat your women.

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Because he said that a man is judged by how he treats his women. Hey, it'll come haidakhan Lee, one of

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the best of you are the best to their womenfolk or their families, and I'm the best of you to my womenfolk. So he was letting us know right there, what the standard of judgment how you judge a person, because you've got all these people out there, giving all of their declarations and proclamations and telling you what's right and what's wrong, and they go home, and they treat their wife like dirt. They treat their children as if they're subjects of Pharaoh.

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So the whole stratification, if you're talking about good and evil, give me a break. Because it's all the way down this whole crisis, this globe, this global crisis that started here in this country was about greed. It was greed on Main Street and greed on Wall Street, all those people that went in and lied on their applications about how much they were making, because they wanted to get that house, for they didn't even understand what what type of mortgage they were getting. They didn't know that it was gonna balloon in a few years, they didn't care, they just saw an opportunity to get some property. And maybe it'll, it'll rise in price. And in a few years, I'll flip it, pay off my

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debt and make some money. It was greed, greed on Main Street and greed on Wall Street. And that's why Islam doesn't talk about the wealthy and the poor. It talks about character, it talks about the moral character of people, and how you transform people. You know, I was asked to talk just about the Islamic

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economic system in relation to the Western economic system or this modern system of capitalism. You can't even compare the two. There's no comparison. Our system is based on real wealth, a bi metal economy in which money actually has intrinsic value. People say gold doesn't have intrinsic value, then why do people kill for it.

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And the only reason they kill for paper dollars that don't have intrinsic value is because they think that it has intrinsic value. But all you have to do is put a fire to it. And you'll see how valuable it is. You put fire to gold and you'll see how valuable it is because Gold's indestructible, gold doesn't corrode. Silver doesn't corrode. They don't oxidize the gold coins that were minted by Caesar, you can go down to a store, you probably here in Stanford and buy one of them if you have enough money, because it's still around

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this whole digital IQ system, fooling people into thinking that worthless paper has any intrinsic value fractional reserve banking, Abraham Lincoln, when he needed to fund the war, he wanted to borrow money. So he asked the bankers, and they told him, Well, it's going to be on this interest rate. So he said To hell with it. In the Constitution, we can print money. So he printed up greenbacks. That's how he paid for the war. They were non interest, greenbacks that were printed by the US government, then why today, are we borrowing money from a private bank, and paying them interest and the interest now represents 25% of the national debt, because the bankers run the

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situation. They wrote the laws. They wrote the laws. And people don't know this, because they're no longer educated. And if you want to know why it's getting so bad out there, it's a very plain and simple, because we have ignorant people, we have an ignorant population. And when you have ignorant populations, then you need more and more draconian measures for social control. And this is the history of the world. You just read about it in your history books. And you'll see the same tactics are used to control ignorant people. educated people are the dangerous ones. It's not ignorant people, you can control ignorant people.

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Seriously, they're not hard to control.

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bread and circuses one way that's it, that's the old fashioned way. Now it's at MTV and McDonald's. That's just a modern version of Penn at circus. That's what the Romans used, but it's the same game.

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You look at what they're devouring on there. Look at look at the cultural impoverishment of this society. You know, people aren't hungry in this society. They're starving to death. There

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they're starving to death and they're starving to death. Even though they're overeating, the reason that they have to eat more and more, it's because there's no nutrients in the food.

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So you're wondering why they're all getting bigger and bigger out there. Because the more they eat, the hungrier they feel. They're not satiated, all you have to do. Come to California and, and we'll give them a real meal like brown rice and tofu and you'll see how quick they're hungry. They're really they won't, they won't be hungry. If you eat a real meal, you go and eat the Indians eat doll. You don't see fat Indians down in those villages. Because they Tao they eat real food. They're eating real bread that they cook with their own hands to parties, they're eating to parties, and they're eating dogs, and and they're there, they have better nutrition than all these people out

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here. They have better nutrition. But when you go up into that 1% you know what they're eating? They're eating doll and handmade patties.

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Really, they're eating the same stuff. The poorest people are eating in in a lot of these countries go to Malaysia, and you see how poor people eat. They're eating real vegetables that they grew Pakistan Pakistanis in this country I know a lot of you know this, your grandmother's when they got here. The first thing they did was went in the backyard and started a garden.

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They grow their own tomatoes to put in their curries, because that's just the way they did it.

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In this country used to have what were called Victory Gardens in World War Two they tell people to grow your own gardens. Now people don't even know what a vegetable is. The closest thing they get to it as a french fries. Really or pizza. It's because it's got some red under there. I think that's from a vegetable

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soup. They don't know what vegetables are most kids now in the schools can identify a lot of the vegetables. They can't they've actually done these tests, then they don't know what a turnip is, or a Brussels sprout, let alone a collard green.

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See, some people are old enough to know collard greens, right? Because people went out and picked them because they couldn't afford to go down to the store.

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People were resourceful. This country was a country of resourceful people. There's all these people looking for jobs. People used to make jobs. They didn't look for jobs, they made jobs. Now, people have been so dumbed down and so convinced that they can't do anything.

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That only if they get this job and then they go in is all humiliation. Even Haldane said the two most humiliating ways of gaining a livelihood are employment and treasure hunting.

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That's what he said, employment and treasure hunting. In this country. Employment was only just to learn how to do something. You became like a journeyman carpenter. And then when you finish the seven years, you are free to open your own business. That's the way it worked. You started a store to you you worked in a store to see how it ran. And then you went and opened your own shop. That's what people did. My great grandfather started at the bottom in a newspaper, but by his 50s he own three newspapers.

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Because that's the way America was it was about entrepreneurial tradition of people, elevating people. Not everybody was in that. That's acknowledged. But even if you look in the black communities in the south, you look what they did, creating their own schools.

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Lawyers came out of those schools. Some of the best schools now today are still out of those schools. You look at people like Dubois

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look at the level of education that they had,

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you know, read what his his books are considered classics today.

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So there were people even from the most oppressed communities that still rose above those circumstances, and empowered other people to do the same.

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The Islamic economic system is based on justice. Now, justice, even if you read Aristotle, 2500 years ago, almost, if you read his book, he has a book

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number five in his ethics book on justice, and he talks about rectify Ettore justice and distributive justice, the idea that you have to have some justice in distribution, you know, what the these people say in this

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redistribution of wealth, that's socialism. That's communism. That's socialism and communism when it goes to the poor people. But when it goes to the rich people, it's called a bailout.

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That's just redistribution of wealth. It's just going the other way. And this is the type of Orwellian

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And culture that we are in, but people haven't read Orwell. So how do they know? If you if you don't know Orwell, you're not gonna know how to use the adjective Orwellian.

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And if somebody uses it you don't know what they're talking about. Orwellian is that like Orson Welles

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you know if they know Orson Welles cuz even good films they don't know about anymore like Citizen Kane. Right, sir, then people know that now they know about like Dumb and Dumber.

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You know, seriously, I mean, I saw a really, you know, interesting statement about,

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you know, just the popular culture and how they take, you know, how they dress, humiliate these young black artists by getting black males to wear female clothes. You know, there was an interview with Oprah Winfrey that Dave Chappelle had. And he said, One day, he went into the,

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his his dressing room, they had a dress on the chair and the, the writer came in and said, Dave, we've got a great part for you. We want you to put on this dress, you're going to be a prostitute. Haha, isn't that funny days? He said, I'm not you know, I'm not cool with that.

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Cuz he's, I mean, in the end, whatever you say about Dave Chappelle, he's a Muslim. You know, there's, I mean, he's got limits right of where he's gonna go.

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And he said, I'm not putting on a dress.

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And Oh, come on, all the greats have done and he said, well, then is happening. Why should I do it if all the greats have done it?

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And then in this clip, they showed all of these films where they had these really strong black men

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dressed in dresses,

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you know, humiliating them?

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What is that about? Why does how you would have to humiliate people? What is that about all of these people that they they really squelch down? They end up drug addicts and, and meltdowns, you know, they kill themselves.

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really having all these mail that what is that? What kind of culture is that? That that's what they do to their most creative people, drive them to drug addiction, and to public meltdowns.

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What that's impoverishment, these are poor people. And if you don't have compassion for poor people, you don't have any compassion, but I'm saying they're all impoverished.

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Really, the richest people to the poorest of the poor, they are impoverished because they're culturally and spiritually impoverished. And that is the poverty that we should be united against. But if the Muslims are going to participate in it, if we're going to degrade our religion, and turn our art forms into pale imitations of their art forms,

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if that's what we have to offer,

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we don't have the richness of tradition.

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Looking back into the past, what did they do? What what what did they do that can inspire us today? To do it in our own way. But we're people of legacy, we believe in legacy we believe in things handed down.

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And you hand down things of worth, you don't hand down junk. The prophets Allah light is sin. And one of the things about him that amazes me and everything about him amazes me. But one of the things that I've contemplated

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is the fact that he named his personal belongings. And what I realized about that, and in my estimation, will love that acronym, is that he was honoring goods that enhance our lives. He had a name for his comb, he had his a name for his turban, he only had a handful of things.

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In his life, if you actually took all of the possessions that he had, they would fit into a very small box.

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But he named them because they were meaningful things to him. We live in a society that gives stuff no meaning.

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It's not only nameless, it's discarded as fast as people buy it.

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We have engineered obsolescence, things aren't built to last if you want to ideas idea because I'll be your first customer. I have an idea like I want to shop called till death do us part.

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things for people that want things that last

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because when I was a kid, if you bought something, it lasted.

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I used to brush leaves because my grandfather had a cattle ranch and we had to go up and he would always put us to work because he was always

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Old school.

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And that's what he thought you should do to kids. Because because they put him to work when he was six years old, he was selling bubblegum on Market Street in San Francisco, California and in 1899.

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So that's what he would do. So we just push and brooms. And there always be a tree that then we could go ride a horse or something.

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But the brooms that I was pushing when I was five years old, they were the same brooms I was pushing when I was 15.

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Because they were built to last. Now you go and you buy a broom, and you do you sweep your your sidewalk, three times, and it's broken.

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And then they tell you, well, it's cheaper to just buy a new one. That's what they tell you. Now, it's just cheaper to buy new one that we have to reject this whole culture of consumption.

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We have to reject it. The Islamic tradition, most of the if you look now, the wealth in this country 40% of the wealth is not an economy of goods and services. That is the old American economy. It was an economy of goods and services, you produce things, you sold things or you did things for people, like you hired a carpenter, and he would do something for you or your mechanic. So goods and services that was that now, it's financial instruments, it's making money off of money. This is the economy of America. And it's an economy that takes wealth away from the middle people. And increasingly to the upper echelons. There's a Wall Street Journal op ed writer who's been covering

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the wealthiest people, he wrote a book called richest Stan

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richest stand like Pakistan. But it's where rich people live. There's some rich people in Pakistan, trust me, because if you want to talk about wealth moving up, right.

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But he wrote a book called richest stand and what he shows in that book, he had lower richest and middle richest and an upper richest stand.

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And then in upper visit Stan, he had a town called billionaire Ville, a population of 1230 people.

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Those are the people that are billionaires, they have half

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of the wealth of 3 billion people on the planet, half

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a trillion people, a trillion dollars, half of that goes to 1230 people. And the other half goes to 3 billion people.

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You think about that?

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The the inequity that exists today on this planet, and we're part of it. And I'm going to just tell you a few things. And I'll close out with this. tell you a few things. One,

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historically, the Muslims had something in that, you know, when when a merchant comes into town, you don't have to ask where they got their goods from. This is what the football had taught, you know that there's Baran Asli. And if it's if it's a halaal thing to purchase, you don't that so? Let us settle Anusha and took that account. So don't ask about things. If you find out it's, you know, see, if somebody comes in. He's a merchant, you don't ask where he got it. You can buy it if it's halaal. That that's traditionally how they viewed it.

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In I think in in societies where

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most wealth acquisition was relatively just

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that's fine. I personally don't agree with that opinion today, for things that we know about, and that we're able to do something about. And the single most important thing, I think, to deal with the impoverished conditions that we're living in this country, is to begin to empower people to take back their communities. We have to make our own clothes, stop buying clothes that were made in sweatshops. We have to really, this is what we have to do. We have to reestablish family as the central most important unit of a society. Because Islam is about preservation of family. It's one of the six fundamentals, preservation of family, if you look now in the inner cities at the

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disintegration of the family, because if you take if you take the father out of fatherhood, if you take the father out of motherhood, if you take the Father, the brother out of brotherhood and the sister out of sisterhood, what do you have left? You have that the hood that's all you've got left.

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That's it, and people cannot survive.

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In those conditions. They will die. Camden, New Jersey Chris Hedges wrote a whole section on his book The Empire of illusion about

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About that town,

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they they're going to dismantle the police force in Camden.

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They it's they don't have money. So they're just going to regionalize it, highest crime rate in America, just leave the poor people there, there's children on the streets doesn't matter. Because these are throwaway people. What has to happen and the Muslims and I'm going to chastise here, the immigrant community.

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I really believe that the immigrant community made an ethical mistake, as well as a strategic mistake in not seriously taking the existing indigenous Muslim communities that you find in the inner cities to heart and recognizing that they had a moral obligation

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to help them build community centers, to help them build their mosques. It is a disgrace when sirajul Hodge, Imam Suraj, when all over this country, building mosques for the entire Muslim community, mostly immigrant community, and and and he couldn't find the money to build a beautiful center in Brooklyn, that's a disgrace to this community.

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Because as far as I'm concerned, the single most important community for the Muslims in the United States of America is in the inner cities. It is the single most important and I'm not saying this gratuitously. I'm saying this from my heart. It's the opinion of Dr. Khalid Blankenship who I consider one of the most brilliant Muslim scholars that we have, not just in the United States, but on the globe.

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And he has said that to me many times.

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So we have to be real about helping these communities, we want to get the best and the brightest, give them scholarships.

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So that they can give back. We don't want the migration up. Right, this is what happened with the the black middle class and upper middle class, they just moved up, and they didn't pick anybody else up with them. And now they're completely alienated. And you have completely separate African American communities in the United States that can't relate to each other.

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Right. And the situation is so bad in places like East Oakland.

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Really, it's so bad, and it's right next door, it's right next door. We're seeing social disintegration and we have a moral responsibility. As a Muslim community, we have a moral responsibility to serve the underserved. The prophets are lies and promised us that you are given victory by the weakest amongst you. And he met but I thought he meant like poor people as who he was talking about. And he lived amongst them. And a lot commanded him to be patient with the poorest of people who call on their Lord in the morning and in the evening. Be patient with them, be with them. Don't hang out with the rich people.

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Hang out with the poor people. That's what he told them. A lot told him to be with those be elevate them, lift them up, bring them up. We need to dignify poverty in this country, because poverty in this country is a blemish. It's like something's wrong with you. You're like a moral leper. is God's God is this is Protestantism at its worst. This idea somehow that God's grace is when you get lots of money. Matthew 1921, quoting crisp Christian scripture here, Matthew 1920 1921. When the man comes to Jesus, and Jesus says,

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go and sell your garment and give it to the poor.

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Right? Go and sell your goods and give it to the poor and you'll have a treasure in heaven if you want to be perfect. Go and sell your material possessions, and then give it to the poor and then and then you can get a treasure in heaven and you follow me. The Catholics took that very seriously. And that's why in the Catholic tradition, the highest thing is to renounce wealth. That's what monks do. They have a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience, chastity, poverty, and OB all those nuns in those Catholic schools, they were all working for free.

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They were working for free.

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The province of Lyceum chose poverty, overwhelmed. He was given a choice to be a slave prophet or a king Prophet, and he chose to be a slave prophet. He lowered his standard of living so that other standards could be raised up.

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That's a challenge that's a moral challenge for people

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is a moral challenge. Well, it is a dangerous thing. Satan Omar, he said, say nalli said halala. He said, Well, how on earth

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What's halau from? Well, the permitted is a severe reckoning. And what's how Tom is a chastisement.

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And that's why the zoo had they in all the books, they say this the people of Zoo hood, the people that give up well,

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they're the most rational, intelligent people.

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We have to lower our standards of living.

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Really, because we're living on a planet right now that's in peril, because of all this wealth acquisition, all this greed, because that's the fundamental problem. It's about bummer. It's just wanting more when is enough enough. You know, if you watch any program, you watch any of these animal shows, you know, those animal program, I was once in West Africa with a Egyptian American from New York. And we were in a jeep Out in the middle of the Sahara. And he saw this all of these wild animals. He said, Man, this is just like the nature channel. I said,

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the nature channel is like this. Yeah, you got it wrong.

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But if you watch those programs, when the lion gets the zebra, watch the other zebras. You watch them because they're all running. But right when that lion gets a zebra, they all stop and they go back to eating.

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Because they know, you know, Harvey's gone. The lion got his lunch.

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You know, it's over. But the lion will not eat the whole flock.

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Because the lion has a limit, a natural limit. Aristotle said man is the only one that has no natural limits. In the linsanity letaba. Era Husqvarna surely man goes to access when he deems himself wealthy

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when he deems himself wealthy

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allies, the wealthy and we are the poor.