Showing posts with label Business & Economics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Business & Economics. Show all posts

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Quatras Politicas, A Muslim suggestion on how the West can end its debt crisis

What is it, Westerners should let go of, in order to become a less indebted society? That would be the fear of self-reliance; the exaggerated specialization; the fear of individualism; the fear of small-scale; the fear of humble labor. Is there a thing as humble labor, anyway. They should let go any glorification of co-operation and doing things 'together'. All-in: Developing a more positive, proud concept of human nature, and their own populations, in general. Many, many nations on this Earth, have survived with small governments that don't plan an entire economy and have less bureaucracy, though their people have had to rely on their own capcacity to take care of their families and property. This is possible, because individual citizens are allowed ownership more than food, cloths, furniture, books, and decorations only. They can inherit their family home, or family business, and the land on which it is built, without having to pay huge taxes. They are allowed to build their own home and business, even if it's only as simple as a tent of a shed. They are allowed to be self-reliant and humble, in other words. Let's remember, that a humble start, even more so with family or neighborhood support, may very well grow and develop into sophistication. The West should, really, abandon centralized housing and real estate. It's former colonies, such as countries in the Islamic world; Africa; Latin America; Asia, have carried out landreforms, in many cases. They dismantled large landownership and gave the land back to those who live and work on it: The average citizens. It's true, that this hasn't always been a peaceful process. Zimbabwe is example of a country that made the right choice at great cost and with much bloodshed. They should have allowed white landowners a reasonable patch of land for themselves, like everybody else, and others could have put their expertise to good use. This is a valid question to ask. Yet, Zimbabwe made the right choice, towards genuine independence, in spite of the difficult transition it no doubt had to go through.

Arriving at sophistication, starts with hard work and building experience, and it can't always be delegated to others. The fashion industry is a good example. It's for a reason, that some Asian peoples are the world's clothes manufacturers: They realize, good clothes come with a price, which is hard labor and gaining skill, in small-scale business. In the West, many people receive several years of education to become a fashion designer, but what happens, after they finally get their degree...? Usually, they haven't got a clue, how to produce and sell the cloths and other fabrics they design. And end up doing something, they weren't educated for. Such a pity! This is, because actual production, is an overlooked aspect in all those years of education. The West should arrive at a better balance between education and gaining skills in work. This needn't be cruel or abusive. More manual work and more trading skills, would be needed in this example. Humility, is overlooked.

What kind of society and governance, will land reform lead to? 

It will lead to a society with more personal freedoms. That, is sure. But, also, with more personal responsibility. One may choose between producing themselves, or buying. It will create markets with many participants, both suppliers and buyers. Prices will lower. There's more space for competition. There will be healthy chaos: The chaos of an active and roaming population. This can be an envigorating force in society. People are allowed to develop themselves freely and keep more benefits to themselves. And because they don't have to pay half their earnings to the state, or more, they can also affort to not work. Those who own a  modest estate, can afford to reduce their work efforts. This is beneficial in times of illness, and may lead to more modest spending. Or, if they want to spend time and effort on another business, job, or hobby, as well. This, is good. It may lead to less stress -- whereas Westerners can't easily take a break from work, because they live in debt.

A society with small-scale ownership, needn't be a society wholly without regulating or protecting government, but government can be smaller. Also in a society with less difference between those who own nearly everything and those who own nothing but debt, Satan is still roaming. There still is crime and abuse. And, there may be threat from abroad. So, a government is still needed. Government exists to make sure, that existing legislation for economic life, is carried out. That those who enherit, buy, own, sell, initiate, produce, etc, indeed get what they are entitled to. That truthful standards are maintained. For instance, that people indeed sell the product they say it is, in quality and in quantity, and that sanctions exist to those who transgress. A product can be an apple, but also a complete college education. Government is there for those jobs that can't have owners: Communal tasks, such as infrastructure, the military, protection of the environment, geographical planning. And, government is needed for those tasks, where the private sector cannot always step in. It needs to take care of those vulnerable people (and other creatures) who have nobody to take care of them. It's good, that state education and health care exist. But, is it necessary to keep all education and health care in state hands? I'd say, it isn't. Quality of institutions, isn't always a matter of size or finance, nor of private versus public. So, a society with small-scale ownership, will still need taxes and bureaucracy, but considerably less than in the West. Not the entire people, needs to be kept hostage by the sheer thought, that there's always a small group of truly vulnerable people who need protection. That thought, is neglected in the West.

There will be a sharper separation between public and private tasks. Also that, is a good thing. Montesquieu invented trias politicas: A separation between legislation, governance, and justice. This plan isn't completed, yet. Montesquieu was child of a feudal society. Not even the French Revolution, has ended the feudality, for the French and other Westerners. Let's introduce something else: Quatras Politicas. Legislation, Governance, and Justice belong to the State, and Business, Residence, and Production belong to the Citizens :) @}}- A sharper separation between citizens and state in economic life, will lead to bringing back tasks to those where they naturally belong: The direct users and producers. It will lead to market balance, because monopolies and oligopolies will be broken. Markets will have many participating suppliers and buyers. Prices will lower; choice will multiple; there will be freedom of choice. And, specialization needn't end. Those who are trained for the job, will have success in their efforts. So at the individual's level, specialization will continue. But, it may also be easier, to have other, extra activity. There will be more separation between public and private money flows. The advantage of this is, that public debt has smaller impact on the private sector. State money creation stays within a smaller circle. Now, Westerners have lost sight of everything that matters to them, because there's huge conflict of interest between public and private tasks. And high taxes, make state money creation indispensable. The state would swallow its own citizens, otherwise.  Government is everything, does everything, either directly, or through privatized institutions, that have one owner only: Government. Noted should be, that not all Western nations are full feudalities, or welfare states. South European nations have much small-scale ownership and business, have a smaller welfare state, and lower taxes.

Also in democratic systems, government needs to go back where it belongs: In the ivory tower. Let it be three ivory towers, the smaller angles of the green, brown, yellow and blue cube of life and nature.

Western Economics Are Based On Fear, And Fear Creates Debt

What are economics, at all?

Economics aren't so much about the fact, that humans need to satisfy their survival needs at all, nor about how much it is they need. Those questions, can be answered by natural sciences. Economics answer, in the first place, HOW to satisfy survival needs. It's about humans working with figures, but it's also about behavior -- as an individual and as a group. Economics have three components: Granting and taking opportunities, and setting boundaries. Economics are, in the very first place, and in every sense of the word, a question of balancing duality. Secondly, economics naturally never stand still, and, thirdly, difference without judgment, is perhaps key component.

To name a few of the many examples of economic dualism that like to be balanced:

Full Stomach - Empty Stomach
Much - Little
Complex - Simple
Intelligent - Stupid ...?
Large company - Small Business
Macro - Micro
National - Local
Altruism - Individualism (Selfishness?)
You - Me
They - Us
Hunter - Prey
Receiving - Paying
Giving - Accepting
Group - Individual
Debt - Claim
Movement - Stillness
Global - National
Debit - Credit
Male - Female
Old - New
Risk - Security
Dynamism - Stability
Mind - Body
Mind - Heart
Thought - Feeling
Capability - Shortcoming
Self-reliance - Co-operation
Eating - Being Eaten
Solidarity - Individualism
Birth - Death
Blue - Yellow
Competition - Cooperation

All these, are natural dimensions of life. They all deserve their own merit. Westerners, however, ran into huge trouble, when they started classifying natural dimensions into a moral classification, and then try to fit in humans -- when it should be the other way round. Moral classifications of economics are only justified, when there aren't any conflicting interests -- not only between people, but also between people and any other creatures, and even objects. This is a situation, where no difference exists -- which isn't possible. And, if choices existed. But, nothing is more complex than life and the universe. 'Good <--> Bad' isn't a conclusion we should, each and every time, draw from difference. It's about eating and being eaten. Each creature is programmed in a certain way, with a certain role attached to that. A cat catches a mouse, but never vice versa. That, isn't possible. Does that make the cat a bad creature? And, is the mouse really a victim? What is a victim, at all? The concept 'victim', excludes any thought of a future. Who knows, whether the mouse, or its soul, is better off, being eaten? 'Work' isn't necessarily worse or better than 'not work', if no one gets hurt on its way. Same goes for the difference between rich and poor. Maybe, the poorer person is thankful, being deprived of the stress of large property and responsibilities. What is poor, in the first place, as long as people are able to fulfill their, and their family's, needs. Yet, the average Westerner, is brought up to think, that certain economic situations are better than others. Not being affluent, in this view, is intolerable. It's compulsory to function in a big, formal environment and be organized, whereas an informal environment may yield better result. Economics don't answer or judge questions like which activity is superior. Yet, Westerners strongly believe in an ideal, large-scale, economic structure with ideal jobs, designed into detail by a government or representative. People have to fit into this model, also when they can't, and if they can't, they must change themselves. The ideal person, reinvents him- or herself, or is rejected and stays at the sideline.

The second problem, Westerners created for themselves, as a group, is their low appreciation of the individual person. How does this effect average people? 'An ordinary person isn't able to take respondibility for his, and more so, her own life.' 'Only extrodinary people can take responsibility for fullfilling the people's needs'. 'Competition causes unemployment'. 'Only cooperation leads to secure improvement'. These thoughts, or rather, fears, led to economic specialization, as I said in my previous economics-blog: A work- and society concept, where people fill their daily task with only one, same assignment. If they want something else, be it a job or a product, they must outsource, against payment. The hope is, that everyone doing the best they can in their specific job, leads to a perfected group performance as a society. It leads, however, also to a society, where people need a lot of cash to fulfill almost all their personal needs, because they can't, or aren't allowed, to self-produce those items that don't belong to their job description. A society based on patronage, has thus emerged. Specialization and patronage, are main components of a feudality, because specialization isn't restricted to work only, but also to ownership. Only a few people own a nation's real estate, and the mass of the people and businesses, must rent their residence from this small group of owners. The deal is, that these owners have the specialist knowledge to maintain and improve the estate. And the problem is, one or two ordinary persons, take decisions for thousands of people. These thousands of people are perfectly capable of taking decisions for themselves, and these one or two leaders, are usually ordinary people with average character flaws. Sometimes, those flaws make them loose, or run off with, large quantities of money or property. The whole group is left empty handed, then. They must take decisions for too many people. In many cases, that's above their league. This structure has had great consequences for the West itself, but also for other parts of the world, as I said in my previous economics-blog.

Truth is, the average Westerner, has very little property. A Westerner, firstly, in many cases, is unable to continue an inherited family business. It must be sold, because inheritance tax must be paid first. The 'poor' and the huge state bureaucracy that takes care of the citizens, must be paid, after all. Same applies to many other investments, Westerners face this problem in many of their decisions, in order to lead a regular, natural life. A big example, is buying a house. The price of that house is huge, because of the taxations that come on top of it. And, because construction real estate is often government monopoly, or in the hands of large landownership. And, usually, because less than half the nation's land is available to small-scale, individual, private owners. So, a Westerner, usually, has to start his or her working life from scratch, without much help from a family estate. And, in many cases, then fails. Result is, that Westerners must receive back from the state, what they had to pay for: A rent house; social security money; a state-created job; food handouts. This is, how redevision of wealth works. People are forced to buy or rent at a price, and, if they can't afford it, they must receive state income support. Those in good health, or those who finish their education well, may very well succeed in finding a job or income source, and, thus, sufficient income, but those who fail, end up under financial state protection. Truth is, that latter group is economically bankrupt. And, this is a big group -- not a small group. It may very well be half the population, if we are honest enough to really face reality. The problem isn't limited to individual cases. Because many thousands of people rely on only a few employers, or on the state, they end up in serious financial debt, should the employer, or the state, suffer loss of income -- which is part of economic reality. So, in Western economy, times of decreased income, lead to severe crisis of the entire economy. In the West, recession is a disaster.

The West's third problem, is that economics are perhaps the only field of human activity, where it thinks, it can't learn from foreign systems and cultures. Call it a last remnant of superiority-ideas. Or, difficulty to identify with outlandish philosophy. So, those who want to make suggestions, should also use names from Western culture.






Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why the West has essentially always been a Feudal Society

I'll do my best to be brief here, on the topic of Feudality @}}-

'The West' as we know it now, started its history among Kelts, Romans, Greeks, and among the Germanic peoples in South West Asia. Those latter gradually invaded Europe; then settled down all over Europe, sometimes fully submitting to Roman rule and sometimes co-operating with it. This, until the Roman empire was unable to keep its rule over large parts of Europe, in 395 AD. Most authors define a Feudality as a system where a military leader, as a deputy of a King or an Emperor, owns a vast area of land, and allows the majority of the people to live on that land. The people living on that land either pay rent to or work on the land for a landlord, in exchange for military (and other kinds of) protection. The landlord, not having to work otherwise, could fully focus on defense. The king (who owns his own estate as well,) appoints new landlords to estates, or, at least, is the landlords' patron. This is the Feudal System known among the Germanic tribes. Its power was at its height from the 8th century till the 15th century AD. Feudal Society is seen as a collective, where the individual is supposed to serve the whole group. There's always some group ideal, for instance, God, the Nation, the King, or Independence, and to attain that, each person has a specific role of service, in exchange for another service. The Roman Empire, was a Feudality, too. Feudalism is a system of paid group patronage in any form. Serving oneself, or one's own family, is seen as undesirable, nepotist behavior. Self-reliance is impossible for most people living in a feudal system. Self-reliance is only possible for those who, thanks to good income or large estate, can own their means of production and housing, and also then, only up to a point. Sooner or later, also those with their own means are to contribute heavily to the collective state. The core of any feudal system, is leverage between owned property and debt. Not being owner of a production tool, house or land, means not carrying the risk of it, and, at the same time, enjoying the benefits of using it. Thus, having debt is seen as an advantage and not a liability. It's a temporary enlargement of a personal estate. This, in spite of having to regularly pay for using the borrowed or rent property. The reason behind favoring leverage, is a wish for specialization: If workers, individuals, and also organizations apply their talents and work force to only one activity, their skill, and hence their productivity, will increase. Fragmentation is seen as potential loss. Leverage is Feudality's main strength, but it can easily turn into its main weakness, once income slows down. This may happen to entire groups of households and businesses, and then lead to a major financial crisis of a whole society.

More varieties to the military Feudality exist. Western philosophers have spent many thoughts on them. Plato was inventor of an ideal feudal system. Philosophers should fully govern this society into detail, because they were considered morally outstanding. Society should be a hierarchical, communal system where individuals and groups had a clear role. Vertical mobility was possible in this utopian Platonic Community, but wasn't encouraged. Property, family life and marriage, were communal. The Romans had their own feudal system; many people had no property at all, and formal slavery also existed. Slaves lived with their masters. Big owners had the right to political and religious leadership. The Roman feudal system involved a lot more than only military patronage.

The Germanic peoples largely integrated the Roman feudal system into their systems, also after the end of Roman rule in Europe. Their feudal system changed over the ages. It started as a military system. Then, the Church entered as another feudal owner of land and real estate, and could never be disowned. A formal class society was introduced; top - down it looked like this: Church, Nobility, Free Citizens, and Serfs. With the Monarch and the Pope on top. Free citizens were those not part of both top classes, yet affluent and educated enough to afford their own estate or business. Serfs were those who lived in rent homes owned by the large landowner. Mostly, they weren't allowed to move out; they had to work and, or, pay to the landlord; and when the land changed ownership, they were part of the sold package deal. The landlord, in exchange, had to look after their safety and welfare, also after change of ownership. In business and production, the Guild System was aimed at disabling competition from newcomers on the market. It also wanted to organize the production chain top - down for more efficiency. Women, except for a few who managed to impose anyway, made no independent appearance in society; their status was defined by fathers and husbands. Women had no right of ownership, enterprise, education, inheritance, leadership, or free labour. And, in every society, a small group of non-committed nomads, gypsies, and homeless people persisted. Those who couldn't afford a residential existence, always risked to end up in that latter group. Society as a whole, was a top - down model, where the Church provided moral leadership, and Nobility and Monarchy provided economic and military sustenance. Free Citizens consisted of artistic, entrepreneurial, philosophical, and engineering persons, who couldn't be silenced by the top classes, and who gradually gained more and more influence and power on societies.

The feudal system changed from the eighteenth century. The third class of free citizens had gained enough strength of argument over Nobility and Church to raise their voices and change society into a place where all inhabitants could participate on a more equal basis. Philosophers like Adam Smith wrote works on how to arrive at change. Why was it seen necessary to come to a more equal distribution of wealth and distribution? Not only because it wasn't understood, why some individuals were more worthy of property, enterprise, leadership, inheritance, education, and free labour -- those rights didn't necessarily correspond with their capabilities -- but also because a hierarchical society wasn't able to fulfill all practical needs of all its inhabitants. A healthy market, after all, gives free access to all who can and want to participate. Only then, market forces can work efficiently and reach every supplier and customer. Every need will be met, at the right price. In a feudal system, there's only a handful of suppliers. They can't keep in touch with every 'customer'. They don't know, nor are they able, to fulfill every need. And, most people aren't allowed to fully participate. There's always something they are barred from: Be it work, selling, ownership, or production. And the reasons aren't always objectively justified. Prices are set by the small number of suppliers, who have insufficient knowledge of the real value of the product, in buyers' eyes. And buyers aren't allowed an alternative. There's enough alternative thinkable, such as home production or finding another supplier, but that's impossible in a feudal system, because of the compulsory patronage relations. This leads to severe shortages, when market supply slows down. And to severe debts among the many whose monthly rent duties to their landlord continue. And, landlords have resembling monthly or weekly wage duties to their workers.

During the Middle Ages, population didn't grow much, in Europe. Epidemics kept populations small. The problem of goods supply became a problem, when populations started to grow, as a result of new, improved farming technologies. The elite had to fulfill a much larger number of dependents' needs, and of course it failed. The West's traditional answers to this friction, have always been new Technology, Interest, and Occupation of Foreign Lands with Natural (and Other) Riches. Latter is called Colonialism, or Imperialism. Also Colonialism, Interest, and Technology failed to properly connect supply and demand, and also failed to keep all of its working population involved in its society. The cost of providing for everyone and of finding the necessary supplies to do so, has been immense, and cruel. Even the sincerest, most compassionate elites are never mind readers, nor providers, for an entire people. Then -- what happens, if the people's fate falls in the hands of tyrants? The problem, that the traditional feudal system didn't allow bottom - up feedback, had to be solved. Free Civilians have tried to find answer in replacing Church and Nobility by equalitarian legislation. More people had to be allowed to participate in society. But, that was only possible after a lengthy process of violently removing Church, Nobility, and Monarchy, in most countries. Those elites didn't voluntarily give up their positions. And those countries that were spared of violence, finally weren't necessarily better off (That is, they didn't reach the aim of equal opportunity.)

What did the struggle towards Equality result in? Three main roads were chosen:  Communism; Fascism; and our present, more complicated, inexplicable road, called Planned Market Economy, also called, sometimes, Social Democracy. Briefly, those three systems have in common, that a small group of outstanding leaders are responsible for engaging the population in making One Society. Work, especially a group working activity, is considered key component of a society where all work for one, and one for all. These three systems are a direct inheritance of the ancient feudal society, with its patronage system, meant to build a society. However, only the third route, Planned Market Economy, has survived so far, and also that system doesn't look like it has a good permanent survival chance. Communism and Fascism couldn't survive their self-created ravages. Both teachings are naturally autocratic systems that don't allow divergence from the mainstream. In practice, this led to extermination of minorities: Those smaller groups who don't fit in the collective workforce of the state. Those minorities were specifically mentioned groups and those who didn't fit in anyway: The most outstanding and most humble groups of people. Not only people of color, homosexuals, gypsies, or people with a handicap, but also investors, intellectuals, or outstanding artists, were typical victims of Communist and Fascist regimes. They were killed. There are many differences between Communism and Fascism, the most important two being their fierce competition over the same target group they aim to service, and the ownership of large property. Those matter less for the topic at stake here: The Feudal Patronage. The violent destruction of those minorities has been rejected now, which is the main reason, why most countries have turned their back on Communism and Fascism. It is perceived, that any state, at least, should uphold some sort of non-violent economic standard for all. Destruction of minorities obviously clashes with that standard. Therefore, the West thought that Democracy finally could overcome all inequality. Then, why did it fail?

Democracy aims at answering the general human need for justice, freedom, and equal opportunities for everybody. The traditional Feudality, after all, clashed with those values. The Church, Nobility, and Monarchies were, in most Western nations, seen as the main oppressive culprits to hinder them. Democracy rejects, that society's top classes should develop values and standards for everybody. Those powers were either overthrown, or they were given a much smaller, symbolic function in their nations. In the course of the twentieth century, also legislations were adjusted. Ownership, enterprise, leadership, inheritance, and labour were opened to everybody of sane mind and body and above certain ages. Same for the right to participate in politics. So, apparently, a society of freedom and equal right to participate had finally come. However, in many Western nations, large landownership persisted, and its population hence was still unable to provide for themselves. Technology had transformed Society in an industrialized, urbanized environment. Yet, in reality, the Feudal State moved with its people from the country to the city. In the city, and in villages with urban lifestyles, Social Housing Corporations and Local Authorities now became owners of most estates. They housed the people now, largely under very similar rules as in the Medieval days of the Feudal Estates. Because the people have to pay heavily for these Social Homes, a new patronage system needed to be established. How to achieve at that? Communism and Fascism were only partly able to arrive at that, because citizens were unable to freely express their needs and opinions. Since the Church and Nobility were dismantled, a new patron had to be found, and it was found in a depersonalized welfare and insurance system. The Nation's Tax Office and Government Insurance Institutions had key roles, here, in collecting funds from each citizen, as a percentage from their personal income, estate, or inheritance. Those funds had to be transferred to citizens without income, and to care institutions such as schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly and disabled, prisons, universities, and many others. An elaborate protective legislation for labor, housing, health care, education and several other fields of interest was developed. With the fall of Communism and Fascism, the Democratic political process took over the legislative role. In the past, Guilds, Nobility, and Church organizations had these tasks more informally. Guilds nowadays have resurrected as Organizations for Employers and Worker Unions -- to keep it very brief. Democracy granted the average citizen the opportunity to ventilate needs and opinions, but the basic economics hadn't really changed, in spite of the advancement of technology and medicine. Most people still have no access to work, property, etc. And they must carefully balance leverage, and if the balance heads towards the debt side too much, homelessness still is a real threat. Homelessness in the West may even have increased in several countries, especially in the Netherlands, because they don't allow nomadic lifestyles nowadays, and because only the state is allowed to build homes. I hate to say so -- I once had to call the ambulance for a homeless man in my own street. And we know, how monopolies and oligopolies lead to increased prices. The reality is, that the majority of people have no property, no independent source of income, and can, therefore, be considered economically bankrupt -- like the Serfs, in the Middle Ages. Democratic rights haven't given those people a lot more economic right than to express their needs. 'Redivision of property' may very well mean ending up without property, to many, as a consequence of the duty of surrendering a large part of their property and income to the Tax Office. This may mean loss of a house or a business, a situation that also effects those people who do have property. In times of low income, this threat is very real to many people. Economic rights, such as ownership or inheritance, exist on paper, but for many, not in reality, also today.

Because the Feudal State in economic reality persisted, also in today's Western Democracies, loss of income may, to many, lead to a large debt crisis of a whole society. Technology and Interest haven't led to the answer; they may even worsen the problem of scarcity and redivision, and it didn't put a stop to Imperialism and Colonialism. The many large State Institutions and Social Housing have to be paid. Some Western States have experimented with a newcomer on the Market Place: Money Creation. Money Creation had to become a declutter tool. Could Money Creation be the all-in solution, or is more needed ...? And, why and to whom, is the Feudal State such a problem?

Sources:
Plato - The Republic http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html
The Germanic Peoples - Odin's Volk http://www.odinsvolk.ca/GermanicPeoples.htm
Feudalism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feudalism
History of Feudalism http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac35












Friday, May 29, 2015

Redivision of Wealth in Islam

The big difference between European economic systems, and that of Islam is, that in Islam, traditionally everyone has had a right to own, enterprise, work, and inherit. Islam doesn't strive to fully equal division of wealth, but, contrary to Western systems, it does strive to equality of opportunity and access to markets to everybody of sufficient mental health and maturity. In the short run, difference between poor and wealthy people emerges. In the long run, however, there are many barriers against centralization of property and opportunity in the hands of few. This is, because everybody has his or her estate redivided over his or her legal heirs. And those heirs may loose or gain property, from then on. Islam tries to meet the needs of everybody to be self-sufficient, yet allows for a social network for the really vulnerable, without unjustly demoralizing talented people by taking too much of their earnings. The advantage of being able to help oneself and deciding for oneself, is not only cost. As we know, in an oligarchy, prices are high. It leads to citizens and governments being perpetually in debt. The other advantage is freedom. Freedom to do independent business, or to design one's own home, whether it's a tent, a trailer, or a luxury villa. And freedom to produce your own food, if you want to. In countries like Egypt, also townspeople keep their own poultry, to mention something. In the Netherlands, that's not even allowed. Thanks to these Qur'anic verses, everybody of sane mind, has the opportunity to participate in economic life:

The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain of corn: it groweth seven ears, and each ear hath a hundred grains. Allah giveth manifold increase to whom He pleaseth: and Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things. Those who spend of Allah, and follow not up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, for them their reward is with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. Kind words and covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is Free of all wants and He is most Forbearing. Q:2:261-263
O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you. Give unto orphans their wealth. Exchange not the good for the bad (in your management thereof) nor absorb their wealth into your own wealth. Lo! that would be a great sin. And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice. And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). Give not unto the foolish (what is in) your (keeping of their) wealth, which Allah hath given you to maintain; but feed and clothe them from it, and speak kindly unto them. Prove orphans till they reach the marriageable age; then, if ye find them of sound judgment, deliver over unto them their fortune; and devour it not by squandering and in haste lest they should grow up Whoso (of the guardians) is rich, let him abstain generously (from taking of the property of orphans); and whoso is poor let him take thereof in reason (for his guardianship). And when ye deliver up their fortune unto orphans, have (the transaction) witnessed in their presence. Allah sufficeth as a Reckoner. Q:4:1-6
Lo! Those who devour the wealth of orphans wrongfully, they do but swallow fire into their bellies, and they will be exposed to burning flame. Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females, and if there be women more than two, then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one (only) then the half. And to each of his parents a sixth of the inheritance, if he have a son; and if he have no son and his parents are his heirs, then to his mother appertaineth the third; and if he have brethren, then to his mother appertaineth the sixth, after any legacy he may have bequeathed, or debt (hath been paid). Your parents and your children: Ye know not which of them is nearer unto you in usefulness. It is an injunction from Allah. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise. And unto you belongeth a half of that which your wives leave, if they have no child; but if they have a child then unto you the fourth of that which they leave, after any legacy they may have bequeathed, or debt (they may have contracted, hath been paid). And unto them belongeth the fourth of that which ye leave if ye have no child, but if ye have a child then the eighth of that which ye leave, after any legacy ye may have bequeathed, or debt (ye may have contracted, hath been paid). And if a man or a woman have a distant heir (having left neither parent nor child), and he (or she) have a brother or a sister (only on the mother's side) then to each of them twain (the brother and the sister) the sixth, and if they be more than two, then they shall be sharers in the third, after any legacy that may have been bequeathed or debt (contracted) not injuring (the heirs by willing away more than a third of the heritage) hath been paid. A commandment from Allah. Allah is Knower, Indulgent. Qur'an 4:10-12

Allah has bestowed His gifts of sustenance more freely on some of you than on others: those more favoured are not going to throw back their gifts to those whom their right hands possess, so as to be equal in that respect. Will they then deny the favours of Allah? Qur'an 16:71

Woe to those that deal in fraud, those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due, do they not think that they will be raised up? On a Mighty Day a Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds? Q:83:1-6

Several hadiths show market regulations that also today are modern and in use also outside Muslim countries:

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 266:

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:

‘Ukaz, Majanna and Dhul-Majaz were market-places in the Pre-lslamic period of ignorance. When Islam came, Muslims felt that marketing there might be a sin. So, the Divine Inspiration came: “There is no harm for you to seek the bounty of your Lord (in the seasons of Hajj).” (2.198) Ibn ‘Abbas recited the Verse in this way.


Volume 3, Book 34, Number 267:

Narrated An-Nu’man bin Bashir:

The Prophet said “Both legal and illegal things are obvious, and in between them are (suspicious) doubtful matters. So who-ever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may commit a sin, will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal; and who-ever indulges in these (suspicious) doubtful things bravely, is likely to commit what is clearly illegal. Sins are Allah’s Hima (i.e. private pasture) and whoever pastures (his sheep) near it, is likely to get in it at any moment.”

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 286:
Narrated Al-Miqdam:
The Prophet said, “Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than that which one has earned by working with one’s own hands. The Prophet of Allah, David used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor.”

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 301:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Abu Aufa:
A man displayed some goods in the market and swore by Allah that he had been offered so much for that, that which was not offered, and he said so, so as to cheat a Muslim. On that occasion the following Verse was revealed: “Verily! Those who purchase a small gain at the cost of Allah’s covenant and their oaths (They shall have no portion in the Hereafter ..etc.)’ (3.77)

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 360:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Do not go forward to meet the caravan (to buy from it on the way before it reaches the town). And do not urge buyers to cancel their purchases to sell them (your own goods) yourselves, and do not practice Najsh. A town dweller should not sell the goods for the desert dweller. Do not leave sheep unmilked for a long time, when they are on sale, and whoever buys such an animal has the option of returning it, after milking it, along with a Sa of dates or keeping it. it has been kept unmilked for a long period by the seller (to deceive others).

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 379:
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
The Prophet said, “The selling of wheat for wheat is Riba (usury) except if it is handed from hand to hand and equal in amount. Similarly the selling of barley for barley, is Riba except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount, and dates for dates is usury except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount. (See Riba-Fadl in the glossary).

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 430:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “Allah says, ‘I will be against three persons on the Day of Resurrection:
1. One who makes a covenant in My Name, but he proves treacherous.
2. One who sells a free person (as a slave) and eats the price,
3. And one who employs a laborer and gets the full work done by him but does not pay him his wages.’ ”

Volume 3, Book 34, Number 414:
Narrated Hisham bin ‘Urwa from his father:
who heard Aisha saying, “The Holy Verse; ‘Whoever amongst the guardians is rich, he should take no wages (from the property of the orphans) but If he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable (according to his labors)’ (4.6) was revealed concerning the guardian of the orphans who looks after them and manages favorably their financial affairs; If the guardian Is poor, he could have from It what Is just and reasonable, (according to his labors).”

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
The Prophet sent Mu’adh to Yemen and said, “Be afraid, from the curse of the oppressed as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.”

Volume 3, Book 43, Number 629:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him.”

Volume 3, Book 43, Number 634:
Narrated Salim’s father (i.e. ‘Abdullah):
The Prophet said, “Whoever takes a piece of the land of others unjustly, he will sink down the seven earths on the Day of Resurrection.”


Volume 3, Book 43, Number 639:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr:
The Prophet said, “Whoever has (the following) four characters will be a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. These are: (1 ) Whenever he talks, he tells a lie; (2) whenever he makes a promise, he breaks it; (3) whenever he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; (4) and whenever he quarrels, he behaves impudently in an evil insulting manner.” (See Hadith No. 33 Vol. 1)

Volume 3, Book 43, Number 640:
Narrated Aisha:
Hind bint ‘Utba (Abu Sufyan’s wife) came and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Abu Sufyan is a miser. Is there any harm if I spend something from his property for our children?” He said, there is no harm for you if you feed them from it justly and reasonably (with no extravagance).”

Source:
University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts) http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje








Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Redivision of Wealth in the West, As Seen By a Muslim

What Went Wrong With the Role of Money and Property in the West
Economics isn't science. It's practicality, behavior and human scale.
Westerners prefer contradictory designer table models, theories, and terminology imposed by governments for shifting around money.
We don't need collectivism, we need Islamic libertarianism.



Some two years ago, I wrote this article for the Yahoo Contributor Network. Alas, it doesn't exist anymore. Here, I'll place a few of my favs... because I sincerely think they are the truth. And economics are a very important, underestimated, and under appreciated topic.

There's a lot to say about economics, money, and redistribution of wealth in Western society. What is the core of the problem? I'll try to describe it here, perhaps in some black-and-white contrast tones. I'll admit, that some countries are less plagued by the problem than others. Coming to the core, doesn't involve high profile research projects. Complicated mathematical models don't belong in household economics. They should stay where they truly belong: Design and engineering. The core of economics is digging into ourselves, our own mind, our guiding principles, and common sense. What is the function of money in my life? Which part of my estate is for me, which part is for others, and who are those others? And: What do I want to do with my life, how do I want to sustain myself and family, how do I want to realize my dreams? What are the obstacles and opportunities? Money is about the individual and those next to him or her. Each individual has certain qualities and aspirations, and likes to see those put to work. And what role can government assume to support those aspirations--in stead of stifling them, as happens now.

The function of money now

Where does this leave money, in our lands? Money is naturally linked to individualism. It gives individual people and businesses freedom, because they don't have to supply an equal-value good in return to a supplier of a good they need. They can pay with a general exchange good, called money. That may be sea shells -- or a promise written on a computer page. For individual people, money should be a reflection of their property, a mirror. If individuals can safely rely on the value of their money, so can societies. This is only possible, if money, like water, can flow freely, without too many obstacles. Yet, governments allotted money a role way above its means. They have created artificial money streams by creating corporations to serve government monopolies on services that people could have done themselves. And money has been allotted a role below its means. Not enough are we allowed to set boundaries to protect our own property. We are demanded to share it with everybody else. Yet, we need to eat several times per day for sheer survival. So it's safe to conclude that property is important, that we deserve a healthy relationship with it, and that we don't have it now. Artificial redistribution of wealth has led to permanent debt on everybody.

Now what if some people's income gathering gets hampered, even temporarily? The debt doesn't miraculously go away. What we see, is a water system where one or more of the waterways get blocked by an obstacle. The result is obvious and listens to names as "inflation" or "deflation." The river becomes a lake behind the obstacle. We also see, how much water is still present in the other waterways. Somehow, that money should also reach those waterways that are now bereft of supply. This is what we also see in our artificial tax-and-transfer economies. Governments fully control the streaming money system. They have a large chunk of tax money under them. When certain members or groups in society loose their income supply, the government must supply money, not only to them personally, but also generally. The government uses its central bank to supply this money, a process called money creation. We now see a process, where governments and corporations randomly levy and pay money. We could ask ourselves, what's the need for having a tax and contribution system at all, if institutions can supply society with freshly-printed money. This freshly-printed money might as well be directly spent on education, health care, infrastructure, the military, and other -- no tax payment necessary. The connection between money and economic performance has been broken anyway.

The issue of money creation raises another one. How do we distinguish government-created money from so-called false money? Their function is basically the same. It's freshly pressed money, issued without parallel counter-performance. In a way, both false and created money are society's illegitimate child. It had no full economic status, in the sense that it was part of economic activity, yet it ends up functioning as a full means of payment. The big difference is, that in the first case, governments issued it, and in the second place, individual citizens did. Not a country is more centralized than mine, the Netherlands, yet small business owners told me they just use a false banknote like it's regular, and spend it. However, government monopoly is on this issue fiercer than on any other. Don't get me wrong -- it's good, that there's formal central government money. It has authority, individual people know it will be accepted everywhere. Yet, local trading systems can give considerable relief on stressed markets. An example is the Kaereti, a local currency on the Greek island of Crete, founded in 2011. The solutions to financial stress should be based on openness and practicality, but why should only governments bring them? And why should all transactions be carried out with money? What's wrong with simply giving, or with goods exchange?

The causes

The West is a society with strong innate political and economic contradictions. These led to concepts and theories that rather diffuse the discussion, than that they solve anything. The terminology naming these concepts could hence only become ugly words, almost swear words. The first swear word in Western thinking is individualism. "Individualism is destroying solidarity and togetherness in Western society". Much-heard it is.

Individualism

The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a nice overview of how the various concepts of individualism have changed and developed in the West, starting in ancient Greece. Individualism has always been seen as a negative quality: A danger to the co-operation between people for the greater benefit of a caring society. Individualists care only for themselves, lack morality, and have no healthy ties with family, friends, and neighbors, is the idea. Yet, the welfare state created individuals who have ties mainly with public offices. Most tax systems disable providing for family members, nowadays. The state is the only one that can take care of people, also morally. Is there an individual left? What is left, is a group of powerless individuals, unable to fend for themselves. They have been awarded with the counter-duty of payment for public services. Paying for service rendered is an act of togetherness and solidarity in a caring society, where individuals are part of a group. We are forced to pay a heavy tax burden over our properties and earnings -- thus heavy, that the majority of us can't obtain or keep property like real estate. It led to the situation where we must first pay to the public office, and then reclaim that money, or a service, from the same office. This purely to survive. The result is: Shifting of money and property to and fro, and we are all almost numbered state property.. The safe conclusion is: There is no individualism in the West, there's only fear of it. That's not all there is. The second swearword and angstgegner in the Western mind, is property.

Property

Really nothing is feared more in Western culture than earthly possessions. They are not welcome in higher philosophy, nor truly welcome as a career goal in personal life plans. Starting with the ancient Greeks, there's always been a strong belief, that property distracts the mind from abstract philosophy and good morality. Western thinking understands concepts like love, altruism, or self worth, and how these are built from a healthy balance between personal needs and the need to be with others. It doesn't understand, that a person's relationship with money has this same need for healthy balance, simply because they need to work and live with help of these possessions. Also nowadays, people are ordered to spend their money and goods on altruistic goals and aren't allowed to keep much of it to themselves. In a very early stage of Western history, all this led to the thought that only special people can be allowed to manage the bulk of property in society. The Bible, for instance, allowed only few people inheritance. Women were excluded from economic rights as enterprise, ownership, inheritance, or paid work. The Biblical Book of Numbers, Chapter 27, explains how women were excluded from inheritance, unless there was no son. This rule doesn't exist in Islam, as shown in Qur'anic verses above. And the same Biblical Book of Numbers, Chapter 30, explains that women are not bound by their promises, unless their father or their husband allows them to make such, or stays silent. Another rule that doesn't exist in Islam, and that made it for Western women impossible to do business, acquire property, or work. Western inheritance traditionally was based on Biblical primogeniture laws: Only the eldest son could inherit the family estate, the same way as that only the King's eldest son could inherit the title and function of King. (See Gen 29:26.) In modern days, new legislation has enlarged the group of people entitled to inherit, enterprise, work, and own. But in practice, this is only a paper tiger. Also now, in most Western nations, only the government and its direct delegates, and spiritual leaders, are granted right of big ownership, which led to the need for the well-known tax-and-transfer economy. Why so? Because, obviously, if many people are denied the right to own, work, inherit, and enterprise, those same people aren't able to sustain themselves. To sustain yourself, you need tools. Either financial and material property, or the right to obtain property. How else can you feed yourself? If you can't feed yourself, others must do it for you. In the West, also now, most people are fed by those who represent them: government and its immediate delegates, large institutions. In the past it was called feudality; then communism, corporatism, fascism, and nowadays it's called collectivism or "social democracy." Thanks to traditional primogeniture laws, centralization of property emerged in a very early stage of Western history. It's true that civil law and contracts could enable women to make prenuptial contracts or to inherit, but in practice, these were exemptions.

Thus, in Western thinking, a strange discrepancy grew between thoughts on everyday material needs, on the one hand, and abstract, emotional, and philosophical idealism, on the other. In the past, not much freedom existed in either category, but only the latter group was seen as worth fighting for as an individual. You want to stand up against a government that doesn't allow you your religious practice, live with a partner of your choice, or feel whatever you want to feel, but you demand the same government's protection when you need a house, a job, or a doctor. Power to the people became known under the name "democracy," but it was and is an incomplete power. Though democracy isn't a swear word, it's rather an affirmation.

Freedom and Democracy

What is democracy in Western civilization? It is said to be the freedom to think, speak, meet, assume leadership roles, and act as you want. Since individuals couldn't fend for themselves, they needed the right to voice their needs to the authorities. This right didn't come automatically -- it took several centuries to achieve it, and the history of our lands has known many revolutions as its loud witnesses. The first important revolution in the West took place in France. It didn't strive for freedom only; it also wanted equality and brotherhood. This is where the bottleneck narrowed even more, only to stay. This is because another contradiction wasn't solved: How to define citizenship. The ideal citizen is an independent personality in a society, able to fend for himself, herself, and able to contribute to society from his, her own opinions and lifestyle. How can we rhyme this with a heavy duty to pay for everybody and everything else as ordained by a government, without own priority or choice? This is an internal clash in our present idea of democracy, that hasn't been solved. The unfortunate result is, that government and citizens have become too much entwined, there's too much conflict of interest, it isn't possible anymore to protest successfully against harmful policies or politicians. It is impossible to get rid of a government that also pays your monthly social security benefits.

Citizens

After the revolutions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, freedom remained restricted to abstract, high-brow philosophical, religious, artistic, and political topics mainly. Economic topics like inheriting, buying, owning, and selling were restricted to a male minority group in society, like before. Only the few who payed taxes, called citizens, could take part in business and administration. They paid taxes, because they belonged to the small group of people with enough income and property to make that worthwhile. Initially, only those men were entitled to a role in governance and business in many countries. Later, that led to more revolutions and war, finally leading to a much larger group of people being allowed in the brotherhood of equal citizens with political rights. Yet important elements of business life, such as land and many economic activities -- construction, health care, education -- remained in government and corporate hands. Before this long era of revolutions, which started in the eighteenth century and was sealed off by the first and second world wars, tax paying citizens, the king, church, and nobility owned these. The working class was excluded. After that revolution, they were transferred to the hands of public officials, banks, and idealistic corporations. As if no revolution ever happened. Now, formal citizenship means owning a passport, the right to vote, and speak your mind, but it still isn't the right to live and work in freedom. It isn't the true right of satisfying your own needs, because it doesn't include right of big ownership.

Okay. Maybe it's not entirely true, that right of ownership for the small man and woman was wholly ignored in history. Since Margaret Thatcher, it was recognized as such, but in many countries in the West, mainly in Europe, still not implemented. And in a sense that led to another dire problem, a problem the West denies having: Corruption.

Corruption

What is it? Generally we understand by this ugly phenomenon a money stream without a counter-performance, or only a vague, protective counter-performance. Usually it's levied by powerful organizations, with great force. It's a problem with two sides: Perversion and the tragedy of human weakness. Firstly, it should be reiterated, that people lack unlimited moral discipline. Also leaders. There hardly ever is a magical, omnipotent, infallible, prophetic leader. Certainly not the general manager of the bank office in Birmingham, or the Welfare office in Rochester, Washington, or Copenhagen. And certainly not the Minister of Finance in office from 2008 to 2012. They have a great freedom to act, and to determine which price ticket may be adhered to that decision or account. They also get severe criticism when their decision is wrong. Therefore, not many people wish a position like that. Candidates aren't easily found. Why is that? People are not cut out to fully represent a customer group of two million people, which is the case with corporations that handle other people's interest. Politicians are better protected than leaders of corporations. Kings and presidents don't decide on their own. At least that is a result of our violent history: A more democratic system under trias politica. We care for good morals in politics, but are indifferent to finance, in the West. So both their performance and their leaving can only be rewarded with a tremendous sum of money: The infamous bonus. Laid off, failed managers may have to literally run for their life, if they really screwed up. It means that not many people are willing to do the job. That makes a huge dismissal bonus inevitable.

There's another, perhaps more dangerous side to corruption, that we choose to wholly ignore, in the West. "Corruption exists only at the top", is the wishful thought. Thinking big didn't only lead to large corporations. It also led to large worker unions. How honest were they? Here in Europe, the demand is: "Now that I got in, you may never fire me, no matter how unneeded my presence is." Full job protection is demanding payment without performance. I hate to say it, but that's another face of corruption. No one is ever too small or too insignificant for being corrupt. How could it -- why would lower rank workers be less corrupt than top rank workers. The thought is, that the small person is seen as too incapable of managing his or her own interests, and that makes him or her automatically incapable of corruption.

Corporation, Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism, Bank, Insurance Company

Three other almost-swear words to the Western mind, when it comes to money and economics, are these: Corporation, liberalism, and bank. This is because they all have double, conflicting meanings. A corporation can be a large organization designed to serve self-interest. A large multinational company selling shampoos or computers can be such a corporation. It has become big, because many individual people choose to spend their money on the product -- a win - win situation, leading to natural growth. Or a corporation can be a large organization designed to serve other people's interest. A pension fund, a housing corporation, an office for social security benefits. This last category is the cause of a malfunctioning economy, because it usually isn't founded on a precisely measured current need. It is founded on political idealism and wants to easily levy and spend money on a not precisely measured current need. There are a lot of ifs and maybes. Yet, governments everywhere in the West have enabled this latter category of corporations to act on the market on their behalf, especially since the fall of Marxism. The thought was, that governments should no longer manage consumers' interests and that non-governmental organizations should. They are funded by compulsory member fees, or directly by tax money. Here, the disliked concept behind it is called "neo-liberalism". We forget, that under neo-liberalism we've really seen a resurrection of the feudal lords -- who we thought were dead and buried. Also in America! This is because the consumers still aren't allowed to independently manage their money and property on the fields these corporations work. After all, who is allowed to make their own retirement fund or buy some land and build a house for themselves? So liberalism has come to mean "non-governmental" instead of "free". Liberalism is seen as freedom on non-financial issues. In practice, there still is no leading concept for financial liberalism in the West.

Banks, Insurance Companies

They deserve their paragraph, because no creature in society is more contradictory and therefore more crippled by nature than they are. At least corporations, or, before, feudal estates, had some non-profit goal for the benefit of society. (That in practice they perish under their own heavy weight of profit gathering officials, is often seen as collateral damage, see above.) However, banks are corporations with a beneficiary goal for society and a profit goal. So on the one hand, they are supposed to lavishly and unselfishly spread their wealth, which they are supposed to gather back for their own good. Same goes for their protective function of other people's wealth versus their profit gain. Something obviously doesn't add up here. I'm not elaborating on the damage they caused here. The papers are filled with their sad story. Just this: Bankers and insurers freely play with other people's money as if they were non-profit corporations, yet they stumble upon the fact that their companies can go bankrupt, as private organizations. Since they manage so many people's money, the result of their collapse may ruin a large chunk of a nation's GNP. They must perform well. Truth is, we don't know how to define a proper role for money lenders in the West. They hold the most ungrateful scapegoat position in society, which may explain why especially "banker", or moneylender, traditionally weren't gladly sought-after, prestigious jobs.

Informality

This is the West's final, perhaps most disliked swearword. It's a sensitive concept, for it involves non-Western cultures, which are often more informally organized. Informality is an embellification of what is really meant: Backwardness, underdevelopment. Formalism requires, that the state has to organize economic life. Then it gets stranded in the impossibility of building an entire society on its own, with a few corporations as its only helpers. Society must be a well-polished, refined, designer table product. Even the smallest action must be planned and documented. Hoped is, that an ingenious water system emerges -- yet the bottleneck lies in the word "refined" versus "emerges". The West has always thought, that "technology" is the beautiful formal answer to the economic woes of the dispossessed masses. But what can technology do for them, if, every month, they have to pay a chunk of costs for services they'd better produce themselves, and they have been disabled to set up a livelihood the way they like? A big cost saver it would be, if we didn't have to pay rent, mortgage, social insurance and inheritance tax; could breed and produce our own poultry, solar energy, and more. It is possible--it just isn't allowed. In this country, it isn't. People shouldn't have to pay for corporations, which are merely politicians' whimsical inventions. "Informality" is often mentioned in one breath with "corruption", where it's usually assumed that "those people" are "through and through" corrupt. It's true, that a country like Egypt knows straightforward corruption. A customs officer at an airport may offer to carry your suitcase and ask a ten euro note, which he isn't allowed to do. But at least he carries your suitcase, doesn't he. Here, corruption usually is not connected to any service, and it's morally applauded under names as "workers' rights" or "risk charge."

A healthy society, that gives room to innovation, has a large chunk of informality. It is built by its inhabitants, and government has a supervisory function. Government sets rules and sanctions individuals who transgress. Government is there for those tasks that are too big or too dangerous for citizens to handle, such as long distance infrastructure, also for wild life; large scale environmental protection; water management, the military, protection against natural disaster, nuclear programs, or the most expensive and complicated health care programs. And government should be there for the weakest citizens who have no one to fend for them. Everything else should belong to personal responsibility. It means, that the public office can't decide for citizens how to take care of health issues, how to build a home or business. It should only act, when someone or something gets really hurt or damaged. It shouldn't automatically and beforehand act on every issue that arises -- which is the case now.


In this respect, I want to make a recommendation not everyone may like. The West should reconsider President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The news reporters have burnt him down to the ground, to use a Dutchism. But someone should defend the principle he stands for, which has ensured him of re-election by his people. I hate the violence he used disowning white Zimbabweans. But he was right to disown them. Now, the large majority of Zimbabweans have their own land to support themselves with. He should, however, have granted white Zimbabweans their own, much smaller piece of land, because they are Zimbabwean citizens. In short, as a world community we shouldn't look at the West anymore as our moral compass. The West can't colonize the world anymore. It can only colonize Mars, for which plans are made now. But it will lead to the same problems as here, when (not if) those plans are feudal. The West must, like everybody else, learn to live within it's means and grant everybody economic freedom. Who is the West anyway? Does it exist at all. That brings me to a final conclusion.

There is no West

I think many people, no matter their background or skin color, see the West as their moral compass. Even in those countries and cultures, where people try to offer an alternative, such as Islamic countries. I remember an Egyptian businessman; he came with a remarkable saying: " The further North you go, the better it gets." Now, where is the world's superior Nordic nation? In Scandinavia? Or is it Siberia, Greenland? And why aren't Brazil or Chile ranked among the West, when their geographic position requires a long westward voyage from Amsterdam, and a sharp southward voyage from Oklahoma? And why isn't China seen as West. It's even further west, seen from Santiago the Chile. And the Chinese economy performs light years better than Amsterdam. And so do Japan. And maybe Brazil too. Could Western economic superiority be the last racist hurdle we still have to cross? This is where it all gets chaotic. It reminds me of Protestant churches in this country, whose bell towers are usually decorated with a wind vane, the top of which is decorated with a copper rooster, always facing towards the wind. Western superiority is like that rooster, fallen off during a storm, now trying to climb back, while all the other roosters just walk as they like.

Now, what do I want?

I want my true democratic right. This is what it means: Being able to say "Ffx$ solidarity and participation. I participate if I want, on a project that I choose. I want to turn my back on society, live like a hermit, if I want. I don't want to pay for a stranger's leaking roof, or his doctor bills. I hate groups anyway." Without the usual accusatory replies. I want to believe and speak as I want, which is allowed -- and I want economic freedom, which I'm deprived of now. Heavy taxation and compulsory solidarity payments to corporations have become yesterday's empty symbolic phetishes of a society that doesn't need them anymore, thanks to money creation. Finally, in a society where land and property have been returned to individual owners, where governments create money, money doesn't need to "circle" anymore. People can or cannot pay with money among each other. The amazing things is -- from then on it's possible to have one world currency only, as people can also pay with other means than the official currency. The one world currency could function as a credit card. It means the end of Keynesian slavery. I think this has some resemblance to how Italy works. Many highly innovative small-scale businesses, many private home owners, a small government, low taxes, and a huge government deficit. And Italy survives creatively.

That's how it's done.


Source:
The Official King James Bible Online 












Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Female Authority in Islam


I'll try to explain, why women in Islam aren't the doormats as they are usually depicted, without too much repetition of previous blogs with the same tags. See those for any proof of my next words. We, men and women, are created equally. Men aren't women's 'head', nor are they the 'real' representant of humanity, nor are they created in God's image. God isn't even a male, says Qur'anic verse 112:4. Men and women procreate differently, though. This results in a different life course for men and women. It's more likely, that women start at a career outside the home at a later moment in their lives than that men do. Women must start young, if they want a family; men can usually start at any time when they are past childhood. Speaking generally. This is the reason, why Qur'an lightens the duty (if applicable) to cover themselves for women past childbearing age, in verse 24:60. But there's no law to prevent women to start any career at any age, with exception of prostitution. And women aren't even barred from leadership in society; female leaders in religious history testify to that. Fir'aun's wife; Bilqis, the queen of Saba; and Maryam, are examples. This is something we shouldn't forget. Something else we shouldn't forget, is that early Islam left us important female scholars, yes scholars, such as Aicha, wife of the Prophet. She explained many hadiths for us, answered questions, knew the Qur'an by head. And she wasn't the only one.

Also a traditional housewife, has authority. Firstly, as a wife and a mother. Secondly, in Muslim societies, also the housewife has an economic role and property of her own. That property, is hers. She is free to do business with it. 'Housewife' as a concept, is in western society associated with someone stripped of her independence, because women had no property and couldn't do business, work, or sign their own papers. Women in the west can do business, work and place their signature, nowadays. But, in reality, they still have very little property to themselves. Home ownership without debt, is a prerogative of Muslim society. And, perhaps, of other societies outside western culture. What does this mean for the Muslim housewife? She can use her house and garden for poultry, livestock, vegetable culture, arts and crafts; for personal or commercial benefit. That has economic benefit to her and her family. It will add to her self-reliance. A woman has every right to own land, a house, and her husband may very well accept her contribution to the family property. A woman can go live with her husband in his home, but the other way round, is just as acceptable, and isn't unusual. A woman may not need her husband's marriage gift. Why not? Because she has fortune and income of her own. She has every right to choose to keep her independence and has no obligation to hand over her estate to her husband or other male relative. In Islam, all people with good mental health, are allowed to mind their own business, work, own, inherit.

All in, female authority does exist in Islam. The discussion shouldn't be necessary, really. Surah 4 gives some verses to this effect, 4:4-7, among others:

'And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). (4) Prove orphans till they reach the marriageable age; then, if ye find them of sound judgment, deliver over unto them their fortune; and devour it not by squandering and in haste lest they should grow up Whoso (of the guardians) is rich, let him abstain generously (from taking of the property of orphans); and whoso is poor let him take thereof in reason (for his guardianship). And when ye deliver up their fortune unto orphans, have (the transaction) witnessed in their presence. Allah sufficeth as a Reckoner. (6) Unto the men (of a family) belongeth a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, and unto the women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, whether it be little or much - a legal share. (7)' (4:6&7)

Source & Further Reading:
Quran Explorer

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Male Authority in Islam



Islam has a reputation for being male-dominated. To what extent is this true? In my previous two blogs, I've tried to show, that men and women, basically, are seen as equals. This contrary to the Bible. Like the Bible, Islam favors love above rules and regulations. Love between people can even save their souls in the hereafter, even if the people you love have lived better lives than you yourself. Honesty and loving intention is more important than behavior. It should be the start and finish of everything else!

Yet, Islam has also tried to solve some organizational issues in family life, and here we no doubt notice, that men and women have somewhat different positions, based on their difference in biology. These have an influence on family life. The most striking difference is women's ability to give birth and men's physical strength, which is reflected in several Qur'anic verses, mentioned below. Having said this, we shouldn't get stuck in dialectic, organizational issues. Is man the head of the family? Qur'an doesn't say so. Scholars and commentators do, however, even if the woman owns the family home. They leave us with a picture of a Muslim woman married at seventeen to an older well-established man, by her father, in order to live with her husband and his family, rarely leaving the home, and having no say in the family or the working life. Of course she exists: The young girl marrying into a family. But there's no ideal situation promoted in Islam. All Islam tries to achieve, is a situation where, within their capabilities, men and women can avoid certain pitfalls that may jeopardize a happy, stable life. And, perhaps more importantly, create a secure environment for children. Now, what do we normally see, between men and women? It's true, that women have less physical strength; they are the ones who bear children and bring them to life, with all the health risks attached to it; they have a much shorter reproductive cycle than men. But furthermore, women also have similarities with men. We all have professional capabilities, after all. This aspect is also reflected in Islam, which is why women have the right to inherit, work, own, and do business. Naturally, this leads to a situation, where women own businesses, homes, and obligations outside the family, where male relatives can't just barge into. A woman can employ a man, or she can offer a new husband a home. Women won't find these right in the Bible, which was reflected in legislation of western nations, until recently. Something else we've seen through the ages, is that women have received less credit for their works and even for their existence. Men aren't keen on working with women on an equal footing, let's not deny that, and that may be a gross injustice. Islam mentions all these aspects, including their ugly consequences--discrimination, sexual abuse, even infanticide to female babies. Even women don't always appreciate each other as their fellows and equals--probably a reason why discriminatory legislation could persist, during so many centuries.

Nevertheless, women's life cycle is different from men's. If they want children, they should dedicate their young years to having them. Bearing them and taking care of them during the first few years, is for women a time consuming task, that may put their health at risk, which is why Islam has exempted women from the obligation to work, without denying them their own work and property. It also entitled your mother to be the first person in your life to your help. Men can have a very large progeny with many women, also (almost) simultaneously. Islam favors them having a family with only one woman, but allows them to have four wives at the same time, if he can treat them as equally as possible, and if it doesn't unjustly disrupt the family.

But women also have a stronger physical tie with their children than men. They rarely live with the insecurity, whether their child is actually theirs, for obvious reasons. It's one of the reasons why marriages exist: To make sure, that a child has two known biological parents, who are in a committed, formal relationship, at least during the time it was conceived. All religions promote this phenomenon. In Islam the woman should make sure, that her husband can rely on one thing: that the children they give life to, are his. This is why her husband is entitled to insight in her life, friendships and activities.  All of this, however, without spying her or heavily mistrusting her, because these are sins in Islam. He must provide for her, he may not take her property, and he must give her a wedding gift. There is no joint property between husband and wife and, therefore, no need to make a prenuptial agreement to separate properties. Qur'anic verses inform us in more detail. He may never ask her to return his gifts. However, she may return him his gifts, if she wants to end the marriage. She can choose not to accept a wedding gift, or to provide for herself. A lot of controversy surrounds Qur'anic verse 4:34, the one that may say husbands can beat disobedient wives. It's not sure, if this is actually the intention of the verse. The Arabic word daraba has many meanings, of which 'beating' is only one. The verse could say, that a husband has the right to 'reconsider' his behavior towards the wife. The next verse, number 4:35, explicitly gives wives the right to end the marriage, if the husband abuses her. The Prophet exhorted men to treat their wife with kindness and without violence, too. After all, violence is in direct contradiction to love and kindness. Another thing a husband likes to rely on, is that the wife do her best to work on their relationship. She must be careful with his property, help him when he asks her to, and give him joy and sexual contact. All of this, is a right they both have towards each other, but a wife may be able to spend more time and energy to it in case she isn't in a job. Hadiths mention this aspect.

Qur'an says, that women can't be in a marriage with more than one man, unless the woman is kept captive. Men can. Men don't have to wait several months to remarry, after their previous marriage has ended. The reason is, that women would have uncertainty about their children's paternity. This explains, why women can remarry immediately after the end of their previous marriage in only two situations: They had no sexual relationship with the previous husband during several months prior to the end of the marriage, or she gives birth very soon after the end of the marriage. It doesn't really matter here why the marriage ended, be it death or divorce. However, in case of divorce, the husband must testify when the sexual relationship ended, rather than consent the wife to a divorce. That moment decides, when the woman can remarry. If he refuses to do so, it doesn't mean he can stall the woman for ever. Qur'an says this in verse 2:228. The husband may not prevent the wife to divorce, this in spite of what some commentators and scholars may have said. However, this all explains the Qur'anic words 'men have a degree above women'. It's not so much an economic, legal or political issue; it's a purely biological difference. Women receive their man, then they give birth, and for all of this, they need a safe, stable environment--also for their man.

Now about female leadership. There's a problem here. Many people tend to treat Qur'anic examples as meaningless anecdotes, but how can they be, in a book of religious law? I wonder, what attitude has caused so many people to deny the obvious. We should read religious texts with honesty, unclouded by our own tastes. Qur'anic Surahs 27 and 34 narrate about the queen of Saba (Sheba) who was 'provided with every requisite; and a magnificent throne', but who was humble enough to listen to another monarch, king and prophet Suleyman (Salomon), when she and her people didn't believe in God. This makes her an example of a female leader who, when listening to solid advisors, can bring her people to spiritual benefit. This is also the case for Pharaoh's wife, when she disobeyed her husband the Pharaoh and took care of prophet Musah. And for Mary, mother of Jesus (`Issa). Scholars and believers don't see Mary as a prophet, but an example for mankind she is nonetheless. Only one profession is forbidden to women: Prostitution. And even in that case, she may be forgiven, if she was forced into it, or if she has good deeds to compensate.

Is the woman forbidden to travel, work, or leave the home? Surah 33 contains some verses especially for the Prophet's wives: They must stay at home, and talk with visitors from behind a screen. This rule has to do with their safety. They have a public position, and more than others, they may suffer physical attacks. Like in modern days. Yet, there are hadiths indicating, see below, that they did leave their homes, and no one reacted excessively, the Prophet himself included. It's simply not true, that they weren't allowed to leave the home. Some Muslims, however, see in these rules an example for other women to follow. Yet, women must also take care of their business, work, or families. They are more entitled to ask other male relatives to step for them, but they're not exempted from it. As a rule, women have no obligation to spend their income on their family. They may keep their income and property to themselves. That's why, on the other hand, they inherit less than men in several situations. Sons inherit more than daughters, also, but during life, they must be treated equally, concerning gifts and such. Hadiths on travel for women are not unanimous, as shown below. Certain is, that women can travel, also alone. They can live on their own, too. Traveling more than several days is disfavored. In the good travel conditions we enjoy nowadays, that means, that most travel is allowed for women in Islam. A visit to the haramein is different, because the Kaabah is only mosque in the world where men and women pray together. So women must travel there with a male relative, or in a larger group of women.

All in, Islamic texts reflect what we know from everyday life: That intimate relationships are a challenge, and bring out the best or the worst in people.

These are the, imo, most relevant Qur'anic verses and ahadith of the Prophet saws on this topic:

Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will, and send (good deeds) before you for your souls, and fear Allah, and know that ye will (one day) meet Him. Give glad tidings to believers, (O Muhammad). Qur'an 2:223

Women who are divorced shall wait, keeping themselves apart, three (monthly) courses. And it is not lawful for them that they should conceal that which Allah hath created in their wombs if they are believers in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands would do better to take them back in that case if they desire a reconciliation. And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them. Allah is Mighty, Wise. Divorce must be pronounced twice and then (a woman) must be retained in honour or released in kindness. And it is not lawful for you that ye take from women aught of that which ye have given them; except (in the case) when both fear that they may not be able to keep within the limits (imposed by) Allah. And if ye fear that they may not be able to keep the limits of Allah, in that case it is no sin for either of them if the woman ransom herself. These are the limits (imposed by) Allah. Transgress them not. For whoso transgresseth Allah's limits: such are wrong-doers. And if he hath divorced her (the third time), then she is not lawful unto him thereafter until she hath wedded another husband. Then if he (the other husband) divorce her it is no sin for both of them that they come together again if they consider that they are able to observe the limits of Allah. These are the limits of Allah. He manifesteth them for people who have knowledge.  When ye have divorced women, and they have reached their term, then retain them in kindness or release them in kindness. Retain them not to their hurt so that ye transgress (the limits). He who doeth that hath wronged his soul. Make not the revelations of Allah a laughing-stock (by your behaviour), but remember Allah's grace upon you and that which He hath revealed unto you of the Scripture and of wisdom, whereby He doth exhort you. Observe your duty to Allah and know that Allah is Aware of all things. When ye divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their ('Iddat), do not prevent them from marrying their (former) husbands, if they mutually agree on equitable terms. This instruction is for all amongst you, who believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is (the course Making for) most virtue and purity amongst you and Allah knows, and ye know not. Mothers shall suckle their children for two whole years; (that is) for those who wish to complete the suckling. The duty of feeding and clothing nursing mothers in a seemly manner is upon the father of the child. No-one should be charged beyond his capacity. A mother should not be made to suffer because of her child, nor should he to whom the child is born (be made to suffer) because of his child. And on the (father's) heir is incumbent the like of that (which was incumbent on the father). If they desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, it is no sin for them; and if ye wish to give your children out to nurse, it is no sin for you, provide that ye pay what is due from you in kindness. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is Seer of what ye do. Such of you as die and leave behind them wives, they (the wives) shall wait, keeping themselves apart, four months and ten days. And when they reach the term (prescribed for them) then there is no sin for you in aught that they may do with themselves in decency. Allah is informed of what ye do. There is no sin for you in that which ye proclaim or hide in your minds concerning your troth with women. Allah knoweth that ye will remember them. But plight not your troth with women except by uttering a recognised form of words. And do not consummate the marriage until (the term) prescribed is run. Know that Allah knoweth what is in your minds, so beware of Him; and know that Allah is Forgiving, Clement. It is no sin for you if ye divorce women while yet ye have not touched them, nor appointed unto them a portion. Provide for them, the rich according to his means, and the straitened according to his means, a fair provision. (This is) a bounden duty for those who do good. If ye divorce them before ye have touched them and ye have appointed unto them a portion, then (pay the) half of that which ye appointed, unless they (the women) agree to forgo it, or he agreeth to forgo it in whose hand is the marriage tie. To forgo is nearer to piety. And forget not kindness among yourselves. Allah is Seer of what ye do. Qur'an 2:228-2:237

Those of you who die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year's maintenance and residence; but if they leave (The residence), there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves, provided it is reasonable. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. For divorced women Maintenance (should be provided) on a reasonable (scale). This is a duty on the righteous. Qur'an 2:240, 241

O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you. Give unto orphans their wealth. Exchange not the good for the bad (in your management thereof) nor absorb their wealth into your own wealth. Lo! that would be a great sin. And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice. And give unto the women (whom ye marry) free gift of their marriage portions; but if they of their own accord remit unto you a part thereof, then ye are welcome to absorb it (in your wealth). Give not unto the foolish (what is in) your (keeping of their) wealth, which Allah hath given you to maintain; but feed and clothe them from it, and speak kindly unto them. Prove orphans till they reach the marriageable age; then, if ye find them of sound judgment, deliver over unto them their fortune; and devour it not by squandering and in haste lest they should grow up Whoso (of the guardians) is rich, let him abstain generously (from taking of the property of orphans); and whoso is poor let him take thereof in reason (for his guardianship). And when ye deliver up their fortune unto orphans, have (the transaction) witnessed in their presence. Allah sufficeth as a Reckoner.
Qur'an 4:1-6

Lo! Those who devour the wealth of orphans wrongfully, they do but swallow fire into their bellies, and they will be exposed to burning flame. Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females, and if there be women more than two, then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one (only) then the half. And to each of his parents a sixth of the inheritance, if he have a son; and if he have no son and his parents are his heirs, then to his mother appertaineth the third; and if he have brethren, then to his mother appertaineth the sixth, after any legacy he may have bequeathed, or debt (hath been paid). Your parents and your children: Ye know not which of them is nearer unto you in usefulness. It is an injunction from Allah. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise. And unto you belongeth a half of that which your wives leave, if they have no child; but if they have a child then unto you the fourth of that which they leave, after any legacy they may have bequeathed, or debt (they may have contracted, hath been paid). And unto them belongeth the fourth of that which ye leave if ye have no child, but if ye have a child then the eighth of that which ye leave, after any legacy ye may have bequeathed, or debt (ye may have contracted, hath been paid). And if a man or a woman have a distant heir (having left neither parent nor child), and he (or she) have a brother or a sister (only on the mother's side) then to each of them twain (the brother and the sister) the sixth, and if they be more than two, then they shall be sharers in the third, after any legacy that may have been bequeathed or debt (contracted) not injuring (the heirs by willing away more than a third of the heritage) hath been paid. A commandment from Allah. Allah is Knower, Indulgent. Qur'an 4:10-12

As for those of your women who are guilty of lewdness, call to witness four of you against them. And if they testify (to the truth of the allegation) then confine them to the houses until death take them or (until) Allah appoint for them a way (through new legislation). If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, Leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful. Qur'an 4:15,16

O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you forcibly to inherit the women (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) ye should put constraint upon them that ye may take away a part of that which ye have given them, unless they be guilty of flagrant lewdness. But consort with them in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hath placed much good. And if ye wish to exchange one wife for another and ye have given unto one of them a sum of money (however great), take nothing from it. Would ye take it by the way of calumny and open wrong? Qur'an 4:19,20

And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower of all things. Qur'an 4:32
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: For Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things. Qur'an 4:33, 34

If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practise self-restraint, Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives, however much ye wish (to do so). But turn not altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense. If ye do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. But if they separate, Allah will compensate each out of His abundance. Allah is ever All-Embracing, All-Knowing. Qur'an 4:128-130

And they assign daughters for Allah! - Glory be to Him! - and for themselves (sons,- the issue) they desire! When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! Qur'an 16:57,58

Allah has bestowed His gifts of sustenance more freely on some of you than on others: those more favoured are not going to throw back their gifts to those whom their right hands possess, so as to be equal in that respect. Will they then deny the favours of Allah? Qur'an 16:71

Marry those among you who are single, or the virtuous ones among yourselves, male or female: if they are in poverty, Allah will give them means out of His grace: for Allah encompasseth all, and he knoweth all things. And let those who cannot find a match keep chaste till Allah give them independence by His grace. And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), write it for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them, and bestow upon them of the wealth of Allah which He hath bestowed upon you. Force not your slave-girls to whoredom (prostitution) that ye may seek enjoyment of the life of the world, if they would preserve their chastity. And if one force them, then (unto them), after their compulsion, lo! Allah will be Forgiving, Merciful.Qur'an 23:32,33

"I (Suleyman/Solomon's messenger, the Hoopoe) found (there) a woman ruling over them (the Queen of Saba) and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne. Qur'an 27:23

"I (Suleyman/Solomon's messenger, the Hoopoe) found her (the Queen of Saba) and her people worshipping the sun besides Allah: Satan has made their deeds seem pleasing in their eyes, and has kept them away from the Path,- so they receive no guidance,- Qur'an 27:24

And he (Solomon) diverted her (the Queen of Saba) from the worship of others besides Allah: for she was (sprung) of a people that had no faith. Qur'an 27:43

She was asked to enter the lofty Palace: but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water, and she (tucked up her skirts), uncovering her legs. He said: "This is but a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass." She said: "O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul: I do (now) submit (in Islam), with Solomon, to the Lord of the Worlds." Qur'an 27:44

O Consorts of the Prophet! Ye are not like any of the (other) women: if ye do fear (Allah), be not too complacent of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech (that is) just. And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular Prayer, and give regular Charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah only wishes to remove all abomination from you, ye members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless. Qur'an 33:33,34

For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. Qur'an 33:35
O ye who believe! If ye wed believing women and divorce them before ye have touched them, then there is no period that ye should reckon. But content them (financially) and release them handsomely. Qur'an 33:49

O Prophet! Lo! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war, and the daughters of thine uncle on the father's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the father's side, and the daughters of thine uncle on the mother's side and the daughters of thine aunts on the mother's side who emigrated with thee, and a believing woman if she give herself unto the Prophet and the Prophet desire to ask her in marriage - a privilege for thee only, not for the (rest of) believers - We are Aware of that which We enjoined upon them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess - that thou mayst be free from blame, for Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. Qur'an 33:50

O ye who believe! Enter not the Prophet's houses,- until leave is given you,- for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation: but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed (to tell you) the truth. And when ye ask (his ladies) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Nor is it right for you that ye should annoy Allah's Messenger, or that ye should marry his widows after him at any time. Truly such a thing is in Allah's sight an enormity. Qur'an 33:53

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Qur'an 33:59

We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months. At length, when he reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, he says, "O my Lord! Grant me that I may be grateful for Thy favour which Thou has bestowed upon me, and upon both my parents, and that I may work righteousness such as Thou mayest approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to Thee and truly do I bow (to Thee) in Islam." Qur'an 46:15

When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned - For what crime she was killed; Qur'an 81:8,9
Allah citeth an example for those who disbelieve: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot, who were under two of Our righteous slaves yet betrayed them so that they (the husbands) availed them naught against Allah and it was said (unto them): Enter the Fire along with those who enter. And Allah citeth an example for those who believe: the wife of Pharaoh when she said: My Lord! Build for me a home with thee in the Garden, and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work, and deliver me from evil-doing folk; And Mary, daughter of 'Imran, whose body was chaste, therefor We breathed therein something of Our Spirit. And she put faith in the words of her Lord and His scriptures, and was of the obedient. Qur'an 66:10-12

Here are some hadiths by Sahih Bukhari:

Volume 1, Book 3, Number 69:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet said, "Facilitate things to people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them and give them good tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam)."


Volume 2, Book 20, Number 192:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
The Prophet said, "A woman should not travel for more than three days except with a Dhi-Mahram (i.e. a male with whom she cannot marry at all, e.g. her brother, father, grandfather, etc.) or her own husband.)"

Volume 2, Book 21, Number 288:

Narrated Qaza'a Maula: (freed slave of) Ziyad: I heard Abu Said Al-khudri narrating four things from the Prophet and I appreciated them very much. He said, conveying the words of the Prophet. (1) "A woman should not go on a two day journey except with her husband or a Dhi-Mahram. (2) No fasting is permissible on two days: 'Id-ul-Fitr and 'Id-ul-Adha. (3) No prayer after two prayers, i.e. after the Fajr prayer till the sunrises and after the 'Asr prayer till the sun sets. (4) Do not prepare yourself for a journey except to three Mosques, i.e. Al-Masjid-AI-Haram, the Mosque of Aqsa (Jerusalem) and my Mosque."


Volume 3, Book 33, Number 249:

Narrated 'Amra:

Aisha said, "the Prophet used to practice Itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan and I used to pitch a tent for him, and after offering the morning prayer, he used to enter the tent." Hafsa asked the permission of 'Aisha to pitch a tent for her and she allowed her and she pitched her tent. When Zainab bint Jahsh saw it, she pitched another tent. In the morning the Prophet noticed the tents. He said, 'What is this?" He was told of the whole situation. Then the Prophet said, "Do you think that they intended to do righteousness by doing this?" He therefore abandoned the Itikaf in that month and practiced Itikaf for ten days in the month of Shawwal."


Volume 3, Book 33, Number 251:

Narrated Ali bin Al-Husain:

Safiya, the wife of the Prophet told me that she went to Allah's Apostle to visit him in the mosque while he was in Itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan. She had a talk with him for a while, then she got up in order to return home. The Prophet accompanied her. When they reached the gate of the mosque, opposite the door of Um-Salama, two Ansari men were passing by and they greeted Allah's Apostle . He told them: Do not run away! And said, "She is (my wife) Safiya bint Huyai." Both of them said, "Subhan Allah, (How dare we think of any evil) O Allah's Apostle!" And they felt it. The Prophet said (to them), "Satan reaches everywhere in the human body as blood reaches in it, (everywhere in one's body). I was afraid lest Satan might insert an evil thought in your minds."


Volume 3, Book 48, Number 826:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: 

The Prophet said, "Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said, "Yes." He said, "This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind."


Volume 4, Book 51, Number 5:

Narrated Sad bin Abu Waqqas: 

The Prophet came visiting me while I was (sick) in Mecca, ('Amir the sub-narrator said, and he disliked to die in the land, whence he had already migrated). He (i.e. the Prophet) said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on Ibn Afra (Sad bin Khaula)." I said, "O Allah's Apostle! May I will all my property (in charity)?" He said, "No." I said, "Then may I will half of it?" He said, "No". I said, "One third?" He said: "Yes, one third, yet even one third is too much. It is better for you to leave your inheritors wealthy than to leave them poor begging others, and whatever you spend for Allah's sake will be considered as a charitable deed even the handful of food you put in your wife's mouth. Allah may lengthen your age so that some people may benefit by you, and some others be harmed by you." At that time Sad had only one daughter.

Volume 4, Book 51, Number 14:

Narrated Ibn Umar: 

I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "All of you are guardians and responsible for your charges: the Ruler (i.e. Imam) is a guardian and responsible for his subjects; and a man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for his charges; and a lady is a guardian in the house of her husband and is responsible for her charge; and a servant is a guardian of the property of his master and is responsible for his charge." I think he also said, "And a man is a guardian of the property of his father."


Volume 4, Book 54, Number 538:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that."


Volume 7, Book 62, Number 24:

Narrated Sahl bin Sad As-Sa'idi:

A woman came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have come to give you myself in marriage (without Mahr)." Allah's Apostle looked at her. He looked at her carefully and fixed his glance on her and then lowered his head. When the lady saw that he did not say anything, she sat down. A man from his companions got up and said, "O Allah's Apostle! If you are not in need of her, then marry her to me." The Prophet said, "Have you got anything to offer?" The man said, "No, by Allah, O Allah's Apostle!" The Prophet said (to him), "Go to your family and see if you have something." The man went and returned, saying, "No, by Allah, I have not found anything." Allah's Apostle said, "(Go again) and look for something, even if it is an iron ring." He went again and returned, saying, "No, by Allah, O Allah's Apostle! I could not find even an iron ring, but this is my Izar (waist sheet)." He had no rida. He added, "I give half of it to her." Allah's Apostle said, "What will she do with your Izar? If you wear it, she will be naked, and if she wears it, you will be naked." So that man sat down for a long while and then got up (to depart). When Allah's Apostle saw him going, he ordered that he be called back. When he came, the Prophet said, "How much of the Quran do you know?" He said, "I know such Sura and such Sura," counting them. The Prophet said, "Do you know them by heart?" He replied, "Yes." The Prophet said, "Go, I marry her to you for that much of the Quran which you have."


Volume 7, Book 62, Number 33:

Narrated Usama bin Zaid:

The Prophet said, "After me I have not left any affliction more harmful to men than women."

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 123:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "It is not lawful for a lady to fast (Nawafil) without the permission of her husband when he is at home; and she should not allow anyone to enter his house except with his permission; and if she spends of his wealth (on charitable purposes) without being ordered by him, he will get half of the reward."


Volume 7, Book 62, Number 127:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin Al-'As:

Allah's Apostle said, "O 'Abdullah! Have I not been formed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?" I said, "Yes, O Allah's Apostle!" He said, "Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you."



Volume 7, Book 62, Number 160:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas :

The Prophet said, "No man should stay with a lady in seclusion except in the presence of a Dhu-Muhram." A man stood up and said, "O Allah's Apostle! My wife has gone out intending to perform the Hajj and I have been enrolled (in the army) for such-and-such campaign." The Prophet said, "Return and perform the Hajj with your wife."


Volume 7, Book 62, Number 165:

Narrated Salim's father:

The Prophet said, "If the wife of anyone of you asks permission to go to the mosque, he should not forbid her."


Volume 7, Book 62, Number 168:

Narrated 'Abdullah:

The Prophet said, "A woman should not look at or touch another woman to describe her to her husband in such a way as if he was actually looking at her."


Volume 7, Book 62, Number 171:

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle said, "When anyone of you is away from his house for a long time, he should not return to his family at night."


Volume 7, Book 64, Number 272:

Narrated 'Aisha:

Hind bint 'Utba came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Abu Sufyan is a miser so is it sinful of me to feed our children from his property?" Allah's Apostle said, "No except if you take for your needs what is just and reasonable."


Volume 7, Book 71, Number 656:

Narrated Abu Mas'ud:

The Prophet forbade the utilization of the price of a dog, the earnings of prostitute and the earnings of a foreteller.


Volume 7, Book 72, Number 845:

Narrated Abu Juhaifa:

that he had bought a slave whose profession was cupping. The Prophet forbade taking the price of blood and the price of a dog and the earnings of a prostitute, and cursed the one who took or gave (Riba') usury, and the lady who tattooed others or got herself tattooed, and the picture-maker.


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 1:
Narrated Al-Walid bin 'Aizar:

I heard Abi Amr 'Ash-Shaibani saying, "The owner of this house." he pointed to 'Abdullah's house, "said, 'I asked the Prophet 'Which deed is loved most by Allah?" He replied, 'To offer prayers at their early (very first) stated times.' " 'Abdullah asked, "What is the next (in goodness)?" The Prophet said, "To be good and dutiful to one's parents," 'Abdullah asked, "What is the next (in goodness)?" The Prophet said, To participate in Jihad for Allah's Cause." 'Abdullah added, "The Prophet narrated to me these three things, and if I had asked more, he would have told me more."


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 2: 

Narrated Abu Huraira:

A man came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man said. "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man further said, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man asked for the fourth time, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your father."


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 6:
Narrated Al-Mughira:

The Prophet said, "Allah has forbidden you ( 1 ) to be undutiful to your mothers (2) to withhold (what you should give) or (3) demand (what you do not deserve), and (4) to bury your daughters alive. And Allah has disliked that (A) you talk too much about others ( B), ask too many questions (in religion), or (C) waste your property."


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 42: 

Narrated Jarir bin 'Abdullah:

The Prophet said, "He who is not merciful to others, will not be treated mercifully.


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 65: 

Narrated Al-Aswad:

I asked 'Aisha what did the Prophet use to do at home. She replied. "He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer."


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 68: 

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Zam'a:

The Prophet forbade laughing at a person who passes wind, and said, "How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then he may embrace (sleep with) her?" And Hisham said, "As he beats his slave"


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 90: 

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others' faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah's worshipers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you!")


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 144: 

Narrated Thabit:

that he heard Anas saying, "A woman came to the Prophet offering herself to him in marriage, saying, "Have you got any interest in me (i.e. would you like to marry me?)" Anas's daughter said, "How shameless that woman was!" On that Anas said, "She is better than you for, she presented herself to Allah's Apostle (for marriage)."


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 190: 

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud:

A man came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! What do you say about a man who loves some people but cannot catch up with their good deeds?" Allah's Apostle said, "Everyone will be with those whom he loves."


Volume 8, Book 73, Number 190: 

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud:

A man came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! What do you say about a man who loves some people but cannot catch up with their good deeds?" Allah's Apostle said, "Everyone will be with those whom he loves."


Volume 8, Book 74, Number 257:

Narrated 'Aisha:

(the wife of the Prophet) 'Umar bin Al-Khattab used to say to Allah's Apostle "Let your wives be veiled" But he did not do so. The wives of the Prophet used to go out to answer the call of nature at night only at Al-Manasi.' Once Sauda, the daughter of Zam'a went out and she was a tall woman. 'Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her while he was in a gathering, and said, "I have recognized you, O Sauda!" He ('Umar) said so as he was anxious for some Divine orders regarding the veil (the veiling of women.) So Allah revealed the Verse of veiling. (Al-Hijab; a complete body cover excluding the eyes). (See Hadith No. 148, Vol. 1)


Volume 8, Book 76, Number 474: 

Narrated 'Aisha:

The Prophet said, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one's good deeds will not make him enter Paradise." They asked, "Even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Even I, unless and until Allah bestows His pardon and Mercy on me."


Volume 9, Book 88, Number 219: 

Narrated Abu Bakra:

During the battle of Al-Jamal, Allah benefited me with a Word (I heard from the Prophet). When the Prophet heard the news that the people of the Persia had made the daughter of Khosrau their Queen (ruler), he said, "Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler."


And here are some hadiths by Sahih Muslim:

Book 008, Number 3233:

Abdullah (b. Mas'ud) (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to us: 0 young men, those among you who can support a wife should marry, for it restrains eyes (from casting evil glances) and preserves one from immorality; but he who cannot afford It should observe fast for it is a means of controlling the sexual desire.

Book 008, Number 3465: 

'Abdullah b. Amr reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The whole world is a provision, and the best object of benefit of the world is the pious woman.

Book 008, Number 3467:

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported: Woman has been created from a rib and will in no way be straightened for you; so if you wish to benefit by her, benefit by her while crookedness remains in her. And if you attempt to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her is divorcing her.

Book 012, Number 3970: 

Nu'man b. Bashir reported: My father conferred a gift upon me, and then brought me to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to make him a witness (to it). He (the Holy Prophet) said: Have you given such gift to every son of yours (as you have given to Nu'man)? He said: No. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Don't you expect goodness from them as you expect from him? He said: Yes. of course. He (the Holy Prophet) said: I am not going to bear witness to it (as it is injustice). Ibn Aun (one of the narrators) said: I narrated this hadith to Muhammad (the other narrator) who said: Verily we narrated that lie (the Holy Prophet) had said: Observe equity amongst your children.
Abu Dharr reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying that he reported it from his Lord, the Exalted and Glorious: Verily I have made oppression unlawful for Me and for My servants too, so do not commit oppression. The rest of the hadith is the same (as 6246.)


The Prophet pbuh exhorted his followers to treat their wives well and without violence, and to respect their rights for themselves. He explicitly mentioned this after his last pilgrimage to Mecca, when he gave his followers a last qhutba, a sermon that has become one of the most quoted texts in Islam:

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

This is a lot of text, but when we read it well, a clear picture appears of what may be expected from a man and a woman in their capacity of: Human being, man or woman.

Sources:
University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts) http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje
The Quran and its Message http://quransmessage.com/welcome.htm