The Middle Path: United against Poverty

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Event Name: The Middle Path: United against Poverty
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Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/16/2019 7:29:53 PM
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First of all, it's it's a very bizarre experience that I think a lot of us are having here in the United States of late.  I think the social disintegration that's happening so rapidly and as things begin to unravel.  Even a lot of people that I know: Immigrants are talking about, maybe going back to places they came from.  Which don't look that appetizing either.  Now in a lot of areas but one of the things about Muslim countries even when things break down, people really do recognize the word brother and sister.  Like that word actually means something in many many places around the world.

I've experienced the beauty of that word, not so much as its articulated, but the real lived experience of somebody treating you like a brother or like a sister.  You know, I was thinking a lot about United against poverty I actually think it would be better if we were united against wealth.  Because I've actually lived in the poorest countries in the world, I mean literally the porest. 

I was in Nigeria, Mali, I was in Mauritania.   I lived in a place in Mauritania where the rich people had all of their possessions in one box and the poor people didn't have a box.  I mean really and my own teacher Mrabit al Hajj, may Allah preserve him, he was actually considered relatively wealthy because he had a few cows that were milked every day and that's where they drank their milk.  The milk in ??? is organic milk, it's not pasteurized homogenized it's not 1% or zero fat.  It's right out of the utter. 

What I noted about living in the poorest places and I lived in a shantytown, I mean a complete open sewage;  The houses were made out of Chinese tea boxes literally that were dissembled from tea boxes and that's how they made their houses. 

I lived with a man at al-Maquri from the Masuman Clan.  His little Hut was made out of tea cartons and these were some of the richest people I have ever known.  They were rich in community, they were rich in culture.  There were people that could quote the greatest Arabic poetry ever written.. Most of them memorized the Quran by heart and for entertainment they would discuss grammatical points.  These were really rich people they were not impoverished unless you want to identify poverty as material poverty and I'm not really against material poverty but I'm very much against cultural and spiritual poverty because I think what's happening in this country is we are the most

culturally and spiritually impoverished nation in the world.  The fact that the number one best-selling novel right now is a pornographic novel of no literary merit (Editor: 50 Shades og Gret) according to the critics that have read it but this is what's happening in America.  Every airport I've been to has a whole row of these novels just lined up for people just to devour them off the shelves.  That is poverty

it's poverty not to of if you're from

this culture it's poverty not to have

ever read Melville so that when some of

my Chris Hedges can tell you about the

Pequod or a Habs quest you don't have

any cultural references to know what

that means despite the fact that even

the poorest Americans a hundred years

ago had very often read that book

because literature is not the property

of the wealthy historically literature

as has actually been the property of the

most impoverished people some of the

greatest writers were impoverished

people read the life of Edgar Allan Poe

somebody constantly in debt a drug


dealing with the despair of living in

the United States at that time and a lot

of his literature is about that those

aspects Dostoevsky read about their

lives and yet they produce this great

body of literature because they were not

culturally impoverished they may have

been materially impoverished but they

were not culturally impoverished one of

the most celebrated authors one of the

most celebrated artists in Western true

mission is Van Gogh and he was a

completely impoverished person supported

by his brother never sold a painting

during his own life time another very

tortured person but somebody who had a

richness of vision that people are still

entranced by his paintings so I think

that a lot of what's happening in this

country is actually from Liguria it's

actually from luxurious to be one of the

seven deadly sins

that's the Latin term for for lust

Luxuria you know gluttony and lust that

we're a surfeited culture we're we're

too full there's too much when people

talk about the 99 and the 1% we're 5

percent of the world's population and

we're devouring most of the world's

natural resources the average American

is in the 5 percent the other part of

the world is the other 95 percent so

when we're talking about the 1 percent

and the 99 percent some of the people in

that 1% are drug dealers in inner cities

really so the whole dichotomy zation is

this desire to kind of split the world

into good people and evil people to me

as a false dialectic that I think as

Muslims we should reject we should

reject it there are wretched demonic

people amongst the poor and there are

decent angelic people amongst the

wealthy and the Prophet Allah Saddam had

poor people with him and he had wealthy

people and without the wealthy people he

could not have done what he did for the

poor people but he transformed the

motives of the wealthy he transformed

their motives he didn't create a class

warfare he didn't make the poor people

hate the wealthy people are the wealthy

people feel contempt for the poor people

no he gave us a different criterion to

judge people we were talking earlier

today about

intellectual arrogance because you see

so many people in academia that are

filled with intellectual arrogance a

sense of their inherent superiority

because if you learn even a little bit

you quickly see how far ahead you are

from a lot of people out there and that

can lead to a type of contempt because

you have some kind of intellectual

training that other people do because

you can work things out quicker than

other people can work out because you

know these references and other people

don't know these references but the

reality of it is is that Islam put a

different criterion for excellence than

intellectual excellence it's spiritual

excellence it's being a human being and

that is open to the poorest of the poor

and the richest of the rich and that's

what separates people so that street

sweeper that janitor might have more

humanity ounce per ounce than that PhD

professor at Yale University

he might have better character more

moral integrity he might be a better

father a better Civic member of society

because the real judge of people in

Islam is a judge of character it's not

anything else the prophets iliza time

standard was a standard of character and

he said in fact the standard of that

standard was how you treat your women

because he said that a man is judged by

how he treats his women cradle come

herecome Leah honey he wanna Hadouken

really the best of you are the best to

their women folk or their families and

I'm the best of you to my women folk so

he was letting us know right there what

the standard of judgment how you judge a

person because you've got all these

people out there giving all of their

declarations and proclamations and

telling you what's right and what's

wrong and they go home and they treat

their wife like dirt they treat their

children as if their subjects of Pharaoh

so the whole stratification if you're

talking about good and evil give me a


because it's all the way down this whole

crises this globe this global crises

that started here in this country was

about greed it was greed on Main Street

and greed on Wall Street all those

people that went in and lied on their

applications about how much they were

making because they wanted to get that

house for what they didn't even

understand what what type of mortgage

they were getting they didn't know that

it was going to balloon in a few years

they didn't care they just saw an

opportunity to get some property and

maybe it'll it'll rise in price and in a

few years I'll flip it pay off my debt

and make some money it was greed greed

on Main Street and greed on Wall Street

and that's why Islam doesn't talk about

the wealthy and the poor it talks about

character it talks about the moral

character of people and how you

transform people you know I was asked to

talk just about the Islamic economic

system in relation to the Western

economic system or this modern system of

capitalism you can't even compare the

two there's no comparison our system is

based on real well a bi-metal economy in

which money actually has intrinsic value

people say gold doesn't have intrinsic

value then why do people kill for it and

the only reason they kill for paper

dollars that don't have intrinsic value

is because they think that it has

intrinsic value but all you have to do

is put a fire to it you'll see how

valuable it is you put fire to gold and

you'll see how valuable it is because

gold is indestructible gold doesn't

corrode silver doesn't corrode they

don't oxidize the gold coins that were

minted by Caesar you can go down to a

store you're probably here in Stanford

and buy one of them if you have enough

money because it's still around this

whole Dajjal exsist 'm fooling people

into thinking that worthless paper has

any intrinsic value fractional reserve

banking Abraham Lincoln when he needed

to fund the war

he wanted to borrow money so he asked

the bankers and they told him well it's

going to be on this interest rate so he

said to hell with it

in the Constitution we can print money

so he printed up greenbacks

that's how he paid for the war they were

non interest greenbacks that were

printed by the US government

then why today are we borrowing money

from a private bank and paying them

interest and the interest now represents

25% of the national debt because the

bankers run the situation they wrote the

laws they wrote the laws and people

don't know this because they're no

longer educated and if you want to know

why it's getting so bad out there it's a

very plain and simple because we have

ignorant people we have an ignorant

population and when you have ignorant

populations then you need more and more

draconian measures for social control

and this is the history of the world you

just read about it in your history books

and you'll see the same tactics are used

to control ignorant people educated

people are the dangerous ones it's not

ignorant people you can control ignorant

people seriously they're not hard to

control bread and circus is one way

that's it that's the old-fashioned way

now it's at MTV and McDonald's that's

just a modern version of Penn at Circus

that's what the Romans used but it's the

same game you look at what they're

devouring on there look at look at the

cultural impoverishment of this society

you know people aren't hungry in this

society they're starving to death

they're starving to death and they're

starving to death even though they're

overeating the reason that they have to

eat more and more is because there's no

nutrients in the food so you're

wondering why they're all getting bigger

and bigger out there because the more

they eat the hungrier they feel they're

not satiated all you have to do come to

California and we'll give them a real

meal like brown rice and tofu and you'll

see how quick they're hungry they're

really they won't be hung

if you eat a real meal you go and eat

the Indians eat dal you don't see fat

Indians down in those villages because

they eat doll they eat real food

they're eating real bread that they

cooked with their own hands chapatis

they're eating chapatis and they're

eating dal and and they're there they

have better nutrition than all these

people out here they have better

nutrition but when you go up into that

1% you know what they're eating they're

eating dal and handmade chapatis really

they're eating the same stuff the

poorest people are eating in in a lot of

these countries go to Malaysia and you

see how poor people eat they're eating

real vegetables that they grew

Pakistanis in this country I know a lot

of you know this your grandmother's when

they got here the first thing they did

was went in the backyard and started a

garden they grow their own tomatoes to

put in their curries because that's just

the way they did it in this country used

to have what we called Victory Gardens

in World War two they told people to

grow your own gardens now people don't

even know what a vegetable is the

closest thing they get to it is a french

fries really or pizza it's because it's

got some red under there I think that's

from a vegetable serious they don't know

what vegetables are most kids now in the

schools can't identify a lot of the

vegetables they can't they've actually

done these tests then they don't know

what a turnip is or a Brussels sprout

let alone a collard green see some

people are old enough to know collard

greens right because people went out and

picked them because they couldn't afford

to go down to the store people were

resourceful this country was a country

of resourceful people there's all these

people looking for jobs people used to

make jobs they didn't look for jobs they

made jobs now people have been so dumbed

down and so convinced that they can't do

anything that only if they get this job

and then they go in is all humiliation

even Halden said the two most

humiliating ways of gaining a livelihood

are employment and treasure hunting

that's what he said

in Mankato employment and treasure

hunting in this country employment was

only just to learn how to do something

you became like a journeyman carpenter

and then when you finished the seven

years you were free to open your own

business that's the way it worked

you started a store to you you worked in

a store to see how it ran and then you

went and opened your own shop that's

what people did my great-grandfather

started at the bottom in a newspaper but

by his 50s he owned three newspapers

because that's the way America was it

was about entrepreneurial tradition of

people elevating people not everybody

was in that that's acknowledged but even

if you look in the black communities in

the south you look what they did

creating their own schools lawyers came

out of those schools some of the best

schools now today are still out of those

schools you look at people like Dubois

look at the level of education that they

had you know read what his books are

considered classics today so there were

people even from the most oppressed

communities that still rose above those

circumstances and empowered other people

to do the same the Islamic economic

system is based on justice now justice

even if you read Aristotle 2,500 years

ago almost if you read his book he has a

book number five in his ethics book on

justice and he talks about recta fitori

justice and distributive justice the

idea that you have to have some justice

in distribution you know what these

people say in this cut redistribution of

wealth that's socialism that's communism

that's socialism and communism when it

goes to the poor people but when it goes

to the rich people it's called a bailout

that's just

distribution of wealth it's just going

the other way and this is the type of

Orwellian culture that we are in but

people haven't read Orwell so how do

they know if you if you don't know

Orwell you're not going to know how to

use the adjective Orwellian and if

somebody uses it you don't know what

they're talking about

Orwellian is that like Orson Welles you

know if they know Orson Welles because

even good films they don't know about

any more like Citizen Kane right Siri

then people don't know that now they

know about like dumb and dumber you know

seriously I mean I saw a really you know

interesting statement about you know

just the popular culture and how they

take you know how they dress humiliate

these young black artists by getting

black males to wear female clothes you

know there was an interview with Oprah

Winfrey that Dave Chappelle had and he

said one day he went into the his his

dressing room they had a dress on the

chair and the the writer came in and

said Dave we've got a great part for you

we want you to put on this dress you're

gonna be a prostitute ha ha in that

funny days he said I'm not you know I'm

not cool with that because he's I mean

in the end whatever you say about Dave

Chappelle he's all Muslim you know

there's I mean he's got limits right of

where he's gonna go and he said I'm not

putting on a dress and I'll come on all

the greats have done and he said well

then is hackneyed why should I do it if

all the greats have done it and then in

this clip they showed all of these films

where they had these really strong black

men dressed in dresses

you know humiliating them what is that

about why does how you would have to

humiliate people what is that about all

of these people that they they really

squelch down they

end up drug addicts and and meltdowns

you know they kill themselves really

having all these melded what is that

what kind of culture is that that that's

what they do to their most creative

people drive them to drug addiction and

to public meltdowns what that's

impoverishment these are poor people and

if you don't have compassion for poor

people you don't have any compassion but

I'm saying they're all impoverished

really the richest people to the poorest

of the poor they are impoverished

because they're culturally and

spiritually impoverished and that is the

poverty that we should be united against

but if the Muslims are going to

participate in it if we're going to

degrade our religion and turn our art

forms into pale imitations of their art

forms if that's what we have to offer we

don't have the richness of tradition

looking back into the past what did they

do what did they do that can inspire us

today to do it in our own way but we're

people of legacy we believe in legacy we

believe in things handed down and you

hand down things of worth you don't hand

down junk the prophets all the light is

sin and one of the things about him that

amazes me and everything about him

amazes me but one of the things that

I've contemplated is the fact that he

named his personal belongings and what I

realized about that in my estimation

while out on Adam is that he was

honoring goods that enhance our lives he

had a name for his comb he had is a name

for his turban he only had a handful of

things in his life if you actually took

all of the possessions that he had they

would fit into a very small box but he

named them because they were meaningful

things to him we live in a society that

gives stuff no meaning

it's not only nameless it's discarded as

fast as people buy it we have engineered

obsolescence things aren't built to last

if you want a idea because I'll be your

first customer

I have a idea like I want a shop called

till death do us part things for people

that want things that last because when

I was a kid if you bought something it

lasted I do brush leaves because my

grandfather had a cattle ranch um and we

had to go up and he would always put us

to work because he was old school and

that's what he thought you should do to

kids because because they put him to

work when he was six years old he was

selling bubble gum on Market Street in

San Francisco California in 1899 so that

was what he would do so we'd be just

pushing brooms and there'd always be a

tree at the end we could go ride a horse

or something but the brooms that I was

pushing when I was five years old they

were the same brooms I was pushing when

I was fifteen because they were built to


now you go and you buy a broom and you

do you sweep your your sidewalk three

times and it's broken and then they tell

you well it's cheaper to just buy a new

one that's what they tell you now it's

just cheaper to buy new and we have to

reject this whole culture of consumption

we have to reject it the Islamic

tradition most of the if you look now

the wealth in this country 40% of the

wealth is not an economy of goods and

services that is the old American

economy it was an economy of goods and

services you produce things you sold

things or you did things for people like

you hired a carpenter and he would do

something for you or your mechanic so

goods and services that was that now

it's financial instruments it's making

money off of money this is the economy

of America and it's an economy that

takes wealth away from the middle people

and increasingly to the upper echelon

there's a Wall Street Journal op-ed

writer who's been covering the

wealthiest people he wrote a book called

richest an richest and like Pakistan but

it's where rich people live there's some

rich people in Pakistan trust me because

if you want to talk about wealth moving

up right but he wrote a book called

richest an and what he shows in that

book he had lower richest and middle

richest an and upper richest an and then

in Upper richest an he had a pound

called billionaire Vil a population of

one thousand two hundred and thirty

people those are the people that are

billionaires they have half of the

wealth of three billion people on the

planet half eight trillion people eight

trillion dollars half of that goes to

one thousand two hundred and thirty

people and the other half goes to three

billion people you think about that the

inequity that exists today on this

planet and we're part of it and I'm

going to just tell you a few things and

I'll close out with this tell you a few

things one historically the Muslims had

something in that you know when a

merchant comes into town you don't have

to ask where they got their goods from

this is what the I had taught you

know that there's butter on Asli and if

it's if it's a halal thing to purchase

you don't that tesu lettuce arrow

inertia and took that I've come to

succumb don't ask about things if you

find out it's you know so if somebody

comes in he's a merchant you don't ask

where he got it you can buy it if it's

how loud that that's traditionally how

they viewed it in I think in in

societies where most wealth acquisition

was relatively just that's fine I

personally don't agree with that opinion

today for things that we know about and

that we're able to do something about

and the single most important thing I

think to deal with the impoverished

conditions that we're living in this

country is to begin to empower people to

take back their communities

we have to make our own clothes

stop buying clothes that were made in

sweatshops we have to really this is

what we have to do we have to

re-establish family as the central most

important unit of a society because

Islam is about preservation of family

it's one of the six fundamentals

preservation of family if you look now

in the inner cities at the

disintegration of the family because if

you take oh if you take the father out

of fatherhood if you take the father out

of motherhood if you take the father the

brother out of brotherhood and the

sister out of sisterhood what do you

have left you have that the hood that's

all you've got left that's it and people

cannot survive in those conditions they

will die Camden New Jersey Chris Hedges

wrote a whole section on his book the

Empire of illusion about about that town

they they're going to dismantle the

police force in Camden they it's they

don't have money so they're just going

to regionalize it highest crime rate in

America just leave the poor people there

there's children on the streets doesn't

matter because these are throwaway

people what has to happen and the

Muslims and I'm going to chastise here

the immigrant community I really believe

that the immigrant community made an

ethical mistake as well as the strategic

mistake in not seriously taking the

existing indigenous Muslim communities

that you find in the inner cities to

heart and recognizing that they had a

moral obligation

to help them build community centers to

help them build their mosques it is a

disgrace when Suraj WA Haj Imam Surratt

when all over this country building

mosques for the entire Muslim community

mostly immigrant community and and and

he couldn't find the money to build a

beautiful Center in Brooklyn that's a

disgrace to this community because as

far as I'm concerned the single most

important community for the Muslims in

the United States of America is in the

inner cities it is the single most

important and I'm not saying this

gratuitously I'm saying this from my

heart it's the opinion of dr. Hadid

Blankenship who I consider one of the

most brilliant Muslim scholars that we

have not just in the United States but

on the globe and he has said that to me

many times so we have to be real about

helping these communities we want to get

the best and the brightest give them

scholarships so that they can give back

we don't want the migration up right

this is what happened with the the black

middle class and upper middle class they

just moved up and they didn't pick

anybody else up with them and now

they're completely alienating you have

completely separate african-american

communities in the United States that

can't relate to each other right and the

situation is so bad in places like East

Oakland really it's so bad and it's

right next door it's right next door

we're seeing social disintegration and

we have a moral responsibility as a

Muslim community we have a moral

responsibility to serve the unders

understand lisent promised us that you

are given victory by the weakest amongst

you and he meant what I thought he meant

like poor people that's who he was

talking about and he lived amongst them

and a lot commanded him to be patient

with the poorest of people who call on

their Lord in the morning

in the evening be patient with them be

with them don't hang out with the rich

people hang out with the poor people

that's what he told them Allah told him

to be with those to elevate them lift

them up bring them up

we need to dignify poverty in this

country because poverty in this country

is a blemish it's like something's wrong

with you you're like a a moral leper is

God's God is this is Protestantism at

its worst this idea somehow that God's

grace is when you get lots of money

Matthew 19 21 quoting crisp Christian

scripture here Matthew 19 20 19 21 when

the man comes to Jesus and Jesus says go

and sell your garment and give it to the

poor right go and sell your goods and

give it to the poor and you'll have a

treasure in heaven if you want to be

perfect go and sell your material

possessions and then give it to the poor

and then and then you can get a treasure

in heaven and you follow me the

Catholics took that very seriously and

that's why in the Catholic tradition the

highest thing is to renounce wealth

that's what monks do they have a vow of

chastity poverty and obedience chastity

poverty and obedience in those Catholic

schools they were all working for free

they were working for free the prophets

Eliza shows poverty over wealth he was

given a choice to be a slave prophet or

a king prophet and he chose to be a

slave prophet he lowered his standard of

living so that other standards could be

raised up that's a challenge that's a

moral challenge for people there's a

moral challenge wealth is a dangerous


Satan no mater he said Satan Ali said

halala who he sab without on table

what's halau from well the permited is a

severe reckoning and what's Haram is a

chastisement and that's why the zoo had

they in all the books they say this the

people of zoo hood

the people that give up well cardona's

they're the most rational intelligent

people we have to lower our standards of

living really because we're living on a

planet right now that's in peril because

of all this wealth acquisition all this

greed because that's the fundamental

problem it's about bummer is just

wanting more when is enough enough you

know if you watch any program you watch

any of these animal shows you know those

animal program

I was once in West Africa with a

Egyptian American from New York and we

were in a jeep out in the middle of the

Sahara and he saw this all of these wild

animals he said man this is just like

the nature Channel

I said no the nature Channel is like

this yeah you got it wrong but if you

watch those programs when the lion gets

the zebra watch the other zebras you

watch them because they're all running

but right when that lion gets the zebra

they all stop and they go back to eating

because they know you know Harvey's gone

the lion got his lunch you know it's

over but the lion will not eat the whole

flock because the lion has a limit a

natural limit Aristotle said man is the

only one that has no natural limits in

Ellenson Alea tava our host Ivana

Shirley man goes to excess when he deems

himself wealthy when he deems himself

wealthy allies the wealthy and we are

the poor Sara Marku