AS ‘Sukuk’ and ‘Islamic banking’ are both components of ‘Islamic finance’ –or investment- I thought there was no need writing anew on the subject of CAN’s rejection of ‘Sukuk’ since I have already written six years ago on the Association’s earlier rejection of ‘Islamic banking’ itself. And so this week I serve you a re-jigged version of my earlier piece titled ‘CAN’s Descent to the Medieval’. It’s Postscript is an extract also from a previous one titled ‘Mad Men And Economists’. Read on:
By Mohammed Adamn
‘CAN’s descent to the medieval’
“God is the brave man’s hope, and not the coward’s excuse” –Plutarch
No right thinking follower of the debate on non-interest (Islamic) banking will miss the bigoted stand, not of Christians, but of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN. That body, nowadays seeming extra-biblically adept at giving to Caesar what’s not Caesar’s and denying God what’s God’s, has ridiculously elevated ‘ignorance’ to a heaven of blissful ‘excuse’. At different times CAN has mischievously raised that contrived ‘ignorance’ both as a faith-shield against non-existent threat to Christianity and as a sword of faith against the phantom of a harmless economic idea.
CAN’s opposition to Islamic banking pooh-poohs the right of others in a democracy to freely pursue lawful endeavours insofar as, by so doing, they do not infringe on the corresponding rights of others. Like the right of parents to send their children to ‘Covenant’ or ‘Crescent’ Universities, -both regulated by ‘secular’ laws but run respectively according to Christian and Islamic ethos. Ditto the right to do business with a judeo-Christian, interest-yielding bank or with an Islamic, non-interest yielding one. It is inconceivable that either of these choices should Christianise or Islamise Nigeria!
Trip to the Dark Ages
CAN’s insistence on subjecting this ‘secular right’ of Muslims to the inquisition of the ‘Church’, takes us back to Christendom’s Dark Ages; that decadent Medieval era of the glorification of ‘ignorance’ marked by the Church’s –again not Christianity’s- inglorious suppression of knowledge and the outlawing of scientific enquiry. History which is replete with the bitter struggle between what one writer described as “the suppressed genius of Europe and the imperial retrogressive ways of the old Church”, tells us that the progressive, enquiring spirit of the people was oppressed by impractical, non-biblical dogmas that “did not favour energetic endeavours concerning worldly knowledge and the improvement of the earthly conditions of life”.
Thus, history confirms that Europe under medieval cassock not only lacked vitality in the realm of scientific research, it in fact lost “all real connections with the philosophical achievements of Rome and Greece out of which originally European culture essentially grew’. The intellect of Europe was said to have revolted several times, and that quite as many times as it did, it was summarily beaten down by a Church that considered every scientific endeavour heretical.
Arabia to the rescue
The liberation of the European mind from this intellectual bondage they said, fell in the time of the ‘rebirth’ or Renaissance; and this, history tells us, was due largely to the new cultural and scientific impulses which the Arabs transmitted to the West through practically recorded historical experiences ranging from the plunder of Arabs’ intellectual treasure during the crusade and the all-pervading radiance of knowledge emanating “from the brilliant Universities of Muslim Spain”.
These rejuvenating currents emanating from the Islamic World were said to have enabled the best minds of Europe ‘to fight with new strength against the ‘disastrous supremacy’ of the established Church; so that in the 18thC the collective mind of Europe was to come off the grip of medieval shackles and a new civilisation, free from the tyrannical gloom of the scholastic theology of the Christian Middle Ages, now emerged’. Thus, the saying that ‘the modern scientific age was not inaugurated in the cities of Christian Europe, but in the Islamic centres of Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Cordova’. Christening this era of European rebirth ‘the Renaissance’, according to Muhammad Asad, author of ‘Islam and Western Civilization’, was an appreciation by European historians of the “invigorating contact by Europe with Arab and or Islamic civilisation.”
The genie of usury
And so, now freed from its serfdom under the Church, Europe’s mind was said to have cautiously settled itself into a decided antagonism against ‘religion’, resulting in the evolution of a ‘materialist conception of life’ as a revenge not just on the ‘medieval Church’ alone, or on ‘Christianity’, but on ‘religion’ as a whole. And it was largely this anti-religious posture of a vengeful Europe intent on antagonising the rag-tag remains of the established Church, that eventually led to the tragic escape -from Christendom’s locked bottle- of the Jewish ‘genie’ of ‘usury’ (or interest-taking) which had been the Jewish way of life since back in the days of Jesus.
And in fairness to it, the medieval Church –in spite of all its frailties and its foibles- had been adept all through religious history, at containing the hydra-headed evil of ‘usury’, battling a ‘stiff-necked and rebellious’ Jewish community (resident in Christendom), that believed if usury had survived the immortal ‘son of man’ himself, usury would survive mortal ‘man’. And it did! Thanks to the eventual routing of the Church, a liberated and now materialistic Europe which was bent on taking its ‘pound of flesh’ from the body of ‘Christ’, was only too happy to allow ‘usury’ out of the bottle that Christendom had managed to hold it up.
You will remember that Shakespeare bemoaned this calamity in his tragi-comic Jewish character Shylock in the play Merchant of Venice where the selfish agenda of an interest-dealing Jewish merchant would assume a murderous dimension threatening the life of a Christian, Antonio in a Venetian Commonwealth. Shylock’s grouse against Antonio? Listen to him: “I hate him for he is a Christian: but more, for that in low simplicity he lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice”. In plain English Shylock meant: ‘Although it is sufficient to hate him because he is a Christian, I hate him even more because in Christ-like charity (i.e. “in low simplicity”) he lends out money without taking interest and by so doing killing the business of usury (usance) here in Venice. But this was the Christendom of old. Halal-compliant!
The earliest Western Church had a clear reputation for fighting ‘usury’ -or ‘riba’ as it is called in Arabic. And even though the medieval Church had inadvertently mis-conducted itself to pave the way for interest-taking to become the primum mobile of all capitalist transactions, in fairness to the Christian West it continues to remain –till today- receptive to superior alternative currents of ideas including from Arabia whence it had once benefited. But by a curious –nonetheless ridiculous- twist of irony, CAN, here in Nigeria strains secular logic in defense of ‘usury’; making it seem, rather laughably less catholic than the Pope himself’ -hating everything ‘Islamic’, so much that the Association is prepared to embrace anything anti-Christic! In truth non-interest banking is as biblical as it is Islamic. Just as ‘head-covering’ (or hijab) for the female also is.
Nothing can be more anachronistic than CAN, -comprising mostly obscenely rich denominational church heads, fattened to spiritual obesity by ‘usurious’ wealth schemed from poor unsuspecting faithful-, publicly whipping secular, capitalist sentiments to de-campaign a banking concept that seeks only to ‘return to God what has always been God’s’ and to demand from Caesar, what had inadvertently been given to Caesar. But no! Religious bigotry will not allow CAN to sincerely offer exemplary inter-faith leadership by applauding Islam’s efforts at taking man’s gluttonous mouth off the filthy, usurious kitchen of the devil and back to the hallowed dinner table of God!