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By Haji 2003 in Contemporania[This was originally posted in 2016 - but seems to have disappeared from my list of blog entries, although subsequent posts in the series are still there. This post is based on the original, but I have used the passage of time to refine it and add some more detail. Detail also added about transition fuels].
Synchronicity between resource availability and human development
I think it is interesting how the content of planet Earth appears to be ‘synchronous’ with human growth and development.
A very specific example to illustrate this idea is the development of a process for distilling kerosene from petroleum by the Canadian geologist and physician Abraham Gesner in the mid-19th century. Kerosene could be used to light lamps, and before his discovery, the oil used in lamps came from whales, an obviously finite source and one which was becoming increasingly expensive as demand for oil expanded as the population and living standards rose.
Kerosene, as a fuel for light, would dominate the market until the arrival of electricity.
The planet's whale population, therefore, was sufficient to enable people to use their oil for lamps until such time that kerosene was discovered. Would the knowledge used to develop kerosene become redundant?
The distillation of oil and what that could yield would ultimately become essential for the development of the petrochemical industry and the fuels that we would use to power cars and trucks.
Abundance and availability
It is also remarkable that the most abundant fuel sources have been the ones most easily available and easiest to exploit (wood) and thereafter fuel sources have become progressively more challenging to find and exploit. And yet the imperative to find and exploit the latter has always been there in order to fuel the latest innovations (such as the internal combustion engine).
However, it is not just availability and demand that have driven the need to find new fuels. As man has progressed, we have recognised the risks of pollution from fuel sources. Early realisation came from the obvious harms posed by burning coal in cities. In the 1950s London used to suffer from smogs (black fog), when travel would become impossible. Those are now history as the city replaced coal burning with the use of natural gas to heat homes.
Making the leap to new fuels
It's not easy to make te jump from one type of fuel to another, and at the time of writing, that leap is the one from fossil fuels to renewables in order to address climate change. Even here, it's interesting to see that we have 'transition fuels" i.e. fossil fuels that cause less damage to the environment than others, the following comes from the International Energy Agency:
These transition fuels facilitate change by enabling us to make the change more progressively and with less disruption.
The mercy of resource constraints?
It is, of course, possible to look at the above from another perspective. An abundance of whale oil may have meant that there was less imperative to find an alternative. And if Kerosene had not been developed for this use, would fuels have been so readily developed for internal combustion engines? Resource constraints of one energy source have therefore helped to develop new sources of energy and those new sources have been able to support larger human populations.
Predictng the future
We are at a point where the risks associated with the continued use of hydrocarbons is understood to present various environmental risks. Fortuitously there new technologies have become available that will help to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. The very notion of renewable energy means that it will be less susceptible to resource constraints compared to previous sources of energy and therefore likely to be able to support larger human populations.
It is, therefore, the balance between the availability of resources, our ability to exploit them and ultimately the constraint on their availability which encourages us to find better alternatives - that provides evidence, in my opinion, for intelligent design.
By Haji 2003 in Contemporania[This post was initially published as 'A little conspiracy theory of mine' on Oct 25 2016. I've now retitled it and linked some of the text with the notion of the Great Replacement Theory.]
Britain, after the Second World War ostensibly recruited workers from various developing countries in order to fill skill shortages. However, around the same time, there was a concerted effort by Australia to recruit working-class Britons. A possible explanation to this anomalous situation is that there was a concerted policy by Britain and Australia to ensure that Australia remained white. This is one argument against the idea that inward migration into the West is somehow an attack on white people. The two examples of migration examined here represent the opposite.
The Great Replacement Theory
According to Prof Matthew Feldman there is a lite of versions of The Great Replacement Theory and a full-fat one and the latter holds that:
In this post, I will argue that at least in terms of one example, this is indeed the case, but rather than representing some form of surrender on the part of the 'white race' as the far right claims the policy represents, it is actually the opposite.
The Windrush Generation
This is the narrative all Britons have been brought up with (the following is from the UK government's own website):
It sounds very multi-culti, liberal and nice. Britain needed labour, brown people needed jobs and everyone would get along swimmingly in post-war Britain. This was not illegal immigration, it was planned and made good economic sense.
Here's some more justification from the British Library:
To help immigration into the UK, the British Nationality Act of 1948 gave rights to all people from the commonwealth to settle in the country. West Indian immigration to the UK from the 1940's to the 1960s was about 170,000. In Britain, there was an increase of about 80,000 people originating from the Indian sub-continent from 1951 to 1961.
So if there was such a shortage of labour in postwar Britain, surely the British government would have been aghast at the prospect of Britons leaving the UK? And trying to put a stop to it?
The Assisted Passage Scheme from Britain to Australia
Australia's 'Assisted Passage Migration Scheme' started in 1945 and involved 1 million people migrating from Britain to Australia.
The following paper adds some nuance to this:
Yet despite the 'reluctance' we still get:
Stephen Constantine (2003) British emigration to the empire- commonwealth since 1880: From overseas settlement to Diaspora?, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 31:2, 16-35, DOI: 10.1080/03086530310001705586
From the same paper the following motivation, which refers to policies in the nineteenth century could perhaps explain the flow of people observed at the top of this post:
In sum, Britain was allowed to go a bit brown, because it was essential that Australia, Canada and other dominions remain essentially white. And this racist policy was maintained until the facts on the ground had been established. This point is one counter-arguments to the 'Great Replacement Theory' that has been espoused in some far-right circles in the West.
So we have two migration stories. And the funny thing is that the first story is covered in the press, and you'll also find the second story given a lot of attention.
But the two are never mentioned together.
It's when you put, what are otherwise very positive stories together, that something far nastier emerges. Something which is within plain sight but unacknowledged.
By Haji 2003 in Contemporania[updated in May 2023 to include the Nvidia example and refine the argument overall].
When you are in a weak position, all the choices you have are bad ones. Your opponent who dominates you due to more and/or better resources will ultimately prevail. It has historically been easy to 'blame' the Palestinians and other indigenous groups for their loss of territory.
But we are fortunate enough to live through a period where erstwhile powerful nations are being made to suffer the same indignities that others have been through, albeit their loss is not in the domain of geographic territory, rather it's technological leadership.
What this experience should teach everyone is that losers don't necessarily end up losing because they are feckless or stupid, rather the cards may just be stacked against them.
I've always thought that since British Mandate the Palestinians have been in a no-win position. This has been due to their lack of military power and economic and political resources. If they accepted the offers the international community and the Israelis gave them, there would have been an incentive for the Israelis to take more land (if the Pals don't mind yielding some land, they might not mind yielding more), and if the Pals had resisted, that would also have given the Israelis a pretext to take more land (for defensive purposes), the latter has proven to be the case.
In short, whatever the Pals decided did not matter; the Israelis' dominant position ensured that they could respond in a manner that was advantageous to them. The same applies to Native American Indians in the 18th and 19th centuries; whether their response to European settlers was to fight or make treaties, the outcome would always be the same, their lands would be taken. In both cases, there was such an asymmetry between the Europeans and indigenous peoples that there was nothing the colonised could do that would change the outcome.
In the examples that follow, I look at some contemporary examples that illustrate a different dynamic. In these instances, non-Western powers have presented the West with situations where regardless of the actions the West takes, the outcome for the West will not be one that it considers satisfactory.
Huawei - China
The following piece in the Financial Times (FT) neatly summarises how I feel about the situation between the U.S. government and Huawei. In the 21st century, it is beginning to look as if the Chinese have the best cards. For example, Huawei makes good and cost-effective telecoms infrastructure.
Western countries may have security concerns, but if they ban Huawei, they could end up with a poorer solution. Other countries that have no such qualms could benefit from the cost advantages that Huawei equipment offers. But if Western countries accept Huawei, they risk entrenching the advantages that the Chinese have, as well as the claimed security risks.
Sanctions have been a preferred Western method of taking action against countries that have fallen out of favour. But this tool only works where you have something the other person wants and can't get anywhere else; when the situation is reversed - you can end up damaging yourself.
Jensen Huang of the American chipmaker Nvidia makes a similar claim in May 2023:
SWIFT - Russia
This example arose during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022. The West wanted to sanction Russia by imposing economic sanctions, including barring Russian entities from access to Western financial systems. But this was not straightforward:
Sic transit gloria mundi (so passes worldly glory)
Some of what we see today has the hallmarks of British attempts to stop Indian technological development by banning the Indians from making their own steam engines, at the start of the 20th century. The British may have delayed Indian development by some decades, but that's all they were able to do. Whether the British took no action to stop Indian technological development or whether they proactively tried to hinder it, ultimately, they would lose.
There are now far too many Indians with increasing levels of capability to stop the juggernaut.
The status quo
In mid-2022, following a visit to Taiwan by Senator Pelosi, the FT noted this about the Chinese response to the visit:
In my opinion, it was Pelosi who altered the status quo; this was the most high-ranking visit in 25 years. Based on the theme of this blog post, given the dominant position of the Chinese, the American position should be to maintain the status quo. As soon as they seek to alter it, the Chinese have an excuse to try and establish a new status quo that is more favourable to them.
In the context of China, I think the U.S. government feels a threat to its economic/technological dominance. Although this may be dressed up as wanting to preserve fair competition. And U.S. sanctions are its attempt to fight back. But whether the U.S. decides to fight or not, I think in the longer term, that dominance will have to be compromised. Huawei and the Chinese are now too far along the technological path of development, and they are far further ahead than the India of the early 20th century.
The U.S. is now in a similar technological position versus the Chinese that the Palestinians have been versus the Israelis. In the U.S./China context is issues centre around technology and in the Palestinian/Israeli context it's to do with economics and political power.
Whatever option the US chooses, it will ultimately 'lose'. Loss in this context is not necessarily wholly ceding technological leadership to the Chinese, but it may well involve acknowledging their superiority in certain areas. Other countries like Russia also may be able to work their way around sanctions, for example, so Western attempts to control their behaviour will have limited success.
By Haji 2003 in ContemporaniaSummary
Following someone else's lead (whether their advice or actions) because they are credible is not sufficient. You need to understand the motives for their actions.
The firm grew to this size because of investments by large, well-known and reputable organisations, which in turn drew in investments from many other smaller investors. One of those reputable investors was Temasek (the Singapore state investment firm). These investors were understood to have undertaken professional 'due dligence' before investing. Due diligence is where an investor examines the finances, management and other salient aspects of the venture in which it is investing.
Temasek explained its failure as follows (from the link above):
Analysis of the problem
An analysis of the above would tell us the following. Smaller investors invested in FTX because large investors like Temaseak were already invested and they trusted these blue chip investors. The basis for trusing Temasek was:
It is reputable (due to its track record of smart investment) It claims to have done its due diligence on FTX It works within a regulatory environment where the government monitors But did Temasek really do due diligence in the way that it should have done? The following is from an FT video.
The answer is likely that Temasek and Blackrock etc. did not do their due diligence in the way that they should have done.
So what drove Temasek's behaviour and that of other reputable investors?
Firms like Temasek did not invest after undertaking due diligence, they invested because they had a fear of missing out. There's also the issue that the sum invested by Temasek and Blackrock etc. was not significant in terms of the size of those organisations.
The takeaway for the rest of us
Most of us are not in a position to be investing millions in crypto or following Temasek's lead! Sow what takeaway do we have?
If you are following the advice and behaviour of someone else - you need to understand the motivation for their actions.
It's not enough to rely on their reputation (track-record) and their expertise.
This applies to everything, whether it is advice from a doctor, lawyer or mar'je.
By Haji 2003 in ContemporaniaI thought I’d put this together based on the discussion in laith’s spirituality thread.
The issue of happiness arose because striving for spirituality can involve lifestyle changes and I think a barrier to that can be a feeling that such a lifestyle will diminish one’s enjoyment of life.
Which leads us to wondering what it means to be happy and whether that can be changed.
Looking around me I see all sorts of people doing very different things and many of them at least claim to be happy. There’s the uncle who is not rich in any financial sense, but who spends entire days in Pakistan playing golf. There’s the barrister cousin who’s forever preparing for a very important court case or my mum who’ll cook for a hundred ladies for a majlis at our home.
In each instance, as I see it, these people have configured what it is that will make them happy and then gone about achieving it. In each instance what’s really smart is that they’ve configured happy in such a way that it is stretching but also actually achievable.
Achievable in the sense that given the environment and circumstances that they have and about which we can often do little, they’ve taken charge of those things which they can control, defined what happiness means on the basis of these and constructed it in such a way that they can get it. Stretching is also important because without it there can be no sense of achievement.
Most importantly, in each instance I can see that while they are happy there’ll be other people who can just as easily see that this is not the lifestyle that would make them happy. I would go mad if my daily routine involved taking a stick and repeatedly hitting into a small hole an even smaller ball.
Some of that definition of happiness depends on the meanings that we attach to things. I’ve explained what golf means to me. But for my uncle there’s clearly a sense of physical achievement, there’s the sportsman’s image he has of himself that’s reinforced and there are the meanings he associates with golf as an exclusive sport. For my mother the meanings are associated with the religious symbols, the wajib, the mustahab, the sawab and so on.
In each instance there’s also the social kudos. My uncle gets to meet the ‘higher-ups’ in Pakistani society and the approval of this social network is obviously important. The same goes for my mum. I wind her up by saying that I don’t see much difference between what motivates her and the Hindu and Sikh women I come across who put in a lot of effort to cook the meals at their local temples to win the appreciation of their social circles.
In each instance happiness has been configured in such a way that there’s an easily accessible social network of people who will appreciate what the individual can do. My mum’s social network of Shia ladies has developed organically over decades. My uncle’s social network was acquired when he left the UK and moved to Pakistan, joined the local golf club and impressed them with his skill.
Social networks are important because happiness is often co-created with the people around us. Those symbols and meanings often only really work when there is someone to share them with. Someone who can understand what they mean and what their significance is and with whom it’s possible to have a conversation about that shared interest and indeed to develop it.
Of course you can have symbols that have meaning only for you and where there may be no one else to share them with, but then the inner satisfaction will have to suffice. Many years ago I met Yousuf Karsh and I have an autographed book of his photos, but that name means nothing to anyone else that I know, but the knowledge of having met him gives me an inner glow. Sometimes there may be no symbols at all and also no-one else to share them with, I know of fairly anonymous investors who make lots of money and they’re quite happy with the anonymity or alternatively there are academics who have a lot of professional recognition, but much less money.
Yaani it’s L’Oreal and Wallahi you’re worth it
SoSolidShia who has since left Shiachat, (or was he banned?) used to have that as part of his avatar and I always thought it was quite clever. But it does remind us of how the messages we see every day remind us that thinking of the self is justified and that there is a cause and effect relationship between spending money and being happy.
Of course, there isn’t but many people are taken in by it. Is there a magic pill? If there is one the effects are only short-term before you need to spend again in order to get the next high.
To take the example of another type of product, what was initially presented as an occasional treat because of its high calorific value or sugar content, is promoted in such a way that it becomes part of our regular consumption and happy is replaced by habit and the company behind it has a bigger share of our wallet, which was always the intention.
When we buy happy then, it has to be on an irregular basis for it to keep delivering happiness.
Can buying happiness ever really pay off? When its consumption isn’t easy, when it requires some prior effort or engagement I think it can.
I remember spending hours sitting in theatres watching live performances of Shakespearean and other Jacobean plays. I am pretty sure there were more entertaining things to do for a sixteen-year-old. But it was very worthy. Certainly it wasn’t as much fun as the latest Hollywood blockbuster and obviously, it wasn’t as accessible. But it did make the study of English literature easier and yes, after a fashion it was actually enjoyable, especially when you knew the script and could decode the jokes. The prior study increased the enjoyment. Years later I can still remember some performances, but I can't remember any movies I watched at the time. So there's the added payoff of happy memories.
Something else that occupied my teenage years and was immensely fun was wet processing photographic film and photos. It was an interesting combination of art and science. I think all the people who have hobbies can understand. The people whose entertainment is mainly passive, such as watching television, might not.
The funny thing though is that the people with the hobbies may not necessarily be doing them to achieve happiness, it just happens as a by-product. In contrast, the people who switch on the television are chasing after happiness and yet when they find it, it’s likely to be more transient than for those people who just happened upon it.
There are two types of people today, those who create content and those who consume it. I think the creators are happier than the consumers.
And where there is an effort in achieving happy I think there is also the likelihood of satiety, the feeling of fulfillment and the need to do something else. In contrast, where the consumption of happiness is easy, where it is simply bought and passively consumed, the lack of satiety means that overconsumption is possible. We see some people watching inordinate amounts of television, we see increasing levels of obesity and rising levels of debt as people eat and buy themselves happy.
Happy about what?
I remember playing with car racing sets as a kid. It was never a satisfactory experience. One car in the set would always be intrinsically faster than the other, you could predict who would win the race depending on what car they had.
There was clearly a difference between what those, admittedly cheap, sets could deliver and what my expectations were. Expectations that are higher than what we can realistically receive will always end in disappointment. Happy people have their expectations met or exceeded. But setting expectations that are too low may lead to people serially taking advantage of you since you never complain.
What’s the solution here?
It’s a question of differentiating between what matters and what does not. And even, more importantly, it’s a matter of assessing whether the people we are dealing with can actually deliver what they promise.
Too often we are willing to suspend disbelief, take people at their word and believe their promises. They patently cannot deliver, but we refuse to believe that, sometimes this is because of our own ignorance or greed. The possible gain seems so attractive that we fall for the lie. Conmen do this all the time. Often what is at stake is either money or love because in both areas we really find it difficult to behave rationally. The Nigerian 419 scam goes for people who believe that you can get large sums of money easily and men from various developing countries make promises of love to older, richer single white women in the West via the internet, which usually involves a trip to the local branch of western union. These are extreme examples, but it happens to a lesser extent for different products and services all the time.
Then there’s the issue of differentiating between what matters and what does not. Life is too short, you cannot complain about everything. Indeed, it may well be the case that you took someone at their word, perhaps even knowing that they could not and would not deliver everything that they promised, but you knew deep down that this did not really matter, but you were confident that what you really were interested in would actually be delivered.
In my opinion, this marks the difference between two types of people who go on the hajj. The knowledgeable ones know what constitutes for a good hajj, where you were guided correctly by the alim with you and where the requirements were fulfilled correctly. These people also know what questions to ask different hajj organisers in order to ensure that their expectations about the fulfilment of their obligations are met. They can hear the promises about the hotel, but they know deep down that whether or not these are fulfilled, does not really matter.
On the other hand, there are people who may not really know what their religious obligations are. These are the people who lose focus and are the ones who are unhappy about not getting enough food at Mina, the waiting around and the quality of the hotel. Not only are they unhappy but they are unhappy about the wrong things and perhaps even happy at the wrong things as well!
Reconfiguring happy then, is a matter of being clear what we should be happy about, ensuring that we get that and not worrying when other promises that people make are not delivered.
The disappointment of loss
Too often people set expectations about what it is that will make them happy that is either unachievable or costly in a variety of other ways. The trick perhaps is to focus on what we can directly achieve by ourselves with the minimum of resources. It’s being able to do what is costless better than before and deriving satisfaction from it. And the only costless activity, over which we have complete control, in my opinion, is prayer.
At the same time, it’s not a matter of eschewing or rejecting what the world has to offer. Rather it’s the ability to be happy if you have the material goods but not disappointed if you don’t. It’s being able to walk away dispassionately in the face of material loss. I'll deal with the latter issue in this post.
Equanimity in the face of loss takes practice.
The practice comes from giving charity. Each time we do it, we cut our bonds from the material, so that when losses occur as a result of circumstances over which we have no control they affect us less and we do not suffer unhappiness.
Psychologically humans hate incurring losses. It’s part of our DNA. Nobel prize winning research has shown this. We do all sorts of crazy things in order to avoid losses. Give someone the option of paying $1.30 for a gallon of gas and receiving a $0.10 rebate if they pay by cash or instead paying $1.20 by credit card and incurring a $0.20 surcharge and they’ll always go for the $1.30 option. The cash buyers will do it for obvious reasons and the people paying by credit card will do it as well because paying the $1.30 as a default option is far less psychologically painful than seeing a base price of $1.20 and then realising that choosing to pay by credit card will involve incurring an additional $0.20.
There have been a number of other studies along similar lines, all demonstrating that we will often engage in irrational actions to avoid losses. I’ve previously linked to a lecture given by Robert Shiller at Princeton where he refers to people taking out (really bad value) insurance policies for individual flights in order not to incur a loss.
Another often quoted example in this area is to do with how much value we attach to things we own. Experiments show that if people own something they’ll ascribe a higher value to it than other people who do not.
Giving to charity then or detaching ourselves from what we own, is difficult for humans. It is part of the human condition. And yet IIRC the Qur’an mentions charity every time it mentions prayer.
I think it works in a number of different ways. I’ve outlined one and another that comes to mind is my view that the Qur’an is recognising that wherever someone has gains (on which charity can be paid), they will invariably at some point suffer a loss. When people who have had gains give some of them away as charity when the invariable losses do happen, they will, at least, have the comfort in knowing that while they had it, they spent it on assets for the akhira.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
A discussion about achievements in life or the lack of them in the Thoughts threads reminded me of this.
We often think about what we could have done, would have done or should have done. This can become a maudlin exercise full of regrets and unhappy thoughts.
Often such thinking can lead to issues about what we’ll do now to address this and I wonder whether the options discussed are always advisable.
Just because we did not do a certain degree 15 years ago, does that mean we’ll be any better off or happier doing it now? The world when the decision was taken not to do the degree or when the opportunity was missed, was a different world to the one we are in now. The benefits of that degree may well have changed. The costs of doing it now may well be different to what they would have been in the past, so the value of the whole exercise may be different as well.
In hankering after what could have been and in trying to get it back we could be losing focus on what else we could be achieving now in the time that we have left that may offer greater value.
The whole process of looking backwards is one that assumes we are now older than we were before. As we get older the reduction in the time that we have left becomes more acute – the focus now really has to be on what really matters.
So as we get older the very process of worrying about previously missed material gains and losses may actually compound the problem rather than make it better. The goals have to be different now.
The benefit that age brings is that older people can compare the achievements and mistakes of people that they have known over a long period of time. Young people cannot do this. They can be told about it, but personal experience often has more resonance.
Older people can see where their peers started, what they did in terms of materialistic and spiritual activities and observe where they have ended up. That longitudinal perspective is one whose benefit you don’t have if you are young.
In the final calculation when you start attending the funerals of people you have known for a long-time, you realise how futile material achievements are, especially at the margins. If an individual has acquired enough material success to have been self-sustaining (including any family) surely any assessments of success and failure over the life led thus far need to be in terms of spiritual and moral mistakes and future rectifications?
Thought of in this way, reflections about the past become an intensely productive, positive and indeed happy activity. Because whatever happened in the past that enabled us to arrive at a destination where there is a realisation (niyat) that rectification is necessary, surely that has been a positive result?
These are the only changes that I can think of which are not rendered irrelevant by changing circumstances in the same way as the ones I mentioned at the start of this post.
By Haji 2003 in ContemporaniaSummary
Since the inception of Islam, there had been various sects competing for prominence; many had died out, and the two major ones were Twelver Shia and the Sunni fiqh.
Then suddenly, from the start of the 19th century to the end of that century, we have the emergence of Ahmadiyya, the renewal of Ismailism and the creation of a new faith entirely, Baha ism. Go back a hundred years, and we can add Wahhabism to this list. I identify a common thread amongst all these new religions in this post.
Four religions in a couple of hundred years ... and three Knights
That's an unusually fertile period of spiritual spontaneity by any measure. Or is the explanation for such flowering of faith more mundane and perhaps guided by vested foreign interests or even stimulated by them? Because what marked that period, from the ones that preceded it was the growing recognition by countries from outside the middle eastern region that it was an important geographical location in itself and also for its proximity to the wealth of India. That latter point is important because there is little disagreement that British foreign policy towards the middle east paid due cognisance to the views and interests of the Government of India - of course, that is a pre-independence Government, so wholly controlled by Britain.
Abdul Wahhab developed what is commonly referred to as an austere interpretation of Islam, one that denounces the rituals and beliefs that he felt had accreted over the centuries. There is a rich vein of (conspiracy) theories, easily found on the internet, that in his travel to Iraq in the early 18th century, he could have come across British agents (specifically a 'Mr Hempher'). Certainly, the British East India Company had been well established at that time, and a British consulate had been established in Iraq in 1802. Less widely commented on is the fact that the famous Danish/German explorer Carsten Niebuhr travelled to Arabia in 1761.
But leaving conspiracy theories aside, it's possible to develop an argument about foreign involvement based on far less controversial ideas. Britain may not have been a midwife to Wahhabism, but I think people of all geo-political persuasions would agree that Britain was a helpful nanny.
The person with whom the British did have extensive dealings was Ibn Saud, who had entered into a pact with Abdul Wahhab in 1744. British sources said he persistently approached Britain for support and was generally rebuffed. Saud was a political leader who continued to promote the Wahhabi philosophy after the death of its founder. Saud was no cleric. But he was shrewd enough to mould the ideology as the basis for providing a motivation for conquest and a glue that would hold his fighters together. British records show that he took responsibility for hiring and firing clerics based on his political agenda.
My source for this and some other information about Wahhabism that is presented here is a PhD dissertation submitted to King's College London in 2002 by Hassan Syed Abedin, titled "Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and the great game in Arabia, 1896-1946".
Ibn Saud (who would in due course be given the British title 'Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire') was ultimately successful in his goal of receiving support from Britain in 1914 when Britain needed to have someone distracting the Ottomans so that they could devote fewer resources to World War I taking place in Europe.
Prior to that, it's argued that Ibn Saud had spent considerable efforts in achieving a status similar to the one held by Mubarak Al Sabah, the emir of Kuwait. This ideal status would have meant that Sauds and their territories would have been subjects of the Ottoman empire, but who would be given the protection of the British.
This version of events does not look very good for Ibn Saud, presenting him as someone who is willing to do business with non-Muslims in order to undermine a Muslim ruler, and he'd serve a useful role in helping Britain with the following objective:
Crewe private telegram to Hardinge, Viceroy of India, November 12,1914, cited in Busch Britain, India and the Arabs: 1914-1921, p. 62.
Further, east we find the rise of the modern-day Nizari Ismailis, whose Aga Khan in the mid-19th century created a new role for himself in providing services to the British Empire (Aga Khan I would receive an annual British pension of £20,000 per year). Mihir Bose (a noted writer on the subject) says that the Aga Khan had to plead his case for some time before the British took him seriously since they wanted to be sure that they were backing a local ally who'd present them with better value than the alternatives. His grandson Aga Khan III would be bestowed the title of 'Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India'. Their esoteric faith was totally at odds with the one promulgated by Wahhab, but regardless of that difference served a useful purpose.
Regardless of the support he gave, the British were aware of the hypocrisy of his religious position:
Sir Charles Napier to Governor-General of India, Earl of Ellenborough, 1843
The period around the 1840s is interesting for the following reason, as the following letter makes clear:
Purohit, T. (2012) The Aga Khan Case (religion and identity in colonial India). Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.
The writer of the letter is Major Henry Rawlinson, the military officer who worked for the commission in Persia from 1834 to 1838 and subsequently served as a political agent in Qandahar. So the British were interested in there being dislocation in Iran at around this time because of a perceived threat to their interests in Afghanistan.
This makes the genesis and development of the third religion covered here all the more interesting.
In roughly the same period, the mid-nineteenth century, we also see the rise of the Bahai faith in Iran. Mirza Ali Mohammad was born in 1820 and was executed in 1850. A focus of his attention was economic inequality in Iran. There were clear political implications, as noted by the middle eastern commentator Juan Cole:
The socio-economic aspect of Bab's teachings are also explained here:
Mansoor Moaddel (1986) The Shi'i Ulama and the State in Iran. Theory and Society, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Jul., 1986), pp. 519-556. This extract: p526.
This socio-religio-poliitcal impact of a new faith did not go unnoticed by the colonial powers of the time and gained ground as a result of their support as a means of destabilising the Qajar dynasty. Like Ibn Saud, Abdul Baha, eldest son of the Baha'u'llah, would also be awarded the title of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, ostensibly for his work in alleviating famine.
Shahvar, S. (2018) ‘Oppression of Religious Minority Groups in Times of Great Upheaval in Late Qajar Iran: The 1892 Persecution of Jews and Baha’is of Jewish Origin in Hamadan Based on Two Newly Discovered Letters’, The Jewish quarterly review. University of Pennsylvania Press, 108(2), pp. 225–251.
Going further east, we find the third innovation in the Muslim religion towards the end of the 19th century and one that would lead to charges of being the creation of a new religion entirely. The Ahmadis would destabilise Muslims in the Indian sub-continent. Their support for the British in India is expressed in their texts:
There is a reason for this approach; unlike the established religions of the Indian sub-continent, the leader of this new religion needed legitimacy. By acquiescing to the needs of the invaders, he sought to achieve that. For the established religions doing the same would have been challenging because they would have lost the legitimacy of their many existing followers; the new religion with far fewer followers had much less to lose in this respect but potentially a great deal more to gain.
I am not saying that the British went into the middle east with the prior notion of introducing new faiths. However, it is reasonable to say that in an environment where there were new powers in the region, for someone starting a new faith, the potential for a symbiotic relationship with these new arrivals was obvious.
For the invaders, these new religions provided a ready-made supportive constituency with which to challenge the established order, whether it be the Ottomans, the Qajars or the established religious order in India.
By Haji 2003 in ContemporaniaPutting 2 and 2 together
I have some knowledge of what social entrepreneurship is and like most of you I have read the story of Prophet Nuh ((عليه السلام).) in the Qur'an and Bible. At this point, I would start googling like crazy to build up the argument, but I decided to take a short-cut and asked chatgpt the following question:
Can Noah and his construction of the ark be considered a form of social entrepreneurship?
Now there are aspects of social entrepreneurship that are important that chatgpt has missed out, and to be honest they are pretty crucial to the link between his story and the concept of social entrepreneurship and I'll add them later. So I asked chatGPT:
How does social entrepreneurship differ from entrepreneurship?
This is taking us in the right direction. Looking at each of the above bullets in turn:
Prophet Nuh ((عليه السلام).) was focusing on social change (saving people from sin) and obviously had an environmental goal in mind (overcoming the dangers posed by the flood). Social entrepreneurs target marginalised groups and Prophet Nuh ((عليه السلام).) was going for people who were sinners. The new product he had created was the ark His metric for success was the number of people saved.
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