the Name of God,
the Infinitely Compassionate and Most Merciful
human beings are in loss,
those who have faith and do righteous deeds
encourage each other in the teaching of Truth and of patient
This chapter, al Asr 103, ranks
next to the opening Surah al Fatiha in providing the best concise guidance on
the essence or core of Islam.
My life experience has been to see
the inadequacy of charity to address the Qur'anic command to share wealth, which
Muslims generally agree is the best but most difficult of "righteous deeds."
Charity is good in itself but it is only a stop-gap measure to lessen the misery
that results from ignorance or indifference to justice.
Justice requires social justice
through solidarity among individual persons in changing or perfecting the
institutions of society in order to broaden access to individual ownership of
the means of production, particularly through the institutions of money and
credit. Sharing wealth requires not merely broadening capital ownership
but equal access to individual ownership as a universal human right, especially
in the era of capital intensive economies where capital produces most of the
wealth and labor only a small part. This right is universally denied
throughout the world.
This is critical to the other
three of the four requirements in this surah. Awareness of this denial is
the first step in teaching truth, and pursuit of justice by "encouraging each
other" in promoting both institutional change and taqwa (God Consciousness) or
loving awe of God is the principal requirement for patient perseverance.
Everything else in the practice of
spirituality is essential. As developed in my commencement address,
Analogical Bird of Abu Nur," at Abu Nur University in Damascus in 1995
and published online at "The
American Muslim" on November 19, 2002, this dimension may be
compared to the right wing of a metaphorical bird. This is the ruhanniyah
or spiritual dimension, but "human beings are in loss" unless they address the
left wing, the amaliya or action dimension in the muamalat or material
challenges of life. This requires the guiding tail of the analogical bird,
which is intellectual discernment through the 'aql or 'aqaliyat, known as the "third
jihad" or jihad al kabir.
All three are gifts of God, for
which we should be thankful. I pray that we will always remember and
respect the emphasis in the Qur'an and in the daily canonical Muslim prayers on
praise of Allah and thanksgiving, which in Islam are synonymous, for this is the
key to baraka or grace.
Dr. Robert Dickson Crane is the
former adviser to the late President of the United States Richard Nixon, and is
former Deputy Director (for Planning) of the U.S. National Security Council. He
has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and over 50 professional
articles on comparative legal systems, global strategy, and information