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Population Growth and Food Grains Production

Is there really a scarcity of grains in the world today?1400 years ago, when agriculture was in very primitive state and the peasants depended on rainfalls for crops to grow, Islam instilled hope in Allah’s mercy and taught its adherents to have full faith in His promise of providing sustenance.

Is there really a scarcity of grains in the world today?

British clergyman Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) postulated the theory of population growth in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). He opined that the population grows at a geometric rate and the food supply at an arithmetic rate. As a result of this discrepancy in the growth rates of population and food grains, imbalances occur which lead to destruction of population in the form of famine, disease, a high mortality rate, or wars which restore the balance.

He wrote: “Must it not then be acknowledged by an attentive examiner of the histories of mankind, that in every age and in every State in which man has existed – or does now exist – that the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence…that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and that the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.” The solution for this problem suggested by him included two checks: positive or direct checks include malnutrition, war, famine, and high infant mortality, while preventive checks include late marriage and celibacy. (Development Economics)

It’s surprising to see that though Malthus was a clergyman, he had such a disappointed view. His postulation about population and food grains growth as well as his solutions like wars, famines or celibacy, were all utterly wrong and morally degenerative. I still remember my days in university while doing an MA in Economics. It was in 1998 when two hundred years of Malthus theory were completed, and one of our agriculture professors mocked Malthus that, as per Malthus, we would not have been existing at that time!

Let us briefly look at what the Holy Qur’an says about sustenance and population growth, and how Malthus’ views have been proved completely wrong.

In the Qur’an (11:6) it is declared that Allah is the Creator of all creatures and that He provides sustenance for them:

“And there is no animal in the earth but on Allah is the sustenance of it, and He knows its resting place and its depository; all (things) are in a manifest book.”

Allah, the Master and Creator of all that is created, also arranges food for His creatures. He demands submission from us and prohibits disappointment. Disappointment in His mercy is heresy. He is the Creator and He is also the Sustainer:

“Say: Come I will recite what your Lord has forbidden to you – (remember) that you do not associate anything with Him and show kindness to your parents, and do not slay your children for (fear of) poverty – We provide for you and for them – and do not draw nigh to indecencies, those of them which are apparent and those which are concealed, and do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for the requirements of justice; this He has enjoined you with that you may understand.” (6:151)

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We give them sustenance and yourselves (too); surely to kill them is a great wrong. ” (17:31)

The above verses caution us that killing children for fear of poverty is a grave sin, as Allah Who has created all of us also provides us with sustenance. The fear of poverty is a whispering of the Accursed Satan:

“Shaitan threatens you with poverty and enjoins you to be niggardly, and Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and abundance; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.” (2:268)

Imam Zaynul Abideen (peace be upon him) teaches us in supplication 29 of Sahifa Sajjadiyya that the promise of Allah about sustenance is ever-true, and we should never entertain any doubts on this issue:

“Let Thy clear promise in Thy Revelation
which Thou hast followed in Thy Book with Thy oath
cut off our worry
about the provision for which
Thou hast made Thyself responsible
and sever our occupation
with everything
whose sufficiency Thou hast guaranteed!

For Thou hast said
– and Thy word is the most truthful truth –
and Thou hast sworn
– and Thy oath is the most kept and fulfilled –
In the heaven are your provision and everything you are promised!

And then Thou hast said,
So by the Lord of heaven and earth,
it is as surely true as that you have speech!”

In sermon 90 of Nahjul Balagha, the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) extols Allah for the guarantees of sustenance:

“The whole creation is His dependent (in sustenance). He has guaranteed their livelihood and ordained their sustenance. He has prepared the way for those who turn to Him and those who seek what is with Him.”

Therefore, it is apparent that some 1400 years back, when agriculture was in very primitive state and the peasants depended on rain falls for crops to grow, Islam instilled hope in Allah’s mercy and taught its adherents to have full faith in His promise of providing sustenance.

Now we’ll briefly have a look at the developments in agriculture through applying modern methods which have brought about a revolution known as Green Revolution. Allah is the Creator and Sustainer Who is aware of the needs of every age and Who knows the requirements of His servants in every age:

“And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it, and We do not send it down but in a known measure.” (15:21)

“Surely We have created everything according to a measure.” (54:49)

Accordingly, He has set the path of progress for mankind. This is all progress in genetic engineering, and revolutions in food grain productions are because of His promise to provide sustenance. This is like a hidden treasure on the long way of humanity, and as we move ahead and our requirements increase we find more and more treasures hidden by our Merciful Lord in our way. Today the treasures are developments of HYV: high yielding varieties of seeds, nano technology, and the like.

Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between 1943 and the late 1970s, that increased industrialized agriculture production. The initiatives involved the development of high yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. The beginnings of the Green Revolution are often attributed to Norman Borlaug, an American scientist interested in agriculture. In the 1940s, he began conducting research in Mexico and developed new disease resistant high-yield varieties of wheat. By combining Borlaug’s wheat varieties with new mechanized agricultural technologies, Mexico was able to produce more wheat than was needed by its own citizens, leading to its becoming an exporter of wheat by the 1960s. Prior to the use of these varieties, the country was importing almost half of its wheat supply.

Due to the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico, its technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s. The United States for instance, imported about half of its wheat in the 1940s but after using Green Revolution technologies, it became self-sufficient in the 1950s and became an exporter by the 1960s.

In India the effect of Green Revolution has been tremendous. Some salient features include :

  1. The Green Revolution resulted in a record grain output of 131 million tons in 1978-79. This established India as one of the world’s biggest agricultural producers. India also became an exporter of food grains around that time.
  2. Yield per unit of farmland improved by more than 30 per cent between 1947 (when India gained political independence) and 1979 when the Green Revolution was considered to have delivered its goods.
  3. The crop area under HYV varieties grew from seven per cent to 22 per cent of the total cultivated area during the 10 years of the Green Revolution. More than 70 per cent of the wheat crop area, 35 per cent of the rice crop area and 20 per cent of the millet and corn crop area, used the HYV seeds.

There has also been criticism of the Green Revolution, especially with respect to negative effects on the environment and health. But these issues can be addressed by careful application of the technology and further research in the area.

The problem of starvation is actually the problem of distribution. In India alone, thousands of tons of food grains perished in FCI godowns while millions are starving. The apex court of India very recently asked the government to consider free distribution of food-grains to the poor instead of allowing it to rot in the Food Corporation of India godowns.

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30 comments

  1. Salaam,

    Thanks for these thoughts. I just want to engage one aspect of your argument.

    To a large extent, I agree with your conclusion that the problem of global hunger is due to the dysfunctional distribution mechanisms. However, I am not sure if I agree with your appraisal of the so-called “Green Revolution” (readers should not confuse this term with organic, pesticide-free farming practices which are called “green” today). More than 100,000 Indian farmers who committed suicide in the last two decades should be enough to warrant a far more critical scrutiny.

    If you refer to below mentioned sources, the problem with the “Green Revolution” is in the very technology that it uses as well as the people/corporations leading the world in that technology (plural). I find it quite problematic to attribute this destructive technology (destructive for the environment, animals, humans) as God’s “promise to provide sustenance.” I am sure that you would agree with me that not every development in science can be considered as “progress”.

    India’s Farming ‘Revolution’ Heading For Collapse
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102893816

    ‘Green Revolution’ Trapping India’s Farmers In Debt
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102944731

    On GM technology and its adverse impact: The Future of Food

    Globalization, GMOs, Biofuels and their Politics – Vandana Shiva
    http://shiatv.net/view_video.php?viewkey=704bd760460f027072e5

    • In His name
      Wa alaikum salaam wr,

      [quote name=”Ali A.”]

      However, I am not sure if I agree with your appraisal of the so-called “Green Revolution” (readers should not confuse this term with organic, pesticide-free farming practices which are called “green” today). More than 100,000 Indian farmers who committed suicide in the last two decades should be enough to warrant a far more critical scrutiny.

      [/quote]

      I mentioned that there are issues with Green Revolution with respect to environment and health. But still this is Green Revolution only which changed the India’s status from food-deficient to food-surplus or self sufficient country. Green Revolution is just bunch of modern agriculture methods coupled with technology, and the nature of technology in general is that it always has side effects. We have cars and ACs both damage environment. Should we re-start using bullock carts instead of cars? No. We need to do more and more R&D and develop those methods and technology which do not destroy environment. So is true for the technology used in Green Revolution. It’s a continuous process, we need, we experiment,we make, we use, , we learn and make better and better next time.

      As regards suicides, so it’s due to many psychological and socio-religious factors. Small farmers have debts, when agriculture fails due to monsoon or flood, they get disappointed and commit suicide. Suicide is more a psychological phenomenon.

      • [quote name=”Ali A.”]
        I find it quite problematic to attribute this destructive technology (destructive for the environment, animals, humans) as God’s “promise to provide sustenance.” I am sure that you would agree with me that not every development in science can be considered as “progress
        [/quote]

        The path of human progress is not always straight. It’s more like that zigzag. I did not mean to say that Green Revolution is like a miracle from God which can have no bad effects. I just meant that with all its draw backs, we can do more research and improve it. Science is nothing but discovery of God’s laws in creation and their use to our benefit:

        [Holy Quran,2:164] Most surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, and the ships that run in the sea with that which profits men, and the water that Allah sends down from the cloud, then gives life with it to the earth after its death and spreads in it all (kinds of) animals, and the changing of the winds and the clouds made subservient between the heaven and the earth, there are signs for a people who understand.

        [Holy Quran, 14:32] Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and sent down water from the clouds, then brought forth with it fruits as a sustenance for you, and He has made the ships subservient to you, that they might run their course in the sea by His command, and He has made the rivers subservient to you.

        So what I mean is that when we acquire more knowledge about Allah’s creation, we make things better. It’s a continuous process. Today’s it is technology related with Green Revolution, tomorrow it can be some other technology which can yield better results.

        Allah’s promise of providing food is always fulfilled, only the methods will change.

        Wasalaam,

  2. This is the first time I have read about the Islamic perspective on this topic, and I am extremely impressed by your analysis! Are there any scholars in the Hawza who have also addressed this issue? It would be great to read their “insights” about this as well!

  3. I would like to ask a question, you said that I quote “what’s surprising to see that though Malthus was a clergyman, he had such a disappointed view. His postulation about population and food grains growth as well as his solutions like wars, famines or celibacy, were all utterly wrong and morally degenerative.”

    Can you please point out the source of your claim of his solutions like wars, famine etc?

    I am not an expert of Malthus and I did a quick search on the net about him here http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/~felwell/Theorists/Malthus/SocMalthus.htm

    and here http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Malthus.html

    Nowhere in that both articles it says about the above ‘solutions’.

    Please do not mislead people.

    Do you think as a clergyman he actually would advocate war etc.?

    • In His name

      Read the book : Development Economics by Richard Grabowski & Michael P. Shields. I issued this book from British Council Library. I have masters in Economics and I have read more books on this issue. InshaAllah this weekend I would visit the library and can give more references.

      Having said that, how many books you have read on the history of Economic thoughts? If you do not know about any subject, go to library and study.

      Do not make comments just to argue.

  4. [quote name=”Asad”]The path of human progress is not always straight. It’s more like that zigzag.[/quote]

    [quote name=”Asad”]”We have cars and ACs both damage environment. Should we re-start using bullock carts instead of cars? No. We need to do more and more R&D and develop those methods and technology which do not destroy environment. So is true for the technology used in Green Revolution. It’s a continuous process, we need, we experiment,we make, we use, , we learn and make better and better next time.”[/quote]

    [quote name=”Asad”]So what I mean is that when we acquire more knowledge about Allah’s creation, we make things better. It’s a continuous process. Today’s it is technology related with Green Revolution, tomorrow it can be some other technology which can yield better results.[/quote]

    Dear Asad,

    We both are familiar with the Quranic verses and other Islamic quotes you have cited so far, and know many more. To argue that more knowledge would lead to human salvation is a statement that is too general and made too often (on that very generalized level) in our Islamic forums. What interested me in your article is that you picked up a concrete topic and tried to apply that perspective in some depth. I think a few distinctions (on science and history) need to be introduced so that we do not end up endorsing, in the name of God, even the destructive aspects of scientific developments.

    (cont…)

    • (cont…)

      As I suggested earlier, not all scientific developments can be considered “progress”. But, you seem to assume a linear teleology in which, i) science always advances in the benefit of humankind, ii) the present form of scientific development was the only possible advancement route (either ‘environment-costly cars or bullock carts’, you ask), and what we have today is better than yesterday even if it is not perfect, and should be seen as part of the continuous development of science.

      Both assumptions, imho, are not true. I see breaks rather than continuities: science could have gone in a very different direction if money and specific interests had not steered it in the direction of what we have at present. For example, the world would have been a lot different today, for better or worse, had J.P. Morgan continued to support Nikola Tesla in his construction of free power towers (Morgan was put off when Tesla had no answer to his question, “Where can I put the meter?”). Perhaps that alternative technology would have saved industrial countries from recklessly consuming millions of tons of fossil fuels over the last century. Many environmental disasters and wars could have been avoided too. And, perhaps, we would have come up with environment-friendly technology for cars much earlier than we did, and the oil-based energy companies wouldn’t have been so powerful in America to dictate its policies on national energy and foreign wars.

      Bullock carts aren’t the only alternative we have, and for arriving at environment-friendly cars we really did not need to go through the route of environment-costly cars. Scientific progress is path-dependent. If scientific advancement had been directed by a moral and truly humanistic vision, the world would have been a lot different than what we have today.

      (cont…)

      • (cont…)

        With “Green Revolution” also, there were alternatives that were not taken. Firstly, if you look at history, India’s food deficiency developed its severity (on an unprecedented scale) only after the colonial agricultural reforms and its integration of local economies into the global. The wide-scale food problem developed as a result of policies and socio-economic dynamics, not production technology per se. In other words, it was a construction of ‘distribution’ mechanism. Secondly, with “Green Revolution”, yields did increase, for a while at least, but increasing yields should not be confused with food security. The new technology, policies, and practices accompanying the “Green Revolution” made the Indian farmers even more vulnerable. The problem they now faced was not only that of ‘distribution’ but also of ‘production’. The Indian Punjab, which was the epicenter of the “Green Revolution”, is in a severe crisis today and, as the first NPR story I quote above suggests, parts of it “could be(come) barren in 10 to 15 years.”

        Any appraisal of the so-called “Green Revolution” need to consider both the short-term gains and the long-term losses.

        Not sure if you had a chance to look at the links I cited earlier? What surprises me though is that you seem familiar with the consequences of the “Green Revolution” on Indian agriculture (and elsewhere), yet continue to see it as part of the scientific “progress”, and as part of “Allah’s promise of providing food”.

        (cont…)

        • (cont…)

          Further, I don’t know what you meant by emphasizing that farmer suicides are “more a psychological phenomenon”? All suicides are psychological phenomena in a way. The question is to look at the circumstances that leave an individual with no choice but suicide. And if such occurrences of suicide increase on an unprecedented level and can be traced to some consistent circumstances, then the problem is more than just that of an individual’s personal or accidental problems. You seem to connect those social circumstances to natural/climatic factors (like rain and flood, or bad crops) and “socio-religious” (??). Many of these factors existed even before the rise of suicides. Then, what accounts for the change?

          Many scholars therefore connect the suicide rates to the heightened vulnerability of farmers after the “Green Revolution”. A closer look at the history of Bt Cotton and Monsanto’s monopolozing policies and years of neo-liberal reforms in India should be quite illuminating for anyone interested in this subject.

          Here are some insights from Vandana Shiva, whose speech I linked earlier:

          [b]From Seeds of Suicide to Seeds of Hope: Why Are Indian Farmers Committing Suicide and How Can We Stop This Tragedy?
          [/b]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vandana-shiva/from-seeds-of-suicide-to_b_192419.html

          A related story from NYTimes:

          [b]On India’s Farms, a Plague of Suicide [/b]
          http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/19/world/asia/19india.html?ex=1316318400&en=5914a096800f807c&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

          (cont…)

          • (cont…)

            Speaking in historical time unit (in decades and centuries), humanity (more specifically, the power elites in the colonizer/industrial countries) took a wrong turn in the last few hundred years with some of its choices in areas of science, politics, and economics. And, if I may put it in Quranic terms, like earlier nations deviated and faced the consequences (described as God’s punishment), today we are facing the consequences of our doing in the past few centuries. The massive environmental problems are just one aspect of that consequence. Global hunger, another.

            I see scientific advancement as path-dependent, not a “continuous” “zigzag” linear process within a supposed teleology of all-good-in-the-end for the humankind. We can very well lead ourselves to self-destruction.

            That’s one of the distinctions that I feel is missing in YOUR interpretation of ‘scientific progress’ and YOUR endorsement of that ‘progress’ with Islamic quotes. However, I did not want to get into issues regarding your interpretation of Islamic sources on the population-and-food-security problem; just wanted to limit myself to your claims about “Green Revolution”. (This comment was prompted by your recent response which came along with even more Islamic quotes.)

            (cont…)

          • (cont…)

            If I may also quickly suggest, God may have promised sustenance to all humanity, but has He also promised to sustain our extravagant consumption patterns, environmental exploitations, scientific disasters, economic and political injustices? The question is not that of God’s promise, but of human responsibility. God’s earth may still be full of resources which can potentially feed all the people, but knowledge and power in the hands of corrupt and misguided people and self-absorbed indulgence of those who can afford to do that have brought upon us the epidemic global hunger problem. Over 30 countries witnessed some form of food protest and riots just a couple of years ago.

            It would perhaps take a “realistic” perspective, the kind elaborated by Shaheed Mutahhari (in “Man and his Destiny”, for e.g.) and Shaheed Baqir Sadr (in “Trends of History in Quran”, for e.g.), to reconcile God’s promise of sustenance and the clearly visible global hunger problem. This is another distinction, and an issue of perspective, that I find missing in your piece (the word “distribution” that you use without any elaboration wasn’t very helpful).

            Without such a distinction, just citing God’s promise of sustenance to endorse population growth [the dynamics of which have changed significantly with lower mortality rates and modern medicine, but that’s another debate] and the “Green Revolution” sounds a little bit similar to those statements which deny the effects of global warming by presenting as their supporting evidence that ‘God promised in the Bible not to destroy the world again after Noah’s flood’.

            (end!)

          • In His name the Merciful Lord

            Salaam dear Ali,

            Thanks for spirited comments and feedback!

            [quote name=”Ali A.”]
            ..As I suggested earlier, not all scientific developments can be considered “progress”. But, you seem to assume a linear teleology in which, i) science always advances in the benefit of humankind

            [/quote]
            I did not mean that whatever science does is always good. I was talking in more general sense about human cumulative evolution taking place because of accumulated knowledge and experience of all human beings. I did not mean EACH and EVERY step taken is good, that’s the reason I said it’s zigzag meaning sometimes we deviate to this way and that way but in general over a longer period it’s a progress:
            “Actually man on the whole is marching forward both from material and spiritual points of view. But his spiritual movement is not regular along a straight line. It is a movement which involves occasional stoppages, retrogressions and deviations to the right and to the left. Nevertheless it is on the whole an evolutionary and forward movement.”- Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari ,, Man and Universe.

          • [quote name=”Ali A.”]
            If I may also quickly suggest, God may have promised sustenance to all humanity, but has He also promised to sustain our extravagant consumption patterns, environmental exploitations, scientific disasters, economic and political injustices? The question is not that of God’s promise, but of human responsibility[/quote]
            I agree with this point but I think humanity as a whole is undergoing evolution and the same evolution I see in scientific and technological advancements. Evolution is always positive in longer run.

          • [quote name=”Ali A.”]
            What surprises me though is that you seem familiar with the consequences of the “Green Revolution” on Indian agriculture (and elsewhere), yet continue to see it as part of the scientific “progress”, and as part of “Allah’s promise of providing food”.
            [/quote]

            There’s numerous data and research available proving that Green Revolution solved the problem of food shortages, as regards the bad effects on environment like as you mentioned the case of Punjab in India where fertility of soil was affected and land degradation happened due to intensive methods of agriculture. There’s a universal law of Economics that the initial thrust in the form of capital and labor gives increasing returns , while successive investments result in decreased proportionate output rate(Principles of Economics by Alfred Marshall ). The Green Revolution is a issue of further research and improvements : “International Wheat Breeding and Future Wheat Productivity in Developing Countries”-Paul W. Heisey
            http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/Whea/pdf/internationalwheat.pdf

            For causes of suicide epidemic in Indian farmers please see studies like:
            http://www.yashada.org/organisation/FarmersSuicideExcerpts.pdf

            Suicide also have religious factor as global data on suicide show the lowest suicide rates in Islamic countries:
            http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-statistics.html

            A global perspective in the epidemiology of suicide http://www.iasp.info/pdf/papers/Bertolote.pdf
            :
            “A comparision of suicide rates according to the prevalent religious denomination brings to light a most remarkable difference between countries of Islam and countries of any other prevailing religion”

          • The link for “International Wheat Breeding and Future
            Wheat Productivity in Developing Countries” is broken above. The correct one is http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/Wheat/pdf/internationalwheat.pdf

  5. assalamu `alaykum
    My concern with the use of pesticides and fertilizers is that they do have tremendous environmental impacts. I have other concerns about the modern so-called “Green” Revolution:

    1) Hybridisation. The process of hybridisation which we use today renders null and void the traditional practise of saving seeds to use for the next year’s crop. Forcing farmers to purchase seeds from a large multinational seed corporation essentially makes him a slave to that corporation for life, and subject to that corporations restrictions on its “product” (as if other than Allah were involved in the “manufacture” of life). Even in the case of reproductive hybridised seeds (carrots, for example), next year’s plants will be plain janes, and not the fancy stuff that was originally sold to the farmer.

  6. 2) Westernise agrarian practises. In particular, huge monoculture crops worry me. Planting only one kind of plant – and usually an annual, rather than a perennial, lays waste to the nutritive content of the soil and opens the door wide open to pests and various kinds of plant infections. Foisting a Westernised diet on people whose culture has nothing to do with bleached wheat flour or red #40 could also expose a population to all kinds of allergies.

    I would much rather see indigenous solutions to this problem, such as are being developed in Palestine in the wake of environmental change and the imperialistic theft of water in the region. Even in the US, multiculture gardening has taken root: people are discovering the advantages of raising their grains next to fruit-bearing trees, or companioning their peppers with onions and marigolds. We are also re-discovering the wisdom in the old Atlantic Coast Native American practise of farming a small plot for a few years and then returning that plot to the forest for the trees and the indigenous ruminents to work their own Allah-inspired magic on the soil for a few more years.

    Indigenous solutions for a local problem, rather than tossing lab-created Western grains at people, will have a much more long-term and beneficial impact worldwide.

  7. [quote name=”Asad”]I agree with this point but I think humanity as a whole is undergoing evolution and the same evolution I see in scientific and technological advancements. Evolution is always positive in longer run.[/quote]

    I see more quotes and links in your response-s, but I would also like to see what you thought about the specific concerns I shared earlier and precisely how the links that you mention address some of those concerns.

    With Shaheed Mutahhari’s quote, I hope you do understand that that particular quote constitutes a statement, not an argument. (It may have been part of an argument in the original text where you excerpted it from, but in itself it doesn’t ‘prove’ anything. Earlier, I referred to Shaheed Mutahhari myself, and I am highly indebted to his works for the little that I know, but just a statement from him cannot be a ‘hujjat’ per se.). Further, and critically important, you need to show how this quote supports your specific assertions (on evolution in history, on “green revolution”, on environment-human-costly technology as progress).

    In fact, I see Shaheed Mutahhari’s views closer to what I have suggested so far regarding human choice/responsibility, multiple possibilities of historical development, and the possibility that humanity can lead itself to self-destruction (if it continues to make the wrong choices.). Let me quickly connect these arguments to Shaheed Mutahhari’s views hoping that this might help us understand the issue better. For that I engage with an article of his that is on this very topic: “[b]History and Human Evolution[/b]” http://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/1-human-evol.htm

    (cont…)

    • (cont…)

      In the article, I find it interesting that Shaheed Mutahhari brings up the question of Bada’ (Divine Revision) in history. I see it as his affirmation of human choice/responsibility as well as path-dependent nature of history.

      He also distinguishes “progress” and “evolution” in the same article. The things that you mention as part of “evolution” (like cars, AC, “green revolution”), my guess is that he would probably consider them as just “progress” (linear movement of history), and not “evolution” (ascension or exaltation). Does he see “progress” as always positive, I am not sure.

      Consider the following quote:

      “…there can be no doubt that man has made tremendous progress in making tools, and it may be expected to continue in future too, on condition, however, that it is not, checked by a historic catastrophe, a calamity which is again predicted by some men of learning. They consider it probable that man’s technical and industrial progress will reach a point when man may destroy himself and all his achievements in science and technology, his books, his learning and civilization and all its vestiges.”

      Within this quote, we can see the themes of path-dependency in history, human free-will, and responsibility coming together.

      (cont…)

  8. (cont…)

    One needs to make an analytical distinction between his appraisal of contemporary history and the future of humanity. He shares high optimism about the future, but seems to share some of the negative appraisal of other scholars on the state of humanity. This I think makes sense because he was writing at the time of the Revolution when he was engaged in the project of articulating the Islamic ideology vis-a-vis other modern “isms” (he compares them directly in the second part of this article) and this ideological project was being done against the backdrop of the miserable state that his country was in and the humanity in general. If one look at his discussion closely, his contentions or differences are on i) the philosophical view of humankind; ii) can the contending, modern “isms” save humanity?; iii) can we be optimistic about future (and its psychological and sociological impact)? But it appears that he shares some of the negative appraisal of contemporary human conditions with the scholars of other “isms”.

    (cont…)

    • (cont…)

      Another critical distinction: One should note that at the beginning of the article, he explicitly says that humanity has evolved on the whole, but when speaking on the more recent developments, he appears to be a bit skeptical. Consider for example his evaluation of technological advancements or the development of complex life arrangements or the seemingly endless specialization of knowledge. As I understood, he is willing to accept, somewhat, the views of other scholars that technological advancement can also lead humanity to self-destruction. Complex life arrangement (I would say, for example, urbanization, shift of work from households to factories), and specialization of knowledge all have or can potentially alienate people from each other, just as these developments could conceive new structures of power to dominate humanity. One sees this skeptical or negative appraisal in the area of human relationships too. To quote him:

      “Thus, in the question of human relationships, we cannot say that any progress or evolution has taken place, or, even if it has occurred, it is not proportionate to the progress made in making tools and to the growth in social organization.”

      (cont…)

      • (cont…)

        Yet, Shaheed Mutahhari seems optimistic about humanity’s future. It seems to me that that optimism is partly, albeit in quite significant ways, based on the “Divine Intervention” in the form of Prophets, Imams, and Religion (religious ideology and religiously inspired movements), all of which may lead humanity in the positive direction. The optimism is partly ideological (of not ‘what it is’ right now, but ‘what it should be’ or ‘could be’). That, humanity by subscribing to the right ideology and right movement (that is, Islamic) can change the course of history. Again, this kind of ideological call would make sense in a ‘Realistic’ worldview that emphasizes both human free-will and responsibility toward the good/bad course of history.

        The same realistic perspective could be expanded to critically DISTINGUISH the good, the bad, and the ugly developments in the areas of science, economics, and society (which was my original contention). Within this perspective, then, we do not need to endorse (and embrace) the bad and ugly developments in the name of ‘an overall progress or evolution of history’ or to use that to prove, in one’s interpretation, some God’s promise (without accounting for human responsibility).

        (end!)

  9. In His name the Merciful Lord

    Bro, looks like we are going in a round circle repeating the same again and again, I have exclusively mentioned in my article and subsequent comments that Green Revolution has some issues which can be addressed by further research. Did I say that Green Revolution is end of road for human progress with respect to food grains production? We are on the path of evolution and we found Green Revolution at one point of time on this path. May be in future we will have better means of addressing human hunger problem. We have not reached the dead end.

    [quote name=”Ali A.”]With Shaheed Mutahhari’s quote, I hope you do understand that that particular quote constitutes a statement, not an argument….[/quote]

    I quoted his view about evolution. Shall we regard his view as mere statement? He said that ‘actually man on the whole is marching forward both from material and spiritual points of view.’ He gave a general idea of human evolution and this idea lays broader framework of thought which includes economic and technological developments also. This is clear from the related/ensuing discussion he has done.

  10. [quote name=”Ali A.”]
    Consider the following quote:

    “…there can be no doubt that man has made tremendous progress in making tools, and it may be expected to continue in future too, on condition, however, that it is not, checked by a historic ….[/quote]

    My brother, he is merely quoting the view of some scholars with a possibility. In the same paragraph he writes further : “If no such catastrophe occurs, there is no doubt that the creation of tools may further advance to a stage which may not be imaginable today. This evolution is produced by the evolution of man’s experience and his knowledge, for man has made so much progress in his experimental understanding and knowledge of nature that he has been able to conquer nature and turn it into a docile servant. This was one aspect of human progress. ”

  11. As regards Green Revolution, I have mentioned that there have been many studies proving its utility in solving the issue of hunger, some of the problems like cost of inout etc can be solved thorough market and institutional arragements. Below I quote one more from Bjorn Lomborg’s book “Global Crises, Global Solutions”,( I have hard copy of this book,Cambridge University Press)
    He has presented the paper on “Malnutrition and Hunger” by J R Behrman et al(pg 394) : “There is overwhelming evidence, surveyed in Kerr and Kolavalli (1999), Lipton with Longhurst (1989) and Runge, Senauer, Pardey and Rosegrant (2003) that improved cultivars have been associated with dramatic increases in yields. It is important to note, however, that technological change in agriculture extends well beyond the development and dissemination of hybrid varieties of rice and wheat that became known as the Green Revolution. Byerlee (1996) cited in Kerr and Kolavalli (1999) notes that most farmers have replaced their varieties at least twice since the introduction of high yielding rice and wheat in the late 1960s. These second generation modern varieties contribute yield gains of about 1% annually.
    Whether these increases in yields lead to increases in incomes, particularly among poor households, is less clear-cut. The answer depends on the pattern of adoption over time, the ability to obtain and use complementary inputs such as water and fertilizer, as well as changes in input and output prices. In turn, these are affected by market and institutional arrangements such as access to credit and market structure.”

  12. [quote name=”Ali A.”]

    Yet, Shaheed Mutahhari seems optimistic about humanity’s future. It seems to me that that optimism is partly, albeit in quite significant ways, based on the “Divine Intervention” in the form of Prophets, Imams, and Religion (religious ideology and religiously inspired movements), all of which may lead humanity in the positive direction…….

    [/quote]
    Apart from these external reasons of being optimistic the most important is the Innate Nature of man. There are great discussions on this issue by scholars in the light of holy Quran that man will subsequently return to His Lord-Ultimate Truth. This yearning to Lord is innate and cannot be hindered for long. The humanity will find solace only when it has returned to Him. The future of man is bright and NOT bleak:

    “A bright and happy future for humanity.
    Moses told his people to seek help from Allah and exercise patience. The earth belongs to Him and He has made it the heritage of whichever of His servants He chooses. The Final Victory is for the pious. (Surah al-A’raf 7:128)
    This idea is not an outcome of any wishful thinking, but it emanates from the total working of the system of nature, the evolutionary process of history, man’s confidence in the future and the total rejection by him of pessimism about the destiny of mankind, which is extraordinarily bleak, according to certain theories. “–
    The Awaited Saviour by Ayatullah Baqir al-Sadr and Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari

    Wasalaam,

  13. @Ali A: Brother, I completely agree with you! Green Revolution is a curse, it is satanic, dajjalic system derived from the shaitan capitalist system and countries. Come on guyz, cant you recognize the Dajjalic system when you see it?? Allah SWT made this earth wonderful and plentiful for us, there is no need of genetic engineering. GM food and modern agricultural practices are an insult to Allah SWT! Saying his earth is deficient and needs modification to be more fit for human beings! Lies and Shirk! Organic practices that have been preacticed ever since the Earth was created are enough for mankind! These ”moderrn” practices deliver less yeilds, create diseases like cancer and corrupt the food supply. Did anyone notice that 80% of the worlds food supply is controlled by 5 U.S Multinational companies with major ties to Zionists?

    Islamic insights does good research but fails to make the links! And fails to warn the people of the Dajjalic system we live in today!

  14. assalamu `alaykum,
    I am interested in an all-encompassing series of changes that would directly affect people’s lifestyles. I honestly think that our earth is capable of producing for the population that we have without manipulating the creation of Allah to the point that it cannot reproduce, or that it causes allergic reactions in people who consume the resulting food products. I just think that some of us humans use far more resources than we could ever need to satisfy our basic needs. This isn’t to say that we need to return to the caves and start making fires by rubbing sticks together. My thinking leans more towards leaving aside multi-car households, or homes that encompass thousands of square feet, or private swimming pools, or cooling our homes to 67 degrees (or lower!) in the middle of summer, etc. I am more interested in locally-produced goods which cater to regional markets – this would necessitate the replacement of manufacturing facilities back to America, as well as the establishment of regional manufacturing facilities. And it would necessitate a much higher dependence on sustainable energy production.

    If we as a global human community can convince ourselves to adopt a slightly more simple lifestyle, to consume locally produced goods, and to raise our voices to demand changes, it is possible to start down the road to meaningful changes.

    Check out my post on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=419398434642

  15. Interesting article, but do you not think that natural disasters might be Allahs’ way of managing population explosions? Perhaps a natural system of checks to keep it within the Earths limits of what it can sustain?
    🙂

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