Paradise is where people will rest. Until then, life will hurl one curveball after another, until death separates us from its soil. Having understood this, our predecessors would say,
الدنيا كلها غموم، فما كان منها من سرور فهو ربح
“This world is grief, so on the odd days when you are at ease, consider it a bonus.” 
Never was life intended to be easy, and expectations had always been managed by our Lord when He says,
وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَىْءٍۢ مِّنَ ٱلْخَوْفِ وَٱلْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍۢ مِّنَ ٱلْأَمْوَٰلِ وَٱلْأَنفُسِ وَٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ
“We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops. Give good news to those who patiently endure.” 
Inflation, rises in the cost of living, and shortages of life’s necessary supplies are some of the recurrent features of our world that have always affected communities.
Indeed, our communities of today are by no means the first nor the worst to have ever been struck.
Looking into the past
Examples of famine leading to cannibalism
Speaking about the events of the year 281 AH, Imam Ibn Kathīr wrote,
وغلت الأسعار جدًّا. وجهد الناس حتى أكل بعضهم بعضــاً. فكان الرجل يأكل ابنه وابنته. فإنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون
“Prices rose extortionately, until people’s hunger caused them to eat one another, and until a father would eat his children, so ‘innā lillāhi wa innā ilayhi rājiʿūn‘.” 
And talking about the events of the year 334 AH, he said,
“The rise in prices in Baghdad caused people to eat carrion, cats, and dogs. Some would even steal children and make a meal out of them.” 
Eating a greened dog’s corpse!
Referring to the events of 449 AH, Ibn Kathīr wrote of people who were forced to eat corpses due to the shortage of food. They found a woman consuming the thigh of a dog that had turned green. And when a bird fell dead from a wall, at once, five people leapt on it to eat it. 
Speaking about the events of 462 AH, he wrote about the financial strain of the Arabian Peninsula that caused the Amīr of Mecca to sell the gold from the curtains, the Mīzāb (the golden spout that collects rain water from above the Ka’ba), and the door of the Ka’ba, and made it into dinars and dirhams.
Burying the dead at night to avoid consumption by the famished
In Madina, the lanterns of Masjid al-Nabawi were sold. Likewise, famine in Egypt reached levels where when a minister once dismounted his camel, three men pounced at it, slaughtered it, and consumed it.
As a punishment, they were crucified, but by the next day, their bones were visible where people had gnawed at the corpses.
In fact, people started to bury their deceased during the night instead of the day, fearing that their deceased would be dug up and consumed. 
Despite the above, parts have been purposely omitted from the translation due to their graphic and unbearable nature.
Looking at the present
Highest inflation in four decades
Fast forwarding to the 21st century, the cost of living crisis has, yet again, become the talk of the hour, with UK inflation rates reaching a 41-year high in October and still hovering at around 10.1 per cent. 
The cost of utilities – gas, water, electricity – as well as that of basic food items are sky-high. British economists warned of the biggest drop in living standards since the mid-1950s.
Many have been left with little to fall back on, where…
“…there’s no cutting back. There’s no smart decisions. You just don’t heat your home, and you don’t use your cooker, and you don’t heat water, and you don’t shower. You just don’t do those things because you can’t afford to do those things.” 
Children taken from homes
A study published by The Lancet found that between 2015 and 2020, 10,000 children were removed from their family homes and taken into local authority care due to the financial crisis. 
This is most certainly not a normal circumstance of economic turmoil due to some natural disaster, like the drought that affected the city of Madina at the time of ‘Umar.
Rather, much of it is artificially manufactured and a product of the conscious decisions of men; an unjust interest-based economy, unequal distribution of wealth where the world’s richest one per cent own 45.8 per cent of the world’s wealth , structural inequality that prevents other countries from being able to catch up with the West, manufactured wars, greedy bankers, and so on.
Morality & life events are interconnected, not interdependent
As Muslims, our belief is that morality and the physical events of life are not interdependent, but are very much interconnected.
When sexual promiscuity and moral degeneracy become the feature of a society – Muslim societies or otherwise – Allah will send His reminders.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said,
إذا ظهر الزنا والربا في قرية، فقد أحلوا بأنفسهم عذاب الله
“When zina (fornication, adultery) and riba (usury, interest) appear in a town, then they have brought the punishment of Allah upon themselves.” 
And the Prophet (ﷺ) also said,
يا معشر المهاجرين خصال خمس إذا ابتليتم بهن وأعوذ بالله أن تدركوهن: لم تظهر الفاحشة في قوم قط حتى يعلنوا بها إلا فشا فيهم الطاعون والأوجاع التي لم تكن مضت في أسلافهم الذين مضوا، ولم ينقصوا المكيال والميزان إلا أخذوا بالسنين وشدة المؤنة وجور السلطان عليهم، ولم يمنعوا زكاة أموالهم إلا منعوا القطر من السماء ولولا البهائم لم يمطروا، ولم ينقضوا عهد الله وعهد رسوله إلا سلط الله عليهم عدوهم من غيرهم فأخذوا بعض ما كان في أيديهم، وما لم تحكم أئمتهم بكتاب الله عز وجل ويتحروا فيما أنزل الله إلا جعل الله بأسهم بينهم
“O Muhājirun, there are five things with which you will be tested, and I seek refuge with Allah, lest you live to see them:
- Immorality never appears among a people to such an extent that they commit it openly, but that plagues and diseases never known among the predecessors will spread among them;
- They do not cheat in weights and measures but that they will be stricken with famine, severe calamity, and the oppression of their rulers;
- They do not withhold the Zakat of their wealth, but that rain will be withheld from the sky, and were it not for the animals, no rain would fall on them;
- They do not break their covenant with Allah and His Messenger, but that Allah will enable their enemies to overpower them and take some of what is in their hands;
- Unless their leaders rule according to the Book of Allah and seek all good from that which Allah has revealed, Allah will cause them to fight one another.” 
Fate and the absolution of sin?
Having said all of the above, by no means are Muslims fatalists.
Fatalism is an attitude that believes everything that happens in the community environment is beyond their control, thus producing a submissive attitude towards such events.
Whilst we acknowledge that all matters are from Allah and that everything serves a host of wise purposes, the Muslim does not resign himself to inaction, having freed the blame via a metaphysical excuse.
Our understanding of fate is not one which absolves humans from the blame of sin, failure, or from the need to take action.
Today, each has a role:
1 | Role of businessmen towards clients
Many will argue that usury is the underlying cause of the financial and economic crisis that has gripped the world since the autumn of 2007 until today.
Others will also level blame at the banks which know that they can continue lending recklessly, enjoying the interest they earn during the good times, in the knowledge that governments will cover their losses during bad times.
These words, as true as they are, ring very ironically when uttered by Muslim users of interest. Whilst it is true that your influence on these macro financial matters may be somewhat limited, you are nevertheless the master of your own decisions, and so should you be voluntarily engaging in riba-based business, consider yourself a contributor to the same crime that you decry.
الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَا لَا يَقُومُونَ إِلَّا كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبَا وَأَحَلَّ اللَّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا
“Those who consume interest will not stand on the Day of Resurrection, except like the standing of a person beaten by Satan leading him to insanity! That is because they say ‘trading is like usury’, whereas Allah has permitted trading and forbidden usury…” 
Similarly, landlords are aware that the current shortage in the property market means that they are able to keep raising rent, having now reached the highest rate on record.
A Muslim landlord, however, critically asks himself,
“How are people expected to manage this in light of an economic crisis where most are barely able to make ends meet? Is it not possible for tables to turn at some point in the future, in which case, how would I wish to be treated?”
The Prophet (ﷺ) said,
الرَّاحِمُونَ يَرْحَمُهُمُ الرَّحْمَنُ ، ارْحَمُوا مَنْ فِي الأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ
“The merciful ones will be shown mercy by Allah. Have mercy on those on the land, and you will be shown mercy by The One in the Heavens.” 
In addition, the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
رحم الله رجلاً سمحاً إذا باع، وإذا اشترى، وإذا اقتضى
“God shows mercy to a man who is kind when he sells, when he buys, and when he makes a claim.” 
2 | Role of parents & children towards each other
Financial literacy for children
The duty of the Muslim parent is to nurture righteous, smart, and successful children, equipping them with life skills that will serve them in adulthood. One of these life skills is financial responsibility.
Frank conversations should start early between parents and children, where the financial status of the family is candidly discussed. They should be made aware that the house runs on the income of the parent(s) and that they have no other means besides that. They should understand that all the needs of the house have to be met from that one pot of money.
For the young kids, help them prioritise lifelong healthy habits by dividing their income into three areas: spending, saving, and giving.
For example, you encourage them to spend 50 per cent and save 30 per cent – which teaches delayed gratification, gives a sense of appreciation for what they want, and will also provide a sense of security for future unknowns – and give 20 per cent, as children naturally love helping others and this nurtures within them the belief that they can make a difference to the world.
As for grown-up children who live at home, they should be encouraged to contribute to the household finances, even if they live at home to save money.
They are to realise that serving parents, particularly during their hour of need, is a religious obligation. This is the most rewarding of endeavors and acts as one’s personal future lifeline when similar circumstances unfold.
In a list that starts with the mention of parents, Allah says,
يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا تَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ
“They ask you what they should spend.
‘Whatever good you spend should be for parents, relatives, orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, Allah is All-Knowing of it.’” 
Children should also be told that expenditure on certain matters has to be given priority over others.
For example, when the household expenses of rent, amenities, and shopping are met, other requirements can follow.
Another example is instead of spending half of one’s wages each month on JustEat, learning how to cook and helping out at home is a far more responsible choice.
3 | Role of Muslims towards extended families
Our post-modern neo-liberal society is one that seeks to serve the individual and the individual alone. Social constructs of today have torn and worn away family, tribes, and community.
In doing so, however, it has also torn away a huge safety net for people, particularly during times of crisis.
For this reason, the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
إِنَّ أَعْجَلَ الطَّاعَةِ ثَوَابًا صِلَةُ الرَّحِمِ ، حَتَّى إِنَّ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ لِيَكُونُوا فَجَرَةً ، فَتَنْمُو أَمْوَالُهُمْ ، وَيَكْثُرُ عَدَدُهُمْ إِذَا تَوَاصَلُوا ، وَمَا مِنْ أَهْلِ بَيْتٍ يَتَوَاصَلَونَ فَيَحْتَاجُونَ
“The good deeds that bring the quickest reward are the upholding of family ties. In fact, even in the case of a sinning family, should they uphold their ties, their wealth and numbers will increase. Any family that upholds its ties will not be in need of others.” 
As prices rise and as the value of currencies plummet, Muslims are to remember that the money they spend on their families, today, is at its highest value with Allah. This is an intention that is not to be wasted.
In this light, the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
دينار أنفقته في سبيل الله، ودينار أنفقته في رقبة، ودينار تصدقت به على مسكين، ودينار أنفقته على أهلك، أعظمها أجرًا الذي أنفقته على أهلك
“A dinar you spend in Allah’s way, or to free a slave, or as a charity you give to a needy person, or to support your family, the one yielding the greatest reward is that which you spend on your family.” 
4 | Role of mosques towards the community
The role of the mosques is central; just as you have opened up your facility for Qur’ān memorisation and lectures, also open up your facility for courses and developmental programmes.
Contact your local council, access the pot of funds for apprenticeship schemes, and upskill your community.
Imams and committee members: this is the hour where you will either gain the confidence of your community or lose it.
5 | Role of the Muslim citizen
Without doubt, some are missing meals, some are choosing between heating and food, whilst others are left with nothing but the clothes on their back.
Contact your neighbours or at least a handful of those within your vicinity, and check in on them, offering whatever surplus you may have.
“Whilst we were once on a journey with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), a rider came and began looking right and left (asking for help).
“So, the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
من كان معه فضل ظهر فليَعُدْ به على من لا ظهر له، ومن كان له فضل من زاد فليعد به على من لا زاد له، فذكر من أصناف المال ما ذكر، حتى رأينا أنه لا حق لأحد منا في فضل
‘Whoever has an extra mount should offer it to him who is without it, and whoever has surplus food should give it to him who has nothing.’
“And he continued mentioning other properties until we thought that none of us had any right to surplus of his own property.” 
6 | Role of Awqāf
With the demolition of the Khilāfa, the Muslims lost one of their finest institutions: the Awqāf (public endowments) that independently funded many aspects of Muslim society.
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) is the name of an American umbrella body that represents 146 Jewish federations and over 300 network communities. This collaborative effort raises and distributes more than $3bn annually through planned giving and endowment programmes to support social welfare, local services, and educational needs. The JFNA is, collectively, among the top ten charities on the continent, and protects and enhances the wellbeing of Jews worldwide. 
But regrettably, the practice of Waqf is no more as popular as it was in the past. Although, the rich from our community do donate abundantly during their lifetimes for individual or community causes, in most cases, these causes are short-term, which surrenders one’s charity to a similar fate.
Reviving the collective spirit of Awqāf starts with the Waqf that you will create.
7 | Role of callers to Islam
Whether they are scholars, parents, elder siblings, community leaders, or their likes, they are to spread good news, raise morale, ease the tension of hearts, and to promote certain pressing values amidst their sphere of influence.
Making peace with Allah by saying “astaghfirullah” (I seek Allah’s forgiveness)
A man complained to al-Hasan al-Basri about famine. He advised him,
“Engage in Istighfār.”
Another complained to him about poverty, and so he said to him,
“Engage in Istighfār.”
A third asked him to pray to Allah that he should be granted a child, and so he said to him,
“Engage in Istighfār.”
A fourth complained to him about his arid garden, and so he said to him,
“Engage in Istighfār.”
So, they queried him about his responses, to which he said,
ما قلت من عندي شيئاً ، إن الله تعالى يقول في سورة نوح : (فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا . يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاء عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا . وَيُمْدِدْكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ أَنْهَارًا )
“These are not my words. Allah says in Surat Nūḥ,
‘So I said, ‘Seek your Lord’s forgiveness, He is truly Most Forgiving. He will shower you with abundant rain. And He will supply you with wealth and children, and will give you gardens as well as rivers.’”  
Reliance upon Allah
This crisis has exposed the extent of the modern day man’s anxiety about the future, and – in many cases – his lack of good thought towards Allah.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said,
مَنْ نَزَلَتْ بِهِ فَاقَةٌ فَأَنْزَلَهَا بِالنَّاسِ لَمْ تُسَدَّ فَاقَتُهُ، وَمَنْ نَزَلَتْ بِهِ فَاقَةٌ فَأَنْزَلَهَا بِاللَّهِ فَيُوشِكُ اللَّهُ لَهُ بِرِزْقٍ عَاجِلٍ أَوْ آجِلٍ
“Whoever is afflicted with poverty and relies upon people for relief, his relief will not arrive. But whoever is afflicted with poverty and relies upon Allah, his provisions will be sent to him sooner or later.” 
Whether it’s the Great Depression of 1929–1939, the financial crisis of 2007–2008, our crisis of today, or the many that shall follow, from their ashes appears a golden opportunity for us to convey to the world our economic system and how it can achieve what the world needs, in addition to saving it from the injustices of man.
My belief is that the role of the Muslim economists and financial experts of integrity, today, is arguably no less important than that of Muslim theologians and scholars, provided that they do not bury their heads in the sand and instead play an active role in demonstrating alternative Islamic models.
In the West, Adam Smith is considered to be the ‘Father of Economics’. He is revered both by Western academics and in Western popular culture and government.
In fact, as noted by David Graeber, an anthropologist who has taught at Princeton and the London School of Economics, Adam Smith “…got most of his best ideas and best lines from medieval Islam”, specifically from al-Ghazāli and Ibn Khaldūn, both of whom are neglected in mainstream school textbooks.
It is Muslim economists who can cure the modern day Alzheimer’s disease of mainstream economics by correcting historical narratives and offering solutions for the future. At the time of the next collapse of Western banks, the world will need a new hero; a way of doing business that is free from rampant speculation, free from excessive risk, and is banking back-to-basics – taking deposits from savers and lending to borrowers for a profit.
It is Muslim economists and financial experts who must champion this narrative!
How merciful is Allah when He sends humanity these occasional wake-up calls at a time of worldwide distraction.
Such reminders shake off the grime of worldly obsessions that gather on hearts, and force the gaze back into the direction of the Heavens in a reawakened longing for Allah and a renewed desire for the home of perfection: Jannah.
How true are the words of the Most High, Who says,
كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍۢ
“Every being on Earth is bound to perish.” 
And also says,
وَمَا ٱلْحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنْيَآ إِلَّا مَتَـٰعُ ٱلْغُرُورِ
“…the life of this world is no more than the delusion of enjoyment.” 
In addition to saying,
وَٱلْـَٔاخِرَةُ خَيْرٌۭ وَأَبْقَىٰٓ
“the Hereafter is better and more enduring.” 
And further saying,
وَإِنَّ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةَ هِىَ دَارُ ٱلْقَرَارِ
“…the Hereafter is the home that will remain forever.” 
Useful further reading from The Selfless Muslim series
- Offering a Job
- Lending Money
- Giving in Charity
- Making Sacrifices
- Leaving off Possessions
- Offering a Helping Hand
- Honouring the Neighbour
- Dutifulness to Parents in Old Age
 Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Bahjatul Majālis
 al-Qur’ān, 2:155
 al-Bidāya wa al-Nihāya
 Ahmad, on the authority of Ibn Mas’ūd
 Ibn Mājah, on the authority of ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar
 al-Qur’ān, 2:275
 al-Tirmidhi, on the authority of ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr Ibn al-‘Ās
 al-Bukhāri, on the authority of Jābir
 al-Qur’ān, 2:215
 Ibn Hibbān, on the authority of Abu Bakr
 Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah
 Muslim, on the authority of Jābir
 al-Qur’ān, 71:10-12
 Tafsīr al-Qurtubi
 al-Tirmidhi, on the authority of Anas
 al-Qur’ān, 55:26
 al-Qur’ān, 3:185
 al-Qur’ān, 87:17
 al-Qur’ān, 40:39