IF I ASKED you to guess the number one cause of death in the world today, what would you answer? No one—zero!—I’ve so far put this question to has gotten it right? Come on. Close your eyes, and give your best guess.
You may want to keep those eyes closed because that is exactly what almost all of us are doing to the problem anyway—eyes shut tight, gaze diligently averted from the world’s starving poor. The leading killer among humanity in these obscenely affluent times is hunger.
Hunger? Doesn’t Allah’s world yield enough food? The most conservative estimates show that world agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person than it did 30 years ago, after a 70 percent jump in total population. That adds up to more than 2,700 calories per person per day, again, on the cautious side. That’s a full 1,000 calories more than an adequate diet needs, and more than 1,700 calories above subsistence and malnutrition calorie levels.
According to the judgment of the Companion ʿAli ibn Abi >âlib, this hunger discrepancy in the world is sufficient grounds for indicting the food-filled wealthy of any local community or organized society wherein the poor go hungry or homeless. Who among us is exempt from this condemnation?
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By our global measurements, and according to the sick way in which global economics now “work,” humanity’s increasingly wealth-laden mutrafûn, or opulent power elite—though a steadily shrinking crew drifting ever upward and away from the rest of us into a stratosphere of affluence beyond sight or imagination—stand roundly accused of a depraved neglect that has no parallel in history.
Behold the condition of your brothers and sisters—Adam’s other children—in humanity.
- Nearly 870 million of the world’s 7.1 billion people suffer from chronic undernourishment.
- Of the 2.2 billion children in the world, virtually half, 1 billion, live in poverty.
- Some 22,000 children die every day from hunger
- Almost 28 percent of all children in developing countries are stunted or underweight.
- Of the 1.9 billion children that live in countries not considered developed, 640 million (1 in 3) live in inadequate shelter. Around 270 million (1 in 7) have no access to healthcare.
- About 121 million children in the world are going uneducated.
- At least 80 percent of humanity—nearly 5.7 billion people—live on less than $10 a day.
- More than 80 percent of people live in countries where the wealth gap between the few elite and the many ordinary is widening. The S. has the fastest growing wealth gap among “industrialized” nations.
- The poorest 40 percent of people in the world—almost 3 billion people—get 5 percent of the world’s income. The richest 20 percent—about 1.4 billion—take home 75 percent of the world’s payday.
Well, at least they have good water. Oh, sorry. They don’t:
- Half of all people in the world suffer water problems. (We remember you West Virginians!)
- About 400 million children (1 in 5) do not have safe water to drink.
- About 1.1 billion people in poor countries have insufficient access to water.
- About 2.6 billion lack water for basic sanitation.
- Just 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water—and none of those 12 percent live in poor countries of the world.
- About 2 out 3 people who can’t get access to good water live on $2 a day; the other third live on $1 a day.
- Some 1.8 billion people in the world who have access to water, but not in their home or yard, go as far as to two-thirds of a mile to retrieve it, and they use a gulp or two more than 5 gallons a day. The British flush their toilets with 13 gallons a day per person, and use about 40 gallons per person. The average American “consumes” a deluge of 158 gallons a day, the highest rate of water use per person in the world!
- Just 1 percent of what the world spent on weapons since 2000 could have fed, clothed, and schooled every child in the world every day.
Obviously, hungry children and their under-nutritioned parents and grandparents are just not where our hearts are at—and as our hearts go, so goes “our” money. But where are our hearts at? Give shout out to consumption!
- The wealthiest 20 percent in the world spend ogles of cash privately consuming more than 76 percent of whatever they can get their hands on, rub, insert, or swallow. The middle 60 percent consume about 22 percent. The poorest 20 percent in the world consume just 1.5 percent of things.
So just what do the wealthy consume, as opposed to paying for basic food, water, sanitation, and education?
- Americans spend $8 billion a year on cosmetics, while the entire world, including America, pays $6 billion a year for basic education for children.
- Europeans and Americans spend $17 billion on pet food per annum, and the entire world spends $9 billion a year on water and sanitation.
- Japanese spend $35 billion yearly on business entertainment, while the whole world spends $12 billion a year on reproductive health for all the women in the world.
- Europeans and Americans spend more than $205 billion annually on alcoholic beverages, while the entire world spends $13 billion on health and nutrition.
- Military spending in the world annually is at least $780 billion. At the highest estimate, it would cost about $70 billion a year to end world hunger, and some estimates are less than half this.
I could have extended these tragic statistics. I could have written this same indictment of our collective humanity because of the abject moral deterioration and coldblooded bestiality of virtually every basic human institution and activity—the family, politics, education, wealth and resource management, the climate, medicine, war, art and so on.
This speaks to the unquestionable, and categorically destructive, misguidance of man on every meaningful level, and the rapacious acquisitiveness of man’s unbridled nafs, his sentient soul, his avaricious ‘self’ run utterly amok.
And such is the language that Islam has taught you and I to speak as Muslims (willing submitters of our will to the will of God, remember?)—and not just talking to ourselves, but conveying sense and consequence to the world. Yet, we are totally absent from the scene of the syndrome on the curative level; namely, that of diagnosis and prescription by divine guidance, our forté.
But how very present a part of the disorder we are—as both its greatest victims and as abettors to its perpetrators. Only Allah can reset the defining balances of earthly life right again, reversing the degradation of earth and its steward, man.
That means that it is only Muslims—if we unite in upholding the commands of the Quran and strive to inculcate in our personal and communal life our inheritance from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ—who can bend the history of humanity back upon its right and righteous course. No other people, nation, or collective on earth can do this. And if you haven’t noticed, not a single culture’s, community’s, or ideology’s traditions, convictions, rituals, or systems remain viable or even extant in the face of the great, nameless false deity of our time. What I will call pangaeic materialism.
Should we Muslims refuse to even attempt a reclamation of the taw ḥîd imperative—giving victory to Allah and His Messenger so that Allah, the only Giver of Victory shall make us victorious—then, guard yourselves against suffering a chastisement that will not afflict merely those who do wrong among you. And know that Allah is severe in punishment [Sûrat Al-Anfâl, 8:25].
Allah has given us in both the Quran, and in the life of the Prophet ﷺ and the first Muslim generation all the example we need to succeed. We can do it, by Allah’s grace and with His permission. Yet as He told his Prophet ﷺ, we should not be in doubt about facing the likes of what daunted the believing communities before us.
Even so is the changeless Sunnah of Allah. And thereby We made from them exemplary leaders, guiding their people by Our command—when they had endured patiently, and when they had certainty in the truth of Our revealed verses [Sûrat Al-Sajdah, 32:24).
Leadership awaits. And how desperately the Children of Adam crave it.
Originally posted 2015-07-01 12:00:58.