The Muslim world today lags far behind the industrial nations of the world. Whilst the West went through industrialisation 150 years ago the Muslim world has remained largely de-industrialised and in many cases is reliant on the developed world.
For a neutral observer, it is shocking that the Muslim world, which has an abundance of diverse minerals and resources, is so poor and has failed to industrialise. For example, Iraq singularly possesses 10% of the world’s oil reserves. A more unfamiliar fact is that Kuwait also sits on 10% of the world’s oil reserves. By studying the reality of all the nations, which comprise the Muslim world, that is North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia, it is very clear to see a catalogue of errors and examples of widespread economic mismanagement.
Turkey has been unable to reach its potential due to mostly questionable and politically motivated policies imposed by the IMF and World Bank. Pakistan at the behest of the World Bank concentrates on the export of textiles ensuring the manufacturing base never develops.
The Arab countries have never developed manufacturing industries, even in the oil sector due mainly on the part of the desire by Western oil companies who want to control the refining of crude and through it their hold on oil production and oil-producing countries.
The Muslim world implements a whole host of contradictory policies which ensure their economies are unable to provide for the needs of the people. The result is that people have to devote all their time and effort in working to sustain themselves rather than to contribute to the necessary work needed for the nation to become a major world power.
Hence in order to industrialise, the Muslims need to be convinced of why this is necessary and why they should sacrifice for such a vision.
The failure of the Muslim world highlights the level of mismanagement of present today resources. The real cause of the current economic woes boils down to some very basic factors: a non-ideological viewpoint from the rulers and consequently a lack of political vision for these lands. These two factors mean that despite the abundance of resources these countries will remain subservient both economically and politically to the West since they do not have a consistent basis to build their economy on. This makes the economy disjointed and thus fails to move in a unified direction.
Contrast this with Islamic economic history which is steeped in industrial development. The dominance of the desert and scant water resources in the Middle East led to many agricultural developments.
Muslim engineers perfected the use of watermills and invented horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills. This led to the emergence of a variety of industrial mills including gristmills, hullers, paper mills, sawmills, ship mills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, tide mills and windmills.
By the 11th century, every province throughout the Islamic world had these industrial mills in operation, from al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.
Muslim engineers perfected water turbines and made an earth-shattering breakthrough in the 12th century. Al-Jazari through his works managed to invent the crankshaft, and created rotary motion through the use of rods and cylinders. He was the first to incorporate it into a machine. The British Empire used this understanding and utilised steam and then coal to drive pistons and then eventually to generate rotary motion to move machines. This eventually led to the development of automobiles due primarily to the development of the combustion engine; the burning of fuel in an engine, acting on pistons to create propulsion, eventually moving an automobile.
Such advances made it possible for many industrial tasks that were previously driven by manual labour in the ancient Islamic world to be mechanised and be driven by machines instead.
This shows Islam is not at odds with science as presented by some. Historically Islam was the catalyst that drove Muslim interest in science.
The Khilafah’s policy to industrialise should centre on the following.
• Building a Defence Orientated Economy
Most economies are characterised by an emphasis towards a particular sector of the economy – usually using this sector as a stimulus for the remaining part of the economy. The Khilafah should put a heavy emphasis on the defence industry as the stimulus and power behind the economy.
The propagation of Islam is achieved through projecting an image of strength globally so that those who have designs on the Ummah should consider the existence of its deterrent force so powerful as to render success in an attack too doubtful to be worthwhile. Also, Allah (swt) mentions in the Qur’an,
وَأَعِدُّوا لَهُم مَّا اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن قُوَّةٍ وَمِن رِّبَاطِ الْخَيْلِ تُرْهِبُونَ بِهِ عَدُوَّ اللَّهِ وَعَدُوَّكُمْ وَآخَرِينَ مِن دُونِهِمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَهُمُ اللَّهُ يَعْلَمُهُمْ ۚ وَمَا تُنفِقُوا مِن شَيْءٍ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ يُوَفَّ إِلَيْكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تُظْلَمُونَ
“And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.” [Al-Anfal:60].
All of this makes it essential for the Khilafah to field an advanced military and have a strong manufacturing base which not only acts as a deterrent but generates economic activity domestically leading to the creation and flow of wealth within the state. Building an economy around defence involves the development of heavy industry such as steel and iron, coal etc. as well as arms manufacturing and so forth.
• Political Vision
The fundamental reason the Muslim world today remains de-industrialised is due to the lack of a political vision. The Muslim rulers have resigned themselves to becoming markets for Western multinationals. The concepts of free trade and free markets have always been a ploy by the developed world to stall industrialisation in other countries and turning them into a factory for Western consumption.
When the political will has been present, development has occurred in the Muslim world: Egypt developed a nuclear program in the 1950’s however it gave up its programme after the 1967 defeat to Israel; Pakistan pursued and developed a successful nuclear programme.
For a newly emergent Khilafah, a key policy would be to unite its people upon its political vision. Once this is achieved people will inevitably work to achieve the aims of the plan, this will then be presented to the remaining Muslim lands and once they can perceive its direction they will move to enact it. One of the biggest problems in the Muslim lands is the lack of any policies, which will raise the standard of their nation. The Khilafah will need to find its most skilled people and get them to enact this vision, which will give confidence to the masses.
This requires developing the military capability to defend itself and repel any invaders and potential attackers. This thinking will inevitably lead to the development of technology that does not exist in the Muslim world, in order to bring the military on a par with the modern global standard. To do this one must industrialise. To industrialise you need to have the technical expertise and raw materials, which is where a strategy needs to be developed.
• Mineral Processing
The Khilafah will need to take control of its own minerals and the industries that extract process and refine them, so as to eliminate reliance on foreign nations. This would be a key objective for the industry as raw materials are essential for many industries to function.
Pakistan, for instance, has considerable natural resources, including oil, gas, gold, chromite, iron ore, coal, bauxite, copper, antimony, sulphur, limestone, marble, sand, rock salt and clays for ceramics to mention but a few. If the Khilafah were established there and it were to grow, by integrating other Muslim lands, it will acquire similar and additional resources. It makes sense to develop internal industries that are capable of extracting and processing these resources so as not to be reliant on foreign expertise.
The Khilafah will need to identify machinery and equipment that is required and source this from friendly countries. Pakistan currently has light and heavy manufacturing infrastructure. For instance, machinery for sugar and cement plants, boilers, road rollers, harvesting machinery, ginning machinery etc. The Heavy Mechanical Complex Ltd has the facilities to produce light, medium and heavy iron and steel castings. These industries amongst others can be utilised to develop the supply industry for necessary machinery and equipment required for the raw materials industry, as well as others.
• The Khilafah Should Fund Industrialisation in Three Ways
1) Direct investments – this makes sense where achieving profits would be difficult if left to industry, such as ship building, space research or operating railway systems. Therefore, the Khilafah should operate these or subsidise their operation.
2) Work in collaboration with industry – this would be on projects where there is a potential commercial value to the project or government involvement is required to make the project work such as oil exploration.
3) Incentivise industry to take on projects – this is by giving contracts to industry to manufacture tanks, weapons, ships etc. or by providing loads/grants/subsidies to industries that process raw materials for instance, or provide free land for construction projects such as weapons manufacturers.
In order to pursue a policy of industrialisation, it is crucial that any nation must be able to feed itself. It is crucial that the state is not dependent on foreign powers for its agricultural policy since any development policy would be meaningless without the ability of a nation to provide basic foodstuffs to its people. The Khilafah will also need to develop an independent agricultural policy, which makes use of the arable land, which the Muslim world is blessed with.
Turkey established both an industrial base as well as a sound agrarian policy through state intervention in the post World War period, although since the late 1980s IMF reforms have stunted this development severely. Consequently, Turkey is currently a net exporter of foodstuffs, cattle and livestock.
Although this article is a general outline, its policies need to be adapted to the realities of the lands the Khilafah would have under its authority. The Muslim lands are full of resources and expertise and people who would work for the aims of Islam. The current rulers for as long as they remain will ensure their nations never industrialise to reach their true potential and have resigned themselves to remaining as agents for the world’s powers.
The Islamic Ummah’s drive for industrialisation and technological advancement must be built upon the Islamic Aqeedah as the driving force and motivation. Guided at all times by the belief in Allah (swt) and his noble Messenger (saw).
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ
“O you who believe! Answer (the call of) Allah and His Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life; and know that Allah intervenes between man and his heart, and that to Him you shall be gathered” [Al-Anfal:24].