Debt Poverty


They say that money cannot buy happiness, and they are right, but it can buy food, water, shelter and clothing. Yet despite the ever- increasing wealth in the world many are left without even these rudimentary basics. In fact, half of the world’s population – that is nearly 3 billion people – lives without such basics, and they struggle to survive on less than two dollars per day. Many of them live in developing countries that are forced to bear the colossal burden of interest-bearing loans that drain resources from the poor to the rich. Despite this inequitable economic framework, the responsibility for world poverty is certainly not one- sided. When money, whether as loans or aid, reaches the countries concerned the overt corruption that exists in much of the developing world further exac- erbates the problem and accelerates its economic decline. Such countries are thus caught in a seemingly endless downward spiral of debt and corruption from which it is nigh on impossible to escape. In this issue of The Review of Religions one article examines the problem of debt in the developing world and its devastating effect on national economies. It looks at the stark choices that have to be made simply for economies to stay afloat and argues that for any progress to have a chance, 1007 debt relief is an absolute minimum. Such a move would not grant them riches overnight but simply stop the poor from slipping further and further into an economic black hole. It also highlights the fact that in Islam helping the poor is a duty and not a favour. In terms of resources it would not take much to solve these problems but it would require a huge act of soul-searching for those in power. Are the rich willing to part with their wealth for the sake of a better world? 2 The Review of Religions – May 2005 By Fareed Ahmad EDITORIAL This is a question that must be addressed by the industrialised world as well as the leading elite of the poor countries, whose vast personal wealth is the con- sequence of what in essence is an act of robbery. Justice, it could be a rgued, would demand that their millions should be the first to be spent for the progress of the country before additional relief is p r o v i d e d . The wider world too needs to get its priorities right. Global peace must be based on global concerns which bring us together and not national interest that drives us apart. In 1998 it was estimated that to satisfy all the world’s sanitation and food requirements would cost only $13 billion1 – no mean sum, but if you contrast this against the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been spent on recent conflicts, then it does not take a genius to work out that for now at least the world certainly has a greater appetite for fighting wars than for fighting poverty. REFERENCE 1. (Ignacio Ramonet, The Politics of H u n g e r, Le Monde Diplomatique, November 1998) 3 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – May 2005 In this journal, for the ease of non-Muslim readers, ‘(sa)’ or ‘sa’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ for the respect a Muslim reader utters. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). Finally, ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta ’ a l a means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him.