As I Live and Learn (by Asif Zaidi)

  • “Experience has taught me to put a premium on those people who can appreciate you for what you are.”

While, currently back home in Canada for vacations, talking to a friend today I realized that I am about a couple of years away from my fiftieth birthday. The realization comes without warning and I am suddenly confronted with the feeling of time inexorably passing me by.

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In talking to my friends of various backgrounds I often get the impression that Islam is a widely misunderstood religion even when looked at in dissociation with present day’s political context. In fact, the fundamentalism manifested by many of the Muslim groups has meant that Islam is quite often poorly received.

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The concept of “usury” termed as ‘Riba” by the Quran has a long historical life, throughout most of which it has been understood to refer to the practice of charging financial interest above the legal or socially acceptable levels. Accepting this broad definition for the moment, the practice of usury can be traced back approximately four thousand years during which period it has been repeatedly damned, proscribed, scorned, and restricted, mainly on moral, ethical, religious and legal grounds. Among its most visible and vocal critics have been the religious institutions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

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RELIGION: Its evolutionary dynamics (by Asif Zaidi)

The conventional wisdom is that religion is the realm of the irrational (in a good or a bad sense, depending on one's point of view), and as such, it can't be studied in the way that other aspects of human behavior are studied. While all of social science is based on the idea that human behavior is essentially explainable, it makes no sense to exclude a major and apparently constant behavior like religion-building from what should be studied scientifically. The sources of religious experience may well be mysterious, irrational, and highly personal, but religion itself is not. It is a social rather than a psychological phenomenon, and, in the absence of active repression, it unfolds according to observable rules of group behavior.

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