Islamic View on the Local Exchange Trading System

Date: Sun, 10 Nov 1996

by the Islamic Party of Britain

L.E.T.S. help ourselves

There is a statement in the Qur'an which informs us that "Allah does not improve the condition of a people until they try to improve conditions for themselves". Or as the English say: "God helps those who help themselves."

For those who still doubt that it is up to individuals to try and help themselves, in order to establish - through practical means - an Islamic State, then Khidr's example to Musa (A.S.), in Surah 18, The Cave, serves as a good example. His practical disabling of the boat to prevent its expropriation by a marauding king, the slaying of a tyranical youth, and the rebuilding of a wall to preserve the inheritance of orphans, were all practical acts, done by a practical person in order to protect the faith of ordinary people. The loss of livelihood, leading to poverty, can, and does, sometimes lead to disbelief. In our attempts to engineer a practical return to trading without usury, in line with Islam's prohibition of interest (Riba), members of the Islamic Party of Britain, have faced the toughest opposition from 'Muslim' economists and 'Islamic' bankers, in areas of the Muslim world desperately in need of a halal monetary system, through which, it was hoped, that the Sharia could be seen to be working in the interests of ordinary people.

At the moment, we see the sanctioning of Islamic punishments devoid of Islamic Justice. The laws, concerning theft, for example, must first be applied to those in the society who cause the conditions in which people find the need to steal, or seek other illicit escapes from the inexorable, unbearable pressures of debt. Because, as Ali, the cousin of Allah's messenger, pointed out: "We withstood the weight of the Iron, the Stone and the Lash, but we could not endure the weight of debt."

Understanding the destructive nature of poverty he also stated: "If poverty were a man I would kill him". If, therefore, Islamic Justice was the basis of the punishments meted out in those countries - which outwardly profess to be guided by the Glorious Shariah - there would be few, dextrous, let alone, ambidextrous bankers around.

With the exception of the British Channel Islands, there is no country "Islamic" or otherwise, in which Monetary Reform is not desperately required. Although some local currencies have been introduced in places such as Stroud in Gloucestershire and Chorum in Turkey - independent of Central governments and the Basel Convention, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of this article going to press, we know of no genuine "Islamic" bank operating anywhere in the world - and that includes the Central banks of Saudi Arabia and the Sudan.

Would that we were wrong. But, until Muslim Economists conform to the instructions of the Qur'an, and or, begin to recognize what many Non-Muslim Economists have come to understand - that interest-based banking and secular economics have a natural propensity to self-destruct - then there is little hope of breaking out of the stranglehold in which we currently find ourselves. Further more, despite the fact that war is an inevitable concomitant of interest and comes as a curse from Allah to all who give or receive it, there is little to show our willingness to modify this behaviour. But, unless we do, as Professor John Hotson predicts: "we can all look forward to - theBosniafication of the planet". The list of noteworthy figures, who have sought to publicize the destructive propensities and inherent failures of interest based, fractional-reserve banking, along with other fraudulent aspects of Western economics, includes, William Cobbett, Abraham Lincoln, Silvio Gessel, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor Frederick Soddy, Stephen Leacock, etc., the full list is very long indeed.

Leacock, a professional Humorist and an Economist, summed up the situation admirably, when he stated: "Our studies consist only in the long-drawn proof of the futility of the search after knowledge effected by exposing the errors of the past. Philosophy is the science which proves that we know nothing of the soul; Medicine is the science which tells us that we know nothing of the body; Political Economy is that which teaches us that we know nothing of the laws of wealth; and Theology is the critical history of those errors from which we deduce our ignorance of God. When I sit and warm my hands, as best I may, at the little heap of embers that is now Political Economy, I cannot but contrast its dying glow with the vainglorious and triumphant science it once was." So, where, you may ask, do we go from here?

It is often said that: "We get the government we deserve". That, if we are good our leaders are good, and if we are bad, they are likewise. If, such be the case, we must begin by educating ourselves and correcting our own bad or unwise practices first. The big Jihad, as ever, still lies within ourselves. The second step is to avoid re-inventing the wheel. There are many, good, non-Islamic books and leaflets on the subject of interest and its consequences. And many groups in the world, already create money for themselves when they involve themselves in interest-free, L.E.T.S (Local Exchange Trading Systems). These demonstrate clearly that money can be a useful servant - the role specified for it by Allah.

In the second Surah of the Qur'an, entitled Al-Baqarah, Verse 282, significantly the longest in the entire scripture, He spells out the warning to all those who claim to be believers. "0 you who believe! When you deal with ech other, in transactions involving Future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: Let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah has taught him. So let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, But let him fear Allah his Lord and not diminsh anything of what he owes ...and get two witnesses... The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on for evidence. Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contractual obligations) for a future period, whether it be small or large: it is more just in the sight of Allah, more suitable as evidence and more convenient to prevent doubts amongst yourselves..."

The compatibility of Local Exchange Trading Systems and Verse 282 of Surah Al-Baqarah is quite remarkable. For example, Allah informs us earlier, in verses 275-279 of the same chapter that, He permits trade but condemns outright - usury/interest/riba - in any shape or form. "Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom Satan by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: "Trade is like usury", But Allah has permitted trade And forbidden usury...Allah will deprive Usury of ALL blessing... 0 you who believe! Fear Allah, and give up what remains of your demand for usury if you are indeed believers. If you do not (desist), Take notice of War from Allah and His Messenger ."
In the absence of any initiative from a first, second, or third world government to act in the best interests of its population, ordinary people began to recognize that while they had wealth to exchange they had insufficient money with which to carry out the transaction. This spawned a number of schemes. Foremost of which is L.E.T.S, which was established in the United Kingdom and became famous through its Stroud Pound. One of the prime movers was the Muslim convert Sandra Bruce, who, together with Maggie Mills, set up the Stroud Directory which now boasts several hundred participants, and offers a wide range of goods and services which can be barter-traded or exchanged for promissory notes/cheques specifying amounts in monetary terms - which, in effect, Commits the issuers of the cheques to redeem the face value of those cheques by providing either goods or services to anyone else involved in the LETS scheme. The original act of writing the sum agreed upon between the buyer and the seller amounts to having created a deposit of time/money. Money which is directly linked to a specific commodity or service which must be provided or delivered upon demand either now or some time in the future.

LETS helps to rebuild self respect and a sense of community. Without preparing practical solutions for the everyday problems of everyday people, all talk of an Islamic State and caliphate are idle and futile.