I have just received the news of the death of my dear elder brother, the beloved Ayatullah Haeri Shirazi, who has died in the Iranian city of Qom at the age of 81.
I met him, for the first and only time, when I visited him at his humble residence in Qom earlier this year. I had travelled from my Caribbean island of Trinidad to Teheran to attend a conference on Palestine, and when the conference was over I stayed on in Iran for another week in order to deliver a few lectures and to meet some of my dear friends who are resident in Teheran. But I was also keen to use the opportunity to meet with Ayatullah Haeri since I had heard in a previous visit, and to my great happiness, that he had denounced the paper-money monetary system as exploitative, and hence Haram. The only other Ayatullah I was honored to meet in Iran, who held similar views, was Ayatullah Binazaade Shirazi, who I met in the city of Shiraz during an earlier visit to Iran. Indeed Ayatullah Binazaade did not mince words. He denounced paper-money as the ‘root of all evil’ in Iran!
I climbed, with some pain in my knees, to the top floor of Ayatuallah Haeri Shirazi’s humble home in Qom, where we were invited to sit on the floor on ever-beautiful Iranian carpets. I was received in the room by several of the senior students of the Ayatullah who were keen to witness the meeting and exchange of views between two scholars of Islam who had similar views on the monetary system.
Ayatullah Haeri Shirazi did not keep me waiting for long. Not only did he come and sit fraternally next to me on the floor, but he kept on holding my hands – and would not release them – as he warmly greeted me. The result was that he instantly put me at ease. The simplicity, humility, and absence of any ostentation or superiority complex with which a senior Shia scholar of Islam greeted his slightly younger Sunni brother, was wondrous to behold. It was quite the opposite to being allowed an audience to meet with a scholar who assumes a status of His Imperial Majesty.
The most unforgettable moment in my visit with Ayatullah Haeri Shirazi occurred when he offered me a demonstration in support of his view that the monetary system of paper money was exploitative, and hence Haram. Allah Most High, had thrice prohibited in the Qur’an such conduct, or such transactions, through which peoples’ wealth, or the value of their property, labor etc, was constantly diminished; and this was precisely what occurred when paper was used as money. Here is the verse with the command that is thrice repeated in the Book of Allah:
وَإِلَى مَدْيَنَ أَخَاهُمْ شُعَيْبًا قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـهٍ غَيْرُهُ قَدْ جَاءتْكُم بَيِّنَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ فَأَوْفُواْ الْكَيْلَ وَالْمِيزَانَ وَلاَ تَبْخَسُواْ النَّاسَ أَشْيَاءهُمْ وَلاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِي الأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلاَحِهَا ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
(Quran, al-Araf, 7:85)
The verse informs us that the Prophet Shuaib was sent to the people of Madyan with whom he was related, hence he was described as ‘their brother’. He said: “O my people! Worship Allah alone: you have no deity other than Him. Clear evidence of the truth has now come unto you from your Lord-God. Give, therefore, full measure and weight [in all your dealings], and do not, in the process, deprive people of what is rightfully theirs, while corrupting a market which hitherto was fair market. He went on to advise them that it was for their own good that he had spoken ‘if you would but believe’.
Ayatullah Haeri Shirazi requested one of his students to bring two jugs, one filled with lemonade and the other filled with water. He also asked for a few empty glasses. He began his demonstration by offering me a sip of the tasty lemonade, and then proceeded to fill one glass with lemonade, but to then dilute it with some water. He then poured most of what was in that glass into another empty glass, but then diluted it with more water. By the time he reached the last glass, I already guessed what he would do. He asked me to taste what was in the last glass and, sure enough, it was so diluted with water that I could hardly taste any lemonade.
The learned and insightful Ayatullah perhaps achieved more, in that one simple demonstration of diluting lemonade with plain water, in explaining the fraudulent nature of the monetary system which has already deprived most of mankind of their wealth and the value of their property, labour, etc., than I had achieved in twenty years of lecturing on the subject.
Contemporary scholars of Islam who have denounced the modern monetary system of paper-currencies as exploitative and Haram are already, very few in number; and now, with the death of Ayatullah Haeri Shirazi, they are even less in number.
I pray that Allah Most High might have Mercy on his soul, and forgive him his sins. Ameen!
Imran N. Hosein