About Us
Back Issues
Forthcoming Issues
Print Edition
Contact Us
IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 8    Issue 10 & 11   01-31 October 2013

The Muslim World’s Abundant and Rich Resources: Potential, Prospects and Impediments

Professor A. R. MOMIN


The world has abundant and extremely rich natural resources, including petroleum and natural gas, mineral resources, forests, farmland and pastures. The use and demand for these resources, especially for petroleum, petroleum products and gas, are growing around the world at an accelerated pace. According to the US Energy Information Administration estimates for 2011, 87.421 million barrels of oil are consumed each day around the world. The US, China, Japan, India, Russia and the European Union are among the heaviest consumers of oil. Petrol and petroleum products are increasingly used for a wide variety of purposes, including as fuel for automobiles and aeroplanes, for making synthetic rubber tyres, in pharmaceuticals, dyes and detergents and cosmetics, and in making plastic and nylon and computer accessories.

Natural gas, like petroleum, is used for several purposes, including cooking, heating and cooling, and in gas-powered ovens. It is used for generation and as fuel in automobiles, especially in public transport systems. Natural gas is also used as a chemical feedstock in the manufacture of plastic and in fertilizers.

The earth’s supplies of oil, natural gas, coal, metals and minerals are being rapidly depleted, thanks to the ever-increasing global demand. The world is hurtling towards what some commentators call a’ crisis of resource depletion’. The demand for oil is steadily rising. Britain’s BP, one of the world’s largest oil companies, reckons that the demand for oil will grow from 89 million b/d now to 104 million b/d by 2030.

The continent of Africa has rich and abundant natural resources, including gold, silver, industrial diamonds, oil, cotton, cocoa, copper, aluminium ore and rare earth elements. Zaire and Zambia possess 50% of the world’s cobalt reserves while 98% of the world’s chrome reserves are in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Nearly 90% of reserves in the platinum group are in South Africa. Rare earth metals comprise 17 chemical elements, including cerium, scandium, neodymium and erbium. Rare earth elements, which are in short supply, play an important role in green technology and are used in aerospace components, superconductors, hybrid car engines, fibre optics, iPads, solar panels, turbines for windmills, energy-efficient bulbs, camera lenses and x-ray machines and scanners. Some countries, particularly China, are stockpiling rare earth elements.

There is a fierce competition among Chinese, Russian, European, American, Japanese, Brazilian and Indian companies for access to the world’s resources. There is a scramble for the Amazon basis for its precious natural resources, especially rubber. Chinese companies have literally swarmed Africa and are constructing roads, rail lines, ports, pipelines and schools in exchange for access to the continent’s resources. About 13% of Africa’s oil exports are shipped to China. Africa now represents about 10% of China’s total outward foreign direct investment. It is the continent’s largest trading partner, surpassing the United States and the European Union.

Rich industrialized countries have now set their eyes on the Arctic, which is seen as the most promising future source of oil and natural gas.

Nearly 28 countries around the world experienced alarming food shortages in the wake of the sharp food price rises in 2008. The grim prospects of food scarcity have prompted wealthy countries, multinational companies and investors to buy or lease huge tracts of farmland in Africa. The land grab is spearheaded by international agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders and sovereign wealth funds. In about 20 African countries, approximately 50 million hectares of farmland have been bought or leased by foreign investors and rich countries, including China, the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi. A Saudi investment company, backed by wealthy Saudi investors, has invested $1 billion in buying land in Mali, Sudan, Senegal and Uganda for the purpose of growing 7 million tonnes of rice for the Saudi market over the next seven years. China has signed a contract with the Democratic Republic of Congo to grow 2.8 million hectares of palm oil for biofuel.


In this article, we focus on three distinctive kinds of resources in the context of the Muslim world: (i) natural resources, including oil and gas, mineral resources, forests, farmlands and grasslands, and water (ii) human and demographic resources (iii) cultural resources, including archaeological and cultural heritage, the institution of Awqaf, education and capacity building, and spiritual and moral resources.

2.1. Natural Resources

2.1.2. Oil and Gas

According to current estimates, more than 80 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves – estimated at 1,199.71 billion barrels -- are located in OPEC member countries. OPEC has 12 members countries, of which 9 are Muslim. The bulk of OPEC’s oil reserves – 66% -- are in the Middle East.

The following table provides information about oil reserves in the Muslim world.

Of the top ten oil-producing countries, five are Muslim: Saudi Arabia (which has 18% share of the world oil output), Iran (4.77%), Iraq (3.75%), UAE (3.32%), Kuwait (2.96%). Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and is the largest producer and exporter of oil. Nineteen Arab countries hold some 46% of the world’s total proven oil reserves and a quarter of its natural gas reserves. Saudi Arabia has oil reserves of 266 billion barrels. Kazakhstan’s oil deposits have 2.7 billion tones of petroleum.

Some Muslim countries, such as Iraq, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, have vast untapped oil reserves. Iraq has some of the world’s largest untapped and under-exploited oil reserves, including nine “super giants” around Basra, each with 5 billion barrels of exploitable crude. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Iraq has about 115 billion barrels of oil, the fourth largest oil reserve in the world. Much of it remains to be exploited. It is estimated that 3.5 billion tones of oil and 2.5 trillion cubic metres of natural gas could be found on Kazakhstan’s Caspian shore. Oil fields in northern Afghanistan are estimated to hold up to 18 billion barrels of oil. There are plenty of oil reserves in the Western Sahara, which are yet to be exploited. There are huge, untapped shale gas reserves under 60% of Jordan’s surface.

The world’s ten largest natural gas reserves are in Iran, Qatar, Russia, Turkmenistan, USA, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, Nigeria, Algeria and Australia. Iran has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, and Qatar the second largest reserves, producing 77 million tonnes of gas per year. Saudi Arabia has the world’s fifth largest gas reserves. In addition, Iraq, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Oman, Yemen, Brunei Darussalam, Syria, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Sudan and Bahrain have substantial gas reserves. Kazakhstan has the 11th largest reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Kazakhstan’s oil deposits have 2.7 billion tones of petroleum. Turkmenistan has 4.5% of the world’s natural gas and nearly 500 million barrels of oil.

The following table provides information about the proven natural gas reserves of Muslim countries along with their global ranking.

During the past ten years, Chinese, Russian, European and American companies have vied with each other to secure Central Asia’s natural resources. China is making heavy investments in oil fields and mineral projects in the Central Asian states. Over the past few years, the volume of trade between China and the five ‘Stans’ has increased by over 40% a year, reaching around $20 billion in 2010. It is estimated that Chinese gas imports will double between 2010 and 2020, most of which will come from Central Asia. A gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to China was opened in 2009. In 2011, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India signed an intergovernmental agreement for the construction of a 1,735-kilometre gas pipeline at the cost of $8 billion. By 2014, when work on the pipeline will be completed, Turkmenistan will export 33 billion cubic metres of gas to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Another key investment ground of China is in Central Asia, especially in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, which have immense natural resources such as natural gas and oil. China is reconstructing Silk Road trade routes to control energy resources and to expand its regional influence. China has built an extensive network of gas pipelines with Kazakhstan. It signed a contract with Afghanistan in 2011 for the exploration of oil in three oil fields in the northern provinces, which are estimated to hold around 87 million barrels of oil.

2.1.3. Mineral Resources

Around 26 Muslim countries have substantial gold reserves. The world’s largest goldmines are located in Uzbekistan and Indonesia. Kazakhstan is among the world’s top 10 countries for reserves of gold. The following table provides an estimate of gold reserves in Muslim countries.

Though much of the landscape in Central Asia is dominated by sprawling arid deserts and barren mountainous terrain, the region has vast natural resources. Kazakhstan has 3% of the world’s oil reserves, 4% of coal and 15% of its uranium. It has the world’s largest reserves of zinc, lead and chromite. Kazakhstan is among the world’s top ten suppliers of copper, iron ore, gold and manganese. Uzbekistan has about 0.8% of the world’s natural gas reserves and sizeable gold, copper, lead and uranium reserves. Geologists believe that the quantum of commodity wealth in the Central Asian states is much bigger than estimated.

Bauxite, which is the main source of aluminium, is found in Guines, Iran and Kazakhstan. Guinea, in West Africa, has the world’s largest reserves of Bauxite. Kazakhstan has vast mineral and fossil fuel resources, including petroleum, natural gas, uranium, chromium, lead, zinc and copper. It has the world’s second largest reserves of uranium, chromium, lead and zinc, the third largest reserves of manganese, the fifth largest reserves of copper and is among the top 10 countries for reserves of coal, iron and gold. Iran holds about 7 per cent of the world’s mineral resources, including zinc, copper, uranium, iron and lead. It has the world’s largest reserves of zinc, second largest reserves of copper, ninth of iron mines, 10th of uranium mines and 11th of lead mines. Malaysia has the world’s second largest reserves of tin, while Indonesia has the fourth largest reserves.

Surveys carried out by the US Geological Survey and the Pentagon in Afghanistan over the past few years indicate that the country has vast, untapped deposits of precious minerals, including gold, copper, iron ore, cobalt, oil and natural gas, as well as rare earth elements such as lithium and niobium. These reserves are estimated to be worth a whopping $1 trillion. In 2008, a Chinese mining consortium bought a 30-year lease on Mes Aynak in northern Afghanistan for $3 billion. They estimated that the valley contained potentially $100 billion worth of copper, possibly the largest such deposit in the world. It is estimated that the project would provide $300 million a year by 2016 and about $40 billion in total royalties to the Afghan government.

Kyrgyzstan has significant deposits of metals and minerals, including coal, gold, uranium, antimony and rare earth metals. Since 1997 about 270 tonnes of gold have been extracted from mines in the Tian Shan mountains, near the Chinese border. The Kumtor gold mine accounts for nearly 12 per cent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP and half of its exports.

2.1.4. Forests, Farmland and Grasslands

Many Muslim countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, have rich, abundant forest resources. Nearly 70 per cent of Malaysia’s total area is under forest cover. West African Muslim countries, including Guinea, Nigeria and Mauritania, have rich forest resources.

Palm oil is the world’s most consumed cooking oil and is widely used as a cooking medium in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Barazil. It is used in processed food, cosmetics, pastry, soaps and detergents. Palm oil is also used to produce biodiesel. Palm oil is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, producing 20.9 million tonnes each year. Malaysia is the second largest producer, with an annual production of 18.79 million tones. Malaysia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil and has 45% market share of global palm oil trade. It exports 18 million tonnes of palm oil to China, India, Pakistan, USA and the European Union. Nigeria is the third largest producer of palm oil.

Over the past few years, Malaysia’s Sime Darby Berhad and Singapore’s Golden Agri-Resources Ltd, the two leading palm oil producers in the world, have acquired more than 500,000 hectares of land in Liberia for palm plantations. Indonesia and Malaysia are among the world’s three largest producers of rubber. About 46% of the world’s total rubber is produced in Malaysia.

Many Muslim countries have abundant, sprawling pastures. Sudan, Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria and Mauritania have plenty of grasslands. In North Africa’s grasslands, Marino sheep are bred on Alfa grass. Marino sheep are universally recognized for their superior quality of wool. The Turkish breed of Angora sheep are also in great demand for its fine wool.

2.2. Human Resources and Demographic Dividend

A key factor in the maintenance of population levels over generations is what demographers call replacement levels or replacement rates. The replacement rate is the number of children a woman in a given society needs to have to maintain current population levels. In developed countries, the necessary replacement level is 2.1 children per woman, while in the less development countries it is 2.3. If the replacement level in a given country is less than 2, it faces the prospect of population decline in the course of a few decades. Currently the total fertility rate for the world is 2.59. Current estimates suggest that the world’s total fertility rate will fall below replacement levels by 2050. More than 70 countries around the world, which have a fertility rate of less than 2, will experience population decline over the next few decades. China, with its one-child policy, has a fertility rate of 1.75, much below the replacement level.

The world Muslim population is steadily increasing and is expected to increase by about 35% over the next two decades. The fertility rate in the majority of Muslim countries is above the replacement level. An important aspect of the demographic scenario in the Muslim world is what is known as the demographic dividend. Demographic dividend refers to the correlation between accelerated economic growth and the rising share of working-age people to the population. Demographic dividend plays an important role in a nation’s development. In many emerging Asian economies, the demographic dividend has added nearly 2% to their annual growth of per capita income. A substantial segment of the population in Muslim countries consists of young people. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, more than 40% of Muslim population is younger than 15 years. The median age among Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa is 17, in the Middle East and North Africa 23, and in the Asia-Pacific region 24. In the Arab region, young people between 15 and 29 years of age make up about one-third of the region’s population and represent its fastest-growing segment. Nearly 30% of Turkey’s population of 76 million are under 18 years of age. It has a median age of 28.1 years (compared with 44.3 in Germany, 43.7 in Italy, 44.6 in Japan and 39.7 in France). In Pakistan, nearly 60% of the population is below the age of 30.

In 1990, the share of Muslims in the world’s youth of 15 to 29 years of age was 20%. This increased to 26% in 2010, and is expected to rise to 29% by 2030.

It needs to be emphasised that demographic dividend is a potential asset and resource and that it can bear fruit only in a conducive climate involving an expansion of education and professional skills and the availability of employment opportunities.

2.3. Cultural Resources

The Muslim world’s cultural resources include archaeological and architectural heritage, charitable endowments (awqaf), cultural capital and metacapital.

2.3.1. Archaeological Heritage

A nation’s archaeological and cultural heritage includes archaeological remains, architectural monuments, traditional settlement patterns, culture, including cuisine and music, archives, museums and libraries. The conservation of a nation’s archeological and architectural heritage testifies to its historical and cultural sensibility and breadth of vision. It is also in consonance with UNESCO’s dedicated efforts for the preservation of the world’s heritage sites. The conservation of natural, archaeological, architectural and cultural heritage has assumed added importance and salience in the context of what has come to be known as heritage or cultural tourism. Heritage tourism is becoming increasingly popular around the world and has emerged as an important source of revenue. Brittany, a province of France which has a centuries-old rich and vibrant cultural heritage, receives more than 10 million tourists every year, who are fascinated by Celtic music, regional cuisine and local festivals.

The Muslim world has an enormously rich archaeological, architectural and cultural heritage. The archaeological and architectural monuments of Egypt, Cairo’s famed Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, Istanbul’s legendary Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, Kuala Lumpur’s historic Central Market, the distinctive architecture of residential and public buildings in Sanaa and Marrakesh and the traditional bazaars of Damascus attract millions of tourists from around the world. Turkey is the 6th most popular tourist destination worldwide and the fourth in Europe. In 2012 it attracted 35.7 million tourists and provided $23.4 billion as tourism revenues. Malaysia is the 10th most popular tourist destination worldwide and tourism is the third largest source of national revenue. In 2012 Malaysia attracted 25 million tourists from around the world. One of the popular tourist attractions in Malaysia is the jungle safari to the Taman Negara forest, the oldest tropical rainforest on earth. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Uganda are among the top 10 tourist destinations in Africa. Indonesia is among the top 10 tourist destinations in the Asia-Pacific region. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon and Palestine are among the top 10 tourist destinations in the Middle East. Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan, is emerging as a popular tourist destination.

2.3.2. Awqaf

The institution of waqf – inalienable endowments created for charitable purposes -- had a profound and far-reaching impact on the course of Islamic history and civilization. Large endowments instituted by Muslim rulers, members of the nobility and wealthy merchants supported a wide range of institutions, including mosques, madrasas, public libraries, caravanserais, universities and hospitals. The famed Al-Azhar University in Cairo, founded in 972, was financed by revenues which accrued from waqf properties. In the early decades of the 19th century, waqf land comprised 570,000 acres (over 20%) out of a total of 2.375 million acres in Egypt. In 1841 Algeria had more than 543 waqf properties, whose revenues were assigned for the maintenance of the city’s grand mosque. In Turkey about one-third of the country’s total land area was committed to waqf at the turn of the 20th century.

India is one of those countries where hundreds of thousands of endowments were created during the medieval period, especially in the course of Muslim rule over the Indian subcontinent. According to the Justice Sachar Committee report, there are nearly 5 lakh registered Muslim endowments in the country, which encompass an area of approximately 600,000 acres. West Bengal has the largest share of these endowments, with an estimated 184,000 Waqf properties. According to the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, headed by K. Rahman Khan, former deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the third largest ownership of land, after the Indian Railways and the Defence Department, rests with Waqf endowments.

In the Indian subcontinent, hundreds of thousands of endowments were created over the past seven or eight centuries, especially in the course of Muslim rule. According to the Sachar Committee report, there are nearly 500,000 registered Muslim endowments in the country, which encompass a total area of approximately 600,000 acres. The state of Bengal has the largest share of endowments (with an estimated 184,000 properties), followed by Karnataka (with more than 33,000 properties). These endowments are worth billions of rupees at current market rates. The 1654-acre waqf land adjoining the shrine of Hazrat Husain Shah Wali in Hyderabad is worth Rs. 32,000 crores at the current market value.

Hazrat Husain Shah Wali (d. 1620) was a renowned Sufi saint of Golkonda in Hyderabad, who lived during the reign of the Qutb Shahi dynasty in the 16th century. Like most Sufis, he was deeply concerned about easing people’s hardships, and built a large artificial lake to serve as a source of water for the local population, which came to be known as Husain Sagar. The lake is spread over an area of 5.7 square kilometers on a tributary of the Musi river. The lake has been a perennial source of water for the city over the past four centuries.

2.3.3. Cultural Capital

The French sociologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu used the term cultural capital to refer to cultural assets, such as education, intelligence and skills. A nation’s or a community’s cultural capital may be real or potential. Regrettably, the Muslim world’s real cultural capital is in a shambles, thanks to a variety of factors. However, the Muslim ummah’s potential cultural capital is enormously rich, which can be fruitfully harnessed with thoughtful planning and concerted efforts.

2.3.4. Metacapital

In the context of the assets and resources at the disposal of the Muslim ummah, I would like to refer to capital of a higher, sublime order, what I would call ‘metacapital.’ In the context of the Muslim ummah, metacapital (which is altogether different from its usage in modern economists) refers to the body of Islamic beliefs, convictions and ethical principles, which have been a perennial source of inspiration and guidance for generations of Muslims since the inception of Islam. I believe that this metacapital constitutes the Muslim ummah’s most prized possession and has the potential to lead it to towards the goal of regeneration and revitalization.

3. Global Geopolitics and Muslim World’s Resources

By and large, the role of Western nations in the Muslim world, as also in large parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, has been marked by hegemonic expansionism and interference, reckless exploitation of natural and human resources, deception, intrigue and conspiracy, involvement in engineering coups and “regime change” through fraudulent means and installation of puppet regimes, and collusion with self-seeking and authoritarian rulers. The disastrous legacy of the colonization of Muslim lands, the European conspiracy to dismember the Ottoman Empire, the creation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians and the involvement of American and British intelligence agencies in the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953 provide glaring examples of the calamitous role of Western nations in the Muslim world.

Dr Mohammad Mosaddeq was elected as Iran’s prime minister in 1951 amid political uncertainty and chaos. Shortly after assuming office, Mosaddeq introduced a range of political, economic and social reforms, including social security and agrarian reforms. His most important decision was the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry, which has been under the control of the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) – later renamed British Petroleum or BP -- since 1913. AIOC, which provided cheap oil to Britain and garnered the bulk of the revenues from oil exports, was widely perceived by the Iranian people as a tool of British imperialism. The decision to nationalize Iran’s oil industry was ratified by an overwhelming majority of members of the Iranian parliament.

The British government was immensely incensed by Mosaddeq’s drastic decision because it meant the loss of a most valuable foreign asset and easy source of cheap oil for the country. Britain considered Mosaddeq a serious threat to its strategic and economic interests and therefore launched an all-out offensive against the Mosaddeq government and called for the boycott of Iranian oil.

The American CIA and the British intelligence agency M16 planned and orchestrated a military coup to overthrow the Mosaddeq government. The plot – codenamed “TPAJAX” –was approved by the British prime minister Winston Churchill and the US president Dwight D. Eisenhower. The CIA and the British intelligence agency launched the plot by unleashing massive anti-Mosaddeq propaganda, bribing members of the Iranian parliament and high-ranking army officials, funding public protests and rallies and fomenting riots and mayhem with a view to discredit the government. An amount of $1 million was allocated for the execution of the plot. The CIA planted fabricated stories against Mosaddeq in the media in Iran and the United States. Dreaded Iranian ruffians and mobsters were hired by the CIA to stage pro-Shah protests and to create a situation of unrest and turmoil. The agency also enlisted the support of Reza Shah Pahlavi and urged him to sack Mosaddqeq as prime minister and to nominate the CIA’s and M16’s hand-picked choice, General Fazlollah Zahedi. The king signed the decrees and fled to Rome. Many of Mosaddeq’s supporters were imprisoned and some were executed. More than 800 people were killed in the army crackdown. Mosaddeq’s house was ransacked and destroyed and he was charged with treason and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Following the overthrow of the Mosaddeq government, General Fazlollah Zahedi became prime minister. His government soon signed an agreement with Western oil companies to the effect that the flow of Iranian oil to world markets, especially to Britain and the United States, would soon be restored. In return, the US gave $5 million to the new government. The shah returned from Rome and reinstalled as king with the backing of the US and Britain and began his rule as an absolute autocrat until he was overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

The involvement of the CIA and the British intelligence agency in the coup has long been pubic knowledge and every school child in Iran knows about, but the CIA and the British government have always denied their role. At least two US presidents – Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have acknowledged the complicity of the US in the coup in the recent past. On August 19, 2013, the independent National Security Archive Research Institute at George Washington University, Washington, DC, published declassified documents, obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, which explicitly demonstrate the involvement of the CIA in the coup. The CIA’s confession of its involvement in the coup is revealed in an excerpt from an internal CIA report titled “The Battle for Iran” written by an in-house historian in the mid-1970s, which says: “The military coup that overthrew Mosadeg (sic) in his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.” The CIA documents include a draft internal history of the coup titled “Campaign to install a pro-Western government in Iran,” which defines the objective of the campaign as the fall of the Mosaddeq government and its replacement with “a pro-Western government under the Shah’s leadership with Zahedi as its prime minister”.

It has long been suspected that the overriding consideration in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003 was to secure its vast oil resources. The British government’s confidential documents accessed by human rights campaigners and recently published in the British newspapers The Independent and The Guardian, confirm that Washington’s main objective in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap, easily accessible and abundant source of oil. Britain joined the bandwagon in anticipation of access to Iraq’s oil reserves.

Before the invasion, the Bush administration held secret discussions with the US, British, French and Russian energy companies for the exploitation of Iraq’s oil wealth. The documents show that five months before the invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister in Tony Blair’s government, told the UK’s energy giant British Petroleum that British energy companies should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s backing of the US plan for regime change in Iraq. The UK Foreign Office noted in its November 2002 memo: “Iraq is the big oil prospect.” It invited BP on November 6, 2002 for talks about opportunities “post regime change”.

After the invasion and occupation of Iraq, US, British, French, Norwegian, Russian, Brazilian and Chinese energy companies got heavily involved in the exploitation of the country’s oil resources, many of which have remained untapped. A British-Chinese consortium of energy companies has signed a 20-year contract with Baghdad covering nearly half of Iraq’s oil reserves (60 billion barrels). British Petroleum holds a 39% stake in Iraq’s Rumalia oil field. Over the next five years, BP will triple output to 2.85 million barrels per day, accounting for about 3% of global commercial output.

4. Harnessing and Management of Resources

The Muslim world is faced with two kinds of challenges and impediments in respect of the exploitation and harnessing of resources: exogenous and endogenous. The exogenous challenges include the uncertain prospects for oil in the foreseeable future as a result of new technological innovations, and exploitation and mismanagement of energy resources by Western energy companies. The endogenous challenges include excessive reliance on non-renewable energy resources, heavy dependence on Western technology and Western experts, technicians and energy companies for the exploitation and marketing of energy resources, political unrest, ethnic and sectarian conflict, widespread corruption and mismanagement.

4.1. Exogenous Challenges

In a recent survey of global prospects for oil in the near future, The Economist has argued that two technological innovations are likely to dampen the demand for oil in the years to come. One of these is “fracking,” through which huge supplies of gas are released from shale beds. In the near future, gas could replace oil in ships, power stations, pharmaceutical plants and industrial and domestic heating systems. The other innovation relates to automotive technology. The growing popularity of electric and hybrid cars as well as vehicles powered by natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells, thanks to growing concerns for environmental safeguards, will also have an adverse impact on the demand for oil. On September 10, 2013, OPEC forecast a further drop in its oil market share in 2014 due to rising supply from the US and other countries outside the group.

Fracking is fraught with environment risks. Hydraulic fracking for shale gas has been stopped in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have placed a six-month moratorium on exploration work involving fracking.

Kyrgyzstan has significant deposits of metals and minerals, including coal, gold, uranium, antimony and rare earth metals. Since 1997 about 270 tonnes of gold have been extracted from mines in the Tian Shan mountains, near the Chinese border. The Kumtor gold mine accounts for nearly 12 per cent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP and half of its exports. A Canadian company, Centerra Gold, has been operating the Kumtor mine since 2009. In January 2013, a national commission found that the company’s operations had involved malpractices, including exceedingly low tax rates, corruption and environmental degradation. The company was slapped with a fine of $550 million, and in February 2013 the Kyrgyz parliament voted to cancel the agreement with Centerra Gold. Some Kyrgyz politicians are now calling for the nationalization of gold mines.

4.2. Endogenous Challenges

In many Muslim countries, the exploitation and harnessing of natural resources is surrounded by corruption and mismanagement. In Afghanistan, the contracts for the exploration and exploitation of the country’s rich resources have been given to Western and Chinese companies. Hamid Karzai’s corrupt regime, which is a lackey of the US, cannot be expected to secure a fair deal for the country. In some Muslim countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, Yemen and Nigeria, the exploitation of natural resources has been hampered by mismanagement and rampant corruption. In some Muslim countries, natural resources are fast depleting. Yemen’s economy is heavily dependent on oil, but the country’s oil reserves are expected to be depleted by 2017.

The Arab region is endowed with rich and abundant natural resources. However, the management of natural resources in the Arab world betrays an unfortunate absence of prudence and judiciousness. According to the International Monetary Fund’s estimates, the hydrocarbon industry in the Arab region as a whole generates about $750 billion a year, but nearly a third of it -- $240 billion – is frittered away on energy subsidies for domestic consumers. In Saudi Arabia, for example, petrol costs less than $0.20 a litre, and local petrol consumption gobbles up nearly a quarter of the country’s oil output. In the Gulf region, domestic oil consumption has been growing at an annual rate of 6% since 1980. The IMF reckons that in two out of three Arab countries energy subsidies account for more than 5% of the GDP, whereas food subsidies in the region average only 0.7%.

The Arab Human Development Report 2009 points out that the projection of oil wealth in the Arab countries presents a misleading picture of their economic situation. It notes that the process of oil-led growth in the Arab countries has been highly erratic, lopsided and vulnerable and has created weak structural foundations in Arab economies. A major sign of the vulnerability of economic growth in the Arab world is its high volatility, largely as a result of its linkage with capricious oil markets. The turbulence and volatility of economic growth in the region is reflected in the high growth in the 1970s, economic stagnation through the 1980s and extraordinary growth in the early 2000s. A steep fall in oil prices during the 1980s led to a halving of Saudi Arabia’s GDP. Countries like Kuwait experienced negative economic growth when the GDP declined to around 18 per cent in 1981-1982. World Bank data show real GDP per capita in the Arab countries grew by a mere 6.4 per cent per annum over the entire 24 year period from 1980 to 2004 (by less than 0.5 per cent annually). Most Arab countries have experienced significant deindustrialization over the last four decades. In fact, the Arab countries were less industrialized in 2007 than in 1970, almost four decades ago.

4.2.1. Misappropriation of Awqaf Land in India

Unfortunately, a very large proportion of Waqf properties in India has been misappropriated, usurped and illegally disposed off or is under illegal occupation or encroachment, thanks to a deeply-entrenched nexus and collusion between trustees and custodians, State Waqf Boards, politicians and ministers, officials and the land mafia. The report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee says that nearly 70 per cent of Waqf properties in the country have been encroached upon.

Karnataka has more than 33,000 Waqf properties, spread over more than 54,000 acres of land. A 7000-page report, submitted by Anwar Manipaddy, chairman of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission to the state government in April 2012, reveals the shocking state of Waqf properties in the state. According to the report, nearly 50 per cent of Waqf properties in the state (spread over 27,000 acres), worth a whopping Rs. 2 lakh crores, have been misappropriated or illegally sold by State Waqf Board members and influential politicians. The land adjoining the shrine of a Sufi saint, Hazrat Ataullah Shah, which measures about 3 acres, was sold in 2008 for just one crore. The market value of the premises today is more than 90 crores. The ITC Windsor Hotel in Bangalore, which is spread over a sprawling area of over 165,000 square feet, has been built on Aga Ali Asker Waqf Estate. The current market value of the land is 5,000 crore rupees. The premises were initially given on lease to Windsor Hotel on a paltry rent of Rs. 5, 500 a month, which was later raised to Rs. 600,000. In August 2013 the Karnataka Waqf Board sent a notice to the hotel to vacate the premises. The Board says that, in contravention of the lease agreement signed by the hotel management, the hotel serves pork and alcohol to customers, which is forbidden on waqf land.

Manikonda village in Golkonda, which originally measured 1,898 acres, was endowed to the shrine of Hazrat Husain Shah Wali by the fifth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Afzaud Dawla. It officially became Waqf property in 1935. According to a notification issued by the Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board in 1989, Manikonda village was in possession of the Dargah of Hazrat Husain Shah Wali, along with the adjoining land measuring 5,500 square yards. In the Waqf Board’s first survey carried out in 1989, the vast land surrounding the dargah was not included in the Waqf property. However, the error was rectified in the second survey carried out in 2006 and the surrounding land measuring 1,654 acres was notified as Waqf land.

The Andhra Pradesh government, then headed by Chandrababu Naidu, rejected the claim of the State Waqf Board and converted the property into government land. The government then started giving parts of this land to MNCs, IT companies and private firms ostensibly for the development of the IT industry. The policy was continued by Babu’s successor, Y. S. Rajashekhar Reddy. Some prominent institutions, IT companies and corporate houses such as EMAAR, Microsoft, Wipro, Indian School of Business, Maulana Azad National University and Lanco Hills are located on the Waqf land. Lanco Hills is owned by the Congress MP L. Rajagopal. When these companies, which were the beneficiaries of the government’s largess, started construction work on the site and began using the premises for commercial purposes, the State Waqf Board took the matter to the Waqf Tribunal, which issued orders not to alienate the land or to take up any construction activity on it. This was challenged by the Andhra Pradesh government and the concerned parties in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Their contention was that it was a jagir land and with the coming into effect of the Act on the abolition of jagir, the land reverted to the government.

In a landmark judgement delivered on April 3, 2012, the Andhra Pradesh High Court dismissed the plea of the Andhra Pradesh government and the corporate houses and ruled that 1,654 acres of land adjoining the Dargah of Hazrat Husain Shah Wali was Waqf land. The High Court ordered the government and other petitioners to prove the merit of their claim before the Waqf Tribunal. It is note-worthy that the current market value of the land is about Rs. 32,000 crores.

The initiative taken by the Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board, the ruling of the Waqf Tribunal and the judgement of the Andhra Pradesh High Court have set a commendable precedent in respect of the restitution of Waqf lands which are under illegal occupation. Muslim organizations across the country need to take a leaf from this heartening episode and make an expeditious and concerted move for reclaiming Waqf properties.

4.3. Positive, Hopeful Signs

In some countries, notably Malaysia and Brunei, the prudent and far-sighted management of energy resources has shown positive results. Brunei, a tiny Muslim kingdom in South-east Asia, is among the world’s top 30 richest nations. Crude oil accounts for almost two-thirds of the country’s export revenue. Worried over the state of the economy after its hydrocarbon reserves run out after two decades, Brunei has started working out a long-term plan for the future. Currently, the energy sector accounts for 94% of government revenue, 96% of exports, 74% of investment and 69% of GDP. In the next three decades, Brunei’s oil reserves and natural gas resources will be exhausted. In January 2008 the government unveiled its first long-term national development plan called Wawasan Brunei 2035 (Vision Brunei 2035). It focuses on the need to explore a sustainable path for the non-oil economy. The plan also aims at elevating the kingdom into the ranks of the top 10 nations in the world in terms of GDP per head by 2035. The plan focuses on information technology, incentives to small businesses and investment in petrochemical production and other industries. The government also hopes to develop tourism and is targeting a 50% increase in tourism-related employment. The government also plans to promote industrial investment in non-energy sectors. The Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), in addition to focusing on business development schemes, is also devoting attention to promoting Islamic businesses from halal food production to Islamic finance.

Malaysia, like most developing nations around the world, invited foreign investment. At the same time, it saw to it that foreign companies would transfer technology for the exploitation of the country’s resources and provided training to local workers, which would contribute to the nation’s development effort. Today, the state-owned oil company Petronas (Petroliam Nasional Berhad), established in 1974, has become a global player and is providing training to other developing countries. By managing its own oil company, Malaysia was able to ensure that the value of the resources stayed in the country, rather than being sent overseas as profits. Malaysia has wisely invested in the high-tech sector and is today one of the major producers of electronics, computers and computer chips. In 1960 Malaysia’s per capita income was $784; today it is $10, 304.

The total assets of Petronas, which has business interests in 35 countries around the world, are estimated at $157.37 billion. It earned a profit of $21.9 billion in 2012. It is the 68th largest company in the world, the most profitable company in Asia and the 12th most profitable in the world.

Morocco, which has at present 0.7 million barrels of oil, has begun offshore exploration of oil. Oil companies in Mauritania are engaged in exploiting the Atlantic shelf for extracting oil. There is plenty of oil reserves in the Western Sahara. There are huge, untapped shale gas reserves under 60% of Jordan’s surface.

4.3.2. Investment in Cultural Capital

There has come about a belated but welcome realization across many Muslim countries that one of the main factors responsible for the sorry state of affairs in the Muslim world is the neglect of higher education and scientific research and that there is a pressing need to rectify the situation. In some Muslim countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Iran, Turkey and Nigeria, funding for science has grown significantly in recent years. Qatar is planning to allocate 2.8% of its GDP for scientific research. Between 2005 and 2010 budgetary allocation for research in Turkey was enhanced by over 10% each year.

Most Arab countries have greatly expanded their investment in women’s education. Equality between the sexes in higher education has been achieved in 12 Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia). The number of women registered in higher education in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE is greater than that of men. Some 55% of university students in Saudi Arabia are female.

A multi-billion dollar new university, called King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, opened in a sprawling 36-kilometre campus along the Red Sea coast about 80 kilometres north of Jeddah on September 23, 2009. The university is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories, three-dimensional imaging facilities and the world’s 14th fastest supercomputer, worth nearly $1.5 billion. The university will have mixed-gender classes. The hi-tech university has already enrolled 817 students from 61 countries. Nearly 15 per cent of them are female, who have previously studied at foreign universities. The teaching faculty includes 71 professors and instructors, including 14 from the US, 7 from Germany and 6 from Canada. Classes will be held in English. The university has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Imperial College, London. The world’s largest women’s university, Princess Noura bint Abdur Rahman University, opened in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It can accommodate 40,000 students, and has a 700-bed hospital and a medical college and research centres for information technology, bioscience and nanotechnology.

The enhanced investment in higher education and scientific research in some Muslim countries has begun to bear fruits. Between 2000 and 2009, the output of scientific papers in Turkey rose from 5,000 to 22,000. Iran’s output of scientific papers during the same period went up from 1,300 to nearly 15,000. A study in 2011 by Thomson Reuters, an information firm, showed that the citation of scientific papers from Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in the 1990s was four times less than the global average. By 2009 the gap was reduced by half.

There is at least one exception to the deficit of science and technology in the Arab region. A very important contribution to research on desalination technologies, aimed at combating water shortages, has come from the Arab world.

5. Conclusion

5.1. Technology Commission

Technology occupies a central place in today’s globalizing world. It is the driving force in development and progress. By and large, Muslim countries are far behind the rest of the world in scientific research and technological innovations. The idea of a global Islamic Technology Commission has been conceived in the context of the conspicuous deficit of scientific research and technological innovations in Muslim countries and the great potential of technology in the economic transformation of Muslim countries.

The broad objectives of the commission, which may be established under the auspices of the Organisation of Muslim Cooperation (OIC), are the following:

  • To identify experts and specialists in various fields of technology, especially from amongst Muslims, around the world and to create a pool of experts through networking, and to draw on their expertise in areas like technology transfer, exploration and exploitation of natural resources, including metals, minerals, oil and gas, farming land and water resources
  • To provide expert advice and guidance to Muslim countries in respect of investment opportunities relating to science and technology
  • To offer professional and expert assistance in respect of negotiations with foreign companies for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources
  • To identify avenues for training and recruitment of Muslims in technology-related fields
  • To identify technologies designed to circumvent surveillance of Muslim countries by the US and its strategic allies (like the UK and Israel), such as cryptographic techniques, and to ensure safety of communication, and to make them available to Muslim countries
  • To prepare a blueprint for the creation of Muslim-owed global energy companies and a consortium of energy companies to explore and exploit energy resources in Muslim countries (as well as in other countries)
  • To revitalize and revive indigenous technologies in the Muslim world

5.2. Reclaiming and Reinventing the Legacy of Islamic Civilization

Islamic civilization spawned a magnificent and richly-textured legacy in science and medicine, technology and engineering, art and architecture, and culture. This legacy played a central role in the onward march of human civilization and in the advancement of learning. Muslim scientists and engineers introduced new hydraulic and water management techniques, including the technique of irrigation in the form of acequias in medieval Spain, which made possible the cultivation of crops, fruits and vegetables and the pasturing of animals on parched and dry lands. The Spanish word acequias was derived from the Arabic al saqiya, which means water conduit. The system of acequias was taken by the Spaniards in the course of onward expansion to the American southwest in New Mexico, where it is still in use. It may be pointed out in passing that traditional acequias irrigation systems provide broad ecological benefits to local communities.

The water harvesting and irrigation systems introduced by the Muslim rulers in Valencia and other regions of Islamic Spain filled them with orchards and rice fields. These systems are still followed in Valencia, and several words of Arabic origin relating to irrigation and water harvesting are used even today. A celebration in commemoration of the ‘Millennium of the Waters’ was held in Valencia in 1960. The celebrations marked the public recognition of the establishment of the irrigation system, and especially the Tribunal of Waters (Tribunal de las AquasI), introduced during the reign of Abd al-Rahman III in the 10th century, for the purpose of regulating the irrigation infrastructure in the fields. The Tribunal of Waters continues to be in use for settling local disputes relating to irrigation. It meets every Thursday at noon outside the Valencia cathedral for the purpose. The Tribunal is perhaps Europe’s oldest democratic institution which has been continually functioning for the past one thousand years. It has been recognised by UNESCO as a cultural heritage.

Muslim countries can greatly benefit from a thoughtful reappropriation and reinvention of the scientific and technological legacy of Islamic civilization.

5.3. Harnessing of Farmland and Grasslands

Many Muslim countries have abundant and fertile farmlands and grasslands, which remain to be adequately harnessed. Fertile grasslands can be used for breeding sheep that produce high-quality marino wool, for which there is a growing international market. Similarly, there is an accelerating demand for medicinal plants and herbs around the world, fuelled by extensive experiments carried out by pharmaceutical companies. Muslim countries which have fertile soil and favourable weather conditions can introduce the cultivation of medicinal plants on a large scale. The consumption and demand for olive oil around the world is rapidly growing. It is interesting to note that the state of Rajasthan in India has introduced olive plantations in the arid desert areas, and the results have been encouraging. Similar experiments can be replicated in Muslim countries.

5.3. Harnessing of Cultural Resources

The Muslim world’s architectural and cultural heritage is an immensely valuable resource, which can be an effective medium of showcasing the rich and vibrant legacy of the Muslim world and a source of foreign exchange. It therefore needs to be properly and imaginatively harnessed. The food court at Kuala Lumpur’s Pavilion Mall, where one can savour a wide variety of cuisine from Southeast Asia as well as delicious “street food” from different regions of Malaysia provides a good example of showcasing and marketing of cultural resources.

Name * :
E-mail * :
Add Your Comment :
Home About Us Announcement Forthcoming Features Feed Back Contact Us
Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved.