The Great London Fire (1666)

London is an old historical city, perhaps as old as Jesus (AS). Unlike many other old cities, it has been destroyed many times; such as World War II bombing, Bubonic Plague disease and the great London Fire. In fact last two happened in two consecutive years.

Burning City

The Great Fire of London took place almost 350 years ago in 1666. It changed the city landscape completely. Before that the City, as London is known, was small area of around 10 Sq Miles. The fire mainly destroyed the poor congested quarters which had narrow streets filled with filth, and connected houses; the living conditions were real bad.  Fire brought some good; the city was rebuilt with wider streets and better houses built with stone.

 

The Great Fire Begins While People were Asleep:

This fire began at night on the 2nd of September in a Bakery at Pudding Lane. It was owned by Thomas Farynor, the personal baker for King Charles II. His servant didn’t put off the fire in oven properly. As a result fire broke out in the house. The servant alerted everyone sleeping upstairs. This servant and the baker’s family escaped through a window in the roof.

The Great Fire Marched On…Destroying all in its Path

The Great Fire quickly spread as it fed on the timber and lot of wind on that dark morning, causing the sparks and hot ash to leap from roof to roof. 

London; The City Made of Wood

Most of the houses and shops in the city were made of wood. They were also packed tightly against each other in narrow streets. This arrangement was economical, but it meant there was almost no way to keep a fire from spreading rapidly.

Fire Fighting Efforts Fail

London citizens tried to form fire fighting brigades but were able to do little with their buckets of water against such a fierce enemy. In less than 10 hours, this gigantic fire had moved onto the famous London Bridge and would have destroyed the other side if not for a gap in the crossing that had been created by a fire 33 years earlier.

The fire stopped after 5 days when there was nothing more to burn. Wind direction also helped.

Death Toll was Almost None but 80% Buildings Burnt Completely

Amazingly only very few people died. The population of London was around 400,000 at the time. There were a total of 16 (only .004%) deaths in 13,000 completely burnt houses. This amounted to almost 80% destruction of the city. The Queen’s House survived the Great Fire only because it was surrounded by the stone tower walls.
 
The Disaster Makes London a Better and Safer City

There were some benefits however, streets were widened, buildings were made to be stronger and more fireproof. When London was rebuilt, it was done with bricks, mortar, and stones instead of wood so that this kind of fire would not happen again.

The City Now

Rats were killed; so was the Plague

The fire took place only a year after the worse Bubonic Plague (Taa’oon) spread that killed around 100,000 people. It is a disease spread by rats. And London had ample opportunities for rats to flourish. People used to through rubbish and human waste in streets creating perfect breeding place for rats. 1665 saw the peak of this disease. Most rich people had left the city including the King. Since the fire took place in poor areas where most rats and affected people lived; the rats and their breeding places were destroyed; hence eliminating the disease.

Remembering the Fire:

The Monument to the Great Fire of London was erected and remains in place today so that no one will ever forget what happened. This London landmark is said to be placed so precisely that if it should ever be tipped over it will point to the exact spot where this great blaze began.

 

The Fire Monument London

Lesson

We must remember that Fires are dangerous, and even a tiny one can create a disaster in just a few minutes. This is a good time to remind you to make sure that you and your families know what to do in case of a fire.

–      Always have a fire escape route planned

–      Children and fire are not good friends; keep them apart.

–      Have a way to account for everyone.

–      Make sure that everyone in your family knows how to get out of the house.

–      Leave the burning place immediately, nothing is more important than the safety of you and your family.   

Nanjing – Old Capital of China

Part 5. Read Previous Part Here

Nanjing Skyline

Girl Guide:

We were flying towards Nanjing on a fully crowded intercity train. Crowds were mainly workers and students going back home for the weekend from Shanghai. Young Chinese have a craze for English language and foreigners. Since we were talking in English, a girl joined the conversation. She was a student in a college. Our manager seized the opportunity and introduced us to her, and requested if she could be our guide to Nanjing the next day. She agreed and so we got a local girl guide for our tour!

Strange Trees in Nanjing

Chinese Youth Loves Foreign Culture:

Chinese youth adore foreigners, especially English speaking, and foreign culture such as dress, pop music and fast food. This is a cultural win of West over China. If you want to subdue a nation, make it look down upon its own culture. West has succeeded in it. Look at us Muslims especially Pakistanis youth, we dislike our language, dislike our food, and dislike our dress. Am I wrong?

Love-Hate with South Koreans:

For fashion trends Chinese look up to South Koreans. In fact Chinese have a love-hate relation with them. South Koreans look down upon Chinese as their poor uncivilised cousins. In return Chinese consider South Koreans the arrogant yet stylish. This is probably true for India-Pakistan also, and you know who is the poor cousin here!

Climbing up the Nanjing City Wall

My First Chinese Home:

It was almost midnight by the time we reached our manager’s home. It was an apartment in a high rise building. I was excited to be in a Chinese home though tired, hungry and exhausted. We removed our shoes as we entered; it is customary to remove outdoor shoes at the door and walk bare footed or use soft slippers inside the house. Soon after our arrival the host insisted that we must take shower. But Romeo & I declined, saying we are tired and we promise to do so next morning. But more we were declining more he was insisting. Eventually we mutually agreed to wash our faces & feet. I then realised that it is also customary to wash oneself when one reaches home! After this ritual, we had our dinner and headed to beds. After a nice Chinese breakfast next morning, I & Romeo left to meet our Chinese guide who had promised to show us the interesting parts of Nanjing.

Nanjing by Night - River Qin Huai & Confucius Temple

Dynasties of China:

China had many Dynasties; a Dynasty is an era of a family’s kingdom-ship (as we had a period of Abbassi Khilafat or Mughal rule for example). First recorded dynasty Xia (Zia) came about 2100 BC (yes before Christ i.e. about 4000 years from now). Ming Dynasty, the 2nd last before China becoming Republic, ruled from 1368 to 1644 established its capital in Nanjing. Ming’s founder father Zhu ordered the construction of a City wall all around Nanjing. Building City Walls was a common defense mechanism deployed in China. Nanjing’s one was the largest ever city walls built in China. Nanjing City Nanjing is the old capital of China. It lies in south of China on the banks of River Yangtze (the most famous & 3rd largest river in the world). Nanjing the capital of Jiangsu Province is one of the most delightful destinations in China. Known as the capital city of six (or ten) dynasties, it is full of cultural heritage. Present Nanjing is a modern, prosperous and one of the rich cities in China.

Layers of Nanjig Wall

Nanjing City Wall:

We started our tour from the City Wall. It is in great shape even though it is 450 years old. The wall is layered in architecture to resist invaders at multiple points. There is a museum inside the wall building. It was dominated by the objects & photos from Ming era.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum: Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum is situated at the foot of the second peak of Mount Zijin (Purple Mountain) in Nanjing. Bus dropped us at the bottom of the hill. There are nice parks and shops here. After buying tickets, we climbed the long stairs. View at the top was breath taking.

Dr Sun's Mausoleum

Linggu Temple / Pagoda: This Buddhist temple is situated in a scenic spot. There were many monks here, reciting their scriptures. People were burning candles in the yard and hanging written slips on tress; probably a Buddhist ritual. Shensong House, the famous vegetarian restaurant in the temple, lies next to the main building. The vegetarian diet in the temple is renowned for over 600 years. I wished to dine here but it was closed unfortunately. Surrounded Shensong House, is a thick forest and blooming flowers. There is Linggu pagoda in the middle of jungle. It was indeed very scenic spot.

Linggu Budhist Tample

Modern City: We were tired by now; it was decided to head to the modern part of the Nanjing. This part was filled with shopping halls, high-rise buildings, traffic and young crowd. We walked around the River Quinhuai. The Confucius tomb is also situated on its banks. The view with colourful lighting was stunning. There are very old and famous restaurants here. We chose McDonalds; don’t remember why but wasn’t a good choice, or was it?

Linggua Temple

Sad Memories of Nanjing’s History:

Apart from its Glorious past, Nanjing has seen real dark days in Chinese history. On a battleship in Nanjing, a corrupt Qing dynasty government, under threat by Britain troops, signed the notorious ‘Nanjing Treaty’, the first of the ‘Unequal Treaties’ which gave away Hong Kong to Britain for more than hundred years.

Nanjing Massacre:

In 1937, the notorious Nanjing Massacre took place in the hands of Japanese army after they conquered the city. Within six weeks of entering Nanjing, they killed 300,000 Chinese people including women and children. There is an exhibition of the massacre photos taken by Japanese photographers. You won’t be able to sleep for days if you see these photos. Allah takes care of the oppressors; it was only few years that USA, another oppressor, dropped two Atom Bombs on Japan, strangely killing similar number of people as in Nanjing. Bomb in Hiroshima burnt around 80,000 people instantly, this is the biggest ever killing of humans by humans in one split second. Japan changed its aggressive war policies after that and completely abolished its army. I wish USA does the same, soon.

We headed back to Shanghai after dinner.

Read Next Part Later..

Currency is not Commodity – Just a Paper

 

Dr Mohatir Muhammad

“Currency is not a Commodity” says Dr Mohatir Muhammad, ex prime minister of Malaysia. Really? Is it true? Well this is what West has been telling & selling to the Rest, particularly East! “You are poor Europe, you have nothing to sell. You have lost your money. Accept it so you could start recovering” a bitter message from the person who recovered Malaysia from a bad recession in 1990s.

This is true; this is why the “Rich” countries are under biggest ever debts! USA at $12.8 Trillion (up to $120 Tr if you count bonds, expenses, write-offs, etc), Japan at approx $2.54 Trillion and UK at $1.66 Trillion – the highest ever. And most of the Europe is nearly Bank Corrupt, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Spain Portugal, Iceland; the list goes on…..

What went wrong with these Richest Nations? It is no secret that the fundamental economic model imposed upon them and on the rest of the world as matter of fact is flawed. This paper based economic system originating from Capitalist ideology is designed to make Richer the Richest and Poorer the poorest. And it is doing it quite efficiently. The big Multinational corporations owned by rich few are growing at phenomenal speed. A UN report sadly states:

  • Richest 1% own 40% of World’s wealth
  • Poor 50% owns 1% of world’s wealth, and
  • 10% adults own 85% of the whole World’s Resources.

No wonder 800 Million people go to bed hungry every night despite abundance of resources. So how this capitalist paper-based economic system does this incredible job of concentrating the wealth into few hands? Here we will focus on two issues which Dr Mohatir’s has addressed:

1-      No Solid Commodity; All Paper Based:

Most of the banking system, stock markets and financial organisations are just a paper work. It has no bearing to the real physical industry they ‘represent’. This is the very reason that the biggest banks & financial institutes in the word (such as Lehman Brother, Northern Rock) just melted away like ice within days only a little while ago leaving the world in a shock. There was nothing whatsoever to back them up. Approximately $4.1 Trillion were lost and about $1.1 Trillion were required to fix the problem (IMF report). And this money belonged to ordinary people who lost the savings of entire life. Yet taxes were increased to further squeeze them in the name of austerity measures.

Dr Mohatir explains; You [Europe] should go back to doing what I call real business – producing goods, providing services, trading – not just moving figures in bank books, which is what you are doing”. How true!

People are Important not Corporates' Profit

Yes, this is a fact that Europe & USA have little to sell; they make only few tangibles (biggest export is weapons sold to poor nations to fight among themselves). Their economy is based on moving figures in banks’ books which favours the few rich people. This system does not aid even their own ordinary people:

15% (~42 million) people live below official poverty line in USA.

30% (~ 4 million) UK Children live in poverty even though 60% belong to working families.

-Work hard get peanuts; unfortunately most of their income lands in the pockets of share holders as profit and remaining gets chewed up by the huge taxes. For instance, UK Taxes include but not limited to 20% VAT (sales tax), ~£130/house/month council tax, water, gas & electric bills which one has to pay irrespective of the income. Ultimately it impacts the low income families the most.  I have not mentioned the income tax, national insurance tax, and car road tax yet. In nutshell, west is a Rich man’s world.

2-      Pure Paper Currency – Nothing to Back:

Currency Printing Abuse

World currencies were backed by the amount of gold but not anymore since 1971. So western governments (and many eastern) printed endless amount of bank notes. And top of the list here is USA. They are printing this worthless paper money in abundance and exchanging it happily with real commodity, for instance Oil from Middle East. Dollar is then exchanged among the rest of the nations as “global currency”. And as a result USA gains something real in exchange of paper.

So what’s going on? Dr Mohatir explains; “You can sell coffee – coffee can be ground and made into a cup of coffee. But currency, you cannot grind it and make it into anything. It is just figures in the books of the banks and you can trade with figures in the books of banks only.”

Too much printing of a currency leads to inflation (currency devaluation) and hence living becomes expensive. A $100 note in 1980 is worth $38 only currently. In other words, what you buy in $100 now, could be bought in $38 in 1980.

Mohatir goes on to say “And you can’t remedy that [financial crisis] by printing money. Money is not something you just print. It must be backed by something, either good economy or gold.”

Currency is a means of transferring some value from buyer to seller. If it doesn’t carry any value, how can you transfer it? Can you imagine someone using a bank debit card without having any money in the account, or using a prepaid phone card with zero value on it?

The Solution:

“You have lost money and therefore you are poor.  To recover your wealth you have to work over many years to rebuild your capacities, to produce goods and services to sell to the world, to compete with the eastern countries,” Dr Mohatir advises to west.

But this is where he is wrong. Capitalists don’t have a will to improve the lives of ordinary people in Europe, USA or anywhere in the world. Instead of developing industries in the west, they simply moved their factories to countries where there is cheap labour. The people have to do something by themselves; they have to change the corrupt greed-based capitalist system. The solution lies in the Islamic Economic System which eliminates the root cause of this greed by introducing laws, which ensure that ordinary people earn & live decently. Look at few example:

 

1-      Islam recommends a currency based on or linked to Gold (or similar precious metal). Hence one can only trade with something of real value. Inflation goes out of the window. Is it viable today? Actually this is only way save your money. The proof is that everyone is running to buy Gold and its price is sky-rocketing.

2-      Islam prohibits selling something that is not real (tangible) and is not possessed (taken control of). This cuts out the brokers (the middle man). Hence the producer earns decent money as well buyer getting better price.

3-      Islam does not have this concept of “Limited Liability”. If you make a loss, you are responsible, not the innocent tax payers (as was the case in banking crisis).

4-      Islam taxes (flat rate 2.5% – Zaka’at) on savings, not on earnings. So ordinary person can enjoy his earnings. This is right opposite to capitalism which taxes earnings.

NOTE: Zakaa’at is not really a tax. It is more of an obligation upon rich to support poor. And it can only be distributed to 8 specific types of people like poors, needy, travellers, huge debtors, to pay ransom for slaves and to zakat collectors as salary, etc.

5-      Wealth in a society is like blood in a body; circulation of wealth in a society is vital to keep it healthy and flourishing. Hence Islam encourages rich people to invest in business. For instance, the surplus wealth will incur 2.5% tax (Zaka’at). But invested money incurs nothing. This creates employment opportunities.

6-      Unused agricultural land is taken away after 3 years and given to others to cultivate on. A simple law that discourages huge land ownership; bye bye to big landlords. Welcome to new small owners and farmers.

7-      Interest is not allowed. This discourages people from hoarding wealth. Instead business is encouraged.

 Above points is just a subset of the complete Islamic Economic system. If implemented in entirety, it ensures that wealth circulated among people bringing prosperity in the society. Better still if the whole Islamic system, especially the Political system is implemented, the world will enjoy an unimaginable prosperity. Actually the world has witnessed this in golden era of Islam, and it will return soon insha Allah!