At one time, former financier Ali Horriyat was one of the richest people in Canada with a reported fortune of $100 million. However, he decided to walk away from his jet-set lifestyle to rediscover his spiritual identify and the true meaning of happiness.
Today, he is the author of a series of spiritual guides, the ‘In Love’ series, and the founder of a global charity dedicated to achieving a fairer, kinder, and better world for all—the Hope and Harmony Humanitarian Trust (HHH Trust).
In this exclusive interview, Ali shares the most important, transformative life lessons he has learned along his incredible journey so that, united, we can all start making a difference, not only in our own lives but towards those of others.
Q. What has been the most valuable life lesson you have learned?
A. Perseverance. There are many life experiences that teach us valuable lessons and I believe we require a combination of traits, as well as dedication, to achieve goals. You could say that perseverance is the driving influencer to manifest that which is imagined.
I seemed to be on a healthy track in life. However, I was influenced more by egotistic forces. Only I knew that I was not successful as I rolled past people driving the most expensive car on the street. I was judging a morality scorecard whereas people’s judgment was based primarily on the visual opulence. On any given day I could help a friend in need of a loan only to be the person who would opportunistically take over their family home from the bank.
Morality would eventually overcome depravity to liberate me from the shackles of exploitation. It began by placing myself on a flight out of the city. When I left, I made one promise: I would never act capitalistically again.
Perseverance through five years of dedicative change, a morsel at a time, is what allowed the ambition of a dream turn into reality. I exist today as an utterly changed human, because I persisted through the hard times to redefine my purpose to a spiritual fundamental of making the world a better place in as many ways that I can.
Q. You literally walked away from a wealthy lifestyle because of concerns about where it was leading you. What did this former life reveal to you that made you want to exit it?
A. As I became wealthier, I became more comfortable distancing myself from the troubles of the average and poorer people in my community, city, nation, and the world. As wealth increased, humanity was disappearing. The borders I would formerly not cross to harm the unprivileged were blurry all of a sudden.
Though I did not care for fame, I did enjoy the personal treatment. People dedicate themselves to become friends, lovers, associates, or in any way relatable to a wealthy person so that they, in turn, feel more valuable. It was fake. If I laughed there would be an army of entertainers willing to make me laugh more; If I cried, it would be alone.
The more money I made, the less I knew why I was dedicating so much into making more. I used to imagine being wealthy meant to sleep longer, have more freedom, and reduced stress. I quickly realised that even on breaks I was focused on work. Sleep becomes less and the quality severely reduced. I was experiencing more freedom but I did not feel much freer as I was obliged to attend specific events and places, and maintain a given lifestyle.
I ultimately walked away, then, because I was without direction, I was alone, and money no longer brought happiness.
Q. Though you do not advocate frugal living for its own sake, what has the experience taught you, and could teach others?
A. I realised that much of my behaviour was conditioned to the needs of capitalism’s ideal of profit maximisation—an ideal that is unrealistic because it cannot have an endpoint. Every time we earn a dollar we can earn an extra dollar. This is a never-ending process that only leads to deterioration because at every rate increase of profitability it is either the consumer paying more, the labour receiving less income, or sometimes both.
I had to relearn how to live. Was it necessary to purchase a car? Did I really need different shoes to walk in a grassy park than on concrete? I decided that I would start at nothing and build my way up only through necessity. ‘Minimalism’ is the term associated with people who are consciously aware of purchasing what they need as opposed to what they are told to buy excessively. Capitalists want us to subscribe to the necessary need of economic growth as if the universe depends on the strength of currencies relative to each other. If we change to intelligent and compassionate consumers, we may upset the balance of the markets for a few years but the end result will be beneficial for global development and future consideration of the planet. Every day we trade a little bit of a healthy future away for more gluttonous attainments today. All that the Earth and the universe ask of us is to enjoy our lives within reason and nature shall provide adequately forever
Ali Horriyat walked away from the rat race, and a $100 million fortune, because he realised that money cannot buy the one thing everyone truly wants: happiness.
Q. You say it’s not wealth per se that is the issue but how people use that wealth. What advice can you give on this point? Is it even possible to learn to be selfless?
A. People must move away from the capitalist objective. We must change from a self-centred selfish perspective to a mentality incorporating altruism and compassion.
What is the purpose of generating all this money? In the process of amassing unimaginable profit, we are also endorsing exploitative and destructive practices. Essentially, we contribute to increasing the economic gap between rich and poor, environmental deterioration, and labour and resource exploitation. Then, as we generate billions in profits we choose to return a small portion of this money to support causes repairing the troubles we caused on our journey earning billions! We cannot later donate money thinking that this little remuneration will fix everything. We cannot donate to depleting resources or dead people.
The aim for any development cannot remain profit maximization—it must be shifted to advancements for the purpose of reducing suffering. In compatibility we must seek to coexist and not compete but instead cohabitate and complement. A harmonious economic model will implement measures outside of profit seeking to provide for people in order that all people can benefit from shelter, food, healthcare, and other basic necessities to protect life.
Q. One of the principle triggers for walking away from your former lifestyle was an encounter with a homeless person, where you took him into a restaurant to eat and he was asked to leave. What did you come to learn from this encounter that has stayed with you?
A. I learned that my life was considered to be of higher value than a homeless person’s life because my life was connected to a higher wealth value. In a position of relatively higher wealth, we seem to inherit an unspoken right to dictate and influence other people’s lives. The more I repeat this concept to myself in various iterations, the scarier it becomes.
This kind of desensitization to human plight is dangerous beyond its ignorance and arrogance. We categorize certain people as problems instead of placement into people we must help. How far is this moment from social cleansing? Life is a qualitative consideration and not a quantitative one. All life is equally priceless because there is no price that can be paid to revive that life or identically replace it.
We cannot allow social cleansing to take over. I must help change this even if I was at one time a part of the problem in some capacity.
Q. Rather than enter your family business you dedicate a substantial part of your early life to learning, mostly at university in Canada. What motivated you and what have been the wider benefits?
A. Originally I was to study economics. When I came back to my home country of Dubai I had become greatly influenced by the academic experience and wanted to learn more. I entertained my father by learning a bit about the family business but I wasn’t very interested and decided to enrol in an MBA program at an American university before continuing with further graduate studies. There was so much I wanted to learn which is why I covered a wide array from economics to philosophy, political science, business studies, and other topics.
In addition to my desire to continue studying, I was also interested in life in Toronto, Canada. I experienced certain freedoms and varieties that were not available in Dubai during the 1990s. Multiculturalism is akin to Toronto life. I was also introduced to a political democracy, the concept of voting, the issues of equality, rights, and inclusivity. I was mesmerized.
At the time in Dubai the concept of equality was not a dominant mindset. Rights were non-existent for the most part. I had not been subject to any oppression in Dubai as I had all the best boxes ticked on the checklist. The move to Toronto encouraged reflection on humanitarian issues that would not have occurred staying in Dubai. The most important benefit of this transition is accepting people’s individuality in any aspect. I also learned that freedom comes with responsibilities. I was free to think and act in ways that allowed me to fully express myself insofar as I did not harm another life.
Q. You are a keen advocate for animal and environmental rights. Why should other people come to share these values?
A. Any concern for animals must deal with environmental issues as well. Ecosystems are animal habitats. If we live in a building and the building crumbled to the ground, we would be devastated. After the initial shock and grief, the main attention would focus on relocating the inhabitants of the building. In the midst of the relocation we would deal with immediate needs of clothing, food, medication, and other necessities. If we transfer this example to animals, imagining we have just destroyed a jungle then we can begin to understand the stress we place these animals under. Then we take away all of the privileges of modern human society to care for the displaced community, and we have animals who are no longer at home. The deterioration of their quality of life, hunting them, torturing them, displacing them, and killing them are all part of human contribution. What we have done to the environment and animals is nothing short of universal genocide.
Most people are either unaware of the destruction we cause, careless, or simply participants in the trauma we cause universally. Our universal troubles are interconnected. A deteriorating environment is worse for us than animals and plants. If we pay attention to recent outbreaks such as AIDS, Ebola, SARS, and Covid-19, we can immediately learn one instrumental fact: all of these affected us as a direct result of humans venturing into ecosystems that we should not have. We have a segment of the globe to live on and prosper; animals have another sector. When we barge into their sectors and simply bully them, nature reacts. We need to recognise the absolute interconnectivity of life on this planet.
Ali Horriyat is the author of a series of books, the ‘In Love’ series, that share his transformative love-based philosophy. All proceeds from sales go towards his global charity, the Hope and Harmony Humanitarian Trust.
Q. What is the key piece of wisdom you have gained from traveling the world?
A. Always pack sunscreen! Aside from that, that people are the same globally. We are all of the same species. We can interact, communicate, love, and share equally together. We suffer in the same ways and due to similar afflictions. Our planet is beautiful, geographically diverse, and benevolent. The people of each region are a product of this beauty, diversity, and benevolence. Our histories build us. Our cultures unite us. Our diversity makes us exciting, dynamic, and the main source of ethnic and cultural beautification. In every culture and region we hug and kiss. On every continent of the globe we raise children. We love all around the world and the sentiment is identical throughout each heart. We sing and dance everywhere and celebrate joyous moments. We mourn our losses. We must act in favour and duty of preserving ecosystems, maintaining the sanctity of nature, and upholding animal rights. This allows nature to give back. We are one collective extension of God. We must act according to the guidance and direction of this spiritual divinity to collectively reach pure love energy.
Q. How have the teachings of Jesus and Mohammed influenced your thinking, and what can we all learn from them irrespective of our own religious beliefs?
A. Neither Jesus nor Mohammad were in search of followers but they were guiding people to logical assessment of the lessons they taught. They came into their communities teaching a spiritual path. They began their journey with guidance for social betterment. Jesus was not seeking to planning to rule the Roman Empire. Mohammad was not raising an army.
Today, due to misinformation, misrepresentation, and misguidance, religion has actually become a separating force on the planet where it initially was a force of unification. The source must be faulty because there is nothing that I know of Jesus and Mohammad that promotes the end result we witness today.
I have been profoundly influenced by their guidance to love; something championed by all spiritual people. The core teachings of Jesus and Mohammad are cut from the same cloth and they guide to pure love energy. The essence of their message is compassion. When we discuss love we must recognize that to be able to love and apply the principle of love as the dominant influencer of the mind, we must first know how to act lovingly.
The HHH Trust, a new charity based in London, has some seriously cool volunteering opportunities in store for 2022. Founded by Ali Horriyat, it is dedicated to transforming the world by building social and environmental equality on a global scale.
Q. Why do you think we should all have a spiritual dimension to our lives, and how does someone who has never entertained such thoughts begin?
A. People think that spirituality is somehow connected with religion but our organised religious institutions are, in reality, managing a business. They receive income in order to primarily support the expenses of guiding people to a spiritual order. The industry as a whole is bankrupt because their collective systems, which are near mirror images, are not performing efficiently. Religious conflicts are everywhere and throughout history religious wars have accounted for some of the most brutal massacres in the name of God.
We must, therefore, differentiate between spiritual development and the purpose of organized religion. Spiritual development is any progress along the metaphysical thought-process assigning a higher purpose to life. It is about taking a moment from this fast-paced life to ask, “Where am I going in my life?” The spiritual journey begins with the contemplation to what the ultimate purpose of life is. I asked myself that question. A decade later, five years of which were lived in near isolation, I have concluded that the purpose of life is the spiritual enlightenment attained by reaching the state of pure love.
My advice to anyone who wants to become more spiritually conscious is to educate themselves regarding spiritual thought. They need to be logical without bias and prejudice, free of capitalist ambition and selfish objectives, and willing to dedicate considerable time and effort to continued education throughout life. If a person can accomplish these requirements, they will quickly accelerate through their transformation relating more vividly to the purpose of attaining the state of pure love energy.
For more information about or to donate to The HHH Trust, visit www.hhhtrust.org.
Resolution In Love by Ali Horriyat (H3 Publishing) is out now as an eBook, priced £4.99. All proceeds from sales of the book benefit the HHH Trust.
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