Islam's response to contemporary world problems (34)




Islam also offers advice in areas where the social and economic spheres meet. If these teachings were put into practice, they would transform our sunsets and dawns into twilights of exceptional beauty.


"And those who use their wealth to seek the pleasure of Al'lah and strengthen their souls are like a garden on high ground. It is enough for abundant rain to fall upon it for its fruits to double. And if a heavy downpour does not fall upon it, a light rain is enough for it. And Al'lah sees what ye do." (2: 266)


"It has become beautiful to men the love of desired things: wives and children, treasured heaps of gold and silver, grazing horses, flocks and crops. Those are the provisions for this life; but it is by Al'lah that an excellent abode is found." (3:15) 

Economic justice according to capitalism, socialism and Islam. 

Economic justice is a beautiful slogan. Although it has been attempted to be monopolised by some to the exclusion of others, the slogan is common to both the capitalist society of free market economy and the social scientific doctrine of dialectical materialism: both speak of justice. But, with due apologies, we regret to say that both have failed to do full justice to the golden principle of economic justice; but we shall come to that later. 

The Islamic concept of absolute justice is totally predominant and extensive. It encompasses all aspects of Islamic teaching. But that is not all; Islam goes a step further. 

In scientific socialism, an attempt is made to level the economic soil so perfectly that no unevenness remains. If it is irrigated, this soil will receive its equal share. There is no demand from the have-nots, no threat to the possessors from the less fortunate in society that their "surplus wealth" will be forcibly "stolen" from them. 

In capitalist society, there is more talk of equal opportunities, egalitarian grounds and free economies than of an equitable distribution of wealth. In this way, there is always room for the demand for rights and the creation of pressure groups such as trade unions, etc. that seek to get the maximum from the government or other capitalists on behalf of the employee and the worker, who always live with a feeling of deprivation. 

If scientific socialism were carried out in an ideal way, no section of society would henceforth feel the need to make demands, for such a society would either be rich enough to distribute the national wealth equitably according to its needs, or so poor, failing to satisfy its needs, as to make every member of society share its misery equally. In both cases, it would become a society in which demands would no longer have any significant role to play. 

The capitalist system, on the other hand, is demand-oriented. The less fortunate sections of society must be given the right to express their dissatisfaction and a free opportunity to be heard: hence the need for pressure groups, strikes, industrial strife, lockouts etc. 

Islam tries to create an attitude whereby governments and the rich are constantly reminded to establish a just economic system in their own ultimate interest. They are also constantly exhorted to look after the rights of others. The weak or the poor should not be denied their fundamental economic rights, such as the freedom to choose a profession, equal access to opportunities and to the basic requirements of existence. The lack of this special attitude has already caused much misery, pain and disorder in the history of the human struggle for survival. That is why Islam places greater emphasis on "giving" than on "taking" or "keeping". Governments and the rich must continually see to it that a section of society is not deprived of its fundamental human right to live decently. A genuine Islamic state would have felt this need and taken appropriate measures for its realisation. Before grief turns into cries and protests and before necessity threatens peace and order, the cause of grievance must be removed and the need met. 

Apparently, in this respect, Islam shares its character with the socialist society, but, in fact, the similarity is only superficial. Islam achieves that goal but not through the methods of coercion prescribed by scientific socialism. 

We cannot describe here in detail the way in which Islam tries to achieve this lofty goal, but we can briefly mention that Islam's approach to this question is not an exanthropic or mechanical one, like the philosophy of dialectical materialism. The Islamic socialist system remains deeply rooted in the innate laws of the human psyche. 

Among other things, Islam creates an environment in which the demand for rights for oneself gives way to respect for the rights of others. The level of awareness and sensitivity to the suffering of other human beings is raised to such a degree that members of society as a whole feel more concerned about what they owe society than what society owes them. 

"Give the labourer more than he is owed" was a continuous exhortation of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to his followers. "Pay him his wages before his sweat has dried up". "Do not impose tasks on your employees, tasks that you cannot perform yourselves." "As far as possible, feed your servants with the same food that you feed your family. Provide them with similar clothes". "Do not transgress against the weak in any way, or you will be held accountable before God". "Lest you succumb to false pride, offer your servants a seat, from time to time, at the same table that you occupy, and serve them." (various Hadiths) 

Spending for a good cause even in adversity 

Respect for human dignity is emphasised in the strongest terms in every sphere of life. The following verses of the Holy Quran present the code of ethics regarding the needs of the poor and needy and the manner in which they should be fulfilled. 

God's reward for forgiveness is for:


"Those who spend in prosperity and in adversity and those who restrain their anger and forgive men; for Al'lah loves those who do good." (3: 135) 

Spending for the sake of the poor 

The concept of almsgiving as it is conceived in the world at large is two-fold. On the one hand it extols the qualities of the giver of alms. On the other hand, it creates an embarrassing, if not unfortunate, image of the recipient. The very act of receiving alms degrades his status. Islam revolutionises this concept. 

The following verse from the Holy Quran makes a fascinating analysis of why some people are very poor and others are rich.


"A part of his wealth comprises what should rightfully belong to the one who asks for help, the beggar, and to the one who cannot, the poor" (51:20). 

The point that is usually forgotten is the use of the word HAQ (right) which speaks profoundly to the attitude of the giver as well as the attitude of the receiver. The giver is reminded that what he gives to the poor does not really belong to him. There must be a serious flaw in the economy for some people to be forced to beg for their livelihood. In a healthy economic system, there must be no place for the destitute, for there is no genuine reason to have to beg for survival. The message to those who receive alms reminds them that they need not feel ashamed or suffer from any complexes, for indeed, God has given them the fundamental right to live decently and honestly. Thus, whatever their apparent benefactor offers them is their own right, which, for one reason or another, had been transferred to the donor. 

As already mentioned above, the divine teachings are directly connected with human nature. Any commandment that would upset the balance is countered with corrective measures. 

(lpbD) - God's peace and blessings be upon him. 

(To be continued in the 35th installment, further developing the theme of Socio-Economic Peace based on the teachings of the Holy Quran).