ECONOMICS IN THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF ISLAM
(Contributed by Idara Tolu-e-Islam 25-B Gulberg II, Lahore, Pakistan)
1. Economics plays a significant role in the social structure of Islam; so significant that Allah did not leave the economic aspect of life to be determined solely by human intellect and experience, but made it the subject of Revelation.
2. Briefly the essential provisions of the Quran about the economic aspect of human life are:
Firstly, Quran promises peace and plenty for those who follow the Code and for those who turn away from it, Quran portends scarcity (Al-Quran 20:124)
Quran has used in this verse the word "MA’EESHAT" from which comes the word "MA’ASHIYYAT", the recongnised translation of "Economics".
Secondly, the Quranic Code of life does not put off the realization of its fruits until after death, nor does it hide them in spiritual abstractness. Observance of the Code makes earthly life economically rich; its non-observance makes life on this very earth economically miserable. In fact, the economic condition of a people provides a pragmatic test for the soundness of the revealed guidance.
Thirdly, while Quranic Social Order promises a life of peace and plenty the un-Quranic systems are bound to result in economic imbalance, and economic imbalance means Allah’s wrath.
In Chapter 16, Verse 112. of Quran "Allah cites the example of an habitation, where people lived peacefully and securely, receiving sustenance in abundance from everywhere and then they showed ingratitude for Allah’s gifts with the result that Allah made them to taste hunger and fear. Ingratitude for Allah’s gifts signifies that they gave up the Divine system and began living according to a man-made system".
Fourthly, Quran declares that the people whose economic conditions in this life is poor will be worse off in the Hereafter. The concluding portion of the verse already cited (20:124) saying that "whosoever turns away from Our Code of life shall live a life of scarcity", ends by declaring that:
"He will on the day of Qayamat rise blind".
Fifthly, according to Quran, Economics and the Moral Code go hand in hand and they cannot be separated from each other. Chapter 43, Verse 84, says:
"Authority and control are His in Sama and in Arz".
In this context, Sama in the Quran signifies universe and Arz signifies man’s social and economic world. The verse, therefore, stressed the point that the Divine Laws under which the universe functions so smoothly should also apply to the economic life of man, so that he might achieve a balanced all-round development. Sama might also be taken to mean the Source of Permanent Values, (Quran. 16:64-65). In that case, the meaning of the verse will be that man’s social and economic life should accord with the Permanent Values given by Allah. According to either interpretation, the eventual meaning would be the same. The position is further borne out by Chapter 21, Verses 21-22, which first poses the question:
"Do they acknowledge controlling powers other than Allah for the expansion of (or enriching) their economic life?" and then goes on to say:
"If there were in Arz and Sama controlling powers other than Allah, that is, one for Sama and another for Arz, the entire universe would have been in chaos".
3. Thus, Tauheed, a main pillar of Islam, signifies that man’s economic life should be governed by the Laws of Allah in the same way as they control the rest of the universe.
Another main pillar of Islam is Salaat, and an idea of its extent will be gauged from Chapter 11, Verse 87, in which his people told Shu’aib:
"Does your Salaat command you that we should give up those whom our ancestors worshipped and cease to do with our wealth as we please?" The verse brings out prominently the close relationship between Salaat and Economics.
4. In view of the great importance, which Quran attaches to economic life, elaborate guidance has been given therein for building up a sound economics system together with a clear exposition of the purpose.
5. Chapter 11, Verse 6, contains an assertion that there is no creature on earth the responsibility for whose sustenance has not been assumed by Allah:
Again, Chapter 17, Verse 31, assures mankind that they should not "kill their offspring fearing penury, since "Allah provides sustenance for them as well as for their offspring".
The responsibility for feeding human beings could not have been assumed in clearer and more emphatic terms. Yet, inspire of a solemn assurance we see hundreds of thousands dying of hunger and millions struggling for a scanty meal. Does this indicate non-fulfillment of the responsibility solemnly assumed by Allah? No, that is unthinkable. How do then the two positions reconcile? Chapter 36, Verse 47, shows how in human affairs Allah’s responsibility is discharged. The Verse says: "When they are asked to keep open for the development of others a portion of what Allah has given them, the people who refuse to believe in Divine Laws, tell the believers ‘should we make provision for one whom Allah could provide if He willed it?" In answer to the question, the Quran says that in their logic they are sadly in error:
Allah does not feed the hungry directly with His own hands, but does so through the agency of men, i.e., the Social Order established to enforce Divine laws makes itself responsible for the discharge of this responsibility.
6. What is the mutual relationship between the Individual and the Islamic Social Order? There is an unwritten agreement between this Social Order and its individual members. The basic provision of this contract is that the individuals surrender to Allah their life and belongings in return for Jannat (place of peace and plenty); see Chapter 9, Verse 111:
Undoubtedly there is a Jannat, which will be attained after death, but according to? Quran, the life of Jannat is to be attained in this world also, provided a Social Order is built upon the lines delineated by Allah. The main characteristics of this earthly Jannat have been cited in Chapter 20, Verse 118, as "none will remain without food or clothes, none will suffer thirst nor heat (i.e., inclemencies of weather)".
In other words, in the earthly Jannat, no individual remains unprovided for with the basic necessities of life. Therefore, under the unwritten agreement, referred to above, Quranic Social Order becomes the agency for the discharge of Allah’s responsibility for meeting the necessities of life of each individual.
And the justification for existence of the Quranic Social Order is that every individual is assured the provision of the basic necessities of life, so that he may be free to devote himself to the real purpose of life, namely the development of his Self or Personality. This Self when developed is capable of living forever. The development itself is accomplished by advancing the programmme, which the Social Order sets before him for achieving the common good of all mankind.
7. For the establishment of this Social Order, the Quran has laid down certain fundamental principles:
The first principle is that land (Arz) cannot become the personal property of any individual.
Arz is means of production and shall remain available for the needy equally:
The second principle is that surplus money, (the basis of Capitalism) should not remain with individuals.
Chapter 2, Verse 219, carries a question and its answer. The question asked by the faithful is:
"How much money should we keep open for the Social Order for meeting the needs of the needy?" The answer given by the Quran is:
"Whatever is left over after meeting your own needs". This leaves no room for an individual clinging to surplus money.
The third principle is that wealth should not be hoarded.
Chapter 9, Verse 34, says:
"Those who amass gold and silver and do not keep it open in the way of Allah, (i.e. for the uplift of mankind according to Divine Laws) warn them (O: Prophet) of an agonising doom!" (This provision relates to a stage in the establishment of he Quranic Social Order, earlier than the one envisaged under the preceding principle. Otherwise, when there is no surplus money left with individuals, there will be no question of hoarding any).
The fourth principle is that wealth shall be spread throughout the Society and shall not be conquered by tribes or classes as practices in un-Quranic societies where most of it circulates among the middle class and an infinitesimal portion amongst the overwhelming majority -- the poor class. Wealth shall circulate throughout the different quarters of the Society, unrestricted just as the blood circulates through the entire body from head to toe.
In Chapter 59, Verse 7, which deals with the distribution of Fai, the reason stated for the distribution is that wealth should not circulate among the affluent only:
Higher and lower standards of living lead to imbalance and hamper the even circulation of wealth throughout the society.
The fifth principle is that no one shall subsist on the earnings of another and that, excepting those who have become incapacitated, every one shall work.
Quran uses the term Mutrafeen for those who lead an easy life with the earnings of others, and mentions three groups in particular. One group consists of persons "who take with an even balance and give less with an un-even balance".
Another group comprises those who inherit money, land, property etc., by reason of birth. They collect all the inheritance and with the momentum, it provides gather for them more and more of what the others have:
The third group comprises the Priest-craft. Chapter 9, Verse 34, mentions them and says:
"That the majority of them gobble up the earnings of others without having any right to it and thereby stand in the way of its utilization as Allah ordains", i.e., for the benefit of humanity.
8. These briefly are the five principles based on which the Quran established its Social Order. (This theme has been dealt with at considerable length in a book entitled Nizam-e-Rabubiyyat by late Allama Ghulam Ahmed Parwez and published ( in Urdu language) by Tolu-e-Islam Trust, 25-B, Gulberg II, Lahore). The importance of establishing the Quranic Social Order will be obvious from Chapter 47, Verse 38, which says; If you will not establish the Order, then Allah will bring another people in replacement who will not be like you.
9. Before concluding this discourse a couple of questions which generally arise in this connection, deserve to be answered briefly:
The first question is, if the Quranic Social Order is as depicted why does the Quran talk also of Sadaqaat (chairty), Wirasat (inheritance), etc.
The Quran envisages establishment of the Order not overnight but by stages. The provisions about Sadaqaat( charity) etc., relate to a transitory period during which the Order is still in the course of evolution.
The other and more important question is, if the Quranic Economic System is as stated then what is the difference between Communism and Islam?
Communism gives an economic system based on a particular philosophy of life. In the same way Islam is not only a Social Order but also a Code of Life, which deals with man as a whole and covers all aspects of human life? Communistic philosophy sees Man just as a physical being--nothing more nothing less--which ends with death, and provides an economic system, which can cater only for his physical welfare. Islam, on the other hand, views life as an uninterrupted and ascending stream and man as possessing, besides his physical being, a Self or Personality capable of development and of living efficiently further and on higher evolutionary planes of Life. The law governing development of human Self, as enunciated by the Quran, has for its basis the permanent value that by helping others a Self helps to develop itself; although this is in contradiction to the fact that the development of man’s physical being is possible only by helping itself.
Those convinced in Islamic ideology form themselves into a society or a nucleus for crystallization of the ideology. The responsibility for assuring every individual his basic needs of life, physical as well as cultural, is shifted to the Society. The proper discharge of its responsibility necessitates control on the resources of production, creating thereby a healthy environment in which the individual may be free to bring forth his utmost and to give his best for the development of all humanity. Communistic philosophy of life and the Islamic concept of life are, therefore, diametrically opposed to each other.
In addition, it is the philosophy of life one believes in, which invokes motives, fixes the destiny and moulds the shape of the society one builds. The fact is that the Islamic way of life is unique and none of the other ways of life can be called Islamic. Nor can the Islamic way of life be separated into parts, and a partial similarity between one Islamic phase, and a phase of some other system can make the latter Islamic. The Islamic way is an indivisible whole like the human body, breaking of which into separate parts would finish the body itself. (Chapter 2, Verse 85, is very clear on this point). Islam’s economic system is an integral part of the Islamic Deen (way of life) and cannot be separated therefrom.