Arfa Yassir, Swindon
Early humans experienced the unpredictability of life in the form of earthquakes, storms and floods, but even so they were naturally led to ‘gathering’ i.e. to save for rainy days; that’s how early competition over the ownership of resources started. In the modern world more resources mean more power and hence individuals and nations want to secure their future by retaining the ‘power’.
An economic system handles production, distribution and allocation of resources i.e. goods and services of a society or a geographic area.
Leading economies of the world today are mostly capitalist while some are mixed economies. Many systems have failed due to certain flaws. Socialism and Communism for instance equally distribute the reward of efforts among the population which hinders growth of the individual.
It is great for both individuals and nations when faith gives clear principles for an economic system, as our moral values are directly affected by our tilt towards the world and its luxuries; on top of it world peace greatly depends on it.
Islam clarifies that the objective of our life is to recognise our Creator and establish a firm relationship with Him rather than indulging in worthless pursuit of accumulating wealth. Also real and lasting safety and security lies in righteousness rather than financial well-being.
An Islamic perspective of some aspects of an economic system is being presented here as understood from a book by His Holiness Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmood Ahmad, second Caliph of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) “The Economic System of Islam”:
1. How ‘Power/Authority’ is Perceived?
Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century said: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Of course this isn’t so if you believe and acknowledge that absolute power belongs to Allah alone. As humans we are subordinate and answerable to Allah. Hence if you gain authority you are a trustee of God Almighty and one would discharge one’s duties justly rather than being intoxicated by power.
2. How to Govern?
Once you gain authority, Islam has laid down principles on how to exercise authority and how to rule i.e. with justice and under Allah’s subordination.
3. How to Handle Wealth?
Islam is a complete religion that not only guides nations on how to deal with wealth but also guides about spending on a personal level, which impacts the economy. Surah Al-Balad, chapter 90 of the Holy Quran for instance tells about an unmindful accumulator of wealth and explains how his endeavours are useless and bring him no ‘honour’. This has been explained most eloquently on pages 23 – 27 of the aforementioned book. Islam promotes sensitivity in our hearts towards the sufferings of fellow beings and encourages us to spend for their uplift. Even European authors acknowledge that the second Caliph of Islam Hazrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was the first one to hold a census and register people so that the state could take care of the vulnerable properly.
Islam applies barriers to illegitimate accumulation of wealth by:
* Prohibiting Interest/usury as due to that wealth keeps circulating among the rich.
* Introducing Zakat, an annual tax on those with disposable wealth, for the welfare of the poor.
* Not allowing artificial lowering of prices in the market.
* Forbidding withholding supplies from the market.
* Not allowing wealth to be given to a single heir rather be distributed to all legal heirs according to Islamic inheritance laws.
* Promoting voluntary charity.
4. How to Reduce Burdens on Economy?
In the event of wars and other disasters orphans, prisoners and other vulnerable members of the society can burden the economy. People in prisons have to go back into society and their mental well-being is very important to keep them a functional part of society and the economy.
Modern slavery notwithstanding the practice mercifully doesn’t exist today as it did in the past and Islam prohibited it in its early days inviting the wrath of pagan tribal chiefs. The developed world, in particular the United States has a sad history of slavery. Slaves from the African continent were exploited to uplift large scale economic gains up until the eighteenth century.
Islam allows to take prisoners in war for the purpose of suppressing the enemy and no one among the enemy who is not in the attacking army should be held captive. In Islam no civilian can be imprisoned from any country where war has not been declared as stated in the Holy Quran 8:68.
Islam also protects orphans emotionally as well as financially by not allowing their guardians to usurp their wealth. The Holy Qur’an has explained this in great detail, especially in Surah Al Nisa, chapter 4.
One is deeply pained by the fact that Islam is such a perfect religion and gives an economic system that can change the fate of the Muslim world, yet the Muslim countries fail to adopt these teachings of Islam and hence continue to suffer!