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The Achievement of Well-Being

When used in this sense, the meaning of Falah (literally success) is broadened to refer to a comprehensive state of spiritual, moral, cultural, political, and socio-economic well-being in this world, and success in the Hereafter.

In practice, this means that at the level of the individual, s/he (as an independent agent) is able to satisfy their basic needs and work for their spiritual, intellectual, and material advancement. At the level of the collective, the community or society is egalitarian and provides opportunities for its members to make progress in economic, human, socio-political, and religious affairs. Another term relevant to human development in Islam is tazkiyyah. Many Islamic scholars have broadened the understanding of tazkiyyah beyond its mystical dimension to refer to the growth and purification of individuals in terms of their relationships with God, with themselves, with their fellow humans, and with the natural environment.

The Arabic term commonly used to denote human development, tanmiyya (growth), is strongly connected with the economic and materialistic view. This is in some way similar to the predominant view of development in secular discourse. Tazkiyyah on the other hand encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. Further, whereas tanmiyya, by implication, limit itself only to the positive – in terms of promoting activities that will lead to the desired state of growth; tazkiyyah goes beyond this to include activities that will also remove obstacles to well-being.

The principles of trusteeship (khalifa), well-being (Falah) combined with growth and purification (tazkiyyah) to provide a comprehensive understanding of human enrichment and flourishing in Islam. These concepts are holistic and relational. They put people and God at the center of development and contrast with the prevailing paradigm which is preoccupied with economic growth and the creation of wealth and material opulence. The current single-minded focus on satisfying the economic and other material needs in total disregard of non-material and spiritual needs has disconnected humans from God, their own true nature, and the natural environment. It depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality thereby harming well-being.

The implication of an approach combining these Islamic principles is that wealth cannot be sought at the expense of spiritual health or at the expense of the environment. It can also not be amassed to the level where it throws other people into deep deprivation or disrupts societal cohesion. The primary means of creating an enabling environment for this type of well-being is by safeguarding human dignity through the establishment of social justice. This can be achieved through a three-pronged strategy that involves the provision of essential needs, the protection of the weak and vulnerable, and the equitable distribution of resources.


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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