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Islamic Economic Society

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We are enjoined to observe three traits on which the health of the entire society depends. The first trait is ‘Adl (justice) which is a combination of two values.

  • Balance and harmony among the people in their rights.
  • Each person getting his rights honorably and with no strings attached.

According to the Qur’anic concept of justice, equilibrium and balance are sought, not equality, except for certain matters such as citizenship. The second trait is the quality of Ihsan, which includes kindness, fair dealing, magnanimity, tolerance, courtesy, caring for each other, mutual respect, giving another more than their due, and accepting for oneself less than one’s right. Thus, Ihsan is more significant than ‘Adl. While ‘Adl is the foundation of the social structure, Ihsan is its beauty and grandeur. The third trait is the quality of love and care for the bonds of kindred. Since family is the vital constituent unit of society, every poor member of the family has a right, first on every affluent person among relatives, and then on others in society, for the fulfillment of basic needs. In contrast to these three virtues, ALLAH TAA’LA has forbidden three vices that corrupt a person and society. The first is Fahsha’ which includes all shameful deeds and acts of immorality and immodesty. The second is Munkar, which means evil and includes everything objectionable that people generally shun. The third is Baghy which means revolt, the transgression of limits and oppressive acts.

The Islamic Path of Moral and Economic Rejuvenation

The Qur’anic verse tells us that these people (near of kin, needy, and wayfarer) have a right in our wealth which has to be observed as if owed to them. This means that when we spend out of our wealth to satisfy others’ needs, we are actually transferring to them what they have the right to receive. We should, therefore, be thankful that we have risen to this level of opportunity to fulfill such obligations.

It is clear that the path of moral and spiritual rejuvenation necessitates an unfettered society and liberal economy wherein people are not denied their basic rights. Only in such a society can individuals develop noble and compassionate traits where people themselves emerge as the upholders of goodness and virtue (without the need for external intervention).

The Concept of Earning and Spending

The word “Rizq” in this verse refers to halal (lawful) provision or means of subsistence. The ayah tells us that worldly splendor must not be an object of envy for us because the provision that we get lawfully is ‘better and more enduring,’. Affluence and poverty are both from Allah who knows what is in our best interests.

Glad tidings are conveyed from Allah to those who spend their lawful earnings generously in His way. The Qur’anic term “infaq” refers to spending for the needs of one’s self, family, relatives, neighbors, the needy, public welfare, and other Islamic causes. The Shari’ah is against types of spending known as “israf” (intemperance) and Tabdhir (extravagance) as well attitudes like “Bukhl” (miserliness) and Shuhha al-Nafs’ (covetousness, envy, and greed).

Principles of Spending

The Qura’nic Verse reminds us that everything at our disposal is a gift from ALLAH TAA’LA alone. As such we owe our gratitude to Him alone and are duty-bound to observe the rules set by Him when using His gifts. The verse above contains two injunctions. The first caution us against assuming the position of a  self-appointed law-giver, which rests solely with ALLAH TAA’LA and His Apostle (Peace Be Upon Him). The second instructs us not to renounce legitimate worldly pleasures that we are gifted, nor follow the life pattern of monks, yogis, mystics, or saints. Allah has disapproved three transgressions. The first is to ban oneself from things declared lawful by Allah as if they are haram. The second is to use halal things in extravagance and intemperance. The third is to cross the boundaries of the halal to make use of the haram.

Principles of Moderation and Balance

This verse tells us that the servants of ALLAH TAA’LA are those who avoid extremes. When they spend, they are neither extravagant, nor niggardly, but maintain a balance. Islam is against the two extremes, Israf (intemperance) and Bukhl (miserliness).

Israf refers to three traits.

  • Spending on the unlawful
  • Crossing the boundaries of balance
  • Spending generously for show and fame.

Bukhl includes two attitudes.

  • A person’s reluctance to spend for his personal and family’s legitimate needs.
  • Stinginess in spending on causes of public good.

Economic Honesty and Justice

According to verses, Prophet Shu’ayb’s people suffered from two major vices:

  • Polythesim and Dishonesty
  • Fraud in business and trade.

Prophet Shu’ayb was sent to his people to reform them of these vices. The leaders, notables, and elites however regarded qualities of honesty, righteousness, and good conduct in social and economic affairs as a death-knell. This view was not specific to Prophet Shu’ayb’s people alone. They reflect a familiar approach for deluded people throughout history, who held the view that political and economic activities cannot run effectively without recourse to lies, dishonesty, and other misconduct.

Distributive Justice

The verse explains the golden rule of distributive justice in Islam. It is one of the most important verses containing guiding principles for an Islamic social order and economic policy. The rule is that wealth should be free to circulate in a Muslim society. It should not be allowed to accumulate in the hands of the few privileged. This is to prevent the rich from growing richer and the poor from growing poorer. To this effect, Islam has forbidden all forms of interest and interest-based transactions. It has obligated the giving of zakah, ushr, and khums and encourages contributions to charities. These injunctions divert the flow of wealth to the poorer sections of society.

The Islamic law of inheritance is also based on this principle. The state is therefore bound to frame its policies in such a manner that wealth does not remain concentrated among the few affluent and that it is instead widely circulated.

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