Labor-related issues and Solutions
Our defective economic system remains the main cause of the problems that face industrial and farm labor. The principal factor responsible for the failings of this system is the corrupt social and economic order, which if not set right, no worthwhile improvement can be expected in the lives of the working class.
What has caused the Damage?
The current economic system of our country is not simply the legacy of British imperialism, but it embodies the drawbacks of the pre-Rāj period as well. Despite being able to rid ourselves of imperialist rule, we have failed to make any significant headway to introduce a change in the colonial economic structure due to the absence of any ideological basis for the political changeover. Even a day before independence, there was no road map or plan of action before the nation and its leaders to steer the ship through the political chaos and economic backwardness safely to its ultimate destination of an Islamic Welfare State. The system introduced by the colonial regime, which was based on its capitalistic, materialistic, and imperialistic approach, remains in force even today and continues to get stronger. Had our independence been the natural consequence of a well-planned ideological and moral struggle, there would have been a well-defined road map before us since the start.
The Real Need
Our real need today lies in pulling out the existing system from its very roots and re-establishing it on new moral and ideological foundations which can guarantee social justice to the people. It is only Islam that provides the basis for a way of life and guarantees social justice to the man. What we are striving for is to establish this system and way of life. There can be a difference of opinion concerning its details, but the exact blueprint of that system is available in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Resolution of Problems
The first objective should be the establishment of the writ of justice as far as possible. Secondly, no stone should be left unturned in redressing the grievances and removing the difficulties of the working class. Thirdly, no agents of white or red imperialism should be allowed to exploit these problems and use our labor folk as tools for any system other than Islam. Regarding the third objective, a particular group of so-called ‘well-wishers’ is trying to use the working class as a tool.
Their interest in the problems of workers is not to achieve a resolution but to exploit them for a socialist revolution. They attempt to impose a communist system on the people, in which all workers will be reduced to the level of serfs and bonded labor in a communist state. My considered opinion is that communism is worse than capitalism in many ways, especially in its treatment of the working classes, in whose name the communist ‘revolution’ was staged, and who are now being used as fodder for the unscrupulous and ruthless Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Agenda for Reform
We are of the view that for as long as our land remains deprived of the blessings of Islamic rule, some interim measures may be taken to remove the grievances of the oppressed working classes to improve their lot. Islam seeks to completely eliminate all class distinctions and the feudal and capitalist structure of economy and polity, unlike communism which boosts class biases, creates conflict, and exploits the poverty and deprivation of the underprivileged in order to impose the dictatorship of the communist system. As harbingers of the Islamic revolution, we take human society as one single body where each limb has its own place and function and the survival of the body and all its parts are dependent on the interdependence and support of each other. Similarly, we would like all segments of society to contribute to what they can to the best of their ability and potential, be supportive, compassionate, sympathetic, and cooperative with each other. We would like everyone, whether employer or employee to know their rights and duties and discharge them faithfully, to reduce the chance of conflict.
We would like to reawaken the people’s moral sense and release their moral being from the clutches of the animal within, which has overpowered them for too long. Employers must give up unlawful practices, including profiteering; they must give to those whom they employ as labor what is their due, and they must not aim to monopolize every benefit of national progress and prosperity, but should be keen to let these benefits also reach the common man. If dividends are judiciously distributed among all the elements of production, avoiding ways and means disapproved by Islam, the dictates of social justice are bound to prevail. Workers should realize what are their rights due to them judiciously and lawfully. Any movement that people intend to launch for their rights must essentially be based on justice. The struggle of the workers for their lawful rights must also be made through lawful means.
Q: These are the days of market control, but nothing is available to shopkeepers at a controlled rate and this is why they are compelled to buy essential items at higher rates from the ‘black market.’ They obviously cannot sell these goods at the government’s control rates, and invariably have to charge more to avoid a loss. However, some people describe such dealings as fraudulent and dishonest. The police are also there to apprehend shopkeepers for charging more than the rates fixed by the government. What has the Shari’ah to say about this?
A: Morally speaking, the government has no right to enforce ‘Tas’ir’ (price control) until and unless it ensures a supply of goods to the people at these control rates. Everybody is aware today that the common man cannot get anything from the big traders at the rate fixed by the government. When they get things at a higher price from the black market, they obviously cannot be expected to sell these on the open market at government rates.
Under these circumstances, whoever purchases something at the black market rate does not commit a moral offense. Similarly, a shopkeeper selling things he purchased from the black market at rates higher than those fixed by the government is not guilty of a moral offense. If the government apprehends them, it will be guilty of yet another offense over and above its crime of failing to maintain a regular supply of essential goods in an open market at its own approved rates.
Looking at price control from the Islamic perspective, the Prophet impressed the virtue of maintaining a regular supply and keeping prices steady, and the dire consequences of hoarding and taking advantage of a natural calamity to one’s own benefit.
The measures that are intended to introduce reform to the country’s economic system are summed up as follows.
- To legally ban interest, betting, gambling and all unethical means declared Harȃm by the Shari’ah and keep open only the doors of Halȃl sources of income.
- To carry out strict accountability of the rich in light of Islamic principles and to retrieve from them everything that they may have amassed through unlawful means to be deposited in the Public Treasury.
- To remove the economic imbalance created by the feudal system of landholding that has given rise to so many problems.
For this, action needs to be taken in light of the following Shari’ah rule. Extraordinary reform measures can be taken under extraordinary circumstances provided these are not in conflict with Islamic principles. Keeping this precept in view, we can take the following steps.
- Abolish those feudal landholdings which may have emerged due to the misuse of state authority by any regime, past or present.
- Reduce the ownership right of land to a certain limit with the government purchasing the surplus as an emergency measure to redress the old wrongs.
- Land to be offered for sale in easy instalments to landless farmers or those in possession of less than economically-viable amount of land.
- Islamic injunctions relating to Muzȃra’ah (a crop-sharing contract) are to be strictly followed.
- The existing gap of over one to 100 in the remuneration ration should be reduced to one to 20, and then gradually brought down to a level of one to 10. Also, no remuneration should be less than the minimum level of wages necessary to satisfy the basic needs of an average family.
- Low-paid employees should be provided with necessary facilities relating to their housing, treatment and children’s education.
- Workers of all industrial units may be offered a bonus in cash, in addition to the minimum desirable wages mentioned above. They may also be made partners through bonus shares in the ownership of the industrial units to which they belong.
- The existing labour laws should be changed and replaced by a more judicious set of laws aimed at transforming the present state of conflict between capital and labour into a fruitful relationship of cooperation, and, in case of a dispute, facilitating a just and honourable resolution.
- The country’s existing rules, regulations and administrative policies should be amended and reformed so as to remove control by a selected few over the national sectors of trade and industry and allow more members of society to participate as partners in progress.
- Key industries of basic importance, which cannot be left in private hands in the supreme national interest, maybe managed as national enterprises.
- Our entire banking and insurance system will have to be changed drastically and rebuilt on the Islamic foundations of Mushȃrakah (equity participation), Mudȃrabah (trustee financing) and Takȃful (cooperative insurance).
- By properly organizing the system of collecting and distributing Zakȃh, the state can effectively introduce the programme of Kifȃlah ‘Āmmah (general security), a scheme that has no better counterpart in the realm of social security in the world so far.
Finally, let us carefully note that the economy is not the sole problem facing human life. If far-reaching reforms are not introduced in all walks of life, no program of economic reform can bring about the desired results.