Continuing with the discussion on the economic philosophy of Islam, one wonders how one could establish economic justice on earth. While creating man, God Almighty has bestowed in him quite divergent twin elements: the extreme love for the worldly life and the thought of returning to the Creator – the former being much stronger than the latter. However, man is frequently reminded to keep a fine balance between the two – quite a challenging task.
This is explained in Chapter 28 (Al Qasas), Verse 77 of the Quran: “But seek, through what God has given you, the home (of) the Hereafter, and (do) not forget your share of the World. And do good as God has been good to you. And (do) not seek corruption on the earth. Indeed, God (does) not love the people who spread mischief.”
In these 50 words, God has provided a gem of an advice to us through the dialogue between the arrogant and the ultra-rich Korah (Qaroon) and some pious Jews of the time of Prophet Moses. The more I ponder over the verse, the more it captivates me from the angle of Islam’s economic philosophy.
Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazali, the great Islamic philosopher who lived for merely five decades (1058-1111 AD) but whose work continues to spread over centuries, said: “Those who look for seashells will find seashells; those who open them will find pearls”. Now that we have found the seashell, let’s open it to find the pearl – rather pearls in one seashell.
The First Pearl: “But seek, through what God has given you, the home of the Hereafter and do not forget your share of the World”. Here, man is advised to spend the wealth gifted by God Almighty on himself and family (“Your share of this World”) besides on helping the others who are deprived in order to please God so that in return He allocates you paradise (“Home of the Hereafter”). In other words, if God has blessed you with wealth in abundance, do not be stingy not to spend on yourself or help the needy.
Explaining the point, Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah (d 1350 AD), a renowned Islamic scholar from Damascus, beautifully put it by saying: “When money is in your hands and not in your heart, it will not harm you even if it is a lot and when it is in your heart, it will harm you even if there is none in your hands”.
The Second Pearl: “And do good as God has been good to you”. What is the definition of good? While the code of conduct on good and bad was provided by God Almighty through His prophets from time to time and is amply clear in the three divine books, additionally, every human being is given an inbuilt measure or balance in the shape of an inner conscious. So when it pricks, you must have done something bad and when it rejoices, it is because you have carried out a good deed. Why is man required to ‘do good’ is because God has done good to him by creating him as the pride of all of His creations and blessed him with all amenities for the short life on earth and finally made him the inheritor of a super luxurious life in paradise – the eternal abode.
The Third Pearl: “And (do) not seek corruption in the earth. Indeed, God (does) not love the people who spread mischief”. Now it should be easy to deduce who are mischievous people – those who carry out acts which are harmful to others.
Further explanation to this point comes from the saying of Prophet Mohammed: “All creatures are dependants of God and the most beloved of them to God are those who are most beneficial to His dependants”.
Thus, in order to establish economic justice on earth, the first and foremost factor is reforming a man’s inner sense to an extent that he refrains from performing acts which are detrimental to others. This level is attainable through the right combination of substance and form. While strengthening the faith, as well as increasing the sense of accountability, toward God is the substance, the form comes from offering regular prayers, fasting, giving charity and pilgrimage. These ingredients inculcate in a man the desired moral and ethical sense that keeps him just toward the other human beings.
The agenda of economic justice is too important to be left to man and his inner sense alone. Therefore, the external factors such as the established Shariah rules and guidelines (such as rules for inheritance or parameters for trading and investment), the justice system, the civic set-up and social pressure also contribute. If all of these do not prevent a person from doing injustice to fellow human beings, there is no way he can escape the wrath of God in the final court, ie the Day of Judgment.
In this context, I would like to refer to the third article in this series where I said that I refrained from completing certain high-profile transactions at the start of my Islamic banking career since the Shariah board found them to be repugnant to the established Shariah principles of safeguarding the interest of both parties. The sacred principles, after all, prevailed over commercial interest and economic justice was established by not undertaking those transactions.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre, nor the official policy or position of the government of the UAE or any of its entities. The purpose of this article is not to hurt any religious sentiments either consciously or even unwittingly.
Sohail Zubairi is the projects advisor with the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre. He can be contacted at [email protected]
In next week’s issue: Trusteeship and accountability aspects of God-man relationship.