Thoughts on Economics
Vol. 22, No. 03
Socio-Political and Ethical basis of an Islamic Economy:
A Philosophical Approach
; Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
“He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: in it are verses basic or fundamental clear (in meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are not entirely clear. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is not entirely clear. Seeking discord and searching for its interpretations, but no one knows its true meanings except Allāh. And those
who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in it, the whole of it is from our Lord”: and none will grasp the Message except men of
understanding” (Qur‟ân, 3:7).
Abstract: The paper discusses the socio-political prerequisites of an Islamic economy based on justice and morality. To that effect emphasis has been given on the necessary qualities of Statesmen. The role of Faith, reality, pragmatism, morality, religion and human wellbeing is also highlighted. Some practical problems are indicated, which need to be overcome fearlessly with Faith in order to establish a justice based economy. Compared to some other religious ethics, Islamic ethics has been preferred for a justice based economy for peace and happiness in this world and salvation of the human soul in the Hereafter.
A state of dyspepsia world over is going on in socio-political thinking these days, especially so far as the subject of economic policy thinking is concerned. The socio-political and economic life in this age of capitalistic globalization is heading towards a life devoid of the sense of responsibility and morality. The atheist and the self-contained people around the world are growing up with the queer mentality of materializing their sole selfish ends. Competition among the people for materializing self-interest is severe. It is true that mutual competition is necessary for materializing self-interest but there should be no compromise with moral principles. Organized worldly religion, applied science and philosophy of the contemporary time have presented us with a
; The author is a former Staff Economist, (1968-1970), Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Karachi, Pakistan. Former Professor of Economics and Vice-Principal of Comilla Women‟s College, Comilla, Bangladesh.
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new kind of life style, but they have failed to provide a new direction so that we can lead a healthy socio-political and economic life. The contemporary education imparted to learners does not infuse in them good sense, excellent character and social mentality which are essential for building a comfortable nice society. Especially the western education system is totally indifferent about that and the learners are taught to become money making machines rather than sensible human beings.
In contemporary time some sort of superficial social work is done at some individual and/or institutional level, but the social and politico-economic works aimed at the establishment of mental relationship and mutual sympathetic connection among the members of the society is almost totally absent. What has become manifest in our society is the competition for fulfilling one‟s own interest; and all sorts of social, political and economic
activities, at individual and/or institutional level, are primarily directed to that end and the society rests in the back seat. Almost all sons/daughters are forgetting their parents, losing respect for and attraction to their own literature, culture and religion to the detriment of their own social thinking. Millions of meritorious learners and educated persons do not hesitate to leave the country and society for better opportunities abroad for acquiring wealth, honour and influence, creating a vacuum in the field of medicine, engineering, teaching, administration, and save politics. They forget the country and the society which have contributed a lot to raise their standard to the desired level in advanced countries. The faulty, selfish and corrupt socio-cultural, religious, political and ideological policies devoid of morality pursued by politicians and bureaucrats of the less advanced countries are primarily responsible for large-scale emigration of national talents. Red-tapeism, nepotism, and pervasive corruption are the few among many hindrances to the availability of jobs by the eligible meritorious candidates at home, as a result of which large number of the capable citizens leave the country and try their luck aborad. The sort of education that is being imparted in the universities at the present aims at enabling easy access to earning excess money. Now a day success in life means only economic success. Human beings are not judged by any other socially desirable and beneficial qualities. It is forgotten that human beings are born not just to enjoy the politico-economic benefits in life of the world, but also to act for their salvation in the Hereafter. In fact to save the contemporary human society, it is imperative to re-establish the lost religious and cultural values that once existed in our society and promised material benefits in the present day world and salvation in the Hereafter.
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In the contemporary life, the reluctance to discharge social responsibilities, negligence to social and moral values, considering personal economic success as the supreme success of life, in the enkindled eagerness to imitate the philosophy of life of the western world, we are gradually sacrificing our own superior socio-religious system and values. And all of these self-centered mentalities are growing in the younger generation because of the negligence to our social and religious education on the part of an influential section of guardians of the society. Such self-interest-all education imparted to the new generation has made them totally detached from the society which resulted in their being very keen to materialize mundane self-interest and lofty personal worldly ambitions. Probably because of this the younger generation, plunged in this restless society of sensual pleasure are turning selfish and self-centered and the concept and mentality of self-sacrifice for others is being ridiculed by them. The idea of social service is almost abandoned these days; the ideal of benevolent social service cannot be rescued by framing laws by human beings. For that to happen, the obeisance of infallible and unchanging laws of Allāh is
necessary. They are not taught that human existence is for the betterment of other human beings as well, and this world is not all that we are to care for; there is another world called the Hereafter where human beings will have to answer to Allāh the Creator regarding their activities performed in their life in this mundane world. Al Qur‟ân reads, “Did ye then think that We had created
you in jest, and that ye Would not be brought back to Us (for account)”?
The paper is arranged as follows: Section II –The Necessary Qualities of
Statesmen, Section III – Faith, Reality and Pragmatism, Section IV – Morality,
Religion and Human Well-being, Section V – Practical Problems are to be
Overcome Fearlessly with Faith, Section VI – Conclusion.
Section II –The Necessary Qualities of Statesmen
If the rulers of a state lack the mentality and sufficient ability to run the affairs of the state, that state can never be a welfare state. When politics in a country becomes corrupt, there surfaces a vacuum in the realm of administration and other social and moral fields. A class of professional intellectuals or sophists then emerges taking advantage of the states weaknesses and starts propagating various sorts of self-contradictory theories relating to the state, society and moral affairs to serve their perverse intellectual business motives. As a result continuous anarchy prevails in the state and social life. To get rid of this condition Hazrat Mohammad (s) (570- 632) preached Islam in Arabia and in other countries in the seventh century with the intention to establish discipline, justice, universally positive ideal in the personal, social and state life. Islam
38 Socio-Political and Ethical basis of an Islamic Economy……………..
provides the universally justice based system which disseminates universally positive true knowledge for the individuals and the society; and a true welfare state may be established thereby.
Plato (427 B.C.-347 B.C.) was a Classical Greek philosopher, who in his Republic endeavored to establish an ideal state based on justice. He divided the people of the country into three sections to form such an ideal state. He says “Democratic anarchy, carried to the extreme, divides society into three
classes: a growing number of ruined spendthrift and desperadoes; the capitalists, quietly amassing wealth; and the mass of country people, working their own small farms and uninterested in politics. The most unscrupulous „drones‟ lead an attack upon property, which divides the capitalists in self
defense to form a reactionary party” ((Plato, Republic, 1969-2, P.287). This
division of the citizens of the country, according to Plato, gives rise to the need to groom up a very capable ruling class. Plato maintained the view that to build an ideal state the ruling class will have to be reared up as a skilled one with a special type of education. The ruler will have to be a genuine philosopher by acquiring some sort of theoretical and practical or applied knowledge. According to Plato an ideal state can never be established on the basis of justice without a philosopher. Plato in his Republic very clearly
asserted that, so long as the kings and princes of the world will not enrich themselves with the manner and strength of a philosopher, and as long as political greatness and wisdom will not be combined in the same person, a country will not be free from the prevailing refractory and likewise there will be no prosperity.
According to Plato the ruler of the state should possess sufficient knowledge and only the philosophers possess this knowledge. So the responsibility of ruling the country should be vested on him. Besides, a ruler shall have to be totally impartial or unprejudiced. A genuine philosopher will never support any party. His absolute inclination will always be to support the findings of overall truth. That is why if an ideal state is to be materialized the necessity of a philosopher King is inevitable (Plato, Republic, 1969-2).
There are doubts raised by many scholars as to whether such a state can be established in reality or whether it is at all necessary that the ruler of a country should be a philosopher for disseminating justice to the people. Hazrat Mohammad (s) who could neither read nor write established a justice based state in Medina on the basis of Islam in 622 A.D. about 969 years after Plato died. Allāh assured him: “And thou (Mohammad) seest the earth barren and
lifeless, but when We pour down rain on it, it is stirred (to life), it swells, and it puts forth every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)” (Qur‟ân, 22: 5). And
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“Nor would thy Lord be the One to destroy the townships unjustly while their
people are Righteous” (Qur‟ân, 11:117). Similarly the ancient Greek poet
Homer (900? B.C.) was sure “As when a blameless king (or ruler) fears the
gods and upholds right judgment, then the dark earth yields wheat and barley, and the trees are laden with fruit; the young of his flocks are strong, and the 1 (Odyssey, xix. 109). So we have experienced sea gives abundance of fish”
throughout history that absolute faith in and knowledge of Allāh and His
revelation Al Qur‟ân and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s) can aptly, justly and skillfully solve all the problems of human society of all ages which Plato was afraid of in the absence of a philosopher king.
There should be a tendency among the politicians to take politics as a noble profession. One should not take politics as a profession to materialize personal vile mundane motive or purpose by taking the advantage of this profession instead of serving the people benevolently. Politicians may be classified into two types: one of them is non-professional and the other professional. The profession directed towards disseminating knowledge or preaching a particular religion or an ideology may be the act of non-professional politicians, who may also be called teachers. And the politicians whose profession is directed towards earning livelihood and deriving personal material gains may be termed professional politicians.
There is no set standard of personal eligibility for the non-professional politicians. They are usually inspired by some ideal or ideology which they preach. Possibly Allāh the Almighty amply blesses them with some kind of
eligibility. On the other hand they may acquire such eligibility from personal experiences. Since they do not earn any sort of material gain from such profession, it is not necessary to set any requisite standard of eligibility for them; but when politics will be taken as a profession or a means of livelihood, a sort of scholarship or dexterity is necessary for the person concerned. Because when people get something as charity, they bother less for the quality of the matter received; but when the people have to pay in return for which they receive, they expect the best. So the professional politicians whose ultimate aim is the possession of the power have to possess certain well-defined ability and qualities because the people are to pay for running the affairs of the state.
The first quality that a professional politician should possess is patriotism and wisdom to lead the countrymen to prosperity and piety. If the professional politicians lack the knowledge, patriotism and religious virtue, then the risk of not leading the people and the country to the right track remains there and so the countrymen will be harmed rather than benefited by them. There are some
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professional politicians who know that they lack the above mentioned virtues but even then they manage to take the responsibility of running the affairs of the state in the interest of materializing their personal vile material gain. There are a second kind of professional politicians who do not even know what these required qualities are and the qualifications that politicians should necessarily possess to run the affairs of the state. People of both the categories vitiate and pollute this noble profession of politics to the detriment of national interests, public welfare, progress, prosperity, and wellbeing.
As a profession, politics is an art; in practice it can be considered as a work that needs to be artistically performed. As an artist must know the multiplex craftsmanship and the technique of art, likewise a politician should know the versatility of art and technique of politics to benevolently serve the nation and the people of the country. Politics cannot be benevolent and effective towards the welfare of the people without this craftsmanship.
However, whatever may be the social value of politics, and prestige of the politicians, it is identified as an important profession as per the reality of a society. The hope is that the politicians will properly uphold the prestige and dignity of this profession. In that case the persons engaged in this profession will have to be conscious about their eligibility and conduct. About the qualities of leadership Al Qur‟ân reads, “We appointed, from among them,
Leaders, giving guidance under Our command, so long as they persevered with patience and continued to have faith in Our Signs”(Qur‟ân, 32:24). “Ye
shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in yourselves; and ye shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship partners beside Allāh. But if ye
persevere patiently, and guard against evil, – then that indeed is a matter of
great resolution” (Qur‟ân, 3:186). “But My Promise is not within the reach of
evil-doers” (Qur‟ân, 2:124). So the incompetent and ill motivated ones who
sail on the canoe of hope and try to catch hold of a cable which in many times slips off their hand, they naturally fall and are ruined. They do not try to understand that they are not the persons fit to demand such honour and dignity that politicians necessarily should have and they are not guided by religious Faith.
Section III – Faith, Reality and Pragmatism
The importance of faith in human life is unbounded. Human beings nourish various sorts of faiths in their daily life. Are all faiths beneficial? What are the relationships between faith and reason? Some of the pragmatist philosophers of the contemporary time have discussed these questions with emphasis. The
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philosophic doctrine of pragmatism is a very life-related movement of the twentieth century. One of the proponents of the movement Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller (1864 - 1937) was a German-British philosopher who in his book Problems of Belief has discussed the nature and effectiveness of faith. He has presented faith as a fundamental activity of mind. The relation between faith and life is very close, because in the way of life we are to go with various sorts of faiths. Life is unwavering without faith. We use faith for the sake of life and continue to examine our faiths by the intellect. In most of the time faiths are defeated in the test of intellect, even then many of our faiths stand eternally; and above all in most of the cases our intellect is guided by our faiths id est. we are accustomed to apply reason and intellect in defense of our faiths. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher who termed intellect as the „external minister‟ of the will. Similarly according to
Schiller intellect may be identified as the „external minister‟ of faith. The
intellect is guided by faith and again faith is tested by the intellect. But besides, a lot of compromise is observed between faith and the intellect; they are complementary to each other. In most of the cases faiths are strengthened by the intellect if they are proved right in the tests of intellect. Again it seems necessary to refine faiths if they appear to be contradictory to the intellect when tested by intellect. Apart from this, the fact that the intellect is applicable in reality is also a part of our faith. That is why Schiller says, “… rationality
itself is the supermost postulate of faith”.
The verification of the effectiveness of faith depends on its application to reality. According to the pragmatic philosophers, the acceptability of any faith is initially dependent on whether it is effective or fruitful in reality. As for 2 (1842-1910) an example while discussing religious faith, William James,
American psychologist and philosopher, said, “I believe in God, not because I
have experienced His presence, but because I need it so that it must be truth”.
Faith is a personal matter. Faith has to depend on personal will. In this respect faith is akin to knowledge. Knowledge is also personal. Another likeness of faith to knowledge is that both of them are uncertain. There lie elements of doubt in the acceptability of both. But faith can be termed as true knowledge when it achieves success. The turning of faith into knowledge or truth depends on its pragmatic verification. But the tendency to go with faith indiscriminately without real verification, examination and scrutiny is also violently risky. That is why Schiller says, “It is good to have faith – this faith
has abundantly given birth to inauspicious faiths”. Even then we are to go with
faith. Even if a work is directed based on a well-thought-out theory, faith is our guiding force. Schiller says, “If any ideology is to be materialized, then
42 Socio-Political and Ethical basis of an Islamic Economy……………..
certainly that has to be wetted by faith; so long as a theory is unable to create faith that will fruitlessly wail out of one‟s depth” (Hosen, 21 April 2012, P.8).
In the light of what has been narrated above we may try Islam as to whether it is a pragmatic religion or simply a faith emotionally carried out by 1.3 billion inhabitants of the globe inhabited by about 7 billion people. The discussion need not be long. The citation of a few verses from the Holy Qur‟ân will
suffice to prove that Islam is both pragmatic and a true faith; and the existence of Allāh the Omnipotent is true: “O men! Here is a parable set forth! Listen to
it! Those on whom, beside Allāh, ye call, cannot create (even) a fly, if they all met together for the purpose! And if the fly should snatch away anything from them, they would have no power to release it from the fly. Feeble are those who petition and those whom they petition! They do not have right estimate of Allāh, for Allāh is Powerful and Mighty” (Qur‟ân, 22:73-74). In Sura Al-
Ikhlās or Purity (of Faith) Allāh says, “Say: He is Allāh the One; Allāh, the
Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him” (Qur‟ân, 112:1-4); again “And call not, besides Allāh, on another
god. There is no god but He. Everything (that exists) will perish except His Face. To Him belongs the Command, and to Him will ye (all) be brought back” (Qur‟ân, 28:88). These along with other verses of Al Qur‟ân are the
eternal sayings of Allāh and surely “Nor is it the word of a Satan accursed”
(Qur‟ân, 81:25). Allāh throws a challenge to mankind “And if ye are in doubt
as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allāh, if ye are truthful. But if ye cannot – and of a surety ye cannot –
then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones – which is prepared for those
who reject Faith” (Qur‟ân, 2:23-24). The fact that, so far in the last more than
fourteen hundred years, no one could confront this challenge nor will any one be able to do that in the future, confirms the existence of Allāh the Almighty
and the truth and pragmatism of the substance of His Message contained in the Holy Qur‟ân.
“The purity of Qur‟ân is beyond debate: from the point of view of dignity of
all the revealed books the accuracy and purity of Qur‟ân are unparallel”
(Bucaille, P.167). That is why Al Qur‟ân has ascended from a book based on
faith to the stage of an encyclopedia of pure knowledge. So, we are to follow its guidance in every sphere of our mundane and spiritual activities, not to talk of economic activities alone, for salvation here and the Hereafter. The Book in reality has passed the test of our intellect and it has in fact proved real and true and, hence, we as His “inheritors in the earth” (Qur‟ân, 35:39) are to comply
with His “guidance” for our own mundane and spiritual well-being.
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Section IV – Morality, Religion and Human Well-being
In age after age and in country after country millions of innocent human beings were prey of the conspiracy of the religious vendors and the politicians. Countless people were exploited and oppressed by the rulers and the exploiters in the name of religion. In various countries of the world the environment of healthy mentalities of the people is being vitiated by venomous sectarianism giving rise to socio-political and economic unrest and confusion as a result of which apathy and disrespect concerning religion are being created in the mind of the younger generation. A wrong idea is growing up in their mind that religion is at the root of all sorts of evils and mischief. But the fact is that all living beings have religion, as the nature of fire is to burn and disseminate heat and light and the water has the nature of coolness and to moisten; likewise all matters on earth have their own nature or law. So it is natural that human beings should have a religion.
But what is the religion of mankind? The attribute which makes mankind worthy of the name is the religion of man, the lack of which does not make them worthy as human beings. The attribute which makes mankind worthy of the name human being is in short goodness or humanity. This quality has made mankind worthy of the name human being and this is the religion of man. For this reason ten external symptoms of religion have been mentioned in Manusonghita (gbymswnZv) – code of laws written by Manu (in various
Hindu traditions, Manu, is a title accorded to the progenitor of mankind) and obeyed by the followers of Hinduism – these are: tolerance, forgiveness, self-
restraint, not to steal, purity, restrain of organs, intellect, education, truth, and absence of anger.
Actually it is very difficult to define religion accurately because it is not specific to any race or sub-race. Religion is a matter of perception and this perception is indefinable. Even then different scholars have tried to provide different definitions of religion. But none of those definitions has been universally accepted. The origin of the word religion is „brought together
again‟ id est. Re+legare=Religion. Re=Again and Legare= to bind together. Whatever may be the origin of the word religion, Dharma (ag?), Religion, Deen (`xb), Mazhab (ghnve), Tarika (ZixKv), etcetera means „a way of life‟.
Even the meaning of the name of some religion is „way‟. As for example,
Shintoism, a Guide to the Japanese system of beliefs and traditions known as Shinto, including history, rites of life and ethics, maintains that Shinto means the „way of gods‟; it remains Japan's major religion alongside Buddhism. Tao,
the basic word of Taoism, means „great way‟ or „heavenly way‟. As regards
the origin of religion there are differences of opinion among sociologists,
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anthropologists and theologists and it is natural to be so. If the great religions that are in vogue in the present day world are very carefully analyzed, one may find many differences among them but there is not much difference among their basic teachings. The differences in the basic teachings of them that are usually shown are either intentional or because of the lack of their proper understanding or because of ignorance.
From the ancient time all of the religions that have been originated so far have discussed the sorrows and sufferings of the human beings and tried to show the path as to how the human race can be saved from such sorrows and sufferings. There are a lot of differences of opinion relating to the causes and nature of sorrows, and about questions like “what is the destination of
mankind?” or “what are their conditions after getting rid of sorrows?” But
salvation (‡gv?), rescue (gyw?), emancipation (AceM?), soleness (ˆKej?), 3 or whatever of these extinction (wbe?vY), relief (bvRvZ), release (Lvjvm)
we desire to achieve, for that, in every religion special emphasis has been ascribed on morality and justice. Basically the moral education of all religions is the same; this is because all of the Messengers were sent by Allāh Who says,
“To every people (was sent) a Messenger: when their Messenger comes (before them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged” (Qur‟ân, 10:47). Allāh also made Hazrat Mohammad (s)
aware of this, “We did aforetime send Messengers before thee: of them there are some whose story We have related to thee, and some whose story We have not related to thee” (Qur‟ân, 40:78). Allāh Subhanahu-Ta‟ala also confirms
and assures, “Nor would We punish until We had sent a messenger (to give
warning)” (Qur‟ân, 17:15).
Shintoism maintains that the causes of sorrow are laid within our mind. To keep oneself free from this, one has to refrain himself from sin and injustice; and for this one has to escape from eight kinds of emotions or passions. These are anger, jealousy, envy, selfishness etcetera. Despite these, Shintoism
stresses upon ten kinds of teachings: these are (a) do not disobey the will of the god, (b) do not forget the responsibility towards forefathers, (c) do not disobey the command of the state, (d) do not forget the glory of god because of which misfortune can be averted and diseases can be cured, (e) do not forget that this world is a vast family, (f) do not forget your own limitations, (g) do not be angry even if someone is angry upon you, (h) do not be lazy and unmindful to your business, (i) do not be that person who charges against education, and (j) do not lose your originality through foreign education.
4The basic teachings of Confucius (551 B.C.-479 B.C.) a Chinese politician,
teacher, editor, and social philosopher, are also moral. He did not end up by