à un chef de guerre



Les remparts


Among the rules that Islam follows for all issues of human life, the first is to retain those principles that are natural and, in case of deviation, turn a person back to the natural course. The second precept on which all the social reforms of Islam are based is to place a heavy emphasis on the reformation of conduct and mentality in order to strike at the root of what is wrong in the human psyche, instead of remaining content with the external precautions of introducing a few rules and regulations into society’s social set-up. The third basic rule, which may be found everywhere in the legal code of Islam, is that the state’s coercive power and the force of law should only be used as and when it is deemed essential.

In the light of these three basic rules, Islam seeks to eliminate the unnatural ways that man has followed in economic affairs, and to do this it relies more on reforming conduct and less on recourse to state intervention. Islam acknowledges that man should be free in his struggle to earn a living, that he should enjoy the ownership right of whatever he earns through his hard labour and that there must be a difference and diversity among humans in line with the variations in their qualifications and capabilities, to the extent to which these conform to the demands of nature. However, it also imposes restrictions on people to help restrain them from transgressing the natural limits of justice and fair play and straying into the domains of tyranny and injustice.

the Question of earning money,

Islam acknowledges a man’s right to earn a living in this world, according to his aptitude, qualifications and capabilities. It does not, however, permit him to use anti-social or corrupt means to earn this living. It makes a distinction between the Forbidden and Lawful means of earning money, and declares every anti-social means to be Forbidden, which it highlights in greater detail. According to the Law’s legal code, wine and all intoxicants are not only Forbidden in themselves, but their production, sale, purchase and storage are also unlawful. The Law disapproves of professions like the sex trade, extravaganza, debauchery as a means of livelihood. It similarly declares unlawful gaining economic resources used for one person’s profits at the expense of others. It has therefore proclaimed as Forbidden means of livelihood such as bribery, theft, gambling, speculation, betting, all fraudulent deals, hoarding, monopolies and cartels. Islam has also prohibited all forms of business transactions that lead to litigations, or where the profit and loss depends entirely on chance and sheer good luck, as well as those businesses in which the rights of the two parties remain undefined. If you study the mercantile law of Islam, you will notice that most of the sources of income by which people become millionaires and billionaires today have been forbidden by Islam, and there are severe legal restrictions in these areas. The economic resources which Islam declares lawful make it difficult for an entrepreneur to mint money for himself, if he abides honestly by its parameters.

Islam also acknowledges an individual’s right to own whatever he may have obtained through lawful means. It does not leave him free to use it as he will, however, but imposes certain RESTRICTIONS on this. These are the following three ways that it considers suitable for putting an earned income to use: by spending; by investing in profitable ventures; or by saving. The restrictions imposed by Islam on each of these three modes of utilising a person’s income are explained:

It is unlawful in Islam to spend one’s income in a manner that may be ethically damaging or socially injurious: you cannot squander your hard-earned money in gambling; you cannot indulge in drinking wine or any other intoxicant; you are forbidden from using your legitimate financial resources in wasteful expenditures and unproductive pastimes, like debauchery and similar travesties. This is why it is forbidden to wear a dress made wholly of silk fabric, to eat using silver and gold utensils or to decorate a wall with photographs and replicas of human figures. Islam has shut all the doors through which a man could waste the best part of his earning on self-aggrandisement. The ways that are permitted by Islam for spending money are mainly those by which one may afford a decent living of a reasonable standard. Whatever one thus saves must be spent on a good cause, in projects of charity and public welfare, and also to help the socially deprived and underprivileged who may have been unable to get enough of the bounties of life to satisfy their legitimate needs. The best use of money, according to Islam, is to spend one’s earnings in a reasonable manner on one’s lawful requirements, and let the amount that is saved be used to support those in need. This is the quality that Islam rates as the noblest in social conduct and a model of a true Muslim’s behaviour. A society governed by the social norms of Islam will always treat those noble souls who earn to spend according to Islam’s precepts as role models, rather than those who accumulate wealth or use their earnings simply to earn even more.

Practically speaking, the human weakness for money and luxuries can never be completely overcome by mere sermonising or abstract moral precepts. No matter how many exhortations they are given, many people will continue to indulge in extravagance and the quest to make more money. Islam has, therefore, imposed certain legal restrictions on the use of the wealth that is saved after spending on one’s lawful needs. It has totally prohibited all interest-based transactions. If you lend your money to someone as a loan, or as a means to help him generate an income, you should only get back from him the amount of capital you gave. Islam has thus broken the backbone of the oppressive capitalist system. It has blunted the sharp edges of the tool through which a capitalist goes on multiplying his wealth and grabbing economic resources from others. On the other hand, it permits an entrepreneur to use his surplus money in his personal business trade, industry, a joint venture or in an equity participation on a profit and loss sharing basis. It uses different means to check the accumulation of wealth in a few hands in excess of their personal needs.

As stated earlier, Islam does not approve of people amassing their surplus wealth. By demanding its followers to spend whatever they earn in satisfying their needs, investing in business or lending to others to help them satisfy their needs, it keeps the capital in circulation. However, if one manages to save and pool a surplus out of his earnings, then two and a half percent of the total amount saved will be compulsorily deducted annually as mandatory charity or Alms to be used according to a well-devised plan of social welfare. The funds so generated will be deposited in the Public Treasury; the Treasury will thus be a guaranteed source of help for all those in need of support. The Islamic system of Alms is actually the best-known institution of social insurance in human society to date. It also prevents the evils that crop up due to the absence of an institutionalised mechanism for social assistance and security.

The main factor responsible for inducing people in a capitalist system to accumulate wealth and reinvest it in profit-making ventures, which results in the need for life insurance, etc., is that every individual in a capitalist milieu is dependent entirely on his personal resources. If someone does not save for his old age, he is likely to die of hunger and want. If someone dies under that system without leaving behind enough for his family, his dependents will be left high and dry, with no one even able to give him alms. In the case of illness, with nothing saved for the -rainy days- a person may have nobody to take care of him. He can expect no support from anywhere in the event of contingencies like a fire destroying his house, a loss in business or other similar eventualities. The reason that the working class in a capitalist system are compelled to accept the terms and conditions imposed by their masters, and serve them as their bondsmen, is this same element of dependance and helplessness. Poor workers know that, if they refuse to accept the terms offered and do not work for their petty and insufficient wages, they would go without food, clothing and shelter. Because of this accursed system, today there are millions of people begging for good on the one hand, and on the other, surplus products piled up in factories and tons of wheat being dumped into the sea. This is because, under the capitalist dispensation, there is no provision for making additional economic resources available to the needy. Capitalism does not bother to generate the purchasing power to enable the -have nots- to secure their needs without having to beg for them. If everyone is able to buy the things he needs, this will lead to an overall progress in industry, trade, agriculture, arts and crafts.

The Islamic system of Alms and Public Treasury provides such a benevolent mechanism. The Treasury is an infallible institution of social security for support in times of need. People do not have to care for tomorrow. As and when the need arises, they may go to the Public Treasury and get their due. Is there ever any need for bank deposits or life insurance policies if such a mechanism is in place? Under the benevolent umbrella of the Islamic system, one may die in peace, leaving behind any dependents safe in the knowledge that the public treasury will automatically take care of them when they depart. One can always seek the help of the Public Treasury in the case of disease, old age or natural disasters. There is no heartless capitalist who will ever force someone to work on his terms and conditions. This is an institutionalised arrangement that enables a person to be free of the lurking fear of going without food, clothing and shelter. It helps every member of the society who is either incapable of producing capital or is producing less than he needs to support himself and his dependents. This means that a balance is maintained between the production and consumption of goods and services, and there is no need to roam around the world shifting the weight of your bankruptcy to everyone else, and perhaps even further beyond to other planets.

Another measure that Islam has in place, in addition to Alms, to broaden the basis of wealth is through its law of inheritance. All of the legal systems of the world, other than the Islamic Law, seek to allow the wealth that someone has gathered to continue accumulating even after his death. On the contrary, Islam does not permit the wealth to be kept hoarded. Once the owner dies, his assets are divided and distributed according to predetermined shares. Islam declares that the deceased’s sons, daughters, wives, parents, brothers and sisters are his heirs, among whom the legacy must be distributed in accordance with the Islamic Law of Inheritance. In the absence of near relatives, efforts are made to find out those who are distantly related for the distribution of the legacy as determined by the law. In the case of a person with no close or distant relatives, any adopted son is not considered to be his legal heir, and the community in its entirety then becomes the lawful inheritor, and the wealth that is left behind is deposited in the Public Treasury. The Islamic Law has thus ensured that, even if somebody piles up riches worth billions of currency, this should be split into small fragments within two or three generations following his death and its concentration should gradually give way to dispersal and a wider circulation.

to ponder,

let us reflect on the economic system using some broad outlines,

Does this not completely eliminate the drawbacks of private ownership that surface in Muslim society, simply due to ignorance of Islamic teachings?

If this is so, then why should we use the communist, fascist or nationalist-socialist models and follow artificial means of economic management, which rather than removing one wrong actually create so many others?

Islam removes a great economic burden from the community’s shoulders.

Instead of consuming the revenue generated through taxes in heavy, unproductive expenditure, it spends the capital on schemes of public welfare for society’s betterment. The opportunities thus offered for the prosperity and well-being of people living in a model welfare state make the Islamic economic system a great boon and blessing for mankind. If viewed dispassionately and examined incisively, setting aside the biases, prejudices and narrow-mindedness inherited from the past and overcoming the trend to be overawed by everything new because of the predominance of non-Islamic systems in the world, we are confident that every right-thinking and clear-headed person will admit that the Islamic economic system is the best and most-suited to solve humanity’s economic problems. However, one would be mistaken if one thinks that this system can function independently of the entire body of Islamic beliefs, moral values and social norms. The economic system of Islam is closely interlinked with its political, judicial, legal, civil and social systems, all based on its moral code. Even the moral code is not self-sustaining, but depends entirely on Faith in the Lord, the All-Knowing and All-Seeing, to Whom each is answerable for all that he does. One similarly has to have a firm faith in the life Hereafter, in the accountability of the Day of Reckoning and in the fact that whatever he knows of the Islamic teachings and code of conduct, of which the economic system of Islam is also a part, is based entirely on the Divine Guidance preserved by the Quran and the Tradition of the Holy Prophet. One must take on this entire system of belief and conduct, the Islamic way of life in its completeness, because the economic system of Islam cannot function in isolation even for a day and no benefit can be drawn from a lifeless experiment.



Le château


In the question of the validity of using stoning-to-death as a punishment for adultery, Sayyid Ahmad Khan followed the earlier Indian reformer Shah Waliullah (1703-1763) in arguing that the practice did not receive validation in the new Quranic Revelation. He argued that its origins were in the ancient Jewish tradition and that it had been incorporated into Islamic practices from that source of law. It was a practice characteristic of an Exodus-centred form of nomadic society and should not be used under the changed conditions of a settled society. In his opinion, the Quran was more in harmony with modern attitudes because it did not advocate stoning-to-death as a fundamental law and instrument for societal organisation.

Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s method in handling these Quranic teachings indicate that he considered that decisions with regard to punishments for particular crimes should be taken only after careful and rational discussion. The Quran was to generate awareness of ideal human potentialities, but the humans themselves had the responsibility to work out, guided by reason, how to implement in an effective manner the Quranic wisdom into the structures of organised society.



La tour


Mawdudi was perhaps as renowned for his theory of Islamic economics as he was for his views on the Islamic state. He wrote about the economics often, although not as the systematising of a scientific discipline or for classifying Islam’s teachings on economics, but as a corollary to his discussion of the Religion and the Islamic state.

He viewed Islamic economics as the totality of the teachings of Law.

His views were cast in the mould of the Islamic state and, therefore, were concerned with the interests of the collective rather than those of the individual. Because the state is the EMBODIMENT of the will and interests of the society, it rather than the individual, served as the principal economic actor.

Mawdudi’s discussion of economics remained within the workings of a Free Market.

He walked the same tightrope between state control of the economy and individual initiative that the classical Islamic sources did. Islamic law had always protected individual economic rights, but it also charged the political order to oversee and regulate the economy with a view to the interests of the society in its entirety. Mawdudi’s via media, however, did not so much reflect his doctrinal fidelity to the classical position as it underlined his attempt to carve a space of Islam’s approach to economics vis-à-vis both capitalism and socialism – the main rivals of the Islamic state in the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims. Mawdudi was critical of what he saw as the callousness displayed by both capitalism and socialism toward individual rights and needs. He believed that capitalism and socialism were extremist positions that disturbed the natural equilibrium of social relations and were bereft of ethical values; they were secular worldviews that could not satisfactorily organise human life. Mawdudi belived that Islam, on the other hand, was based on an ethical perspective that could strike a tenable balance between the good of the many and the interests of the individual. The classical Islamic position on economics was therefore understood by Mawdudi as an alternative to both capitalism and socialism, embodying all the virtues of the two systems and none of their shortcomings. Although expressed through the medium of modern economic thought, Islamic economics found an existence separate from capitalism and socialism.

It is not a mixture of the two Western economic systems, but a Superior System all its own, elaborated on a Higher plane of understanding and reason.

This is a THIRD WORLD conception of sorts, which aspired to rise above the two poles of capitalism and socialism but never fully eluded their magnetic pull.

In the political realm, the Islamic state placed its greatest emphasis on the collective interests of the Muslim community; in the economic realm (in its effort to strike a balance between capitalism and socialism), it came closer to the traditional balance between the society and the individual. Mawdudi wanted to institute Islamic practices such as the Alms Tax and inheritance laws and to eliminate Evil practices, such as Usury, from modern society. Should the Law prove inapplicable in certain circumstances, he permitted the use of Deduction to adapt Islamic law to the requirements of a modern economic system.

These suggestions did stem from his communalist agenda.

For example, his insistance on abolishing Usury – which he succeeded in convincing Islamic economists who followed him to be synonymous with Islamic economics – had its roots in his attempts to safeguard Indian Muslims from Hindu influences. Abolition of Usury in Punjab and Hyderabad, where Mawdudi had lived, had the effect of limiting interactions of Muslims with moneylenders and, more generally, financial institutions, which were dominated by Hindus. Mawdudi’s aim was to limit Muslim economic dependence on Hindus as a way of making communal autonomy and a separate Muslim normative order possible. In fact, why Mawdudi chose to summarise Islamic economics in the idea of abolishing Usury can only be explained by the fact that moneylending was the domain of Hindu financiers. There were other more convincing ways of conceptualising Islamic economics than as simply an interest-free economy.

Mawdudi was aware that the enforcement of Islamic practices and institutions would make the state active in the economic arena. He was not perturbed by this prospect because the role of the state in the economy was another of those transient phenomena that were bound to diminish as the citizenry became educated in the teachings of Islam and eager to follow them. Implementing Islamic practices would then require no fiat. The citizenry would not be driven by greed; they would not engage in practices that were ethically wrong. By virtue of their grounding in Religion, they would have a different -marginal utility- and concern for consumption and production than otherwise expected. They would be guided not by the desire to maximize their interest in the market, but by their quest for spiritual gratification. Islam, concluded Mawdudi, would provide a strong moral compulsion, which as a new factor in economic transactions would foster economic change and social welfare without the need for continuous state intervention in market operations and would avoid the kind of distortion and injustices associated with free-market capitalism.

Mawdudi again underlined the importance of education in Islam as a prerequisite for the Islamisation of society and politics and as the guarantor of the efficient functioning of the Islamic state. This idea was in direct opposition to the -Islamisation first- approach of General Zia ul-Haq. Although he relied on the state to promote Islamic teaching in the conduct of economic transactions, Mawdudi was careful not to institutionalise the state’s control over the economy, which occurred in Pakistan under the guise of Islamisation during Zia’s regime (1977 to 1988),

“Islam does not make it binding on society to provide employment for each and every one of its citizens, since this responsibility cannot be accepted without thorough nationalisation of the country’s resources”.

The state’s role, he argued, should not extend to that of economic regulator; it should limit itself to preserving the economic rights of individuals. Islam’s teachings on economics, he once said,  were tantamount to a -bill of social rights- and the basis for a -social contract-

The same ambiguity that characterised Mawdudi’s approach to democracy turned up in his vacillation between an étatist economic outlook and collectivist tendencies and his support for free-market operations and individual rights.

The question of ownership of economic resources and economic justice had important implications for the Jamat’s political program. The rampant economic inequalities and the chasm between the rich and the poor in Pakistan gave populist themes political appeal, as demonstrated by the success of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People’s Party in 1969-1971. But Mawdudi was reluctant to exploit economic inequalities for political gain, and the Jamat under his command remained indifferent to them. Throughout his career, Mawdudi remained a staunch defender of private property, in spite of clear signals that it was doing his cause no good. He objected to land reform in the Punjab throughout the 1950s, although at that time the backlash was so pronounced that he was never again openly antipopulist. During the last years of the Ayub Khan era, when industrialisation had generated discontent among the country’s labour force, the People’s Party successfully tapped this discontent in its drive for power, but Mawdudi and the Jamat remained indifferent to national politics and ill at ease with such popular political issues as land reform and the rights of labour. The Pakistani electorate reciprocated in the elections of 1970, handing the Jamat a humiliating electoral defeat.

Mawdudi’s position was based on classical sources, which he interpreted conservatively in keeping with the position of the Learned. Because the Islamic state was the panacea for all socio-political problems, all other movements were unnecessary and redundant. This conservatism, combined with his horror of socialism, shaped his response to all social and economic problems.

Mawdudi went to great lengths to prove that Islam’s teachings on equity and justice were not tantamount to egalitarianism. He argued, as had traditional thinkers before him, that Islam was tolerant of difference in income and wealth as long as it reflected differences in effort and skill. By giving this Islamic injunction political life, the Jamat shirked responsibility for blatant socio-economic injustices, relegating them to the domain of divine will. As a result, it remained oblivious to the staggering inequalities and social cleavages in Pakistan.

Mawdudi’s dislike of socialism and the fear that populist politics would encourage -godlessness- at the cost of Islam dated from his days in Hyderabad, when he associated socialism with the Hindu challenge to the Nizam’s rule. Socialism, Mawdudi had concluded, was inherently opposed to the interests of Islam and was the ideology most likely to gain a following among educated Muslims. His reactions to socialism and communism were emotional and vehement; he did not argue the merits of the case but began and ended with a discussion of atheism. Concern with checking the growth of the Left at times even overshadowed all other concerns of the Jamat, a tendency that grew with the rising popularity of the Pakistan People’s Party in the late 1960s. Mawdudi’s antagonism to the Left distinguished him from Ayatollah Khomeini, who incorporated the slogans and praxis of the Left into his ideological perspective and movement, producing a politically successful populist reading of Islam.

Although he rejected socialism, Mawdudi was fully aware of its lure. In fact, he regarded it as a serious rival to Islam, and his invective against its ideas and policies were a response not only to its atheism but also to its political encroachments. He sought to carve out a space for his movement divorced from populism, which he saw as the means for mobilising Muslims along socialist lines, facilitating their political acculturation into that -godless- ideology. Socialism, argued Mawdudi, caused ambiguity among Muslims regarding the true source of their predicament – the non-Islamic nature of society – and, hence, diverted their attention from the task before them. Opposition to populist politics was another way to establish boundaries around Muslims. Eager to immunise Muslims against the lure of socialism, Mawdudi challenged the efficacy of its program and the truth of its message, presenting in its stead Islam as the only viable ideology for socio-political change,

“There is social justice in Islam only”.

Islam would deliver all that socialism promised but would be unable to realise.

Islam’s promises were neither immediate nor tangible, however, and the Jamat made no effort to respond to the demands of the underprivileged, whose problems would ipso facto be resolved by the creation of the Islamic state. Relations between social classes, the distribution of wealth, and the ownership of the means of production in society were never subjects of concern. No promises were forthcoming from Mawdudi, and therefore the masses failed to support his apolitical approach to social change and had no interest in his indirect solution to their immediate needs. Workers and peasants were understandably not pleased to be told,

“You must never take the exaggerated view of your rights which the protagonists of class war present before you”

and the Jamat took the brunt of their displeasure time and again at the polls.

The idea of an Islamic state was developed systematically by Mawdudi. It was the logical conclusion to predicating faith on social action. Over the years, he embellished the model of this state, fine-tuning its various features. Although the Islamic state was never put in place in Pakistan, nor has it been accepted as a viable model by those outside the Jamat, it served as the means for inquiry into Western ideas. The encounter led to adoption of some ideas and values from the West, which have resulted in the gradual transformation of the concept of the Islamic state. More than a form of state, Mawdudi’s model was a window into both the nature and scope of modernising change within Islamic and the manner in which this process involved systematic enmeshing of faith and power.

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