"O Lord, show us things as they really are."
[Saying (hadith) of the Prophet]
The Islamic world today and much that is Islamic is under threat of what we can term here as 'Environmental Crisis'. This crisis ranges from Western Cultural to Scientific and technological ideas and practices, among other things. Difficulty arises, or so it seems, in making a distinction between various degrees of practices and attitudes of say a Muslim, and Islam. Inspite of this, Islam continues to live as a powerful religious and spiritual force and its view of nature and the natural environment still has a hold upon the mind and soul of its adherents.
It is thus the aim of this paper to clearly qualify an Islamic Society as an organized interdependent community the system of which follows the Quran and Sunnah and of which its members distinguishably and fashionably share common aims and interests. Thus this paper is designed to illustrate either a social or an economic viewpoint of an Islamic Society, as in the following regard:
Nature and Characteristics
An Islamic society is definitely different from other societies for it is mainly built on faith. It forms the essential ethical code of conducts for its followers and all human beings at large. It is based on divine commands and guidelines and prescribes fundamental moral/ethical principle for the whole of human life and human activity.
If we look at the members of an Islamic society we notice that they behave in a specific manner as called upon by the society's philosophic foundations. Kurshid Ahmad describes about five philosophic foundations of the Islamic Society as follows:
(a) tawhid: God's Unity and Sovereignty
(b) rububiyah: Divine arrangements for nourishing and directing things towards their perfection
(c) khilafat: man's role as God's vicegerent on the earth
(d) tazkiyah: purification plus growth
(e) accountability: man's belief in accountability on the Day of Judgement and its implications for his life in this life this world and in the hereafter.
The above mentioned philosophic foundations of an Islamic Society, which illustrate major characteristics of such a society greatly influence the behavior of its members. The economic agent in an Islamic Society believe that his life is purposive as in the following ayat:
"I have only created Jinns and Men, that they may serve Me. No sustenance do I require of them, nor do I require that they should feed Me."
Being the vicegerent of Allah on this earth, man is favored by Allah over all this other creations and thus he has to live his life so as to achieve Allahs approval and pleasure. In all his capacity as a vicegerent of God, he has to contribute in all walks of life towards administering, building and designing of the society in accordance with Allah's prescripts framework. Thus, if we look at the notions of "dialectical materialism" of Karl Marx which treats man as a helpless pawn between the opposing forces of history, or that of capitalism, they are both rejected by the economic agents in an Islamic Society. Together with the mind as man's greatest weapon, he is in charge of his destiny as he is given the opportunity and responsibility to improve not only his own life but also the world around him by achieving purity and growth (Tazkiyah) as prescribed by Islam. This has the connotation of three implications:
(a) A human being has to earn his living in a halal way and spend it in the same way too.
(b) Halal rizq demands not only the use of halal means of income but also hard work as it leads to higher productivity which further leads to prosperity to the individual and economic growth to the society at large.
(c) The purpose of all economic decisions undertaken by anyone is to make the decisions in such a way so as to attain the approval of Allah.
In an Islamic Society, ownership is a trust, which gives the sense of relativity unlike the capitalist society view of absolute ownership. In an Islamic society, the true owner of all the resources is Allah Himself, and the command given to man over these resources is a trust. The ownership is thus not absolute but rather limited and qualified. The resources of one thus have to be allocated and utilized in such a way and with the intention of achieving the approval of Allah.
Thus do we see that the objective of members of an Islamic Society is to achieve falah: prosperity in this world and in the Hereafter. This falah is a result of Tazkiyah (purification plus growth). However, we have to realize that abstention and withdrawal from enjoyment and satisfaction from material life are in direct opposition to Islamic doctrines. On another light, an Islamic Society differs from other systems as it calls for a different institutional setup and a unique role for the society to achieve the desired goals and objectives.
"In our society (U.S.A) where material comforts are important and contribute to what people perceive as happiness, a loose definition (of the quality of life) might be 'having as much money as possible left over after taking care of the basic necessities; and having the necessary time and opportunities for spending in a pleasant way'".
It seems practical that every society has a set of rules, aims in life upon which it is founded. Even for a consumer though not necessarily from an Islamic perspective, people may be willing to judge his actions. In the similar nature is the necessity for the establishment of an Islamic Society.
Looking back at my discussion, I mentioned that God is the Owner of all the resources. It is thus one of the foundations of behavior for both the consumer and the firm to understand the concept of ownership in Islam. Allah Ta'ala says in the Quran:
"... to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, and all that is underneath the soil."
When a human being knows the concept of property ownership in Islam he is bound to feel honored and grateful to Allah that some of His wealth has been entrusted to him. He therefore uses and enjoys his wealth with the proper limits. This thinking might lead to the social welfare function in an Islamic society. Instead of filling his needs to the brim, a 'have' will think of the 'have-not' through the distribution of wealth that might cover Zakat or Sadaqat thereby promoting social well-being. An Islamic Society helps complement brighten or adorn life through ways and means difficult in isolation.
The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) said:
"The believers are like one man, if his head is in pain, his whole body suffers and if his eye is in pain, his whole body suffers."
[Reported by Bukhari]
The above is the spirit found among believers in an Islamic Society. Muslims believe in the unity of mankind and in the necessity of their interactions. With an Islamic Society such beliefs and goals will be realized with ease. Not only this but that an Islamic Society equally reminds its members of the injunctions of the Quran and the Prophetic sayings. For instance being in an Islamic society one is reminded of the fact that he should not harm his neighbor among other things, which might help become a better Muslim. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said:
"A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he fail him. Whosoever removes a worldly grieve from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the grieves of the Day of Judgement. Whosoever shields a Muslim, Allah will shield him on the Day of Resurrection."
[Mishkat al-Masabih, 2/422;
Sahih al-Bukhari; Sahih Muslim]
Besides the above, establishing an Islamic Society is necessary simply because Islamic emphasizes cooperation, which definitely results into the overall well being of the community. The Holy Quran says:
"Then strive together (as in a race) towards all that is good."
Islam does not permit competition in which everybody is for himself and the devil takes the hindmost. This follows the ideology of discouraging self-interest and total indifference to the well being of others. But we have to note that Islam does not prohibit competition in general but rather encourages beautiful blending of down-to-earth competition and altruistic cooperation.
All in all, an Islamic Society is necessarily for it gives the different picture of the following points:
(1) Man as being selfish by nature and that the behaves rationally.
(2) Material progress is a supreme goal.
(3) Every person has an inherent tendency to maximize his material welfare and that he has the knowledge and ability for deciding what is good for him.
Having looked at the nature, characteristics, and necessity for the establishment of an Islam, it now remains an issue to look at the features that make an Islamic Society whole and distinct. For one thing, these features help implement an Islamic Society wholly to achieve its results, and on the other, show values that indicates purposive other than neutrality. The number of these features is certainly large but the scope of this paper only permits me to talk about the following:
Truth is greatly advocated by Islam. Muslims are commanded to be straightforward and truthful in their dealings and utterances. Islam, which is taken to mean truth in the Quran, 33 verse 70, strongly condemns falsehood and deceit in any form. Even in business, cheating, speaking lies, swearing too much and false advertising holds no room. Allah Ta'ala warns those who cheat in business as in the following case:
"Woe to those who deal in fraud; those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure to men, give less than due. Do they think that hey will be called to account on a Might Day - a day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds?"
[Surah LXXXII, verse 1 - 6]
Justice is undoubtedly a prerequisite of business and trade as it encompasses the entire gamut of human life. This demands that everyone should be treated as he deserves without any undue pressure or discrimination. It includes fair treatment, equality and a sense of proportion and balance. It is required in pricing, product quality, employee treatment, environmental pollution and social impact of business decisions. Allah Ta'ala says:
"And He (Allah) has set up the balance (of justice), in order that you may not transgress (due) balances. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance."
Islam attaches great importance to the sincerity of intentions and actions in every walk of life. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said:
"The acts depend on intentions. A man will get whatever he had intended for."
Sincerity and devotion is required so as to perform duties to perfection as such brings about more efficiency as well as high rate of productivity. As it would be expected, sincerity discourages all forms of manipulation and exploitation of man by man.
Islam declares that all human beings are brothers to each other. The superiority of an individual, group or society cannot be judged as based on race, color, tribe, caste and language. All people are entitled to an ethically right behavior irrespective of distinctions of creed, race or territory. None is superior to the other except on the basis of piety.
In this period we live in, the world at large, not to mention an Islamic Society, suffers from unaccountable number of phenomena that may be classified as unemployment, inflation, unequal distribution of resources, poverty, balance of payments difficulties, debt overburden and international exploitation.
These problems illustrate a serious challenge to parties concerned. It is for this reason that Muslim scholars should realize that an ideal Islamic Society is a special within a large range of possibilities. It is necessary that concrete social reality be studied, and not only studied but also meant to be achieved.
Many problems have arisen in our ages that were unheard of in the prophetic era. Thus, following the characteristics and features of an Islamic Society, an analysis of the application of the Shariah in the present day society should be presented.
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