Fundamentals of Islamic Economic System

Fundamentals of Islamic Economic System

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry


  1. Allah is the Sustainer

  2. God is Real Owner of Everything and Man is Merely a Trustee

  3. Everything Created for Service and Use of Man

  4. Concept of Halal and Haram

  5. System of Sadaqat and Zakat

  6. Prohibition of Interest

  7. Ban on Hoarding of Wealth

  8. Policy of Moderation

  9. Condemnation of Monasticism and Materialism

  10. Equity and not Equality

Every economic system has its own peculiar features, which form its foundation and from which it can be distinguished and recognised. Modern capitalism, which has emerged due to rapid industrialisation facilitated by unprecedented human advancement in science and technology, is based on free market economy, non-intervention or very limited intervention of state in economic affairs, interest and banking. Socialism, which has emerged as a reaction to capitalism, believes in complete control of state on economy and full ownership of means of production by the state or community. Feudalism stands for ownership of land by few persons or families and makes majority of people tenants or serfs who work on lands either as servants of the landlords or for meagre share in the produce of land.

Islam, on the other hand, believes in justice and fairness in the economic field. According to it, the man is God’s viceroy or deputy in overall divine scheme and he has been given limited rights of ownership of means of production. It recognises intervention of state in the economic activity for the purpose of ensuring welfare of its citizens. Abolition of interest, institution of sadaqat and Zakat, concept of lawful and unlawful, equitable distribution of wealth, prohibition of hoarding and stress on circulation of wealth, concern for well being of the poor are the distinctive features of the Islamic economic system. We will elaborate and discuss some features of Islamic economy in this chapter as follows:

1- Allah is the Sustainer

One of the major features of Islamic economic system is the concept that Allah, the Almighty God of universe, is the sustainer and provider. Allah provides livelihood and subsistence to all of His creatures in the universe. It is Allah who has created all means and resources through which man earns his livelihood. Allah, in fact, has committed to feed, sustain and nourish all creatures including human beings. It is Allah who expands or curtails rizq (sustenance).

To explain and elaborate this concept further, let us reproduce the relevant verses of the Holy Qur'an and Ahadith of the Prophet of Islam.

Verses of the Qur’an:

1-    And there is not a beast in the earth but the sustenance thereof dependeth on Allah. He knoweth its habitation and its repository. All is in a clear record.

-(11 : 6)

2.       Lo! Thy lord enlargeth the provision for whom He will, and straiteneth it (for whom He will). Lo, He was ever Knower, Seer of His slaves.

-(17 : 30)

3.       And how many an animal there is that beareth not its own provision! Allah provideth for it and for you. He is the Hearer, the Knower.

-(29 : 60)

4.   Allah maketh the provision wide for whom He will of His bondmen, and straiteneth it for whom (He will) Lo! Allah is Aware of all things.

-(29 : 62)

5.       O’ mankind! Remember Allah’s grace towards you! Is there any creator other than Allah Who provideth for you from the sky and the earth?……..

-(35 : 3)

6.       Have ye seen that which ye cultivate? Is it ye who foster it, or are We the fosterer?

-(56 : 63-64)

7.       Or who is he that will provide for you if He should withhold His providence?……..

-(67 : 21)

Ahadith of Muhammad (PBUH) :

1-        Omar-b-al-Khattab reported : I heard the Messenger of Allah say : If you all had relied on Allah with due reliance, He would have certainly given you provision as He supplies provisions to birds who get up hungry in the morning and return with full belly at dusk.

-----(Tirmizi, Ibn Majah)

2.       Abu Darda’a reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Certainly provision seeks a servant just as his death seeks him.

-----(Abu Nayeem)

3.       Jabir b. Abdullah reported : The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: “O people, Fear God and cut your ambitions of livelihood, for a man will not court death unless he is provided full sustenance (decreed) for him even if he restrains himself from it. So, fear Allah and cut your ambitions in search of livelihood. Take whatever is lawful and leave whatever is unlawful.”

-----(Ibn Majah)

4.       ‘Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) saying: ‘(on the Day of Resurrection) when there will be no shade except that of the Throne of Allah, the person who undertakes a journey to earn his livelihood and then returns with it towards his dependents, will be under the shade of Allah’s Throne’.”

-----(Masnud Zaid bin Ali)

5.       ‘Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said: “A person came to the Prophet of Allah (May peace be upon him) and asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah: What type of earning is best?’ The Prophet (may peace be upon him) said: ‘A man’s work with his hand and every business transaction which is approved, for Allah loves a believer who is a craftsman. A person who suffers pain to feed his dependents is like a person who fights in the cause of Allah, the Mighty and Glorious.’”

-----(Masnud Zaid bin Ali)

The conception of God’s Dispensation does not, however, suggest that one should sit idle and wait for sustenance which would automatically come to him. Instead of giving up struggle, Islam rather inspires a person to do his best in order to earn his livelihood by using all lawful (Halal) and fair means. The Qur’an encourages struggle when it says: “And that man hath only that for which he maketh effort, and that his effort will be seen”—(53 : 39-40). The revealed book of Islam encourages its followers even on Friday to disperse in the land after finishing their prayer and seek of the bounty of God (62:10). Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also emphasis the importance of struggle and hardwork put in for earning livelihood for oneself and one’s family.

This concept only emphasises some basic truths, namely: God provides sustenance to all His creatures by placing sufficient and infinite resources in the earth, every thing has been created by God for service of man, and man should exploit these resources and things in lawful manner to earn his subsistence without violating the rights of others.

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2- God is Real Owner of Everything and Man is merely a Trustee

The heavens and the earth and everything in the universe belongs to Allah. God is the real owner of everything, al-though He has given some rights to man for use of things required by the latter for his existence on the earth. However, the rights given to man are very limited, the real position of man being that of a trustee and a beneficiary. Some of the relevant verses of the Qur’an which highlight this concept are given as under:

1.       Unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; and unto Allah all things are returned.

-(3 : 109)

2.       Unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Allah ever surroundeth all things.

-(4 : 126)

3.       He it is Who hath placed you as viceroys of the earth and hath exalted some of you in rank above others, that He may try you by (the test of) that which He hath given you. Lo! Thy Lord is swift in prosecution, and lo! He is Forgiving, Merciful.

-(6 : 165)

4.       Believe in Allah and His messenger, and spend of that whereof He hath made you trustees; and such of you as believe and spend (aright), theirs will be a great reward.

-(57 : 7)

This limited ownership or trusteeship bestowed on man by Allah in respect of the wealth which is given to him is not without significance. The divine wisdom underlying this principle of trusteeship is that man should not hoard his wealth treating it as his absolute ownership and deprive others from its use. Rather the surplus wealth of man must go to his fellow beings who are in want. This principle has been made more clear when the Qur’an says : “……. and bestow upon them of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you……” (24 : 33). Thus the whole scheme of circulation of wealth through charity and Zakat and distribution of wealth through other equitable means envisaged by Islam is based on man’s limited rights as a trustee of wealth which has been bestowed on him by His Lord.

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3- Everything Created for Service and Use of Man

It is God who has created everything in this universe. Many of the things created by God in the earth are of benefit to man directly or indirectly. Animals, plants, minerals, metals, water, air, fire, land, river, mountains, sea, and even sun, moon, stars, day and night, etc. are all for service to man. Many economic benefits have been placed by God in these things for man. The Qur’an brings this fact to light in its following verses:

1.       He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth. Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens. And He is Knower of all things.


2.       And He it is Who hath set for you the stars that ye may guide your course by them amid the darkness of the land and the sea. We have detailed our revelations for a people Who have Knowledge.


3.   He it is Who sendeth down water from the sky, whence ye have drink, and whence are trees on which ye send your beasts to pasture. Therewith He causeth crops to grow for you, and the olive and the date-palm and grapes and all kinds of fruit. Lo! herein  is indeed a portent for people who reflect. And He hath constrained the night and the day and the sun and the moon to be of service unto you, and the stars are made subservient by His command. Lo! herein indeed are portents for people who have sense. And whatsoever He hath created for you in the earth of diverse hues, lo! therein is indeed a portent for people who take heed. And He it is Who hath constrained the sea to be of service that ye eat fresh meat from thence, and thou seest the ships ploughing it that ye (mankind) may seek of His bounty, and that haply ye may give thanks. And He hath cast into the earth firm hills that it quake not with you, and streams and roads that ye may find a way. And landmarks (too), and by the star they find a way.


4.   And Allah hath given you in your houses an abode, and hath given you (also), of the hides of cattle, tent-houses which ye find light (to carry) on the day of migration and on the day of pitching camp; and of their wool and their fur and their hair, caparison and comfort for a while. And Allah hath given you, of that which He hath created, shelter from the sun; and hath given you places of refuge in the mountains, and have given you coats to ward off the heat from you, and coats (of armour) to save you from your own foolhardiness. Thus doth He perfect His favours unto you, in order that ye may surrender (unto Him).


5.       See ye not how Allah hath made serviceable unto you whatsoever is in heavens and whatsoever is in the earth and hath loaded you with His favours both without and within? Yet of mankind is he who disputeth concerning Allah without knowledge or guidance or a Scripture giving light.


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4- Concept of Halal and Haram

Islam has introduced concept of Halal (lawful) and Haram (unlawful) in its economic system. In fact the foundations of the Islamic economy have been laid on this concept. This concept reigns supreme in the realm of production as well as consumption. Certain means of earning livelihood and wealth have been declared unlawful such as interest, bribery, gambling and games of chance, speculation, short weighing and short measuring, business malpractices, etc. Unlawful means of earning are strictly forbidden and a follower of Islam is permitted to earn through lawful and fair means. Similarly in the field of consumption certain items of food are unlawful such as dead animals, blood, swine flesh and animals slaughtered in the name other than that of Allah. Even expenses on certain items such as drinks, narcotics, debauchery, prostitution, pornography, things that promote obscenity and vulgarity, lotteries and gambling are strictly inadmissible.

Now let us glance through relevant verses of the Quran and Ahadith of Muhammad (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam, to highlight in brief the concept of halal and haram.

Verses of the Quran:

1-       O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and wholesome in the earth, and follow not the footsteps of the devil. Lo! he is an open enemy for you.


2.       O ye who believe! Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you, and render thanks to Allah if it is (indeed) He Whom ye worship. He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swine flesh, and that which hath been immolated to (the name of) any other than Allah. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.


3.       And eat not up your property among yourselves in vanity, nor seek by it to gain the hearing of the judges that ye may knowingly devour a portion of the property of others wrongfully.


Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

1.      Abu Hurairah reported that the messenger of Allah said: Verily Allah is pure. He does not accept but what is pure …..Then he mentioned about a man disheveled in hair and laden with dust, making his journey long and extending his hands towards heaven: O Lord! O Lord! while his food was unlawful, his drink unlawful, his dress unlawful and he was nourished with unlawful things. How he can be responded for that?


2.       Abu Masud Al Ansari reported that the messenger of Allah forbade the price of dogs, earnings of prostitute and foretelling of a soothsayer.


3.       Jabir reported that the messenger of Allah cursed the devourer of usury, its payer, its scribe, and its two witnesses. And he said that they are equal (in sins)


4.       Abdullah-bin-Amr reported that the messenger of Allah cursed the bribe taker and the bribe giver.

(Abu Daud)

5.       Jabir reported that the messenger of Allah…..forbade the sale of wine, dead animals, pigs and idols…….


6.   Abdullah-bin-Amr reported that the messenger of Allah prohibited intoxicants, games of chance, card-playing and Gobairah and he said: Every intoxicant is unlawful.    

(Abu Daud)

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5- System of Sadaqat and Zakat

Islamic economic order has introduced a comprehensive system of sadaqat which comprises: compulsory contributions like Zakah, sadaqatul Fitr, monetary atonements; and voluntary contributions such as alms-giving, spending in the way of Allah on the poor, donations to charitable cause, waqf, etc. Charity and alms giving is sometimes called by the Qur’an a goodly loan to God Who Himself would compensate the giver manifold and also reward him in the Hereafter. Islam has declared that the poor and destitute have due share in the wealth of the rich and the rich are bound to return the share of the poor without stint.

The system of sadaqat ensures equitable distribution of wealth in the Muslim community and makes it certain that the wealth does not remain hoarded in idle channels. Circulation of wealth in productive channels is ensured by enhancing the purchasing power of the poor. Concentration of wealth in few hands is discouraged and the gap between the rich and the poor is bridged. Some of the verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith regarding system of sadaqat are reproduced as follows:

Verses of the Qur’an:

1-    Establish worship, pay the poor-due, and bow your heads with those who bow (in worship).


2.   Spend your wealth for the cause of Allah, and be not cast by your own hands to ruin; and do good. Lo! Allah loveth the beneficent.


3.   They ask thee what they shall spend. Say : That which ye spend for good (must go) to parents and near kindred and orphans and the needy and the wayfarers. And what so ever good ye do, lo! Allah is Aware of it.


4.   Who is it that will lend unto Allah a goodly loan, so that He may cause it increase manifold? Allah straiteneth and enlargeth. Unto Him ye will return.


5.   O ye who believe! Spend of that wherewith We have provided you ere a day come when there will be no trafficking, nor friendship, nor intercession. The disbelievers, they are the wrong-doers.


6.   Ye will not attain unto piety until ye spend of that which ye love. And whatsoever ye spend, Allah is aware thereof.


7.   And in their wealth the beggar and the outcast had due share.


8.   Lo ! those who give alms, both men and women, and lend unto Allah a goodly loan, it will be doubled for them, and theirs' will be a rich reward.


Ahadith of the Prophet:

1.   Anas reported that messenger of Allah said: verily charity appeases wrath of the Lord and removes pangs of death.


2.    Abdullah bin Masud raising the tradition reported. There are three whom Allah loves. A man who gets up at night to read the Book of Allah, and a man giving alms with his right hand which he conceals (I consider that he said) from his left hand, and a man, being in a battalion, encounters the enemies, although his companions are routed.


3.   Marsad bin Abdullah reported: Some of the companions of the Holy Prophet informed me that he heard the Prophet say: Surely the shade of the believer on the Resurrection Day will be his charity.


4.   Ibn Abbas reported that the Holy Prophet sent Mu’az to Yemen saying: Certainly you will come across a people, the People of the Book. Call them to bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. If they submit to that, teach them that Allah has made obligatory upon them prayer for five times a day and a night. If they submit to that, teach them that Allah has made obligatory over them Zakat which will be taken from the rich and will be given to the poor among them. If they then obey that, avoid taking the best part of their property and fear the invocation of the oppressed, because between it and Allah, there is no veil.

-(Bukhari and Muslim)

6.     Ibn Omar reported that the Messenger of Allah made obligatory the charity of Fitr one Sa’a of dried dates or one Sa’a of barley upon the slave and the free, male and female, young and old from among the Muslims. He directed its payment before the people go out for the (Eid) prayer.

-(Bukhari , Muslim)

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6- Prohibition of Interest

Interest, which forms the foundation of capitalistic system of economy and which has not been eliminated even in the socialist system, has been completely abolished by Islam. Charging of interest is a major sin and the usurers have been given the notice of war from God and His messenger. Following are some of the verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith of Muhammad (PBUH) dealing with interest.

Verses of the Qur’an :

1-       Those who swallow usury cannot rise up save as he ariseth whom the devil hath prostrated by (his) touch. That is because they say : Trade is just like usury; whereas Allah permitteth trading and forbiddeth usury. He unto whom an admonition from his Lord cometh and (he) refraineth (in obedience there to), he shall keep (the profits of) that which is past, and his affair (henceforth) is with Allah. As for him who returneth (to usury). Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein. Allah hath blighted usury and made almsgiving fruitful. Allah loveth not the impious and guilty.


2-       O ye who believe ! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remaineth (due to you) from usury, if ye are (in truth) believers. And if ye do not, then be warned of war (against you) from Allah and His messenger. And if ye repent, then ye have your principal (without interest). Wrong not and ye shall not be wronged.


3-       O, ye who believe ! Devour not usury, doubling and quadrupling (the sum lent). Observer your duty to Allah, that ye may be successful.


Ahadith of Muhammad (PBUH):

1-        Jaber reported that the Messenger of Allah cursed the devourer of usury, its payer, its scribe, and its two witnesses. And he said that they are equal (in sin).


2-       Abdullah-bin-Hanjalah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: A Dirham of usury a man devours with knowledge is greater than thirty-six fornications.

(Ahmad, Darqutni)

We would, insha Allah, focus on the subject of interest and elaborately discuss it in an independent chapter in this book.

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7- Ban on Hoarding of Wealth

Hoarding of wealth has been condemned by Islam in very clear terms, and those who hoard wealth and do not spend it for good cause have been threatened with painful doom. Hoarding of wealth is a great evil as it tantamounts to obstruction of flow of God-given wealth from the rich to the poor who are in genuine need of it. Therefore, Islam discourages hoarding of wealth and instead encourages circulation of wealth among all the sections of society. Following verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith of the Prophet of Islam throw light on this subject.

Verses of the Qur’an :

1-       And let not those who hoard up that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty think that it is better for them. Nay, it is worse for them. That which they hoard will be their collar on the Day of Resurrection…………

-(Al-Imran 3:180)

2-       ...... They who hoard up gold and silver and spend in not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom. On the Day when it will (all) be heated in the fire of hell and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded therewith (and it will be said unto them): Here is that which ye hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what ye used to hoard!


3-       That which Allah giveth as spoil unto His messenger from the people of the townships, it is for Allah and His messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, that it become not a commodity between the rich among you. And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it). And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is stern in reprisal.

-----(Al Hashr 59:7)

Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

1-      Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah used to store up nothing for the morrow.


2-       Ayesha reported that the Messenger of Allah said: This world is an abode for one who has got no abode, and a property for one who has got no property, and one who has got no wisdom hoards for it.

(Ahmad, Baihaqi)

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8- Policy of Moderation

Islam follows policy of middle way or moderation and avoids extremes. The two extremes of every action are bad and moderation between them is the best policy according to Islam. Following verses of the Qur’an and Ahadith of Muhammad exhort the Muslims to follow the way of moderation.

The verses of the Qur’an :

1-       O ye, who believe ! Forbid not the good things, which Allah hath made lawful for you, and transgress not. Lo, Allah loveth not transgressors.

-(5 : 87)

2-       And let not thy hand be chained to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou sit down rebuked, denuded.

-(17 : 29)

3-       ………… And thou (Muhammad) be not loud voiced in thy worship nor yet silent therein, but follow a way between.

-(17 : 110)

4-       Be modest in thy bearing and subdue thy voice. Lo! the harshest of all voices is the voice of the ass.

(31 : 19)

Ahadith of the Prophet :

1-       Good manners, delay and moderation form a part out of twenty-four parts of Prophethood.


2-       Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Moderation in expenditure is half of livelihood, and love for people is half of wisdom, and good questioning is half of learning.


3-       Matref-b-Abdullah reported that the messenger of Allah said: The best of affairs is their mean.

The principle of moderation propounded by the above mentioned texts equally applies in economic field specially in the field of acquisition of wealth and consumption.

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9- Condemnation of Monasticism and Materialism

Islam condemns Monasticism as well as Materialism and recommends its followers to adopt middle way between these two extremist ways of life.

A spiritual or a monastic lays all the emphasis on moral and spiritual aspect of life and ignores completely material aspect. He regards all economic activity as a vice and economic struggle as a sinful act. The Qur’an, the revealed scripture of Islam, expresses its dislike explicitly for the monastic way of life in its following verses:

1-       O ye who believe ! Forbid not the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you, and transgress not. Lo! Allah loveth not transgressors.

-(5 : 87)

2-       But monasticism they invented. We ordained it not for them-only seeking Allah’s pleasure, and they observed it not with right observance. So we give those of them who believe their reward, but many of them are evil-livers.

-(57 : 27)

The Prophet of Islam has also discouraged the monastic way of life among his followers. Once he learnt that some companions had taken a vow to fast during the day, pass the night in worship, abstain from meat and fat and renounce intercourse with women. Thereupon he (peace be on him) delivered a sermon in the course of which he observed : “This is not my creed. Your body has rights over you. You should fast, but eat and drink also. Pray at night, but sleep also. Look at me. I sleep and I pray also. I both keep and omit fasts. I eat both meat and fat. So whoso does not subscribe to my way, he is not of mine.[1]

He (peace be on him) then said, “What has happened to people that they have renounced women, good food, perfume, sleep and worldly pleasure? I have never taught you to be a monk or a priest. In my Deen (Creed) there is not provision for renunciation of women or meat nor for abandoning the world. For self-control, I enjoin fast. All the advantages of asceticism can be had from the Jihad of Islam. Worship Allah and do not associate naught with him. Perform Hajj and Umra. Establish Namaz, pay Zakat, and keep fasts in Ramadan. The people who came to ruin before you met this fate because they were hard on themselves and Allah was hard on them too. It is the remnants of these people that you see in monasteries and convents.2

Some other traditions on the same subject relate that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) once learned regarding a companion that it was long since he had gone in to his wife and was engaged in prayer day and night. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) summoned him and ordered that he should go in to his wife at once. ‘I am fasting’, submitted the companion. “Break your fast and proceed,” the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) told him.3

Thus Islam does not subscribe to the view of monks and ascetics that satisfaction of physical urges is an impediment in spiritual development. Rather Islam enjoins upon its followers that the things, which Allah has made lawful for them, should be enjoyed as enjoyment of them is piety and renunciation of them is transgression.

On the other hand Islam has expressed in unequivocal and unambiguous terms its condemnation of Materialism as well. Materialists are those who lay the entire stress on the material aspect of life. They ignore moral aspect of life and devote their entire time and energy to the attainment of material ends. They justify every means, right or wrong, to acquire wealth and comforts of this life and utterly disregard moral values, noble causes and human virtues. Following verses of the Qur’an reject materialism which, in fact, is passion for wealth and worldly pleasures:

1-       …….But of mankind is he who saith: “Our Lord ! Give unto us in this world” and he hath no portion in the Hereafter.

-(2 : 200)

2-       Lo ! Those who expect not the meeting with Us but desire the life of the world and feel secure therein, and those who are neglectful of Our revelations; Their home will be the Fire because of what they used to earn.

(10 : 7-8)

3-       Whoso desireth the life of the world and its pomp, We shall repay them their deeds herein, and therein they will not be wronged. These are they for whom is naught in the Hereafter save the Fire. (All) that they contrive here is vain and (all) that they are wont to do is fruitless.

-----(11 : 15-16)

4-       Whoso desireth that (life) which hasteneth away, We hasten for him therein that We will for whom We please. And afterward We have appointed for him hell; he will endure the heat thereof, condemned, rejected.

-----(17 : 18)

5-       Rivalry in worldly increase distracteth you. Until ye come to the graves.

-(102 : 1-2)

6-       Woe unto every slandering traducer, who hath gathered wealth (of this world), and arranged it. He thinketh that his wealth will render him immortal. Nay, but verily he will be flung to the Consuming One. Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Consuming One is! (It is) the fire of Allah, kindled.

-(104 : 1-6)

Islam adopts middle way between these two extremist views of life. It advises its followers that their success lies neither in monasticism nor in pure materialism. Therefore, they should neither give themselves up entirely to monasticism or spiritualism disregarding the importance of material means of life; nor they should go to the other extreme and judge everything by the materialistic point of view. They should strike balance between these extremes and follow middle path. The Muslims have been called by the Qur’an the people of the middle way and, therefore, they should not be extremists.

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10- Equity and not Equality

Islam establishes equity, fairness and justice in the production and distribution of wealth, and in ownership of means of livelihood. However it recognises that like other natural things there is no equality among human beings as regards the economic means and possession of worldly wealth. This inequality has been presented by the Qur’an as a part of Divine Economic order. The Qur’an does not consider these inequalities in the distribution of Divine sustenance as punishment or reward and does not try to eliminate them, because no two individuals have been blessed with hundred percent equal mental and physical abilities.

Taking the existence of inequalities as a part of divine scheme, the Qur’an advises its followers not to covet those things in which Allah has made some of them excess others. By exalting some of you over others in rank or by favouring some of you over others in provisions, God in fact tries and tests the human beings whether they are thankful to Him in good circumstances and patient in bad circumstances.

The Qur’an highlights these inequalities in its following verses:

1-       And covet not the thing in which Allah hath made some of you exceed others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned……..

-(4 : 32)

2-       He it is Who hath placed you as viceroys of the earth and hath exalted some of you in rank above others. That He may try you by (the test of) that which He hath given you………

-(6 : 165)

3-       And Allah hath favoured some of you above others in provision……

-(16 : 71)

4-       Lo ! thy Lord enlargeth the provision for whom He will, and straiteneth it (for whom He will)…….

-(17 : 30)

5-       Is it they who apportion their Lord’s mercy? We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labour from others; and the mercy of thy Lord is better than (The wealth) that they amass.

-(43 : 32)

The existence of economic inequalities among the people is not only natural but is also a blessing for the purification of human soul and development of human personality. Those who have scarce means of sustenance should thereby learn to be patient and contented and not to be jealous; while those who have abundant resources should thereby learn to be grateful to God, to be kind and benevolent to the poor and to sacrifice their possessions for the cause of God.

Islam, in fact, teaches the people to regard the existence of differences in wealth as a test by which God tries them in this world. By granting abundance of wealth to some, God observes how they spend it; whether they consider it as their personal property denying the poor any share in that or they consider themselves as trustees in respect of the wealth bestowed by God and spend it in the way of God for the welfare of their poor brothers. And God tries the poor by straitening their sustenance whether they lose their trust in God and become jealous of the rich or whether they keep their faith in God and remain patient in the adverse circumstances.

However, Islam does not permit the difference in possession of wealth to assume such proportions that few lucky persons live in ease and luxury controlling major portion of community’s wealth while the vast majority of people possessing negligible share in community’s wealth lives a life of abject poverty, misery and hunger. According to Islam, difference in wealth must not exceed natural and reasonable limits, because if it happens the community invites wrath of God and meets its natural end of self-destruction. The Prophet of Islam has said : If anyone spent a night in a town and he remained hungry till morning, the promise of God’s protection for that town comes to an end. Islam, therefore, does not allow the difference between the rich and poor reach an uncontrollable limits so as to disturb the peace of society. Although it does not believe in complete equality in possession of economic means, yet it perfectly stands for socio-economic justice. It believes in fair and equitable distribution of incomes and wealth and ensures that the Islamic state should provide for basic human needs to all of its citizens. Many legal and economic measures have been provided to bridge the gulf between the rich and the poor and to establish Islamic welfare state which guarantees provision of social security and secures basic needs to its less fortunate citizens. These aspects of Islamic economy we shall study in subsequent chapters of this book. Here we can safely conclude that Islam believes not in equal distribution but in equitable and just distribution of resources and wealth.

[1]-3:   Syed Abul ‘Ala Maududi: Economic System of Islam