Islam’s Economic System Based On Solid Foundations
The economic life of Islam is also based upon solid foundations and Divine instructions. Earning one’s living through decent labor is not only a duty but a great virtue as well. Dependence of any able person on somebody else for a livelihood is a religious sin, a social stigma, and disgraceful humiliation.
A Muslim is enjoined by Allah to be self-supporting and to stay away from being a liability to anybody. Islam respects all kinds of work for earning one’s livelihood so long as there is no indecency or wrong involved. With a clear conscience and due respect from society, the Muslim can roll up his sleeves and undertake any kind of work available to provide for himself and his dependants. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported as having said that it is far better for one even to take his rope, cut wood, pile it up, and sell it in order to eat and give charity than to beg others whether they give him or not. According to Islam, the status of honest working men cannot be lowered on account of the kind of work they are doing for a living. Yet the laborers have no limited scope for improving their lots and raising their standards as high as possible. They have equal opportunities at their disposal and enjoy the freedom of enterprise.
Whatever the individual makes or earns through lawful means is his private possession, which neither the State nor anybody else can justifiably claim. In return for this right of private possession, he has only to fulfill certain obligations to society and pay certain taxes to the State. When this is done, he has full rights to protection by the State, and his freedom of enterprise is secure and guaranteed. Under the Islamic system, the menace of greedy capitalism and destructive communism never arises.
The enterprising individual is responsible for the prosperity of the State, and the State in turn is responsible for the security of the individual. Class conflicts are replaced by cooperation and harmony; fear and suspicion are remedied by mutual security and confidence.
The economic system of Islam is not drawn in the light of arithmetical calculations and capacities of production alone. Rather, it is drawn and conceived in the light of a comprehensive system of morals and principles. The person who is working for another person or for a firm or an institution is ordained by Allah to do his work with efficiency and honesty.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that if any of you undertakes to do any work, Allah loves to see him do it well and with efficiency. Once the work is done, the worker is entitled to a fair wage for his services. Failure by the employer to pay the just wage, or attempts to cut it down and waver on it is a punishable act, according to the Law of God.
Business transactions enjoy a great deal of attention from Islam. Honest trade is permitted and blessed by God. This may be carried out through individuals, companies, agencies, and the like.
But all business deals should be concluded with frankness and honesty. Cheating, hiding defects of merchandise from the dealers, exploiting the needs of customers, monopoly of stocks to force one’s own prices are all sinful acts and punishable by Islamic Law. If one is to make a decent living, it has to be made through honest ways and hard endeavors. Otherwise, easy come, easy go, and it is not only that, but anybody that is bred with unlawful provisions will be, according to the Prophet, burning fuel to the Hell Fire on the Day of Judgment.
To combat cheating and exploitation, Islam demands honesty in business, warns the cheaters, encourages decent work, and forbids usury or the taking of interest just in return for lending money to the needy.
This is to show man that he rightfully owns only what he works for, and that exploitation of other people’s pressing needs is irreligious, inhuman, and immoral. In the Qur’an, Allah says: “Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the Evil One by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: ‘Trade is like usury.’ But Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury. “Those who eat Riba (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitan (Satan) leading him to insanity. That is because they say: ‘Trading is only like Riba (usury), ‘ whereas Allah has permitted trading and forbidden Riba (usury). So whoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Riba (usury) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allah (to judge); but whoever returns [to Riba (usury)], such are the dwellers of the Fire – they will abide therein. (Qur’an 2:275)
Although man is encouraged to work, is free to engage in an enterprise, is entitled to earn and possess, the fact that he is a mere trustee provides the necessary measure to ensure proper handling of his possessions, the wealth he holds in trust. He has the freedom to earn, invest and spend. Yet in so doing he is guided by high principles to save him from going astray. An example may be sufficient to illustrate the point.
Proprietors are not unreservedly free to spend their money or handle their properties the way they please.
There are certain rules of spending to be followed. In the words of the Qur’an, God enjoins upon the proprietor to fulfill his financial obligations towards his fellow men and to be moderate in his private spending. He is always reminded of the fact that God is the Real Provider and Actual Possessor.