Islam as a dynamic and universal religion prescribes guidelines for achieving success in every sphere of life; whether it is the social aspect or moral or spiritual or even the economic one. By strictly adhering to these guidelines, all the woes of humanity can be eliminated. The economic system of Islam guarantees welfare and wellbeing of the whole mankind. The system of Zakat goes a long way in alleviation of poverty as it ensures circulation of wealth and its flow from the rich to the poor. Prohibition of all kinds of interest (usury) eliminates financial exploitation of the poor.
Besides these major guidelines, there are other economic principles of Islam pertaining to our daily lives. One such basic principle is that a Muslim should not amass wealth by hook or by crook. He is required to earn his livelihood through legitimate (halal) means. All unlawful (Haram) methods of earning money like bribery, profiteering, hoarding, adulteration, cheating, drug trafficking, land grabbing and gambling, etc. are prohibited. Allah Almighty says in verse No. 29 of Surah An-Nisa:
“O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly…”
In this regard, the first responsibility falls on the shoulders of rulers and the civil servants. They are required to desist from all kinds of financial corruption and embezzlement because they are taken as role models by the general public. Then, it is incumbent upon them to draw up and implement policies to eradicate corruption from the society. Only those having impeccable integrity can bring about positive effects on society.
Like all other spheres of life, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the ultimate role model for us in this sphere as well. Even prior to announcing his prophet-hood, he (PBUH) was famous in the Arab society as Sadiq (Truthful) and Ameen (Trustworthy). Such was his character that when he launched the message of Islam for the first time, he spoke from Mount Saffa to his people and said, “O people! Will you believe me if I say there is an army marching behind this mountain which is about to attack you?” All of them answered in affirmative.
As the trade agent of Hazrat Khadija (RA), the Holy Prophet (PBUH) exhibited unmatchable honesty and integrity. She (RA) was hugely impressed with his fairness in dealings — it was also a cause behind the marital knot between them.
Following the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the four Orthodox Caliphs set great examples of honesty, integrity and accountability. They neither built royal palaces nor did they assemble armies of servants and guards around them. While living in their mud-houses, they were easily accessible to the public. They drew but only meager amounts from the state exchequer as their salaries which were hardly enough to make both ends meet. They were always ready to give account of each penny spent from public account. The second caliph of Islam Hazrat Umar (RA), who gave enormous expansion to Muslim empire, used to say, “A person is not known on account of his worship but on account of his dealings.”
The Orthodox Caliphs took the system of accountability to zenith. They were always ready to present themselves before the court and general public for every act they had done. The fourth caliph of Islam Hazrat Ali (RA), while he was the sitting head of the Islamic state, filed a suit against a Jew in a court of law regarding the custody of an armour that belonged to him. But, the judge, named Shuraih, decided the case against him.
So, according to the teachings of Islam, the rulers have double responsibility. Firstly, like common Muslims, they are answerable to Allah Almighty for all their deeds. Secondly, unlike ordinary people, they are also accountable to general public and can be impeached if they are found to be corrupt and unjust.
In order to ensure transparency in public affairs eschewing the curse of bribery is imperative. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “The one who gives bribe and the one who receives it will both go to hell.”
Similarly, it is incumbent upon all government officials to exercise prudence in spending public money. Para-10 of GFR (General Financial Rules) also elaborates the same thing. The government officials are the custodians, not owners, of public money and Islamic teachings strictly prohibit them from spending it unnecessarily.
The ordinary Muslims are also required to refrain from corrupt practices in their daily lives. One cardinal guideline in this regard is to weigh with justice. In the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty has repeatedly cursed those who weigh less. In Surah Al-Mutaffifin, Allah Almighty says, “Woe to Al-Mutaffifin (those who give less in measure & weight).” According to Ibne Majah, when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) migrated from Makkah to Madina, the people of Madina were not just in weighing. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) strictly prohibited them from doing that, and ordered them to mend their ways. In another tradition of Ibne Majah, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “Allah Almighty sends wrath in the shape of drought, hard labour and tyrannies of rulers upon those people who are unjust in weighing.”
The people of Prophet Shoaib (AS) were destroyed for not weighing justly and for committing highway robberies. They received the wrath of Allah in the form of sizzling heat, earthquake and shrill cry. Their incidents have been elaborated in Surahs Al-Aaraf and Ash-Shoara.
Another serious kind of corruption is theft. Islam has prescribed serious punishment for it and has included it in Hudood. In the Holy Quran, subject to the completion of requirements needed for imposition of Hudood, the punishment for this crime is the amputation of hand from wrist. Once, a lady belonging to an influential family of Quraish was nabbed for committing theft. The members of her family approached the Holy Prophet (PBUH) for reprieve. But, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) gave them a historic answer that is the essence of justice. He said, “Even if my own daughter Fatima (RA) had committed theft, I would have issued Hadd. The nations before you were destroyed on the account that they were not having uniform standards of justice.”
Another serious form of financial corruption in our society is land-grabbing, illegal allotment of land, forceful occupation of land, china-cutting and tampering in revenue records. These acts are strongly prohibited in Islam and their severity can be judged from the tradition of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), in which he said, “Whoever usurps the land of somebody unjustly; his neck will be encircled with seven earths on the Day of Resurrection” (Shahih Bukhari). Islam also abhors and proscribes other corrupt practices. About adulteration, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “Who adulterates is not from amongst us.”
A serious problem nowadays is that we fail to differentiate between lawful and unlawful means of income. This is the root cause of many evils present in our society. Illegitimate means of income have not only crept into our society but those who practice them try to legitimize them. Owing to it, our society is on the verge of economic and moral collapse and our prayers and supplications are turned down by Allah Almighty because there is saying of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Sahih Muslim, “Allah Almighty neither accepts charity nor supplication of one who earns his/her livelihood through illegal means”.
It is ironic that though we claim to be the followers of Islam, our country doesn’t have satisfactory rankings in the list of honest countries. In a country where majority of people are poor, scams of corruption of billions of rupees are sadly rampant. Our political leaders not only accuse each other of massive corruption but a large number of them have often gone scot-free in corruption cases. The need of time is to plug loopholes in our administrative, investigative and legal systems for giving exemplary punishments to corrupt elements. That would deter others from indulging in corrupt practices. Sans an effective mechanism of accountability, elimination of corruption would remain a far cry. The rising levels of corruption in our society are reminiscent of great scholar George Bernard Shaw’s words: “Islam is the best religion and Muslims are the worst followers”.