By: Mufti Taqi Usmani
The twentieth century has witnessed the rise of communism, the conflict between capitalist and communist countries and lastly the fall of communism. The fact is, however, that communism was based on an emotional reaction against some evil consequences of the capitalist economy, especially, against the element of inequitable distribution of wealth, which has been experienced in the capitalist countries throughout the centuries. The failure of communism was not due to its justified criticism of the evils of capitalism. Rather it was caused by the inherent defects of the alternative system suggested by it.
The capitalist economies still suffer from inequities in the distribution of wealth. There is still a large gap between the haves and the have-nots and ‘poverty in the midst of plenty’ is still the major problem of their economy. These are the real problems created by capitalism and unless they are satisfactorily solved, it may give birth to another reaction that may be more aggressive than communism.
The world, therefore, is badly in need of a Third Economic System. The Muslim Ummah can work out this system based on the Islamic norms. The economic principles taught by the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) are quite capable of solving the major economic problems faced by the world today. While they allow private ownership and market economy, they also provide a well-considered system of distributive justice, which may eliminate the inequities and bring about a system in which profit motive works with the collective interest of the society. The basic fault of communism was that, frustrated with the inequity of capitalism, it assailed the very institutions of private ownership and market forces and developed a utopian idea of planned economy which was unnatural, artificial and oppressive. The denial of individual liberty curtailed the zeal for production and the wide powers of the state left the destiny of the people in the hands of the ruling class.
Islam not only allows the market forces but also provides mechanism to keep them operative with their natural force without their being hindered by monopolies. It applies two types of controls on the economic activities. First, it subjects the process of earning to certain divine injunctions, which clearly define the limits of halal and haram. These injunctions tend to prevent monopolies and curb the unjust and immoral earnings and commercial activities detrimental to the collective interest of the society. In the context of modern economic needs, where the savings of the common people are activated to boost development, the use of the Islamic instruments like musharakah and mudarabah, instead of interest, may make the common people directly share the fruits of development which may bring prosperity in a balanced manner, reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. Second, the institutions of zakat, sadaqat, and certain other financial obligations provide that even the halal income is again distributed to the persons who could not earn enough due to insufficient market opportunities. Through the twin controls, the wealth is kept under constant circulation and the chances of its concentration are almost eliminated.
But our main tragedy is that the principles of Islamic economy are still in theoretical form for which no living example is available. The Muslim countries have not tried to structure their economies on Islamic basis. Most of them are still following the capitalist system and that too in a half-baked manner, which has made the economic atmosphere much worse than that of the developed capitalist countries. Unfortunately, despite having clear Islamic injunctions, the inequities existing in Muslim countries are far more severe than in the Western world.
This tragic situation cannot last forever. If we are not prepared to mend our ways, some natural process of revolution is bound to find its way. If we want to avoid disastrous consequences of such revolution, we’ll have to restructure our economic system on the basis of guidance provided by the Quran and Sunnah. If the principles of Islamic economy are implemented sincerely, we’ll find the world more receptive to them today than evert in the past.