We continue with the serialisation of the epic lecture delivered by the Second Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmadra later published as a book titled, The Economic System of Islam. In this seventh part of the series, the difference between the economic system of Islam and that of Communism and the major flaw in the Communist model are discussed. To read the first six parts, visit our website, www.reviewofreligions.org.
Among the world’s religions, Islam is the most detailed, encompassing a comprehensive and complete law. It has a clear teaching on the devotion and worship due to God, a clear teaching in regard to the economic aspect of man’s life, his political activities, moral and ethical questions, social relationships dealing with employment, education, family life and business dealings, the law of inheritance, international affairs, judiciary precepts and procedures and a host of regulations designed to cover every conceivable contingency in human life. Each of these aspects demands a thorough study, which is impossible unless a body of capable men make it the object of their lives. If such persons were stamped out of existence, from whom would the ordinary people learn? What would they learn? And how would Islam spread in the world?
Tafsir (commentary of the Holy Qur’an) is a vast branch of learning in itself that cannot exist independently of competent scholars devoted to its study, involving a thorough grasp of the earlier works and traditions, a command over the language, its usage and grammar, familiarity with the hadith (sayings of the Holy Prophetsa), and a study of comparative religion, Arab and Jewish history, and the Bible. All this cannot be achieved without a lifelong effort, though, of course, a person might be blessed with this knowledge directly from the divine source. But this is very rare, perhaps once in a century. Others can acquire it only through diligent study based upon righteousness. In the Communist state, such work is not considered work at all—it would not permit anyone to spend twelve years in studying and then a lifetime of teaching it to others. Such a person would be imprisoned or deprived of food and lodging, as he is a useless burden on the State.
The situation is similar with respect to the branch of learning known as hadith. It involves careful study of dozens of works and their expositions, Arabic usage and grammar, and careful scrutiny of the chain of narrators in the case of each hadith. Without a proper study of hadith—a life-long activity—adequate knowledge of the details of Islamic teaching is impossible. Similarly, in the case of the branches of learning known as fiqah (religious knowledge), qada (jurisprudence), history, tasawwuf (mysticism), and teachings of Islam in social and economic activities. All these are branches of study that cannot be ignored without turning Islam into a dead letter, and no Muslim worth the name could ever be reconciled to such a state of affairs. But there is no place for such scholars or their students under Communism. The state would consider them unproductive and grant them no allowances. People themselves would have no means for supporting them through voluntary private donations—as is the experience in countries like India, China and Arabia. The truth is that between Islam and the other religions, on one side, and Communism, on the other, there is a fundamental difference in the conception of what constitutes work.
Our view is that a machine operator, a person propagating or teaching religion, and a recipient of religious education are all engaged in useful work. Communism, however, accords this status only to a machine operator, while those teaching or learning religion are regarded as parasites. To teach the alphabet is useful work according to the Communist view but to teach the profound truth—
“There is none worthy of worship but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger” —is a waste of time and energy.
Thus, while we are in accord with Communism that only useful workers may have their labour rewarded, we cannot accept at all that no work is to be considered useful unless the Communists so certify. In the estimation of Communists, to work for the betterment of one’s spiritual life is no work at all; to teach or learn the Holy Qur’an, hadith, fiqah, tafsir, tasawwuf, and to teach morality is no work. In the eyes of a Muslim, on the other hand, these things are far more precious than life itself. To ensure proper study of religion and that adequate effort is made for its propagation, thousands of scholars are needed in a country like Soviet Russia, with its Muslim population of 30 million. But Communist Russia would only look upon them as shirkers, idlers and worthless people, who are a burden on society and need to be quickly eliminated.
These two views stand poles apart; it is impossible to reconcile them. Undoubtedly, some do claim to serve religion, but they are impostors, who do not practise what they claim. But a person who really and truly serves religion at the cost of personal comfort and gain deserves to be recognised as a true leader; he holds a position similar to that of the soul in relation to the body; he is our greatest benefactor. To the Communist, however, such persons are only despicable scamps or idlers, and traitors to the nation, who should be imprisoned or driven out of the country.
There is someone who, in our estimation, stands so high that the mightiest rulers of this earth carry less weight and value in our eyes than the dust on his feet. It is the deepest and fondest desire of our hearts to sacrifice our lives for him. He is Muhammadsa, the greatest benefactor of mankind, who illuminated the human soul with Divine Light. But according to the Communist way of thinking, he would be considered (God forbid) as a burden upon his people, as were all the chosen ones of God before him: Jesusas, Mosesas, Abrahamas, Krishnaas, Ramchandraas, Buddhaas, Zoroasteras, Guru Nanakrh and Confuciusas. The Soviet regime would, God forbid, send all such persons into workshops to make shoes or clothing for farm and factory workers or assign them the task of cutting other people’s hair. Failing that, they would be deprived of food since according to them they are parasites and a burden on the national economy.
Communism does, however, recognise the work of painters and sculptors as ‘creative artists,’ but considers work done to uplift people’s souls or morals as utterly useless. As we all know, man does not live by bread alone, and food by itself cannot give him the peace of mind. The world is full of people who, if prevented from praying to God, would have no peace, no matter what luxuries of life were placed at their disposal.
It is indeed odd that Communism recognises it as work when labourers spend a few hours in factories, but then go out to dissipate themselves in drink, cinema or dance-halls. Photography and music, too, are considered useful pursuits, but moral improvement and purification of the soul constitute no work at all.
Some time ago, Marshal Malinovsky was asked about his sons’ interests. He responded laughing, “They are interested in photography, music and keeping rabbits.” A child of fifteen, in other words, who spent his time in photography and music or in scampering after pet rabbits deserves to be fed and taken care of by Communism. But the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, Jesus Christas, Mosesas, Krishnaas, Buddhaas, Zoroasteras and Guru Nanakrh (God forbid) are considered as parasites and dangers to society. They are not worthy of being called ‘workers.’
History provides no example that matches the selfless, ceaseless labour of love undertaken by these great moral benefactors of mankind. But for their toil and effort, humanity would have lacked social cohesion, which depends on the sense of moral obligations that developed only after colossal sacrifices on the part of these great teachers, who worked and suffered for the human cause day and night. Yet Communism condemns them as worthless people and places them far lower in the scale than drunkards and debauchers who work in factories for hardly eight hours a day, then give themselves up to all sorts of low and vulgar pursuits.
In short, there is no place for these great and noble souls in the Communist system. I cannot speak for others, but I do know that in a state that provides no place for the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, there can be none for me. We can regard as ours only that country or regime that accords to the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa a place of ultimate honour. A country closed to him must be a country closed to every true Muslim. Communism might cover up this stark reality from religious believers to win their sympathy and allegiance, but it can never attract them if the truth is told. Communists are prone to assert that they do not oppose any religion. The Communists might declare that they do not oppose religion, but in reality that is not the case. Their oral pronouncements are therefore no more than lies.
Regarding this point, it may be mentioned that Russia obstructs religious education on the grounds that parents have no right to impart religious knowledge to their children and thereby influence their leanings. Communists argue that it would be cruel to allow parents to influence their children, as they lack judgement to freely decide for themselves. Children must be allowed to choose for themselves about religion upon reaching adulthood. On the surface it seems to be a fair and reasonable demand, but in reality it is cruel and terrifying. All religions seek to propagate a positive message—the existence of God—whereas nonbelievers deny it. Those with a positive message have the responsibility to spread it; nonbelievers need do nothing. Thus, the Communist position is not one of equality, but is deceptive and unjust. It can be likened to a situation where a man is barred from telling his child that he is the father, but is then given assurance that no one else would be allowed to deny his fatherhood.
If a child is not taught the alphabet or history, he is bound to remain ignorant, similarly for religious education. As stated earlier, religion has a positive message to impart, but nonbelievers are just deniers. By not allowing religious education, the deniers are the ones who achieve their goal. Thus, while Communism claims to be impartial on religion, it is only committing treachery; this is not impartiality or equality in treatment, but fraud and deception. The Holy Qur’an plainly proclaims “Teach man what he did not know.” As soon as you have ruled out the possibility of teaching, you put those so deprived at a disadvantage, and place them in a position of the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, and prevent Muslims from carrying out their duty. There are some other points that arise in this connection, but as I am not addressing aspects of Communism that are not related to economics, I shall not go into them here.
Apart from the harm flowing from its opposition to religion, Communism is defective when judged on the basis of reason and common sense as well.
It is not in human power to establish complete equality for all, covering all aspects of life. Happiness does not depend on money alone, nor do contentment, solace and peace of mind spring only from the satisfaction of material wants. Besides, given the same standards of living, the amount of pleasure derived must differ greatly from individual to individual. Given the same quality of meal, some people will eat it with greater relish than others at the same table. The sense of taste, smell, eyesight, or general health varies among people. Intellectual and physical capabilities are a great source of self-confidence and consequent happiness, but no state action can make these factors equal for everyone. Our near and dear ones are a great source of happiness, but no regime can guarantee that wives, children, parents or friends of each individual would live equally as long. The presence of children around the hearth satisfies the deepest needs of human nature, but no one can guarantee that all married couples will have children, or have an equal number of children, or that the children will all live equally long, be equally healthy, or achieve equal success in life. The pangs of separation from a loved one can be a source of great pain. A mother who has lost her only child will not relish a sumptuous meal, whereas a poor mother who holds her child in her lap will enjoy even a simple meal more than a feast.
The intensity of emotions in regard to dear ones may be judged from the following incident in Lenin’s life. The Russian Communist Party split into two groups at an early stage of its history because of some fundamental differences in viewpoints. The Mensheviks, who were led by Martove, held the view that on gaining political power, the Communist system must abolish capital punishment, but Lenin, who led the Bolsheviks—while accepting the principle—wanted to delay its adoption until after the Czar had been executed. The basic reason for Lenin’s tougher stance was that the Czarist government had previously ordered his brother, to whom he was deeply attached, to be hanged in connection with a crime, and Lenin wanted to have his revenge on the Czar.
The suffering of our friends and relatives thus profoundly affects our happiness and no one can take out an insurance against such suffering. It is therefore beyond the power of man to remove or level up inequalities in the countless aspects of human life, and the kind of equality that Communism rants about is little more than a delusion. Abiding happiness comes from the relationship with God alone, because all contingencies are under His control. You may grant food and clothing in equal amounts, but the man who lacks the relationship with God can have no peace. There are countless things whose presence or absence cause dissatisfaction, but it is entirely up to God to grant or withhold them.
Join us next month for part 8 of this series, in which communism and its relationship to property rights will be discussed.