Charity Interest

Economic Values

41 Economic Values (Sir Zafrulla Khan) In the economic sphere the basic concept in Islam is that absolute ownership of everything belongs to God alone (2:108; 3:190). Man is God’s vicegerent on earth. God has subjected to man’s service “whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth” (45:14). This has reference to the whole of mankind. “Allah is He Who has appointed you (mankind) His vicegerents in the earth,” and he who fails to recognize this dignity and to act in accordance therewith shall be answerable for his neglect and will not only suffer loss but will also incur the displeasure of his Lord (35:40). Legal ownership of the individual, that is to say the right of possession, enjoyment and transfer of property, is recognized and safeguarded in Islam; but all ownership is subject to the moral obligation that in all wealth all sections of society, and even animals, have a right to share. “In their wealth they acknowledge the right of those who asked and of those who could not” (51:20). Part of this obligation is given legal form and is made effective through legal sanctions, but the greater part is sought to be secured by voluntary effort put forth out of a desire to achieve the highest moral and spiritual benefits for all concerned. In fact, this supplementing of legal obligations through voluntary effort runs through every part of the Islamic system. Its operation can be observed in every sphere. The object of the Islamic economic system is to secure the widest and most beneficent distribution of wealth through institutions set up by it and through moral exhortation. Wealth must remain in constant circulation among all sections of the community and should not become the monopoly of the rich (59:8). Islam recognizes the diversity of capacities and talents, which is in itself beneficent, and consequently the diversity in earnings and material rewards (4:33). It does not approve of a dead-level equality in the distribution of wealth, as that would defeat the very purpose of the diversity, and would amount to denying “the favour of Allah” (16:72). It is obvious that if the incentive of proportionate reward for labour, effort, skill and talent were to be removed, not only would initiative and enterprise be adversely affected, but intellectual progress would also be arrested. That is why the theoretical doctrine of equal reward irrespective of the diversity of skill, capacities and talents that have gone into the production of wealth has never been maintained for long, even where it has been proclaimed as State policy, and 42 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS has had to be modified through recourse to various devices designed to secure diversity in reward. On the other hand, Islam does not leave the principle of competition and of proportionate rewards to work itself out mechanically; that too would lead to hardship and injustice, and would retard the moral and spiritual development of individuals and of society as a whole. The principal economic obligation is the payment of the capital levy called Zakat (22:79; 23:5). The word Zakat means “that which purifies” and “that which fosters.” All original sources of wealth—the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds that bring rain, the winds that drive the clouds and carry the pollen, all phenomena of nature—are the gifts of God to the whole of mankind. Wealth is produced by the application of man’s skill and labour to the resources which God has provided for man’s subsistence and comfort and over part of which man enjoys proprietary rights, to the extent recognized by Islam. In the wealth that is produced, therefore, three parties are entitled to share: the workman, whether skilled or unskilled; the person who supplies the capital; and the community as representing mankind. The community’s share in produced wealth is called Zakat. After this has been set aside for the benefit of the community, the rest is “purified” and many be divided between the remaining parties that are entitled to share in it. The Zakat is assessed on both capital and income, Its incidence varies with reference to different kinds of property, but on the average it works out at two and one-half per cent of the capital value. The proceeds of the Zakat are devoted towards relieving poverty and distress, winning over the cheerful co-operation of those who have not yet completely adjusted their lives to the Islamic system, providing ransom for prisoners of war, helping those in debt, providing comfort and convenience for travellers, supplying capital where talent is available but funds are lacking, providing stipends for scholars and research workers, meeting the expenses involved in collecting and administering the Zakat, and generally towards all things beneficial for the community as a whole, such as public health, public works, medical services, and educational institutions (9:60). It thus “fosters” the welfare of the community (9:103). Besides the Zakat, which was described by the Prophet as “a levy imposed upon the well-to-do which is returned to the poorer sections of the people”,1 implying that it is their just due and must be paid back to them, there are other institutions within the economic sphere operating constantly to further the objective of the whole system. One of these is the Islamic system of inheritance and succession. Under this system a person may not dispose of more than one-third of his property by testamentary directions. While he is in the enjoyment of normal health he may dispose of his property freely, subject, of course, to the moral obligations, some of which have been noted; 1. Bukhari I, Sect.: Zakat, Ch.: Obligation of Zakat. ECONOMIC VALUES 43 but neither by will nor by gift, once he enters upon a stage of illness which terminates in death, may he dispose of more than the permitted one-third. By such disposition he may provide legacies for friends, for servants, and for charity. The rest of the inheritance must be divided among prescribed heirs in specified shares. No part of the one-third permitted to be disposed of by will may be used to augment the share of one or more heirs to the prejudice of the remaining heirs. Each heir can take only his or her prescribed share and no more; nor can any heir be deprived of the whole or any part of his or her share. There is a wide circle of heirs. If a person should die leaving father, mother, wife or husband, sons and daughters, each is an heir and is entitled to a determined share of the inheritance. In some cases the share of a female heir in the same degree of relationship to the deceased as a male heir is equal to that of the male heir, but normally it is one half of that of a male heir in the same degree (4:8; 12-13). The difference between the normal share of female heirs and male heirs in the same degree of relationship to the deceased is not in fact discriminatory to the prejudice of the female heirs. Under the Islamic system, the obligation of maintaining the family always rests upon the husband, even when, as is often the case, the wife’s personal income may be larger than the husband’s. To enable the male to discharge his obligations towards the family, his share in the inheritance is twice that of a female in the same degree of relationship as himself. Far from operating to the prejudice of the female heir, this actually places her in a favourable position as compared with the male heir, because she does not have financial obligations to the family. Thus the Islamic system of inheritance operates to distribute wealth so that a large number of people may have a competence or, at least, a little, rather than that one or a few should have a large share and the rest nothing. As if all this left something to be desired, the exhortation is added: “If other relations, who are not included among the heirs, and orphans and the poor be present at the division of the inheritance, bestow something upon them therefrom and speak to them words of kindness” (4:9). Another major provision is the prohibition against the making of loans on interest. The word used in this connection in the Quran is riba, the connotation of which is not identical with that of the word “interest” as commonly understood; but for the present purpose “interest” may be used as a rough equivalent. Riba is prohibited because it tends to draw wealth into the hands of a small circle and to restrict the exercise of beneficence towards one’s fellow beings. In the case of loans which bear interest, the lender in effect takes advantage of, and makes a profit out of, the need or distress of another. Islam urges the making of loans, but says they should be beneficient loans, meaning without interest. If the debtor finds himself in straitened 44 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS circumstances when the time for repayment of the loan arrives, he should be granted respite till his circumstances improve, but “if you remit it altogether as charity, that shall be the better for you, if only you knew” (2:281). It is a mistake to imagine that transactions involving interest bring about an increase in the national wealth. The Quran says that in the sight of Allah it is not a beneficent increase. “But whatever you give in Zakat, seeking the favour of Allah—it is these who will increase their wealth manifold” (20:40). Trade, commericial partnerships, co-operatives, joint stock companies are all legitimate activities and operations (2:276). Islam does, however, lay down regulations with regard to commercial activities, designed to secure that they be carried on honestly and beneficently. All contracts, whether involving large amounts or small, must be reduced to writing, setting out all the terms thereof, as “this is more likely to keep out doubts, and avoid disputes” (2:283). The writing should set out the terms agreed upon fairly, and as a further precaution it is laid down that the terms of the contract shall be dictated by the person who undertakes the liabiltiy. If the person on whose behalf the liabiltiy is undertaken is a minor, or of unsound judgment, then his guardian or the person representing his interests should dictate the terms of the contract (2:283). Monopolies and the cornering of commodities are prohibited; so also is the holding back of produce from the market in expectation of a rise in prices.2 All this is opposed to beneficence, and those who indulge in such practices seek to take advantage of the need or distress of their fellow beings. The seller is under obligation to disclose any defect in the article offered for sale.3 Goods and commodities for sale should go into the open market, and the seller or his agent must be aware of the state of the market before proposals are made for purchase of the goods or commodities in bulk. He should not be taken unawares, lest advantage be taken of his ignorance of the state of the market and the prevailing prices.4 There are stern injunctions in the Quran with regard to the giving of full weight and measure (26:182-185). “Woe unto those who give short measure; those who, when they take by measure from other people, take it full, but when they give by measure to others or weigh out to them, they give them less. Do not such people know that they will be raised again unto a terrible day, the day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds?” (82:2-7). Defective or worthless goods or articles should not be given in exchange for good ones (4:3). In short, any kind of transaction which does not comply with 2. Ibn Maja II, Sect.: Trade, Ch.: Holding back Commodities; Muslim II, Sect.: Sales, Ch.: Prohibition of holding back Foodstuffs. 3. Bukhari II, Sect.: Sales, Ch.: Revocation, etc., Ibn Maja n, Sect.: Trade, Ch.: Seller should disclose defects. 4. Bukhari n, Sect.: Sales, Ch.: Prohibition against purchase of goods before they arrive in the market. ECONOMIC VALUES 45 the highest standards of honesty and integrity must be eschewed, “for God loves not the dishonest” (8:59). Gambling is prohibited, inasmuch as it promotes dissension and hatred and tends to deter those who indulge in it from the remembrance of God and from Prayer, thus occasioning a great deal more harm than any possible benefit that may be derived from it (2:220; 5:92). It also brings sudden and undeserved accession of wealth and encourages extravagance. Indulgence in gambling often brings ruin and misery in its wake. All unlawful means of acquiring property are prohibited, as these in the end destroy a people (4:30). Acquisition of property or goods through falsehood falls in the same category. It is equally unlawful to seek to establish a title to property by obtaining judgment through corrupt means like bribery or false evidence (2:189). The Prophet said that a party to a dispute which obtains a judgement in its favour, knowing that it is not in the right, only collects a quantity of fire for itself and not something from which it can draw any benefit.5 On the other hand, goods and property lawfully acquired are a bounty of God which is provided by Him as a means of support. They should be properly looked after and should not be wasted through neglect. A person of defective judgment should not be permitted to squander away his substance. It should be managed and administered for him, and provision should be made for his maintenance out of the income (4:6). Niggardliness is condemned as a negative and destructive quality. While, on the one hand, ostentation and vanity are disapproved of, on the other, it is not considered right that a person who is well off should pretend to be poor, fearing lest he be called upon to help others. By doing this he makes himself poor in effect, and deprives himself of the benefits that may be derived from God’s bounty (4:38). The wealth of misers, instead of bringing them any advantage, becomes a handicap and arrests their moral and spiritual development (3:181). The other extreme, extravagance, is equally condemned. Even when giving to, or sharing with, others a person should not go so far as to render himself in turn an object of charity (17:30). Hoarding is absolutely prohibited because it puts wealth out of circulation and deprives the owner as well as the rest of the community of its beneficent use (9:34). The truth is that God alone is Ail-Sufficient, and all prosperity proceeds from Him. It is men who are in need, and prosperity is achieved not through miserliness of holding back, but through beneficent spending, which is spending “in the cause of Allah,” namely, in the service of His creatures (47:39). As already stated, a legal owner of property is not the only person entitled to its use. Those in need who ask, and even those who do not ask or are unable 5. Bukhari IV, Sect.: Judgements, Ch.: Admonition to Parties. 46 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS to express their need, have a right in the property of those who are better off, inasmuch as all wealth is a bounty of God and is acquired through the use of resources which God has provided for the benefit of the whole of mankind (51:20). That is why the Quran directs that kindred, the needy, the wayfarer, must be paid their due (30:39). To this end there is emphatic and repeated exhortation in the Quran. Such giving should be in proportion to the need of the person to be helped and in accord with the means of the giver, and should not proceed from any expectation of receiving a return (17:27; 74:7). It is indeed the highest bounty of God that He should have endowed man with appropriate faculties and capacities and then subjected the universe to man’s beneficent service to enable him to achieve the fullest development of his faculties in every sphere of life. Yet some people, instead of putting their faculties to beneficent use in the service of their fellow beings and spending that which they possess for the same purpose, have a tendency to hold back, not realizing that even from the purely selfish point of view the greatest benefit is to be derived from beneficent spending and not from parsimonious holding back. This is the fundamental principle which is the basis of all prosperity, individual, national and universal. The Quran emphasizes this repeatedly. For instance: “Behold, you are those who are favoured by being called upon to spend in the way of Allah; but of you there are some who hold back, yet whoso holds back does so only to his own prejudice. It is Allah Who is All-Sufficient, and it is you who are needy” (47:38). Holding back renders a person progressively poorer in the true sense, inasmuch as he stultifies his faculties, and by putting that which he possesses out of service and out of circulation, renders it completely barren and unfruitful. The subject of charitable and beneficent spending has so many aspects that they can be better appreciated in the justaposition in which the Quran puts them. The following excerpts contain a whole philosophy of spending, giving and sharing, on which no detailed commentary is called for: “The case of those who spend their wealth for the cause of Allah is like that of a grain of corn which grows seven ears, in each ear a hundred grains. Allah multiplies even more for whomsoever He pleases. Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing. “They who spend their wealth for the cause of Allah, then follow not up what they have spent with reproach or injury, for them is their reward with their Lord, and they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve. “A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is All-Sufficient, Forbearing. “O ye who believe, render not vain your charity by taunt and injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he believes not in Allah and the Last Day. His case is like that of a smooth rock covered ECONOMIC VALUES 47 with earth, on which heavy rain falls, leaving it bare and hard. They shall not secure the benefit of aught of what they earn . . . “The likeness of those who spend their wealth to seek the pleasure of Allah and to strengthen their souls is that of a garden on elevated ground. Heavy rain falls on it so that it brings forth its fruit twofold, and if heavy rain does not fall on it, then light rain suffices. Allah sees what you do. “Does any one of you desire that there should be for him a garden of palm trees and vines with streams flowing beneath it, and with all kinds of fruit for him therein—while old age has stricken him and he has helpless offspring—-and that a fiery whirlwind should smite it and it be all consumed? Thus does Allah make His Signs clear to you that you may ponder. “O ye who believe, spend of the pure things that you have earned, and of what We bring forth for you from the earth; and seek not what is bad to spend out of it when you would not receive it yourselves except with closed eyes. Know that Allah is All-Sufficient, Praiseworthy. “Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins upon you what is foul, whereas Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself, and Bounty. Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing. “If you give alms openly, it is well; but if you keep them secret and give them to the poor, it is better for you. He will remove from you many of your ills. Allah is aware of what you do … “Whatever wealth you spend, it is to the benefit of your own selves, while you spend not but to seek the favour of Allah. Whatever of wealth you spend, it shall be paid back to you in full and you shall not be wronged. “Charity is for the needy, who are restricted in the cause of Allah and are unable to move about in the land. The ignorant person thinks them to be free from want because of their appearance; they do not ask of men with importunity. Whatever of wealth you spend, surely Allah has perfect knowledge therof. “Those who spend their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, have their reward with their Lord, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:262-269, 272-275) 48 Cherish Your Wives Cherish her as a gift sent from heaven; and let the kindness of your behaviour endear herto your heart. Make her the mistress of your home; and treat her with respect, that all who know her may respect her also. Do not oppose her wishes without just cause: she is the partner of your cares, so make her the companion of your pleasures. ‘ Reprove her faults with gentleness; and encourage herto point out your own, thatyou may also profit Do not exact obedience from her with rigour: her nature is gentle, so be gentle also. Trust her with your secrets and you will not be deceived, for her counsels will be sincere. Be faithful to her: She is your temple, and the mother of your children. When pain and sickness assail her, let your tenderness soothe her; for one look of pity from you will alleviate her grief, will mitigate her pain, and will be more helpful than ten doctors. Remember the delicacy of her sex, and the tenderness of her frame. Be not severe to her weaknesses; but remember your own imperfections. Honour her; and she will lead you to the gates of Heaven. Dandemis What is Islam? Islam literally means Peace, surrender of one’s Will’, and to be in amity and concord. The significance of the name Islam is the attainment of a life’ of perfect peace and eternal happiness through complete surrender to the Will of God. The Quran — the Holy Book of the Muslims — interprets it to be the religion whose teachings are in consonance with human nature. Islam, as the Quran has stated (5:4), is the completion of the religion inaugurated by God in the beginning of the world, on His sending the Quran through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be on him). As a child is taught his’alphabet, so God taught the religion to the world gradually and little by little, by sending His prophets at different times and to different peoples. When the world reached that stage of understanding when it was ready for the final lesson, He sent the last and complete Book through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be on him). This Book not only corrects the errors which had found their way into various religions, but preaches the truths which have not been preached before, on account of special circumstances of the society or the early stage of its development. At the same time it gathers together in itself the truths which were contained in any Divine revelation granted to any people for the guidance of men (The Quran 98:4). Lastly, it meets all the spiritual and moral requirements of an ever advancing humanity. This is Islam which is wrongly called Muhammadanism. According to Islam, the object of man’s life is its complete unfoldment. Islam does not support the idea that man is born in sin. It teaches that everyone has within him the seed of perfect development and its rests solely with a person himself to make or mar his fortune. We created man in the best make says the Holy Quran (95:5). The cardinal doctrine of Islam is the Unity of Godhead. There is none worthy of worship but the one and only God, and Muhammad is His Prophet. He is free from all defects, Holy and Transcendent. He is All Good, All Mercy and All Power. He has no partner. He neither begets nor is He begotten, because these are the traits of frail and weak humanity. Furthermore, Islam helps us to establish a permanent relationship with God and to realise Him during our earthly life as our Helper in all our affairs and undertakings. This Unity of God is the first and foremost pillar of Islam and every other belief hangs upon it. Islam requires b elief in all the prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucious and Zoroaster. We regard them all (and many more not mentioned here) as heavenly teachers born to reform and regenerate man and lead him to God. Adherents of some other religions may consider it an act of piety to use disrespectful words and heap abuse on the prophets of other religions, but if a Muslim were to show the slightest disrespect towards the founder of any other faith, he does so at the cost of his own faith. He has to utter the respectful benediction Alaihis-Salam (peace be on him) after mentioning the name of every prophet. Thus Islam establishes peace between all religions. The REVIEW of RELIGIONS The Review of Religions is the oldest magazine of its kind published in the English language in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-Continent. Its first issue was published in 1902 and it has been continuously published since. It bears the distinction that it was initiated under the direction of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah himself. During more than eighty-one years the message of Islam has been conveyed through this magazine to hundreds of readers and many fortunate persons have recognised the truth of Islam and accepted it through studying it. The articles published in it deal not only with the doctrines and teachings of Islam but also set forth a comparative appreciation of the teachings of other faiths. One of its outstanding features is the refutations of the criticism of Islamic teachings by orientalists and non-muslim scholars. It also presents solutions in the light of Islamic teachings of the problems with which the Islamic world is from time to time confronted. A study of this magazine is indispensable for the appreciation of the doctrines of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the teachings of its holy Founder. Printed by The Eastern Press Ltd, London and Reading Published by The Review of Religions, The London Mosque, 16 Gressenhall Road, London, SW185QL

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