Chapter 13: Islam A Challenge to Religion
THE RABUBIY'AH ORDER-ITS AIM AND SCOPE
By Allama Ghulam Ahmad Parwez
(Quranic SOCIAL ORDER)
I. The Rabubiyyat Order of Society
The main aim of the socio-political group, which embodies the Rabubiy’ah Order, is to provide the individual with full scope for self-development. Its basic principles are that the individual is the focus of value and that the group exists to enable the individual to develop and express himself to the full extent of his capacity. It lays primary stress on personal worth. A society based on these principles will be composed of free individuals, each enriching his life by working for the enrichment of all life, and each moving onwards by helping others to do the same. This society should be judged by the solutions it offers for the social, political and economic problems that confront all human groups. We will first consider the economic system it advocates.
II. Capitalism and the Rabubiy’ah Order
Capitalism is the oldest of economic systems. In course of time it was invested with an air of sanctity. People believed that it was the only system which was suited to "human nature. They could not imagine that society could prosper and flourish under any other type of economic organisation. The industrial and commercial revolutions gave it a powerful impetus and it reached its peak in the nineteenth century. When Capitalism was carried to the extreme, its defects became obvious and could no longer be ignored. No doubt, Capitalism has certain merits and, in the earlier stages of social evolution, it helped man to create civilisation and achieve a higher standard of life. It calls forth some of the best qualities in man, such as initiative, ingenuity, imagination and a capacity for hard work. But its weakness, which washes away all its good points, is that it overemphasises one factor of production, namely capital—nay, it gives all credit to it-—and fails to do justice to the other equally—rather more—important factor, namely labour. The result is that the bulk of the wealth produced goes to the man who contributes capital and the labourer has to be content with a mere pittance. Capital tends to accumulate in the bands of the few while poverty is the lot of the labourers who constitute the bulk of the population. This unequal distribution of the national wealth, a necessary consequence of Capitalism, is tolerated for a time, but, sooner or later, it generates class struggle and paves the way to the dissolution of society. Capitalism is based on two assumptions. The first assumption is that man has an inviolable right to the property that he has acquired. The second is that society can prosper only when it does not interfere with the economic activity of the individual. The Capitalist pins his faith on the doctrine of laissez-faire and holds private property to be sacred. He argues that what he has earned through his own ability, skill and effort, must be exclusively his own. Nobody can claim a share in it. He may, if he likes, give a part or the whole of it to another but no one can force him to do so. He will be doing no wrong if he keeps to himself. This attitude is exemplified in Korah whose story is narrated in the Quran. When he was asked to give a part of his immense wealth to the needy and the poor, he replied exactly like the Capitalist of today. "Why should I? This is the result of my own capability" (28: 78). The Quran tells us that man commits a grave mistake if he believes that lie owes his wealth exclusively to his own ability and effort:
Now, when harm falls on man, he cries to Us, and afterwards, when We have granted him a boon from Us, he says: "Only by means of my own ability I obtained it." Nay, it is a mischief (to think so) but most of them know not (39: 49).
The main fallacy inherent in the Capitalists' argument is made evident when we look at the conditions on which the production of wealth depends. Four factors, stated below, contribute to the production of wealth:
1. Man's physical and mental capacities.
2. The education and training he has received.
3. The opportunities available to him.
4. His industry.
It is obvious that man can take credit for only the fourth factor, i.e., the work he puts in. His natural endowments are a gift of God. He did not acquire them through his own efforts. He is indebted to his community for the education and training he has received. Society too provides him with opportunities for producing wealth. It follows that man can justly claim only that portion of the wealth he has produced which is the outcome of the labour he had put in. The work he has performed entitles him to a share in the wealth produced and not to the whole of it. The Quran puts it clearly:
Man shall have only that for which he strives (53: 39).
If this principle is accepted and acted upon in good faith, the conflict between workers and employers will disappear and a serious menace to internal peace will be removed. The Capitalist will willingly spend the major portion of his profits for the welfare of the community and the workers will be able to live in comfort and security. This principle is challenged on the ground that there are innate differences among men and it is unfair to treat them as equal in respect of ability. Those who possess greater ability can justly claim a greater share in the national wealth. The Quranic view is that the personal worth of man does not depend on his talent to do a thing but on what he actually does. All men are equal in the sight of God, whatever may be the differences among them. Moreover, the argument of the Capitalist had weight so long as it was believed that intellectual work was more valuable than manual work. We now believe in the spectrum of values. Any type of work is as valuable as any other, provided man puts his heart into it. Manual work can have as much value as intellectual work. Besides this, the differences among men bestow on each his unique individuality. However different men may be in respect of intelligence, they can be equal in respect of personal worth, if each works conscientiously to the limit of his capacity. So it is in the interest of society that some men should possess more ability in a particular sphere than others. According to the Quran, the difference in ability amongst various individuals is for the purpose of division of labour (43: 32), and should not constitute a ground for creating inequality in society and meting out different treatment to different sets of men. The knowledge that men are unequal should not be allowed to induce us to relax our efforts to raise the general standard of living in the society. The Rabubiy’ah Order is committed to provide the means for the development of each and every individual. It treats as sacred the right of every man to have full scope for his development.
Division of labour is meant to ensure maximum production of wealth. It does not imply that the man who does manual work is inferior to the man who organizes the industry. No doubt, the work of one person be more than that of another. The Quran takes the position that a person who earns more should not keep it all to himself, but should give the surplus to those who, through lack of ability or opportunity cannot earn enough to satisfy their needs. In the ideal society emphasis would be on mutual help and not an individualism. The following verse puts it clearly:
And Allah has blessed some of you above others in respect of capacity to earn livelihood, yet those who are blessed (with abundance) restore not their provision to those subordinate to them so that they may share equally with them. It is then the blessing of Allah which they deny? (16: 71).
The blessing of Allah" comprises those advantages that the individual enjoys which have not been gained through his own effort, namely his innate capacities education and other opportunities. In gratitude for those gifts, he should use his wealth to held those who are less fortunate than himself. He should regard his wealth as the gift of God and his gratitude to God should be expressed in acts of beneficence. We should all live as member of a single family, and we are really that, being so to say, "God’s children." The father does not discriminate between his children. He loves them all alike. God, as the Quran says, is Rabbul-alamin (1:1). He takes care of every living being in the world," developed during the last decade, was foreshadowed by the Quran a long time ago.
A necessary consequence of this view is that the means of production should not be owned by any one person or group but should be held in common by all. The Quran throws valuable light on this point as will be shown in the next section.
III. Means of Production
Land is the most important of the means of production. The desire to possess it has proved to be a fertile source of strife between individuals as well as between states. Most of the wars have been waged for the acquisition of land. Endless litigation has been the result of disputes regarding the ownership of land. The Quran categorically states that the earth belongs to God and serves the purpose of providing subsistence to all living creatures. Private ownership of land is thus ruled out:
And the earth (land) He has created for the benefit of all living beings (55: 10)
It is the source of livelihood for men as well as other creatures:
And We have provided therein (in the land) sustenance for you, and for those whom you do not provide (15: 20).
The point is stressed in another verse.
And after that He spread the earth and brought forth from its water and its pasture. And mountains He firmly set. (All this He did) as a provision for you and your cattle (79: 30-33).
It is thus clear that land, like water and air, heat and light, is God's gift to all men. For a men to claim proprietary right to them is, therefore, tantamount to claiming equality with God. The Quran declares in no uncertain terms:
Say thou: Do ye indeed believe not in Him Who created the earth in two long ages and ascribe ye unto Him rivals? He (and none else) is the Nourisher of the universe. And He placed therein stable mountains above it and blessed it, and measured therein its foods in four periods (seasons of the year) alike for those who stand in need of it (41: 9-10).
Just as the amount of work put in by man determines his rightful share in the wealth produced, so his share in the produce of the land shall be proportionate to his labour on it. If it had not been for diverse favourable factors, his labour would have been in vain. The Quran points out this in the following verses:
And have you seen that which you cultivate? Do you make the seed to grow or do We make it to grow? If We willed We could surely make it dry, then you cease not to exclaim: Lo! We are laden with debt, nay but we are deprived of harvest. And have you observed that water which you drink? Is it you who shed it from the rain-cloud, or are We the shedder? If We willed We could make it bitter. Why then are you not grateful? And have you observed the fire which you strike out? Was it you who made the tree thereof to grow, or were We the grower? We (have mentioned all this just to) remind you (of the real facts). Remember 1 We have made all this means of provision for the hungry (56: 63-73).
We are, therefore, driven to the conclusion that in: participating in the Divine programme of the Rabubiy’ah Order, we are participating in a joint business venture in which the capital investment is made by God and we contribute only labour. We can claim only that part of the land's produce which we have earned through our labour and must hand over the rest to God, that is, devote for the benefit of society. The poet Iqbal has expressed this idea in lines of exquisite beauty, translated as below:
Who nourishes the seed in the soil which no ray of light penetrates?
Who raises clouds from the waves of the ocean?
Who (drove hither favourable wind from the West?
Whose is the soil, whose the light of the Sun?
Who has filled the ear of corn with pearly grain?
Who has taught the seasons to change with regularity?
Landowner! The land is neither thine nor mine
Thy forefathers did not own it, nor dost thou nor I.
The Quran declares that the produce of the earth is the "means of sustenance for mankind" (50: 11). The slightest change in the natural order could deprive man of the means of sustenance:
Who is he that will provide for you if He should withhold His provision? (67: 21).
The same idea is elaborated in the following verses
Let man consider his food.
How We pour water in showers
Then split the earth in clefts
And cause the grain to grow therein
And grapes and green fodder
And olive-trees and palm-trees
And garden-closes of thick foliage
And fruit and grasses.
Provision for you and your cattle (80: 24-32).
Ownership of land is not sanctioned by the Quran, nor is that of any other means of production. The animals eat as much as they need and leave the remainder for others. Man alone is plagued with the desire to hoard and takes pride in his store, thus keeping for himself what he does not really need:
And how many a living creature that does not carry its sustenance (29: 60).
The desire to hoard starts the process which culminates in the Capitalistic system. Capitalism, by enabling the rich to exploit the poor, has filled the world with misery, hatred and mutual suspicions. It has turned the world into a veritable hell. The Quran has denounced Capitalists as the enemies of mankind:
They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not for the cause set forth by Allah, unto them give tidings (O’ Muhammad!) of a painful doom, on the day when it will all be heated in the fire of Jahannam, and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded therewith (and it will be said unto them): Here is that which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard (9:34-35).
Capitalism appeals to the self-seeking motives of man and tempts those who have amassed wealth to give free rein to their anti-social tendencies. Let them not forget the doom which, in the words of the Quran, is sure to overtake those who profit by a system so detrimental to the real interests of mankind:
And let not those who hoard up that which Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty, think that it is better for them. Nay, it is worse for them. That which they hoard will be their collar on the occasion of the manifestation of the results of their deeds; and Allah's is the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and He is well aware of what you do (3: 179).
Capitalism is a fertile source of misery for mankind and is thus an inhuman system. It will certainly be abandoned when men become more enlightened and have a clearer perception of their real interests:
Lo ! ye are those who are called to spend for the cause set forth by Allah. And as for him who hoardeth and thus depriveth others of the provision for life, really depriveth his own self thereof. And Allah is the rich and ye are the poor. And if ye turn away, He will bring in your stead a people other than you; and they shall not be like you (47: 38).
This is the verdict of history too. The Quran exhorts us to pay attention to the fate of nations which devoted themselves to amassing wealth and turned their back on high ideals. They were supplanted by other nations:
And how many a people that dealt unjustly, have We shattered; and raised after them another folk (21: 11).
Man is under an obligation to work to his utmost to earn his livelihood, then to keep for himself what he needs and hand over the remainder to his society. The Quran is explicit this point:
And they will ask thee: "What it is they should give away." Say thou: "The surplus" (2: 219)
IV. Period of Transition
However the Capitalist system cannot be abolished by the stroke of a pen. It is firmly established and appears to be essential to modern society. It will be some time before it is uprooted and replaced by the Order of Rabubiy’ah. We must face this fact without giving way to despair. We should bear in mind that man can Progress only slowly and gradually. So long as he is moving steadily in the right direction, he need not get impatient. It is not easy to attain a high objective. He should work hard and wait patiently but confidently for ultimate success. The Quran advises us to proceed cautiously in this matter and not to be hasty and rash. It has proposed diverse measures to guard against the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few. Usury, i.e., money earned by capital, is declared to be unlawful. The law of inheritance is designed to ensure the equitable distribution of a deceased person's wealth among all his relatives. Man is enjoined to help his parents, relatives and all others in need, generously and to make all possible concessions to those who owe him money. By prohibiting hoarding, it ensures that money is kept in circulation. In short, the Quran has recommended the steps by which ultimately the Rabubiy’ah Order might be inaugurated. All these measures, however, are valid only during the period of transition. Under the Rabubiy’ah Order, every man will willingly make over to his society whatever he does not need for satisfying his basic wants. The Rasool, being the head of this Order, was the first to show by practical example how this higher goal should be achieved. He never hoarded a Single penny throughout his life, nor owned any property. By following his example we can hope to make progress towards the goal of perfection. What is needed is the realisation Order alone can bring peace, prosperity and happiness to mankind, and can open the way to progress and development of man. When this realisation has dawned, it will not be a difficult task to transform modern society into the Rabubiy’ah Order. Already there are signs that the process has started:
Verily, the promised revolution is sure to come; there is no doubt about it; yet most of mankind believe not (40: 59).
The Divine creative activity which makes for progress, is certainly at work in the world of man as it is in nature:
And He it is Whose Laws operate in the heavens (outer universe) and in the earth (human society) and he is the wise and the knowing (43: 84).
To sum up, the Rabubiy’ah Order ascribes supreme value to the human self and aims at creating conditions in which the self can freely develop and gradually attain perfection. This distinguishes the Order from other systems and ideologies. We should not allow ourselves to be misled by superficial resemblance between the Communist state and the Quranic society. The Communist state is no doubt free from the vices of Capitalism, but it functions in the interest of the group or rather the party and is not interested in the individual man. The masses are mere raw material which the party leadership can mould as it likes. The Quran, on the other hand, seeks to protect, preserve and enhance man's self. This intense preoccupation with personal worth distinguishes Islam from Communism and Totalitarianism.
Note As already stated in the Introduction, the economic system of Islam has been touched upon only casually in the present work. It has been discussed in detail in another book which is likely to come out before long.