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Islamic Ideology ( 23 Nov 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Quran’s Take on Corruption

By S. Arshad,

Social and moral vices are at their peak in the modern age. One of the vices that have encircled all sections of the society is corruption. Right from the rulers to the layman everyone is involved in corruption at different levels and on different scales.

According to the Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, corrupt means debased, dishonest, putrid, bribed, tainted etc. Corruption generally means financial irregularities, and bribe is a part of it. The lust for money and the desire to become rich in a short period of time is the main motive behind it. Overpowered by greed, man loses the sense of good and evil, legitimate and illegitimate and acquiring wealth means success to him. And greed is in every man’s heart:

“And greed is close to hearts.” (Al Nisa: 128)

In the present age, corruption has become so common place that it has become a topic of serious discussion on national and international level. Corruption has affected the lives of both the common people and the elite and the economy so much that it has given rise to public movements and has even become the forerunner of political revolution in many countries of the world. Corruption in the bureaucracy and the government of the Arab countries was one of the reasons behind the recent revolution and coup there. The unrest due to the high level of corruption has taken the shape of public movement in India too.

It does not however mean that today only the ruling class --- ministers, political representatives or bureaucrats are corrupt. In fact, every section of the society is neck deep in the mire of corruption. Whether it is a doctor, a teacher, a judge, a lawyer, a businessman or a farmer, no one can claim to be above corruption.

If we study the Quran in the context of corruption, we will find that the Quran has not only pointed out and condemned corruption in the religious belief (idol worship etc.) but is has also pointed out and opposed social and economic ills. Corruption has existed in every society in every age. Therefore, the Quran also speaks about corruption. It tells the tales of different nations that were exterminated in punishment to their social and moral wrongdoings. The nation of Saba was destroyed because of their ingratitude to God; the nation of Prophet Louth was exterminated for their sexual perversion; the nation of Noah was uprooted for their total disobedience and mischievousness. There was the nation of the Prophet Shuaib. The Quran calls them the residents of Madian. They would indulge in corruption while weighing or measuring things. While selling their wares they would not give full measure to the buyers or would not weigh things honestly in order to make more profit. It was the primitive form of corruption. The practice had become so widespread among them that it had got common acceptance in the same way as bribery has assumed the status of an indispensible tool. On the one hand, Prophet Shuaib (AS) preached the oneness of God and Namaz and on the other; he started opposing their practice of weighing or measuring dishonestly therefore cheating people.  He would ask the people to be honest to their brethren. The people of Madian, who were already unhappy with Prophet Shuaib’s opposition of the religion of their forefathers, came out into the open in his opposition when his opposition of their corrupt practices started affecting their business. They threatened him with stoning to death:

“And to the people of Madian, we sent their berother Shuaib. He said, O my people serve Allah; you have no deity other than He. Do not give short measure and weight. Though I see you in a state of prosperity, I fear for you the scourge of a day that will encircle you. And O my people give full measure and weight justly and do not defraud of their goods and do not spread mischief in the land. The residue (after giving full measure) is best for you, if you are believers. Any how I am not a guardian over you. “They replied, O Shuaib, Does your salat teach you this that we should give up all those deities whom our forefathers worshipped or that we should have no right on our goods to dispense with them as we please. Indeed you are the only generous and righteous man (left in the land).” (Hud: 84-87)

When Prophet Shuaib insisted that they should give up their corrupt ways, they said bitterly:

“They answered, “O Shuaib, We do not understand much of what you say. Indeed we see that you are a powerless man among us. Had it not been for your family, we would have stoned you to death long before this for you are not strong enough to prevail over us.”(Hud: 91)

The conversion mentioned above is meaningful in many ways. It shows that the people of Madian were well-to-do. They indulged in corruption only to make maximum profit. It means that the lust for making more money or profit is at the root of corruption. Another point that becomes clear from the conversation is that the true Deen (faith) does not only preach the oneness of God but also lays stress on honesty, justice, righteousness and piety as well. Islam was opposed so vehemently because it did not preach only the oneness of God permitting all the evil practices as was allowed with idol worship but because it wielded a blow to all the social and economic malpractices at the same time.  The Jews of Arab had become the diehard enemies of Islam because it had declared riba (interest) a major sin and declared it haram. The Jews of Arab ran money lending business at a very high interest rate. Anyone who once borrowed money from them at interest would be indebted to them for life because of their compound interest rates.  The same situation arose when consumption of wine was declared haram by the Quran. The business of liquor collapsed at once.

The Quran says that God inspired the invention of the weighing scale and revealed the Quran. The Quran was revealed for correcting the faith of the man while the scale was inspired for honesty in business transactions.

“God is one who sent forth the holy book on the right path and the scale too.” (Al Shoura: 17)

 The scale is mentioned on yet another occasion:

“We sent forth our messengers with clear signs and revealed the book along with them and the weighing scale so that people remain on the right path.” (Al Hadeed: 25)

The Quran also says:

“And he mounted the skies and put the scale so that you do not do injustice while weighing.” (Al Rahman)

Some exegetes believe that the scale is only a symbol here. But I believe that it represents the physical weighing scale. God instructed Noah to build the ark under His inspiration and instructions. He taught David how to make weapons and tools out of iron. So he also inspired man to make the weighing scale so that he can do business honestly and justly thus earning by legitimate means. The weighing scale has been an indispensible tool for weighing and measuring. The man of this modern and scientific age has not been able to create an alternative to this primitive tool. This tool is in the use of man in its original form since its invention. Similarly, the Quran too exists in its original form since its revelation and has been the final authority on good and evil. This is the reason God mentions the Quran and the scale in the same vein.

“Do not spread mischief on earth” also calls for explanation. To spread ‘fasad’ (mischief, corruption) is used in three contexts in the Quran. Firstly, it means causing violence and bloodshed without justification. Secondly, it means introducing corrupt practices and ideas in the faith. And thirdly, it means violating the natural order.  When a milkman mixes water with pure milk, he violates the natural order or spreads ‘fasad’ (mischief). When a businessman weighs dishonestly, he spreads fasad; when a farmer uses unnatural or unethical means to increase the production of vegetables and fruits, he violates the natural order. The nation of the Prophet Louth did not cause violence and bloodshed but they were guilty of committing an unnatural act violating the natural order. When a school teacher exchanges good quality of rice meant for mid day meal for children with poor quality of rice with a rice trader for making extra money, he commits corruption or spreads mischief.

“And give unto orphans their property and do not exchange (your) bad things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by adding it) to your substance. Surely, this is a great sin. “(Al Nisa: 2)

In this modern age, wealth is not buried under the earth for protection but other safer means are available. In the present age, gold and silver are put in bank lockers where they lie uselessly for decades causing huge loss to the economy. Big industrialists, politicians and rulers deposit their ill-gotten money in Swiss banks where it is difficult to trace them. These safer means of keeping illegitimate wealth have only promoted corruption and people’s lust for money today knows no bound. Our politicians, rulers and bureaucrats are racing with each other in plundering public wealth by depriving people of their rightful share. The Quran says about such men:

 “The lust for plenty kept you in the dark till you reach your grave.”(Al Takasur: 1-2)

Therefore, God warns such men of painful torment:

“Those who piled up wealth and counted thought that their wealth was forever. Verily, he will be thrown into that which tramples (hell-fire).”(Al Humazah: 2-4)

In short, the Quran makes it clear that Islam does not encourage corruption in any form. The nations that make corruption a way of life perish. Even if they manage to go scot free after indulging in corruption in the world, greater punishment awaits them in the Hereafter.