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Islamic Society ( 31 Jan 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Islamic Perspective on Corruption, and Pakistan

By Muhammad Saqlain Arshad

January 29, 2019

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a strategically-located country with a valuable natural resource. Its natural resources include an extensive natural gas supply, some oil, hydro-power potential, coal, iron ore, copper, salt, and limestone. Despite having such a phenomenal amount of natural resources, Pakistan with a population of over 207 million (the world’s 5th-largest), has a nominal GDP per capita of $1,641 in 2018, which ranks 147thin the world.

Corruption can be classified in two major areas of social life. One is in the public domain, that is making money by siphoning off public funds or taking bribe for performing an illegitimate public function The second sort of corruption is in private affairs, where a person while dealing with individuals doesn’t do justice in his private affairs. The article shall, however, only focus on corruption in public affairs which affects the society at large.

State collects taxes for meeting its obligations towards people to ensure that people are provided with fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of  Pakistan, 1973.Providing protection to people, provision of free education, better health facilities and provision of food are amongst the rights of people, which a state should endeavor to make available. Corruption in public affairs is a theft of the treasury, state or of money collectively owned by people (who are the beneficiary of state welfare programs in the field of education, health, employment etc).

Corruption distorts economic decision-making, deters investment, undermines competitiveness and, ultimately, weakens economic growth of a country. Additionally, when a corrupt public functionary plunders the public funds, amounts so stolen shall result in lessening state’s power to provide basic amenities and protection to its citizens.

With regards to the Islamic perspective on corruption, the Muslims account for about one-fifth of the world’s population, and form a majority of the population in over 50 countries. All Muslims are bound by a common faith – Islam and are largely influenced by their faith in their deeds. Stronger the faith one has in Islamic teaching, lesser the possibility of his being deluded.

The Sunnah of Prophet (PBUH) also censures both the givers and the receivers of bribery. To illustrate, Sunan Abi Dawud: Book 24, Number 3573: Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-As:

“The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) cursed the one who offers bribe as well as one who accepts bribe.”

The second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) used to record the possessions of his officials at the time of their appointment and confiscated partly or wholly whatsoever they added while in office on suspicion of benefiting from public appointment. Umar ibn al-Khattab instructed one of his commanders to adjust the value of gifts offered to him – that he had dispatched to the central treasury – against the tax liability of the people, because taking anything more than the stipulated jizya (poll tax) was unjust.

As far as human nature is concerned, Islam does not admit the doctrine of Original Sin. According to it, all human beings are created in the best mould (Qur’an 30:30; 75:2; 95:4) i.e., inclined to truth, modesty, and compassion, and fearful of ultimate accountability on the Day of Judgment (22:35; 42:18; 70:27). Over time, however, a person is led away from this cast owing to conditioning by parents and society, i.e., from social interaction. This results in divisions in faith, racism, egoism, jealousy, miserliness, and deceit. In brief, a state of mind fixated with realizing self – or group – interest interpreted within the limited context of the here and now, and at the neglect of or without being cognizant of the full repercussions of one’s actions that unfold over a much broader horizon of time and space. This is the sense in which man, who is by nature inclined to truth when brought up and immersed in a situational or social context, becomes weak in rising above these constraints and discerning absolute truth and justice. It is mentioned in the Quran that

“God intends to lighten your burden, for the human being was created weak” Al-Quran (4:28)

To conclude, corruption is a problem that needs to be dealt with an iron hand by the state. Better education for masses, strict laws and efficient administration can make a difference. In Pakistan, NAB Ordinance, 1999 provides for a maximum 14 years of imprisonment and penalty to the amount of bribe received by the corrupt. Surprisingly in Singapore, a country which is among top of least corrupt states, the accountability law, has only 7 years imprisonment for a corrupt convict.

NAB being at the forefront of accountability of public functionaries, has a crucial role to play in keeping the country clean, and to prevent and control corruption. Strict laws, enforcement without fear or favor, tough punishment from the Courts and effective government administration are pivotal to achieve this goal. The anti-corruption measures must be applied consistently across the board, regardless of whether it is petty corruption or high-level corruption. Recently, the government has passed Whistle blowers’ Act to identify the culprits which will again be an exercise in futility, if the corrupt are not finally taken to task. Whatever the state of affairs may be, we all have a common duty to join hands with the government to fight the disease of corruption.