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The Islamic Welfare State and Its Role in the Economy

The Islamic Welfare State and Its Role in the Economy

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Published by: WisdomRider on Aug 27, 2011
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12/29/2011

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The Islamic Welfare State and itsRole in the Economy
M. Umar Chapra
ISLAM has a set of goals and values encompassing allaspects of human life including social, economic and political. Sinceall aspects of life are interdependent and the Islamic way of life is aconsistent whole, its goals and values in one field determine the goalsand values in the other fields as well. This paper seeks to examine theinterrelationship between the economic and political content of theIslamic way of life and discusses the functions and nature of theIslamic state in the light of its basic imperatives within the framework of financial constraints.a. The Basic ImperativesThe Islamic way of life, being goal-oriented, is inconceivablewithout an organized community governed in accordance with thetenets of Islam. The Qur'an unequivocally condemns disorder andanarchy (2: 205) and the Prophet (peace be on him) stressed the needfor organization and authority in Muslim society. This stress is alsovividly reflected in several statements as well as the actual behaviour of his Companions and in the thinking of Muslim jurists. 'Umar, thesecond Caliph, emphasized that there could be no organized societywithout an
imam
(sovereign) and that there could be no
imam
withoutobedience.
1
The famous jurist Shafi‘i recorded the mood of his age(A.H. 150-204) by stating that there is
ijma‘ 
(consensus) amongMuslims that there must be a caliph.
2
Likewise, Ibn Hanbal stressedthat the absence of an
imam
could only result in disorder.
3
 This teaching of Islam with respect to authority andorganization has continually influenced all Muslim political thinkingexcept perhaps that of the Khawarij. Abu Ya'la and Mawardi, bothcontemporaries in Baghdad during the first half of the fifth century of the
 Hijrah
(eleventh century C.E.), and both writing on thecharacteristics of an ideal state, stressed that the exercise of 
imamah
(sovereignty) is an absolute necessity.
4
Mawardi went even further,stating that the existence of an
imam
was as necessary as the strivingfor truth and the acquisition of knowledge.
5
Ibn Khaldun emphasizedthat the institution of caliphate is a
 shar‘i,
obligation and that Muslimsare obliged to establish and maintain it.
6
Similar ideas
 
 3
were expressed by Ibn Taymiyah,
7
Shah Wali-Allah
8
and a number of other scholars. Such an attitude toward the state is quite natural sinceIslam advocates certain goals and ideals which would be difficult of realization without a value- and goal-oriented state. This idea wasexpressed beautifully by the famous Muslim poet-thinker MuhammadIqbal (d. 1938) when he stated that "the state according to Islam isonly an effort to realize the spiritual in human organization”
9
 Thus the state is viewed by Islam as an instrument for therealization of the ultimate goals, both spiritual and material, of theIslamic society. However, the authority exercised by the state is notabsolute. It is a trust from God and is to be exercised in accordancewith the terms of the trust as laid down' in the
Shari'ah.
Two of themost important terms of this trust are that the state should. bedemocratic and welfare-oriented.Sovereignty, according to Islam, vests in God. It is only HisWill that should prevail in this world. Says the Qur'an:Is it not His to create and to govern? (7: 54)Sovereignty is for none but God. (12: 40)Follow the Revelation sent to you from your Lord, andfollow not, as friends or protectors, other than Him (7: 3).The sovereignty of God implies the rule of the Divine Law asrevealed by Him in the Qur'an to the Holy Prophet and as elaboratedin the Prophet's
 sunnah
during the course of his mission. Man asvicegerent of God on earth (2: 30, 6: 165) can neither make nor abrogate the Divine Law. Man must necessarily submit to it if herealizes that the All-knowing God in His Great Wisdom is the bestguide of man in all his affairs. Given the Divine Law, all individualswho submit to it must be partners in its implementation. Hence, oncethe sovereignty of God is recognized, the authority for itsestablishment is vested in the whole
ummah
and is to be exercised inthe light of the Qur'an and
Sunl1ah
through the democratic process of consultation with the
ummah,
10
 
(or its rightful representatives) as theQur'an enjoins:And consult them in affairs. (3: 159)And they conduct their affairs by mutual consultation.(42:38)The mission of the Holy Prophet is. defined by the Qur'an to be a merciful blessing
(rahmah)
for all mankind (2: 107). Somemanifestations of this merciful blessing are stated explicitly in theQur'an. These include, among others, the fostering of "good life"
(hayat tayyibah)
and "welfare"
(falah),
11
 
 provision of ease andalleviation of hardship,
12
generation of pl'osperity.
13
 

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