The Role of the Government in an Islamic Economy
The Role of the Government in an Islamic Economy
by Shah Abdul HannanEDITORIAL
While Islam focuses on individual freedom, the government's role in the economic life has increasingly come under discussion. These discussions have become ever more important in this era of Perestroika, when market is replacing more and more state control. While Islam recognizes the role of markets; freedom of individuals it also recognizes the possible adverse impact of the totally unregulated market on the various sections of the society particularly the poor and the disadvantaged Islamic Economics literature emphasizes four types of action by government in the economic life. These are :
- Ensuring compliance with the Islamic code of conduct by individuals through education and whenever necessary, through coercion;
- Maintenance of healthy conditions in the market to ensure its proper functioning;
- Modification of the allocation of resources and distribution of income affected by the market mechanism by guiding & regulating it as well as direct intervention and participation in the process;
- Taking positive steps in the field of production and capital formation to accelerate growth.
We feel that the role of government is an important issue which deserves considerable research. The present Research Monograph is a contribution in this direction. Brother Shah Abdul Hannan - a Fellow of the Islamic Economics Research Bureau, has done considerable research into Shariah literature. As a result of this research, he is able to shed new light on the justification of the role of government in the Islamic economy and its possible functions.
We are proud to present such an excellent piece of work to the academician, policy makers and general readers. I am confident this Research Monograph will arouse enough interest not only at home but also abroad and will be able to provoke newer thinking and research.
Dr. Salahuddin Ahmad
The Role of the Government in an Islamic Economy
Shah Abdul Hannan [ Former Secretary, Government of Bangladesh and Advisor, Witness-Pioneer]
The role of the government in an economy depends on the goals of that particular economy. Therefore, in this brief article, a resume on the goal of an Islamic economy will be given before discussing the possible role of the government in an Islamic economy.
The principal objective of the Islamic economy, may the whole of Islamic way of life is to establish 'justice & benevolence' (Adal & Ihsan). In this respect, Allah has ordained in the Holy Quran:
"Allah commands justice, the doing of good and liberality to kith & kin and He forbids all shameful deeds and injustice and rebellion"...(Ayat 90, Sura Nahl).
Allah commanded to establish justice and equity in all aspects of our life. We have to ensure justice and good conduct not only in our individual life but also in the socio-economic sphere.
To establish justice in the economic field, all the avenues of economic exploitation must be closed and an economic system that will ensure justice and fair play between man and man, between different classes and regions must be established. Establishing economic justice in the international arena means : end of exploitation of one country by another. Now-a-days, the developed countries exploit the poor countries by giving lower prices for the raw materials and charging higher prices for the industrial products. There still exists many other ways of exploitation. The ultimate objective of the Islamic economy is to establish social justice. Establishing social justice is the main issue and for no reason, this primary and basic principle can be undermined.
The other objectives of the Islamic economy, such as maximum desirable use of resources, freedom of work and earning, meeting the requirements of the deprived and establishing human dignity, etc. are only to assist in achieving the principal and ultimate objective of the Islamic economy - establishment of economic and social justice. Therefore, all other economic considerations should be regarded secondary to the ultimate and principal objective of establishing social and economic justice. It is not lawful to allow the operation of such economic principles and activities that will disturb real and genuine economic and social justice.
Allah has commanded man to establish justice and benevolence and he made it obligatory upon every Muslim individual and organization including Islamic government. No Muslim government can avoid performing this obligatory duty. Allah subhanuta'ala, has clearly explained this role of the government in the Holy Quran in the following words:
"(They are) those who, if we establish them in the land, establish regular prayer & give regular charity, enjoin the right(Maruf) and forbid wrong(Munker)." ...(Ayat 41, Sura Hajj).
In this verse, Allah has categorically called upon the Muslims to do 'maruf' (good or right) and resist 'munker' (evil or wrong). In order to establish a just economic order, we have to enforce 'maruf' & prevent 'munker'. These words have a very wide and comprehensive meaning and covers moral, social, economic and all other fields. The true implication of applying the principle of 'maruf' in the economic field means establishment of a just economy and preventing 'munker' will ensure the blocking of all the roads and avenues of economic oppression. The state can legislate necessary laws to ensure social justice and to put an end to economic exploitation and oppression and this verse of the Quaran has given Islamic state necessary legal authority to do that. But the parliament of an Islamic State, will decide on the basis of Islamic Shariah what sort of economic arrangements are unjust and wrong. This power of parliament to enact laws cannot be curtailed in the name of protecting individual rights. By applying its legal and administrative power, Islamic government can stop all sorts of unlawful and unjust profiteering, hoarding, cartel, monopoly, smuggling and other illegal transactions. It is essential that the government enact necessary laws to stop such illegal economic activities. We will also reach the same conclusion as to the power of the Islamic government in the economic field if we look and judge from another angle. The three sources of legislation in Islam are Quran (book of Allah), Sunnah(tradition o the Holy Prophet (sm) and Ijtihad. There are various method of Ijtihad. Qiyas or systematic inference is one such important method of Ijtihad. Other noteworthy principles of Ijtihad are Istihsan or Istislah. Istihsan is to accept such interpretation of law that will be bring easiness and Istislah means to legislate for public interest. Let us analyse why Islamic Shariah has forbidden interest and gambling and why payment of Zakah (poor due) has been made obligatory and why Islam has warned against the concentration of wealth among the rich.
It is clear that Allah has forbidden interest and gambling considering them extremely harmful for the society from economic point of view. In the same way from the economic point of view, He considered Zakah beneficial for the society and made it obligatory. From this, we can make clear inference (Qiyas), that Allah dislikes harmful economic transactions and likes activities that is beneficial and helpful for the society. On this basis of this Qiyas, we can conclude that the responsibility of the Islamic government and society is to disband all harmful economic transactions and activities and to encourage and establish such economic system that is beneficial.
Imam Ibnul Qayyim has explained the ultimate objective of the Islamic law in the following words:
"Allah has sent down Prophets and revealed Books to establish justice which is the fundamental and basic objective of the whole creation. Everything revealed by Allah proves that the ultimate goal of revelation is the establishment of a just and balanced way of life. In whatever way the law may be made it must aim at establishing justice and fairplay. The most important thing is the purpose and objective of law and not how it has been derived or enacted. But Allah by giving us a number of laws has set examples and reasonable basis for framing and enacting laws. The lawful government policies and directives are, therefore, considered a part of Shariah and not a violation of it. To define them as government policies is only a matter of terminology, but these are, in fact, a part of Shariah the only condition is that such government. policies and directives must be based on justice and fairplay" (Ilam-Al-Muakkin in Vol. III, P.309-11)
The observation of Imam Ibnul Qayyim is very significant vis-a-vis enactment of Islamic laws in the present time. The comment throws light on the religious nature of law enacted by the Islamic state. From another angle and consideration, we can discuss the role of government. in Islamic Economy. In Islamic legal terms 'Fard-e-Kifaya' is that social duty which is not obligatory upon any individual but which must ncessarily be accomplished by the society. In this connection Imam Shatibi wrote:
"Fard-e-Kifaya implies that it is not obligatory upon a particular person. It is the responsibility of the entire society. The purpose of "Fard-e-Kifaya' is to ensure continued accomplishment of those welfare whose absence makes individual right also insecure. Fulfilment of Fard-e-Kifaya strengthens the materialisation of Islamic objectives and laws and as such these are considered very important works. Fard-e-Kifayas are for the welfare of the entire mankind and therefore, these duties and responsibilities have not been left on individual shoulder for, in that case these will become individual obligation (Fard-e-Ain). Individual cannot perform his own responsibilities properly. In such a situation to compulsorily shoulder the responsibility of the family, relations, society and people in general is really some thing big. Therefore, Allah has given the responsibility of the matters of common interest on the society. The existence of State and Society depends following this principle sincerely." (Al-Muafikat Fi-Usul Al-Shariah, Vol.II, P.168).
Jihad (striving in the way of Allah), preaching of Islam, arranging education for all, lawful economic activities and services are part of the Fard-e-Kifaya. In this connection, Imam Ibn Taimiaya commented:
"According to the opinion of many jurists of Shafi & Hambali school of thought and Imam Gazelli and Al Jauji, education is Fard-e-Kifaya because the ecnomic life of a nation cannot progress without education". (Al-Hisaba Fil Islam, P.17)
It is, therefore, established that the responsibility of the society and government is to maintain important economic activities and services.
From the foregoing discussion, it is now clear that Islamic Shariah has given the government necessary power that are required to establish justice in the economic field. The Muslim jurists have also backed and supported this opinion.
After this theoretical discussion, it can now be analysed and decided as to what can be the practical economic role of an Islamic government keeping in view the economic condition of the present day Muslim world.
The primary duty of the Islamic governments in all Muslim countries is to protect all rights given by Shariah. Islam has given individual the freedom to earn livelihood. Al Quran states:
"Allah hath permitted trade" (Baqara:275)
"And when the prayer is finished, then ye may disperse through the land and seek the bounty of Allah(Juma:10)"
The aforesaid two verses make it clear that freedom of work and enterprise is one of the fundamental principles of Islam. Islam has not only given freedom of choice of work but has made work obligatory to earn livelihood. It is the duty of Islamic government to protect individual freedom to earn livelihood as long as that right is not misused. Likewise Islam has given every individual the right to enjoy whatever wealth he has earned by legal means and whatever wealth he has received through Islamic law of inheritance. Al-Quaran clearly states:
"And do not eat up your property: the property of one another among yourselves wrongfully". (Sura Baqara, Ayat-188)
"O ye who believe, eat not up your property among yourselves thorough illegal means" (Sura Nisa, Ayat-29)
Al-Quran also states:
"...See they not that we have created cattle for them, out of what our hands have wrought, so they are their owners." (Sura Yasin-71)
In this verse of the Quran, it has been mentioned that man is the owner. Of course, man cannot be absolute owner of any thing. Absolute ownership belongs to Allah alone. For it has been stated in other places of the Quran that Allah is the owner of the heavens and earth. Therefore, the right of man on wealth is like that of a trustee. Man is only keeper and custodian as the representative (Caliph) of Allah. He has to enjoy and use wealth under Allah's command.
Most of the early writers on Islamic economics have emphasised the predominant position of private property and ownership. Their position is based on the practice of the early Muslims who owned private land and business. Most of them were agriculturists or businessmen. The Hadith literature have detailed chapters on business and agriculture their permissible and impermissible forms. So is the position of Fiqh literature based on the interpretation of the Quran and the Hadith. There is no disagreement among the early jurists regarding permissibility of private trade, agriculture of industry. The Quran has also permitted trade (Sura Baqara:275), has encouraged earning and exploitation of resources (Sura Juma), has permitted transfer of property through inheritance (Sura Nisa), and so on which indicate the permissibility of private property and 'ownership'. Amongst those who have taken this position in recent time is Maulana Syed Abul A'la Maududi (Masshytat-e-Islam) and Syed Qutub (Social Justice in Islam). They, however, do not deny the need for state intervention but they want to keep the state intervention to the minimum.
There are, however, eminent authorities who have denied the central position of individual ownership. The martyr Abdul Qadir Audah deserves quoting at length in the context that "the society (Jamaat) through its functionaries such as rulers and counsellors has the authority to organise the ways and means of utilising wealth. All wealth belongs to Allah but Allah has made it for the good of the society." The rule in Islam is that all rights belonging to Allah are for the good of the society which sits authority over them, and not the individuals.
The society, through the rulers representing it, can, when the public interest demands, abrogate the individual ownership of benefits of a property, subject to the condition that a suitable compensation is to be given to the owner of the benefits involved.
Though Islam allows ownership without limit, it authorises society, as they entity for ensuring the rights of Allah and for organising utilisation of wealth, to subject the individual ownership of particular kinds of property to limits, when this is necessitated by public good. This it can do through its representatives. This may apply to ceilings on agricultural holdings or to urban property (Al Maal Wal Hakm fil Islam).
It appears that the Muslim scholars have gradually taken a middle position on the issue of nationalisation. This is because of two reasons. One is that the theoretical position of Islam allows flexibility of interpretation on this issue because Islam has on the one hand emphasised the right of earning and profession (Baqara-275) sanctity of private property (Nisa-29, also Prophet's speech in the farewell pilgrimage) and on the other hand, has emphasised social justice (Nahl-90) right of others (Hashr-7, Touba-103) and maximum distribution of wealth (Hashr-7). Second reason for this middle position taken by Islamic scholars is the experience of nationalisation in the last sixty years in the world. Nationalisation has helped in breaking down feudalistic control over land acquired mostly through unjust or illegal means. It has helped in safeguarding of the rights of labourers, elimination of poverty and exploitation in many places and sectors. On the other hand, nationalisation has generated inefficiency, corruption, low productivity and loss of social and economic freedom in many places as revealed in several studies on the subject. As a result the Muslim economists have taken a cautious approach and pleads for nationalisation where it is really necessary for social good.
Looking back through history we find, in early Islamic history, three kinds of ownership: private, communal and state. The natural resources like the forest, the mines, the water resources and the vast tracts of land were owned by the state. Pastures, graveyards, and such things of need of the local community were owned by the community and not the individuals. However, most of the agricultural land, houses small workshops, cattle wealth, etc. were owned by individuals. The books of Hadith are full of accounts of individual ownership. Every book of Hadith and Fiqh has chapters on trade, agriculture, etc. which clearly establish that individual ownerships were the standard form of ownership in early Islam. This fact cannot be brushed aside in any factual assessment of ownership in early Islamic history as has been the case with some writers.
In this connection, an event in early Islamic history is important for understanding the issue of public vs. private ownership in Islam. After the conquest of Syria and Iraq, a big debate took place among the companions of the Prophet (sm) whether the newly conquered lands should be distributed among the soldiers of the victorious army or should be made state land. Jubair, Bilal, Abdur Rahman Ibn Auf, Salman Farsi and some others (R) demanded that the conquered property be distributed among the soldiers. On the other land, Omar, Ali, Muaz Ibn Jabal (R) thought that this land should be made state lands to raise revenues for the state and protect the interest of the future Muslims. After a long drawn debate of 2/3 days, it was decided in the Majlish-al-Sura that these lands would be made state lands and the Sahabis accepted the decision. This decision was implemented. The conquered lands were made state lands and these were leased out to the former farmers of the land against a land-tax (Kharaz). The fund generated every year was spent to run the state machinery and for the welfare of the masses. (Tafhimul Quran, Tafsir of Suratul Hashr, by Syed Abul A'la Maududi). This clearly establishes, among others that while there is an option of making a wealth state property, or private property, the public interest should be considered the most important factor. This should be considered equally applicable in similar cases on the basis of Qiyas (analogical deduction).
In the recent history Islamic states of Iran and Pakistan, banking, insurance, key industries have been nationalised with the support of broad sections of the Ulema. In Iran, the government led by the Ulema pioneered the nationalisation. Even in Bangladesh, the Islamic parties have not supported any call for wholesale de-nationalisation of already nationalised key sectors. This establishes that the Ulema and the Islamic parties have gradually accepted the need for nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy for the benefit of the people.
It can be considered at this stage whether nationalisation can be one of the policy instruments available to an Islamic government for removing the existing concentration of wealth, economic injustice and socially detrimental distortions of the economy. Islam's disapproval of concentration of wealth (Sura Hashr, Ayat-7) and emphasis on justice (Sura Nahl, Ayat-90) is well known. It was also the function of the Prophets to remove all injustice and disequilibrium as has been stated in Sura Hadid:
"Surely we sent Prophets with clear proofs and sent with them the book and the balance (of right & wrong) to establish humanity on balance and justice." (Ayet-25)
In the absence of the Prophets, it is the duty of the Muslims, particularly the government to establish humanity on balanced order. If in any given situation, the balance has been distorted, it is necessary to restore the balance. Nationalisation with or without compensation (in case of ill-gotten wealth) can be a policy instrument in the hand of the Islamic government. However, this should be done with the consent of the people as may be expressed through the representatives of the people and with justice. This should not be done arbitrarily.
It is not the obligation of the Islamic government to protect properties that has been earned through illegal means rather Islamic government will confiscate properties earned through illegal means as all illegal means are forbidden. All illegal means are forbidden (haram) and undesirable (munker) in Islam and elimination of haram and munker is the principal responsibility of the Islamic government. There are many instances in the Islamic history of confiscating wealth earned through illegal means and restoring and returning them to their original owners. Amirul Mumineen Omar bin Khattab confiscated part of the properties of those rulers and governors who made wealth by using their official position. For the same reason, he once confiscated half of the wealth of Amr bin Al Aas and Saad bin Abi Wakkas. (Abu Obaid: Kitabul Amual, page-269).
Omar bin Abdul Aziz after assuming power restored and returned to its original owners land and properties of others that Bani Ummaiya confiscated by using force and illegal means(Islam & Social Security, by Syed Qutb, Bengali version, First edition, P.516-19). Imam Abu Yousuf wrote,
"My teacher told me that Omar bin Abdul Aziz always wanted to return to its real owners' wealth confiscated through illegal means" (Kitabul Kharaj, P.138 by Imam Abu Yousuf).
One of the important duties of the Islamic government, therefore, will be to recover wealth made through illegal means and return to its genuine owners or to deposit them to the state exchequer (Baitul Maal). For the purpose of the checking all irregularities, an office of the government name "HISBA" was established, (Al Mawardi : Ahkanus Sultania, Page-208).
We will have to establish such institutions in Muslim world even today. Such institutes must be headed by man of high integrity. No ordinary person or organisation can shoulder this responsibility. The special responsibility of this organisation will be to ensure whether those who have excess property have earned these through legal means. The Islamic freedom of employment and livelihood does not mean that any one can engage in trade and business harmful for the society. This cannot be allowed in any circumstance for no economic activity harmful to the society is lawful in Islamic Shariah. All these fall within the category of evil and wrong (munker) and therefore, it is the duty of the government to put an end to such economic activities altogether Prophet Muhamad (sm) said:
"One who bluffs, he is not my follower" (Bukhari, Muslim)
On the basis of this Prophetic tradition, the great Egyptian Islamic scholar Syed Qutb commented:
"Islam has totally forbidden bluffing and cheating in trade and business".. (Syed Qutb: Islam & Social Security, P-309).
Syed Abul Ala Moududi observed:
"It is essential to prohibit all kinds of business which are injurious and harmful for the common interest" (Syed Abul A'la Maududi,Islam & Modern Economic Theory, P-182).
'Ihtikar' means hoarding goods in the hope of making excessive profit. Prophet Muhammad (sm) has forbidden 'Ihtikar' of foodstuff. Islamic government will therefore, check hoarding firmly. For this purpose necessary laws have to be enacted. Of course, it should be ensured that such laws do not create obstacle or hamper normal business. For the same reason provision may be kept in the law as to how much quantity of foodstuff can be stored for how long. The government will fix this quota from time to time. For example, at the time of harvesting of agricultural crops permission may be granted to store bigger quantity for longer period. Again, when the supply is less, the period of storing and quantity to be stored may be reduced. Likewise the duration and quantity that can be stored in case of the essential consumer goods may be decided by law.
Islamic jurists in the light of Islamic values opined that profit to be legal should fulfil some basic conditions:
- Profit to be lawful must be obtained without affecting the operation of market mechanism i.e. forces of demand and supply be allowed to operate freely. Legal profit is a condition in which inflow of goods into and out of market is not unnaturally affected.
- Profit is what the entrepreneur gets after giving rightful wages to labourers working in factories, business houses and in the agricultural firms.
- Profit to be lawful should take into consideration the purchasing power of the buyers. It is what the entrepreneur gets after selling goods at reasonable price.
When profit fulfils the aforesaid conditions, it may be termed as just profit. The government, therefore, must take strong action against those businessmen and industrialists who want to influence market demand and supply in an abnormal way, deprive the labourers from their lawful rights and want to make excessive profit by exploiting buyers.
This action may be taken in different ways and manner. The government will formulate laws to protect the just rights of the labourers and will compel the owners and businessmen to follow that law. To bring the price down, government should take the help of normal economic rules and regulations. If it is not possible to increase local production, then step should be taken to increase supply by importing more from abroad. There should be very little restriction on the movement of goods within the country for it creates artificial scarcity in different parts of the country and increase the chance of corruption.
If these measures do not work, Islamic government will have to take other steps to control prices. It is the fundamental duty to the government to put an end to the suffering and oppression of the people. It is not the principle of the Islamic government to control or regulate price of goods in normal circumstances for Islam likes and prefers free economic system without any restriction as long as it does not oppress others. But if the traders increase price of commodities illegally and if that results in unbearable suffering of the people then price of goods must be fixed. This view has been supported by a number of outstanding Islamic scholars:
"State has the necessary legal power to fix price of goods in special circumstances and the basis of this legal authority of the state is the fundamental principle of Islamic Shariah that it is essential to eradicate suffering of the people. (Ibn Nadim Hanafi: Al-Isaba wa An Nazair, P:121-129).
Imam Ibn Taimiya in his book 'Al Hisba Fil Islam' has discussed in great detail in what circumstances price can be regulated. He concluded his remarks saying,
"If price is not fixed at a reasonable level to fulfil the need of the general public by the operation of normal principle of marketing, then price should be fixed for the welfare of the people with justice, neither more nor less. "(IbnTaimiya: al Hisaba Fil Islam, P-37)
In the famous book of jurisprudence' Hedaya' it has been stated, "it is not proper for the government to fix prices. "For Prophet Muhammad (sm) said, "Do not fix price, for Allah fixes price, He increases and decreases prices and gives subsistence." It is, therefore, the responsibility of the buyers and sellers to determine market prices. Government should not interfere in this. This can be done only to put an end to the suffering of the people. (Hedaya).
What is the meaning of 'Allah fixes price'? This only means that the price is fixed on the basis of operation of market forces. Commenting on this tradition of the Prophet (sm), Ibn Taimiya wrote,
"those who interpret this tradition of the Prophet (sm) concerning the fixation of price, that fixation of price is forbidden in all circumstances, they are mistaken for it was an order to meet a special circumstance, not a general order. In this tradition, it has not been said that some one refused to sell such goods which he was bound to sell or he refused to do some thing which he should have done(which was wajib for him) or he demanded excess price over the normal price. (Al Hisba Fil Islam, P.29).
The text of the tradition of the Prophet(sm) is this:
"Somebody requested Prophet (sm) to fix the price. In reply Prophet (sm) said, "Allah fixes price. He increases and decreases prices and give subsistence. I want to return to Allah in such a state that no right of any body is due on me". (Abu Daud & Tirmizi).
Shah Waliullah commenting in this regard, said, "I want to say that to establish such justice that ' nobody is loser or both are equally loser' is difficult. For this reason Prophet (sm) became careful so that rulers do not turn the principle of fixation of price by a general rule. But even after this if there is open and clear oppression by the business community then it is permissible to fix prices, for the destruction of the country lies in oppression." (Shah Waliullah; Hujjatullahil Baliga).
MONOPOLY AND CARTEL
Now-a-days, industrialists forms cartel and monopoly and thereby exploits the people. When the producer have complete control over the produce, then it is called monopoly. A monopoly situation may also arise if only a few persons have control over the produce. When the producers organise in an association to control production, price, and market, such a situation is called cartel.
There may be some economic benefit of cartel but generally it is used to exploit the buyer and the people. By reducing production, price is increased in an abnormal manner. Most of the time people have to purchase goods at high prices which has no relation with the cost of production. This is a clear oppression, there is no doubt about it. But the monopoly that exists in the public sector, is different. There is no question of abnormal increase of price and exploitation of people in the public sector. Firm law, therefore, has to be enacted to control all monopoly and cartel with the exception of monopoly in the public sector and if required existing laws have to be strengthened. At the same time, other illegal trade like adulteration of goods must be stopped. No unjust, oppressive and cheating business should be allowed to continue.
THE LAW OF 'HIJR' (Restrain)
If businessmen and industrialists do not follow these rules and regulations, then government can take over their property temporarily in its own hand. In Islamic terminology, this is called 'Hijr'. Hijr means restraining. According to Islamic Shariah, 'Hijr' means restraining someone from misusing wealth and property. (Ibn Kudama: Al-Mughni). The 'Hijr' law has been derived from the following verse of the Quran:
"To those weak of understanding make not over the property, which Allah has made a means of support for you, but feed and clothe them therewith, and speak to them words of kindness and justice". (Sura Nisa, Ayat-5)
In this verse, the society has been authorised to take over the lawful ownership of the property from foolish and immature persons. Of course, the government will perform this responsibility on behalf of the society. In the eye of the Islamic law, not only mentally retarded and minor persons are considered weak of understanding, those who misuse property or uses to spread unethical and immoral and criminal activities they may also be considered 'safih' (weak of understanding). In such circumstances, government can take over factories, business or other properties from their owners for a limited period under its control. Of course, court should decide the period of 'hijr'. According to the Quranic instruction, during the period of 'hijr' government is bound to give adequate maintenance to the owner of 'hijr' property.
On behalf of the owner, government will make arrangement to run industries or business. Of course the owner will not be able to draw any amount of money during the Hijr period (when the hijr is in force). This arrangement will compel the businessmen or industrialists to be careful and will restore moral and ethical atmosphere in the business. For this purpose, government will have to frame a modern law in the light of 'hijr' principle. Without this hijr cannot be implemented.
RIGHTS OF WORKERS
One of the prime responsibilities of the Islamic government is to secure the lawful rights of the workers and take appropriate steps in this regard. For different reason, this demands special attention of the government. A big section of the society is engaged in agriculture, industry and business organisations as workers and employees. In no way, the interest of the working force of the society can be ignored. On the other hand, if owners play with the rights of the workers and employees or the owners do not pay sufficient wages, there will be large scale chaos and confusion in the society. Such chaotic condition is highly undesirable in the eye of Islam. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the government to oversee so that no chaotic situation develops in the society.
Regarding workers, the fundamental principle of Islam is that they are to be treated like brothers and they should be given maintenance as brothers. It is not lawful in Islam to employ any one without fixing wages and to get his work and service without wages. The government, therefore, must ensue that workers get sufficient wages. In this connection, it is necessary to mention that labour cannot be compared with other commodities. And it is not justifiable to fix wages on the basis of market price only.
Whereas other commodities can be separated from its owner, capacity of doing labour cannot be separated from its owner. Labourer cannot separate his capacity to work from his body, then sell and then engage in another work. On the other hand, every worker has a feeling, emotion and perception which other commodities have not. In case of workers, the main thing is the utilization of the total man, not only his labour. Therefore, labour cannot be purchased and sold like other commodities and equipments, nor his feeling can be ignored. In no way his human need and dignity can be neglected. He should be paid justified and sufficient wages and respect.
Government should fix minimum wages keeping in view these norms and principles, which the industrialists and businessmen must follow. For this reason, the government can appoint a permanent wage commission as it is possible only for a group of experts to determine proper wage after taking into consideration market prices. The wage commission will keep constant watch over market and prices and adjust the wages from time to time.
The government must frame laws incorporating other benefits in the light of practical circumstances. The labour should have right to form free trade union and the law should ensure housing, medicine, bonus and other facilities.
The Islamic government, therefore, should make all out efforts to develop the economy as a whole and for this purpose modern technology, organisation, planning must be utilised. But that will be the long term objective of the Islamic government. Side by side, every Muslim country must take measures to prevent exploitation and oppression over workers.
REMEDY OF OPPRESSION
The labour community is being oppressed and exploited in different countries in different ways and manner. First of all let us consider the case of industrial workers. The industrial labour, even today, suffers for lack of job security. They loose their job for minor reasons or for participating in trade union activities. Laws concerning the security of employment must, therefore, be strengthened. The jurisdiction of the labour court should be wide. The law should have measures so that owners cannot deprive the workers by declaring 'lay off' easily. Declaring 'lay off' should not be allowed without proper reason in any circumstances for that results in decrease in production. The labour union should have the right to file case in labour courts against ' layoff' and law should contain such provisions so that such cases and matters are settled by labour courts very quickly. Likewise law should have provisions so that the owners cannot deprive labour community from bonus when they are earning profit. As paying bonus depends on making profit, the law should have such provision so that the owners cannot misuse or cannot show loss by manipulating accounts. Many a time the owners increase the expenses of the industry by taking excessive allowances, etc. and show loss and by that way deprive the workers from bonus. In this way, avenues of exploitation of the workers must be closed for Allah dislikes both oppression and oppressor. In some Muslim countries like Bangladesh agricultural labourers are being exploited in many ways. Islamic government should fix minimum wages of the agricultural labourers to safe guard their interest. That should be done by enacting laws. Without the help of law, such a situation cannot be rectified and improved. The wages must be fixed in the light of existing circumstances. If abnormally high wages are fixed, the agricultural workers might not get any job whatsoever. As a result, the situation may deteriorate. For this purpose, the permanent wage commission should take the responsibility. The wages have to be reviewed and revised from time to time.
The shop workers are also compelled to put hard labour. They have to work more than 12 hours a day. [ This is the situation in Bangladesh now] This cannot be justified for such a long period of work in a day is not good for health. A big section of the working force is employed in the shops. It should, therefore, be the responsibility of the Islamic government to protect their legal and just rights. The wage commission should also fix their minimum wages like others.
ERADICATION OF POVERTY
It is one of the prime responsibilities of the Islamic government to eradicate poverty from the society as the Prophet (sm) said:
'Poverty leads to disbelief'
There is no doubt that poverty is one of the main reasons which has kept away a large section of the Muslims from understanding the fundamental message of Islam, in accepting it and in joining efforts to implement it. They are so problem stricken they have no time to think about the ideology of Islam. Poverty, therefore, has to be eradicated from the Muslim world by all means. For this purpose, Muslim governments must make all out efforts. Poverty should be identified as number-1 problem.
The unemployed force must be utilised. The over all solution of the unemployment problem, however, lies in extensive economic development. For this purpose, government should make full utilization of both public and private economic initiative. The role of Islamic government in the economic development should be more than other governments.
Steps should be taken to rehabilitate destitute old, disabled sick, children and widows who cannot work. For this purpose, Islamic government must establish Zakat (collect Zakat) at state level.
COLLECTION OF ZAKAT
Establishment of Zakat is an obligatory responsibility of the Islamic government. The most important evidence that Zakat has to be collected at the state level, is in Ayat 60 of Sura Touba of the Holy Quran in which it has been stated that a portion of the money collected has to be spent for meeting the expenses of the Zakat collectors:
"Alms are for the poor and the needy and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the way farer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom (Sura Tauba, Ayat-60).
Ayat-103 of Sura Tauba also states that:
"Of their goods take alms, That so thou mightiest purify and sanctify them; And pray on their behalf. Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them: And Allah is one who hearth and knoweth."
Zakat law has recently been enacted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and other some countries. This has facilitated enactment of such law in any Muslim country.
The responsibility of the Islamic government of our times will be to re-introduce economic system without interest. One of the fundamental objectives of Islam is to eliminate interest. Interest was totally eliminated from the vast Islamic Caliphate and the economy of the most powerful Abbasi Khilafat between the eighth and the twelvth century was run without interest. Fortunately, Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions have been set up a large numbers recently and the experiment has been a success. It is expected that such institutions will grow in number and strength.
The principal responsibilities of the Islamic government have been discussed in this essay. Islamic government has many other economic and social responsibilities in the light of Islamic Law and Values.
- Ensuring compliance with the Islamic code of conduct by individuals through education and whenever necessary, through coercion;