Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Relevance of Islam Today


By studying the history of humanity, it is evident that any nation builds its material achievements upon a specific intellectual foundation. This foundation sustains and advances the nation's material achievements, even in the face of severe problems or crises. On the other hand, if a nation lacked an intellectual foundation, its achievements would wither away and it would be unable to recover from any setbacks that confront it. It would lose its momentum altogether and cease to exist as a civilization. This intellectual foundation is of the utmost significance, as it serves as the basis for any civilization and provides a nation with its point of view about life, goals, methodology, and a reference for problems and issues that emerge in the course of a society. When the intellectual foundation is adopted and implemented, it engenders creativity and an effective way of thinking.

The Muslim Ummah has a lengthy and rich history with the Islamic 'Aqeedah as its intellectual foundation. Today, the Muslim Ummah is living in decline, whether in the area of economics, politics, social order, government, morals, etc. It becomes important to scrutinize this set of conditions carefully so as not to mistakenly attribute these aspects as the reason for the decline. Since, this may cause us to direct our efforts away from the correct solution by addressing the symptoms rather than the root problem.

This apparent state of decline did not occur in a sudden manner or due to minor problems. The Ummah abandoned Islam as its reference and intellectual basis. We began viewing Islam as a set of rituals and a historical heritage, with no relevance to life. This was a result of many factors that accumulated over many centuries. Some of which are:
1. Neglect in the Arabic language.
2. Muslims being infuenced by alien philosophies such as Greek, Hindu, and Persian. (Some Muslims in the past were influenced by such philosophies and established groups such as Al Mu'tazilah).
3. The intellectual invasion headed by missionaries in the 17th century.
4. The political invasions during the 19th century.
5. The current educational curricula in the Muslim world.

In the 4th century, the doors of Ijtihad were closed, resulting in a devastating impact upon the Muslim Ummah, especially in the long term. Closing the doors of Ijtihad stripped the Ummah from its ability to extract rules to solve newly emerging problems. The accumulation of unsolved problems resulted in the weakness in implementing Islam and caused Muslims to start doubting Islam's ability to solve contemporary problems, especially after the industrial revolution that occurred in the West. By the beginning of this century, many attempts were made or proposed to change the situation of the Muslim Ummah. These efforts focused on addressing the symptoms or resorting to other ideologies and ideas. One such effort was to make Islam relevant by viewing the Islamic Fiqh as changeable and adaptable to the changing society. This distorted understanding has led some to view dynamism of Fiqh from this perspective. So, what needs to be addressed are the mechanisms in Islam which enable it to be relevant and applicable until the Day of Judgment.

Islam And Its Relevance

Islam is relevant in the coming of the 21st century in the same manner it was in the 7th century. Human beings can form a system for life. However, such endeavors will never be free of errors, inconsistencies, and will lack relevancy for all peoples at all times. The manmade system would be able to address specific problems in time, place, and for specific people under certain conditions. However, it will never be able to solve all the problems for all humanity at all times under every condition. All of this is due to the nature of human beings who are limited in their abilities, being influenced by their own needs and surroundings. A system revealed from the Creator surpasses all of these limitations. Allah (swt) states:

“Know you not that it is Allah to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth? And besides Allah you have neither any Wali nor any helper.” (TMQ 21:107)

“And We have not sent you (Mohammed) except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind, but most men know not.” (TMQ 34:28)

“And (remember) the Day when we shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst themselves. And we shall bring you (o Mohammed) as a witness against these. And We have sent down to you the Book as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves.” (TMQ 16:89)

How is Islam Relevant

1. Islam is relevant, since it addresses Man as a human being with his inherent needs and wants. It addresses Man's problem as they relate to him as a being with a specific nature. Islam viewed Man from a holistic perspective and addressed the needs of Man as the basis for its solution. While capitalism did not view Man from a holistic perspective. It concentrated on certain aspects of Man's needs while neglecting his other needs. For instance, in capitalism any commodity or service is considered beneficial and has to be produced as long as it satisfies a need for an individual in the society, e.g. wine, drugs, prostitution. Capitalism views the producer or provider of such services as the one who contributes towards solving the economic problem. The problem is addressed by increasing production and subsequently closing the gap between supply and demand. Increasing production to meet demand overlooks the impact of producing the material or providing certain services for society. While, in Islam certain commodities and services have no value because of their negative effect on the society.
Additionally, the tool through which Capitalism guarantees the acquisition of products or services is through money. So, whoever does not possess the price of something would be deprived of it. In Islam, the well being of the individual and society at large is considered and thus one would acquire things needed either through the mechanism of price or through other mechanisms, such as Zakah or through the State's treasury.

2. Islam prescribed or specified a system for all aspects of life while leaving the technical and scientific aspects to Man. Islam left Man to pursue the most efficient technique available. One such example of this is the incident when the Prophet (saaw) in the battle of Badr chose a location for the Muslim army to encamp. One of the Sahabah asked the Prophet (saaw), "Is this the location that Allah has ordered you to choose or is it a tactical decision?" When the Prophet (saaw) said that it is a tactical decision, the Sahabi directed the Prophet (saaw)'s attention towards a more strategic location. In another example, the people inquired from the Prophet (saaw) on the method of pollinating date trees. So he (saaw) told the people to leave it up to the wind. When this method did not work and people complained to the Prophet (saaw) about it, the Prophet (saaw) replied that you know better in your daily affairs (referring to the know hows of life). On the same token, Islam encouraged us to cultivate agricultural land but left it up to Man to use the most efficient techniques available in cultivating and enhancing the quality of vegetation and fruits.

3. The nature of the text of both Qur'an and Sunnah possess the following characteristics that give them relevancy:

a) The text is viewed as a legal text, enabling the Mujtahid to derive rules for other issues not mentioned in the text based upon a valid methodology. If the text was viewed in the way the church viewed the bible (as a holy text), the scope of the text would be literal. As an example in (65:6), Allah says:
"...then if they give suck to the children for you, give them their due payment..." [ 65: 6]
The ayah mentions that monetary compensation should be paid for breastfeeding. However, from the text the following rules or principles can be derived:
Compensation is extended to any hired employee. Also, the wage has to be defined in the contract and employees should receive their wage without any delay upon fulfilling contractual obligations.

b) The text sometimes comes in the form of general guidelines while at other times provides details. As an example in (4:29), Allah (swt) says:
“O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly except it be as trade amongst you, by mutual consent...”
The ayah specifies that any form of trade should be conducted upon mutual agreement. So the ayah left the type of trade unrestricted. There are certain transactions excluded from the unrestricted description of trade even if it is done with mutual agreements such as transactions involving Riba.

Even the ayahs addressing some issues in detail such as inheritance leave room ijtihad.

c) The text in many cases provides an Illah (legal reason) enabling the Mujtahid to extract rules for others cases sharing the same Illah. As an example in (62:9), Allah says:

“O you who believe, when the call is proclaimed for the prayer on Friday, come to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you if you did but know.”

The ayah prohibits trading when the adhan is proclaimed. Since the illah is the distraction from prayers, then any activity preventing one from the jumu'ah prayer is forbidden. It is important to note that there are specific guidelines for recognizing the illah mentioned in the text explicitly or implicitly.

d) The text in some cases could be general while in others particular. Allah says in (5:38):
“Cut off the hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed. A punishment by way of example, from Allah. And Allah is All Powerful, All Wise.”
This ayah was revealed in response to a specific incident. But is general to be applicable upon all incidents of theft.

e) The text in some cases would include specific phrases, making the text relevant for all times. Allah say in (16:8):

“And (He has created) horses, mules, and donkeys, for you to ride as an adornment. And He creates things of which you have no knowledge.”
Although the ayah listed some animal as being halal to use as a means for transportation and as objects for adornment, the meaning of the ayah includes any means of transportation that could be developed which is taken from the last part of the ayah.

The Role of Ijtihad

The above mentioned points gave Islam the potential and capacity to address and solve any problem at all times. Through Ijtihad, the Mujtahid is able relate the text to the issue at hand. Ijtihad is defined as exerting one's utmost effort to extract rules from its legislative sources. From this definition, it is clear that the scholars would be able to extract rules for new problems. The process of Ijtihad is defined by specific rules, some of which are:

The Mujtahid has to restrict his references to the legislative sources (Qur'an, Sunnah, Ijma' as Sahabah, Qiyas) and cannot practice ijtihad without defining legislative sources.
The process itself must adhere to a specific methodology.

The Mujtahid has to acquire specific knowledge that enables him to understand the text. For example, a good command of the Arabic language, Hadeeth, Tafseer, etc.

The Mujtahid has to understand the issue for which the applicable rule is being sought.
These requirements are needed for Ijtihad because the purpose of Ijtihad is to understand the issue and apply the Hukm Shar'ii. If this process is misunderstood, the Mujtahid may mix his personal opinion with the Hukm Shar'ii. This effort would not be the product of Hukm Shar'ii, but rather manmade law.

Therefore, Ijtihad is defined as the mechanism by which the Hukm Shar'ii is reached at and is not a source. From this understanding, the meaning of ijtihad and its crucial role becomes clear. The closing of the door of ijtihad contributed significantly to the decline that happened in the Muslim Ummah. Thus, the door of ijtihad has to be reopened as part of the effort to revive the Ummah.

Misconceptions About the Relevance of Islam

Some Muslims would agree that Islam is relevant and it is not expected from any Muslim to doubt this fact. However, the relevance of Islam is distorted due to the following:

1. Viewing the Shariah and Fiqh as separate. The difference is that the Shariah is founded upon revelation whereas the Fiqh is a product of juristic interpretation and is considered as an "independent opinion." They establish the difference between Shariah and Fiqh based upon their definition of Fiqh which according to them is the knowledge of the practical rules of Shariah. While Shariah to them is a collection of revealed rules and principles. Therefore, Fiqh evolves and enables the Shariah to be relevant in the light of the changing conditions of society through Ijtihad.

2. Some view Fiqh as encompassing two aspects:

a) Aspects related to the 'Ibadah (rites and rituals of worship) whereby a person received reward or punishment. All of this is based upon the text.

b) Aspects related to the Mu'amalat (transactions) and other aspects based upon independent opinion.

Therefore, Fiqh can be changed as long as it is not related to the Ibadah. Since the objective of Fiqh is to adapt the Shariah to fit the social change.

3. Dr. Abdul Majid Al Najjar in his book Fiqh ul Taqayun claimed that the Ahkam Shariah is abstract and a set of ideal rules and that the role of the Mujtahid is to make these rules relevant to reality. In this process, the Mujtahid would bridge the idealism of the text and the reality of the problem, thus reconciling the two. Since, the issue changes from place to place, every society or environment should have its own Fiqh applicable to the issue.

4. Some claim that the Shariah is relevant by its adaptability for gradual implementation. As an example, Islam can be implemented in a piecemeal fashion. Mohammed Ghazali in his book, Kayfa Na Ta'amalu ma'al Quran, went as far as to say that the punishment for drinking alcohol is irrelevant and should not be the concern, especially in the case of introducing Islam to the French, who are compulsive drinkers.

All of these claims are supported based on following arguments:

1. Some rules of the Qur'an and Sunnah were suspended or replaced by the Sahabah because they no longer secured the benefit and the objective for which they were initially revealed.

2. The Sahabah were not bound by an elaborate methodology in Usul ul Fiqh. They took their lead directly from Qur'an and Sunnah. They exhibited liberalism and latitude in their interpretation of the Shariah.

3. The Shariah specifies details for the 'ibadah. As for the mu'amalat (temporal matters), it is mainly concerned with the exposition of basic objectives and general principles which are open to rational inquiry and often provide a starting point for further development. This understanding is used as an evidence for the adaptation and changing of Fiqh to the environment.

4. The historical emergence of Ahl ul Hadith and Ahl ul Ra'ee are used as evidences. It is claimed that Ahl ul Ra'ee were inclined to be more liberal in the use of rational and personal opinion in their development of Fiqh.

5. 'Usul ul Fiqh was developed after the Sahabah and each school introduced a new legislative source or doctrine. All of this was designed to relate the Shariah to social reality and to serve as an instrument for its adaptation to the society. They point out the following historical development of Fiqh:

The Tabi'een carried on the existing legacy of the Sahabah and took it to another level, which led to Ijma'.

Ahl ul Ra'ee developed Qiyas when they failed to find a text addressing an issue.

The Hanafiah developed Istihsan to overcome the rigidities and irregularities of Qiyas.

6. The claim that the legislation in the Qur'an comes in two varieties: definitive and speculative. Although the Qur'an is definitive in its report and authenticity. Most of the Hadith reached us through Khabr Ahad which is speculative in authenticity and transmission. Furthermore, most of the Quran is speculative in its meaning. Therefore the Shariah remains open to interpretation and reconstruction.

7. The Maslaha is used as a Shar'ii source to prove the relevance of Islam through its adaptation to reality and reconstruction. Maslaha is determined by the 'Aql and anything which has more benefit than harm based on the 'Aql is considered Islamically legitimate. Imam Shatibi is misquoted as this being his opinion.

Refuting the above mentioned claims:

1. The human being in his rational capacity is limited and is incapable of providing a system that will solve the problems of humanity. Rather, man's endeavor will always be subject to failure, prejudice, inconsistency, and contradictions. Our Creator, Allah (swt) is the sovereign. This must be kept in mind when we discuss issues related to legislation and way of life.

2. Islam is built upon an intellectual basis and gave the mind a great role. However, this role is well defined and is not absolute. When it comes to the discussion of the creation of the universe and the need for Prophethood, it should be based upon rational proof and not on blind faith. However, once the individual believes in the Qur'an and Sunnah, the wahiy then becomes the reference and consequently it redefines the role of the 'Aql. The 'Aql then, has a role in two areas:

A. The domain of Wahiy in which the 'Aql is a tool to understand the text and to undertand the reality. The Aql has no role whatsoever to pass judgment upon the text.

B. The second domain for the 'Aql is the area of science and technology. It must be understood though that this role is given to the 'Aql by Wahiy. Human beings do not acquire this role independent of revelation. The Qur'an and Sunnah are replete with evidences that prove this point:

“It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, that they should have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error.” (TMQ 33:36)

“You do not worship besides Him but only names which you have named (forged), you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. The command is for none but Allah. He has commanded that you worship none but Him. That is the straight religion, but most men know not.” (TMQ 12:40)

“Verily, those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and humble themselves before their Lord, they will be the dwellers of Paradise to dwell therein forever.” (TMQ 11:123)

3. The Prophet delivered the Message of Islam. The Qur'an was revealed in Arabic and people understood the Message because they had full command of the Arabic language which is a prerequisite for understanding the Qur'anic text. The Sahabah were pioneers whom Allah (swt) described as:

The first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun and the Ansar and also those who followed them exactly. Allah is well pleased with them as they are well pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever. This is the supreme success. (9:100)

“...(and there is also a share in this booty) for the poor emigrants who were expelled from their homes and their property, seeking the bounty from Allah and to please Him.” (TMQ 59:8-9)

“Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave their Bay'ah to you under the tree, He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down calmness and tranquillity upon them, and He rewarded them with a near victory.” (TMQ 48:18)

The Sahabah are the people who lived with the Prophet (saaw) day and night. They are the generation that compiled the Qur'an, memorized it, preserved it, and carried it to us.

“Verily It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr and surely, We will guard it.” (TMQ 15:9)

This ayah testifies that what they carried to us is exactly what Allah preserved and testifies that their consensus is the truth.

The legacy of the Sahabah was not created by the Tabi'een as some groups claim. The Sahabah had full command of the Arabic language and they understood the text in a natural way without the need to put down their methodology for us in writing. Therefore, labeling them as liberals is totally absurd. It is completely false to claim that the Sahabah departed from the text or even suspended the text when it no longer secured their interests or benefits. In fact, this claim is a grave accusation against the Sahabah and the texts. 'Umar did not suspend the text, neither in the examples which are quite often repeated by some scholars from the Sunnah or Sh'iah. In all examples, it is mentioned that there is a text or the whole incident is false. As an example, the claim that 'Umar suspended the share for the Muahalftu kulbuhum (person of importance whose cooperation was important) and the cutting of the hand of the thief, Shaykh Mohammed Abu Zaharah studying the text showed that 'Umar's action was in line with the text.

In the case of Muahalftu kulbuhum, the ayah mentions the illah and 'Umar understood the illah not existing anymore, and thus the rule would not apply. In the second example, 'Umar did not cut the hand of the thief based on the Hadith of the Rasul (saaw) of not applying the hudud when in doubt (Tirmidhi). 'Umar, in this case found a reasonable doubt not to cut the hand in that situation. Furthermore, who is Umar to prohibit something which Allah allowed ? Would the Sahabah accept this from him knowing that a woman objected to his placing of a limit on dowry control? The fallacy of these arguements is as abvious as the fallacy of the accusation made by the Shi'a that Umar prohibited Muta' (marriage limited in time) marriage. Rather, Muta'h was prohibited by the Prophet (saaw)

4. As mentioned before, the Sahabah did not have any need to lay down Usul ul fiqh. This is the same reason why they did not have the need to lay down the rules of Arabic grammar. Both were known by them in a natural way. When we refer to the great scholars of Arabic language, such as Al Asma'ii, we never refer to them as the ones who established the rules of Arabic grammar. Rather, they are the ones who compiled the rules, just as others compiled Usul ul Fiqh. Usul ul Fiqh was practiced in a natural way. Later, the scholars began compiling its already existing rules. Furthermore, any elementary student of Usul ul Fiqh knows that Ali (ra) used to discuss issues belonging to Usul, such as Naskh (abrogation) and thus Usul was not an invention of late scholarship. It was not to be used to adapt and reconstruct the Shariah. Rather, it was laid down to direct the thinking in the process of ijtihad without which there would be chaso. It is obvious that Arabic grammar governs the syntax and speech on the same token that Usul ul Fiqh controls how a person understands the text and that this outcome is Hukm Shari, and not a manmade verdict. It is reported that 'Abd ul Rahman ibn Mahdi wrote to Imam Shaf'ee requesting from him " to write a book that includes the "methods" of understanding the Qur'an and covering how the narration should be accepted, the authority of Ijma', elaborating on issues of abrogation..." In response to this request, Imam Shaf'ee wrote his great book Ar Risala. Therefore, undermining Usul ul Fiqh means that it will be carried by the incompetent or it will be performed by those who want to mix their opinions or desires with the outcome of Hukm Shar'ii. This will be done by abandoning Usul ul Fiqh or trying to play with Usul by establishing rules to reach a predetermined conclusion.

5. The classification of two schools of fiqh at the time of the Tabi'een cannot be thought of as a school of classical traditionalists versus liberal revivalist. This claim is false and implies that the Tabi'een who took from the Sahabah did not adhere to the text. Furthermore, if we go through the names of individuals belonging to the school of Madinah (Ahl ul Hadith), we find names like Malik ibn Anas who used to practice ijtihad according to Maslaha al Mursalah more than Abu Hanifa who belonged to Kufah (Ahl ul Rai). On the other hand, one find scholars such as Al Shabee and Hammad ar Rawiyah from the school of Kufah who were considered as Muhaditheen. Both schools realized what Rasul Allah (saaw) meant when he (saaw) said:

“My Ummah will be divided into 70 sects. They would be those who started taking the Deen from their 'Aql.” (Al Darami)

“He who adopts an opinion related to the Qur'an based on his 'Aql he will reserve for himself a place in the hellfire.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The schools of Hadith and Ra'ee were alike in this respect. Both adhered to the text while some practiced Qiyas more than the others.

6. Claiming that each school of fiqh invented a new source to serve their purpose and then presenting this claim in a chronological order, leading the reader to think that there was a process of evolution and development which should continue is false. Each Mujtahid or imam of the time believed in Allah and the Message He (swt) sent. All realized that their role is to understand the Hukm Shar'ii based upon the evidence and none of them would adopt a source based upon a preconceived judgment. Thinking otherwise would mean that those imams are not worth consideration, that none of them were objective and the whole issue of Ijtihad and Fiqh was an intellectual sport. Therefore:

A. Ijma' as Sahabah was not invented by the Tabi'een but rather was based upon the Daleel.

B. Qiyas was not invented by Ahl ul Ra'ee, but rather based upon the Daleel.

C. Istihsan was not introduced by the Hanafiah to handle irregularities and rigidity of Qiyas as claimed by some. It was based upon an evidence viewed by some as sound while others did not view it as such.

The technical definition of Fiqh is not the knowledge of the practical rules of Shariah, since such a definition means that Shariah has two parts: practical rules and set of theories or principles. This distorted understanding leads one to the conclusion that Fiqh is the knowledge of the practical rules and as such the practical rules is a human effort based upon the theories or principles of Shariah.

The definition of Fiqh in Arabic is having the knowledge of divine laws derived from the legislative sources. So, the law which is not derived from a source is not Fiqh and in this definition Shariah and Fiqh are synonyms. The linguistic meaning of Shariah means a non-exhaustive source of water. The term Shariah is used twice in Quran:

“...to each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way” (TMQ 5:48)

In this ayah the word Shariah is used to mean legislation.

“Then We have put you on a plain way of (Our) commandment. So you should follow that, and not the desires of those who don't know.” (TMQ 45:18)

In this ayah, the word Shariah is used to mean Islam.

However, Islam consists of two parts the Aqeedah and the rules derived from it. Those rules are not independent opinion rather they are part of Islam. The understanding of the Mujtahid of the text as long as it is within the text will be considered part of Islam. It is true that this understanding could be changed or be different from one Mujtahid to another, but all of these difference have to be justified based upon the text.

Assuming that there is a distinction between Fiqh and Shariah, both still cannot be viewed as a manmade endeavor. In the end, the defintion of Hukm Sharii is the address of the Legislator related to our actions. The Mujtahid understands the text based upon a specific methodology. His understanding is considered a Hukm Sharii and is binding upon him and anyone who follows that Mujtahid without the need for Ijma. The Hukm Sharii cannot be man made and consequently the entire collection of Hukm Sharii which is Fiqh cannot be man made. The Hukm Sharii whether related to Ibadah or Mumalat or whether derived directly or understood is binding. There is a reward or punishment on both the Mumalat or Ibadah. There is no difference between Hukm Sharii related to the prayers which is Ibadah and the prerequisites of the contract which is Mumamlat. Both aspect of Fiqh related to Mumalat and Ibadah are addressed in Islam. So to claim that Islam adressed Ibadah while addressed the general principles in Mumalat means ignorance in Quran and Sunnah. Anyone who reads Quran and Sunnah will discover abundance of details related to transactions, legal system, economic system, etc. Therefore, there is no sacred area related to Ibadah while an open area related to Mumalat.
8. Based on the definition of Fiqh and Hukm Shar'ii, the Usul ul Fiqh is defined as the collection of principles pertaining to the methodology for the extraction of Fiqh. The Mujtahid is the one who exhausts his efforts in thoroughly studying a problem and seeking a solution for it from the sources of the Shariah. Therefore, the Mujtahid is not the one who exercises his intellectual abilities to issue a independent verdict, and as such he is not a legislator. As mentioned earlier, the Mujtahid has to adhere to a specific methodology, which is Usul ul Fiqh and has to meet the requirements of Ijtihad (understanding the Arabic Language, the knowledge of Shar'ii disciplines, and understanding the issue). The Mujtahid should view the Usul as the control mechanism that regulates and directs his thinking to extract the Hukm Shar'ii in a creative way. He should not view them as constraints or as a tool to adapt the Shariah, using it to justify a predetermined result.

9. Claiming that most of the Qur'an and the Sunnah are speculative texts, and therefore the doors for adaptation and reconstruction are open is wrong. The Qur'an has Ayat which are Qata'ee (definite) in their meaning while others are Thanni. The word Thanni in this context means that a word would have more than one meaning and the scholar of Tafseer or Mujtahid would be required to study the text, the context, the language, the lifestyle of the Arabs at the time of revelation, and the methodology of Tafseer and Usul ul Fiqh before reaching an answer. The translation of the word Thanni to speculative or conjectural is very misleading and implies that those texts are open for speculation or that they are nothing but conjecture. This would lead to an erroneous understanding that each person has the authority to speculate without any room for discussion or that no controls exist to insure that the understanding is based on a sound methodology.

10. One of the most abused or misused term is Maslaha which is (benefit or interest). This term refers to one of the disputed sources of Hukm Shar'ii by the early 'Ulema, few of which did consider it as a valid source for Hukm Shar'ii. Those 'Ulema who considered it as a valid source, used it with many controls and restrictions:

a. It should not contradict the Qur'an.
b. It should not contradict the Sunnah.
c. It should not contradict Ijma'.
d. It should not contradict Qiyas.
e. It should not undermine any other Maslaha (benefit or interest) that is more important than the one under consideration.

Those who allow many things under the pretext of Maslaha did not pay any attention to this, and say that when the text no longer secures any Maslaha, it should be departed. Most of those who promote Maslaha today refer to their independent opinion in determining the Maslaha as long as it complies with the "spirit of Islam". Such a term is very vague and misses a very important point: the text carries a specific linguistic connotation which the Shariah binds us to, otherwise there will be no use for the language at all. The Ijtihad based on this view would be nothing more than imagination based on Maslaha.

As an example of this practice of Maslaha is clearly noted when some Islamic movements accept to hold some political positions in the cabinets of some regimes in the Muslim world or in the West under the pretext of Maslaha. This contradicts the numerous texts in the Qur'an and Sunnah, such as: surah 5: 44,45, 47 and the fact that the Prophet (saaw) rejected the Quraysh offer to become a king and ruler of their system. Claiming that Imam Shatibi adopted the Maslaha in this way is a false accusation of the Imam because Imam Shatibi himself said: "The 'Aql has no room in determining the Maslaha based on the rule of sovereignty " [Volume 2, p.219 (Al-Muwafaqat)]

He further says:
"If we agree that the Shariah is sent for the welfare of Humanity, then this should be according to what the Shariah prescribed and not based on their whims and desires " [volume 2 p117]
He also says:

"Violating the Shariah under the pretext of following the basic objectives or values of Shariah (Maqasid al Shariah) is like the one who cares about the spirit with the body and since the body without spirit is useless therefore the spirit without body is useless too."

So how could an Imam like Shatibi who mentions very clearly that " the objective behind the Shariah is to liberate the individuals form his desires in order to be a true 'abd (slave) of Allah and that the legitimate Maslaha which the Shariah establishes would be considered as long as it maintains this life as a passage to the hereafter not based on the desires of the human being" P (2-25) How could any one accuse Imam Shatibi of promoting Maslaha based on Aql?

HISTORICAL FACTORS THAT LED TO THESE MISCONCEPTIONS:

Allah (swt) has sent Islam as a comprehensive social order based on the 'Aqeedah in order to replace the status of not only Arabia but the world at large.

Thus, the establishment in Makkah opposed it and this opposition was even carried out by the People of the Book. Although the opposition of the polytheists was expected, the People of the Book, were expected to either embrace it or at least adapt to it. Therefore, a struggle took place from the very beginning. In the initial stage in Makkah, the struggle was purely intellectual and ideological from the side of the Muslims while the Quraysh used all the means at their disposal, such as torture, boycott, blackmail, defamation, killing etc. He (saaw) was able to achieve the objective of the Da'wah by migrating with his (saaw) Sahabah to Madinah and establishing the Islamic State there, which symbolized the turning point in the Struggle. From that point on, the struggle was on three fronts; political, material, and intellectual. It did not take the Muslims long to be the leading nation in the world. Many new means were employed against the Muslims to weaken their status such as:

- Fabricating the ahadeeth
- Instigating fitnah amongst the Muslims
- Political assassinations of the earlier Khulafah
- Establishment of sects (e.g., Hassasineen)

All of those means that were employed in the struggle were not successful in stopping the Ummah from continuing as the leading nation in the world, even though it caused a drag in the momentum of the Ummah.

The Crusader war and Mongol invasions both failed to defeat the Ummah in the long run, although they were victorious in some battles and occupied portions of the Islamic state for a while. It is apparent that their material efforts failed. After the defeat of the Crusades, they started employing a new means of attack which manifested in itself in missionary and ideological warfare. The first Spanish missionary, led by Ramon Lowell started his activities on an individual basis and then by the end of the 17th century this effort had evolved into an organized activity through secret societies and missions that were staked in the heart of Muslim land. The emphasis of their campaign revolved around several points or issues:
· Severing the bond between the Muslims by calling for nationalism.
· Elimination of Islam as the reference point for Muslims by replacing it with another yard stick
· Shaking the trust of Muslims in the Islamic system by attacking some clear Islamic solutions such as Jihad, Penal Code, Marriage, divorce, role of women etc.

Throughout this continuos campaign the West was able to recruit many agents from amongst the Muslim Ummah in their efforts. Those agents were not restricted to the political arena but also to the cultural and intellectual arenas. By the 19th century, many ideas were introduced to the mindset of the Ummah such as reconstructing religious thought in Islam, the negation of the doctrine of miracles, the abrogation of jihad, the permissibility of Riba', all of those ideas were propagated under the pretext of bridging the gap between Islam and the contemporary life. Those ideas were carried out by many people such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Iqbal, Jamal Al Deen Al Afghani, Muhammad 'Abduh, and Rafa'a al Tahtawi, Rashid Rida, Taha Husayn, and 'Ali 'Abdul Raziq, most of which have maintained a close relationship with the British or French governments, either overtly or covertly. Additionally institutions were established to reorient the thinking of the people such as Aliger in India and in Egypt efforts were done to reorient Al Azhar and at times institutions were established such as Dar ul Uloom to counter Al Azhar. Zwaymer, one of the leading missionaries summarized the objective of those activities by addressing a conference for missionaries in Jerusalem, saying "If you succeed in your efforts, you will be the leading pioneers for the coming colonization". The statement of Guro, the French General who entered Damascus and Allenby the British general who entered Jerusalem is engraved in the minds of the Muslims.

Guro kicked the tomb of Salah al Deen and said "Wake up Salah al Deen we are here !" Allenby said upon entering Jerusalem "Now the crusades have ended."

Therefore, all of these ides which are now surfacing should not be considered independent of this historical context. All of these ideas and deviations directed the Ummah to the same result: turning away from the Wahiy as a reference, and giving the mind a role that overrides the Wahiy under the pretext of Reconstruction, Reform, Ijtihad, and a new Fiqh. Muslims will start accepting the status quo and changing Islam and the "Fatawa" will be tailored to justify this deviation. An example of this is the claim that the division in the Muslim Ummah is justified by the existence of different conditions in each country which prevent the reunification or the effort to bridge the gap between Islam and science. Today, the propagation of the misconceptions about the reform of the Shariah and the "ongoing efforts to reconstruct the Shariah" are nothing but the perpetuation of the legacy of the above mentioned persons and efforts.

THE IMPACT OF THESE EFFORTS:

Such claims as society undergoing continuous social change and that the Shariah has to adapt to this social reality means that whenever a change occurs Islam has to be molded. Rather, we should view Islam as that which came to change reality so as to render it compliant with the Islamic viewpoint of life.

The following are examples which will assist the reader to realize the extent of this deviant effort and the gravity of its impact:

1. In Tunisia, Rashid al Ghannoushi states in his book, Huriyat al Amma in regards to a woman being a ruler: that Ahkam al Shariah in general and specifically related to the political system should not be built upon any Thanniy daleel no matter how little the Thann is in the Daleel. He says that the Shariah is not a rigid text nor has it been laid down as a final formula. Also it is not codified like any other body of law. Therefore, the room is wide open for interpretation, updating, and reform through the individual and collective Aql (ijtihad). Based upon his methodology, a woman is allowed to be a ruler.

2. In Sudan, Hasan Al Turabi in his book Tajdeed Usul ul Fiqh, claims that the setup of the traditional Usul ul Fiqh does not fit our contemporary needs. He claims that we are in need for a new outlook or understanding for rules of divorce and marriage in which we will benefit from the current social sciences and will build upon our inherited Fiqh, look into Quran and Sunnah equipped with all contemporary needs, sciences, and all Islamic and comparative Fiqh experiences. After this we will find a new way to what Allah's Shariah mandates within the context of our situation.

3. The Fiqh Council in North America permitted adoption of the method of astronomical calculations in determining the beginning and end of the lunar month since "it is the best way to unite the community and present it to them in a suitable manner and defending the accusation of Muslims ignoring science". Although it has been claimed that the adaptation of the Shariah to change is limited to the Mu'amalat (as they claim), it seems that they also extended it to the Ibadah.

With the new definitions of marriage and family in the West and with the consistent efforts in conferences like the population and women's conferences in Cairo and in Beijing, the Muslims in the future would be subjected to "new Fatawa' to adapt with this new social reality. Some people might think that this is an exaggeration, however with `Fatawa' that say that women do not have to wear the Khimar (headcover) and permitting the women to marry non-Muslim men, it seems, that things could go beyond this.

THE SOLUTION

Since Islam is from Allah and addresses the human being with his instincts and organic needs, it cannot be changed because of the following:

1. The Human being does not change in either his instincts nor in his organic needs. What changes are the tools, ways, and the means that humans use in their efforts to satisfy their needs. As an example; human beings before and at the time of the Prophet (saaw) used to marry, eat, own, love, hate, travel, satisfy, worship, etc. and will continue to do so. No new instincts or organic biological need can be added. However, the means of satisfying these needs change. It is well known that Islam views any object as Halal unless there is particular Daleel that excludes a particular object (unlike the actions, all of which require a daleel for the performance or abstention). Therefore, what do we need to change Islam for ?
Since Allah (swt) is the One Who created man, He is the only One who knows how man's instincts and organic needs can be satisfied. It must be kept in mind that Allah knows the changes which humanity has, is, and will go through, and thus the system He (swt) chose for us must be the perfect system without any human alteration unless we start doubting Allah (swt)'s infinite capability. We have to remember that Islam has its own mechanism, which if followed and implemented effectively will enable the Mujtahid to derive rules from the text and not to change the Shariah or alter the text or rules. That is why every generation should have at least one Mujtahid.

Therefore, we need to return to the text the way it is equipped with whatever is needed for this objective. This requires for us to look to Islam as our reference and leadership. We should stop viewing Islam as a set of rituals. This requires from us to pay attention to the Arabic language to make sure it is not separated from Islam. Additionally, by establishing Islam in life and opening the door for Ijtihad with its prerequisites, Islam will be relevant.

CONCLUSION:

It is very obvious that any law student can propose a law that adapts to new realities in society just by adding one proposition to this law that permits changes in the system. These changes in the system would be an attempt to keep up with the so called changes in life. Humanity witnessed Marx, Hobbes, Adam Smith, James Madison, and the American Founding Fathers who introduced systems that kept undergoing many changes.

If we view Islam in the same manner, then where is the uniqueness and miraculous nature of Islam. In fact, why do we need Allah (swt) if the system He (swt) provided us with ends up being changed? Why do we need Allah (swt)'s system if it is similar to Marx's or Jefferson's?
These efforts to deviate the Ummah from Islam should be viewed very seriously because they amount to nothing other than the current degree of submission of the Muslim Ummah to other than Islam by replacing its label with a false Islamic one.

It must be a matter of Belief that Islam is relevant in all places and all times for all people as their way of life. The emerging need is for Ijtihad to ensure that the rules are correctly extracted from the Shari'ah for new problems. This means that the doors of Ijtihad should be open but not broken.

By Abu Tariq

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Political Concepts Part 2 - Political plans and styles

The following is an extract of the draft english translation of an excellent recent book entitled 'Political Concepts' which was published in the Arab world in 2005. We will be posting more sections of the book in future.

Political plans and styles used to execute such plans change in accordance with interest; though the plans are of less change than the styles. From following international politics, it is noticed that a plan is a general policy, which is devised for realizing one of the objectives required by the propagation of the ideology or by its method. However, the style is a specific policy related to one of the details that help in accomplishing and strengthening a plan.

As an example, the American plan for Iraq was to occupy it whether with or without an international resolution. Then, a government would be established that gives international legitimacy to the occupation via the United Nations, after it was ignored at the beginning of occupation. This is beside another (local) legitimacy through some form of Iraqi elections. After that, this government would sign, on behalf of the people of Iraq, an agreement that accepts the presence of the occupation forces, and thus give them legitimacy through the request and acceptance of the people of Iraq of their presence, and via an international resolution. This plan would prevent the other states and Security Council from interfering in Iraqi matters, and make America the only country that freely runs the entire affairs of Iraq. This would give legitimacy to the occupation, because its presence was accepted by the legally elected Iraqi government. A new constitution would then be put for Iraq under the supervision of occupation, where division would be devoted, the state would be fragmented under the pretext of federalism, fire of sectarianism would be kindled, and Muslims would be engaged in fighting each other instead of engaging themselves in removing occupation. Therefore, America has used all means and styles available to her for occupying Iraq, according to a devised plan, and then making such occupation legitimate by giving it an international and local legitimacy.

On the other side, the plan devised by France was based on forming, under its leadership, an axis made of great states for confronting the American plan. This French plan necessitated to obstruct Security Council from issuing explicit resolutions that give a cover for the American Plans related to using the SC for invading Iraq. Thus, America completely failed to use the card of SC; and it was also internationally exposed as acting against the (international) law. This made America appear to follow the tyrannical force against the law, instead of being seen as defender to international law, as it used to be seen before. France managed to incite and provoke the emotions of the Germans to a point they upset America by their actions. Russia stood on the side of France by preventing America from using SC to support her plans. As a result, the French plan succeeded in exposing the American aims from the invasion, rather than in preventing it.

The British plan was complicated, devious, where Britain supports America superficially so as to gain a part of the spoils. She appears on America’s side on the international arena whenever the balance of power is in her favour; but it stabs her in her the back every time she found it possible. Britain went along with America because the balance of international forces was in her favour. However, on the other side, it pushed her to propose the issuance of a resolution from the SC concerning the attack on Iraq. Britain did that despite it knew in advance the impossibility of issuing a resolution due to the stance of France, Russia and Germany. Thus, the fault of America was exposed that she wanted to attack Iraq with or without a resolution. Britain emphasised that approach through the presence of Blair in the summit held between Chirac and Schroeder on 20/9/2003. Thus he used the British political cunning so as to consolidate the position of the two states against the American stance, by provoking them through some of the views presented by Britain. This would drive the two states to become more rigid, without showing this British stance openly before America. Britain maintained the same policy even after the occupation of Iraq, and after the presentation of American projects to the UN for granting legitimacy to the occupation.

Another example is the American plan, which she devised to prevent the EU from becoming truly united and becoming threat to America. This plan was based on three axes, which are:

Firstly: It is through expansion of EU so as to contain the states of East Europe. These states are America’s willing tools and her spearhead for inserting America’s influence into the EU. This was demonstrated when these states supported America’s view concerning attack against Iraq. This made Rumsfeld ridicule Europe by calling it old and new Europe. French President, Chirac flared up because of the actions of these (East Europe) states; and he tried to allude that their stance on the side of America would obstruct their final acceptance in the union. Despite that, their entry was agreed upon in the decisive EU meeting held for accepting the new members, and France could not obstruct their entry.

Secondly: It is also through the continuation of NATO pact despite the break-up of the opposite WARSAW pact. Then the strategy of the NATO pact was expanded so as to interfere in the security issues of Europe, instead of its defence against foreign danger as it was since its first formation. When Europe felt of the danger of the alliance against it because its actual leadership is with America, France, Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg called for forming special European force. America objected to that; and she still causes troubles to Europe even before this special European force comes to exist.

Thirdly: America exploits the British stance; this is because Britain, using its famous cunning, does not want the EU to become a unified power where Britain melts inside it and becomes a marginal state like Luxemburg, as an example. It still carries in its depths the glory of the empire, whose territories are not veiled from the sun. Therefore, we had seen it try to obstruct the development of the union; and it did not join it except after it had seen it a reality, so it joined it to weaken it. Until this moment, it did not join the unified European currency (Euro). Its imperial mentality drives it to look for a role on the international arena via any possible mean.

On the other side, the French plan was to strengthen the EU and make of it an appropriate umbrella that faces the American umbrella. This is beside it struggle to form a European army, independent from the NATO pact. It managed to pull Germany to its side in that regard, where it acted very smartly by reaching an agreement with it to an extent that it made Britain join them lest it misses its share in the cake in case France and Germany succeeded in that plan. Thus, France succeeded recently together with Britain and Germany in establishing a nucleus of this army despite the strong American pressures against Britain and Germany for preventing its formation. The plan of the three states also succeeded in drawing long term policies for the EU, in seclusion of the interventions of the small states of the union and the states that endeavour to influence it, like Italy and Spain.

Thus we find France has succeeded in finding a way, though it is still early, to consolidate the EU, through forming an independent military nucleus in Europe by agreement with Germany and Britain. Had not these states embraced capitalism that makes the special interest of each state at top of its own priorities, then they would have succeeded in creating a strong EU that faces America. However, the fact that France succeeded in presenting the plan to the powerful states in Europe, namely Germany and Britain, is considered an important action counter to America, which she cannot ignore.

Another example is the plane devised by America to contain Russia and make of it a state without even regional influence. So, America is working to drive it out of the Balkan area, East Europe and Central Asia. Besides, she tries to annul the effect of its nuclear arsenal that represents an important factor of its power and to tower over it in space as well. America adopted various styles for achieving that. It attacked the Yugoslavian army (Serbia and Kosovo), where there is the Slavic racial relation with Russians, through using the issue of Kosovo. She also established economical and military relations with East Europe states so as to infiltrate in them. Then she annexed many of them in the NATO pact. She also took advantage of war against terrorism, so she established for herself military bases in Central Asia states after she managed to attract some of the rulers of those states through economic aid. Besides, she occupied Afghanistan. Furthermore, she resorted to developing an anti missile system against the Russian missiles so as to annul the effect of the transcontinental Russian missiles that carry nuclear heads. She exploited the poverty in Georgia to push her agents to assume highest position of authority there. This removed the buffer zone between Russia and the NATO in Turkey. She also persuaded Russia to give up its space station, Mare, and take part in the international space station ‘ISS’, so as to obstruct its competition in invading space. Thus, America continues in devising plans for containing Russia, so that it remains without regional influence, after losing its international influence via the collapse of the SU.

She does the same to China, because America views the necessity of forcing China to bow and changing it into an ordinary state, particularly it does not have the elements of a great power. However, since mid nineties and due to the power it has, it became a regional great power, where it has the right of Vito in the SC, besides it has some regional ambitions and wishes, a matter that is not accepted by America. America views China as a huge trade market that must be used, and a human giant that must be tamed, so as not become danger to American interests in the region of East Asia. Therefore, America found it necessary after the end of cold war to contain China and, at best, restrain it within a narrow area of influence if she could not completely cut it of its area of influence. Therefore, America gives attention to normalise the relations with Vietnam so as to make of it a blocking stone before China, once the American-Vietnamese relations improved. She also tries to make the Korean subcontinent an advanced dangerous line around China, through increasing pressure on North Korea under the pretext of axis of evil. At the same time she works to keep her military bases in the area close to the borders of China and at its gate. She also tries to make of India a rival to China; besides her endeavour to create strategic allies and regional military alliances in Central Asia and Middle East. She established as well military bases in Central Asia on the western borders of China, at the other side of Himalaya.

Thus, political plans and styles are devised for an immediate action. However, it is not unlikely that a state changes current styles and search for others if such styles were exposed and became unsuitable. It might also change a plan if it became useless, or its presence caused unnecessary troubles to the state. However, when a state changes its plan, it replaces it with another one. Likewise, when it changes a style, it uses another; and it never restrains from devising plans and styles unless it became weak and declined from its level at international situation, as it happened with those states that lost their political influence like Japan, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Portugal.

As an example for the change in plans is that which America devise for Germany. Her plan was to awaken German militarism and establish West German republic. Then it changed to weakening West Germany, and making a union between it and East Germany, together with controlling armament of Germany. In 1990 it decided to unify it and make of it a strong European state that competes with France and Britain and vies with them for the leadership of EU; a matter that will reduce the possibility of unifying Europe as one force.

The American plan devised for China was to support it and make of it an international player. This was through improving her relations with it, as well as improving the Chinese-Japanese relations. This plan aimed at making of China one of the pillars of international order, in order to weaken the international situation of the SU at that time and to increase the rift between the two archenemy communist allies. After the end of cold war, America changed her plan, and viewed the need of a plan for containing China, and secluding it behind its great wall. So, it resorted to devise a plan that does not allow China to pose danger to America’s interests in East Asia, particularly China has enough means to do that.

The example for change of styles is that which America undertook in the Islamic world countries. In the past she used military coups for bringing her agents into power, economic aid such as loans and development projects, using the experts and the like, besides using the policy of the stick and the carrot. However, she started now to depend on military solutions and intimidation, and returned back to using alliances and military bases, after she abandoned them. This would remind of the period of military colonialism and western imperialism.

Britain had as well changed its styles; so it abandoned the military treaties and bases, and used instead the agent rulers, economic agreements and armament treaties. It seems it is trying to go along with America by returning back to the military bases as an old and new style.

This is a demonstration of the political plans and styles. So, Muslims must know for sure that the western camp does not change its political thought and nor its method. It rather changes its plans and styles so as to draw new plans and follow new styles, in order to be able to propagate its ideology. If its plans were destroyed and its styles were frustrated, then its projects for whose sake these plans and styles were drawn will fail. Therefore, political struggle has to be directed against the plans and styles, by exposing them and resisting them. This struggle has to be undertaken, at the same time, against the political thought and its method. Thereupon, it is inevitable that Muslims have to know the political plans of every state, and distinguish their styles.

The full book is available from Revival Publications

American Influence Over Indian Politics And Its Consequences

By Abid Mustafa
4/10/2006

Eager to retake her parliamentary seat in the forthcoming local elections on May 8th 2006, Sonia Gandhi has finally brought her resignation tally to a halt. In the past three weeks, she has resigned as the Chairperson of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and tendered her resignation as head of Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, Jawahar Bhavan Trust, and, Gandhi and Jallianwala Bagh National Trust. But the most important of all her resignations came on March 23rd, when she quit her parliamentary seat and also stepped down from the post of Chairperson of National Advisory Council.TestOnce again it was the pro-American BJP that played an instrumental role in her dismissal from Lok Sabha (the lower house in India's parliament) and the government's National Advisory Council. The BJP successfully mounted an opposition campaign on the office-of-profit issue following disqualification of Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan from Rajya Sabha. Jaya Bachchan and BJP relentlessly petitioned President A P J Abdul Kalam seeking Gandhi's disqualification based on Sonia Gandhi illegally seeking profit from her membership of various trusts and organisations, while being a member of parliament.Sonia Ghandi was left with no choice but to resign from the various political and no-political posts, and then contest a by-poll in Rae Bareli on May 8 as the only way of returning back to Lok Sabha.

This is not the first time that America through the BJP has put pressure on her and her close confidants. When Sonia Ghandi was appointed as India's Prime Minister in 2004, the BJP made a great hue and cry about Sonia's foreign roots and only relented when Sonia rescinded the post and handed it over to the pro-American Manmohan Singh.Even before then America had succeeded in hurting the congress party by encouraging the defection of KC Pant (he served as minister in the governments first of Indira Gandhi and then Rajiv Gandhi for more than 15 years) who left the party under the stewardship of Sonia Gandhi to join BJP. But after Manmohan Singh's appointment as Prime Minister and Sonia's resolve to remain President of the Congress party, America intensified her campaign to discredit Sonia Gandhi and those who are considered loyal to the Gandhi dynasty.The betrayal of KC Pant, the death of Gandhi loyalist Narasimha Rao, the removal of Natwar Singh over the oil for food scandal has weakened the authority of the Gandhi family over the Congress party. The long awaited reshuffle of the cabinet early this year failed to stem the growing American influence over the congress party. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described by the opposition as the weakest Prime Minister in the history of India felt bold enough to give the External Affairs portfolio to Anand Sharma and unceremoniously dismissed Mani Shankar Aiyar India's Petroleum Minister and replaced him with the pro-American Murli Deora.Both the former External affairs Minister Natwar Singh and Mani Shankar were ardent supporters of Nehru's British inspired vision that India must remain a neutral actor in international politics and together they infuriated American officials over their remarks for supporting Iran and criticising America's occupation of Iraq.

However, with their removal America succeeded in winning Indian support for censuring Iran over its nuclear programme as well as paving the way for America to bring India's nuclear weapons and programmes under the watchful eye of the IAEA and Pentagon officials. This deal was made possible by another so called stalwart Gandhi loyalist Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Unknown to the wider congress party, the Indian media and the opposition, Pranab Mukherjee met with US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and signed up to new framework for the Indo-U.S. defence relationship. But prior to the visit he told the Indian media that the trip was "exploratory" in nature. "I am not going with a shopping list. This is a visit by an Indian Defence Minister to the U.S. after a long time." The new defence pact and the nuclear deal is a huge break through for American policy makers who increasingly view India's conventional and nuclear weaponry as a means to not only pressurise China into an arms race, but to prepare India for an eventual nuclear conflict with China.Out of the sixty odd ministerial posts in the Indian government, America has managed to exert her control over four of the most important positions - including the position of the Prime Minister. The increasing American influence represented by Singh, Mukherjee, Sharma and Deora poses a direct challenge to Sonia Ghandi and the future of the Congress party which is the heart of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Furthermore, the removal of Sonia from the National Advisory Council leaves the door open for America to influence Congress's domestic agenda as set out in the National Common Minimum Programme.

With Manmohan Singh growing in stature and confidence, and BJP resorting to its Hindu roots to rebuild itself, America is becoming increasingly confident of nurturing the emerging political landscape into a political system where both the government and the opposition will be loyal to American interests. One of the casualties of this newfound confidence in US-Indian relations is America's relationship with Pakistan. The Bush administration believes it can apply more pressure on Musharraf to fulfil her strategic interests in the region.Musharraf's tactics to mobilise the masses into an uncontrollable rage over the cartoon issue and his visit China did little to stymie Bush's demands for Pakistan to do more to reign in the rogue elements of the Pakistani army, destroy the resurgent Taliban, seal the border with Afghanistan and to make greater concession to India over Kashmir.

Nevertheless, America's favouritism of India at the expense of Pakistan (widely predicted) will further alienate those who hitherto have supported Musharraf in the anticipation of equitable relations with the US, but all along suspected American motives. If America continues her onward march towards India, Musharraf's constituency will see itself having more in common with Islamists then the American backed Musharraf as the sole protector of Pakistani interests. In the end, America may end up gaining India only to find it has contend with an Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan.

Abid Mustafa is a political analyst who specialises in affairs of Islamic countries and organizations.

The following links of some other excellent political analysis articles related to South Asia by the same author:

Will BJP's new leader prove to be any different than his predecessors?

Exactly who is in charge of the Indian cabinet?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Islam & the Economic Question

In order to address the economic system in Islam, we first of all need to clarify the position of Islam in relation to the quest for material well being. This is because the word dunya, which is associated with material wealth or worldly matters has become a dirty word for many Muslims.

The separation of deen from dunya (secularism) is a Western-Christian concept that has recently become widely internalised amongst Muslims. Consequently, seeking to increase in economic or worldly matters is frowned upon, - while continuous engagement in prayer and other personal ibadat is regarded as meritorious. As such, many people get confused and conduct a double life. On the one hand, money talks, it gives status and makes life comfortable, so they seek it vigorously. On the other, they feel guilty, thinking that their effort should be spent on 'religious' duties.
This is due to a misunderstanding of the position of the economic question in Islam. There is no doubt that Islam is opposed to monasticism and views the economic activities of man as quite lawful and sometimes even obligatory and necessary. We find many injunctions in Islam that allude to this. For example, Allah (SWT) says in the Qur'an: 'Disperse through the land and seek the bounty of Allah' (TMQ-62:10), He also says, 'Allah has permitted trade'(TMQ-2:275), And even more directly, Allah(SWT) says: 'Seek the other world by means of that which Allah has bestowed upon you, and do not be negligent about your share in this world.' (TMQ-28:77) These are all in reference to economic activity.

In the sunnah, we find that one of the most commonly said du'as that the Prophet(SAW) taught us is: 'our lord give us the good in this life and the good in the hereafter'.

But despite this, we find expressions in the Qur'an which state: 'The life of this world is but a delusion' -3:185 ; 'The mutual rivalry for piling up the good things of this world diverts you from the more serious things. - 102:1; and many others, stating that man has lust and greed for wealth(89:20) and that he is violent at this greed (100:8) and that he becomes boastfull and proud (11:10) and so on.
This apparently sounds like a contradiction in terms. But actually, what we are taught by Islam is that the real objective of our existence is to worship Allah(SWT) through righteous conducts by living as humans in this world. So all those things that are necessary for this life become essential for man. It is one thing to say that material well being is important and even compulsory but it is quite another to say that it is the ultimate goal and centre of thought and action in life. This is where the confusion arises about the Islamic economic question. The fundamental difference between Islamic economics and all materialist ones is precisely this. The materialists view that economic well being is the ultimate end of human life, while Islam says that these things may be necessary and indispensable, but cannot be the true purpose of life. Economic endeavours only become an allurement or delusion if man loses sight of his real purpose in their pursuit.

The right path to follow therefore is to fully engage into worldly economic life in the manner prescribed by Allah(SWT) and His Prophet(SAW), both at societal and individual level. The prophet said: 'Work for your worldly life as you were going to live forever, but work for the life to come as if you were going to die tomorrow.'

The economic problem in Islam.

Unlike the current world view as pushed by the capitalist west, Islam considers that the main economic problem that mankind will ever have is that of distribution of wealth and not of production. In the eyes of the capitalist West, there is relative scarcity of resources available in the world, and peoples demands for these resources are endless. Hence each nation and in fact the world should concentrate on more and more production. The higher the amount of wealth produced, the higher the number of people that will satisfy their demands through the process of economic activity.

Islam distinguishes between basic needs which include food, clothing and shelter, and luxurious wants which includes all those things that are not necessities in life. It views that there are enough resources to satisfy the basic needs of all people all the time and to satisfy some of the luxurious wants of people and that economic problem is that of distribution and not production. There are enough resources to feed, clothe and house everybody in the world fully as can be seen by the food mountains of Europe and the excesses of the few rich in each country, including the 3rd world countries. In accordance with their capitalist philosophy of maximising profit, we find governments paying farmers to produce less as in the EC countries, or to destroy what has already been produced as happened in poor Latin America where a huge amount of coffee was burnt. Far more wealth leaves the poor countries of Africa for the rich West than vice versa due to unjust economic deals. Even at the height of the Ethiopean famine crises in the late eighties, the country was exporting millions of dollars worth of resources to the West.

Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, 'It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth, and sent down from heaven water wherewith He brought forth fruits to be your sustenance. And He subjected to you the sea at His commandment; and He subjected to you the rivers and He subjected to you the sun and the moon constant upon their courses, and He subjected to you the night and the day, and gave you of all that you asked Him. If you count Allah's blessing, you will never number it; surely man is sinful, unthankful. (4:32-34). In another verse He says: 'Verily, thy lord doth provide sustenance in abundance for whom He pleases and He straiten it, for He doth know and regard all his creatures.' (17:30). These verses among many others show that Allah(SWT) has pooled in this universe all the needs and beneficial things for man, and has provided sufficient resources to satisfy material need of man.

In Islam, a distinction is made between economic science, which is to do with the means of production and economic system is concerned with the problem of distribution of wealth, namely the rules by which wealth can be acquired, used and disposed of. It is through the economic system that is specific to Islam that wealth is distributed equitably, while economic science is not particularly specific to Islam as such but can be acquired from any other people or developed as seen fit.

Objectives of the Islamic economic system

The objectives of the Islamic economic system can be classified as follows:
1) To satisfy the basic needs of each and every individual in the Islamic state completely
2) To provide the citizens of the Islamic state with the means to satisfy their luxurious needs
3) To achieve 1) and 2) through a naturally workable system with due incentives for economic activity and an equitable system of distribution.

Principles and policies to achieve the objectives

1) Ownership.

Ownership constitutes one of the important incentives for engaging into economic activity as the owner of wealth has the right to use or dispose of it. The means of acquiring such rights is one of the fundamental principles through which the objectives of the Islamic economic system are achieved.

In the Islamic economic system, it is understood that the real owner(Creator) of all wealth is Allah(SWT). We only 'own' wealth by proxy as guardians. Some of us acquire wealth by engaging in the production process and hence have a direct access to wealth. These include the factors of production as defined by Islam. Others have an indirect access to wealth simply because Allah(SWT) as the real owner of wealth has stipulated that those with direct access to wealth through engagement in the production process must pass some of it on to them as He made clear in the Qur'an: 'Give to them from the property of Allah(SWT) which He has bestowed upon you.' 24:33. This usually takes the form of Zakat, kaffarat, sadaqat-ul-fitr, inheritance, etc. which are given to the poor, the needy and later generations. It is the duty of the government to ensure that such wealth is duly transferred by law.
Notwithstanding this, Islam does not impose a limit on the amount of wealth that one can own. Rather, it controls the means of ownership such that people acquire the right to wealth in a just manner. This excludes speculation, forward transactions, lottery, and dealing with interest among other things.

Additionally, Islam also stipulates in accordance to the ahadith of the prophet(SAW) that certain properties are to be collectively owned for the use of all citizens. These include sources of energy, pastures and natural resources including water.
Through these ownership principles, Islam ensures that everyone gets what is rightfully due to him from his creator, unlike the capitalist system where only those who take part in the production process have the right to wealth. At the same time, it gives full incentives to individuals to fully participate in the economy by not imposing a limit on how much they can own.

2) Economic enterprises and the prohibition of interest and hoarding
Interest rates form the backbone of the capitalist system in many ways. It is used as a tool to regulate economic growth and monetary supply by acting as an 'incentive' for those who have surplus money to save/hoard. In Islam both interest and hoarding are prohibited. Allah(SWT) says in the Qur'an: 'And those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend in the way of Allah, announce to them a painful chastisement. (9:34). He also says: 'Allah has permitted trade and forbidden interest.' (2:275). Owners of capital therefore have to invest it either in the form of private business or partnership.

The most fundamental criteria that must be met by all companies of partnership are that there must be offer and acceptance between two or more parties, and that once they become partners they have equal say in the running of the company. In addition to these criteria, the manner of sharing profit and loss is dependent on the type of company. In the Company of Equals (Anan) where partnership is formed by the wealth of two or more parties, any loss suffered by the company would be shared among the partners in proportion to the capital they put. In the Company of Persons (Abdan) where partnership is based on services provided by the partners, loss is shared according to the salaries/wages of the partners. In the company of Mudharaba where partnership is based on capital from one party and labour from another, loss is incurred by the owner of capital while the provider of labour loses their wage/salary. From these elementary rules and structures, many other forms of companies can be formed. In all cases, profit is shared according to mutual agreement independent of the amount of capital or service/labour provided.
Through this arrangement, continuous business investment keeps employment level high and both the rich and the poor get richer.

The role of the state

The government plays an important role in the economic system of Islam.
Islam makes it the responsibility of the state to provide food, clothing, shelter,education, health and security to every individual. It is also the responsibility of the state to enable citizens with the means of getting luxurious needs in addition to these basic needs by themselves. The state achieves this through the management of public property , through the use of income from other sources and through provision of good economic environment so that people satisfy their needs due to their involvement in economic activity.

Sources of revenue for the state

1) Taxation

Fai - Property captured from the enemy without fighting
Ghanima - Booty
Ushr - Land Tax on unconquered land
Kharaj - Land Tax on conquered land
Jizya - Head-tax on non-Muslims

2) Others

- Revenues from natural resources
- Fines levied

3) Facilitating luxurious needs

It is also the responsibility of the state to provide adequate infrastructure for the supply of such commodities to the people.

The most fundamental aims of the economy of any nation is to provide adequate supply of goods and services for its citizens and to enable each citizen to acquire and use them to raise their standard of living. This requires that wealth be created in the form of usable goods and services and that people get the means of owning and/or using these goods or services.

The degree to which these aims and objectives are met and the efficiency with which the citizens of the state participate depends on the specific rules of engagement, namely the economic system which the nation implements.
Apart from the general ideological framework upon which the economic system is based, the key ingredients for the economic success of any nation include:

1) Confidence in and stability of the system
2) Workability of the system by providing appropriate economic incentives for wealth creation and distribution
3) A just method of distribution.
Although only the capitalist economic system is practised in the world today, the Islamic economic system gives the best rules of engagement in economic activity and would be the most successful towards raising the standard of living of any nation.

a) On confidence and stability
Economic activity by its very nature is risky as those who partake in it directly can gain or lose wealth. Hence in all economic systems, there is always an understanding by those who participate that they may lose their capital or effort . However, there other phenomena that adversely affect the economic life of a nation by artificially creating an atmosphere of insecurity, and thereby reduce the level of economic activity. These arise because of the specific economic system implemented and include the followings:

i) Booms and Busts: In the capitalist system, periods of good and bad trade have become evident from the records. Although opinions differ widely among economists on the conditions responsible for trade fluctuations, a common feature is that root cause of these conditions stems from the foundations of the capitalist economic system.
ii) Runaway inflation: The fact that money continually loses its value has become an intrinsic part of capitalist economies. Here again there are quite a few opinions from economists as to what causes runaway inflation. But the recipe for runaway inflation lies at the heart of established financial controls in the capitalist system.
iii) Money market crashes: These occur irregularly in the form of sudden exaggerated changes in foreign exchange rates and sudden fall in share prices.

The most fundamental characteristics of the capitalist economic system which form the root of these phenomena are speculation and false representation. These are manifested in :

The artificial creation of money: There is nothing to prevent governments from literally creating money at will. Excessive creation of paper money which cannot be represented by real wealth is the root cause of inflation.

In addition, high street banks can lend money that is not existent by crediting peoples accounts on paper. This is false representation that is meant to keep the system going actually creates more artificial money.

In conclusion, the above points clearly outline certain fundamental differences between the capitalist economic system and the Islamic economic system. The inherent failing of capitalist economies can be seen today throughout the world, even in the Muslim countries, where it has been forcibly applied by corrupt rulers. The details of Islamic economics should fill us with confidence that Islam provides solutions to the ‘economic’ problem’, which the world around us currently faces.

The Role of Contracts in Islam

Throughout history Muslims have been renowned traders. Many of the Sahabah (ra) were shrewd businessmen. Indeed, trading is an issue that has been implicitly and explicitly encouraged in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

''O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities: But let there be amongst you Traffic and trade by mutual good-will.'' [ 4:29]

''And when the (Friday) prayer is finished, then may you disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: and celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): that you say prosper.'' [ 62:10]

''Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury.'' [ 2:275]

''And O my people! Give just measure and weight, do not withhold from the people the things that are their due: commit not evil in the land with intent to do mischief. That which is left you by Allah is best for you, if you (but) believed! but I am not set over you to keep watch!'' [ 11:85]

Rasul-Allah (saw) was asked what type of earning was the best, to which Rasul-Allah (SAW) answered, ''The work of a man's own hand, and every pious sale''. [Hakim] Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''A trustworthy and an honest and truthful businessman will rise up with martyrs on the Day of Resurrection.'' [Ibn Majah, Hakim] He (saw) also said, ''A truthful, and trustworthy trader will rise up with the Prophets, the righteous and the martyrs.'' [al-Hamim, Tirmidhi]

As Muslims, we should not consider that Allah (swt) left us to trade in whichever manner we choose without giving us a guide. Allah (swt) sent Rasul-Allah (saw) as that guide. A'isha (ra) reported that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''He who does an act which is not in accordance with our matter will have it rejected.'' The basis of all trading is the contract. As we are encouraged to trade we are therefore encouraged to understand the subject of contracts within Islam. Further to this, it is not just merchants and entrepreneurs that are involved in trading. All humans, not just Muslims, need to exchange in some form. Therefore, if we are to perform our transactions in accordance with what has been revealed, it is necessary for us to understand some basic principles of contract.

The Contract ('Aqd) in Islam

It is obligatory for us to honour our contracts and agreements.

''O you who believe! Fulfil all your covenants'' [ 5:1]

''Fulfil (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning)'' [17:34]

Contracts may be generally described as the effective mode of acquisition of ownership and transfer of property or services. It expresses the combination of offer and acceptance. The contract, 'aqd or tie forges legal relations between two parties over a particular matter. It is formed with the declaration of offer al-ijaab (offer) and al-qabool (acceptance). An example of ijaab by a seller would be, ''I sold this to you for the price of...'' Al-qabool would then be ''I accepted''. Regardless of how elaborate a transaction may be, this simple model is the basis of all Islamic contracts.

Contracts and agreements should preferably involve the spoken word. The maximum degree of clarity must be given by the one who makes the offer, and the maximum degree of clarity must be ascertained by the one who accepts. This is the underlining principle of contracts in Islam. The period between the offer and its acceptance should not be longer than what is customary. The offer should not be made conditional (t'aliq) upon an occurrence outside the agreement. For example, the contract is invalid if a person sells his car under the stipulation that the purchaser shall not sell it again. ''I will sell 'x', provided you sell it back to me, should you decided to sell it.'' [Sarkhasi, Mabsoot]

On the authority of 'Urwa, 'A'isha (ra) said Burairah came to me and said, ''My people (masters) have written the contract for my emancipation for nine ounces (of gold) to be paid in yearly instalments, one ounce per year; so help me.'' 'A'isha (ra) said (to her), ''If your masters agree, I will pay them the whole sum provided the allegiance will be for me.'' Burairah went to her masters and told them about it, but they refused the offer and she refused the offer and she returned from them while Allah's Messenger (saw) was sitting. She said, ''I presented the offer to them, but they refused unless the allegiance would be for them.'' When the Prophet (saw) heard that and 'A'isha told him about it, he (saw) said to her, ''Buy Burairah and stipulate that her allegiance will be for them, as the allegiance is for the slave-freer.'' 'A'isha (ra) did so. After that Allah's Messenger (saw) stood up amidst the people, glorified and praised Allah (swt) and said, ''What is wrong with some people who stipulate things which are not in Allah's laws? Any condition which is not in Allah's laws is invalid even if there were a hundred such conditions. Allah's rules are the most valid and Allah's conditions are the most solid. The allegiance is for the slave-freer'' [Sahih al-Bukhari]

General Islamic rules concerning contracts

According to Imam Ghazali,
''a Muslim who makes up his mind to adopt trade as a profession or to set up his own business should first acquire a thorough understanding of the rules of business transactions codified in the Islamic Shari'ah. Without such understanding he will go astray and fall into serious lapses making his earning unlawful.''

There are several general rules about trading agreements that we should all acquaint ourselves with. We are all directly or indirectly involved in these types of agreements. As stated, one of the key issues is clarity. Many ahadeeth concerning buying and selling indicate that clarity in the agreement is paramount:

Ibn 'Umar (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''If palm trees are sold after they have been pollinated, the fruit belongs to the seller unless the buyer makes a stipulation about the inclusion.'' [Muwata, Muslim]

Hakim bin Hizam (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''Both parties in a business transaction have the right to annul it so long as they have not separated; and if they speak the truth and make everything clear they will be blessed in their transaction; but if they tell a lie and conceal anything the blessing on their transaction will be blotted out.'' [Muslim]

Ibn 'Umar (ra) also related that Rasul-Allah (saw) forbade the sale of fruits until they were clearly in good condition, he forbade it both to the seller and the buyer. [Muslim]

Jabir bin 'Abdullah (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) forbade the sale of a heap of dates, the weight of which is unknown, in accordance with the known weight of dates. [Muslim]

There are many unique mannerisms that Islamic traders should adopt. These are very different to those adopted in the West. Moreover, these manners are not just a gentleman's code of ethics, rather they are the direct product of the sayings of Rasul-Allah (saw). It is forbidden to buy and sell with any undue advantage over other traders. For example, trading in ignorance of the current market prices.

Ibn 'Umar (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''Do not go out to meet merchandise on the way, (wait) until it is brought into the market.'' [Muslim]

Abu Hurayrah (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''Do not meet the merchant on the way and enter into business transaction with him, and whoever meets him and buys from him (and in case it is done, see) that when the owner of the (merchandise) comes into the market (and finds that he has been paid a lower price) he has the option (to declare the transaction null and void).'' [Muslim]

Abu Hurayrah (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''The townsman should not sell for a man from the desert (with a view to taking advantage of his ignorance of the market conditions of the city).'' [Muslim]

Ibn 'Umar (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''No-one amongst you should enter into a transaction when another is bargaining.''

Ibn 'Umar (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''A person should not enter into a transaction when his brother is already making a transaction and should not make a proposal of marriage when his brother has already made a proposal except when he gives permission.''

These two last ahadeeth have many implications for sale such as auctioning and gazumping(raise the price of something after agreeing on a lower price), which may involve Muslims.

Today's situation

We now live in a situation in which Islam is not implemented in its correct form anywhere in the world. This fact has left Muslims focusing on ritual aspects of Islam. For example, prayer and fasting etc. Generally, there is a good understanding of the rules of prayer amongst the Ummah. However, there remains a general lack of knowledge of contract law. There are many problems that we face in modern life that we can not take for granted. We can not assume that the ways in which we buy, sell, rent and hire are all allowed in Islam. In an article like this, space does not allow comprehensive answers to questions about trading. However, we should question many of the common trading methods employed today. To follow are a few examples of trading methods that we should consider.

The verbal offer and acceptance is certainly the best contract in Islam. This manner of transaction can easily be performed even in the modern age and even in Europe or America. However, it is common practice today to place orders by purchase order form, by fax machine, merely quoting a catalogue or part number of the items to be purchased. Further to this, items can be bought over the internet from anywhere in the world from one's living room. Also, Rasul-Allah (saw) forbade ''...making one contract of sale into two transactions.'' [Nisa'i, Tirmidhi]. So, it is not permitted to sell a car, stipulating that the buyer buys parts from the seller alone. Nor is it permitted to sell a house, whilst insisting that all the furniture is to be bought from the seller. He (saw) also said, ''...the attachment of an extra condition with a sale transaction'' [Tibran]. Issues such as vending machines, hire-purchase agreements, the involvement of separate financing companies, insurance cover, trading in stocks and share companies, selling things that are not yet in one's possession and sub-contracting of orders, are all issues we cannot assume are allowed or not allowed in Islam. As a final example, the employment contract is a contract that should be honoured in Islam. There are many comprehensive rules mentioned directly in the Qur'an and Sunnah concerning employment of labour.

''The duty of feeding, clothing and nursing mothers in a seemingly manner is upon the father of the child.'' [ 2:233]

Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrated that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''Three persons I am their opponent on the day of judgement; a person who gave in my name and then betrayed, one who sold a free person and used his price, and the person who hired a labourer and did not give his wage.'' Rasul-Allah (saw) also said, ''Whosoever hired a person he has to inform him about his wage.''

In today's situation both the employer and employee must honour the work contract not for the sake of humanity but for the sake of fulfilling Allah's (swt) command. However, this has implications for trade unions and strike action. Withdrawal of labour in industrial action is a violation of the original contract and is therefore forbidden in Islam. Trade unions are established to protect the rights of the worker. Whilst in Islam, only the Islamic State is allowed to protect worker's rights. It is not allowed for Muslims to participate in such 'industrial action'. However, this is the normal way of settling disputes in a Capitalist system.

Pre-Islamic contracts

It is clear from the seerah of Rasul-Allah (saw) that the business ethic of the pre-Islamic Arabs was riddled with corruption. Indeed, the dishonesty in jahiliyyah is condemned in the Qur'an.

''Woe to those that deal in fraud, those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account?'' [83:1-3]

The Jews, Christians and Persians at the time were again not noted for the fairness in transactions. The first Muslims were on the one hand encouraged to adopt trade as their profession and on the other hand exhorted to observe truthfulness and honesty in the transactions. This was surely a unique situation at that time. Similarly today the Islamic society should have a very unique character.

Capitalism and contracts

Western style contracts and agreements are usually in the written form only. Buying and selling agreements are always underpinned with the maxim caveat emptor (the buyer alone is responsible for assessing the quality of a purchase before buying) or buyer beware. Not only is it in the written form but they involve reams of very small print. This small print is written in language that is harder to interpret than Shakespeare's sonnets. This combination of jargon, oxymoron and tautologies all contribute to enshrouding agreement with the mystique of ambiguity. Loop hole and get out clauses are always woven into the agreement in contract speak. Any person who has ever tried to end a contract of line rental for a mobile telephone fully should understand this. Western trading is often based on maximising profits through deceiving the purchaser.

Fulfilling obligations for services

Agreements are not necessarily based on items and objects. Contracts to fulfil a service or duty are common both in Islam and in the capitalist system. Marital services are agreed upon in the 'aqd zawaj'.The marriage contract stipulates that the husband should spend for the wife and children.But he is not required to look after members of his wife's family financially.Similarly the wife is not required to look after or serve every member of her husband's family.And moreover the husband cannot claim any share in the wealth of his wife or wife's family.But if the wife is willing to share then it is allowed.Hence Islam did not leave the obligations and duties of marriage to be decided by the mind of humans.It is not allowed for either partner to withdraw marital obligations and duties. One can also make agreements for services from a cleaner, book-keeper or a physician.

Another important contract that is often overlooked today is the contract of ruling. The Khaleefah in Islam is charged with the duty of implementing the Law of Allah over the people. This is laid down and defined contractually. Unfortunately this is little understood by Muslims today. This is not because we are ignorant but because of our situation. The time is such that there is no living memory where this system of bay'ah (contract) actually existed as a working example. Muslims can only read about it in books. Nonetheless it is fard for Muslims to study this subject.

Ironically, we see Western systems of government nurture the citizens in such a way that they understand the concept of the pledge to rule. The US has widely broadcast (even internationally) inauguration ceremonies. This is where the president makes a pledge to honour the obligations laid down in the constitution. US school children all memorise the, ''We the people...'' preamble to the constitution.


''We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.''

This small paragraph reminds the American people of the obligations they have to the state and the states obligation to the citizens. Their system of democracy is such that they believe that 'The People' are the actual rulers and are charged with the duty of upholding the constitution. A direct parallel in the actual detail of the American system cannot be drawn with Islam. Its basis, democracy, is the antithesis of Islam. However, the principle of pledge of obedience to the Khaleefah and the obedience of the Khaleefah to Allah (swt) must be ingrained within all Muslim. It is this principle of nurturing the citizens of the state to understand the position of pledges and duties that oils the machinery of the state.

Conclusions

Buying and selling is an agreement. The procedure of buying and selling should not be seen as a mundane and routine necessity. Rather, it is a normal human action from which we can derive many rewards both in this life and in the hereafter, i.e. it is an act of worship. The converse is also true. If one performs the act of buying or selling in a manner that contradicts the law one is sinful.

Many contracts made today are made without considering Islam. This is entirely unacceptable. For although they do not involve camels, dates and slaves, the principles laid down in the Qur'an and Sunnah are just as applicable today as they where in the time of Rasul-Allah (saw). None of us as Muslims should take any agreement lightly or assume that because that is the way things are done today, then that is the way we should do them.

Lastly, we should remind ourselves of the one obligatory contract that none of us are performing today. That is the contract of bay'ah to the Khaleefah. Ibn 'Umar (ra) related that Rasul-Allah (saw) said, ''Whosoever takes off his hand from allegiance (bay'ah), Allah will meet him on the Day of Resurrection without having any proof for himself, and whosoever dies while there was no allegiance on his neck dies a death of the Days of Ignorance (jahiliyyah).'' [Muslim]