The Canadian government recently proposed tougher sentencing on drugs. Critics argue that this approach fails to address the underlying causes of the problem. What both sides fail to admit is that freedom actually encourages drug use, as the Capitalist ideology encourages indulgence in desire – without restriction. More importantly, Capitalism denies spirituality, as it restricts Deen only to have a role in personal affairs. However, humanity needs guidance in all affairs – including societal affairs. Islam is the only system that implements the Laws of Allah (swt) in all spheres of life in a manner that agrees with man's innate nature (fitrah), convinces his mind, and fills his heart with tranquillity.
Last week, the Canadian government introduced legislation that would impose mandatory minimum prison sentences on anyone convicted of trafficking illegal drugs. The government defended the measure as a means to deal with “drug producers and dealers who threaten the safety of our communities". However, critics argue that this “American” approach to crime has failed. They cite a recent report in the US published by the JFA Institute, which states that crime rates have stayed constant for almost 3 decades – despite instituting similar punitive measures.
Drugs: Will Tougher Sentencing Work?
In Western politics, the issue of drug crime sparks much debate between “conservative” and “liberal” thinkers. In general, most “conservatives” argue that tougher sentences are necessary to punish drug dealers who are the source of the misery. In contrast, most “liberal” thinkers argue that drug crime is a symptom of socio-economic factors that would be largely eliminated through effective government programs. However, the true solution evades both perspectives as they emanate from the secular aqeedah – the idea that our worldly life is completely disassociated from Allah (swt) and the Day of Judgment. Therefore, before identifying the correct solution to the drug problem, we must determine why intoxicants are so popular within the secular way of life.
Drugs: Desire on Demand
The Canadian Prime Minister noted earlier in October that the drug culture is something that is deeply entrenched in Western society. He noted that popular music, such as the Beatles, had lyrics that “romanticized” drugs. In a recent survey released by the American Public Health Association, “33 percent of the top songs off the Billboard 2005 list contained references to tobacco, alcohol and drugs such as marijuana”. This study noted that “rap” music led the pack with 77% of songs mentioning the use of intoxicants.
The idea of freedom – doing whatever you want – does not prevent individuals from using drugs. In fact, libertarian thinkers, such as Milton Friedman, believe that anti-drug laws arbitrarily restrict an individual’s choice. Given that drugs represent a way to induce “chemical happiness” – it is easy to understand how intoxicants are popular within the liberal West as their main aim in life is to maximize pleasure. However, some may argue that drug use inevitably leads to drug addiction, which consequently leads the user to live a life of misery. Such misery is often depicted in popular “drug movies” where drug users are forced to prostitute themselves to feed their habit. Why would someone risk such a horrible state of existence for the sake of momentary pleasure? Also, why is the problem so widespread? One may argue that poor people have tough live and need an escape. However, why do rich people do drugs? We often hear about rich people (e.g. actors, rock stars, etc) going into rehab to get treated for their drug addiction.
Drugs, Capitalism, and the ‘Guidance Void’
Widespread drug use is but one symptom of an unhappy people. Consider other related issues that plague the Capitalist civilization:
Depression. Anti-depressants constituted a $12 billion dollar industry (2002).
· Suicide is 11th leading cause of death in Canada (2005).
· Alcohol led to the hospitalization of over 27,000 Canadians (2001).
Despite its great feats in science and technology, the Capitalist ideology has failed to answer the most fundamental question in life: Why do we exist? What is the purpose of being alive? Allah (swt) has revealed:
"You should know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, a show and boasting among yourselves, a quest for greater riches and more children. Its similitude is that of vegetation that flourishes after rain: the growth of which delights the tillers, then it withers and you see it turn yellow, soon it becomes dry and crumbles away." [TMQ 57:20]
Allah (swt) explains to us how life can be filled with activities that consume our time. However, the ultimate reality is that life is similar to crops; they grow, produce a yield – but ultimately dry out and fade away.
Unlike Communism, Capitalism implicitly recognizes that there is a Creator for the universe, man and life and that there will be a Day of Resurrection. However, it limits this relationship to exist only between the individual and the Creator. Consequently, societal institutions such as courts, schooling, financial, and other institutions are based on what man decides. Moreover, this idea – that man can guide himself – is incompatible with reality. The human being as a rational person understands that he is weak, needy, and limited. He looks beyond himself for guidance and answers. Man is inherently unable to legislate due to the following reasons:
· Prone to disparity. Different people will come to different conclusions on how to deal with a problem. For example, in the US, the crime of murder will have different penalties depending on the state that the crime was committed in. In some states a murderer will receive the death penalty; while in other states, the murderer will receive a lengthy jail sentence – even though it is the same crime.
· Limited in his capacity to think. For example, China limited the number of children each household could have to one. This resulted in female infanticide (i.e. families wanted to have a son; not daughters) and now there is a shortage of females in China, making it difficult for males to find a wife.
· Influenced by the environment. For example, NAFTA was drafted by the government to reflect the interests of the corporate elite and not the workers. The legislators come from privileged backgrounds and therefore are prone to draft legislation that is influenced by their environment.
· Subject to change over time. For example, in Canada, homosexuality was considered a crime and an illness. However, today it is a legal/acceptable relationship.
Consequently, those who adopt the Capitalist way of thinking inevitably hit a ‘guidance void’. They realize that at some level, they do not have the answers that they need. As a result, they seek answers from other sources. Some do in fact become Muslim. However, others seek counseling from psychologists or pursue “new age” techniques that help them “find themselves”. Others even call psychic hotlines, get their palms read, or consult their horoscopes for guidance.
Islam: Solving the ‘Guidance Void’
A stark contrast can be found in comparing the challenges that democratic societies had in banning intoxicants (e.g. US was unable to carryout its ban on alcohol in the 1920s), to the ease of the Islamic State. Under Prophet Muhammad (saw), the Islamic State was able to successfully ban the use of such substances with the revelation of the following ayah:
“O you who believe! Intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan's work; shun it therefore that you may be successful.” [TMQ 5:90]
Why did Islam succeed where Capitalism failed? The reason is that Islamic Legal System is not the idea of man – it is the Truth revealed from Allah (swt). Furthermore, the belief in Islam is achieved through rational conviction that Islam is indeed from Allah (swt). Most important of all, it links the daily observance of commandments and prohibitions to the question of why we exist. As Allah (swt) has revealed, we exist solely to worship Him (swt):
“I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.” [TMQ 51:56]
Islam connects all his actions to the pleasure or displeasure of Allah (swt). Islam transforms the way that human beings measure success – from a materialistic measure to a spiritual one; good actions are those that lead to the pleasure of Allah (swt) and His Jannah (Paradise), while bad actions are those that lead to the anger of Allah (swt) and Jahanam (Hellfire). Therefore, spirituality is not limited to visiting the masjid or fasting. Instead an act is spiritual if it is based on the ahkam of Allah (swt). Therefore, when we borrow money on an interest-free basis (instead of taking a loan from a bank, on riba) we are in fact engaging in the worship of Allah (swt) as we are implementing the following ayah:
“Allah has allowed trading and forbidden riba (interest)” [TMQ 2:275]
Consequently, the difficulties we face in this life are actually an opportunity for us to obey Allah (swt). As a result, this worldly life is not a place to go wild and seek pleasure in an unrestricted manner. Instead it is a testing ground to obtain everlasting success on the Day of Judgement, as Allah (swt) has revealed:
“Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object (of Life).” [TMQ 3:185]
With this perspective, the overwhelming issue is accountability to Allah (swt). Islam does not deny happiness, but it also does not allow humanity to chase pleasures in a chaotic way that ultimately leads to misery. As Allah (swt) revealed:
“Rather seek, by means of what Allah has given you, to attain the abode of the hereafter, while not neglecting your share in this world” [TMQ 28:77]
Inviting others to Islam
The issue of the drug problem provides a good opportunity to discuss the many deep problems within the secular way of thinking. Although the Khilafah is absent, we have the ability to invite non-Muslims – especially those who feel this void – to Islam. However, we should be fully aware that without the authority of Islam established, non-Islamic institutions that promote the Capitalist ideology will also be working to influence the people that we are discussing with. This is similar to the struggle that the Prophet (saw) and sahabah faced in Makkah. For example, when the Prophet (saw) used to give dawah to the people, Al-Nadr ibn al-Harith would hire singing girls to dance around the Prophet (saw) to distract the people away from the Prophet with their bodily charms. Similarly, today the media is filled with images (e.g. scantily clad women) and ideas (e.g. having fun, doing drugs, etc) that serve as a great source of distraction.
Glory to Allah (swt) for guiding us to the straight path. Truly, Islam is the best gift that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us. May He guide humanity, make us steadfast, and make us of the grateful ones. Ameen.
"Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?" [TMQ 55:13]