Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada
Note: The reader should bear in mind that Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra was not an economist. He was a religious leader tasked with the guidance of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. As a leader, he taught the principles of economics mentioned in the Holy Quran and Islamic exegesis. These principles are important for Ahmadi economists to understand and develop economic thought that will drive the community and its purpose forward.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra played an essential role in the evolution of Islamic economic thought. The fundamental values and message of Islam he presented were built upon the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. What is unique is the approach and method based on the fundamental condition presented by the Promised Messiahas in Al-Wasiyyat (The Will): Selflessness. As the moral condition of the world is far from the selflessness-clause of the scheme of Wasiyyat, a bridge was needed to help humanity reach that goal. The establishment of Tahrik-e-Jadid is that bridge. It is a critical step towards establishing a society that will adhere to the principles of Wasiyyat and bring about the change so desired in the world today.
The first two premises to establish an Islamic economic framework, as emphasised by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, are the concept of ownership (Surah al-Zukhruf, Ch.43: V.86, The Economic System of Islam, p. 2) and stewardship, wrapped in the ethical fabric of Islam.
Ownership in Islam means that everything, no matter how intangible, belongs to God; our role is that of a steward. Ultimately, it will be returned to the rightful owner. Stewardship comes with an understanding that we, as humans, have to be responsible for all things under our possession and ensure reasonable use that is not in conflict with ethical teachings. This core belief helps define the framework for economic development. It ensures that all advancement is directed towards creating a God-conscious society.
These are the ground rules set forth by Islam and known to all Muslims. In practice, unfortunately, personal greed and lack of belief come into play, thus rendering the teachings incomplete. This is the core reason why Al-Wasiyyat (The Will) plays a critical role in building a world that contributes immensely towards selflessness. It creates a society that is self-reflective and conscious of its deeds. It is a society that can rise to protect itself from elements that seek to destroy its wellbeing.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra understood that competition and self-interest are central drivers of current economic models. “It should be remembered that some of the defects that are associated with the economic competition are rooted in certain selfish streaks in human nature […]” (The Economic System of Islam, p. 40) he reminded us. Understanding this statement requires an in-depth study that a mere article cannot afford. Readers can gain profound insight into the human condition through the writings of the Promised Messiahas and Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra.
The economic systems prevalent in the world today demonstrate three classifications. The first type is “not governed by any specified rules and regulations […]”, the second would be nationalistic, “where nations seek only to maximize their collective national interests.” The third system is based on the fact that a person has the right to “struggle for their rights and pursue their self-interest.” This type can be termed individualistic. Purpose and wisdom form the cornerstone of every Islamic teaching; hence it would follow that a system that does not follow any law cannot be appropriate for the collective society. Therefore, the type of Islamic economics defined by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat is both nationalistic and individualistic.
Having defined the type of economy Islam propagates, it would be prudent to review the components that form the framework. Suppose the economy is viewed as an independent entity, separate from the human condition. In that case, the problems of current capitalistic models come into play. However, if one considers the economy as crucial to human survival, just like air, then a different picture arises.
The central component of the Islamic economy, outside of ownership and stewardship, is charity. It forms the third pillar of Islam and is much wider in scope, beyond the comprehension of a layman. Even a smile is considered charity, as per the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa, but how does that form the basis of the Islamic economy? Charity in Islam invites all people, regardless of faith, to work together as a community towards the betterment of the community itself. It requires self-sacrifice on many levels and demands equality for all beings from our ego. Only then, as per the doctrine of Islam, can true happiness be achieved. Sharing with the less fortunate is key to the distribution of wealth. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has, since its inception, developed an extensive system of wealth collection and wealth distribution which is both measurable and transparent. It allows the community to “promote and advance the welfare and wellbeing of people at large.” (www.amjinternational.org/aims-objectives/)
Under the Islamic governance model, the responsibilities of the government or the governing body increase manifold. In the most basic form, an Islamic government is responsible for the overall well-being of its citizens, rich or poor. This well-being includes institutions for health, education and general welfare. It also dictates that every citizen is eligible for food, clothes and housing regardless of financial status. A distinction cannot be made in this regard because doing so can ill-afford the feelings of the poorer citizens.
A discussion on Islamic economics would be incomplete without describing the concept of interest (riba). A detailed discussion of interest is beyond the scope of this article. It can be described in the words of Imam al-Ghazali as follows:
“Riba is prohibited because it prevents people from undertaking real economic activities. This is because when a person having money is allowed to earn more money on the basis of interest, either in spot or deferred transactions, it becomes easy for him to earn without bothering himself to take pains in real economic activities. This leads to hampering the real interests of humanity because the interests of humanity cannot be safeguarded without real trade skills, industry and construction.” (Philosophy and practice of Islamic economics and finance by Shaikh A Hamid)
It follows that Islam is strictly against the rise of free money, money that is promised to the lender regardless of the borrower’s circumstances. While a share in the profit and loss is advocated in Islam, the current world model of interest disregards loss and only advocates obtaining the profit from the money lent. This method takes away from innovation and lends to hoarding of money (Quran Surah at-Taubah, Ch.9: V.34–35, The Economic System of Islam, p. 50-52). This practice of blocking the free flow of money is forbidden in Islam and discussed in many lectures of Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra. (see Anwarul Ulum references below)
In the coming two concluding articles, we discuss how the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community applies these principles to numerous projects worldwide. The intent is to demonstrate that an economic model can be developed by economists that can bring about a much-needed reformation in the world.
The Will (Al-Wasiyyat) by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas
The New World Order by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra
The Economic System of Islam by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra
The Future of Pakistan by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 19, pp. 353-360
Suggestions Regarding the Growth of Pakistan by Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmadra, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 21, pp. 295-322
Philosophy and Practice of Islamic Economics and Finance by Shaikh A Hamid