“Maqasid al Shariah”
The key objectives of Shari’ah and concept of welfare in Islamic economics
Objectives and Characteristics
The main objectives of the Shari‘ah are to ensure that human life is based on ma’rufat (good) and to cleanse it of munkarat (evils). The term ma’rufat denotes all the qualities that have always been accepted as ‘good’ by the human conscience. Conversely, the world munkarat denotes all those qualities that have always been condemned by human nature as ‘evil’. In short, the ma’rufat are in harmony with human nature and the munkarat are against nature. The Shari‘ah gives precise definitions of ma’rufat and munkarat, clearly indicating the standards of goodness for which individuals and society should aspire.
It does not, however, limit itself to an inventory of good and evil deeds; rather, it lays down an entire scheme of life whose aim is to make sure that good flourishes and evils do not destroy or harm human life.
To achieve this, the Shari‘ah has embraced in its scheme everything that encourages the growth of good and has recommended ways to remove obstacles that might prevent this growth. This process gives rise to a subsidiary series of ma’rufat consisting of ways of initiating and nurturing the good, and yet another set of ma’rufat consisting of prohibitions in relation to those things which act as impediments to good. Similarly, there is a subsidiary list of munkarat which might initiate or allow the growth of evil.
The Shari‘ah shapes Islamic society in a way conducive to the unfettered growth of good, righteousness and truth in every sphere of human activity. At the same time it removes all the impediments along the path of goodness. And it attempts to eradicate corruption from its social scheme by prohibiting evil, by removing the causes of its appearance and growth, by closing the inlets through which it creeps into a society and by adopting deterrent measures to check its occurrence.
The Shari‘ah divides ma’rfat into three categories: the mandatory (fard and wajib), the recommendatory (mandub) and the permissible (mubah).
The observance of the mandatory is obligatory on a Muslim society and the Shari‘ah has given clear and binding directions about this. The recommendatory ma’rufat are those which the Shari‘ah expects a Muslim society to observe and practise. Some of them have been very clearly demanded of us while others have been recommended by implication and inference from the sayings of the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him. Besides this, special arrangements have been made for the growth and encouragement of some of them in the scheme of life advocated by the Shari‘ah. Others again have simply been recommended by the Shari‘ah, leaving it to the society or to its more virtuous elements to look to promote them.
This leaves us with the permissible ma’rufat. Strictly speaking, according to the Shari‘ah everything which has not been expressly prohibited is a permissible ma’ruf. Consequently, the sphere of permissible ma’rufat is very wide, so much so that except for the things specifically prohibited by the Shari‘ah everything is permissible for a Muslim. And in this vast sphere we have been given freedom to legislate according to our own discretion to suit the requirements of our “time and its dictates.”
The munkarat (the things prohibited in Islam) have been grouped into two categories: things which have been prohibited absolutely (haram), and things which are simply undesirable (makruh).
Muslims have been enjoined by clear and mandatory injunctions to refrain totally from everything that has been declared haram. As for the makruh, the Shari‘ah signifies its disapproval either expressly or by implication, giving an indication also as to the extent of such disapproval. For example, there are some makruh things bordering on haram, while others are closer to acts which are permissible. Moreover, in some cases, explicit measures have been prescribed by the Shari‘ah for the prevention of makruh things, while in others such measures have been left to the discretion of the society or individual.
Some Other Characteristics
The Shari‘ah thus prescribes directives for the regulation of our individual as well as collective lives. These directives affect such varied subjects as religious rituals, personal character, morals, habits, family relationships, social and economic affairs, administration, the rights and duties of citizens, the judicial system, the laws of war and peace and international relations. They tell us what is good and bad; what is beneficial and useful and what is injurious and harmful; what are the virtues which we have to cultivate and encourage and what are the evils which we have to suppress and guard against; what is the sphere of our voluntary, personal and social action and what are its limits; and, finally, what methods we can adopt to establish a dynamic order of society and what methods we should avoid. The Shari‘ah is a complete way of life and an all-embracing social order.
Another remarkable feature of the Shari‘ah is that it is an organic whole. The entire way of life propounded by Islam is animated by the same spirit and hence any arbitrary division of the scheme is bound to affect the spirit as well as the structure of the Islamic order. In this respect, it might be compared to the human body. A leg separated from the body cannot be called one-eighth or one-sixth man, because after its separation from the body the leg cannot perform its function. Nor can it be placed in the body of some other animal with the aim of making it human to the extent of that limb. Likewise, we cannot form a correct judgment about the utility, efficiency and beauty of the hand, the eye or the nose of a human being outside the context of their place and function within the living body.
The same can be said about the scheme of life envisaged by the Shari‘ah. Islam signifies a complete way of life which cannot be split up into separate parts. Consequently, it is neither appropriate to consider the different parts of the Shari‘ah in isolation, nor to take any particular part and bracket it with any other ‘ism’. The Shari‘ah can function smoothly only if one’s whole life is lived in accordance with it.
Concept of welfare in Islam
Developmental Versus Transfers
“A man approached the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) seeking for his generosity. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) instead asked him to bring whatever he has from his home. The man returned with an old copper mug. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) then asked his companions seated with him if any of them would buy the mug. One of the companions offered to pay one dirham. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) then asked if anyone would offer two dirhams and one of them did. He then gave one dirham to the man to buy food for the day and asked him to buy an axe with the other dirham.
When he came back with the axe, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) personally fixed a wooden handle to the axe and asked him to get firewood to sell at the market. A few days later, the man met the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and told him he has been getting some fifteen dirhams selling firewood within the last few days”.
“The hand that gives is much better than the hand that receives” is another of the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.) saying.
The above quotations are sufficient to reveal the approach Islam adopts at alleviating poverty. Islam advocates a developmental approach which enables the poor to use his skills in order to earn a living, and be independent of society. Of course this is true only with the able-bodied. However, for the invalid, the old and the underage, Islam provides sufficient stipend for the year, so that one can meet all his needs. The stipend comes from Bait al-Mal or Public Treasury which draws its resources from zakah, and other taxes.
Islam also distinguishes between the poor and the destitute. This distinction is necessary to set the priorities as to which group among the poor should be given attention first. Of course it is the destitute that should receive priority for any anti-poverty programmes. This is to ensure that the anti-poverty programmes directly benefit the proper individual or household. As such there is a need to identify individuals or households who fall in the group of destitute or poor before the programme could be undertaken. This distinction is also useful to avoid the politically advantageous approach of alleviating those whose income are close to the poverty line. Such an approach would require much less allocation than those whose income are far below the poverty line.
Sources of Funds for the Poor
Zakah is the fourth of five pillars of Islam and hence is obligatory on every Muslim, who fulfils the stipulated conditions, to pay. Being a pillar of Islam, it has to be paid and collected whether the destitute and the poor exist in society or not. As such it is indeed a permanent source of revenue for the alleviation of the destitute and the poor.
·Charitable Trusts or Endowments (Al Awqaf)
Charitable trusts transfer wealth from private ownership to beneficial, social, collective ownership. Islam does not make this practice obligatory but has strongly encouraged it and left it to voluntary initiatives of individuals. In spite of this, the Muslims accepted it wholeheartedly (even in periods of economic decline) and created charitable trusts, since the period of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) for important social and economic functions. Such trusts that were created in different countries and ages have successfully brought about tremendous changes in the welfare of the needy.
·Gifts (Al Maniha)
Al Minha and Al Maniha are special kinds of gifts. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) in his various traditions used this method to provide some assistance to the early Muslim migrants from Mecca to Madinah who were in real need of some help. Al Maniha means the granting of the usufruct of a productive asset to a needy person for a specific period. These gifts as mentioned in the various Prophetic traditions, include money (cash), riding animals, dairy animals, agricultural land, fruit bearing trees, houses, kitchen utensils, tools, etc. However it should be general in application to include other productive assets such as cars, ships, industries, etc.
Al Fay’ is the wealth that Muslims acquire from the enemy without actual fighting. The recipients of fay‘ are the Prophet (s.a.w.), his family, the orphans, the needy and the wayfarer. (Quran 59: 7-10)
·Spoils of War (Al Ghanimah)
Al Ghanimah is the wealth acquired from enemy by force during war. One-fifth of the al ghanimah is to be distributed to all the recipients of the fay‘ and the remaining four-fifths go tothe soldiers who participated in the war.
Rikaz is buried wealth found in land which has no owner. The finder will have to pay 20% or one-fifth of the wealth. The opinions of the jurists on the recipients of this one-fifth of the wealth are divided. Some are of the opinion that it should be distributed to the recipients of the fay‘. Some others opine that it should be distributed as zakah. Whichever way it is distributed, it is still an important source for the needy.
·Obligatory Maintenance By Relatives
It is interesting to note that the Islamic system makes it obligatory on each wealthy person to provide sufficient (customarily) maintenance for his poor relative who is unable to earn a living. The juristic opinion that seems to be most appropriate is that it is based upon inheritance rights.The maintenance of the incapacitated poor man is obligatory on his rich relative(s) who will inherit from this poor man if this poor man leaves any inheritance. If there are a number of such rich relatives, the amount of maintenance is distributed amongst them according to the share of their inheritance from him.
·Guarantee by the Public Treasury of A Minimum Level Of Living For Each Citizen
Guarantee by the public treasury of a minimum level of living is not a recent innovation (ijtihad) as the following excerpt shows: “This is an epistle (of peace) from Khalid ibn al-Walid to the people of Hirah … and I have promised them that: any old person who is unable to work or has been struck by a calamity, was rich and then became poor to the extent that the people of his faith started giving him charity, his jizya stands waived, and he and his dependents are to be provided from the treasury as long as he resides in Dar-al-Islam (Islamic State) …” (al Kharaj by Abu Yusuf, quoted by M.A.Zarqa). The above excerpt is a good example of an objective determination of the circumstances entitling Non-Muslims to help. The general implementation of this policy of providing minimum level of living by the public treasury likewise needs the conditions to be clearly spelled out.
·Rights to Acquire Necessities of Life
The jurists have established that a man under duress has the right to free food and drink if he is poor, but will have to pay for the food and drink if he can afford it. This principle has also been extended to other necessities such as clothing, shelter and medicine.