“O Prophet – behold, We have sent thee as a witness [to the truth], and as a herald of glad tidings and a warner, and as one who summons all human beings to God by His leave, and as a light-giving beacon.” (33: 45-46)
“Now [as for thee, O Muhammad,] We have not sent thee otherwise than to humankind at large, to be a herald of glad tidings and a warner; but most people do not understand [this].” (34:28)
“Say: [O Muhammad]: “O humankind! Verily, I am a Messenger of God to all of you, [sent by Him] unto whom the dominion over the heavens and the earth belongs.” (7:158)
“And [thus O Prophet,] We sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds.” (21: 107)
The above Quranic verses clearly establish that Islam does not discriminate against human beings based on color, race, blood relationships, language, or nationalities. Islam is for everyone. This means that Allah wants us to build a society based on the Quranic principle of universal unity. While no one can question the value of this high goal, the problem is working to achieve it.
When the Quran set this high goal for humanity, it also provided working principles for achieving it in the human world. This is what the Prophet (PBUH) accomplished with the help of his companions (R). He created a true multiethnic and multiracial pluralistic society for the first time in human history. The ultimate goal, of course, was to include all humanity in this ideal. By knocking out all barriers political, social, economic, and geographical a global society could be created based on equality and freedom for all human beings. This, then is the Sunnah. Our practice of Sunnah must lead to this goal set by the Quran and implemented by the Prophet (PBUH). Otherwise, we belie Islam (107:1-7) as well as the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH).
Meaning of “belief in God”
It does not mean anything if one says “I believe in God” and the other says, “I do not believe in God” if the socioeconomic system in real life is not structured based on the universal permanent values of the Quran. ایمان (Iman) is to have full conviction in the permanent values and principles of the Quran and to shape the collective life of the society on their basis and to believe that whatever natural resources Allah has given to support life purely by His Grace are not mine but Allah’s. It is to believe that my abilities are not mine but granted by Allah and therefore I am required to use them according to His instructions and guidelines; that the only thing mine is my effort and all else belongs to Allah; and that I will sincerely follow His commands regarding their use because He is the actual owner. The Quran is unequivocal about Allah’s ownership. وَهُوَ الَّذِي فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلَـٰهٌ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَـٰهٌ (43:84) – It is He Who is Allah in Heaven and Allah on Earth; الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ (7:158) – unto Whom belongs the Sovereignty of the Heavens and the Earth.
All the natural resources including the air, the water, the sunshine, the land, and all the resources and means of production – their Creator has provided free for the use of entire humanity. Similarly, Allah has granted human abilities free and purely as His Grace. The extrinsic universal resources and the intrinsic human abilities are not products of human effort. The Quran has called these Allah’s نعمه (Ni’mah) or Grace. – وَمَا بِكُم مِّن نِّعْمَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّـهِ (16:53) – Have you ever reflected that all the means of sustenance as well as the capacity to acquire them have been created and endowed by Allah? The Quran says that when you put effort to develop your abilities and whatever sustenance you acquire as a result – in these only your effort is yours; the rest of the investment – your abilities, the natural resources etc. in this enterprise is Allah’s. وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَىٰ (53:39) – A human is entitled to receive only that for which he has strived. The result will be proportionate to the effort. According to the Divine principle, the compensation should only be for labor.
Differences in human abilities and their importance in running the affairs of society
We just saw from the Quran that human abilities and all of the natural resources belong to Allah. This reality must sink deep into our hearts and minds. It is true that there are differences in individual abilities. However, there is a purpose behind that difference. How to keep these differences and ensure that they do not become the source of evil? The Quran prescribes a solution for this: وَاللَّـهُ فَضَّلَ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ فِي الرِّزْقِ ۚ فَمَا الَّذِينَ فُضِّلُوا بِرَادِّي رِزْقِهِمْ عَلَىٰ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ فَهُمْ فِيهِ سَوَاءٌ ۚ أَفَبِنِعْمَةِ اللَّـهِ يَجْحَدُونَ (16:71). Different individuals possess different abilities for work. Every program or project requires co-operation of different individuals with different abilities to bring it to fruition. The Divine system of sustenance requires that the fruits of cooperative effort be distributed among all participants according to their needs. Those who possess greater capability (or power) generally do not adhere to this system, thinking that according to this arrangement all will become equal. They thus deny that their abilities are endowed by Allah. They do not want to return the extra wealth to the ones who work under them and whose needs remain unfulfilled from what they are able to earn.
The word رَادِّي (Raaddi) has an extraordinary depth of meaning in this context. It means to return a thing to whom it belongs. The Quran says to those who have more capability to earn – which, in fact is gift of Allah – to return their surplus wealth to those workers who work under them and whose own earnings are not sufficient to support their families, because the workers generated the wealth in the first place by their collective accumulated effort. Therefore, they are entitled to it as of their right if they are not able to meet their needs from their income. However, the wealthy do not like this arrangement. They cry that everyone will become equal this way. They claim that they are smarter and more capable and therefore they deserve more. They start this kind of crooked argument saying: that their capabilities are their own creation; why should I give back something that is the result of my own skill; why should I be treated as equal to a poor worker?
To think of Allah-granted human faculty and natural resources as personal property is to engage in crooked argument
What a beautiful answer Allah gives to those who present arguments in favor capitalism? أَفَبِنِعْمَةِ اللَّـهِ يَجْحَدُونَ (16:71) – Is it the favors that Allah granted free to you that you think as your personal property by presenting crooked arguments? This is tantamount to denying the favors that Allah bestowed on humans (55:13). This particular verse is repeated no less than 31 times in Surah Al-Rahman consisting of 78 verses! This indicates how serious a crime it must be in the eyes of Allah when one calls Allah-granted free favors as one’s personal property.
So, what is the solution of the problem while accepting the differences in human abilities because of which some earn more than others do? The solution that Quran provides is to return the surplus to those in need: وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ (2:219) – They ask you as to how much they should spare for the help of others. Say, all that is surplus to your needs. Granting different abilities is رحمتہ (Rahmah) from Allah. The difference in capabilities exists because society needs different tasks to be performed; and for this to occur different abilities are needed. This does not affect the dignity and respect of humans. If individuals do not create the faculty for earning but Allah the Almighty bestows it; then how can one amass wealth and say it is his own? Sustenance is Allah-given, so it must reach all humans without any hindrance. No one should amass it and deprive others because, وَرَحْمَتُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ (43:32) – this, your Sustainer’s grace, is better than all the worldly wealth that they may amass.
The Quranic society, therefore, must take the responsibility to provide the basic sustenance to all. The practical proof of this was shown to the world by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which reached its pinnacle during the period of Khalifa ‘Umar (R), who said: Even if a dog dies hungry on the banks of the River Euphrates, ‘Umar will be responsible for dereliction of duty.
What an effective solution the Quran presents of this most difficult problem facing humanity? The proponents of religious status quo perpetuate the myth that everything comes from Allah; that He grants poverty or wealth to whomever He wants. This myth is the creation of capitalist system although religious priesthood presents it in sacred terms. Capitalist system does not take the responsibility of providing sustenance to all. Left alone, individuals try to fend for themselves. يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ (90:15) – Despite living in busy societies people feel lonely and helpless in a capitalist system which says that one cannot interfere in the affairs of others. Whether or not one is able to support one’s family in one’s wage is not the problem of capitalism or even socialism. Only the Quran’s system takes the responsibility of guaranteeing basic sustenance to all human beings, thus creating a true pluralistic society.