Some time ago, I received an email from an old student. One of its paragraphs read:
Sir, I belong to the Marxist school of thought. Therefore, naturally I'm in favor of a communist / socialist society. But I'm not a dogmatist. I always try to keep myself sensitive to criticism. And I think that this is the right approach to Marxism: to scientifically and to objectively analyze the human society, without any personal (or at least minimum) biases. However, I'm a Muslim as well ...
Seeing an opportunity to comment on Marxism, I replied in the following way:
When you say that you are a Marxist as well as a Muslim, you are making a statement which is internally contradictory. You are either one or the other. Because Marxism, the little I understand it, has a complete philosophy on life; likewise has Islam. Their respective philosophies do not coincide at all; in fact, they are poles apart. However, that doesn't mean that a good Muslim cannot be impressed by any of the Marxist ideas at all. What cannot however happen is that you accept both philosophies at the same time. Either we have been created purposefully by God or we accidentally came into being by a chance interplay of some indefinable physical forces. How can both understandings be simultaneously correct. Either God has sent own His message to guide us or He hasn't. Both can't be simultaneously correct assertions. Therefore, I would like you to be clear about your correct position. As a Marxist too, you might accept (or tolerate) some aspects of Islam; but what you will accept would not be true Islam; its going to be just bits and pieces of it.
This was his reply:
Most of the time when I talk about Marxism to people, even if they objectively agree with me, they end up saying that it is 'un-Islamic', or, 'some / all of its ideas are in contradiction with Islamic principles', or, 'capitalism is more in line with Islamic principles than socialism'. I have really tried to think over this problem but have not come to a final conclusion. So far, I have not been able to see any fundamental contradictions between Islamic principles of societal organization and that enshrined in a socialist system.
This was my response:
As I have mentioned in my previous reply, it may be possible that you find that there are some apparent similarities in the two approaches. That would not make you a Marxist. It would just be by default. The fact that I find some good aspects in the personality of Abu Jahal (and there were most certainly some in him) doesn't mean that I should declare that my ideals are both Muhammad (sws) and Abu Jahal. I would feel ashamed of being bracketed with the latter because of the basic blunder he committed. Likewise, in case of Marxism, if I find some good aspects in it, I would have no hesitation in mentioning that they are good because they are consistent with the spirit of Islam. However, I'll be very careful in ensuring that my fascination with Marxism is not influencing my understanding of Islam. That would mean that I am distorting the message of God because I would like it to appear more acceptable to Marxism. There is a real danger of doing just that when your mind is unclear about its ideals.
This was his reply:
I would then like to pose a question to you: 'How is a socialist system in contradiction with an Islamic system?'
My answer to his query was :
Marxism, I believe, conflicts with Islamic teachings, apart from many other areas, in the following important aspects of its understanding:
1. In its fundamental understanding of the origins of man and the universe.
2. In its refusal to grant to the individual the right to own property.
3. In its attitude of creating hatred in some men against some others.
4. In its assumption that man can work effectively even without personal incentives. (This is something that has already been proven wrong by the unsuccessful socialist experiment of the deceased USSR)
5. In its approach of granting a status to Karl Marx that belongs only to the prophets of Allah.
and generally stayed away from questions of theology. He did see
problems in many organized religions that stress hierarchy, but this
is not necessarily incompatible with Islam. The only private
property that is forbidden in a Marxist society is people owning the
factors of production(ie factories, land, capital, etc) and this is
for the material equality of man in society. This view stresses an
independence from materialism, and the importance of community which
should in Marxism ideally own the factors of production in common. I
don't see how your fourth point conflicts with Islam. Animosity is
encouraged in Marxism only against those men that oppress others
which in Marxism is thought to be primarily the rich. Also Marxism
does not claim man works without incentive, just that man's
incentive should not be to have power or to become abundantly
wealthy. Man's incentive in Marxism is to work towards the good of
the community and for personal self fulfillment. Neither does
Marxism ascribe some infallibility to Karl Marx in the way that
Islam gives complete authority to the prophets. Many schools of
Marxism exist that criticize this or that aspect of Marxism, but a
school of Islam criticizing something Muhammad taught would be
Thus although Marxism developed independently from Islam does not
make these two ideologies conflict. Marxism focuses on social
problems and economic questions. One thing I will say that
definitely conflicts is that Marxism sees an eventual worldly utopia
as the goal and destination of mankind while Islam envisions things
going downhill and there being a Day of Judgement and an eventual
spiritual utopia. However the principles of social justice exist in