Fundamentals Of National Development – The Islamic View

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In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Fundamental is a leading or primary principle, rule, law or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system, essential part, the foundation of something or hence its principle. National development refers to the ability of a nation to improve the lives of its citizens. Measures of improvement may be material, such as an increase in the gross domestic product, or social, such as literacy rates and availability of healthcare. Federal governments draw up national development plans and policies based on the perceived needs of their citizens. Many include an emphasis on reducing poverty, affordable and available housing and community development.

The goal of all national development is to improve the lives of the citizens in question within the context of a growing economy and an emphasis on the good of the community as a whole. National Development Planning is the result of a demanding effort of synthesizing proposals and bringing together divergent priorities, while covering a multifaceted approach that touches on the comprehensive developmental choices of the economy and society of the country.

At times, very well attended public consultation session is organized in the context of the preparatory procedures, with the aim of achieving the greatest possible participation and consent of the public towards the formulation of the strategic choices that would lead to the adoption of a long-term developmental vision for the country. However, fundamentals of national development of a nation depends on two critical features; first the economic systems being used by the Government to govern its people and secondly the quality of the type of people in the system both the leaders and the followers. It is important to note that elements of national development such as; quality education, good health care, increase in and good social relationship status and good environmental plans; are functions of a good economic system. Invariably, without a good economic system all these elements cannot impart on the lives of common citizen of any nation.

For us to have a better understanding of this presentation I will give brief explanation on the two major types of economic systems operating around the world today; namely communism and capitalism.

 

Communism

Communism is a socioeconomic system structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and characterized by the absence of social classes, money and the state; political and economic ideology and movement that aim to establish this social order. It advocates economic equality and state ownership of various goods and services. Communism is the idea that everyone in a given society receives equal shares of the benefits derived from labour. Communism is designed to allow the poor to rise up and attain financial and social status equal to that of the middle-class landowners. In order for everyone to achieve equality, wealth is redistributed so that the members of the upper class are brought down to the same financial and social level as the middle class. Communism also requires that all means of production be controlled by the state. In other words, no one can own his or her own business or produce his or her own goods because the state owns everything.

These principles are based on the notion that there should be equality among all people. As long as a person worked to the best of his capacity, he was entitled to payment on the same scale as all others who worked up to their capacity. Thus no one was entitled to possess wealth in excess of others; any excess wealth would be appropriated by the State.

As far as the basic principle is concerned, it is entirely correct that all must be properly fed, clothed, and housed; all must have access to facilities for education and health. In brief, the basic needs of all should be fulfilled. On this point Islam is fully in accord with Communism.

In summary Communism means all wealth and all means of wealth must be nationalized. Individual property should become collective possession. Wealth produced under collective organization, out of collective resources, should be distribut­ed under collective supervision among in­dividuals according to their needs on the basis of a so-called equitable system. All are to work according to their powers, but distribution must depend upon the needs of the individual, irrespective of the amount of his labour. Critics of Communism associate the economic system with the following fallouts, as it kills feelings of human sympathy and fellow-feelings; it virtually has no place for helping one’s friends, relatives, neighbours or the poor, which is a feature of individualism. In Communism the spirit of excelling others is paralysed if not crushed outrightly. Communism weakens individual effort and destroys natural incentives to work, it puts no value upon brain work and thus lets it decline, it ties down man’s economic condition to unnatural external props, and it deals a death-blow to spirituality and sows the seed of atheism and materialism.

Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industries, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, exploitation, wage labour and competitive markets. In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged. A practical example is our nation, Nigeria. We talk of recession, but when one truly investigates the cost of production of our local products you tend to see that no significant changes in the current prices of production compared with the price of production about two and half years ago. Example is that of palm oil, the trees that bear the fruits are still the same, the local producers still pick up log of woods in the bush as they do before, the fruits on trees gets ripe the same time they used to before and the processes of production still remain the same, the only thing that changes is the cost of transportation which is not that significant, but when one compares the price at which a bottle or a liter of palm oil sells a year ago with current selling price, you will find out that there is no justification for the present price. The same goes for most of our local products. Critics of capitalism associate the economic system with social inequality, unfair distribution of wealth and power, a tendency towards market monopoly or oligopoly and cultural exploitation, materialism, repression of workers and trade unionists, social alienation, economic inequality, unemployment and economic instability. Capitalism concentrates power and wealth within a small segment of society that controls the means of production and derives its wealth through economic exploitation. This creates unequal social relations that fail to provide opportunities for every individual to maximize his potential.

Having mentioned briefly what these two economic systems are; let’s now see what the Islamic point of view is on the fundamentals of national development.

The Islamic point of view in regard to the sources of wealth is expressed in the Holy Quran ch. 2:30

 

“That is, everything that is found in the world has been created by Allah for the benefit of mankind.”

Mountains, rivers, mineral wealth and other means of human progress are mankind’s collective property, and we all have a share in this collective wealth. All these natural resources- diamond, gold, silver, and other precious metals are meant for the benefit of whole mankind. There is limitless variety of produced goods, some for personal consumption, some for industries as raw materials, and some are traded internationally. Everything that has been created is for the benefit of the entire human race, including the rulers and the ruled, the high and the low, the superior and the subservient. No one may claim that God has created these things only for his own personal use. The Quran tells us that ‘Allah has created this for all humans’ and that we are all collective claimants of His creation.

Furthermore, the Quran spells out the following principle regarding the true purpose of wealth. In Quran ch. 24:34

“And give them out of the wealth of Allah which He has bestowed upon you”

The Islamic State, on gaining the resources, implemented the above-mentioned precepts, it obligated provision for the primary needs of all and assumed responsibility for meeting each person’s needs for food and clothing.

At this juncture, let me give the practical examples of Hadrat Umar, during his government, a census was taken, involving registration of individual’s name, in order to facilitate the task of providing food and clothing to everyone. Even European writers acknowledged the fact that it was Hadrat Umar who first held census and initiated the system of registration. In order to carry out the responsibility of providing food and clothing to everyone, the government needed to know the number of people living in the country. It is generally believed today that the Soviet State was the first to recognize its responsibilities towards its people in meeting their primary needs, but the fact is that Islam had done this more than thirteen hundred years ago. Registers maintained by Hadrat Umar’s administration were thorough and complete. They listed the members in each family, their ages, needs, and the quantity and kind of food sanctioned. It is recorded in history that Hadrat Umar in his earlier decisions had not provided for the needs of suckling babies because an infant’s due ration was granted only after it had been weaned. One night, while out on a round of quiet inspection, Hadrat Umar heard the wailing sound of an infant, which made him pause. But the cries continued, even though the mother tried to put the child to sleep by patting him. At last Hadrat Umar entered the tent and enquired of the mother: ‘Why do you not suckle the child?’ The woman did not recognize the Khalifah and answered, ‘Hadrat Umar has decreed that no ration be granted in the case of infants until they were weaned. We are poor people with hardly enough to make both ends meet. I have weaned the child early so that we should get a measure of ration that includes the child’. Hadrat Umar was shocked when he heard this, and he hastened at once to the Baitul-Mal (Public Treasury) muttering painfully to himself, ‘You have weakened the coming generation of the Arabs by causing infants to be prematurely weaned, the responsibility for this lies on your head.’ He opened the door of the store and lifted a sack of flour on his own back. When an attendant offered to carry it for him, he replied, ‘No, I failed to discharge my responsibility. I must make amends for it myself.’ He then carried the flour to the woman and ordered the next day that a ration is granted for a child from the day it was born, because the nursing mother, in any case, need better nourishment. From the action of Hadrat Umar, we can see the quality of leader with good and high level of accountability, which is a rare occurrence in our present day society.  It is therefore beyond dispute that as soon as Islam was in a position to do so, it put into operation a fair and just economic system.

Islam generally recognizes the individual right to self-effort and its fruits, but at the same time it puts an effective curb on its extreme form. It has wisely devised machinery by which wealth cannot be accumulated in a few hands within the society. It has taken steps to see not only that the rich do not grow richer and richer, but that they part with some of their wealth to uplift the poor. It tries to maintain equilibrium between the two classes. As a general principle, Islam lays down that God has created the means of producing wealth for the good of mankind as a whole. It does not admit the monopoly of any individual or section of people.

Thus so far as the means of production is concerned they are open to all without distinction. But Islam also recognizes and accepts the natural results of individual capacity and the right to the fruit of individual effort. This is the natural way to maintain right balances between two extremes. It is true that to help others and to work for other is a noble human instinct and Islam takes due account of this side of human nature. It combines individualism and collectivism in the best possible manner.

In Quran ch. 4:136

Says “O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do”

The preservation of some rights of the citizens belongs to the government, the distribution of public office and administration of justice. In this sphere of rights, the door of progress and prosperity should be open to all without distinction. Islam takes   account of the natural delimitation of human rights and has laid down distinct injunctions appropriate to each case. In respect of the rights that are the concern of the state, Islam enjoins strict equality and tolerates no discrimination. Islam does not recognize the monopoly of any particular class or people. At the same time, it does not ignore differences of wealth, which are due to difference of personal effort and intelligence. It is not equality of distribution of wealth, but equality of opportunity to all races or classes or individuals that is important.

Islam shows that more importantly, aspect of the equality of man is not what relates to the distribution of wealth, but what relates to the status and position of different race of man.

Here the Holy founder of Islam said “Hearken ye people your lord is one and your progenitor was also one. Aye hearken to me O ye people I an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor has a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab; nor do the white have any preference over the dark, nor have the dark any preference over the white, expecting of course what an individual can acquire by his personal qualities or moral, intelligence and self-effort”(Musnad Ahmad)

This principle is at the root of Islamic conception of equality, which has placed all people, all nations and all areas on the same level. At the same time Islam recognizes and promotes the inborn desire to excel others. Each individual or people are free to excel others by effort.

In Quran ch. 9: 35 Says

those who hoard up gold  and silver and spend it not in the way prescribed by Allah, give to them the tidings of a painful punishment. They should remember the day when this hoarding shall be made hot in the Hell, and their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded therewith and it shall be said unto them; this is what you hoarded for yourselves. So taste ye now what you used to hoard up

With such golden teaching, Islam exhorts the well-to-do to bring out their surplus wealth into the open market and help the needy directly through charity and indirectly through investment of their capital in trade and industry, which will certainly benefit others and the society. Islam warns the hoarders of wealth that if they store up their wealth, they would be creating trouble for themselves not only in the life to come but also in this very life. This is another Islamic principle that not only advocates the co-operative basis of society but also makes practical arrangement to disperse and spread accumulated wealth for the general good. This law is two-phased, obligatory and voluntary. The obligatory side of this law is what we call the Zakat by which an Islamic government can collect a goodly sum of money ranging from 2.5 to 20% of the wealth of the rich to be spent on the poor, the needy, people in straitened circumstances and for public good. It should be borne in mind that this tax is not collected from the rich only but from everyone who has more than his minimum requirements. The idea is to uplift the needy and helpless and thus reduce disparities in the society. The Holy Prophet (SAW) said “object of the institution of Zakat is to take from the better off to return the same to the poor and the needy, (Bukhari). The words “to return” are very wisely chosen and deserve particular notice. The expression is meant to imply that the tax is NOT an act of grace on the part of the rich to the poor; it is obligatory. The rich should not think they are doing any favour to the poor. The idea is that they should accept it as a matter of duty.

Secondly, the production of wealth is mainly due to the labour and industry of the poor. The word Zakat signifies purification and augmentation. This is because the tax releases the giver from the obligation he owes to those who have been instrumental in the production of wealth and because this adds to and augments the resources of those who receive it. The voluntary system of charity in Islam, as I have stated, is also akin to voluntary taxation. This is summed up in the general term “charity” It includes all kinds of alms-giving that are not obligatory.

Islam ordains sympathy for the poor and their upliftment was a major concern at its very inception. A study of the chapters of the Holy Quran that were revealed in the beginning of Islam shows that the most dominant message in these verses is to support and uplift the poor. Muslims are told that if they desired national progress and God’s pleasure then they must try to help the poor and alleviate their sufferings.

 

 

In Quran ch. 4:59

Says “Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them”

This is another principle of Islam; it enjoins that the trust of governance be given by elections to people who are most capable of carrying that burden. It is the duty of Muslims to evaluate carefully candidates’ capabilities and entrust the authority to govern to the best amongst them. Moreover, we are expected to abstain from electing someone solely on the basis of his family background influence, tribe, religion or wealth. We should also not elect someone simply because he is backed by a powerful group. The basic consideration for electing someone should be his ability to manage the country’s affairs. At the same time, God enjoins the elected rulers that they rule with equity and justice. It shows from the above that Islam is seeking to establish a fair and just economic order naturally.

The essence of the economic system of Islam lies in an appropriate combination of individual freedom with state intervention. It allows state intervention to a certain extent, but it also provides for individual freedom. A proper balance between these two defines the Islamic economic system. Individual freedom is granted to enable persons to build up assets and spend them voluntarily in order to gain the spiritual benefits in the life to come. State intervention, on the other hand, is provided in order to protect the poor from economic exploitation by the wealthy.

The state intervention is deemed essential for putting in place certain safeguards against harming the weaker sections of society, while individual freedom is deemed essential for a healthy competition among individuals and for enabling them to make provisions for the life hereafter. Individuals are given full opportunity to voluntarily serve humanity and earn merit in the life hereafter. Individual freedom thus opens up endless possibilities of progress through the force of healthy competition. At the same time, judicious state intervention is provided so that the economic system is not based on brutality and injustice and hindrances to economic progress of any section of society are avoided.

It should be remembered that some of the defects that are associated with economic competition are rooted in certain selfish streaks in human nature. For example, a person may set his heart upon accumulation of wealth, and this passion may shut his eyes to the suffering caused by hunger, want and penury. His sole wish maybe to accumulate maximum amount of wealth possible. Selfishness and indifference to tyranny and oppression are the result of certain incentives, which are mentioned in the Holy Quran and have been discussed earlier. Islam is against the extremes of Commu­nism and Capitalism; it promotes the human ideals of brotherhood, progress, culture, and civilization.

In conclusion the Islamic economic system is based on:

  • Exhortation against undue accumulation of wealth;
  • Curbing the motivation behind undue accumulation of wealth;
  • Insistence on expeditious redistribution of concentrated wealth;
  • Recognition that it is the State’s responsibility to spend money on meeting the legitimate basic needs of the poor and weak members of the society.
  • Advocates a system of representative government, with the capability of candidate as the fundamentals criterion for election.
  • Defines authority as a trust, not a right.
  • Declares that the basic goal of government must be to protect honour, life and property of citizens.
  • Enjoins the rulers to judge amongst individuals and communities with absolute justice and impartiality, reminding them that they are ultimately answerable before God.

Finally, it is evident what the basic principles of Islamic view on national development are; Justice and equity in the economic system and the quality of people operating the system, the right people should be given the mantle of leadership.

 

Ahmad Ibrahim Badamasi

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