The Socio-Economic Order

The Socio-Economic Order

The term ‘Salat’ has been used in the Quran not only to refer to a ritual (prayer)[1] to commemorate Allah’s Guidance individually[2]  and collectively[3] and in the consultative assemblies and conferences of the Muslims[4] but it also refers to a just socio-economic order that must be established if the Muslims have their own sovereign State[5]. During the independence movement in India at the dawn of the 20th century, the Muslim scholars were clearly divided into two main camps. Those who considered Islam merely a ritualistic Madhab and just had a narrow vision of the terms like ‘salat’ and ‘zakat’ were not keen for a separate sovereign homeland for the Muslims but were happy to have a united India where Hindus would be in majority and the Muslims would have complete freedom to perform their ritual ‘salat’ as well as other Islamic rituals. But those who had a broader view of Islam as a Deen and understood the terms like ‘salat’ and ‘zakat’ in wider sense were ardent supporters of the movement for a separate sovereign homeland for the Muslims of India, where Muslims would be able to order all political, social and economic aspects of their lives according to the Divine Law.

There are several verses of the Quran which make it abundantly clear that the term ‘salat’ is not restricted merely to a ritual but it also has connotations of a socio-economic order. This socio-economic order not only defines whom we serve, obey and adore but also how we handle our economics and what we do with our possessions[6]. It is an order which restrains us from any indecent behaviour and any unlawful deed[7] and for which it is necessary to have a sovereign state[8]. The followers of such a socio-economic order (musalleen) are incessantly in a state of ‘salat’ (following intimately Allah’s laws in all walks of life) and consider in their wealth a recognized right for those who are needy and seek their financial assistance[9]. Such musalleen (followers of the complete Islamic socio-economic order) have been contrasted in the Quran with those who although perform the ritual ‘salat’ but negating its socio-economic aspect, do not take care of those who are left alone in the society (such as orphans and widows) and do not urge feeding the poor. The Quran says that such musalleen (performers of ritual ‘salat’ only) are doomed[10].

It cannot be a coincidence that the terms ‘salat’ and ‘zakat’ have been used together at many places in the Quran[11]. It is also noteworthy that the phrase ‘aat-al-maal’ and ‘aat-az-zakat’ have been used distinctly in the Quran[12]. It appears that on one side the Quran enjoins the Muslims to practice individual acts of charity and on the other hand it enjoins them to establish[13] a collective system of zakat[14] which assures physical, mental and spiritual development of all citizens of their state.

In my humble understanding, as far as the individual ritual salat and individual charity is concerned, the Islamic state is not entitled to enforce these individual acts upon anyone although it should encourage, urge and exhort for performing ritual salat and giving individual charity. But as far as the collective socio-economic system of the state is concerned, it is the duty of the state to take such measures by which Muslims order their lives according to the Islamic Teachings and where all citizens of the state can fulfil their physical, mental and spiritual potentials. Of course, an obligatory taxation will be a part of such a system.

[1] Al-Quran Surah 5: Verse 6

[2] Al-Quran Surah 21: Verse 14

[3] Al-Quran Surah 62: Verse 9; Surah 2: Verse 43

[4] Al-Quran Surah 42: Verse 38

[5] Al-Quran Surah 22: Verse 41

[6] Al-Quran Surah 11: Verse 87

[7] Al-Quran Surah 29: Verse 45

[8] Al-Quran Surah 22: Verse 41

[9] Al-Quran Surah 70: Verses 22-24

[10] Al-Quran Surah 107: Verses 1-7

[11] Al-Quran Surah 2: Verse 43; Surah 2: Verse 83; Surah 2: Verse 110; Surah 2: Verse 177; Surah 5: Verse 55; Surah 9: Verse 5; Surah 9: Verses 11, 18, 71; Surah 19: Verse 31, 55; Surah 22: Verses  41, 78; Surah 24: Verse 56; Surah 27: Verse 3; Surah 31: Verse 4; Surah 33: Verse 33; Surah 58: Verse 13; Surah 73: Verse 20

[12] Surah 2: Verse 177

[13] 22:41

[14] The word ‘zakat’ literally means ‘growth, development, increase, augmentation’.

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