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The economic life of Islam

THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

The economic life of Islam is also based upon solid foundations and Divine instructions. Earning one’s living through decent labor is not only a duty but a great virtue as well. Dependence of any able effortless person on somebody else for a livelihood is a religious sin, a social stigma and disgraceful humility. A Muslim is enjoined by God to be self-supporting and to stay away from being a liability on anybody. Islam respects all kinds of work for earning one’s livelihood so long as there is no indecency or wrong involved. With a clear conscience and due respect from society the Muslim can roll up his sleeves and undertake any kind of work available to provide for himself and his dependents. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is reported as having said that it is far better for one even to take his rope, cut wood, pile it up and sell it in order to eat and give charity than to beg others whether they give him or not. According to Islam, the status of honest working men cannot be lowered on account of the kind of work they are doing for a living. Yet the laboring workers have no limited scope for improving their lots and raising their standards as high as possible. They have equal opportunities at their disposal and enjoy freedom of enterprise.

The economic system of Islam is not drawn in the light of arithmetical calculations and capacities of production alone. Rather, it is drawn and conceived in the light of a comprehensive system of morals and principles. The person who is working for another person or for a firm or an institution is ordained by God to do his work with efficiency and honesty. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said that if any of you undertakes to do any work, God loves to see him do it well and with efficiency. Once the work is done, the worker is entitled to a fair wage for his services. Failure by the employer to pay the just wage, or attempts to cut it down and waver on it is a punishable act, according to the Law of God. Business transactions enjoy a great deal of attention from Islam. Honest trade is permitted and blessed by God. This may be carried out through individuals, companies, agencies and the like. But all business deals should be concluded with frankness and honesty. Cheating, biding defects of merchandise from the dealers, exploiting the needs of customers, monopoly of stocks to force one’s own prices are all sinful acts and punishable by the Islamic Law. If one is to make a decent living, it has to be made through honest ways and hard endeavor. Otherwise, easy come, easy go, and it is not only that, but anybody that is bred with unlawful provisions will be, according to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), a burning fuel to the Hell Fire on the Day of Judgment. To combat cheating and exploitation, Islam demands honesty in business, warns the cheaters, encourages decent work and forbids usury or the taking of interest just in return for lending money to the needy.

This is to show man that he rightfully owns only what he works for, and that exploitation of other people’s pressing needs is irreligious, inhuman and immoral. In the Qur’an God says: Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the Evil One by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: ‘trade is like usury’. But God has permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who, after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for God (to judge). But those who repeat (the offense) are Companions of the Fire; they will abide therein (for ever). God will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity; for He loves not creatures ungrateful and wicked (2:274-276). And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice) in order that you may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance (55:7-9). This is to guide man to resort to justice and straightforwardness in all his dealings and transactions. The future of cheaters is grim and their doom is awful. Here is how the Qur’an looks into the matter: Woe to those who deal in fraud, those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account on a Mighty Day, a Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds (83:1-6)?

Besides that, there are numerous Traditions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) excluding the cheaters, exploiters, monopolizers and dishonest business people from the band of the true Muslims. Any business deal that involves injustice or cheating or exploitation is strictly inhibited and cancelable by the Law even after it is concluded. The main purpose of the Islamic legislation’s on economics and commerce is to secure the rights of the individual and maintain the solidarity of society, to introduce high morality to the world of business and enforce the Law of God in that sphere of enterprise. It is logical and consistent that Islam should be concerned with such aspects as these, because it is not merely a spiritual formula but a complete system of life in all its walks. Proprietors are constantly reminded of the fact that they are in reality mere agents appointed by God to administer their holdings. There is nothing in Islam to stop the Muslim from attaining wealth and endeavoring for material improvements through lawful means and decent channels. Yet the fact remains that man comes to this world empty-handed and departs from it likewise. The actual and real owner of things is God alone of Whom any proprietor is simply an appointed agent, a mere trustee. This is not only a fact of life but also has a significant bearing on human behavior. It makes the proprietor always ready to spend in the way of God and to contribute to worthy causes. It makes him responsive to the needs of his society and gives him an important role to play, a sacred mission to fulfill. It saves him from the pit of selfishness, greed and injustice. This is the true conception of property in Islam, and that is the actual status of proprietors. The Qur’an considers possession of wealth a trying test, and not a token of virtuous excellence or privileged nobility or a means of exploitation. God says:

Although man is encouraged to work, is free to enterprise, is entitled to earn and possess, the fact that he is a mere trustee provides the necessary measure to insure proper handling of his possessions, his trusts. He has authority to earn, to invest and to spend. Yet in so doing he is guided by high principles to save him from going astray. An example may be sufficient to illustrate the point. Proprietors are not unreservedly free to spend their money or handle their properties the way they please. There are certain rules of expenditure to be followed. In the words of the Qur’an, God enjoins upon the proprietor to fulfill his financial obligations towards his fellow men, and to be moderate in his private spending. He is always reminded of the fact that God is the Real Provider and Actual Possessor. Here is the declaration of the Qur’an:

And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer. But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones, and the Evil One is to his Lord (Himself) ungrateful. Make not your hand tied (like a niggard’s) to your neck, nor stretch it north to its utmost reach (like a foolish spendthrift); lest you become rebuked and destitute. Verily your Lord does provide sustenance in abundance for whom He pleases, and He provides in a just measure. For He does know and regard all His servants (1 7:26-27, 29-30).

Atif Noor Khan

EU bans on Burqa, Minaret may be overturned

STRASBOURG, France: A Council of Europe commission is opposing a blanket ban on full-face coverings such as the burqa and niqab.

The commission issued a statement Tuesday saying a Muslim veil ban – now being considered by lawmakers in France and Belgium – would rob women of their freedom of expression and could violate their religious freedoms.

The panel also urged Switzerland to end its ban on the construction of Islam minarets as soon as possible.

The Council of Europe is a 47-nation human rights institution that will discuss the burqa issue at its plenary next month.

It is a separate organization from the European Union and is the region’s primary human rights watchdog whose rulings are binding on all Council of Europe member states.

France’s opposition Socialists also challenged the plan to ban full Islamic veils in all public places, proposing a milder bill based on practicality rather than values.

The government is expected to present legislation next week to outlaw face-covering veils on the grounds that they are demeaning to women, even though legal experts have warned that such a prohibition could violate religious freedom.

“What we want is efficiency rather than symbolism,” Jean-Marc Ayrault, head of the Socialists’ group in parliament, told reporters.

The Socialist draft says that everyone must keep their face uncovered when using public services to permit identification.

In practice, this could mean women would have to remove face veils to pick up their children from school, or during wedding ceremonies at town halls.

Several human rights organizations have spoken out against a general prohibition on veils such as the burqa and the niqab.

A committee of the Council of Europe – a European human rights body based in Strasbourg – also said on Tuesday it opposed such a ban, which is being discussed in France as well as Belgium.

The Socialist proposal could circumvent concerns over religious discrimination by focusing on security and pragmatism.

“We believe that banning it from the public sphere… risks stigmatising people and above all being totally ineffective because it would be unenforceable,” Socialist leader Martine Aubry told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Francois Fillon to discuss the issue.

But she stressed the Socialists opposed full Islamic veils and did not want them in France.

The Council of Europe committee said full veils “could be a threat to women’s dignity,” but women should be free to wear them if they wanted to.

However, the committee said legal restrictions might be justified for security purposes and in certain situations where the wearer’s face had to be seen.

The idea of a ban was first floated last year by French mayors who said more and more women were turning up fully veiled at schools and in town halls, and refusing to show their faces even for the purpose of identification.

Freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir heats up

Freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir heats up

SRINAGAR, India — Militant violence is surging in Indian-controlled Kashmir after years of declines, officials say, warning of increased insurgent infiltration from Pakistan and a bloody summer ahead.

Nearly everyday, the crackle of gunfire and the roar of mortars can be heard somewhere in the towns and forests of the scenic Himalayan region, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan but divided between them.

Most recently, Indian soldiers have been hunting Muslim militants for more than a week in a thickly forested area northwest of Srinagar, the region’s main city. The operation, one of the largest in years, has already left 11 suspected rebels and four soldiers dead amid the rugged terrain, said Indian army spokesman Col. Vineet Sood.

On Friday, police said that suspected rebels threw a grenade at government forces as they fired rubber bullets to disperse nearly 150 anti-India protesters in Srinagar, wounding four security forces and one civilian.

Hemant Lohia, a top police officer, said two of the injured troops were in critical condition.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The army is gearing up to meet new challenges as this summer is going to be a hot summer in terms of security,” India’s Defense Minister A.K. Antony recently told reporters. Summers have traditionally been a time of increased fighting in Kashmir, as snow melts in Himalayan mountain passes and militants are able to slip across from the Pakistani-controlled portion of the territory.

Police say they have arrested 10 Kashmiri teenagers just this month — six allegedly trying to cross to the Pakistani side for arms training and four looking for weapons training on the Indian side.

According to police records, 76 suspected militants and 23 members of the police and the army have been killed in the first four months this year. Thirteen civilians have also died in the conflict.

During the same period last year, 53 militants, 15 members of various security forces and five civilians were killed.

The spike in militant violence follows a decline that began in 2004, after India and Pakistan initiated a peace process, that reduced bilateral tensions but made little headway in settling the two nation’s core dispute over Kashmir. The violence could complicate efforts by the South Asian rivals to restart the peace talks that were frozen after 10 Pakistan-based militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008.

Analysts say massive street protests that roiled Indian Kashmir over the past two years may have paved the way for the resurgent militant attacks.

The protests were sparked by local issues, such as a state government decision to transfer land to a Hindu shrine, but quickly became the region’s largest-ever protests against Indian rule, often bringing tens of thousands of people into the streets. Rock-throwing would lead to government forces firing tear gas and even live ammunition, leading to pitched clashes. Overall, more than 60 protesters have been killed and hundreds more wounded.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities launched a massive arrest campaign, hauling in hundreds of protesters.

The crackdown “is radicalizing the situation,” said Noor Mohammed Baba, a professor at the political science department of Kashmir University. “The scenario becomes more favorable for radical elements to take over.”

Security forces, with long experience at fighting militants, have had more trouble neutralizing street protests.

Until there is forward movement toward resolving the festering Kashmir dispute, it will be difficult to end the protests, analysts say.

“They don’t fear armed militants as much as youth in the streets now,” Baba said.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have fought two wars over Kashmir and, since 1989, Muslim militants have fought in Indian-controlled Kashmir for independence or merger with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in what seemed like relentless cycles of fighting and crackdowns.

India accuses Pakistan of funding and training militants in the Pakistani-held Kashmir, and helping them slip over to the Indian side to fight.

Islamabad denies that, saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the rebels. Violence surges in Indian Kashmir after decline By AIJAZ HUSSAIN (AP)

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