ISLAM AND CAPITALISM
Capitalism did not originate in the Islamic world as it came into being only after the invention of the machine which took place by chance in Europe.
Capitalism was imported into the Islamic world at a time when it was under European domination. Together with the wave of development, it spread into the Islamic world which suffered from poverty, ignorance, illness and backwardness. This made some people think that Islam approves of capitalism, with both its evils and merits. They also claim that there are no provisions in the Islamic law or regulations such as might be in conflict with capitalism. They argue that as Islam permitted individual ownership it must likewise permit capitalism.
In answer to this accusation it might suffice to point out that capitalism cannot prosper or grow without usury and monopoly both of which were prohibited by Islam about one thousand years before the existence of capitalism.
But let us tackle the question at some greater length. If the invention of the machine had taken place in the Islamic world, how would Islam have faced the economic development resulting from such invention? How would Islamic legislations and laws have organized work and production?
There is consensus of opinion among economists-including those who are opposed to capitalism (e.g., Karl Marx-that capitalism at the start brought about great progress and rendered considerable services to humanity. production was increased, means of communication were improved and national resources were exploited on a larger scale. The standard of living among the working classes became higher than when they were mostly or completely dependent on agriculture.
But such a glorious picture did not last long because the natural development of capitalism, as they say, led to the amassing of wealth in the hand. If capitalist owners and to a relative diminution of the properties owned by the working classes. This enabled the capitalist owners to use workmen-the real producers in communist eyes-in considerably stepping up the production of various commodities but the wages paid to workmen were too low to ensure decent lire because the employers took all the profits and spent them leading a life of luxury and corruption.
Besides this the scanty wages paid to workmen did not enable them to consume all the production or capitalist countries. This led to the accumulation or surplus production. As a result of this the capitalist countries began to look for new markets for their surplus production, which in turn gave rise to colonialism with all its incessant conflicts among different nations over markets and raw material resources. Destructive wars were the inevitable outcome or all this.
Moreover, the capitalist system is always exposed to periodic crises resulting from depression caused by low wages and the scantiness of world consumption in relation to increasing production.
Some propagandists of materialism refer all the problems of the capitalist system to the nature of capital itself rather than to any ill-will or desire for exploitation on the part of the capitalists. Such naive and strange reasoning means that man with all his emotions and thoughts is but a helpless creature in the face or the power of economy.
There is no doubt that Islam would have encouraged the good and progressive achievements that were brought about by capitalism in its early stage. But Islam would not have left capitalism without legislation to organize it and to preclude any exploitation which might result from ill-will on the part of the employers or from the very nature of capital. The Islamic principle which was laid in this respect entitles the workmen to share the profit with their employers. Some Maliki jurisprudents went so far as to give to the employee an equal share in the profit. The employer provides all capital and the workman does the work; the two efforts are equal and accordingly they are entitled to an equal share in the profit.
The above-mentioned principle illustrates Islam's great concern with the establishment of justice. Such concern for the establishment of justice was voluntarily introduced by Islam. It was not forced thereon by any economic exigency nor was it the result of the struggle among classes which is regarded by the propagandists of certain economic doctrines as the sole effective factor in the development of economic relations.
In the beginning, industry consisted of simple manual work involving a small number of workmen who worked in simple workshop" The above-mentioned principle would have organized the relation between work and capital on an equitable basis such as Europe had never had.
Economists say that the development of capitalism from its early benevolent phase to its present morbidly evil phase was accompanied by its increasing dependence on national loan. This led to the creation of banks which carried on financial operations, and advanced loans in return for some interest. Without that such loans as well as the majority of banking operations are based on usury which is expressly prohibited by Islam.
On the other hand, tough competition, which is another feature of capitalism, leads to the destruction of minor companies or to their merger into major ones. This encourages monopoly which is also prohibited by Islam, as is borne out by some sayings of the Prophet. He said: “He that monopolizes is a wrong-doer" Because Islam prohibited usury and monopoly it would have been impossible for capitalism to develop under Islam into its present evil stage which involves exploitation, colonialism and war.
What would have been the fate of industry if it had originated under Islamic rule?
Surely Islam would not have restricted industry to minor workshops whose profit is shared by the employer and the workman. Production would have rather grown but the relationship between the employer arid workmen would have developed on different lines from those outlining the development of the employer-employee relations in Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It would have developed in accordance with the basic principles of Islam such as the above-mentioned principle which provides for an equal division of profit between the workmen and their employer.
By so doing Islam would have avoided resorting to usury or monopoly and would have precluded the injustice to which workmen are subjected under capitalism where they are exploited and left to suffer poverty and humiliation.
It would be foolish to suggest that Islam could not have established such justice without first passing through hard ordeals, class conflicts and economic pressures which would ultimately lead to the amendment of its legislations. It is proved beyond all doubt that Islam had been ahead of all nations in dealing with the questions of slavery, feudalism and early capitalism. In so doing Islam was not acting under any outside pressure whatsoever. It was rather acting voluntarily and in accordance with its own conception of eternal equity and justice scoffed at by communist writers. On the other hand, it is a fact that Russia, a model communist state, itself passed directly from feudalism to communism without passing through the intermediary stage of capitalism. In this way Russia which adopted the doctrine of Karl Marx-practically gives the lie to Marx's theory regarding the phases of development which, he says, every state has to experience.
As to colonialism, wars and exploitation of peoples, it should be pointed out that Islam is firmly opposed to all these as well as to all the other universal evils engendered by capitalism. It is not one of the principles of Islam to colonize other peoples or to wage any war against others for the purposes of exploitation. The only war approved by Islam is that which is waged against aggression or is meant to spread the Word of God where its peaceful dissemination is rendered impossible.
The communists and their like allege that colonialism is an inevitable phase in human development. They add that colonialism could not have been averted by any doctrine or moral principle since it was essentially an economic phenomenon resulting from a surplus is the production of industrialized countries and the need for foreign outlets for marketing such surplus.
Needless to say, Islam does not recognize such nonsense about the inevitability of colonialism. Besides, the communists themselves say or profess that Russia will solve the problem of surplus production by reducing both working hours and workmen's role in production. The solution which communism professes to have found may be used by other systems as well.
History bears witness that colonialism has been an ancient human propensity. It did not originate with capitalism although capitalism with its modern weapons of destruction rendered it more ferocious. As to the exploitation of the vanquished, Roman colonialists were more ruthless and monstrous than their modern counterparts.
History furnishes us with the best evidence to the effect that Islam has been the cleanest of all systems as far as war is concerned. Islamic wars have always been free from exploitation as well as subjection of others. Therefore, if the industrial revolution had taken place in Islamic countries, Islam would have solved the problem of surplus production without resorting to war or colonization. Besides, it may be said that the problem of surplus production is an outcome of the capitalist system in its present form only. In other words, if the basic principles of capitalism are changed, the problem would not exist.
As against this, the ruler in the Islamic state shall not remain helplessly indifferent towards the problem of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few people while the majority are suffering from poverty and deprivation. Such amassing of wealth is contrary to the principles of Islam which expressly prescribed that wealth should- be fairly distributed among all the people lest it should be confined to the rich only. The ruler in Islam is charged with the enforcement of Sharia (Islamic law) by all means at his command without any injustice or harm to anyone. In this respect, the ruler is invested with full and unlimited powers within the bounds set by God's law-the law that precludes the accumulation of wealth. We might refer in this respect to the law of inheritance which ensures that wealth left by each generation is properly distributed. Reference should also be made to Az-Zakat which prescribes that 2 1/2% of the capital and profit should be annually earmarked for the poor. In addition, Islam explicitly prohibits the hoarding of wealth. It likewise prohibits usury which is the basic factor in the accumulation of capital. Moreover, the relationships among the members of Islamic society are based on reciprocal responsibility rather than exploitation.
It should also be added that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) ensured for officials of the state certain rights including the basic necessities of life: "If a person who if charged with work for us (i.e. the state) has no wife, he shall have one; if he has no dwelling place, he shall have one; if he has no servant, he shall have one; if he has no animal, he shall have one".
Such guarantees are not to be confined to officials of the state only. They are the basic necessities required by every person. They can be obtained in return for work done in the service of the state or through any profession or occupation from which society may benefit. If the state ensures the basic necessities for its officials it must also ensure the same for every working individual in the state.
This is evident from the fact that the Public Treasury is responsible for supporting those who are unable to work owing to old age, illness, or childhood. The Public Treasury is also responsible for providing basic necessities to persons who cannot obtain them owing to the insufficiency of means.
All the above-mentioned facts emphasize the responsibility of the state to ensure by all means the basic necessities for workers. It is of no great importance as to by what means should such necessities be provided to the workers; what really matters is the principle which guarantees that profit and loss shall be equally shared by all members of the nation. By providing such necessities for workers Islam protects them against exploitation, besides ensuring a decent life for all.
Islam would not have allowed capitalism to grow into the monstrous forms which are presently prevalent in the “civilized" West. The Islamic legislations-whether originally prescribed by Sharia or newly adopted to face new developments within the frame work of Sharia-would not have allowed the capitalists to exploit the working people or suck their blood. Islam would have precluded all the evils of capitalism including colonization, war and the enslaving of people.
Islam, as usual, is not content with the mere enactment of economic rules and laws, In addition to law, Islam also makes use of moral and spiritual incentives which are satirized by the communists because they see that such values have no practical significance in Europe, But in Islam moral and spiritual values are not separated from practical considerations, Islam has a unique manner of combining and harmonizing both the purification of the spirit and the organization of the community. The individual is never left to wonder how to reconcile the ideal with the practical, Islam formulates its legislations on a moral basis so that the moral values are always in harmony with the legislations, In this way, each side supplements the other without any fear of conflict or divorcement, Islamic morality prohibits and discourages all forms of luxury and sensuality which are the inevitable results of the amassing of wealth in the hands of a few people, Along with this, Islam also prohibits being unjust to employees or underpaying them. As the amassing of wealth is an outcome of in justice to employees, it invariably means that it must also be discouraged. Islam calls on the people to spend their money in the way of God-even if that should lead to disposing of all ones property. It is because the rich people spend their money on themselves rather than in the way of God that the majority of the people live in poverty and deprivation.
The spiritual elevation of men brought about by Islam brings them closer to God and makes them renounce all worldly pleasures and profits in striving to attain God's pleasure and in expectation of His recompense in the other world. There is no doubt that a man who keeps his peace with God and has faith in the other world, in heaven and hell, will not rush madly for the amassing of wealth or resort to exploitation or injustice for the realization of his selfish ends.
In this way the moral and spiritual edification will pave the way for economic legislations which aim at curbing the evils of capitalism. Consequently, when such legislations are made they are sure to be complied with not because of fear of punishment but rather because people would be acting according to the dictates of their conscience.
In conclusion, it should be made clear that the monstrous capitalism which is currently prevalent in the Islamic world is not a pan of Islam and consequently Islam cannot be held responsible for its evils.