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The Straight Path


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In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.


GOD has revealed the unbroken chain of belief and guidance through His Prophets to humanity. This book shows how previous Paths converge into THE STRAIGHT PATH. The writer approaches this subject through (a) objective writing and (b) group discussions to clear the mist of misunderstanding held by Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam.

This work attempts to unite the spiritual with the secular both in private and in public life after their long divorce. Religious belief is to be translated into moral action supported by all social systems; ethical, political, economic and in our duty towards God, to oneself and to others. All of these are sustained by a Divine Moral Decree that links the temporal world with the spiritual to save the welfare state of humanity and its destiny.

These writings hope to persuade Muslims, in particular the youth, to adapt a spiritual infusion, to safeguard their beliefs in relation to moral action. To non-Muslims and researchers in this field of study, it allows them to distinguish clearly the differences between Muslim thought, the behaviour of Muslims and Islamic theology and its conduct. It is also directed to assist students who need a reference book for use in Religious Studies and also as a source of reference in public libraries. It is an introduction to study the principles of Divine Decree in the Qur’an.


“And verily this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not other ways, lest they cause you to deviate from His way. This has He enjoined upon you, so that you might remain conscious of Him” [Qur’an, 6:153].


H.M.Abbara is an Educationist specialising in Moral and Religious Development.



5th Step on the Straight Path


v    1st Step

v    2nd Step

v    3rd Step

v    4th Step

v   5th Step

v    6th Step

v    7th Step

v    8th Step

v    Introduction

Contents of 5th Step on the Straight Path


Chapters 11 - 16.   The Islamic System:      page:

Chapter   11.          The Political System.       Page:

11.1                 The pillars of Political System:

          1. Justice 2. Consultation 3. Equality 4. Freedom  5. Unity

     11.2   Administering the Divine Law.

     11.3   The Government as a trustee.

     11.4   Conclusion.

     11.5   Discussion on political orders.


Chapter 12.         The Shari'ah System.              page:

     12.1   The Sources of Shar'ah.

               12.1.1 The Qur'an

               12.1.2 The Sunnah.

               12.1.3 The consensus of opinion (Ijma'a)

               12.1.4 Analogy (Qiyas).

               12.1.5 Ijtihad, the Exercise of Judgment .

     12.2   The constitution of Islamic Law.

     12.3   Discussion on Islamic Law.


Chapter 13.         The Ethical System.                 page:

     13.1   The basis of morality.

13.2                 The Source of Personal  Morality:

  A. Reciting the Qur’an  B. Studying it  C. Applying its wisdom

     13.3   The ethical standards.

                13.3.1 Ordinance, Fardh.

                13.3.2 Lawful, Halal.

                13.3.3 Prohibited, Haram.

                13.3.4 Undesirable, Makruh.

                13.3.5 Order without obligation.

     13.4.  Pillars of Islamic Morality.

                13.4.1 Acquired Moral Knowledge.

                13.4.2 God-consciousness.

                13.4.3 Purifying the inner self.

                13.4.4 Developing the conscience.

     13.5.  The direct pillars of Islamic ethics.

                  13.5.1 Happiness.

                  13.5.2 Just and reasoning.

                  13.5.3 Moderation.

                  13.5.4 Stability.

               13.5.5 Comprehensiveness.

     13.6   The criteria of Islamic morality.

                  13.6.1 Sense of obligation.

                  13.6.2 Sense of responsibility.

                  13.6.3 Sense of retribution.

                  13.6.4 Sense of moral effort.

     13.7.   Discussion.

     13.7.1  Islamic ethics.

     13.7.2  Islamic ethics and general ethics.



Chapter 14      The Economic System.              page:

     14.    The Principles of Islamic Economics.

     14.1   Production.

               14.1.1 Usury and Interest or Riba

                14.1.1.A. The substitute of interest:  i. Competition    ii. Partnership     iii. Profitable [?]   iv. Co-Farming    v. Shares 

                14.1.1.B.  Free loan "al-Qard".

                14.1.1.C. The mortgage.

     14.2.  Distributions.

                14.2.1 Zakah, Poor-Due.

                14.2.2 Zakat al-fitr, compulsory charity

                 14.2.3 Expiation.

                 14.2.4 Family Support.

                 14.2.5 Sadaqah, charity.

                 14.2.6 Inheritance.

                 14.2.7 Insurance.

                 14.2.8 Waqf, endowment.

     14.3   Consumption.

     14.4   Development.

     14.5   Discussion.

     14.5.1 Islamic economics.

     14.5.2 Riba, interest.

     14.5.3 Distribution and Consumption

     14.5.4 Inheritance.



5th.  Step on the Straight Path


     In previous chapters, we saw how the Pillars are standing firmly together the spiritual and social. Each one is link to others. These Pillars are supported by the following systems:

1.        Pillars of society supported by Islamic systems:-

2.       Political system supported by the Shari’a system.

3.  Shari’a system supported by the ethical system.

4.  Ethical system depends on the economic system.

5.       Economic system depends on the social system.

6.       Social system sustained by value systems

7.       Values systems supported by spiritual values

8.       Spiritual values depend on individual system.

9.       Individual system resulted from the education system

10. Education system sustains duties and rights systems.

11. Duty inwards towards oneself sustains by duty to God.

12. Duty up wards, to God sustains by duty outwards to others.

13. Duties and rights sustain by spiritual link, bond with God and a bond with others all link together.

The mindful of the society is the political system:


11.  The Political System.

The overall system is the political system which is in the charge of the society, which has the control over all other systems; leads it either to the prosperity or into destruction.

Islam considers the political system is the politeness of justice. The government to be given in trust by God and therefore those with authority have to judge between men in truth and justice: capricious judgement leads man away from the Path of God. Therefore, political system has duties to fulfil to up right the pillars of society as follow:

1. The pillars of the political system depends on loyalty to God

2. Loyalty to God sustained by administrating the Divine Law

3. The Divine Law sustained by the government as a trustee

3.       The government as a trustee maintained by the authority of  Muslims community

4.         Ummah authority sustained by consultation

6         Consultation sustained by justice

7         The justice maintained by equality ,

 8. Equality sustained by freedom

9.  Freedom maintained by:   10. Unity of the Ummah  

The political systems are sustained by:


12.  The Divine Law or Shari'ah System.

This is summarised in the Qur'an, translated into action by His Prophet and expanded by a consensus of opinion within the framework prescribed and is supported by the application of every individual. We study the source of the Shari’ah as follows:

These sources of Shari’ah are:

1. The application of the Qur’an supported by the Sunnah

2.  The Sunnah supported by Ijma’a, the consensus of opinion

3.  The consensus of opinion supported by Qiyas, analogy;

4.The Analogy, supported by Ijtihad, the exercise of judgement.

5. The exercise of judgement supported by a). Istihsan, equitable reference. B). by Istislah, unprecedented judgement, and, c). Al-Urf wa Aadat; traditional convention and well establishment moral practice. 

The application of Shari’ah is sustained by moral behaviour of the public and the private; maintained by:


13.  The Ethical System and its fivefold hierarchy of values: 1. The compulsory, 2. The lawful, 3. The preferable, 4. The undesirable and the prohibited. These values are supported by the pillars of Islamic morality: a. acquired moral knowledge, b. God-consciousness, c. purification of the inner self and d. development of the conscience. We will refer to them as well as to the human characteristics that result from them such as: happiness, reasoning, moderation, stability and wholeheartedness. In addition, there are other aspects such as a sense of obligation, responsibility, accountability and the making of moral efforts. The moral life is supported by the means of living, and by:

14.  The Economic System.

This is a comprehensive and complex system and we present it in its 3 main stages.

1. Production and enterprise are the lawful means. Islam clearly prohibits usury and interest, where the rich freeze their capital, which is the very means of production, in the bank or in a few hands. Wealth is the right of the individual and society in equal measure.

2. Consumption and distribution in lawful ways and in the prescribed manner, so that the less fortunate receive their rights; and

3. Economic growth and increase, which are the basis of the welfare of the individual and the society. Therefore, the economic system is supported by social system in next Step:


The Islamic Systems.

Chapters: 11 - 16


0.  Introduction


"O Mankind! A manifestation of the Truth has now come unto you from your Lord; And We have sent down to you a manifest Light. As for those who believe in God , and hold fast to Him, He will surely admit them to Mercy from Him, and Bounty, and will guide them to Him on a Straight Path." (4:174-5).


     This verse indicates: the light of Qur’an direct the believers to the right destiny.  In previous chapters, we explained the Pillars of Religion. The first three Pillars: Islam, Belief and Virtue represent the spiritual system in Islam and concentrate on developing the spirit and building up the perfect believer in his inner self so that the believer may act freely on moral principles. The remaining two Pillars focus on the basis of social life and the principles of society respectively. These two Pillars are fruitless unless supported by the application of the Islamic system, which has been appointed for the use of Islamic societies (the Ummah). These Pillars employ Faith and commitment; belief and the will, the creed and the Law of God, as the most decisive forces in the re-ordering of the individual and collective lives of people in building a society founded on God's Systems.

     It should be clear by now that Islam is not a jumble of unrelated ideas and incoherent modes of conduct; rather is it a well-ordered system, a consistent whole resting on a definite set of clear cut postulates. Its major tenets, as well as detailed rules of conduct, are all derived from, and logically connected with, its basic principles. All the rules and regulations that Islam has laid down for different spheres of human life are, in their essence and spirit, a reflection, extension and corollary of its first principle. The various phases of Islamic life and activity flow from these fundamental postulates exactly as the plant sprouts forth from its seed.1

     The Islamic system is like a strong, healthy tree; it is illuminated by God’s guidance It is like a lighthouse,- the pillars- signaling to safeguard those who guided by. It has a wide compass, spreading in all directions, and its many boughs - the systems - reach high, giving guidance and shelter to all His Creatures. The branches and twigs, -are sub-principles- and the details of the moral applications are like the leaves, moral on one side to be encouraged and the on the other the immoral to be discouraged. The fruit is the enjoyment of God blessings and the safeguards provided for all those who live under the Guidance of God's.

     In previous chapters, we saw how the Pillars are stand firmly together. Each one is link to others. These Pillars are supported by the following systems:

5.        Pillars of society supported by Islamic systems:-

6.       Political system supported by the Shari’a system.

3.  Shari’a system supported by the ethical system.

4.  Ethical system depends on the economic system.

14. Economic system depends on the social system.

15. Social system sustained by value systems

16. Values systems supported by spiritual values

17. Spiritual values depend on individual system.

18. Individual system resulted from the education system

19. Education system sustains duties and rights systems.

20. Duty inwards towards oneself sustains by duty to God.

21. Duty up wards, to God sustains by duty outwards to others.

22. Duties and rights sustain by spiritual link, bond with God and a bond with others all link together.


Chapter eleven

11.  The Political System.


"And We have sent down to thee the Book with the Truth, confirming the Book that was before it, and guarding it. So judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, forsaking the Truth that has come to thee." (5:48).


     In a previous discussion, we pointed out that Muslim unity depends, directly or indirectly, on administering God's Law. Priority over all other systems is given to the political system; its importance is reflected in the concern for social justice for all members of society. We pointed out that Islam is both a religion and a state, but, in fact, the Islamic state is simply the main function of the religion. The political element of life is founded on the same basis as the spiritual system, so the political and spiritual systems in Islam may be regarded as twins. The main purpose of God's Revelation is to drive out the strong that make themselves lords over the weak and put themselves in authority and charge of others, designing their laws, ideologies or socio-political organisations for their own interest, rather than to conform to Islamic values and principles, which secure the rights of every individual. Other systems rarely guarantee justice for all members of society on the basis of equal opportunity and rights.

     The first purpose of God's Revelation is to safeguard public affairs from individual interests and influence. The second purpose is to enable people to believe in Him. His Will is that all people should live in justice and peace. Therefore He prescribed hard punishments for those who create corruption on earth, but He postponed His Punishments for disbelievers to the next life. The command to believers is not only to worship God in a passive sense, by ritual behaviour and private devotion like a monk or a Sufi, but to obey God, applying His Divine Law in every aspect of his life, doing good to others and contributing positively to society rather than living in a negative way. Hence, every believer should apply God's Laws in private and in public.

     The injunctions in the Qur'an take different forms in regard to the application of God's Rules. Sometimes the Qur'an requests people to live in peace and justice for their own good, e.g., "O mankind! Your insolence is only against yourselves." (10:23) And sometimes it commands the believers to bring together their wills and respond to God's Will, e.g., "O believers! Obey God and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. If you should quarrel about anything, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you believe in God and the Last Day; this is better, and fairer in the issue." (4:59)

     God made the community responsible for applying His rules, and gave them the authority to choose the methods of administrating their affairs within His Guidance, under His Supervision. He made authority a kind of trust and collective duty, so that every believer who stood guarantor for the best policy, giving a fair chance to everyone, would reap success and power. This responsibility creates uniformity under the Divine Attributes. God does not put the authority in the hands of a person unless he is willing to bear the responsibilities he was appointed for, his will being bound by the will of society, which observed God's Will. He does not allow authority merely on the basis of descent, race, etc., but enjoins the whole community to use the principle of consultation and consensus. The chain of political system as follow:

1. The pillars of the political system depends on loyalty to God

2. Loyalty to God sustained by administrating the Divine Law

3. The Divine Law sustained by the government as a trustee

7.       The government as a trustee maintained by the authority of  Muslims community

8.         Ummah authority sustained by consultation

8         Consultation sustained by justice

9         The justice maintained by equality ,

 8. Equality sustained by freedom

9.  Freedom maintained by:   10. Unity of the Ummah  




{Between Abbara and Dina expressing the Islamic view whilst Badr and Charles the opposite side of the argument}


11.12   Political Order


If you deny the Truth, God is independent of you, yet He does not approve of ingratitude in His servants; but if you are thankful, He will be pleased with you. And no soul may be laden with the load of another. In the end, to your Lord shall you return, and He will tell you the truth of what you have been doing." (39:6-7)


Abbara: God revealed his Guidance in every system of life - spiritual, social, political and individual. All man-made ideologies are disapproved of by God, Who demands a system planned for the interest of the entire humanity. His Law guarantees the welfare of society and its salvation for all in this life, together with personal salvation in the next life. That is the aim of the Islamic policy.

Charles: This looks like a theocratic system: political rule by religious officials deemed to be representatives of God. History provides evidence of its invalidity. Contemporary society proves that this system is unreliable. When religious people are put in authority, they cause more corruption than government by kings.

Abbara: As we said before, the first principle of Islam is that there is no intercession, no caste system, no priests and no religious group which may claim authority over others. It is clear enough that the Sole Authority rests on the whole community with guidance from God alone. He appointed His Divine Law to judge between people in equity. Nobody may claim this sovereignty or monopolise it in the Name of God or say that he is worthy of authority because he is a good scholar of religion. The entire Muslim community must decide who is capable of applying God's Guidance in absolute justice. Obedience is due to anyone who obeys God but none is due to anyone who digresses from the Straight Path.

     The concept of theocracy is not the same in Islam as it is in other religions, where religious people monopolise authority in the name of religion and then inflict injustice upon others, using it as a source of power and domination over the elite and the masses alike. Admittedly, some Muslims misuse the name of Islam to gain power or satisfy their own interests, rather than acting in the interests of its principles, which do not accept anything except the whole Truth as we have pointed out in the text.

Dina: But still some Muslims behave according to their own judgement, causing unjustifiable wars, killing honest people, assassinating their enemies, and spreading corruption in its name. Certainly, when you discuss an issue relating to political theory with those who consider themselves religious and the guardian of the religion, you can get a wrong impression about Islam itself from the way they express their ideas and support them by parts of verses from the Qur'an and Hadith which correspond to their interpretation of Islam.

Abbara: Islamic principles are comprehensive but flexible. Man's weakness is bound to his self interest, which makes him blind to the Truth and unable to hear it or judge by it. In addition, most Muslims are too short-sighted to focus on the objectives of God's Word who granted freedom for al in worldly affairs. They deal with Islam in units instead of a single unity and use the portion which helps them to serve their interests under the banner of Islam. Hence, the deficiency is in those who twist the principles, knowingly or ignorantly, more commonly the latter. On the other hand, the general view of true Muslims is that the insufficiencies in Muslim society are due to diversions from genuine Islamic systems, in particular the political system, which has the authority to guide and direct people to the Right Way and to apply justice, equality and freedom to all people. Such functions are reflected in unity, development and power.

Badr:   Many Muslims still have the desire to go back to the old days and apply the principles which suited those who lived centuries ago. Life is going forward and they want to go backward. For example, when the West divorced from the old traditions, which usually opposed development, their progress was fast, not only in technological terms but in political organisation as well. They apply justice, equality and freedom, while Muslims lag behind, applying neither Islamic law, as you claim, nor western law as they claim. They have different forms of government - kingship, republic, democracy, princedom and presidency; none of them apply complete justice, equality and freedom to all citizens in their territory. The original Islamic Ummah did not recognise borders between Muslim countries but now you can see injustice and discrimination against those who are not citizens of a particular country.

     Therefore the theory you are supporting has no place in Muslim countries, while, to some extent, such principles are applied in the West without the need for religion having authority over people to fetter their freedom.

Dina:   For example, Muslims do not apply Islamic law or religion and still “behind their democratic parliamentary façade, problems of authoritarianism, legitimacy, and limited political participation plagued most Muslims countries. Government promises and development progress had created rising expectation that often went unfulfilled” 8

Abbara: this is because the absence of justice and shortfall the relationship between the Governments and its nations. Therefore, the authority here is not to the nations but to the governments which opposed to Islamic political system.

      For the previous hypothesis; I would like to say that God's Principles are valid and reliable for every time and every place and every society. But man creates injustice for himself by creating fallacious arguments and following ways which corrupt his humanity. God pointed out: "When a Warner came to them, it only increased their flight (from righteousness) - on account of their arrogant behaviour on earth, and their devising of evil. Yet (in the end) such evil scheming will engulf none but its authors; and can they expect anything but (to be made to go) the way of those (sinners) of olden times?  Thus (it is): no change wilt thou ever find in God's Way." (35:43). The validity of the Divine Law will remain and never will God's Way change.

     Muslim theologians pointed out that God supports non-Muslim governments if they apply justice, while He withdraws his support from Muslim societies if they are unjust, because the main objective of the Divine Decree is that people live in peace on earth. The purpose of belief is self-elevation and development, so that the true believer may gain ascendancy in the next life. God is concerned firstly about man in general in this life and secondly about the individual believers. Therefore, He specifies the pillars of the political system and leaves the method of their application to each society. He is the King of the world not in particular, Muslims. Western or Eastern systems which satisfy the interest of the government and not the whole society in general cannot afford complete justice, equality and freedom whereas God's interest is justice for the sake of justice and absolute fairness in every affair for all people. Justice or fairness which democratic society proud of it monopolize for own nations, while applying oppression on other nations an shade blood and all other corruption.

Charles:    Islam, as such, is not seen as the basis of political organisation. From the above discussion, we must ask: why has degradation overtaken the Muslims and why are they not able to keep peace within their countries? It is, in my judgement, a matter of religion. The problems arise from two extremes: the conservative conventionalists who strictly hold Islamic values and the sophisticated modernists who oppose such values because they are old. Besides that, each state, government or kingdom has its own administration, and no one is allowed to interfere in its affairs. For example the second article of the Arab league requires members to respect each other government, whether or not it is just. The head of the government is sacred and no one is allowed to speak in the name of justice, as some people do, or as Amnesty International sometimes does which in its record most of Muslims countries listed for their oppressions and torture.

Badr:   On the other hand, there are some Muslims who want all the Ummah to be under one Caliph; then differences arise among them about whether his descendants should rule and whether he should be from the Prophet's tribe. However, this is all theory; there is no place in Muslim countries for ruling in the name of religion. If it did happen, it would cause more digressions in society, because each Muslim society has more than one religious sect and even inside each sect, there are different interpretations as to how to apply Islamic teaching.

Abbara:     First of all, we should specify that Islam is the basis of political organisation but it may be that you are right to say that Muslims are not able to have political unity because of their divisions and because some of them - not the majority - hold an extreme Islamic view or the opposite, a non-Islamic view. But Islam stands on its own feet; it does not need a solicitor or lawyer, because sovereignty belongs to God alone and His Divine Law is clear to anyone. God, in the Qur'an, did not entrust authority to any tribe, race, group or even the Muslim scholars. All people are equal in the Eyes of God, except those honoured for their rightfulness, piety and God-consciousness. He who is knowledgeable in the Divine law fears God: "Only such as are endowed with knowledge stand (truly) in awe of God: (for they alone comprehend)." (35:28) anyone who reaches the standard which qualifies him for a position dispensing justice acts upon it for its own sake, i.e., God's Sake. Reach that through election the he ensures justice to all members of society without discrimination so that the whole society will, like brothers, function in one direction. "That is surely no great matter for God to fulfil. (14:20)

     The application of the Islamic political system takes time, for people have to develop enough so that when they are entrusted with freedom they are qualified for it, are able to bear the responsibility and can use it in a proper way and cause no harm to others. Progress in a Muslim society means; raising more truly educated and righteous people to hold positions in government. In contemporary society, the type of government in a Muslim country corresponds to the standard of the society. When a Muslim society progresses enough to stand for responsibility, the system of politics will change spontaneously in relation to justice, equality, freedom and true consultation, in other words, in relation to Islam.

Charles: “Islam has reasserted itself more forcefully in both the personal and the public lives of Muslim societies in a striking and sometimes dramatic manner often called the Islamic resurgence, Islamic revivalism, Islamic fundamentalism, or political Islam. When you say: ‘Islam is a total way of life’. It is not correct, according to this viewpoint, to speak of religion and politics but instead religiopolitics. Islam is believed to be relevant and integral to politics, law, education, social life, and economics. These institutions or areas of life are not viewed as secular but religious (Islamic), based on the belief that Islam is the way of life, and thus religion and society are interrelated”.9

Abbara: Yes, Majority of young Muslims tend to have a true belief, realise their duty to God, themselves and others. Muslims [not Islamic] revival increase in private and public life it is noticeable everywhere, but if some diverted from the right way, exempted from Islamic teaching.

I clearly define the pillars of Islamic politics,- to the best of my knowledge,- that God granted the Authority to the Ummah  directly, -there is no religious hierarchy or intercession In Islam-  to decide its affairs by fairness and justice, to the whole community including the minority. These ten pillars of politics or the constitutional law capable to constitute the best community that has ever been brought for mankind, because, all its members, enjoin right and forbid evils.

     Non-Muslims judges Islam from his religious background, or Muslims behaviours, he chose what applied to way he think he is right, so they can not see the principles of God clearly.

     Religion can not be judge by secular; Life combines body and spirit, secular and spiritual, so, Islamic systems joining together all aspects of life to fulfil its objective. Islam not like other religions is a matter of belief without guidance in every direction and “no single thing have We neglected in the Book” (6:38). Thus, his expression ‘religiopolitics’ is irrelevant to Islam.

     Islamic systems, as we going to discuss later, have been put into practice and gave the best result.

      However, the application of the Islamic political system depends on the application of the Shari’a which comprises the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This is the source of legislation and policy.


Chapter twelve




"Then We set thee upon a way of the command (Shari’ah) therefore follow it, and follow not the caprice of those who do not know." (45:18)


     The Shari’ah and Islamic Ethics are twins. They encompass all aspects of human life, from the inner-self to their surrounding upwards to God. They are the throne of the political system in Islam. The political system that deviates from the Shari’ah deviates from the right way. While, if it remains on the straight path it saves the dignity and the honour of the people under its control.

     In Islam, Law is not distinct from faith and spirituality; they flow in a single channel and are indistinguishable. Islamic morality is driven by the Shari’ah, which is binding on all Muslims. Intention, reasons and moral understanding are indispensable. Islam is a unity, a complete code of life. Islamic jurisprudence deals with questions of faith and its implication in public life, with legal transactions along with all provisions, rules. Jurists in Islam are at one and the same time men of religion and jurisprudence. Islamic jurisprudence plays a deeply significant role in Islamic thought as well as in all aspects of Muslim life.

     The most important and comprehensive concept of Islam at the practical level is that of the Shari’ah. The term literally means 'place leading to the watering place', in other words, the source of life. In religious terms, it is a Divinely ordained system to guide mankind to the right path, 'the highway of righteous life leading to God', or the sum total of Divine Commands to man, technically it means 'the Civil and canonical Law'. God's Law is embodied in the Qur'an, manifested by the Sunnah and the believer. Moral authority has always been treated higher than legal power in the ascending order concept of Muslim social organization. The Shari’ah, in its comprehensiveness, includes Law, moral principles and the creed to which every Muslim must subscribe. Muslim must know his duties and rights in three dimensions of life towards God, himself and others, whereby he may fully conduct his life in this world and prepare himself for the future life. This marks the difference between the Divine Law and the human laws. Other systems are swayed by what can be regarded as "right" in accordance with the interests of the party, government or the society. Islam considers it unjust to discriminate in favour of some people to the detriment of others. God alone is the Sovereign and it is He who has the right to Guide mankind to the straight path.

     The Shari'ah shapes Islamic society in a way conducive to the unfettered growth of good, virtue and truth in every sphere of human activity. It removes everything standing in the path of virtue. It seeks to eradicate evil from its social scheme by prohibiting vice and hatred, by obviating the causes of its appearance and growth, and by closing the inlets through which evil seeps into society and by adopting different measures to check its occurrence. Rule by force is not the aim of the Shari’ah; justice is considered the supreme end, an act of justice in itself next only to belief in God and God Consciousness.

     The Shari’ah differs from Western systems of law in two principal respects: The scope of the Shari’ah is much wider, since it regulates man's relationship not only with his neighbours and with the society, but also with God and his own conscience. The Shari’ah is concerned as much with ethical standards as with legal rules, indicating not only what man is entitled or bound to do in law, but also what he ought, in conscience, to refrain from doing. The Shari’ah is not merely a system of law, but a comprehensive code of behaviour that embraces both private and public activities.

     The second major distinction is the result of the Islamic concept of law as expression of Divine Decree. In Islamic jurisprudence, it is not society that moulds and fashions law, but the law that precedes and controls society. It is God's Law, and as such merciful to His creation. Severe punishment is reserved for such crimes as are of a grave nature, for example, murder, physical injury, adultery, fornication, theft, highway robbery, and wine drinking in order to maintain peace and order in the whole society.

     Islamic Law governs all human acts, public or private, national and international. In moral law, there has been an interaction between the teaching of the religion and ethics on the one hand and the provision of law on the other. Thus, we find justice and charity coupled by the Qur'an in one single verse e.g. 7:29, 8:6 as a comprehensive ethical exhortation of generosity towards others. Therefore, it has become a rule of justice not to do harm to another and a duty in legal transactions to abide by the principle of honesty and tolerance. All of this, no doubt has been a source of benefit for the humanity. God's teaching is for the welfare of all rather than one certain party or group of people.



{Between Abbara and Dina expressing the Islamic view whilst Badr and Charles the opposite side of the argument}


12.3.1       Islamic Law.


"Say: 'Is there any of your associates who can guide to the Truth?' Say: 'It is God Who guides to the Truth: and which is worthier to be followed - He who guides to the Truth, or he who guides not unless he is guided? What then ails you? How do you judge?'" (10:35)


Abbara: Islamic Law is divinely ordained, particularly as applied to regulations codifying government, legal systems, ethical systems, economic systems, social systems, individual systems, educational systems and national and international systems. It is derived from a Divine Source. The Shari’ah encompasses all human affairs, spiritual and secular. In Islam, law is not distinct from religion. The two streams flow in a single channel and are indistinguishable; both are living in the conscience of the believers. The religion is the will of man and the law is the will of the community; the first is the basis of the spiritual harmony in the society and this gives support to the second, which defines the relationship between people under the Sovereignty of God.

Charles: So there is no distinction between 'legal' and 'religious' in Islam. The two aspects are found side by side. The Qur’an is not law book , it concerned with law , many of them covering matters of worship ,family law, and few in crime and punishment and social life.  Hence, there is the claim that Islamic law has anticipated all modern laws and codes. If that is so, why have all Muslim countries borrowed Western law and now apply it in administration of their affairs? If Islamic law covers each aspect of life, there is no need to transfer Western law.

Dina: Islam puts forward the main principles and the framework and leaves it up to the people to create their own solutions, by reasoning in relation to Absolute Justice. If the Muslims borrow what is suitable for their administration that does not mean that Islam cannot offer its own solution to any problem that exists in Muslim societies. In fact, Muslims did not borrow Western law; during the period of colonisation, the West planted their laws, rules and code of life. Afterwards succeeding governments mostly allied to the West, accepted the laws with little change in order to preserve their rights rather than the rights of the whole community as Islam demands. However, Islam is not opposed to what is alien; it may embrace any fair rules related to a new kind of administration, so long as they do not conflict with Islamic law can be applied with fair justice.

Abbara: Islamic Law differs from the Western legal system in at least two major respects: scope and value. The Western system governs one's relationship to the state and one's fellow human beings. The scope of Islamic Law is much wider, since it regulates one's relationship with God and one's conscience, as well as with the state and one's fellow human beings. Islamic Law is a comprehensive code of behaviour that embraces both private and public acts.18

Badr: In modern life, it is difficult to combine religious law and secular law. The re-examination of the Shari’ah and theology in all their aspects, as well as modern philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, psychology and logic, should be applied to formulate and restate its essential dogma. If religion is gradually freed from the shackles of civil law, and law (canon) is allowed to grow and develop freely, Muslim society is bound to progress rapidly.19

Dina: In Islam, the life of the individual and social life are bound together. The essential faith of the spirit is correlated with the conscience of the soul. There must be equilibrium between the inner and outer life, i.e. a Muslim's devotion to God is not accepted if he harms others; his prayer is not accepted if he lives by illegitimate means or if he is not paying the poor due, etc. Thus the inner life of believers harmonises with the social life of others. The Law of God makes no distinction between the law of the state and the law of ethics. As we going to discuss next, the principle of justice has inward, upward and outward dimensions. It links the individual with God and society. But some Muslims and non-Muslims misunderstand the objective of Divine Law which contains the True Wisdom rather than philosophical conceptions, the true metaphysics of the spiritual life and the next life, true psychology rather than mere theories "He (God) knows the thoughts within the breast. Should He not know, He Who created? And He is the All-subtle , the All-aware." (67:13-14)

Dina:   The Shari’ah is the mainspring from which Muslims draw their rules. If they are reluctant to work hard to find out its teaching in some aspects, it does not mean that the 'spring' is empty; it never becomes dry. Hence, their lagging behind is because they borrow artificial man-made codes rather than using pure natural remedies. God provides on an equal basis for all His Creation. Any attempt to separate or to divide God's Rule between private and public matters, or to break the unity, is considered non-Islamic.

Charles: You indicate that the door of Ijtihad should be open; but this door was closed long ago and Muslims had to be contented with four schools of law: Abu Hanifa, Malik Ibn Anas, Al-Shafi'i, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The result has been that Islamic thought met a dead end, on the one hand, and, on the other, each school has its own interpretation of Islamic thought.

Abbara: The door of Ijtihad was opened widely in the second century of the Islamic calendar when the Islamic state was expanding and scientific research had led to the flourishing of Islamic jurisprudence. Muslims approved these four schools, which drew their interpretations from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, supported by Ijma’a, consensus of opinion. The disagreements among the schools were not on the basis of the fundamental principles and  doctrine; al-Usul, which was defined by God and His Prophet, but only on details of application as a result of diversity of interpretation. Such differences occurred even in the time of the Prophet, when he used to consult his Companions. The existence of diversity of opinion was, in fact, the basis of flexibility in Islamic jurisprudence. The Prophet said, "Disagreement among jurists is the nation's blessing."19 Difference of opinion is a Mercy from God. It allows, within the Islamic teaching, the believer to choose whatever is more convenient to him. It is through this 'trust' granted by God and His Apostle that Muslim jurists devoted their life to Islamic jurisprudence, which played such a significant role in the history of Islamic thought as well as in all aspects of Muslim life and created a body of comprehensive legal opinions and decisions. Today the jurists' duty is to obtain a legal decision for every new issue that has not been discussed before.        

Badr: But the differences of opinion among scholars cause sectarianism and divide the Muslim society. In actual fact, some Muslims will not offer their prayer behind an Imam who follows a different school of thought from themselves. So it is very necessary to hold to the main teaching rather than to create arguments and legal opinions.

Dina:  Islam does not accept sect, or nonconformist with its doctrine. In my experience of going to the Mosque, that has never happened. It is difficult to know whether the Imam is a follower of Shafi'i or Abu Hanifa. In fact, these schools exist through their disciples, who collected their works. During their lifetime, no such dogmatic ideas existed before. For example, Harun Ar-Rasheed asked Imam Malik to give a positive conclusion on something. Malik refused. Al-Shafi'i said, "If a different opinion is more authentic than mine, follow it." Thus, the difference is really a matter of the degree to which an opinion is more authentic and related to the truth and justice. Social life is a complex of facts, so different opinions may have the same worth in relation to the truth. Any approach may give the same result, as long as that approach is within the main principles and framework defined by God and applied by His Apostle. So, Jurists gave their opinion, non of them intended to create a party.

Charles:  So the differences mainly center on such issues as whether a prayer has to be done in this way or that. This makes no difference to the main fundamental principles of belief or legislation. But one problem that arises is the application of the Shari’ah to specific crimes where the punishments are considered too cruel for modern life, such as stoning adulterers, or lashing fornicators with a hundred stripes, cutting off the thief's hands, lashing drinkers with eighty stripes, and so on. We are all human beings with desires and sometimes we cannot resist the temptation and fall into sin. So why do we have to punish a person for mistakes made out of weakness, ignorance or temptation?  Why don’t follow Jesus, when he saw some Jews trying to stone  adulterer, He asked, any one he did not commit a sin throw first stone, all of them left the seen.  I believe that the true Muslim persevering in his duties often finds himself perplexed between the Commandments and the demands of this life.

Abbara: God would like to make sure that the life, property, progeny and honour of everyone are safe from evil-doers. This is what His Law is designed for. The Divine Law is free from passion and emotion towards those who overstep the Divine Limits (Hudud) causing harm to others. These limits one based on certain principles. God created Man and knows what principles are suited to this life and what punishments can put him right and prevent society from suffering the consequences of evil-doers. For example the dangers of sexual intercourse outside marriage are known to everyone: the spread of venereal disease, illness, illegitimate children, preventing the young from legal marriage and the committing of other crimes, all of which have the grave consequences on social life for everybody. The purpose of punishment is to prevent this suffering.

     Sometimes, lenient punishment increases corruption and crimes against society. If we compare the number of crimes which take place in the West with those in Muslim countries the statistics testify that crimes in Muslims countries in spite of poverty are far less than in the west. This evidence is not just related to the application of Islamic Law, but to the fact that the Muslim is not permitted to overstep the limits and is taught that if he does, the whole scheme of his life will go awry and he will receive punishment from God. Whoever rebels against God and His Apostle and transgresses His Bounds will be admitted to Hell. Such strong teaching affects the subconscious mind of a person from early childhood and controls his motivation in the event of his being tempted to violate people's rights. The Divine Law works through people's own conscience, the Spiritual Moral Decree as well as by force. While under human law, people can act without their conscience troubling them. The specific punishments will be discussed later.

Badr: Everyone should have a right to live in dignity and be provided with the necessities of life, e.g. full board and accommodation, before cutting off the hand of the thief. The problems of youth should be solved before applying the Hudud, e.g. financial aids to facilitate marriage for those who cannot live in celibacy. In other words the standard of life in Muslim society should be reorganised before demanding the application of the Shari’ah.

Dina: The application of the Shari’ah, followed by the Hudud punishment, is the only cure for the spread of evil crime. Creating a society without principles is as invalid as putting the cart before the horse. The teaching of the law and the principles is the most powerful means for creating good individuals and a good society.

Charles: However, Muslim Law, as displayed in the Qur'an, clearly follows the trends of its Jewish predecessor in its scope and, in some cases, its specifics as well.

1.   Abbara: Of course they have a relationship since they are from the same source; the God is one for all.  But Muslims consider that the final Revelation is more authentic as it sometimes abrogates some punishments or makes an evaluation more suitable to modern life. The Commandments and the obligations  and their relevant actions are categorised into five levels:

2.     Obligatory. Actions for which a person is rewarded if he does them and punished if he omits them.

3.   Recommended. Actions which carry a reward, but for which there is no punishment for omission.

4.   Indifferent. The vast majority of actions, for which God has granted permission for their performance, but neither reward nor punishment are involved.

5.   Reprehensible. Actions whose performance brings punishment, but the avoidance of which brings no reward.

6.   Forbidden. Actions which are punished and whose avoidance is rewarded.

We will refer to these criteria in more detail in the next section. The ethical system is the twin of the Islamic Law system. Their principles overlap. The former controls the inward life of the Muslim and the latter controls society, from the ruler down to the individual. Shari’ah sustained by Islamic ethical systems:

Chapter thirteen


 13. The Ethical System.


"Consider the human soul, and how it is formed in accordance with what it is meant to be, and how it is imbued with moral failing as well as with consciousness of God! To a happy state shall indeed attain he who causes this (self) to grow in purity, and truly lost is he who buries it [in darkness]"     (91:7-10)


   13.1 The Basis of Morality.

     Arguments about morals go back to the earliest times and the contention will carry on as human nature. Theologians trace them back to Adam and the prophets who came after him whose message was to guide man to act morally. Philosophers researched into the problem of perception with great energy, and tried to find its purpose. They laid down the norm by which intellectual speculation was enabled to distinguish between true and false, and built a system of thinking which they called logic and reasoning. The greatest problem that has confronted man continuously is the moral problem. All other problems, religious or spiritual, social, economic, political, etc, are only aspects of this master-problem. Whatever the situation, man is always faced with the question of what is right or wrong, good or evil. Morality is the main pillar of the life of human beings, both as individuals and as nations.

     God endowed everyone with a moral sense and judges his actions according to the Spiritual Moral Decree: that anyone who does well, will have good in return, and anyone who does bad, will have bad in return. God revealed His 'Eternal Wisdom', the Ethical System, which provides a standard measurement, or criterion of ethics. Man may reach the 'ultimate good' in theory by his intelligence alone, but mostly he fails in practising all the principles of ethics which are universally agreed. Therefore, God imposes His commands upon all mankind in order to secure fair dealing and just acts.

     The dimensions of Islamic ethics and morality are numerous, far reaching and comprehensive, and differ from those of all other religions or systems of morality in two principal respects. In the first place, the scope of Islamic ethics is much wider, since it regulates man's relationship not only with himself, his physical and spiritual aspect, and his relation with neighbours, society, and state and with the whole universe - which is the limit of most other systems - but also with his God and his own conscience. This kind of relationship with Him who created everything and determines its nature enforces in the human being the spiritual discipline which educates and trains the inner self of man which is the center of the Islamic system. It frees man from the slavery of the self and others, and purges his soul of the lust for the material life and instills in him a passion of love for his Lord - he who loves obeys his lover and cares about his relationship with Him - so the believer always tries to follow His code of life.

     Moral doctrine has always been central to religion. All the religions prescribe obedience to the Golden Rule, and all set forth precepts about the way men ought to live.

     Traditionally ethics have undertaken to analyse, evolve and develop normative moral criteria for dealing with moral problems, since ethics are concerned with what is morally good and bad, right or wrong. Some things have been universally condemned, like murder and theft. Other moral practices differ from one society to another. On the other hand, widespread agreement may reflect the fact that morality is rooted in the human nature, and if human nature is fundamentally everywhere the same, it will also manifest this similarity in significant ways, including morality. This is related to the fact that all humanity is created out of the one living entity, moulded with knowledge of moral failings; man's ability to rise up or fall down, to act wrongly is a concomitant to his ability to act rightly, in other words there is an inherent polarity of tendencies which gives to every 'right' choice a value and, thus, endows man with moral free will.

     All societies have moral rules that prescribe or forbid certain classes of action and these rules are accompanied by sanctions to ensure their enforcement. It has been observed, for example, that virtually every scarcity has well-established norms dealing with such matters as family organization and individual duties, sexual activity, property, personal welfare, truth telling and promise keeping, but not all societies have evolved the same norms for these various aspects of human conducts. However, intuitivism has seemed to provide an indispensable basis for moral argument. It has been held for example, that to engage in moral argument with a person is impossible if that person does not even see the relevance of certain considerations, such as that the action would cause pain, to the desirability or undesirability of action, and that there is no independent awareness of moral qualities because they are always seen as dependent on empirical qualities. The moral qualities have been said to be consequential on empirical qualities, for example, to define good as what God commands would still be naturalistic.1

     Those who hold that what God has commanded is the basis of all right action sometimes also say that obedience to God's Commands yields more good that does non-obedience. The ultimate reason for obeying God's Commands is the good consequences of such obedience and more good in the long run. Therefore, the origin of ethics in Islam is the True Faith, and the main purpose of the Qur'an is to awaken in man the higher consciousness of his manifold relations with God, so that moral law without proper and authentic sanctions can have neither force nor support nor cooperation from anyone; it will remain simply a theoretical code of morality, without being followed or practiced by any group of individuals or nations like the moral code of the secularists, humanists and atheists.

     The Islamic ideology provides a motivating force to inspire individuals and groups to conduct their affairs in public and private in accordance with the moral code of Islam. The voluntary and willing acceptance of their code of behaviour is far more effective and stronger than any application of external force of law and order.  Only a command can answer a question of the form "what shall I do?" For a statement of fact to guide action, it must in some way be related to the wants, desires, self satisfaction, or interests of a person. Without these factors, it is unlikely to have any impact or bearing on his action. But belief in God reflects a spiritual discipline and if a believer breaks the Law of God, he will suffer eternal punishment, so his desire and interests are to fulfil His commands.

     Islamic ethical tenets are grounded in religious dogma. The believer listens to the voice of his conscience, which in turn, depends on God-consciousness, and follows His guidance; accordingly, faith plays a part in his inner life and like a compass, always directs him to the Straight Path, and at the same time controls his motivation and desires. In that sense, men's actions are often a sign of what they believe, but if their actions diverge from their beliefs, they are considered hypocrites. Faith is the ground for the belief in God as the Supreme Being or Creator of the world, the One who revealed a supreme ethical code of life, suitable for all His Creatures, and One who ought, therefore, to be obeyed.

     The code is concerned as much with ethical standards as with legal rules indicating not what a person is entitled or bound to do in law, but also what he ought, in conscience, to do or refrain from doing. No doubt all religions, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists etc. are trying to present sets of principles - not a complete code of ethics - which could be generalised for all societies, but none of the theories are completely applicable to all kinds of social illness. The original principles of Islam are completely able to purify the individual's moral character, and the reformation of the individual is the basis for the reformation of society (as will be explained later). In that connection the prophet said, "I was sent in order to complete the virtues of character"2  It is better to follow what God has laid down and apply it carefully with God-Consciousness than to follow the mere theories of man.


13.7. Discussion.

{Between Abbara and Dina expressing the Islamic view whilst Badr and Charles the opposite side of the argument}


13.7.1. Islamic Ethics.


"Follow what has been sent down unto you by your Sustainer, and follow no masters other than Him." (7:2)


Abbara: Islamic Ethics deals with the principles of good and evil. People are generally agreed that Islam supports the welfare of the individual as well as of the community. The virtues of the Qur’an teach are more precise then the general virtues that philosophers who inspired by God, have defined through the ages and called people to follow. Each philosopher sees only one side of the Truth; none of them has seen the whole Truth as Islam does. Islam lays down the ethical standards of conduct within a fivefold scheme. This constitutes a scale ranging from obligatory and imperative through commendable and permissible to abhorrent and reprehensible; to harm is categorically forbidden. Each deed has its own rating in comparison with others. When a conflict of duties arises, the one which weighs more than the other, for the time being, has priority over the other and should be acted upon. The believer has to know, or ascertain, the rating of an act he is about to engage in. If he is ignorant of the legal rating of an act, he should consult a Muslim scholar. Because Islamic morality is comprehensive, it includes all theories of ethics in a balanced way rather than stressing one aspect of it, and thus leaves other ethical systems far behind in the application of ethical principles to life.

Charles: Muslim literature on ethics covers an exceedingly wide field. The general moral character of the pre-Islamic Arabs, the outstanding ethical teaching of the Qur'an itself, the portrayal of the Prophet as an example for the personal conduct of his followers, the theological efforts to limit the doctrine of determinism so as to provide for moral responsibility, the wholesome influence of Greek thought on the Muslim world, the ready acceptance of the attempted Neo-Platonic reconciliation between religion and philosophy, the Stoics' illuminating conception of a universal law of nature, the valuable contributions that were made by Christian ascetics and mystics, and the individual struggles of the Muslim mystics, or Sufis, to master the inner life of man in relation to the Will of his Creator; all these subjects belong to the ethics of Islam.21

Abbara: This statement covers so many aspects that are foreign to Islamic ethics that it needs to be answered point by point.

1. This statement includes the sort of paradox which most Western writers fall into owing to misjudgment and lack of knowledge. An intelligent understanding is needed to distinguish between these two terms: "Muslim philosophers of ethics and Islamic ethics". There is an important difference: "That is the right Religion; but most men know not" (12:40).

2.  Regarding "the general moral character of the pre-Islamic Arabs", God created man and endowed him with the ability to live a moral life; of this there is evidence in every society. People balance their life between right and wrong; they do wrong and admit that it is wrong. Therefore, not every aspect of the Arabs life was completely wrong. It was not that they had no morals at all, but their values were different from Islamic values, which are unique in their aims. Islam teaches that the life of this world is not an end in itself, but a means to a superior end. Thus, when Islam was revealed and its aim was seen to be  the creation of a moral and spiritual type of man that was new to them, most of them fought against it. But whose who embraced it were elevated to a higher moral standard than was ever seen before or afterwards. I should like to add that Islam spread not by the sword of the Arabs as it might seem, but by its ethical system, which made the new Muslims - who were not Arabs - carry on its Message. The ethical system was originated by God and translated into action by His Prophet.

3."The outstanding ethical teaching of the Qur'an itself" was originated by God in clear-cut principles which had no relation to any others as stated: "The Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away; surely falsehood is ever certain to vanish." (17:81). It is the 'standard' (furqan) between Truth and error in everything which concerns life in both its stages (present and future life). Its criteria are different from all other types of philosophy or man-made religion. We have tried above to define its ethical system without reference to its principles - which there is no place to discuss here - and how each act has its own rating with reference to others within the equilibrium of total life.

4. "The portrayal of the Prophet as an example for the personal conduct of his followers". As we mentioned above, the Qur'an constitutes the ethics, and the Sunnah shows mankind how the ethical system revealed by God can yield its fruit if man puts it into action.

5. "The theological efforts to limit the doctrine of determinism..." As we said above, as long as a man believes in God he is one of His Trustees. When man accepted the Trust of God, he committed himself to making efforts to carry out his responsibility towards both himself and others. "There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm."

6. "The wholesome influence of Greek thought on the Muslim world". Greek philosophy had two rival views: idealistic ethics, as advanced by Plato, and naturalistic ethics, as advanced by Aristotle. Both views found their way into Muslim thought - not Islamic - in the second century of the Islamic revival. When Islam was born, it had no connection with Greek philosophy, nor was fostered by it. Both views can be related to Islam, provided that the ideal moral law is seen as the revealed one determined by God. There is a general misunderstanding that there is an 'Islamic philosophy' which emerged from its theological background in the 9th century. In fact, there is no Islamic philosophy; the philosophy of various Muslim philosophers may relate to Islam or not; in either case, they do not affect Islam, since validity of Islamic wisdom (not Islamic philosophy) sprang up from the Qur'an and Sunnah and from nowhere else. Islam stands on its own feet, not on the philosophy of the Muslims or the Greeks. Hence, Greek philosophy had no effect on Islamic wisdom, either as its predecessor or afterwards. Greek philosophy was rejected not only by Islam but by Western philosophers and replaced by a new school of thought, as the perennial philosophy renews itself from century to century.

7. "The contributions that were made by Christian ascetics and mystics." Islam, unlike Christianity, has no church to influence the religion. Therefore the writer could say that Muslims - not Islam - may be affected by Christian ascetics and mystics. Islam itself was practiced by Christians when the Qur'an was revealed:  "And We sent after them (the Apostles) Jesus, son of Mary, and gave unto him the Gospel. And in the hearts of those who [truly] followed him We engendered compassion and mercy. But as for monastic asceticism - We did not enjoin it upon them: they invented it themselves out of a desire for God's goodly acceptance. But then, they did not [always] observe it as it ought to have been observed" (57:27).

8.  And that led to "the individual struggles of Muslim mystics, or Sufis..." The conception of ethical good in Islam is not exclusively this-worldly or other-worldly, but keeps a balance between them. A Muslim tradition says, "A Muslim should work for this life as though he will live for ever and for the next life as though he will die tomorrow." So both asceticism and extravagance in this life are condemned. The one attempt is to subjugate the body; the other aims at attaining the maximum pleasure for the body. The concept of monastic life, with its exaggerated asceticism, often amounts to a denial of any value in the life of this world. In ascetic morality, there is abstention from the beautiful things of this life, e.g., food, coition, etc., while the pleasure-lover goes to the opposite extreme and denies any value to the spiritual life. Islam attempts to keep an equitable balance between these extremes and is realistic in its appreciation of man's nature. It gives the body its needs, fulfils the desires of the soul in a legitimate manner, and fulfils the requirements of the spirit. For example, the prayer is the very source of spiritual nourishment and morality, for it regulates both the spirit and the soul within the equilibrium of the body. This balance is unique to Islam; no other religion or ideology could serve mankind in all affairs - spiritual and secular - on the same basis.    

9. "All these subjects belong to the ethics of Islam". In fact, only two out of the eight belong to Islamic ethics, as stated in the Qur'an and practised by the Prophet. This general misinterpretation is common to non-Muslims and uneducated Muslims. This leads us to the final point:

10.  Most people make no distinction between the way the Muslims live socially and the way of Islam. Already we have pointed out the Islamic principles with their pillars and systems and what a gap there is between them and the Muslims' application of them. It is hard to find a significant relationship between them and normal Muslim life today. In spite of this, non-Muslims have picked up some customs of the Muslims and given them an Islamic title, such as, "the way of Muslim mystics," or "sufism," and have copied the celebration of weddings, the manner of dress or the daily way of life. Furthermore, academics and some Orientalists read some popular Muslim writer and unknowingly choose an opinion which is, in fact, invalid, and put it forward as an Islamic principle. For example, we have given some quotations from the Encyclopaedia Britannica under the titles: "Islam, History of." "Islamic Mysticism", "Islamic Myth and legend", "Islamic people, Arts of", "Islamic theology and philosophy", "Islamic Arts", etc. In fact, most of the contents of these subjects are not related to Islam but to the Muslims, or those who claim that they are related to it!  They are confused between the Will of God and the will of the people and do an injustice to God's Message, that is, Islam.

Badr: Could I ask you a private question: do you yourself apply Islamic morality to your life?

Charles: In Islam man is and agent of God or His vicegerents. From her that we see the roots of Islamic ethics, God ordains, humankind is to implement His will. Human responsibility and mission are of cosmic proportion, and people will be judge on the cosmic consequences of their acts. As God’s representative, the measure of human actions, and indeed life, is the extent to which the Muslim contribute to the realization of God’s will on earth.  This responsibility lies squarely on each individual’s shoulders. Page 26-7 Esposito

Dina: God has willed to show  mankind, not only Muslims, the right way by means of the positive instincts which He has implanted in everyone, as will through the revelations; The Qur’an question such narrow judgement “Whither, then will you go? This is no less than a reminder to all mankind, to every one of you who will to walk straight way”(81:26-28)  The right way not only for Muslim, it is open to everyone who willing to avail himself to the universal morality or ethics. Of course every one bears his own responsibility about his action this is the only way of salvation, rather on shoulder of others.    

Abbara: Well, the will of God depends on my will. If I commit myself to general Islamic morality and I admit I far behind true righteousness. Morality is not necessarily put into practice just because one has knowledge without will. It normally develops from early childhood from having a subconscious programme in the right principles, so that there is no conflict between the will in the conscious and the unconscious. There are psychological features to moral weakness, as when a person smokes cigarettes while believing it is wrong and has no will to stop it.

Badr: Then, why do religious people mostly fail to act by the moral behaviour they require others to act by? Another question, why do the children of religious people mostly fail to behave morally?

Dina:  It is difficult to control man from outside by authoritative commandments. It is better that he is controlled by the inner self, spiritual and moral development, which is what Islam aims for. Faith should be preceded by knowledge and followed by appreciation of the commitment to one's responsibilities under God-consciousness. Therefore a person is not qualified to be called religious if there is conflict between what he says and what he does and naturally the children watch their parents and are subconsciously programmed positively or negatively. So our early environment and education is a matter of real import as it sets up good or bad habits in us.    


13.7.2.Islamic Ethics and General Ethics.


"But they reject (the warning) being always wont to follow their own desires. But everything reveals its reality in the end. And withal, there has come unto them many a tiding that should have restrained (their arrogance): far-reaching wisdom (was held out to them): but all warnings have been of no avail." (54:3-5)


Charles: So here we might discuss and compare the philosophical moral code with the Islamic one. For instance, the idealist view considers that moral behaviour is that which is in accord with ideal moral law, while the naturalistic view considers it as a strategy for optimising human welfare. What does Islam say?

Abbara:  Islam considers that the ideal moral law is the one revealed by God, Whose purpose is the optimum welfare of the individual, as well as of societies. It demands that the Muslim not only follow it, but also hold back his natural desires and elevate his emotions to love, sympathy, altruism, gentleness and right feeling in order to perfect the  fulfilling of his duties to God and His Creation. Hence Islam not only lays down the ideal moral law but requires people to act upon it, instead of merely having philosophical views and theories without action. Islam has been put into practice, but the philosophy is bound to theory without practice, or has only been partly applied.

Charles: The rationalists hold that genuine knowledge is acquired by reason, but Islamic knowledge is acquired by means of Revelation, and doing one's duty to Allah, rather then using human reason and experience. This is manifested by the conduct of the Muslims, which is not always related to universal moral law, because they naturally feel conflict between their reason and the Authority of Revelation from Allah.

Abbara:  God did not neglect man's reason. It was He Who endowed man with reason. In particular, a few people in every nation are granted more so that they can guide others to the Truth, as God stated: "And, among those whom We created, there are people who guide others in the way of the Truth and act justly in its Light" (7:181). By the functions God has endowed him with; man is capable of discovering what is good and what is bad. Besides that, He sent His Prophets with Revelation, and Revelation corroborates the findings of reason. Man would be, therefore, under a moral obligation to do the right things, even if there had been no Prophets and no Divine Revelation. Revelation aims to aid man in choosing the right things for his worldly affairs and his spiritual affairs, but in  the conflict between good and bad, man often fails and makes the wrong choice, even against his rational judgement. On the other hand, Revelation informs man of the right way to follow for his salvation in this life and the next life. Thus, there is no conflict between reason and Revelation, but the latter is the higher. When the results of reasoning agree with Revelation, they are considered authentic; otherwise, they are simply the low product of reasoning.

Dina:  The other side of the argument is that the Revelation has been bestowed from on high and it is not necessary that everyone should know the reason behind its rules, just as with traffic signs. it is not necessary that everyone should know why a particular sign is put in a specific place, but only to believe that it is placed there for the general safety of the public. However God's rules are laid down, the Qur'an appeals to reason on many occasions as when it says,," O you possessors of mind..." or "Do you not use your reason?" or "But most men do not understand", or "He makes clear His Signs for men of Understanding". It is significant that many times in the Qur'an a caution is given that a rule of action should be implied "in reason". Also the Prophet was inspired by God to give full details in the Sunnah as to how to apply the Revelation and reap the result of its Wisdom.

     Moral principles have many reasons behind them, which may differ from one time to another. Islam provides Muslims with the principles and exhorts them to use their reason and act with caution, but if they fail to uphold the Rules, they will find that they have created a society devoted to self-interest rather than to Islamic ethics.

Charles:  The Utilitarian state that we all ought to act rightly to promote the greatest happiness for ourselves and others. I think this is the ultimate good. But, in Islam, the ultimate good is not for everyone. There is a variation in applying the rules for social purposes such as punishments.

Abbara:  Perhaps the Utilitarian are right to some extent, in theory, but the weakness becomes visible when a conflict arises between self-interest and the interests of others, between private and public concerns, in particular when the theory is put into practice. Islam holds that it is the Will of God which brings the ultimate happiness to all His Creatures, according to justice, i.e., one who harms society should suffer the consequences of his action. The criterion of virtue placed upon every Muslim is that he has to make sacrifices for the sake of others.

     Hence Islam also stresses the importance of altruism and putting the interests of others first to earn God's Pleasure, no matter how much one abases or sacrifices one's own happiness. Therefore a relationship does exist between Islam and Utilitarianism, but the aim of happiness is carried out more efficiently by Islam.

Charles: With regard to perfection, the philosophical approach states that the virtues leading to happiness or perfection are pleasant and therefore self-enforcing, while those leading to imperfection are repugnant to human nature, and that, therefore the ethical law does not stand in need of any external authority. This concept is better than the theological concept, which derives morality from a Divine and Supremely Perfect Will.

Abbara: Islam has the unique system for human perfection and is different from all other religions, whose principles are, like the philosophic principles of perfection, without specific definition. People are not all perfect and cannot act perfectly - they have to develop from one stage of moral awareness to a higher one and that is what Islam aims at. Philosophical theories can be applied to, and motivate, only philosophers and mindful people, but most people's minds are weak. Everyone has a heart and needs resources to satisfy it. Everyone has a different level of moral judgement and needs continuous reinforcement and reminders to enjoin justice and to do perfect actions. What Islam is concerned with is to build up such characteristics, to implant faith in man's heart, and conscious intention in his mind, and to develop God-consciousness, not only to advance the believer towards perfection, but also to make him instrumental in helping others to advance.

Dina: Hence, a relationship exist between Islam and one side of philosophy, but philosophies have no means of supporting man in his journey towards perfection; they are theories without practice, while Islam provides the foundations for building a perfect man, by trusting him with responsibility and expecting him to fulfil it.

Badr:  Well, in regard to "duty for the sake of duty," is not Kant's formulation of the categorical imperative - duty - seen to have a relationship with Islamic injunctions?

Dina: But in Islam, duty is not only done on the basis of reasoning. Sometimes we do our duty for no reason. Faith in God's Commands is put first, i.e., man's destiny, man's nature and the purpose of this life turn the believer more and more towards doing his duty to others for the sake of God alone. A believer desires no recompense from others, nor thanks, hoping that all his good actions will bring him closer to God, and this hope acts as an umbrella for other duties and is more effective than trying to do one's duty for the sake of duty, as the philosophers believe. The Pillars of Perfection depend on true faith, supported by trust, reflected by commitment and fulfilled by responsibility under God-Consciousness.

     Hence, the relationship is there but Islam not only includes the philosophical approach, but also motivates the people to put it into practice as a compulsory duty, as it demands effort and sacrifice. It starts from a duty towards oneself and extends to parents, spouse, children, relatives, countrymen and internationally.

Charles: According to the theory of the "natural disposition," man's basic instincts are naturally good and so there is no inherent conflict between morality and human nature. Morality is the object of feeling, not of reason. When you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing but that from the constitution of your nature, you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from contemplation of it. If we rely on the original virtue within our self, there is no need for rules to be imposed from outside.

Abbara: Man is naturally good, but unfortunately, this natural disposition is spoiled by the environment. Men came to love the ornaments of this life and are influenced by society, the demands of desire and invisible beings. Therefore, man needs above all, a controller to safeguard his primordial norm and motives: a pure motive is usually upheld by self-interest. "I want to, but I ought not to". In Islam, the believer is expected to obey the injunctions of God prescribed in the Qur'an, even against his natural inclinations, personal interests and selfish desires, for the sake of others; "I ought to, but I do not want to". So Islam has the effect on individual inclinations and desires of promoting them and directing them into the right paths; it keeps a person in constant touch with God, Who will help and inspire him to go in the right direction.

     It is in man's best interests to follow the Truth and avoid those selfish motives which can corrupt him. Islam makes it clear that there is no more appropriate motive than to be pious and devote oneself to perfect acts through God's injunctions. The philosophical approach relies on intuition, and the emotions involved do not get a correct motivation, according to Islam, which tries always to elevate sentiment to higher standards, and to instill correct motivation. It also purifies the heart from ostentation and hypocrisy and enables one to act freely from a pure heart.

Badr:  It appears that there is a relationship between the philosophical aspect, "inborn respect for moral law and the natural disposition", and the "primordial norm", fitrah the intuitive ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

Dina: As regards inborn respect for moral law, Islam goes further in this respect by three degrees.

     Firstly, the believer, besides his natural disposition, has inspiration and moral guidance, which lights his way according to his spiritual development; the non-believer is left in darkness and receives no God-Guidance. The spirit of the believer mediates between his 'self' and God, and gets a response from Him by way of inspiration to right conduct. The quality of his spirit is the essential part of his intelligence and when it is pure, it will reflect a just moral judgement. This makes him superior to others.

     Secondly, God the Just appointed a Spiritual Moral Decree to control the relationships between his creatures and to keep the balance between them. Believers are more conscious of this fact than are others, so they are more cautious about their moral actions, and

     Thirdly, God provides mankind with a comprehensive system of ethics; which covers the moral, social, legal, and religious aspects of life all combined under the principles of justice.

Charles: With regard to reward and punishment, almost all philosophies, religious and non-religious, are agreed that punishment ought to be sufficient to prevent crime, and there is no difference here between primitive people and civilised ones except in the type of punishment they use. But I think that in Islam, more emphasis is placed on reward and punishment in this world and in the Hereafter. Besides that, the legal punishments are very hard for those who have broken not only the man-made law but the moral law as well. So here morality is imposed upon man rather than letting him practise it freely as part of his natural disposition!

Dina:  In Islam, the value of all human acts is made dependent on the inner will of the agent. He can apply himself to the direction planned for him by God, either by the faculty He endowed in him to distinguish between right and wrong, his moral sense of the Spiritual Moral Decree, what was revealed through his Prophets; or what he learns from public opinion. With this help, if a man deliberately uses his will to oppose God's Will, he leaves the right direction which is implicit by nature or has been made explicit by His Revelation; he will break the Law or exceed the limits and so he deserve God's Retribution, spiritually, psychologically or physically, in this world or in the next. Punishment prescribed by the government has its own effect if the criminal is caught. By comparison, the believer lives under God's supervision both in private and in public.

Abbara: Moral philosophy exists only in theory, while in Islam; the whole matter is approached in a practical way. Therefore Islamic principles function to close the gap between theory and practice, to promote human life to a higher stage of moral development and to help believers to a higher stage of spiritual development to be ready for their place in heaven.




Chapter fourteen



14. Principles of Islamic Economics.


"And (in all your dealings) give full measure and weight, with equity: (however) We do not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear; and when you voice an opinion, be just, even though it be (against) one near of kin. And (always) observe your bond with God: this has He enjoined upon you, so that you might keep it in mind." (6:152).


     We said ethics maintained by economic, but in fact, Economics sustained by ethics. There are identity twins; the economics is the body; and the ethics its spirit. Rich without moral has no spirit; poor maintenance has no body for moral life. No one has ever succeeded in neatly defining the scope of economics in general. Economists used to say, with Alfred Marshall, the great English economist, that economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with attainment and with the use of the material requisites of well being - ignoring the fact that sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists frequently study exactly the same phenomena.1 An economic system may be defined as the sum total of institutions and patterns of behaviour that organize economic activity in society. Islam provides principles and a framework within which the economic system can function in private and in public.

     Islam regulates and directs the life of Muslims in all affairs; its principles control all business dealing, ensuring fairness and absolute honesty between the individual and the society for the public interest under God's supervision. It secures human welfare in general and guarantees the financial security of Muslims. It seeks to guide man in the light of the Divine injunctions and to orientate man's economic attitudes towards Islamic ends and ideals.

     The Prophet, in his last sermon, underlined the main principles of business dealings, when he stated "O people! Just as you regard this day, this month, this city as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners, Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore, all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived"2. All this implies that Islam considers all business dealings should be conducted in a spirit of fairness and justice, with the consent of God. The above hadith contains the fundamental principles of the Islamic economic system, whose functions, in the context of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, are categorised in three dimensions:

1)  Production and its resources.

2)  Distribution and its channels, within consumption and the consumers, and

3)  Development and its pillars.

     The main purpose of Islamic commercial legislation is to secure the rights of the individual and maintain social cohesion by enforcing God’s Law and introducing high morality into the business world. The Qur’an summaries the principles of trade and commerce: "O believers! Squander not your wealth among yourselves in vanity except it be a trade by mutual consent". (4:29)

     This verse provides the basis for a set of values in economics, which touches upon every aspect of social relations. There is nothing in Islam to prevent the Muslim from striving to gain wealth by lawful and decent means, but this wealth should be saved or used only in lawful ways. Islam provides the framework of what is right and what is wrong in the way of earning and spending. Wealth must be acquired through means which are legitimate and totally beyond suspicion, and not by trading in any goods used for committing sin.

     In the Qur'an God, goes so far as to associate the acquisition of wealth with praying and God-Consciousness. A Muslim should of course avoid all kinds of fraud, and actively apply the rules of business codified in Islamic law. These two elements hold him from going astray and falling into serious lapses where his earnings would become unlawful. God emphasises the important of prayer before a Muslim engages in worldly pursuits. He links God-consciousness with the business: "And when prayer, salah is ended, then disperses in the land and seeks of God's Bounty, and remembers God much, that you may be successful" (62:10).

     The three factors of production are, first, labour; secondly, land, and, third, the Bounty of God in its broadest possible sense -this includes capital, skills, education, land, and all stock or raw materials. "Remembering God much," means to be conscious of God's Presence while business be present. Having "God-Consciousness," implies living a morally responsible life in accordance with the norms of Islam, earning money only by right methods, in a legitimate way. It also implies obtaining something of God's Bounty by encouraging ownership. God commands "Fill the measure - when you measure - and weigh with a right balance ". (17:35) The command is not only to give just measure and weight but also not to withhold from the people the things that are their due in every dealing or transaction.

     This injunction applies not merely to commercial or business dealing but to all relations between people. Because the task of Islamic economics lies in building bridges between "is and ought" in relation to the individual earning and expending on himself and on those for whom he is responsible, as well as the needy, by means of the poor due and charity. Hence, the importance of the principles of Islam is that they not only change the values and habits of people, but also provide the necessary legislative framework to support and sustain these ideals and prevent their misuse, by defining moral attitudes and behaviour patterns for economic agents. The Prophet teaches, "May God's Mercy be on him who is lenient in his buying, his selling and in demanding back his money ".3 This teaching creates a harmony between the materials and morals by urging Muslims to strive for material gain on a moral foundation, thus providing a spiritual orientation to material efforts.

     The Qur'an says, "Seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which God hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the present world; and do good, as God has been good to thee." (28:77) Wealth is not an end in itself but is a means to the good of this life and the next. Wealth belongs to God and should be circulated between His creatures according to the principles He revealed.

     Islam stands for absolute justice and fairness in the social order. It seeks to create a strong moral sense that puts justice before fulfillment of materials needs. It accepts no tyranny, oppression, injustice or exploitation. God warns defrauders against the punishment which will befall them on the Day of Judgement. He says: "Woe unto those who give short measure, those who, when they are to receive their due from other people, demand that it to be given in full, but, when they have to measure or weigh whatever they own to others, give less than what is due. Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead?" (83:1-4)

     These verses determine the principles governing all forms of commercial dealings between individuals, societies and nations. They are especially addressed to those who obtain by force what they have no right to demand but who, when it is their turn to control the economy for others, exercise their power by giving them less than their due. They apply to every aspect of social relations.

     If these commands are not responded to freely then state regulations may be applied to ensure the fulfilment of basic needs, to assure the welfare of the society in general and to guarantee social security as well.

     The Islamic economic system is based on social justice, equity, moderation and balanced relationships. It forbids all forms of exploitation and honours labour, encouraging man to earn his living by honest means, and to spend his earnings in a rational way.4 Any economic system may be examined on the following levels:

1.  Production. Maintained by avoidance interest;:

1.  Avoidance interest maintained by substitute of the interest; these are: i) Competition ii) Partnership, iii) profitable iv) Co-Farming. v) Shares. Supported by vi) Free-loan. And vii) By mortgage partnership. Production sustained by distribution and consumption.

2.Distribution  sustained by paying i. the poor-Due and by:

ii. zakat al-fitr, compulsory charity iii. Expiation. iv. Family support v. Charity vi. Inheritance. Vii. Insurance. Viii. Endowment.  Distribution sustained by

3. Consumption maintained by:

4. Economical Development.


14.5. Discussion.

{Between Abbara and Dina expressing the Islamic view whilst Badr and Charles the opposite side of the argument}

14.5.1. Islamic Economics.


"Is it they who would distribute thy Sustainer's Grace? (Nay), it is We who distribute their means of livelihood among them in the life of this world, and raise some of them by degrees above others, to the end that they might avail themselves of one another's help But thy Sustainer's Grace is better than all  that they amass" (43:32).


Abbara: Islamic economic systems take a middle way in economic theories. They depend on the just dealing of one with another and involve using an honest way for the accumulation of wealth as a means and not as an end in itself. Wealth is acquired for the good of oneself and others. It is a two edged sword: when used well, it has a good effect on this life; when used badly, it causes great harm, and may be used as a source of corruption in the hand of the individual as well as of the nation. Therefore, Islam emphasises both the moral and the material aspects of life and erects the edifice of economic well-being on the foundation of moral values. The values in other systems are unjust accumulation, unfair distribution and unidentifiable consumption; the faster the growth to the peak the faster it falls to the other side of the curve, leading to the corruption of the nation. History is full of lessons which teach this but man never realises this.

Charles: From the above description of the theory of economics in Islam, it seems to me there is no economic system which could bear this responsibility for the development and growth of a society, and no Muslim society to apply such a system. No doubt all economic systems point out the necessity for honest dealing. What Islam stresses in common with other religions, is that wealth should be acquired by just means and spent for the good of society.

     I believe that in the matter of economic systems as in political and legal systems, most modern Muslim states have followed the West or the East in their systems of administration. If their system were clear cut, there would be no need to import other systems, as some Muslims point out. It is natural that some people will always be dissatisfied with the policy which exists in a society. However, the Qur'an and the Shari'ah do address themselves to economic questions of ownership, taxation, banking, distribution of wealth and so on.

Abbara:  I must remind you that the Qur'an is not a book of economic policy but has left it to each Muslim society according to the life development, to define the economic planning for their own development according to their resources. It merely underlines the main principles which should be observed in economic life, and which are intended to create a harmony between man's spiritual life and material welfare by applying moral standards. As we pointed out previously, the ethical system depends on the economic system; but, in fact, the economic system, in turn, depends on the ethical system. In other words, the two systems are analogous to the two legs of a man - without their balance he cannot walk straight. Thus, "Islamic economy is inextricably bound up with Islamic ethics, which combine the idealism of man's spiritual ascent with a deep concern for his worldly attachment. It is with Islamic ethics that economic preferences have to be determined, giving equal importance to the legitimacy of the policy goal and of the policy instruments."29

     I have to admit that I am not a specialist in economic fields and cannot go into the matter of economic planning for each Muslim society, which may be economic, agricultural, commercial, geological, geographical or industrial. According to my understanding, I have tried to point out the Islamic principles which safeguard the three dimensions of the economic system: production, consumption; distribution and development. We can say that Islam sets up the framework within which Muslim societies should work together. Justice, equity and equality are the main fundamental principles of human conduct, whatever a society's aims. The objective of the Qur'an is to achieve an increase in national income and the distribution of this income to promote the welfare of the individual and society. It gives the example of when the Prophet Joseph was put in charge of the economy: "The King said to Joseph, 'this day thou shalt be of high standing with us, invested with all trust!'" (Joseph) replied: 'Place in my charge the store-house of the land; behold, I shall be a good and knowing keeper'" (12:54-55). He made this request to ensure that the economic policy of the society should balanced as between the seven years of good production and the seven years of scarcity that had been prophesied (12:46-49). This indicates that knowledge of economic planning is a trust which reflects man's responsibility and accountability to God rather than to his earthly superiors. In this regard, God reveals to man economic principles and he uses his planning ability to maintain equilibrium. In the same way, Islam teaches people who are charged with the economic welfare of society to work according to the code of Islamic ethics and this depends on their having a sense of God-Consciousness so that they can fulfil His Commands.

     If there are Muslims states who have adopted un-Islamic systems, this does not mean that Islam did not provide distinctive ways of organising economic activity so as to safeguard the welfare of both the individual and the society. It is simply that Muslim societies have failed to apply these Islamic economic ideals.

Badr: But Muslim societies live in class-divisions. There are those who are very rich and those who are very poor. The barrier between them is very high; there is no brotherhood as Islam teaches. I have no idea how a person used to being very poor in a short time can become very rich! What kind of system do they follow in achieving the caste system, while the society is getting poorer.

Dina: We are discussing the Islamic economic system, which is considered to be a remedy for removing the inequality of opportunity created by an unjust accumulation and unfair distribution of wealth, not by illegitimate acquisition of wealth, illegal transactions, monopolies, graft, infringements on the rights of others, extravagant consumption and squandering.  Islam desires to mould the economic life of society in such a manner that neither millionaires nor paupers should come into existence. One principle laid down in the Qur'an is that economic life should be so organised that wealth does not circulate only among the rich.(59:7) The wealth of the rich is illegal if there is one poor person in the society who cannot find food. In fact wealth, according to Islam, belongs to God; all Muslims and non-Muslims in an Islamic state have a right in it. Man is a trustee; if he betrays his trust, e.g., by not paying the zakah, the poor-due may be taken from him by force.

Charles: However the text does not refer to the income of the state and its expenditure. Islam concentrates on private wealth, the way of acquiring it and how to spend it or distribute it.

Abbara: There are many ways for public sectors to be run. E.g., those who collect the zakah may have a portion of it; income tax; taxation; the government planning a role in collecting tax based on services provided; governmental regulation of production etc. 'Umar, the second Caliph, refused the possession of beneficent trusts, mines and underground resources petroleum, metal, mineral, manufacture, to all, considering them the right of the public sector.

Charles: What is the state to do for the individual who is not able to provide for himself the bare necessities of life on which to survive?

Dina: Of course, it is the responsibility of the state to motivate any person capable of working, to win by his own efforts all that is necessary to his life and if there is no work available, it  should create jobs even it they are non-productive, although the aim is productiveness if possible.

14.5.2 Interest (Riba).


"And what you give in usury, that it may increase upon the people's wealth, increases not with God; but what you give in poor-due, desiring God's Face, those- they receive recompense manifold." (30:39).

Abbara:  The concept of riba denotes addition to or an increase of a thing over and above its original size or amount: In the terminology of the Qur'an it signifies any addition by way of interest, above the sum lent, and this includes both usury and interest as well as profits obtained through any kind of interest-bearing loans, irrespective of the rate of interest and the economic motivation involved.

Charles: Today interest is needed in banking and industrial finance. No one can run a business without support from a bank. In economics, the main productive asset is credit from the bank. The concept of capital has been so closely bound to the concept of interest that they should be considered together, even though in the modern view it is capital and income rather than capital and interest that are the related concepts. The whole world of business relies on the financial support of the bank. Therefore Muslim countries are lagging behind others, particularly in industrialisation, because Islam does not encourage borrowing from the bank for the growth of the economy and invention.

Dina: Interest is the price paid for the use of credit or money. In other words, it is income received as a result of the ownership of a bond. 'Usury' is exploitation of the ignorant poor by moneylenders. The third form of income is profit usually  derived from the ownership of aggregate or assets of all kinds organised in an enterprise.

     In modern life, the focus on the moral justification of interest shifted away from the ethical justification toward the problem of mechanical equilibrium, and the rate of interest simply followed the rate of profit. Economists seemed to lose interest in the equilibrium theory, and their main concern was with the effect of rates of interest as a part of monetary policy in the control of inflation. Hence, the problem of the ethics of interest is still unresolved after many centuries of discussion.30 In fact, interest holds up production, because people do not borrow unless they are sure that they can earn something more than the cost of the loan by investing the proceeds in the enterprise or aggregates of real capital, with intention to exploit others and misuse the honest way of production.

Abbara: The Qur'an gives an example of how the person who indulges in interest loses control of his judgement: "Those who gorge themselves on usury behave but as he might behave whom Satan has confounded with his touch; for they say, 'Buying and selling is but a kind of usury'- the while God has made buying and selling lawful and usury unlawful" (2:275). God categorically prohibits usury. The Qur'an puts forward the philosophical conception that 'interest is like trade', and then makes the statement that 'no, the two are radically different': implying that trade increases wealth, while the other is the source of economic exploitation; its tendencies are not productive but destructive.

Charles: In regard to usury, the Qura’nic text appears to be directed against the Jews rather against the Makkans (4:161). The Jews are accused of having taken usury although this had been forbidden. The Jews had refused to give contributions in response to Muhammad's appeal, but had said that they were willing to lend money at interest, as pointed out in 3:130.31

Dina:  What a weak bit of propaganda. The Qur'an teaches the believers that usury was also forbidden in the Old Testament but that in spite of that, they (the Jews) used to take it: "...taking usury although it had been forbidden to them, and their wrongful devouring of other people's possessions." (4:161) The other statement is directed to the believers and has no reference to Jews at all: "O you who have attained to faith! Do not gorge yourselves on usury, doubling and re-doubling it, but remain conscious of God, that so you may attain to a happy state" (3:130). It only stresses the prohibition of usury for the believers and not for others.

Badr: Some Muslim scholars make a difference between usury, which is taken from poor people, and interest, which is taken from or by the bank on profit. They say "It was permissible to charge interest in the cause of trade and that interest is forbidden only where one's debtor is a poor man". The late Mahmod Shaltout (1892-1963), the Rector of al-Azhar, says some scholars consider the profit on a deposit in the Post Office to be prohibited, because it is a usurious interest on the deposited money. I think this type of profit is legal without the least prohibition being necessary; because that deposit is not a loan from its owner to the Post Office. He offered it knowing that the Post Office would do business with it and give him part of the profit not as interest.32

Abbara: Admittedly, Muslim scholars have not yet been able to reach absolute agreement on the definition of riba, I believe, because of the absence of an Islamic state which links all principles so that they function in one direction within the Straight Path. Man is bound to use interest when he is faced with difficulties and the existing system does not satisfy his needs in a lawful way. He must exercise his judgement to find a solution to his problem according to his self-interest, irrespective of the principles.

     God's Admonition in the Qur'an is for the believers, who are conscious of God (2:275). The statement "God has permitted trade and forbidden usury" closes any further discussion and leaves no room for jurists to exercise their judgement in opposite directions. The verses which follow again stress the same command to the believer: "O you who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and give up all outstanding gains from riba, if you are [truly] believers; for if you do it not, then know that you are at war with God and His Apostle." (2:278-9) These strong terms are used to impress the consciousness of believers with the need to avoid any kind of financial transactions which fall into the category of riba, for both ethical and socio-economic reasons.

     According to Islamic morals, it is not only forbidden to charge interest to the poor, but they should be helped out of zakah, the poor-due, or Sadaqah, charity.

     In a socio-economic sense, it is God Who is the Owner of everything and man is a trustee. The believer's economic effort and its reward are determined within the context of this framework of trust; he is not to live in idleness but in productive ways. Thus, the true believers receive admonition from their Lord and leave their wealth in the bank getting zero rates or less, depending on the difference between the rate of interest and inflation or deflation. The Islamic wisdom is that money should be used in socio-economic production and should circulate in society so that everyone gains according to his efforts, rather then being put in the hands of a few bank managers.

     Islam wants all the members of society to be  productive. When a rich person cannot work or is unable to find the best use for his money, he has the choice of profit-sharing or partnership, which is multi-purpose, is lawful investments. Of course, any enterprise is liable to succeed or fail.

Badr: But it is the same whether the bank gives a guaranteed percentage of its profit or you borrow from the bank and you invest the capital and give it a fixed percentage of your profit. The bank is an agent; as with insurance, it makes a balance between the one who lends and the one who borrows. Why does Islam insist on direct contact between them, rather than allowing them to deal through an agent, in other words, a bank?

Abbara:  Islam believes in collective responsibility rather than entrusting the responsibility to an agent or an individual. It seeks revenue for the welfare of the whole society; what belongs to individuals belongs to society and what belongs to society belongs to individuals. Thus every individual feels safe in a society of believers, since all its members are as brothers. Therefore, "an Islamic economic order shall insist upon the institution of a socially optimum banking structure to be based on (i) produc­tive efficiency, (ii) allocate efficiency, (iii) absence of exploitation of depositors and borrowers, and (iv) adaptability to meet the ever-growing demands. It shall be an interest-free banking system."33 A bank can be set up on the principles mentioned above and some Muslim banks are already set up as 'seed' central Islamic banks.

Dina: In my experience, so-called Islamic banks are not related to Islamic principles. Their charges for lending money vary directly according to the interest rates of commercial banks. Unit trusts, which distribute the profit and keep the actual value of the units in the bank, are allowed in Islam.

Badr:  The paradox is that interest in Islamic countries has become taboo at the very time that the rich are investing their wealth in interest-paying western banks and other financial institutions rather than in their own countries. So their countries are getting poorer as they export capital and import credit notes which perish with their death.

     Another point is that although the banks gives interest, some Muslims are conscientious, and do not take the interest. So, millions of dollars are lost in the banks. Is it not better to give this money to the poor people in different countries?

Dina: The Muslim world is rich in material wealth and manpower. In spite of that, it is economically poor and weak due to underdevelopment. Perhaps this is related to both 'interest' and self-interest - all these natural resources are left unused because the rich invest their wealth in banks or abroad, rather than in the means of production in their own countries.

     On the second point, Muslim scholars have different opinions. Some say that the unclaimed interest should be taken and distributed to the poor, while others say 'no', because true believers are conscious of God, and God is Good and does not accept anything except the good and they realise that they do not reach God's Standard of virtue unless they spend on others out of what they cherish themselves: "You will not attain piety until you give of what you love; and whatever things you give, God knows of it" (3:92). Another verse points out clearly: "And what you give in usury that it may increase upon the people's wealth, increases not with God, whereas all that you give out in charity, seeking God's Countenance, (will be blessed by Him)" (30:39). According to these instructions God does not give any permission to take or give interest except on capital put into productive enterprises

Charles: Regarding natural resources and their use, I believe that many companies in western countries would like to use these natural resources and in particular the manpower, but the policies of the governments concerned create doubts whether they would  succeed. Similarly, the Muslims who have capital smuggle it outside their country because they feel that it is safer!.

Badr:  Could I add that such wealth is mostly illegitimate and has accumulated in illegitimate ways. It mostly belongs to the society rather than to the individuals, who may do a  thing knowingly or unknowingly which leads to the destruction of their own society.

Dina:  You may well be right, but this is a very broad generalisation.

Charles:  Islam has forbidden giving or taking interest and yet a Building Society is like a bank. When they lend money to buy a house, they calculate the compound interest, add it to the capital and then divide the result into installments. It is a direct way of taking interest. Yet for a Muslim living in the West, it is the only way to get a house. What is your solution to this problem?

Abbara:  According to Islamic principles, when a Building Society lends money for the purchase of a house, it becomes part-owner of the house (in proportion to the amount of money lent) and charges the occupier rent, which is calculated in such a way that the investment is eventually recovered along with a reasonable profit. Once the original investment plus the profit have been recovered, the ownership of the house is transferred wholly to the occupier.

Badr: But this is taking interest in an indirect way; the charge of rent is equivalent to the interest!.

Dina:   This way makes the borrower work harder to pay back installments in the shortest possible time. In the case of borrowing money from a Building Society, they define the period of the loan in advance and it is usually twenty five years or less. Hence, the Building Society charges threefold or fourfold the original price.

Badr: But the price of the house itself at the end of this period may be worth more than that, so the owner loses nothing. But if he lives in a rented house, he pays as much as a mortgage and accumulates nothing.

Dina:  But as you know lot of people fall in this trap and resell their houses with great loss, particularly, council houses are available.  

Charles: You have still not answered my query. If it is forbidden to buy through interest, what will he do?.

Abbara: In Islam, whatever is conducive to the unlawful is itself unlawful. As we have seen from the above discussion, God admonishes the believer that he should not approach anything related to the unlawful, such as interest, as it leads to the destruction of the society. A believer commits his affairs to God, Who facilitates the means. For example, I have a friend who faced this difficulty and was patient. Two true believers offered him a free loan, and the same thing has happened to others. Therefore, it is highly difficult to say what is allowed in regard to being a house owner through paying interest, and we cannot generalize on such things, Each case must be looked at for its religious legality. Muslim scholars have different opinions regarding this matter. There is a saying in jurisprudence that "necessity dictates exceptions."  Nevertheless those who live in God-consciousness would prefer to purify themselves from all doubt.

Charles:  Why has the Qur’an declared war on interest?

Dina: God takes very strong action against those who do not give up interest, for a number of reasons, for example:

1.       Such a person has betrayed God’s trust for God is the real owner of everything.

2.        Interest is the disease of the economy and its development.

3.       Actually, it is the disease of social life as most suffering results from interest, unemployment being an example.

4.       Whoever takes an interest is greedy and covetous, so he does not pay zakah which would purify him; he may give to charity simply to show off and be praised.

5.       Whoever hoards their wealth or misuses it, prevents society from production, as well as not used the manpower of that society which gradually declines.

6.       He makes wealth a token of power which can only be possessed by rich people.

7.       Depositing money in a bank  so that it may be used for an unlawful production, such as destroyer weapons, drugs or anything else which is unlawful in Islam.

8.       Inflation gorges on interest for even if the total amount of money has increased because of interest, the amount gained from interest does not match that of inflation.    

9.        Rich Muslims, including those in the authorities deposit their money in Western Banks rather than the banks in their own countries which may be used for the development of their own economy.  So-called Islamic banks are the same, for they are unwilling to do any projects for poor.

10. Another reason why the rich put their money in Western banks is that they may have accumulated it by unlawful means, so they feel able to store it unlawfully too.

Badr: That is because they feel safer and do not trust their own country or that of other Muslim political systems.  However, the banks do not keep the money but use it in productions or loans..

Abbara: God announced war and hard punishments because the wealth of the community which is necessary for production has been frozen in the banks. His decision is not arbitrary but provides solutions to the problems of society as a whole; the interest of an individual should be implemented for the benefit of others. For example, if one of the rich became true believer and gives up the war with his Lord and used his wealth for different projects within his society through the methods  mentioned earlier; e.g., mudaraba [joint ventures or competition], would make the money circulate in his society; the musharakah [partnership or participation], which involve all manpower in such projects; the musahamah [shares] most of the members of the society would participate, as share holders or workers; murabaha [profitable or cost-plus financing] here the one who has the money uses other workers; muzarah or mua’ajrah [co-farming or leasing contract],which contribute to cultivate the vast land which need support, such production help poor people every where,  mua’azarah [home partnership, as a mortgage], they buy a home on a shared basis and the one who lives in it pays rent for the other according to his share and in meantime buy the share from him, so that at the end he will be the owner, and finally, Al-qard al-hassn [free loan] to help others in starting a business or buying a home. 

           Therefore God cares about all people.  Suppose  a rich believer invests ten billion pounds in such projects, at the end of  it, assume, if all these have failed, he would still be considered the most profitable in the sight of God, and such reward is uncountable for the believer in Day of Judgement, because the bounty of God is distributed equally according to each one’s effort, throughout the society.

Dina: Therefore, Interest used by the International Bank as it sucks the blood of poor countries, thereby increasing the chasm between the rich and poor. I believe that, if the International Monetary Fund used these methods in developing countries and invested in projects rather than giving the money to the governments of these countries, who may be dishonest, the people in these countries would benefit tremendously. God care about welfare all His creations but they oppressed themselves.

14.5.3 Distribution and consumption.


"O children of Adam! Wear your adornment at every place of worship; and eat and drink, but be you not prodigal; He loves not the prodigal." (7:32)


Abbara:  In Islam distribution and consumption are under the same laws as production. Nothing should be accumulated through illegitimate means such as usury, interest, gambling, lotteries or any kind of game of chance, stealing, robbery, or any way of deceiving or cheating direct or indirect. Those who are in authority and in charge of administration of public affairs are not allowed to receive gifts. Bribery is the main cause of corruption in society. Monopoly leads to exorbitant prices. Selling anything which may be used in something unlawful is still unlawful, for example to sell grapes to those who are going to use them to make wine. Any kind of theatrical activity which leads to unlawful acts is unlawful. If a person is employed on a job but his production is less than it should be because he is not punctual, it is unlawful to take the money equal to the time missing. It is dishonest to sell something knowing there is something wrong with it and not pointing it out.

     Everyone is free to enjoy consumption and distribution of his wealth in a lawful manner. As a Muslim accumulates his wealth in legal ways, he should use it in lawful ways: to sustain himself, his family and relatives if they are in need, and in other reasonable expenditure. Islam encourages charitable expenditure for the poor and needy, gifts and endowments for a special purpose, inheritance of legal bequests, etc, and on the other hand, deprecates extravagance of any sort, consumption of alcohol, or drugs and gambling, which are strictly forbidden.

Charles:  But what is really forbidden in Islam? Some Muslims indulge in gambling, where they squander money with great extravagance. If Islam says one thing but Muslims act in a contrary way, there is a gap between  principle and application. Either the principles are not practical or there is something wrong in the behaviour of its followers.

Abbara:  The way individuals behave cannot be blamed on Islam, which is opposed to such behaviour. Consumption should follow the same rules as accumulation. In every society there are some who get their income without hard work or in a dishonest way. Their capital has no blessing on it and it follows the same channel from beginning to end. Muslims who spend their wealth in an evil way prevent non-Muslims seeing God's Way by their actions. This life is a trial to teach man to distinguish the corrupt from the good. Those who heap corrupt actions one upon another (8:15) reap punishment, both in this world according to Spiritual Moral Decree and in the hereafter, as a result of their betrayal of God's Trust.  

     There are many verses in the Qur'an against exaggeration, and luxury, especially when there is one poor man suffering. Furthermore, it is not allowed for a Muslim to spend anything in a corrupt way or for corrupt purposes. He is responsible for his actions and accountable to God for them. "But the evil-doers exulted in the ease they were given and persisted in sin." (11:116). The rule of the Spiritual Moral Decree is " When it is Our Will to destroy a community, We convey Our Last Warning to those of its people who have lost themselves entirely in the pursuit of pleasures; and (if) they (continue to) act sinfully, the sentence (of doom) passed on the community takes effect, and We break it utterly." (17:16) 


14.54. Inheritance.


"Concerning (the inheritance of) your children, God enjoins upon you: The male shall have the equal of two females' share; but if there are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what (their parents) leave behind; and if there is only one, she shall have one half thereof. And as for the parents (of the deceased), each of them shall have  one-sixth of what he leaves behind, in the event of his having (left) a child; but if he has left no child and his parents are (only) heirs, then his mother shall have one-third; and if he has brothers and sisters, then his mother shall have one-sixth. (In all cases this is) after (the deduction of) any bequest he may have made, or any debt (he may have incurred)." (4:11) 


Charles:  The text makes it clear that the Law of Inheritance is a unique system of dividing the property of the deceased among his successors. But I have three questions about the share of the daughter. The text says "to the male, a portion equal to that of two females;" (4:11) so she has a half portion of what her brother gets. I believe this is a rule from the pre-Islamic period. Also the widow inherits one-eighth if the deceased had children. And third, a non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim. The first rule discriminates between male and female and the second is a hardship to the widow, while the third rule is religious discrimination in favour of Muslims. These rules indicate injustice for the three parties concerned.

Abbara: God knows best. Islam has instituted a powerful social security system, giving it a religious sanctity according to God's Commandments, which apply the principles of justice and equity. No self-interest of man is allowed to make any change in God's Decree. It has its own wisdom for distributing property. The inheritance is not meant for men only; women have the right to inherit (4:7) according to their financial responsibilities.

     Women have no responsibility in Islam regarding their living expenses. If a woman is single, her parents or her guardian must support her. When she marries, the responsibility is transferred to her husband and rest on his shoulder. At the wedding, he should pay her marriage grant in advance and assign a dowry to her later in case of divorce or death. He is responsible for keeping her and he has no right to use her capital. Hence the portion she gets in inheritance corresponds with her practical responsibilities, not her mental abilities or self interest. The rule is based on justice, no matter whether it was practised in the pre-Islamic period or revealed later: "And God has created you and what you do." (37:96). The intention to do right is part of human endeavour, so whatever those people did, that is what God meant it to be.

     The widow  has her own portion: "And your (widows) shall have one-quarter of what you leave behind, provided you have left no child; but if you have left a child, then they shall have one-eighth of what you leave behind." (4:12). It is the duty of the husband to make a bequest for least one year's maintenance of his widow, so that she is not obliged to leave the dead husband's home. (2:240) Besides that, she has the privilege of a "later dowry" and she should receive this before the inheritance is shared among the appropriate heirs. Thus, the shares are given according to different people's responsibilities. If there is no child, she gets a quarter, if one child or more, she gets an eighth. Either she is so old that her children must look after her, or if not, her portion sustains her. If she is young, she may get married again, if she rich she will fall in trap of marriage for wealth not for her sake. In the case of more than one child, if they are adult, responsibility is assigned to them, while if they are young, she may look after them and live with them. There is no encouragement to leave them.

     There is no religious discrimination between the heirs. The majority of Muslim jurists say that a Muslim will not inherit from his deceased relative who happens to be a non-Muslim and vice versa. According to a Hadith, "A Muslim cannot inherit from a non-believer and an unbeliever will not inherit from a believer."34  But they were still entitled to inherit if a will exists, but not to more than one-third of the estate. Hence, Islam treats the two parties the same in the same conditions and the word  "discrimination" is used blindly.

      The wisdom behind this is that the believer accumulates and uses his wealth in lawful ways. On the other hand, a non-believer may accumulate his wealth by unlawful means, which are forbidden to a believer, and inheriting such wealth might affect the purity of his soul. God is Good, and accepts only good things.

Badr:  The law of succession is very complex, but why is the portion of the same heirs different according to the number of other heirs? For example, the father and mother of the deceased are sometimes given equal and sometimes different portions, according to verse 4:11.

Dina:  If you try to understand God's Wisdom, you will find that absolute justice is done; their share is according to their responsibilities. For example:

(i)  When a son dies who has children, then the parents have an equal share. Everyone has a sixth. The grandmother and grandfather have equal responsibilities for their life.

(ii)   When the son who dies has a daughter, she has half, her grandmother a sixth and the grandfather a third. But if their son has two daughters, they take two-thirds and their grandmother and grandfather a sixth each. Thus, in the first case, the grandfather takes double the share of his wife, because he has become her guardian and responsible for her, like her father while his wife not responsible financially. But when there are two children he is their guardian and has responsibility for them.

(iii)  When the son who dies has no children, but  has brothers and sisters, they do not inherit from him, but all his possessions go to his parents: his mother will have a sixth and the rest goes to his father. If he has no brothers or sisters, his mother will have a third and the rest goes to his father. In the first case, the father is responsible for his children and must sustain them and preserve the wealth; anyhow, they are his heirs, but because they are young, they may misspend their share. In the second case, the wealth could go to a wide circle of relatives of the mother and the father. There is wisdom in every Command, but we cannot always see it because our judgement is related to our self-interest and we are shortsighted about our purpose in this life which designed for us by the Creator.

Abbara: In brief, the Islamic economic system in its three dimension: production, consumption; distribution and development is designed for the welfare of the society as a whole to share bounty of God. Every individual, capable or incapable, has a just call upon the wealth of the society to satisfy his needs. If the Muslims applied the Islamic economic system, it would definitely solve all their economic problems by increasing production, and creating just distribution, ideal consumption, growth and development, social  welfare, equality and equilibrium in the society. However, the application of the economic system depends on the proper functioning of the social system, which is explained in the next chapter.






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