President of Jamiyatu Ulama Australia

Fish and Fish-Hook

Allah says:
فلما نسوا ما ذكرما به فتحنا عليهم أبواب كل شيء حتى إذا فرحوا بما أوتوا أخذناهم بغتة فإذا هم مبلسون.
But when they forgot the warning, they had received, We opened to them the gates of all good, until in the midst of their enjoyment of Our gifts, We suddenly called them to account and behold, they were plunged into despair!

Generally, wealth and worldly prosperity are taken as a sign of Divine Pleasure. Similarly, when some people, following wrong ways and disobeying the Divine Commandments, continue to enjoy their worldly prosperity, they begin to harbour the illusion that their conduct is morally satisfactory, until this illusion leads them into becoming proud and arrogant.

It is the same with nations as it is with individuals. Economic prosperity, material upliftment and the glories of worldly success often stand in the way of their accepting of the Truth, and intoxicated with their worldly grandeur and pleasure, they ignore and turn their back on morality, on religion, and on Allah Himself.

From the Divine point of view, worldly prosperity can be anything from a test to a punishment. Those corrupt people who reject Allah’s Guidance for indulgence in worldly desires are led deeper and deeper into sin and immorality, until when they least expect it, they are returned to their Lord and plunged into regret and despair, both at the realisation of the futility of their worldly existence and the certainty of their doomed fate in the Akhirah.

Allah’s punishment of the evil doers is a Sign of His Divine Justice, and of His promise to protect the righteous believers from their depredations and to maintain His Divine Decrees. Allah says regarding the corrupt nations of the past:
تلك أمة قد خلت لها ما كسبت ولكم ما كسبتم. ولا تسألون عما كانوا يعملون.
That was a nation that has passed away. They received what they earned, and you will receive what you earn. And you will not be questioned about what they did.

Again, and again, Allah reminds us of the corrupt and immoral nations who went before us. They lived in tall mansions and luxurious gardens, and they had no rivals to match their power in the land. But because they rejected Allah’s Signs and Messengers, Allah increased them in their folly by granting them more and more material bounties, before finally destroying and disgracing them at an appointed time.

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi gave a very good example explaining this situation. When Allah blesses a person or a nation with His Gifts despite that person or nation’s sinfulness, it is like a fisherman who puts something on a fishing line which can be eaten by the fish. The fish opens its mouth to catch it. The fisherman then loosens the line so that the fish thinks that it is being entertained, until the fisherman’s hook entangles it, and the fish is pulled out of the water in a state of restlessness.

Allah says:
ما أفاء الله على رسوله من أهل القرى فلله وللرسول ولذي القربى واليتامى والمساكين وابن السبيل لكي لا يكون دولة بين الأغنياء منكم وما أتاكم الرسول فاتخذوه وما نها عنكم فانتهوه، فاتقوا الله فإن الله شديد العقاب.
That which Allah has bestowed upon His Messenger from the people of the towns belongs to Allah, His Messenger, the near relations, the orphans, the needy and the traveller, in order that it may not be circulated only between the wealthy among you. Whatever the Messenger brings to you, take it; and whatever he forbids you from, avoid it. And fear Allah: for truly, Allah is Severe in Punishment.

Qadi Abu Yusuf (rahimahullah) says that ‘Umar (r.a.a.) recited this Ayah in front of the governors of Egypt, North Africa, Syria and Persia, and ordered that all of the conquered lands were the property of the entire Muslim Ummah. All the Sahabah who were present there unanimously accepted the view that the abandoned lands were the property of the entire Muslim community, and that they could neither be distributed, nor sold and purchased.

It should be remembered that in those days the entire economy was based on agriculture. About 90% of the population lived on agriculture. To nationalise the means of living of 90% of the population means that Islam wanted to nationalise the general means of production and save the society from all individual exploitation.

In this Ayah, the list of all the rightful recipients of the land’s shares is given. First on the list is Allah Himself (to Whom it belongs in the first place anyway), His Messenger, the relatives, and descendants of the Prophet (s.a.w.), the orphans, the needy, and those on journeys. The principle of this Ayah is that the wealth must not be circulated among only the rich minority of the society. The Islamic economy ensures that the needs of all classes of society are provided for in an honourable manner.

Sayyidah ‘A’ishah (r.a.a.) relates: “At the time of my father’s death, he directed me to hand over to his successor all that was issued to him from the Bayt al-Mal for his household needs. Abu Bakr left one she-camel, a bowl, a servant, and a bedding. When all of these were made over to ‘Umar, he remarked: “May Allah be merciful to Abu Bakr. He has set an example for his successors, which may be very hard to follow.”

We should not be disobedient, puffed up with pride and arrogance, in case Allah blesses us with gifts despite our disobedience. Then what will be our fate? We seek Allah’s refuge from that. This is a great test, and those who are thus tested may at any time receive Divine Punishment.

Islam proposes a system to put an end to all individual exploitation of nations’ wealth. If wealth does not circulate among the entire community but instead circulates among a few individuals, this will give rise to many evils which threaten to break up the social solidarity and security of the entire Muslim Ummah.

إن في ذلك لعبرة لألي الألباب
Truly, in that is a lesson for those of understanding.