The Real Nature of Wealth and Property
The other fundamental principle which has a great importance with regard to the problem of the distribution of wealth is that, according to the elucidation of the Holy Qur’ân itself, “wealth” in all its possible forms is a thing created by Allâh, and is, in principle, His “property”. The right of property over a thing which accrues to man is delegated to him by Allâh. The Holy Qur’ân explicitly says:
“Give to them from the property of Allâh which he has bestowed upon you.”
Why this should be so has also been explained by the Holy Qur’ân in another place. All that man can do is invest his labor into the process of production. But Allâh alone, and no one else, can cause this endeavor to be fruitful and actually productive. Man can do no more than sow a seed in the soil, but to bring out a seedling from the seed and make the seedling grow into a tree is the work of someone other than man. The Holy Qur’ân says:
“Have you considered what you till? Is it you yourselves who make it grow, or is it We who make it grow?”
And in another verse:
“Have they not seen that, among the things made by Our own hands, We have created cattle for them, and thus they acquired the right of property over them?”
All these verses throw ample light on the fundamental point that “wealth”, no matter what its form, is in principle “the property” of Allâh, and it is He who has bestowed upon man the right to exploit it. So, Allâh has the right to demand that man should subordinate his exploitation of this wealth to the commandments of Allâh.
Thus man has the “right of property” over the things he exploits, but this right is not absolute or arbitrary or boundless– it carries along with it certain limitations and restrictions which have been imposed by the real owner of the “wealth”. We must spend it where He has commanded it to be spent, and refrain from spending where He has forbidden. This point has been elucidated more explicitly in the following verse:
“Seek the other world by means of what Allâh has bestowed upon you, and do not be negligent about your share in this world. And do good as Allâh has done good by you, and do not seek to spread disorder on the earth.”
This verse fully explains the Islâmic point of view on the question of property. It places the following guidelines before us:-
(1) Whatever wealth man does possess has been received from Allâh- “Allâh has bestowed upon you” ( ).
(2) Man has to use it in such a way that his ultimate purpose should be the other world- “seek the other world” ( ).
(3) Since wealth has been received from Allâh, its exploitation by man must necessarily be subject to the commandment of Allâh.
(4) Now the Divine Commandment has taken two forms:
a. Allâh may command man to convey a specified portion of “wealth” to another. This Commandment must be obeyed, because Allâh has done good by you, so He may command you to do good by another– “do good as Allâh has done good by you” ( ).
b. He may forbid you to use this “wealth” in a specified way. He has every right to do so, because He cannot allow you to use “wealth” in a way which is likely to produce collective ills or to spread disorder on the earth– “do not seek to spread disorder on the earth” ( ).
This is what distinguishes the Islâmic point of view on the question of property from the Capitalist and Socialist points of view. Since the mental background of Capitalism is, theoretically or practically, materialistic, it gives man the unconditional and absolute right of property over his wealth, and allows him to employ it as he likes. But the Holy Qur’ân has adopted an attitude of disapprobation towards this theory of property, in quoting the words of the nation of Hazrat Shu’aib ( ). They used to say:
“Does your way of prayer command you that we should forsake what our forefathers worshipped, or leave off doing what we like with our own property?”
These people used to consider their property as really theirs (“our property”- ), and hence the claim of “doing what we like” ( ) was the necessary conclusion of their position. But the Holy Qur’ân has, in the chapter “Light” ( ), substituted the term (“the property of Allâh”) for the expression (“our possessions”), and has thus struck a blow at the very root of the Capitalistic way of thinking. But, at the same time, by adding the qualification (“what Allâh has bestowed upon you”), it has cut the roots of Socialism as well, which starts by denying man’s right to private property. Similarly, (“thus they acquired the right of property over them”– a verse in the chapter “Yâ Sîn”, ) explicitly affirms the right to private property as a gift from Allâh.
Now we are in a position to draw clear boundary lines that separate Islâm, Capitalism, and Socialism from one another: –
Capitalism affirms an absolute and unconditional right to private property.
Socialism totally denies the right to private property.
But the truth lies between these two extremes– that is: Islâm admits the right to private property but does not consider it to be an absolute and unconditional right which is bound to cause “disorder on the earth” ( ).
Last modified 08/12/05 09:25 AM - Iqra - ISSN #1062-2756