English - Ma'ariful Qur'an - Mufti Shafi Usmani RA - Vol - 1
Surah Al-Baqarah - 2 : Verse 188
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The virtues of the Islamic economic system
The Law of the permissible and the forbidden enforced by the
Shari'ah of Islam comes clearly through divine revelation, or is derived from it. That law - reasonable, natural and comprehensive - is the only law that can work for every nation, country and community and could be the much wanted guarantee of peace. The reason is that everything of common utility has been left as such under this divine law, specially things to which all human beings claim equal rights, such as, the air, water, vegetation, heat, unowned forests and the produce of uninhabited mountain growth. These are the commonly shared property of all human beings; it is not permissible for anyone to take these over as an owner.
Then there are things which, if shared, would disturb human society, or generate conflict and violence. For these the law of private ownership is promulgated. The law that governs the initial ownership of a land or its produce is different from the law of the transfer of ownership. The law has been so formulated that no human being shall be left deprived of the necessities of life, of course, on condition that he puts in his effort to acquire these. Special attention has been given to the consideration that no man usurps the rights of others, or brings loss to them, and thereby, concentrates capital in the hands of a few individuals. Under the law of the transfer of ownership - whether it is in accordance with the divine injunctions relating to post-death inheritance or takes effect through buying and selling as agreed upon by parties concerned - it was made binding that there should be absolutely no fraud or deception in the transaction and also, there should remain no such ambiguity or insufficiency which might lead to mutual bickering and dispute in the future.
Also taken into consideration is the factor of consent in transactions. It has to be made sure that the consent given by parties concerned is genuine and that such consent has not been extracted under pressure. In Islamic law, all transactions known as void, invalid or sinful have some defect inherent in the deal. At places, it could be plain fraud, at others, a return for some unknown thing or act. On occasions, someone's rights are usurped or self-interest is promoted by bringing loss upon others, or the rights of the general public are illegally disposed off. A very important reason why interest, gambling and their likes have been prohibited is that they are harmful to public
interest. As a result of their evil presence in a society, some individuals get to grow as parasites while the whole community is thrown into poverty. Even if such transactions were to be carried out by a mutual consent of the parties involved, such transactions shall not be permissible because they are nothing but a formalized crime against the whole community. The present verse covers all such impermissible situations and aspects. It is interesting to note that the Holy Qur'an uses the word : (amwalakum) in translated as 'and do not eat up each other's property by false means' which basically means 'your property'. This expression has a subtle indication to the fact that those who encroach upon the property of others must think that the other person would also have the same sort of love and concern for his property as the encroacher has for his own. If the defendant was to encroach upon the offender's property unlawfully, he would certainly be hurt.
In addition to this, the verse may be releasing yet another suggestion. When someone encroaches upon the property of someone else, and if everybody else started doing this as common practice, the natural consequence would be that others would encroach upon his property, giving him what he gave to others. Looked at from this angle, encroaching upon someone's property unlawfully is really an invitation to others to come and encroach upon the encroacher's property, equally unlawfully. For a moment, imagine what would happen to a society where the cult of adulteration in articles of daily use becomes a common practice. There will be a dealer, who earns a little more by adulterating butter with cheaper oil or fat, who will then go to a milk shop and the milkman will give him milk adulterated with water. If he needs spices, these will be adulterated. The same experience will be repeated when he goes to buy medicines. So, one person earns more by adulteration while the other person takes that extra earning out of his pocket and the third person does the same to the second and the vicious circle goes on and on ad nauseum. The adulterer feels good about what extra he puts in his coffers but he never looks at the hole under it for he keeps nothing of that extra in reality. Therefore, anyone who snatches the other person's money or property by false means, in fact, opens the door to the unlawful plundering of his money and property.
In relation to this verse, there is yet another point one should bear in mind. The words of this divine injunction are general: 'And do not eat up each other's property by false means'. This includes the usurping of someone's property, and theft, and robbery, through which money or property belonging to someone is taken away by force. Then, there is interest, gambling, bribery and all defective sales and transactions which are also impermissible under the dictates of the Islamic law, even though, there be the certitude of consent given by concerned parties. Again, any money or property acquired through lying or a false oath, or earnings which have been prohibited by Islamic law, even though one has personally sweated out to earn it, are all haram, unlawful and false. Though the words of the Qur'an forbid 'eating' quite clearly, but the drive of the meaning here is not restricted to 'eating' as such, instead, it means 'using' in the absolute sense; it could be by eating, drinking, wearing or by any other mode of use. Metaphorically, all such uses are covered under the expression 'to eat,' for instance, A ate up the property of B, which is only a manner of saying, even though all that may not be what can be 'eaten'.
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