Summary of 8.17 “Distributive Justice & Inheritance”
The law of inheritance was dealt with in the last program as the fourth mean for achieving social justice in an ideal Islamic society.’ We discussed the basic characteristics of the Law of Inheritance in Islam which is mainly something that is consistent with human nature and recognizes the basic desire to leave something for one’s heirs.’ Inheritance is mandatory and some shares are specified in the Quran so one doesn’t need a court ruling and nobody can deprive one except in very rare and specified cases.’ Thirdly, it is broader in scope and includes the strong, the week, male and female.’ It involves a wider scheme so that the wealth could reach more people in society.’ Fourth, it achieves equity which takes into account the reciprocity of financial obligations and responsibilities between parents and children as well as the differentiation of financial responsibility of males and females.’ We looked further into the differences between males and females and why the variations existed within a totally fair and equitable scheme.’ We also briefly discussed the priority for the distribution of the estate: payment of funeral expenses, debts, execution of the will and testament for up to 1/3 of the estate and the primary heirs who are entitled to specified chairs as provided in the Quran.’ Following this there are the agnate heirs like the son, father, brother and uncle in that order who take whatever remains.’ The third category would include non agnate relatives.

In the case that the estate is not divisible, it could be valued and whoever wants to keep it may buy off the rest in proportion of their shares.’ Finally, we also addressed the question of deprivation from inheritance.’ A person can not be deprived of inheritance except in the rare cases like the person killing the person from whom he wishes to inherit and the punishment is that he doesn’t inherit anything.’ We talked about the difference in religion and how that effects the succession.’ Even if there is difference in religion as we said before the non-Muslim can not inherit from a Muslim.’ If someone marries a Christian or Jewish woman does she not get any inheritance at all?’ She can get inheritance but not through the scheme of distribution that is laid out but rather as part of the will and testament.’ As we indicated earlier the deceased is entitled to bequeath up to 1/3 of their property to people who would not otherwise inherit.’ In general similarity in religion would be required.’ We also mentioned that there are some categories can be superseded depending on the priority.

8.18 Economic Policy

Host: In principle what is Islam’s view of the government’s role in economy?

Jamal Badawi:

The first thing to emphasis is that in Islam whether we are dealing with the economic, social or political system the dependents is not on the force of law or government or a heavy hand of some kind of authority.’ In all aspects of life the appeal is to the conscious of the individual.’ A second basic principle which applies to economic, social and political systems is that freedom is the foundation and it can not be restricted unless there is necessity to achieve social justice.’ In other words there would be no interference in economic activities in an ideal Islamic system except where there is a social necessity for justice.’ This has was explained by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a Hadith narrated in Bukhari in which he says people stand to make sure fairness is upheld and the limits of God are not trespassed are like people sailing in a ship and there are some people in the lower deck and others in the upper deck.’ He continues that the people in the lower deck start asking why every time they want water they have to pass through the whole ship and bother everybody, why not just make a whole right here.’ He concludes that unless they are stopped from making that whole that everybody would drown.’ This is a very nice analogy because if everybody is apathetic and there is no government to try and assertion justice the whole society will drown.’ So there must be limits, but again freedom is the basis and only necessity requires government intervention.’ A third fundamental principle is that the basic role and the essence of the government is to ascertain justice and to prevent injustice in economic life.

Host:’ What should an ideal Islamic government do to achieve this justice?

Jamal Badawi:

There are measures that relate to production and distribution.’ In the area of production Islam encourages a government or people in power to assertion the maximum and efficient use of resources.’ In some previous programs under productivity we gave evidence from the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet which show how in Islamic understanding all of the resources created are for the benefit of humankind and it is our duty to benefit from them.’ So the maximum and efficient use of resources is a principle which is enshrined in the Quran.’ Second, there are restrictions on labor and that there are certain types of work which are contrary to the ethical teachings of Islam such as prostitution, gambling, sorcery and magic.’ If things are morally wrong then it is incumbent on a Muslim government to make sure that these kinds of professions are not practiced.’ Third is that the basic philosophy in Islam is that there should be equal opportunity for all to learn and develop their capability and skill to the maximum that they can.’ There is no barrier aristocratic or institutional that should stand in the way of anyone developing their abilities.’ This is unlike some cultures where jobs seem to be an exclusive domain of one group or the other.’ It is the duty of the state to make education available to all.’ A fourth aspect is to control permissible work so that it is done without cheating and in a proper way that doesn’t constitute danger for the population.’ This includes control on production standards, product safety, consumer protection, professional standards or trade standards are all things which Muslim jurists have addressed long ago.’ In terms of labor we find that Muslim jurists have also spoken of the possibility that a truly Islamic government may intervene to specify minimum wages.’ But also it is not one sided where the bias is always for the working class or for the management or owners.’ Muslim jurists also say that if labor exceeds its limits and becomes oppressive to management or to owners it is the government’s duty to stop them.’ So this is a kind of balance in justice rather bias for one or the other.

Another aspect of specific measures is to prevent actions which may hurt the population.’ They had zoning regulations.’ They prohibited someone from having a blacksmith shop in the midst of a residential area because people could hurt from the smoke.’ They made sure that people would not have a noisy plant where people would not be able to sleep peacefully.’ Even within specific laws under an ideal Islamic system they spoke of prevention of cruelty to animals.’ Having a government representatives make sure that horses or camels were not overloaded or beaten is also part of the law.’ Ship safety was also addressed ( we think that ship safety regulation is a modern practice where inspectors make sure the ships are safe) as we find in a very early reference, hundreds of years ago, called Al Ahkam Al Sultania by a judge known as Abu Ya’la who spoke of the possibility of prohibiting the owner of a ship from letting it sail if there is to much load on it or danger to the people working on it.

We have spoken about the unethical monopoly of the basic needs of people like food and withholding it while people are in need.’ Again this is a matter that could be informed.’ In terms of general services offered by the government such as infrastructure, again, jurists have addressed this and the fourth Caliph Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) wrote to the local ruler in Egypt and told him ‘Don’t make your major concern simply the collection of the taxes on land but rather the development and prosperity of that land.’ This really contrasts with the attitude of colonial powers and how they try to suck the wealth of a poorer country.’ In this case developing the country first so that people can prosper and collections of taxes can be legitimately collected without squeezing those who are in need.’ These are specific measures which sometimes go back to the days of the Prophet (PBUH).

Host:’ What is the government role in the area of distribution?

Jamal Badawi:

In a couple of programs in this series we spoke about the collection of Zakah, Institutionalized Charity, which can be paid by the individual or collected by the state and enforced.’ This position of collecting Zakah could be a duty of the State which would distributed it according to the categories found in the Quran.’ We mentioned also that he government may be entitled to collect additional taxes if the charity is not enough or in cases of an emergency.’ There is also tax collection from non-Muslim citizens who enjoy the same social security as Muslims but we can not expect them to pay Zakah which has religious connotations.’ They pay an equivalent tax which is called Jiziah which includes the role of the government in collecting and spending on the welfare of the people.’ In general the government should take measures which narrows the gap between rich and poor.’ Islam doesn’t call for complete financial equality because people vary in their ability and aptitude but it calls for the reduction of this big gap so that we don’t have people getting richer and others getting poorer.’ There should be some sort of justice, affection, love and cooperation within society to avoid hard feelings and turmoil.’ In Islamic Law the minimum responsibility of the State is to make sure that everybody has enough food, clothing, shelter, means of transportation and if he is a professional to provide him with tools for his trade.’ This is the minimum under a proper Islamic system which should be guarantied to every citizen, Mulsim or non-Muslim.

Host:’ What specific tools can be used by the government to preform these roles?

Jamal Badawi:

This can be addressed from an economic sense and an institutional sense.’ Many economists speak of monitory policies and fiscal policies.’ Monitory policies administer the collection of Zakah, Institutionalized Charity, which constitutes a large amount of money.’ We talked about certain portions of Institutionalized Charity which may be used for interest free loans, to make sure that the funds are allocated efficiently.’ All of these can be regarded as monetary needs for society at large.’ As far as the fiscal policies such as taxation, income and expenditure the door opens up because the government has access to Zakah, taxation and other sources.’ Through a system of expenditures, subsidy and public works the government could stimulate the economy and provide employment.’ All of these are within the Islamic framework and its economy.’ As far as specific institutions that take care of implementing these measures we find that they include the court, started during the days of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the 7th century, which was used to resolve disputes that may arise between people and to achieve justice in society.’ The second institution, which seems to be the product of the 19th or 20th century but actually existed during the days of the Prophet when Muslims tried to implement the full teachings of their faith, is called Hisbah.’ Ibn Taimia, one of the great Muslim jurists, defined it as control on social behavior in order to make sure good ordained and evil is forbidden.’ Good and evil in an Islamic context is not necessarily moral things but also things that pertain to economic life, social life and political life.’ Life is an integrated whole and there is good and evil in every aspect.’ The idea of Hisbah started during the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).’ When the muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina they returned victoriously to Mecca after some years; when Mecca was reopened and before the Prophet returned to Medina he appointed a companion by the name of Said Ibn Al Ass whose duty was to control the market place (makes sure there was no cheating etc).’ We find in Islamic jurisprudence many books that had been written about this institution which include authors such as Al Mawardi, Abu Yalad, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Khaldun and Al-Ghazali.’ This institution included many things which we consider to be quite recent such as accreditation of people in certain professions or trades.’ They had inspection, in what falls today under the department of health, of meat and bakeries.’ They gave examples of inspectors who found that the baker’ did not use proper head cover or is not observing cleanliness.’ The Muhtasib who works for the institution of Hisbah may inspect the meat and if he finds that it is tainted he has the right to shut down its production.’ We have the same practices today which were practiced hundreds of years ago.’ There were controls on weights and measures which is based on the Quranic injunction that one should weigh or measure in an honest way.’ There were controls on the actions and behavior of professionals, doctors, pharmacists, teachers and others.’ There are certain rules in Islamic rule to make sure they are doing their job honestly and without causing others any harm.’ A Muhtasib tries to resolve difficulties that may arise from contractual agreements and contracts before they go to court.’ Prevention of cheating in the market place is part of the duty of the Muhtasib.’ In addition to these two basic institutions there are a recent authors, Dr. Muhammad al Mubarak, who suggested that a third system can be added which is the police force.’ He said that in many cases the police force may be needed in order to enforce the rules.’ I think this makes allot of sense.’ For example suppose we have a union on strike and they go to far in their picketing by preventing anyone from entering the premises.’ In modern times people could go to court but still a police force is needed to keep the order and to make sure there is no sabotage or destruction of property until the dispute is resolved.

Host:’ Can you compare Islam’s system with the capitalistic and communistic systems?

Jamal Badawi:

In essence if we accept the premise throughout this whole series, that when we address the social system of Islam we first base it on divine guidance, on the Quran and the revelation given to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).’ It follows that there is no other system that can match it, because any other system which is divorced from divine guidance which is exclusively dependent on human wisdom falls into access or problem in one way or the other.’ From a Muslim standpoint only a system which provides for interplay between the divine and human is more practical.’ This type of system is based on divine guidance but allows for flexibility for implementation depending on time and place.’ With this perspective in mind we find that the ideal solution in the mind of the Muslim is the Islamic system, because it is the only system that provides for this balance between individual motivation and social welfare, between the rights of owners and the rights of laborers with no bias towards one group of society or another.’ As we said before God has no reason to be bias, but we as law makers can fall into this bias.’ If we follow the restrictions that God provided there will be better justice, welfare and prosperity.’ If we put it on a continuum or line we find that on one end we have the purely individualistic or capitalistic system.’ From historical experience we will find that many of those have been compromised and that there has been gradual movement away from the extreme form of individualism toward the introduction of some measures to achieving social justice so it is no longer a capitalistic system.’ We find that they have found that this way doesn’t work because it dehumanizes the individual with everything in the hands of a few of the elite.’ Even in the communist world we find the introduction of some measures which provide inducement.’ The vision of the proponents of the Islamic system is that ultimately, the way things are going, both major systems collective communist or capitalist seem to be moving away from the extreme to the middle.’ The middle would have to be Islam.’ After the long and bitter experience of humans they discovered that the only system that would give balance and moderation would be a system based on divine guidance.

Host:’ What are some of the applied problems for Muslims living in a non-Muslim environment?

Jamal Badawi:

There are things that Muslims have to watch for even though they may have to deal with minor inconvenience.’ First, if a person has a store he is not supposed to sell stuff that is forbidden.’ As the Prophet indicated anything that is forbidden to eat is forbidden to sell which was narrated in Ahmad or Dawood.’ A person should not sell pork or wine or any other forbidden item.’ A person should depend on God and not feel that he will go bankrupt if he does that.’ Second, many Muslims here are faced with the issue of insurance.’ Many jurists conclude that life insurance is not permissible the way it is done but if the State is doing that as Islam allows there is nothing wrong with it.’ The way it is done now is not really Islamic.’ Property insurance is not exactly in line with the Islamic system but some jurists like Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi make it close to a system in Islam which provides for donations provided one gets some kind of compensation.’ Health insurance is permissible in the absence of a proper Islamic system.’ Some people ask about interest from a bank, some people think that even though it is forbidden it can be taken not to use for one’s self, not to pay it as part of one’s Zakah but it could be used for the benefit of starving Muslim, just under these circumstances.’ Nonetheless Muslims should put their heads together and figure out solutions to their problems including alternatives to mortgage.