Social Welfare According to Islam

Delivered by:

Professor Muhammad Haitham AL KHAYAT

Topic:

Social Welfare According to Islam

In accordance with the Prophet’s Saying: ´Whoso has been blessed with peace of mind, soundness of body, and wholesome provisions for his daily sustenance has almost been granted the world.ª

Narrated by Imam At-Tarmiidy (May Allah be pleased with him) on Abdullah bin Mihsane Al-Ansary, who has it from his father. The authority of the reference is deemed to be good.


In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. All greetings of blessing and purity are to Allah. May Allah’s blessings and peace be on you, O Prophet. May Allah’s peace be on all of us as well as on all of the upright servants of Allah. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that He has no associates. I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. May Allah send His blessings on our lord Muhammad, on his Family, and on his Companions the way He had sent them on our lord Abraham, and on his Family. May Allah grant peace to our lord Muhammad, and to his Family, the way He had granted it to our lord Abraham and to his Household. Allah is indeed worthy of all praise and He is full of glory. We praise thee, O Allah, as much as what the Earth, the Heavens, and all that which lies between them hold. We are thy humble servants. From what Thou hast granted us no one can debar us, nor can anyone provide us with what Thou hast denied. Next to Thy Exalted Majesty, no other glory shall be of any avail.

Ameer Al-Mumineen (Commander of the Faithful), I shall invoke Allah in a way similar to the way the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings be upon him) has invoked Him. I beseech Allah, Glory and Majesty be to Him, to mend your faith, for it is the essence of your affairs, to mend your ways in this life, for it is your living abode, and to mend your hereafter, for it is your place of return. I beseech Allah to make you one of those who hold Him in such awe as to avert any disobedience to Him, and to enhance your obedience to Him that you may gain admittance to His Garden. I beseech Allah to make you enjoy your (faculties of) hearing, sight and strength in full and as long as you are alive and to make you benefit from that which He has taught you. May He increase your knowledge and make you a truly inspired guide. I beseech Allah to give you good in this world and good in the Hereafter and save you from the torment of the Fire.

No one will dispute the fact that (good) health is one of the greatest blessings of Allah, Glory and Majesty be to Him. It is indeed the second major blessing after the blessing of faith, for, according to a Hadith-saying reported by Imam Ibn Majja on Aby Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him), the Apostle of Allah (Peace and Blessings be upon him) once said: ´seek thou healthfulness, for, besides the blessing of (unwavering) faith, man has not been granted a better gift.ª As a matter of fact, it was on the basis of such healthfulness that the World Health Organization defined health. In the preamble of its Constitution, thus, health is described as being the state of complete bodily, psychic, physical, and social soundness and well-being. To these, the World Health Organization eventually added the spiritual dimension, completing thereby the definition of ´healthª.

Allah, Most High, who has measured and granted guidance, has shown man how to attain good in this life and in the Hereafter. He has also instructed him in the preservation of the integrity and soundness of his own self, mind, and progeny. There are, indeed, countless Holy Quranic verses and Hadith-sayings which contain advice and principles to be observed in order to upkeep one’s balance, to preserve one’s healthfulness, and to enhance one’s bodily, psychic, social, and spiritual well-being.

Various Ulemas (scholars) have repeatedly pointed to the affinities and overlap between jurisprudence and medicine. A case in point is what jurist, physician, and philosopher Abulwalid Ibn Rochd said in this connection, ´corresponding to the physician’s concern for bodily soundness is the legist’s concern for mental and moral soundness. Where healthfulness is fragile a physician seeks to enhance it, and where it is wanting he endeavors to restore it. In the like-manner, a legist always seeks to promote similar moral healthfulness, known as pietyª. The Holy Quran has, in numerous verses, enjoined man to strive for piety through decent deeds. The Most High says in this respect:

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you As it was prescribed To those before you, That ye may (learn) Self-restraint.

He also states:

It is not their meat Nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety That reaches Him.

Elsewhere, He asserts that:

Ö Prayer restrains from Shameful and evil deeds.

The above verses, along with many others in the Holy Quran, require man to seek piety through the performance of decent deeds and the pursuit of good knowledge. Actually, eternal bliss or everlasting misery depends on whether or not man has been pious in his life.

Along the same lines, another leading scholar, Al-‘Izz bin Abdussalam asserted in his book, Qawa’id Al-Ahkam, (or The Foundations of Legal Judgements) that medicine, like the law, was developed essentially to procure security and healthfulness and to avert injuries and sickness. Hence, he who had devised law and medicine must have been one and the same, for both disciplines aim at procuring benefits and preventing wrongness and corruption.

Ameer Al-Mumineen (Commander of the Faithful):

From this very Chair a year ago I lectured on some aspects of physical health in reference to the Holy Book and to the Noble Sunnah (the Prophet’s Tradition). Today, and in reference to the same authorities, I shall (Allah Willing) consider the social dimensions of health. I shall be pondering the structures of the Islamic society, dwelling on the various safeguards put in place by Islam in order to preserve the values of that society, to promote various networks of societal relations, to set in motion the various components which constitute society in such a way as to bring about, through the application of Islamic principles and teachings, all that which society aspires to in terms of complete and lasting social welfare and well-being.

More specifically, I shall (Allah willing) consider three of the pillars of Islamic society, namely, (social) cohesion, cooperation, and self-sufficiency. In the course of this lecture, I shall be led to consider the various warranties which lend strength to these very foundations. By way of example, reference will be made to a leading experiment in this noble country (of Morocco).

Compared with some societies where interpersonal relationships are prone to break-up and dissollution, or where the individual is condemned to melt down in the crucible of society, Islamic society stands out as a community which enjoys cohesion and harmony. In Islamic society, the individual retains his own personality while, at the same time, contributing to a tighter and more harmonious social weave. Our Islamic community does indeed live up to the ideal community envisioned by the Prophet (Peace and Blessings be upon him) in an agreed-upon Hadith-saying reported on Aby-Musa to the effect that ´a believer is to another believer what the bricks of a solid (cemented) building structure are to each other ñfirmly connected togetherª . In his commentary on the above Hadith-saying, Imaam Al-Qortoby observed that a building structure is useless unless its various components adhere to each other in such a way as to produce the desired firmness and strength. Likewise, in terms of human relationships, cohesion cannot be achieved through mere integration or fusion, but rather by means of greater affection and closer unions of the hearts. It should be pointed out that when Allah, Most High, refers to this kind of , He endows it with a divine dimension, as the following verse indicates:

He hath put Affection between their hearts: Not if thou hadst spent All that is in the earth, Couldst thou have produced That affection, but Allah hath done it.

Along the same lines, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), in his description of the community of believers, draws an apt analogy. The saying, which is reported on An-Nu’mane bin Basheer, reads: ´in their mutual affection, compassion, and sympathy, the believers are like a living organism: no sooner is an organ afflicted by a disease than the rest of the organs are gripped by fever and insomniaª.

The cells of a living organism, needless to say, cannot live in isolation: there are links binding the various cells which make up an organ; cells would simply die if they were not thus bound to each other. The metaphore chosen by the Prophet is apt and witty, for it not only conveys the idea of cohesion, but it also suggests the notion of reciprocity. Feelings of mutual affection, compassion, and sympathy are shared by all of the believers. Another equally elegant and precise concept in Islamic usage which conveys the idea of cohesion is ‘dath al-bayn’ (straight relations). Scholar Al-Qortoby, may Allah have mercy on him, defines the phrase as being the necessary condition for (social) unison. Similarly, scholar Rasheed Reda, may Allah have him in His mercy, observes that ´the Quran and the Sunnah command us to keep our relations straight. To the extent that the very integrity, might, dignity, and continuity of an Ummah depend on cohesion and harmony, it is the duty of all believers to keep their (internal) relations straightª. In Sura Al-Anfal (or the Spoils of War), Allah (Glory and Majesty be to Him) states:

´So fear Allah, and keep straight the relations between yourselvesª.

By the same token, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), in a Hadith-saying narrated by Imam Al-Bukhary in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, is reported to have asked a congregation thus: ´do you want me, O People, to inform you of a deed higher in standing than prayer, fasting, and almsgiving?ª To this the congregation responded by saying: ´by all means, O Prophet, doª ´Keep your relations straight, for any failure to do so is tantamount to death,ª was the Prophet’s reply.

To assure and foster social cohesion, Islam has instituted such warranties as the establishment of prayers in a congregation, the dissemination of Salam (greeting), and the practice of Shura (or mutual consultation). One cannot emphasize much the necessity to perform one’s daily prayers in a congregation and to avoid nonattendance of such prayers. Performing prayers in a congregation is a constant and often-repeated reminder (it being repeated five times daily) that an individual belongs to a community. Likewise, the daily reminders repeated by all Imams, each time a prayer is performed have a social significance and function; in the reminder, there is a command to observe balance, evenness, straightness and rectitude. In an agreed-upon Hadith-saying reported on Anas, the Prophet said: ´straighten your ranks, (O worshippers), for in so doing you make your prayers completeª. To prevent the likelihhod of a change of hearts, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), in a Hadith-saying narrated by Abdullah bin Mas’ud, forbade uneven or disorderly ranks thus: ´align your ranks and avoid any deeds likely to harden your hearts against each otherª. In another hadith-saying reported by An-Nissa’y on Anas, the Apostle of Allah commanded Muslims to ´line up and tighten your ranks.ª In ordering believers to make their ranks compact, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) was seeking to foster the affection binding Muslims, to avert possible estrangement, and to prevent Satan from infiltrating their ranks. The Prophet, in a Hadith-saying narrated by Abu-Dawud on Aby ‘Umar, stated:
´do align your ranks and tighten them until your elbows touch those of your neighbors; treat each other with leniency and kindness, but leave no gap for Satan to infiltrate your ranksª. There are other Hadith-sayings which incite Muslims to join the Islamic rank. Accordingly, in a saying reported by An-Nissa’y on Abdullah bin Umar, the Prophet once declared that ´he who connects to a (rank) shall have his links to Allah strengthenedª. By the same token, the Prophet warned Muslims against withdrawing or departing from Muslim ranks. In a Hadith-saying narrated by Ibn Majja on Ali bin Shaybane, the Prophet once said: ´the prayer of he who fails to join the ranks (of believers) is not validª.

The second guarantee instituted by Islam to assure social cohesion is the dissemination of Salam (greeting). In a Hadith-saying reported by Muslim and others on Aby-Hureyra (May Allah be pleased with him), the Apostle of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: ´by Allah, who has absolute power over my soul, you shall not enter the Garden until you become believers, and you shall not be considered as such until you have (developed) mututal affection for each other. Methinks, the surest way to mutual affection is to disseminate the Salam amongst youª. To my mind, Salam in this Hadith-saying is not restricted to the simple ritual of greeting ñalthough the latter is an important factor of social cohesion, as evidenced by the Prophet’s command to believers to salute acquaintances and strangers, alike. The dissemination of Salam should be taken to mean social peace and accord. More explicitly, it covers that which promotes mutual affection and kindness between the members of a community and also that which averts rancor, estrangement and enmity. In a Hadith-saying authenticated by Abu-Dawud and At-Tirmiidy, on the basis of Miqdam bin Mu’di Karib, the Apostle of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) once said: ´let a Muslim show (and act upon) the affection he has for his brethrenª. In another Hadith-saying reported by Abdullah bin Abbas and authenticated by At-Tirmiidy, the Prophet asserted that ´there is not one amongst us who is not merciful towards the young and respectful of the elderlyª. Along the same lines, in an agreed upon Hadith-saying reported on Aby-Hureyra, the Apostle of Allah once stated: ´a Muslim has to fulfill five obligations towards another Muslim: he must return a Salam, visit a sick person, follow a funeral procession, return an invitation, and send blessing on a sneezerª. In the same vein, and according to an agreed-upon Hadith-saying reported on Aesha, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) also stated: ´Gabriel had commended my neighbour to me with such insistence and frequency that I thought he was going to make of him my heirª. The Prophet also uttered many words of advice to prevent Muslims from stooping down to rancor and hatred. In an agreed-upon and comprehensive Hadith-saying narrated by Aby Hureyra, the Apostle of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) offered the following advice: ´Beware of suspicion, for oftentimes suspicion is groundless lies. Also gossip not, spy not, compete not, envy not and harbor not any hatred for each other. Be the true servants of Allah and be brothers to each other as He hath commanded you. In as much as a Muslim is a brother to another Muslim, he shall never treat him unfairly, betray him, or hold him in contemptª. Then, pointing to his own breast, the Prophet added, ´piety is seated here: evil indeed is the act of holding another Muslim brother in contempt. A Muslim’s blood, honor, and possessions are sacrosanct, and should, on no account, be violated by another Muslim. Allah shall not judge you by your appearances, but solely by your deeds and your heartsª.

The third guarantee of social cohesion is As-shura (or mutual consultation), a principle which Allah, Most High, commanded His Prophet to observe and to act upon. In Sura Al-‘Imran (or the Family of ‘Imran), for instance, Almighty Allah says: ´Ö and consult them in affairs (of moment)ª. In fact, and as evidenced by the following verse in Sura As-Shura (or Consultation), Allah takes the principle of mutual consultation to be a distinctive feature of the Muslicommunity. They ´conduct their affairs by mutual consultationª. Similarly, in Sura At-Talaq (or Divorce) Allah states:

´And take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonableª.

As a principle, As-Shura (consultation) should be adhered to and acted upon by everyone, starting from the most basic social unit (i.e the family). Family members should thus consult each other on all matters, small or great, for Allah has commanded us to do so even in such minor matters as the weaning of infants. The Most High states:

If they both decide On weaning By mutual consent And after due consultation There is no blame on them.

One of the blessings bestowed by Allah on his servants is that He did not limit the meaning or range of application of As-Shura; He has indeed instructed His servants to make use of the principle in the conduct of all their affairs in order for them to fulfill the wise plan of Allah (Glory and Majesty be to Him). Democracy, as it is exercised in modern times, is an acceptable and praiseworthy practice of As-Shura, although democracy still falls short of the lofty aims set by the principle of As-Shura. There is, in fact, a great difference between giving one’s vote to a representative who will thereafter act on behalf of his constituents, and actually enjoying the power to take decisions on all matters pertaining to the self. Strictly speaking, voting means that a citizen grants his representative the power to decide and to plan on his behalf, according to what the representative deems fit and proper. Once elected, however, few representatives keep in touch with their constituents to consult them on certain issues of mutual interest. Most of the time, representatives strive to determine priorities and devise means to address them without going back to their constituents. Matters, however, differ when a citizen retains his vote, in which case his representative will continue to refer to him even on minor matters. This mutual consultation, additionally, occurs not solely to specify priorities, but also to decide on the most effective means to address them. Allow me, Ameer Al-Mumineen, to mention two instances which are illustrative of the implementation of the principle of As-Shura: the referenda which are organized now and then to ask citizens whether or not they agree on certain policies (such as the admission to an international organization), or approve of major projects (such as the construction of a huge bridge).

The second instance of As-Shura in use ña matter to which I am returning shortly, Allah Willingóconcerns the consultation with the members of a community about development priorities and the strategies to be adopted in that connection. But if Ameer Al-Mumineen (May Allah guard him) will allow me, I would like to briefly put the verse quoted from Sura Al-‘Imran in perspective. The verse came down after the honorable Prophet consulted with his Companions about the battle of Uhud. The Prophet, together with the elders of Al-Ansar (The Medinan supporters of the Prophet) and Al-Muhajereen (The Muslims who had migrated with the Prophet from Makkah), was of the opinion that a battle was still an inoppotune adventure. Eventually, the Prophet (reluctantly) acquiesced to the decision of the majority (made up mostly of Muslim youth who showed exceeding enthusiasm for the battle). The error of the youth became evident, later on, during the disaster of Uhud: many Muslims were climbing up the high grounds, without even casting a side glance at any one, and the Messenger in the rear was calling them back. Because of their failure to maintain discipline and to even heed the Prophet’s orders, Allah gave them one disaster after another. The battle over, however, the Lord of Glory (Majesty and Might be to Him) instructed His noble Prophet thus:

It is part of the Mercy Of Allah that thou dost deal Gently with themÖ So pass over (Their faults) and ask For Allah’s forgiveness For them; and consult Them in affairs (of moment)

We might say, to resume our lecture, that the first foundation of social welfare is social cohesion, while the second one is mutual cooperation, as indicated by the Hadith-saying which reads: ´the best of the people is the one who benefits them the mostª. The saying, which is quoted by Addarqothy in his Ad-Diya’ Al-Maqdissy (or Divine Illumination), on the basis of a narration by Jabir expresses the virtuous nature of any deed aiming at procuring benefits. In another Hadith-saying reported by Muslim on Jabir the Prophet also said: ´let anyone of you who possibly can be of some benefit to his brethrenª. A Muslim is, thus, expected to do all he can to be of lasting service and benefit to his community. Failure to do so is tantamount to indifference or negativity ñ two attitudes Islam has no tolerance for. Islam, as a matter of fact, sternly disowns any one who is insensible and/or unresponsive to the welfare of others. In a Hadith-saying, quoted by At-Tabarany in his Al-Mu’jam Al-Awsat (The Middle Reference Book), on the basis of a narration by Hudeyfa bin Al-Yamane, the Prophet stated: ´a Muslim shall not be considered as such unless he cares about the affairs of Muslimsª. This is important to remember because the principle of cooperation is based on the ties of brotherhood binding believers together, in compliance with the Quranic verse which reads:

´the believers are but a single brotherhoodª.

Shedding further light on this , the Prophet says in an agreed-upon saying reported on Anas : ´a Muslim shall not be a genuine believer until he loves his brothers as much as he does his own selfª. In another Hadith-saying narrated by Abu-Dawud and authenticated by Al-Iraqy, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) asserts that ´believers are brothers to each other: each shall provide for the other (should the latter be needy) and assure his safetyª. In a similar saying, the Prophet also states: ´believers are brothers to each other: none shall treat another unfairly or let him down.ª And in another version of the same Hadith-saying, we find the following additional cautionary sentence: ´(also) he shall not betray himª. It follows that a Muslim should never stand idly by when one of his brethren is exposed to some harm or iniquity. To do so would tantamount to letting him down or even betraying him.

To ensure and further enhance the continuity of mutual cooperation, Islam has instituted a wonderful and, indeed, peerless guarantee, namely, ‘Fard Kifayah’ (or collective duty), the like of which practice is found nowhere else in the world. ‘Fard Kifayah’ covers all deeds geared towards promoting common good in the Islamic society. True, individuals can assume their social responsibilities on an individual basis, without relying too much on their community, but the guarantee lies precisely in the fact that the whole community is held responsible for the failure of its individual members to fulfill their social duties adequately. Every Muslim is thus expected to strive for the common good in response to Almighty Allah’s exhortation:

´Then strive together (as in a race) towards all that is goodª.

Likewise, in a Hadith-saying reported by Muslim on Aby Hureyra, the Prophet urges Muslims to ´hasten to perform righteous deedsª.

Scholar Al-‘Izz bin Abdussalam, in his commentary on the rights and obligations of Muslims (especially, those legally capable of observing the precepts of religion), raises the issue of collective duty. He observes that, as a general rule, these obligations entail the performance of deeds aiming at procuring benefits and at avoiding wicked, reprehensible or forbidden deeds. The same scholar distinguishes between four types of duties: ‘Fard ‘Ein’ (individual duty), ‘Fard Kifayah’ (collective duty), ‘Sunnah ‘Ein’ (individual practice) and ‘Sunnah Kifayah’ (collective practice). All of these duties are performed in response to Allah’s command:

Help ye one another In righteousness and piety But help ye not one another In sin and rancor.

This verse clearly forbids Muslims to commit wickedness and iniquity and exhorts them to strive for decent deeds. The same command is reitelsewhere when the Most High states:

Allah commands justice, the doing Of good, and giving to Kith and Kin, and He forbids All indecent deeds, and evil.

Besides cohesion and cooperation, thus, the third founding block of Muslim society is Istikfa’ (or self-sufficiency). Thanks to this principle, Islamic society is assured constructive and continued growth, as evidenced by the following verse:

And their similitude In the Gospel is: Like a seed which sends Forth its blade, then Makes it strong; it then Becomes thick, and it stands On its own stem (filling) The sowers with wonder and delight.

Each and every member of the Muslim community should be like a blade, or rather like the branch of a tree, never weighing on the latter, constantly growing and lending the trunk strength and support. Only when such multi-leveled and multi-faceted cooperation takes place does society grow ‘thick’ as to stand on its own stem, filling all of its members with delight and wonder.

Muslim society makes it the duty of everyone of its members to contribute to that society in such a way as to spare it the necessity to ask for outside assistance. In an agreed-upon Hadith-saying reported on Aby-Musa, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: ´a genuine Muslim is one who works with his own hands to benefit his own self and to be charitable to othersª. In another Hadith-saying reported by Muslim on Jabir, the Prophet said in reference to self-sufficiency: ´that which is allotted to one should suffice two persons; and that which is allotted to two should suffice four, just as that which is allocated to four should satisfy eight personsª. In yet another saying, the Apostle of Allah states: ´let whoever has sufficient means give to the indigent and let him who has ample provisions give to the needyª. To illsutrate the spirit of solidarity, the Prophet, in an agreed-upon Hadith-saying reported on Aby Musa, furnishes the splendid example of a virtuous Muslim community. As he put it,
´when, due to warefare or conquest Al-Asha’iriyun suffer from needfulness or when their dependants are on short commons, they would gather all of the provisions they could eke out and divide them equally amongst themselves. These people are really my own (folk) and I am one of themª. Islam, as a matter of fact, urges Muslims to do their utmost to secure their livelihoods, for as Allah (Glory and Majesty be to Him) says: ´and seek of the bounty of Allahª. In securing sufficient means, Muslims are hereby dispensed with asking others for help or assistance. In a Hadith-saying quoted by An-Nissa’y, on the basis of a narration by Aby Saeed Al-Khudry, the Prophet states: ´verily, he who dispenses with (the help of others) shall be amply provided for by Allah (Glory and Majesty be to Him); he who shows decency shall be granted more decency by Allah. Likewise, he who strives for self-sufficiency shall be fully requited by Allah (Glory and Majesty be to Him)ª. Along the same lines, the Prophet also asserts in a Hadith reported by Al-Bukhary on the basis of Zoubeir bin Al-Awwam that: ´it is far better for one to set out, strap in hands, to chop some wood and sell it in order to secure his daily needs than for one to beg for provisions from folk who may or may not help himª. In yet another Hadith-saying narrated by Miqdam bin Mu’dy Karib and reported by Al-Bukhary, the Prophet said: ´one has not eaten better food than the food earned by the sweat of one’s brows. Let it be known that even the Apostle of Allah, David, May Allah’s peace be with him, used to eat from the fruits of his own laborª. It is indeed through this kind of pride in manual labor that a dignified community may be established. In a similar vein, the Prophet asserted in Hadith-saying reported by Hakeem bin Hizam that ´the upper hand (i.e the hand that gives) is far more dignified than the lower hand (i.e the hand that receives)ª.

Having discussed the major foundations of social welfare, I now turn, with your Majesty’s permission, to a description of the initiative taken by the Regional Office of the World Health Organization to provide the basic development requirements in some countries. It should be pointed out, at the outset, that the provision of such basic needs to a given community is a deeply-rooted tradition in Islamic civilization. Anyone acquainted with the Biography and Tradition of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) will recall that one of the early priorities of the Prophet when he settled in Al-Madinah was to ensure that the basic needs of his nascent Muslim community were adequately catered for. At the top of these requirements comes security, without which none of the other basic needs can be satisfied. In numerous contexts, the Holy Quran demonstrates the importance of security. A case in point is the prayer of our Father, Abraham (Allah’s blessings be on him): ´O my Lord make this city one of peace and security and feed its people with fruitsª. The Quran also mentions Joseph’s kind invitation to his parents and siblings to ´enter ye Egypt (all) in safety if it pleases Allahª. Of his bounties on the people of Qureysh Allah states: ´have We not established for them a secure sanctuary, to which are brought as tribute fruits of all kindsª. The Most High also states:

Let the worship the Lord of the House Who provides them With food against hunger, And with security Against fear (of danger)

Along the same lines, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: ´whoso has been blessed with peace of mind, soundness of body, and wholesome provisions for his daily sustenance has almost been granted the worldª. This Hadith-saying’s ascription and chain of reference is deemed to be good because it was reported, among others, by Ibn Majja, Al-Bukhary, At-Tirmiidy on the strength of a narration by Ubeid Allah bin Mihsane Al-Ansary. It was essentially to enhance peace and security that the Prophet (Peace and Blessing be upon him), after enhancing the relations binding the Muhajereen and Al-Ansar, signed a treaty with the Jews, the terms of which were made public in Al-Madinah. The treaty made it clear that, notwithstanding their different faiths, Bani Aouf Jews, as well as the other Jewish tribes, were one Ummah living (peacefully) with the believers. The treaty also stressed the fact that the denizens of Al-Madinah should enjoy full security whether they are in Al-Madinah or outside it.

Among the other basic (living) requirements which the Prophet endeavored to secure for his people is water. According to a narration reported and authenticated by At-Tarmiidy, when the Prophet arrived in Al-Madinah and realized that the city had very little drinking water, besides the water of Bi’r Ruma (Ruma well), he declared: ´he who purchases Bi’r Ruma and shares the water drawn therefrom with his brethren shall be rewarded with a better well in the Garden (of Eden)ª. Upon hearing this, Dhu-Nureyn (Aby-Bakr, May Allah be pleased with him) bought the well and put it at the disposal of Muslims. In another Hadith-saying reported by At-Tirmiidy and Al-Bukhary on Aby-Darr, the Prophet (Peace and blessings upon him) said: ´Giving water to a thirsty soul is a charitable deedª.

Among the other basic necessities mention could be made of food which the Most High associates with security in the above verse. Similarly, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) exhorts Muslims to employ themselves in the cultivation of the land to assure sufficiency and plenitude. In a Hadith-saying narrated by Jabir and reported by Muslim, he states: ´he who plants a seedling or scatters seeds to grow food on which man, animal, and bird may feed has indeed been charitable and his good deed shall be added to his recordª. In another Hadith-saying, the Prophet said: ´if one of you should be caught unawares, palm-seedling in hand, by the Hour of Resurrection, let him plant it, if he possibly can!ª This saying, which is narrated by Ahmad on Anas bin Malik is surprising indeed: one would have expected the Prophet, given the urgency of the situation, to have urged one to plead for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. The Prophet’s exortatio, however, was completely otherwise in that it recommended the planting of the seedling at that Fateful moment!

Besides security, water, and food there is another basic necessity, the mosque. It is worth pointing that in Islam a mosque is not merely a place of worship; it is also an institution of learning and knowledge, a seat of education, a forum of letters, and a meeting-place for Muslims. In the Two Sahihs (Al-Bukhary’s and Muslim’s authentic versions of the Hadith), there is a narration ascribed to Anas which recounts how, during the construction of a mosque, the Apostle of Allah (Peace and blessing be upon him) would carry foundation stones on his own shoulders and help in the construction work to the point of exhaustion. He insisted on laboring like his honorable Companions and adamantly refused to be treated differently.

Other basic necessities include education, for the Prophet (Peace and blessing be upon him) urged Muslims to seek and pursue knowledge. He actually made the pursuit of knowledge a duty on a par with the other prescribed duties in terms of necessity, cleanness and faithfulness. In a Hadith-saying quoted by Ibn Majja on Anas, the Prophet asserted that: ´it is the duty of Muslims to seek knowledgeª. Muslim scholars are agreed that the term ‘Muslim’ in this Hadith is all-inclusive and applies to males as well as females. In fact, another version of the same Hadith-saying reads: ´it is the duty of every Muslim, man and woman, to seek knowledgeª. It is incumbent upon Islamic states, in light of the above, to see to it that Muslim men and women fulfill the duty of pursuing knowledge. In this respect, Allah has commanded those in charge to observe their duties and to enjoin all that which is good:

(They are) those who, If We establish them In the land, establish Regular prayers and give Zakat, enjoin The right and forbid wrong.

In the same vein, the Prophet, in a Hadith-saying narrated by Addarimy, on the basis of Aby Adarda, states: ´people consist of masters and apprentices (or learners); little good is there in the restª. Significantly, and following the Battle of Badr, the Prophet ordered the literate captives to instruct illiterate Muslims in the basic skills of reading and writing in exchange for their freedom. The Prophet, however, insisted that Muslims should strive for useful knowledge. In a Hadith-saying reported by Imam Ahmad on Umm Salama, the Prophet is said to have invoked Allah thus: ´I beseech you, O Lord, to grant me useful knowledgeª. In another saying narrated by Muslim on Zeid bin ‘Arqam, the Prophet invoked the Most High as follows: ´your protection, O Allah, I seek against useless knowledgeª. The Prophet also clearly defined the most appropriate learning method when he observed, in a Hadith-saying authenticated by Al-Khateeb, on the basis of a narration by Aby Hureyra that ´(patient) learning is the pathway to knowledgeª. Further instructing his Companions in educational matters, the Apostle of Allah also stated in a Hadith-saying reported by Al-Bukhary and Ahmad on Ibn ‘Abbas: ´be easy and cheerful while tutoring and never alienate (your pupils)ª.

In addition to education, the other basic necessities include the ability to earn one’s livelihood through work. In a Hadith-saying ascribed to Aby-Hureyra and reported by Ahmad, the Prophet once observed: ´the best earnings are acquired by an honest worker through useful workª. Along the same lines, the Prophet, in a Hadith-saying narrated by Ahmad, At-Tabarany, and Al-Hakeem on the strength of Rafi’ bin Khudeij, stated: ´noble indeed are the earnings acquired through the manual labor of a workerª. Also, in an agreed-upon Hadith-saying reported on Aby-Musa Al-Ash’ary, the Prophet, addressing a congregation, said: ´every Muslim owes it to himself to perform a charitable deed,ª whereupon the congregation inquired, ´and if this should prove impossible,ª ´then let everyone work with his own hands that he may benefit his own self and be charitable to othersª. There is a pressing need for us to act upon what the Prophet (Peace and blessing be upon him) has prescribed for us. To adhere to his precepts would certainly help us reform the affairs of this Ummah, just as our predecessors have reformed theirs through strict compliance with his guidance.

By virtue of the aims they have set for themselves, the principles outlined above could be succinctly called the provision of the basic requirements for development. Let us not forget that one of the principal aims of our existence on earth is to settle the land and to make it serviceable to us. Allah, Most High, shows this clearly when He states: ´it is He who Hath produced you from the earth and settled you thereinª. Muslim scholar, Ibn Khaldun, thanks to his perceptive mind and deep thinking understood the facts of our existence well and expressed them aptly thus: ´association is essential to humanity; without it its existence would be incomplete. If this were not so Allah would not have settled men on earth and appointed them as his vicegerants. This, in essence, is the meaning of civilization which is the subject-matter of this discipline (i.e., sociology)ª. Allah (Glory and Majesty be to Him) has made it easy for man to settle the earth and to thrive on it, as evidenced by this verse:

It is We who have Placed you with authority On earth, and provided You therein with meansFor the fulfilment of your life.

Elsewhere the Almighty states:

It is He who has Made the earth manageable For you, so traverse Ye through its tracts And enjoy of the sustenance Which He furnishes

For this reason, it is essential for a Muslim to obey his Lord and to fulfil the true aims of civilization, that is, (genuine) development, in today’s usage. Man should do his uttermost in well-doing and developmental work, in compliance with Allah’s command: ´therefore, when thou art free (from thine immediate task) still labor hard,ª and his Prophet’s exhortation that ´the upper hand (i.e. the hand that gives) is far more dignified than the lower hand (i.e. the hand that receives)ª.

What made us further adhere to the principles prescribed by Islam, O Ameer Al-Mumineen (Commander of the Faithful) is a growing awareness amongst us, officials in the World Health Organization, that unless we mended our policies, our aim ñor, indeed, that of many countries of the worldóto ensure health for all by the year 2000 would fail through and through. Our policies and practices were constantly stumbling against formidable obstacles. We, consequently, resolved to adopt a new strategy, one that is truly inspired by Islamic principles. We decided to put it to the test in one of the least developed countries, Somalia, roughly a year or so prior to the outbreak of the civil war in that country. Before initiating any plan of action, and in order to ensure success for our endeavors, we decided to determine the basic requirements for development as exactly as possible.

We discussed the issue with the Somali authorities which arranged for us to talk to the people concerned directly. In consultation with the same authorities, our choice fell on one of the least developed regions of Somalia. We then set out for the region, accompanied by government representatives. Upon arrival, we spoke to some community members: we requested them, on the basis of As-Shura principle, to determine their priorities as accurately as they could. They agreed that their priorities came in the following order: (1) water; (2) food; (3) housing; (4) healthy (domestic) animals; (5) good health. We agreed forthwith: these people, we decided, were in a better position to know their exact needs. One recalls, in this connection, that the Prophet, in a narration ascribed to ‘Aesha and reported by Muslim, once stated: ´about your worldly affairs you are more knowled-geableª.

The traditional practice of relying on experts to determine (development) priorities on behalf of certain communities, on the grounds that the latter are unable to do so on their own has thus proved to be totally inadequate and out of place. Moreover, the priorities set by the Somali community seem reasonable: wate, food, housing, and healthy (domestic) animals all contribute, in their different ways, to the general health and well-being of the entire community. Once the needs had been clearly defined, we asked the members of that community about the best means to respond to the expressed needs. Following some consultations, the community members divided among themselves the various tasks related to the digging of wells. To carry out the project, the Somalis requested some financial assistance to secure drilling machines, water-pumps, and similar equipment. We assured them that we would provide the necessary funds. To instill in the members of the community a spirit of self-reliance and self-sufficiency, we agreed with them that reinbursement of the loan will be made after two or three years so that other communities may benefit from similar development programs. Together with the community-members, we devised ways of augmenting their earnings and fructifying them in such a way as to enable them to live on a portion of the income and to repay their debts with the rest.

The results of the undertaking were just superb, O Ameer Al-Mumineen (Commander of the Faithful). The simple and friendly folk not only managed to secure their basic necessities (according to a plan of their own making) but also repaid the loan after only six months (instead of two years). Thereafter, a civil war broke out in Somalia, affecting the very region where our projects were carried out. Nevertheless, the local people preserved the wells they had dug intact and maintained the means of livelihood they had developed. Encouraged by the success of our experience in Somalia, we set out to export the experiment to other countries, notably to Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, and this noble country of Morocco. Although the experiences differed from one country to another, they all achieved the same goal, that of transforming idle individuals into productive, self-reliant, and self-sufficient citizens.

It has been one of the blessings of Allah that we proposed our program at a time when Moroccans, in compliance with the instructions of Ameer Al-Mumineen, were paving the way for the 21st century by implementing a policy based on regionalism ña policy which means more decentralization and more genuine Shura at the level of local communities. The concept of securing the basic requirements of development (as I have been explaining it) responds, Allah Willing, to Ameer Al-Mumineen’s deep interest in a thorough and lasting development of rural areas in Morocco. The cooperative spirit exhibited by the colleagues serving within the Ministry of Public Health was praiseworthy: the Sheikhdom selected, a community in Al-Jadida Province, was indeed a good choice for our program. Before launching our project, and in order to give our undertaking the best chances of success, we managed, thanks to the kind cooperation of the Health Authorities and the Governor of the province and his collaborators, to come up with a detailed and exhaustive report about the present situation of the community.

The meetings between officials in charge of the different sectors in the selected province, and the representatives of the Sheikhdom were marked by openness and pragmatism. The two sides became thus better acquainted with the work done at the level of the province, in general, and at the level of the Sheikhdom, in particular. The representatives of the local community were informed about what was allocated to their community in that fiscal year, and what was proposed for the next budget. One of the positive features of the on-going dialogue between the two sides was the emergence of a more realistic attitude about what could be achieved in the short term, and what could be postponed to subsequent years. The various sectors involved in the project benefitted greatly from the discussions: programs underwent amendments in order to meet the priorities of the Sheikhdom. Over time, strong ties based on mutual respect and trust developed between the members who grew confident that what had hitherto seemed somewhat impossible to achieve became, by the Grace of Allah, within reach; the local community has truly become an effective partner in its own development: the various officials now coordinate on a regular basis and operate like one team (or rather like one living organism).

Similarly, it became apparent to everyone how the various sectors which, on first inspection, seemed unrelated were in fact intimately bound: there was, for instance, a close link between road-improvement and increased school enrollment. There were similar links between the provision of water and maintenance of water-pumps and rock-removal to make the land arable. In short, people realized that any program in the economic sphere impacts positively on the social sphere and vice-versa. A case in point, the success of cooperatives and other micro-projects depended on the success of adult literacy programs. Drinking-water projects, similarly, required the provision of training (in hygiene) for the village midwives. In the like manner, the success of economic programs necessitated a greater rate of schooling amongst children, in particular, and increased immunization schemes.

All of this has been crowned with a plan of action for the year 1997. To better assure the development requirements, the plan clearly defines the role to be played by the members of the community, the various governmental authorities, and voluntary organizations. Among the priorities of the plan, particular attention was given to improving health services, increasing the areas of arable land and ameliorating its productivity, the provision of the Sheikhdom with drinking water, and the creation of more job opprtunities for the young, notably in the spheres of fisheries, carpet-making, and poultry-farming. The community also highlighted the importance of improving school-enrollment among children.

Ameer Al-Mumineen, this promising program finds its inspiration in the principles of our true religion. It genuinely acts upon the precepts ordained by our religion, without running the risk of being led astray by empty slogans or the din and noise of politics. The program seeks to be of constant service and benefit to the community, to foster cooperation, well-doing, and piety, and to promote straight social relations. In this it endeavors to realize, by Allah’s leave and with His help, the aspiration of Ameer Al-Mumineen to see the Moroccan society uplifted. By virtue of its lofty aims, the program is indeed worthy of all encouragements and of the kind disposition of Ameer Al-Mumineen so that it may be more widely implemented. The program shall, Allah Willing, be a model to emulate, a further proof that our true Sharia (Islamic Law) is valid for all times and all places, and yet another piece of evidence of the goodness of the Ummah to the whole world. We shall have lived up then to the words of the Most High: ´ye are the best of people, evolved for mankind,ª and to the words of His noble Prophet: ´you are the best of people, (being an example to others to do right)ª.

O Allah, make the members of the Ummah of Muhammad more beneficent and more repentent for their misdeeds. Out of Your abounding Mercy, O Allah, ease their burdens

Let Ameer Al-Mumineen lead us in our final prayers.

O Allah send thy best blessings on the noblest of your creation, our lord Muhammad, on his Family and on his Companions as much as the ink (wherewith the words of the Lord are written out) and as unlimited as Your Knowledge.

O Allah send thine blessings on him as often as the mindful invoke You and him and as often as the heedless omit to invoke You and him.

´Glory to thy Lord, the Lord of Honor and Power! (He is free) from what they ascribe (to Him)! And peace on the Apostles! And Praise to Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds.ª

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One comment on “Social Welfare According to Islam

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