Pakistan: Islamic Social State

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi (Abdul.Kundi@GMail.Com)

In the West and most of the Muslim world there is a wrong perception that the struggle to establish Caliphate is mandated by the Quran. The reality is far from that. There are many verses in Quran which points to formation of local governments while there are none that mandate a Caliphate. Ummah itself is not a political concept but rather a social one where people from diverse cultures share a set of common spiritual and social values. That is the reason we find common cultural traits in food, clothing, family rituals and celebrations of Muslim countries around the world. Many of Pakistan’s political party’s manifesto include establishment of an Islamic social state. If this is the objective then it is very important to understand what it entails and what the society will look like if we achieved it. We have already covered the Islamic economic model in last article (published on November 2, 2011), this article will focus more on the social aspect of it.

The first order of business to establish an Islamic Social state will be to change the current Westminster form of parliamentary system to an American style Presidential system which is quite close to an Islamic concept. Islam emphasizes election of individuals who then have executive authority to run the state in consultation with a shura comprising of professionals with knowledge of government, administration and law. In Pakistan, we don’t have to write a new constitution rather amendments to existing one will achieve the objective. In Turkey the ruling AKP party in the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it part of their election manifesto that a presidential form of government will be introduced through constitutional amendment. In Pakistan many leading politicians have already expressed their preference for a Presidential system.

Majority of Muslims go to great lengths to tell the world that Islam is the religion of peace. But in reality the essence of Islam is justice. Peace and harmony are the outcome of a just society. Promotion of justice is an active persuasion while peace is more passive approach to society. In an Islamic state introduction of an affordable and efficient system of justice is one of the top priorities of the state. The procedures for the discharge of cases should be such that decisions does not cost so much that people can’t afford it or take so long that it is a hindrance for people to seek justice. Independence of the judiciary is important. State has to ensure that life and property of judges are protected as well as their verdicts are executed without delay.

In an Islamic state the security policy will be oriented towards defensive rather than aggressive posture. This should become corner stone of Pakistan’s foreign policy position to initiate negotiation to sign non-aggression and non-interference bilateral agreements with its neighbors and focus more inward than outward.

Prophet Muhammad (s) in his last hajj sermon to Ummah clearly stated that in an Islamic state there will be no preference given to anyone based on their ethnic identity. Quran makes it clear that God, the ultimate sovereign, does not differentiate based on ethnicity among its creation to bestow its blessings on them. Quran does not mention that punishment of Shirk or Kufar is awarded in this world rather that it is a sin judged on the Day of Judgment which in a way is an opportunity for an individual to find the truth. Quran mentions that people were divided in tribes and nations to be identified rather than discriminated or preferred. In an Islamic social state everyone will be allowed to practice their cultural heritage without any discrimination or hindrance from the state. At the federal level decisions will be taken only considering the well being of the people. In this scenario provinces will be created not on ethnic lines but administrative basis as Islam gives preference to the well being of individual citizens. In the same vane the quota system has to be abolished and only merit should be the basis of all appointments in state and private enterprises. Similarly, Islam recognizes that non-Muslims are full citizens of the state and have the right to practice their faith without recrimination from the State which has to ensure safety of their prayer places.

The very first verse of Quran Iqra was to encourage acquisition of knowledge of life, universe and the spirituality. Islam looks down upon ignorance and mandates that everyone should seek knowledge which means that the state should ensure that adequate educational institutions are available throughout the country. In an Islamic state the religious seminaries will be required to provide education in science and technology. As centers of learning and prayers mosques will be required to hire religious scholars that can provide spiritual enlightenment to the people. These religious scholars should be educated not only in science, social sciences and anthropology but also aware of the spiritual difference between Islam and other religions.

Quran does not differentiate between men and women in terms of their participation in the society. Islam encourages that all members of the society regardless of their gender should participate to establish a just and equitable society. Islam acknowledges that women have much higher responsibility than men because of their critical role in development of a nation as mothers. But this domestic role does not preclude them from pursuing a career to express their talent and exercise their capabilities. In an Islamic state the role of women has to be recognized as full participant. This was evidenced from the lives of Khadija (RA) and Aisha (RA) who took active roles in business and politics respectively.

Many Muslim countries are now realizing the true meaning of a social state and embarking on reformation. Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia are good examples from which other countries can learn. Pakistan seems to be waking up to its true potential as freedom of speech is encouraging debates to create greater understanding of our religion, history and social values at the same time destroying dogmas.

13-48

Islamic State v. Capitalism

November 10, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi (Abdul.Kundi@GMail.Com)

Capitalism is the economic manifestation of secular democracy. In its ideal form, a capitalist society should have free markets, no price control, no regulations, no barriers to entry or exit, and free flow of capital. This idealistic view of capitalism was never in practice but was credited with the rise of the west. In the early 1990s after the collapse of the communist Soviet Union, it was aggressively pushed for universal adoption as part of the new world order. In the early part of the 21st century, the failure of the west to contain their economic recession has stalled this effort. On the other hand, the Arab Spring has taken everyone by surprise and the question that comes to mind is whether this movement would produce an alternative Islamic economic model.

The classic definition of capital is land, labor and equipment. It is the interplay of these three resources that define an economy. In the 20th century, land and labor was provided by the colonized regions of Asia, Africa and South America while the technology and equipment was the domain of the west. After the end of the Second World War, exhausted imperial powers had to reluctantly allow independence to their dominions. Since the prime mover for colonization was economics, a two-pronged strategy was adopted to maintain their control, i.e. introduction of a global corporation and support for autocratic proxy rulers.

Like the Frankenstein’s monster, the global corporations did not have allegiance to any one nation but rather were driven to achieve higher profits for their investors. Growth in profitability could be achieved in one of two ways. First, reduce per unit cost through pursuing economies of scale by building ever larger factories and automation. This made it impossible for the small guys to compete and forced them to go out of business, severely affecting local economies. Second, relocating plant and equipment where the labor was cheaper or raw material was in abundance. This started a process of imparting some of the industrial knowledge to emerging economies like South Korea, Japan, Brazil, India, China and Singapore.

In a truly capitalist world there should be free flow of labor across borders. It is ironic that it was the capitalist societies that introduced, for the first time in human history, a visa regime creating barriers to the free flow of labor. A brain drain from the third world to the developed world enabled them to staff their companies with the best talent without spending a dime on their education. This created an imbalance in the distribution of humanity, seeding an impending ecological disaster. Africa, which was plundered for the last two centuries for its natural and mineral riches, was left with a large population, no infrastructure or organized societies to cope with famine and food shortages. On the other hand, Europe is faced with declining populations. It is estimated that the nation of Estonia will disappear from the face of the earth by 2050. Asia is experiencing rising populations that are eager to migrate to Europe, Australia and the US, which can accommodate many more people.

In a free world there is no place for most favored nation (MFN) status or need for a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Nations can impose a uniform tariff on all imports rather than discriminate based on the origin of the goods. The imposition of favorable terms has become a political instrument to meddle in the internal affairs of other nations or to pressure them to accept a certain definition of human rights. The Islamic concept of trade requires free flow of goods across borders and respect for intellectual rights.

As new nations emerged in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, they were ruled by autocratic rulers that got their weapons and support from their former colonists. These rulers granted special mining rights to international companies that made them dependent on foreign technologies rather than developing it indigenously. The petro-dollars earned were stuffed into private bank accounts in offshore banks, enriching a select elite rather than filtering down to the masses. This hampered the development of a middle class that are traditional torchbearers of establishing democratic societies. This produced societies that were dependent on a subsistence level stipend from the government and devoid of entrepreneurial energy. This status quo got a jolt last year with the advent of an Arab Spring that overthrew their shackles, demanding a voice in national affairs. This is now trickling down to the west, challenging the basis of capitalism and seeking an alternative.

The Islamic concept of economy requires minimal interference from the state to impose restrictions on the movement of labor or capital. An Islamic state is required to maintain a balanced budget. Taxes should be kept at a level so as to finance the functions of a government that are limited to border security, internal security, provision of justice, ensuring equal rights of the citizens and development of basic infrastructure. In an Islamic society, social services like education and healthcare are the responsibility of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) created and run by wealthy and professional individuals. These NGOs are required to be non-profit, self-sustaining operations where the rich pay higher prices for services while the poor are subsidized or even given free service. It is a concept practiced by the Sindh Institute of Urology (SIUT), Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital or Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).

Individuals have complete liberty in investing their capital in whichever manner they see fit and have complete control of their property without any conditions imposed by the state. Individuals are required to be active investors in businesses rather than seek a fixed return in the form of interest. This is a concept similar to the venture capital industry in the US where wealthy individuals not only offer capital but advice to start-up companies. Islam does not look down upon accumulation of wealth. Instead, it defines wealth as one of the blessings of God and a test for individuals to manage it wisely for the benefit of themselves and society at large. Islam does look down upon exhibitionism, consumerism and waste, while it encourages modesty in daily life. It prefers wealthy individuals to engage in active participation in charity by not only giving money but also engage in its decision making. To reduce income inequality, Islam imposes a social tax in the form of Zakat that is mandatory and must be distributed to the poor segments of society.

As capitalism loses its universal appeal, it is an opportunity for Islamic intellectuals to offer an alternative that is more natural, equitable and social.

13-46