Disparity in wealth

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله وعلى آله وصحبه

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Allaah سبحانه و تعالى Said concerning the fai’ * that was accorded His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم:

كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ

“…in order that it may not become a fortune used by the rich among you.”  [Al-Hashr, 7]

* Fai’ is any booty/wealth that fell to the Muslims without them having been involved in battle.

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1. Ibn Katheer mentioned that this fai’ was disposed of according to the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه وسلم discretion and spent on righteous causes and for the benefit of Muslims as occurs in the first part of the Ayah. Fai’ is treated as general wealth that should be used to help the less-fortunate and provide opportunities for them to prosper.

2. The increasing discontent among the people we continue to see in the form of anti-capitalist demos and sit-ins, is evidence of the inequality wrought by manipulation and excessive amount of wealth disbursed amongst the few. The all-to-common demos and sit-ins in Western cities reflect a broken system that is built on riba and corruption, leading to injustice, greed and lack of opportunities for the lower spectrum of society – whose welfare would have otherwise been looked after by the state.

3. Supporting social fairness may roll off easily from one’s tongue, yet its implication is not understood by many including the Muslims. Centuries of “civil development and progress” in the developed world has often been dictated by a higher-class cabal and dominated by nepotism. From the onset of the current global financial meltdown, arising from ravenousness economic policies, the irresponsible and negligent governments have been manipulating wealth to readily serve the monopoly of the top 1% of the population.

4. In his ‘Tafseer al-Kabeer’, Ar-Razi made a profound note on the above Ayah and about the (Muslim) state looking after its people in good times and bad, allowing trade to benefit the poor and not allow to cede (disparity in) wealth to the rich alone. It is a sign of societal imbalance when money becomes focused on one side, or group of people alone. He wrote:

المسألة الأولى : قال المبرد : الدولة اسم للشيء الذي يتداوله القوم بينهم يكون كذا مرة وكذا مرة ، والدولة بالفتح انتقال حال سارة إلى قوم عن قوم ، فالدولة بالضم اسم ما يتداول ، وبالفتح مصدر من هذا ، ويستعمل في الحالة السارة التي تحدث للإنسان ، فيقال : هذه دولة فلان أي تداوله ، فالدولة اسم لما يتداول من المال ، والدولة اسم لما ينتقل من الحال ، ومعنى الآية كي لا يكون الفيء الذي حقه أن يعطى للفقراء ؛ ليكون لهم بلغة يعيشون بها واقعا في يد الأغنياء ودولة لهم

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5. One major cause of corruption that leads to perpetuation of wealth within the hands of the few is avarice and hoarding. Those who have more, want even more, as the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

لو كان لابن آدم واد من مال لابتغى إليه ثانيا ، و لو كان له واديان لابتغى لهما ثالثا

“If the son of Adam possessed a valley of gold, he would want to have two valleys, and if he had two valleys as such, he would want to have third…” [Agreed upon]

Allaah سبحانه و تعالى Said:

وَلَا يَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ بِمَا آتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ هُوَ خَيْرًا لَّهُم

“And let not those who hoard (covetously withhold) of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His Bounty (i.e. wealth) think that it is good for them…” [Aal-Imran, 180]

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

لا يحتكر إلا خاطئ

“No one hoards but one who is in error.” [Saheeh Muslim, 1605 and others]

Thus hoarding is regarded as haram because of the difficulty and harm it causes people when they are in need of the item (and upon which zakat has neither been paid). Imam Shafi’i said that: “The haram applies to the monopoly of foodstuffs and other (specific) items when there is not enough amount of it.” And about “one who is in error”, Imam Nawawi said in his Sharh, that it “means one who is disobedient and a sinner, and this hadeeth clearly indicates that hoarding is haram.”

6. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى Said about those who devour wealth in falsehood and hoard wealth:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْأَحْبَارِ وَالرُّهْبَانِ لَيَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ النَّاسِ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَيَصُدُّونَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلَا يُنفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَبَشِّرْهُم بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ

“O you who believe. Verily, there are many of the rabbis and the monks who devour the wealth of mankind in falsehood, and hinder (them) from the Way of Allah. And those who hoard up gold and silver * and spend them not in the Way of Allah, announce unto them a painful torment.” [At-Tawbah, 34]

* i.e. ‘Al-Kanz’, which is wealth, the Zakat of which has not been paid – thus not utilised in causes that alleviate hardship and poverty.

Commenting on ‘devouring the wealth of mankind in falsehood’, Al-Baghawi said that it includes taking bribes for decisions and judgements made in their favour. In his magnificent ‘At-Tahreer wat-Tanweer‘, Ibn Ashoor said that this Ayah is making Muslims aware of the short-comings of the ‘People of the Book’ and for them to be held in contempt for their errors, negligence and violation of other people’s wealth and using it unjustly… That their falsehood included changing religious rulings and influencing judiciary to approve their whims and seek justification for the people. Giving the legitimate owner of wealth (or to whom rights are due), no recourse to law, (and in some cases) including the denial of inheritance, denial of what is due to orphans and denial of endowments and charity. Their general reluctance to follow the true religion and to lure of people away from it by misleading them through their crooked methods and customs etc,

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7. Another major practise that leads from avarice and hoarding, is monopolising of trade and wealth. It is a sin that perpetuates return of profit to the self in exclusion of other people who are not allowed to partake or benefit as it “becomes a fortune used by the rich” among them. The wealth remains a monopoly of the rich and becomes a curse for them, while the losing party gets burdened by hardships (as the monopolisers refuse to pay zakat either, which would otherwise be utilised in causes that alleviate hardship and poverty).

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم is reported to have said:

الجالب مرزوق، و المحتكر ملعون

“The one who acquires (fairly) is prosperous, and the one who monopolises is cursed.” [Sunan Ibn Majah, 2144; Darimi, Al-Hakim, Bayhaqi and others – Graded as da’eef by majority (see also ‘Al-Jaami’ as-Sagheer’, 3610)]

And there are many other narrations relating to the evils of monopoly practises; see Musnad Ahmad, 4742, ‘Fath al-Bari’, 4/408 and subsequent examples in ‘Awn al-Ma’bood’ 3448 (where the author brings statements and explanation of scholars on the topic), ‘Silsilat as-Saheehah’, 3362 and more… See also – article on monopoly in Islam

8. Sh. Ibraheem bin al-Huqayl has a commentary on unjust market practises and Islam’s solution – here

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And Allaah is the source of guidance.

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