Economic Development

1) Economic development has come to occupy a focal place among the policies of government in the modern age. But the economic well-being of its people has been a concern of all benevolent rulers in the past as well, although the sense in which we understand the word, ‘de­velopment’ was not known to them. Similarly, the modern techniques of economic use of resources are of recent origin. In the past the need for economic betterment of the people was recognised but tools of scientific analysis to achieve this objective had not been developed. It was mainly the discretion and wisdom of the rulers which guided them in decision making.

The Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) placed a high value on the economic welfare of the people. He liked to see the Muslims well-off rather than hungry and destitute. There are some traditions which suggest that the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) desired to see his followers at a higher echelon on the ladder of development. After establishing the state of Medina, one of the first steps, which the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) took, was the establishment of mu‘wakhat (brotherhood) among the Ansar (Helpers) of Medina and Muhajireen (Immigrants) from Mecca. This brotherhood was, in fact, a step towards the economic rehabilitation of the newly arrived immi­grants. Soon after the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) diverted his attention towards the development of resources in the tiny state of Medina.     

Medina had an agrarian base and bulk of the local population was engaged in agriculture. The Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) invited people to develop the mawat (dead lands) He decreed that the mawat belong to the person who develops them. Similarly he instituted many laws regarding cultivation and marketing of agricultural products.

These laws were based on justice, cooperation and magnanimity with one another. Thus he set a stage for the development of the agricul­tural sector.           

Similarly, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) gave an elaborate code for trade and commerce. A scheme of fairplay and mutual help was visualized in all trade contracts. This was intended to end exploitation and provide congenial atmosphere for the promotion of trade and industry.           

The Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) was very mindful about the economic utlization of resources. He disliked to see even the skin of a dead animal go waste. With his instructions in different contexts he built an attitude among his followers about intensive and efficient use of resources. From such small matters as licking of fingers after food to explicit prohibition of wasting anything valuable, we find a series of instructions which emphasise maximum utilization of resources. The concept that all the resources are a n‘aimah (gift) from God contains a suggestion that they should be utilized carefully.

Like physical resources, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) laid emphasis on intensive development of human resources. He assigned a high value on industry, efficiency and labour. Parasitic dependence on others, idleness, or beggary were discouraged. People were induced to put in hard work and earn livelihood instead of wasting their energies in idle pursuits. It is in this spirit that all those pastimes which do not add any utility have been disliked by the Shari‘ah.           

In a set of traditions we find certain hints about planning and resource allocation. During an expedition when the ration outran the needs of the detachment, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) ordered to pool all the provisions. Thereafter he distributed these pro­visions equitably. At other occasions also he praised such an exercise. It was desired that one who has a surplus should share with those who are in need. This was a general instruction for all times and regarding all types of resources. This can conveniently be made a basis for plan­ning of resource utilization in the economy.           

Besides the so called ‘economic’ side of development, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) issued instructions about the non­economic side as well. He appreciated enterprise and initiative. He forbade to take cues from omens. Belief in superstitions inculcates inactivity and fatalism. He prohibited to keep such beliefs. Instead he encouraged people for action and creativity. In one of the traditions we note his pleasure in reinvesting the money obtained by the disinvestment of an estate (or asset).

The Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) prescribed a set of values which were conducive to the development of resources. Values like infaq, ihsan, iqtisad, ta‘awun, abstinence from zulm, iktinaz, and bukhl etc. provide atmosphere for economic development.

But economic development is not the focus of all activities in the Shari‘ah. Despite placing a high value on economic pursuits, the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) warned people to beware of its ‘dysfunctional’ aspects. The economic development should not lead to lust for wealth. The balance of activity should not tilt towards earning of wealth only because this may take one away from his duties as Khalifah (vicegerant) to God. It was to strike a balance between material pursuits and monasticism that the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) instructed to remain mindful of the excessive involvement in the worldly riches. The ultimate objective is not mere material well-being only but the achievement of falah. Falah means the economic well-being in this world and a successful life in the Hereafter. The success in the Hereafter can be achieved by total submission before the will of the Lord. There always remains a danger that excessive economic pursuits may displace this goal of submission before Allah. There­fore the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) advised to maintain a balance.

2)Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as praying: “Allah, I seek Thy refuge from infidelity and destitu­tion.” Thereupon a person asked; “Are both (the things) equal?” The Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) said: “Yes.”


Source: Economic Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): A Select Anthology of Hadith Literature on Economics, Muhammad Akram Khan. Republished with permission.
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