Islam is a complete perfected way of life that touches all aspects of our lives without any exemptions. This does not mean that it tells us how we must live all aspects of our day in day out activities, but it means that it has put in place a wholesome all-encompassing system that provides a general frame within which we are to operate. Thereafter, everyone is free to operate within this set forth periphery.
In same light, Islam put in place some regulations that preserve the wealth of its followers at all levels. And some examples of how this preservation of wealth is achieved are as follows:
1) Ordinance of Witnessing and Documenting transactions: In Islam it is compulsory to document any monetary transactions. A scribe is to write down and two witnesses to bear witness to it. Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُب بَّيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلاَ يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَنْ يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلاَ يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئاً فَإن كَانَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهاً أَوْ ضَعِيفاً أَوْ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُ أَن يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُواْ شَهِيدَيْنِ من رِّجَالِكُمْ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَاء أَن تَضِلَّ إْحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الأُخْرَى وَلاَ يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَاء إِذَا مَا دُعُواْ وَلاَ تَسْأَمُوْاْ أَن تَكْتُبُوْهُ صَغِيراً أَو كَبِيراً إِلَى أَجَلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِندَ اللّهِ وَأَقْومُ لِلشَّهَادَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَرْتَابُواْ إِلاَّ أَن تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلاَّ تَكْتُبُوهَا وَأَشْهِدُوْاْ إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ وَلاَ يُضَآرَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلاَ شَهِيدٌ وَإِن تَفْعَلُواْ فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللّهُ وَاللّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ(282)
Translated as: "
O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down. Let a scribe write it down in justice between you. Let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so let him write. Let him (the debtor) who incurs the liability dictate, and he must fear Allah, his Lord, and diminish not anything of what he owes. But if the debtor is of poor understanding, or weak, or is unable himself to dictate, then let his guardian dictate in justice. And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her. And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (for evidence). You should not become weary to write it (your contract), whether it be small or big, for its fixed term, that is more just with Allah; more solid as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves, save when it is a present trade which you carry out on the spot among yourselves, then there is no sin on you if you do not write it down. But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract. Let neither scribe nor witness suffer any harm, but if you do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So be afraid of Allah; and Allah teaches you. And Allah is the All-Knower of each and everything." (Baqarah: 282).
This will give protection to the wealth and make sure none is cheated in such a transaction.
2) 2) Prohibition of Usury (Ribaa)
Ribaa is translated as usury or interest. Allah says (translated as): “Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury,” but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (the offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).” [Baqarah: 285]
This verse refers to a group of Israelites at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s) who were attempting to blur the distinction between usury and trade by saying that they were one and the same. In the above verse, Allah makes clear this distinction and concludes by mentioning the severe punishment for engaging in such financial transactions and attempting to justify them.
In the verses following the one above, Allah declares war on those who engage in such transactions: “O ye who believe! Fear Allah, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if ye are indeed believers. If ye do it not, Take notice of war from Allah and His Messenger. But if ye turn back, ye shall have your capital sums: Deal not unjustly, and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly.” [Baqarah: 278-79]
In today’s world, the entire global banking system is based on the lending of money at interest, therefore to keep oneself safe from such a serious transgression is not always easy. The age we live in seems very much like the one foretold by the Prophet Muhammad (s) in a famous hadith: “There will certainly come a time for mankind when everyone will take ribaa and if he does not do so, its dust will reach him”[Related by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah].
What exactly is the problem with ribaa though and how can we understand the distinction between profit and usury? Interest is defined as a set return on a loan, and as such implies a profit based on no risk or effort – a principle completely against Islamic ideals. Financial profit is a result of effort or risk (or both), and interest seeks to undermine the risk-based nature of trade. Furthermore, in many instances interest is exploitative – it is typically used as a means of deriving profit from the financially weaker members of the society by a wealthy class in whose hands the lent money is concentrated. Thus Allah is protecting by this law, the wealth of the weak or upcoming in the society.
3) Prohibition of Theft with its associated Punishment
Stealing is by consensus a capital crime in Islamic Law and the prescribed punishment is severe. Taking the belongings or wealth of others in any society is considered a crime. The nature of mankind is one major force that repel one from taking what does not belong to them. Whatever the factor preventing people from taking the property of others, the prohibition of such an act serves to protect that which belongs to others, namely their possessions and wealth.
The Qur’anic punishment for theft is the cutting of the hand of the thief. Allah says: “As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power” [Al-Ma'idah: 38].
This may seem harsh, however one cannot forget firstly, the seriousness of the crime and the difficulties it costs the owner. Also very importantly is that fact that its application is not without strict conditions. For example, the item stolen must satisfy the following conditions:
· Have a value greater than a pre-determined amount (analogous to nisab for Zakat)
· Be kept under lock and key or protected by the owner, such that the theft required an act of breaking and entering to acquire it
· Not be an item of food
· Not be taken in a case of necessity
In addition, even the thief committing the crime must also meet some criteria:
· Not be starving (i.e. stealing out of hunger)
· Be legally responsible (e.g. have reached the age of maturity and not be clinically insane)
To sum this up, it is necessary to note that only the state that can carry out such punishment of this magnitude and not individuals or non legally recognized authorities.
4) Legislation of Compensation in the event of Vandalism / Accidental or Criminal Damage
Another way by which the possessions and wealth of people are protected is by the paying of compensation in the case that the item is damaged or vandalised. This differs from theft where the item is physically taken; in the event of damage or vandalism, the item remains in the possession of its owner, however it is damaged thereby rendering its satisfactory use difficult or impossible.
5) Looking After The Wealth of Certain Categories of People
To protect wealth, i.e. to preserve it and prevent waste or squandering, at times it may be necessary to withhold monies and/or possessions from those persons who are deemed unable to manage their own financial affairs, even though they may be the rightful owners.
Allah says in Surah an-Nisa: “And do not give the foolish their wealth which is in your custody – those for whom Allah has put you in charge to maintain (look after) – and feed and clothe them from it, and speak kindly to them” [Al-Nisa': 5]
The “foolish” as translated in the above verse, in the Arabic is “Sufahaa” which is a plural word coming from the root verb sa-fi-ha, which means ‘to be foolish’ or ‘legally incompetent’ and applies to those people who in the eyes of the law are not deemed legally responsible. By extension this logic applies to children, those below the age of discernment. Legally their wealth can be held until such time that they demonstrate that they are able to manage their own affairs. An example where this could occur and indeed does even in Western society is in the case that a child inherits a large amount of money, but this is held and managed in a trust fund until they are old enough to take full ownership of it.
6) Prohibition of Hoarding and Miserliness
The opposite of the above is not to spend one’s wealth at all and this too is discouraged as something which does not circulate wealth in a society. It is interesting to note, that one may think that hoarding is the best way to protect wealth, however it is deemed a blameworthy quality as it does not realise the intended purpose of wealth, namely to circulate and benefit as many people as possible.
Allah says in the Qur’an regarding those who hoard and are miserly: “But as for him who is stingy and self-satisfied, and denies the Good, We will pave his way to Difficulty” [Al-Lail: 8-11]
It is important to note a subtle distinction between hoarding and miserliness. Miserliness is an attitude where one does not want to spend their wealth and hoarding is the act of physically concentrating wealth in the hands of a selected few. Monopolising of resources, industry etc can also be seen as a type of hoarding as it concentrates the wealth and power in the hands of a few individuals in the society, something that the Shari’ah deems undesirable for a healthy society.
These are a few of the way through which Islam has provided security and protection for the wealth of the people. May Allah continue to grant us the required understanding and contentedness to realize why we should always be grateful to Him.