Breaking the Rules of a Country – Nothing Islamic about it? (Part 1)
The life of a believer should be in accordance with the commandments of Allah and his Prophet (PBUH). The stance is manifest for a muslim about what is right and wrong. For him, all that are described as wrong by Qur’an are wrongs in his life and all that are marked as right are rights in his life. We can differentiate religious rulings broadly in to two. One, Rulings that cannot be modified at all, like Prayer, fasting Zakat etc. Two, things that can be carried out freely by applying the principles of religion– trade, agriculture, industrial production, financial transactions, governance etc.
Those who learn Islamic teachings in both these areas and strictly practice it in real life are referred as Mu’min. Even though we cannot describe those who fail in these areas as Non-Muslim, we can definitely watch them as those gone astray. The fault may be the way in which they comprehended Islam. We can see some people strictly following Islamic teachings in the matters of worship (Ibada’) but are not keeping the same level of strictness when it comes to other dealings (Mu’amalath). This is because of the lack in their Imaan. Because beliefs, deeds and the morality in dealings, together completes a believer’s religion.
Topic of this article is not about these two, but a third aspect. What should be the attitude of a believer towards the matters outside of their religion? Most of us live in secular countries. Laws by a country, by a state, by various institutions, do these come under the horizon of religion. And if we follow them, are we going against religious teachings?
We should first comprehend why laws are formulated in any part of the world. Islamic laws are of two types. It is the primary responsibility of a believer to do acts of worship (Ibada’s) obeying Allah. Why? Allah has set prayers and acts of worship for the purification of each individual and his mind. If a person prays, it’s benefit is only for him. If he is not observing fast, others will not be affected by it, but him. Even if one indulge in polytheism (shirk), it will not affect the society, similar two the above. At the same time, there are acts that if a person do, will benefit the entire society. Charitable acts are done completely for others. Things like usury, liquor, theft, looting are not only sins, but their consequences are suffered by all in the society also. Thus these are acts of evil for the society. It is because of this reason Islam has fixed punishments for those who do such evil acts and in this world itself. This is the stance of Islam. Laws are the controls so that a society as a whole will benefit from it.
Acts of worship (ibadas) one offers seeking the pleasure of Allah, provides him with peace, tranquility and self-control for one’s life. When one carries out deeds from which the society yield benefits, along with the reward he gets from Allah, he earns the admiration of the society as well. When one indulge in deeds that harm the society, along with he being a subject of God’s anger, society disdains him because his victims are the fellow-beings in his society. If he exaggerates, society tries to control him; punishes him if he repeats. This is the common stand of any ideological society.
Man makes many rules necessary for the well being of all individuals living in a society, in addition to what has been already made law by Allah. Let’s take traffic rules as an example. You cannot see direct instructions from religion on over speeding, breaking traffic signal etc. These laws are made to keep necessary controls in a society. If one person over speeds claiming that Islam has not set any limit for speed, it’s still a social harm. Islam asks us to refrain from doing any harm to the society and hence observing traffic rules becomes mandatory in Islamic perspective too. We should attain the wisdom to understand the stance a Muslim should take in such instances. Likewise, countries, states, institutions, organizations, everything will have to formulate laws and controls necessary for their smooth functioning. Discipline and tranquility will be attained by the society only when every of its person adheres to these controls. Otherwise, anarchy and ambiguity would creep in to the society. Thus, rules are made for us. Rules can be changed if it’s deficient. Exceptions can be given in inevitable situations. Those who break rules out of ignorance or carelessness can be excused. Those who knowingly break rules and repeatedly commit evils do not deserve any pardon but a punishment.
Some of us keep a very sluggish stand towards these rules. They think it is never a compulsory duty up on us to observe the rules of the state. This thought only persuades them to overcome laws and get things done through backdoor. Bribes, corruptions and scams increase because of this loose stand. Being a Muslim, one should not live denying or neglecting a social virtue. Remember, it is an action imposed by our religion itself that we should stay away from anything that will affect the well-being of the society.
Every country has laws to protect its concerns of internal security, financial stability and international relations. It is the duty of its citizens to strictly adhere to these laws. Muslims are no way exempted from this because they have to follow Islamic teachings as long as the rules in the country are not against Islam. Levy taxes for land, buildings, industries and trades, put controls in import and exports, a country may have many laws smaller or bigger. Wherever a Muslim lives, it is mandatory on him to obey the rules of the land. Unfortunately, many of us are not so keen in this regard. Those who comprehend theft as a sin, sometimes neglects the truth that a man is a thief when he unlawfully cuts trees from government owned forests. Those who consider adultery and liquor consumption as great sins, do not see smuggling and tax evasion as crimes. Why those who see ‘interest’ as prohibited, do not find the it a crime when dealing with hawala and black money? Why do we take a lighter look at one who was caught at checkpoints (check-posts) in smuggling, compared to one who was caught for a bank robbery? One who loot gold from a jewelry is a burglar, but the one who fake the customs and smuggle huge sum of gold is still a gentle man! This is the real picture we can see around us now a days.
A Muslim, who sees ‘usury’ as a financial exploitation prohibited by Allah, should consider weakening the economy of his country through acts like smuggling and tax evasion a bigger social evil. Muslim who believes in paying Zakat as a compulsory act to keep him in his religion, should understand paying tax as per the rules of the country as a social responsibility. If one is the law created by Allah for the purification at individual level, other is the law made by us for the well-being of the society we live in.
Abiding by the rules of the land is not against religion or it is not denying the religion. On the other hand, it is completely at par with the interest of the religion. This should be understood by believers as a whole and Muslims in particular. We are in a world where breaking rules are often marketed as acts of heroism and leading a peaceful life abiding by the laws as idiotic. A social order where no laws can go above money and power!
An incident at Prophet’s (PBUH) time: A women from an influential family was caught for a theft. If the theft is proven, cutting off the hands is the punishment in Islam. Knowing this, the family of the women tried to influence Prophet through one of his close companion Usama (R). This was the time Prophet made the statement written in history in golden letters.
“By Allah, if Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, were to steal, I would have her hand cut off”.
Caliphs, who followed Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), the icon of equal justice, stood by the same stand. Once a suit came to Umar (R) that one of his Givernor’s son slapped a common man. It is not a story that Umar (R) summoned up the accused Governor and his son and punished them publicly. These are golden incidents in the history of Islam, but do we really care? Muslims who should live claiming this ancestry, themselves are immersed in regression!
Even when Prophet (PBUH) and his companions suffered severe torments in Makkah, they did not do anything to harm the society. Prophet (PBUH) sent his companions to the Christian ruler in Ethiopia to live according to the rules of that country. When Prophet was given power, he established equal justice regardless of whether people followed his ideology or not. In a complete Islamic society, he made Islamic laws as the laws of the country. Prophet Yusuf efficiently carried out his responsibilities by taking charge of financial matters under the King of Egypt. In short, Muslims who carry this legacy, should remember that it is necessary for the perfection of their religious life to live in accordance with the laws in the country or place they live in.
English rendering of article written by Abdul Jabbar, Islamic author from South India.