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The Economic Law of Islam

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Javed Ahmad Ghamidi: A Biographical Note

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (born 1951) is a well-known Pakistani Islamic scholar, exegete, and educationist. Ghamidi extended the work of his tutor, Amin Ahsan Islahi. Ghamidi is the founder of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences (Lahore) and is running an intellectual movement similar to Wastiyya in Egypt on the popular electronic media of Pakistan.

Ghamidi's discourse is primarily with the traditionalists on the one end and Jamaat-e-Islami and its seceding groups on the other. He is frequently wrongly labeled a modernist, a label that he has repeatedly denied. In Ghamidi’s arguments, there is no reference to the Western sources, human rights or current philosophies of crime and punishment. He comes to conclusions which are sometimes similar to those of Islamic modernists on the subject, but he never goes out of the traditional framework.

Ghamidi worked closely with Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (1903–1979), founder of Jamat-e-Islami, for about nine years before voicing his first differences of opinion, which led to his subsequent expulsion from Mawdudi's political party, Jamaat-e-Islami in 1977. Later, he developed his own view of religion based on the epistemology and hermeneutics of his mentor (The Farahi School) Amin Ahsan Islahi (1904–1997), a well-known exegete of the Indian sub-continent who is the author of Tadabbur-i-Qur’an, a Tafsir (exegeses of Qur'an) which itself is based on the hermeneutical principles developed by Hamid ud Din Farahi, a notable scholar of Quran in the pre partition India. Ghamidi's critique of Mawdudi's thought is based on the idea that the basic obligation in Islam is not the establishment of an Islamic world order but servitude to God, and that it is to help and guide humans in their effort to fulfill that obligation for which religion is revealed. Therefore, Islam never imposed the obligation on its individual adherents or on the Islamic state to be constantly in a state of war against the non-Islamic world. In fact, according to Ghamidi, even the formation of an Islamic state is not a basic religious obligation for Muslims.

Ghamidi’s understanding of Islamic law has been presented concisely in his book Mizan. Ghamidi's inspiration from his mentor, Amin Ahsan Islahi and non-traditionalist approach to the religion has parted him from traditionalist understanding on a number of issues, but he never goes out of the traditional framework. He is one of the scholars from South Asia, besides Abul Kalam Azad, Muhammad Iqbal, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Muhammad Asad, Amin Ahsan Islahi, Khurshid Ahmad, and Israr Ahmed, who have fashioned an internally consistent and thoroughgoing Islamist worldview. He lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

The Sources of Islam

Islam is the guidance which was first inspired by the Almighty in human nature and after that it was given by Him with all details to mankind through His prophets. Muhammad (sws) is the last of these prophets. Consequently, it is now he alone who in this world is the sole source of this religion. It is only through him that man can receive divine guidance and it is only he who, through his words, deeds or tacit approvals, has the authority to regard something as part of Islam until the Day of Judgement. The Qur’an says:

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ (٢:٦٢)

It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from amongst themselves who rehearses upon them His verses and purifies them and for this he instructs them in shari‘ah and in hikmah. (62:2)

It is this shari‘ah (law) and this hikmah (wisdom) which is termed as “Islam”. The source of this religion is the Prophet Muhammad (sws) from whom it has been given to the ummah through the consensus of his Companions (rta) and through their perpetual practice and perpetual recitation in two forms:

1. The Qur’an

2. The Sunnah

1. The Qur’an

Every Muslim knows that the Qur’an was revealed by Allah to Muhammad (sws) – the last of the prophets – and it has since then remained with the ummah with the unanimous verdict from the ummah itself that it is this very book which was revealed to the Prophet (sws), and which his Companions (rta), through their consensus and through their perpetual recitation, delivered to the world without the slightest alteration.

2. The Sunnah

By Sunnah is meant that tradition of Prophet Abraham’s (sws) religion which the Prophet Muhammad (sws) instituted among his followers as religion after reviving and reforming it and after making certain additions to. The Qur’an has directed Muhammad (sws) to obey this Abrahamic tradition in the following words:

ثُمَّ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ أَنِ اتَّبِعْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (١٢٣:١٦)

Then We revealed to you to follow the ways of Abraham, who was true in faith and was not among the polytheists. (16:123)

The following portion of Islam has been given to us through the Sunnah:

Worship Rituals

i. The Prayer

ii. Zakah and Sadqah of ‘Id al-Fitr

iii. Fasting and ‘Itikaf

iv. Hajj and ‘Umrah

v. Animal Sacrifice and the takbirs during the days of tashriq1

Social Sphere

i. Marriage and Divorce and their relevant details

ii. Abstention from coitus during the menstrual and the puerperal period

Dietary Sphere

i. Prohibition of pork, blood, meat of dead animals and animals slaughtered in the name of someone other than Allah

ii. Slaughtering in the prescribed manner of tadhkiyah by taking Allah’s name

Customs and Etiquette

i.   Remembering Allah’s name before eating or drinking and using the right hand for eating and drinking

ii.   Greeting one another with assalamu ‘alaykum (peace be to you) and responding with wa ‘alaykum al-salam (and peace be to you)

iii.  Saying alhamdu lilah (praise be to Allah) after sneezing and responding to it by saying yarhamu kallah (may Allah have mercy on you)

iv.  Saying adhan in the right ear of a new born baby and saying ‘iqamah in its left ear

v.  Keeping moustaches trimmed

vi.   Shaving pubic hair

vii.  Shaving the hairs under the armpits

viii. Cutting nails

ix.   Circumcising the male offspring

x.    Cleaning the nose, the mouth and the teeth

xi.   Cleaning the body after excretion

xii.  Bathing after the menstrual and the puerperal period

xiii.  Ghusl-i Janabah2

xiv. Bathing the dead before burial

xv.  Enshrouding a dead body and preparing it for burial

xvi. Burying the dead

xvii.  ‘Id al-Fitr

xviii.  ‘Id al-Adha

This is all what the Sunnah is, and it can be said with certainty that there is no difference between it and the Qur’an as far as their authenticity is concerned. Just as the Qur’an has been received by ummah through the consensus of the Prophet’s Companions (rta) and through their perpetual recitation, the Sunnah has been received by it through their consensus and through their perpetual practice and stands validated like the Qur’an in every period of time through the consensus of the ummah. Consequently, there is no doubt or debate about it now.

All that is Islam is constituted by these two sources. Nothing besides these two is Islam or can be regarded as its part.

A narrative of the words, deeds or tacit approvals of the Prophet (sws) called Hadith and the knowledge gained from them can never be regarded as absolutely certain. Hence, a Hadith does not add anything to the content of Islam stated in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Ahadith (plural of Hadith) only explain and elucidate what is contained in these two sources and also describe the exemplary way in which the Prophet (sws) followed Islam. This only is the sphere of Hadith which falls within the ambit of Islam. Outside this sphere, there exists no narrative which can be called or accepted as Hadith.



1. The tenth, eleventh and twelfth of dhu al-hijjah.

2. The ceremonial bath performed after ejaculation or after sexual intercourse.

The Economic Law of Islam

The economic law of Islam has been revealed by the Almighty through His last Prophet (sws) for the purification of the economy. It is based on the Qur’ānic philosophy of creation. According to this philosophy, the Almighty has created this world as a trial and test for man; every person has therefore been made to depend on others for his living. No one in this world can live independently as regards his needs and requirements. A person of the highest rank must turn to the most ordinary to fulfill them. In other words, every single person has an important role to play, without which this world cannot continue. This role depends upon his abilities, intelligence and inclinations as well as upon his means and resources, which vary from person to person. In fact, it is because of this variation that a society comes into being. Consequently, laborers and workers, artisans and craftsmen, tillers and peasants are as indispensable as scholars and thinkers, savants and sages, leaders and rulers. Every individual is an integral component of society and contributes to its formation according to his abilities. The Qur’ān says:

نَحْنُ قَسَمْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ مَعِيشَتَهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَرَفَعْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِيَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُهُمْ بَعْضًا سُخْرِيًّا وَرَحْمَةُ رَبِّكَ خَيْرٌ مِمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ (٣٢:٤٣)

We have apportioned among them their livelihood in this world [in such a manner that] We have exalted some in status above others so that they can mutually serve each other. And better is your Lord’s mercy than what they are amassing. (43:32)

 By creating various classes of people, the Almighty is testing whether the big and the small, the high and the low create a society based on co-operation and respect or create disorder in the world by disregarding the role each person has been ordained to play. The latter attitude would, of course, lead them to humiliation in this world and to a grievous doom in the Hereafter. The Qur’ān says:

وَنَبْلُوكُمْ بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ (٣٥:٢١)

We are trying you by giving you happiness and sorrow to test you, and to Us you will be returned. (21:35)

It is to salvage man in this trial that the Almighty has guided him through His Prophets and revealed this economic law to cleanse and purify him.

Following is a summary of this law:

1. The Obligation of Zakāh: It is obligatory upon a Muslim to pay Zakāh according to the way prescribed by the Sharī‘ah from his wealth, produce and livestock if he is liable to it.


2. Sanctity of Ownership: If a Muslim has paid his Zakāh dues, then his rightfully owned wealth cannot be usurped or tampered with in any way, except if on account of some violation by him. So much so that an Islamic State has no authority to impose any tax other than Zakāh on its Muslim citizens.


3. Formation of a Public Sector: For the just distribution of wealth, the establishment of a public sector is essential. Consequently, everything which is not, or cannot be owned by an individual should in all cases remain in the ownership of the state.


4. Incompetence: Since a person’s way of using his wealth and property also influences the development and welfare of a society, the state, while acknowledging him to be the owner, has the right to deprive him from using them if he is proved to be incompetent.


5. Usurpation of Wealth: It is prohibited to devour other people’s wealth and property by unjust means. Gambling and interest are some horrendous forms of usurpation. Other economic activities should also stand permissible or prohibited in the light of this principle.


6. Documentation and Evidence: In affairs such as various financial transactions, making a will and acquiring a loan, the parties involved should write down a document and call in witnesses to safeguard against any moral misconduct by either of the parties.


7. Distribution of Inheritance: The wealth of every Muslim must necessarily be distributed after his death among his heirs in the following manner:

If the deceased has outstanding debts to his name, then first of all they should be paid off. After this, any legacies he may have bequeathed should be paid. The distribution of his inheritance should then follow.

No will can be made in favour of the heirs ordained by the Almighty. Similarly, no one can be an heir to a deceased who has severed his kinship with him because of some inappropriate deed or conduct.

After giving the parents and the spouses their shares, the children are the heirs of the remaining inheritance. If the deceased does not have any male offspring and there are only two or more girls among the children, then they shall receive two-thirds of the inheritance left over, and if there is only one girl, then her share is one-half. If the deceased has only male children, then all his wealth shall be distributed among them. If he leaves behind both boys and girls, then the share of each boy shall be equal to the share of two girls and, in this case also, all his wealth shall be distributed among them.

In the absence of children, the deceased’s brothers and sisters shall take their place. After giving the parents and spouses their shares, the brothers and sisters shall be his heirs. The proportion of their shares and the mode of distribution shall be the same as that of the children stated above.

If the deceased has children or if he does not have children and has brothers and sisters, then the parents shall receive a sixth each. If he does not even have brothers and sisters, then after giving the husband or wife his (or her) share, one-third of what remains shall be given to the mother and two-thirds to the father. If there is no one among the spouses, then all of the inheritance shall be distributed among the parents in this same proportion.

If the deceased is a man and he has children, then his wife shall receive one-eighth of what he leaves, and if he does not have any children, then his wife’s share shall be one-fourth. If the deceased is a woman and does not have any children, then her husband shall receive one-half of what she leaves and if she has children, then the husband’s share is one-fourth.

Together with these rightful heirs or in their absence or, as in some cases, from the left over inheritance, the deceased can make a near or a distant relative, aside from his parents and children, an heir. If the relative who is made an heir has one brother or one sister, then they shall be given a sixth of his share and he himself shall receive the remaining five-sixth. However, if he has more than one brother or sister, then they shall be given a third of his share and he himself shall receive the remaining two-thirds.

If a person dies without making anyone his heir, then his remaining legacy shall be distributed among his male relatives according to the principle ‘اَلْاَقْرَبْ فَالْاَقْرَبْ’ (nearest to the next nearest).

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Source: AJP

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