The Social Order of Islam

By Dr. Said Ramadaan

The Righteous individual is the basis of every sound society.

      This is the reason why Islam lays particular stress on the upbringing of the individual man and woman, instilling in him or her a feeling of personal responsibility before God: “Every person is held in pledge for what he does: (Qur’aan 74:38). He is responsible for freeing himself from superstition and vice, and for striking a just balance between the requirements of his soul and those of his body: “Strive after that which God has ordained to you for the sake of the Hereafter, but do not neglect your share in the world” (Qur’aan 28:77). To this end, Islam has enjoined three obligations:

a) Education – The Prophet said: “Striving after knowledge is the sacred duty of every Muslim.” Consequently, education is both a duty and a right of every Muslim man and woman. Thus, every Muslim is individually obliged to know what the Qur’aan and the Sunnah demand of him in respect of the basic tenets of Islam, individual duties and moral requirements; while the community is collectively responsible for education in all other spheres of knowledge, the omission of this duty being a collective sin. In other words, the Islamic government is responsible for the direction of general education in such a way as to satisfy the needs of the nation in every domain of Science and Art. The educational programme must be so framed as to preserve the spiritual and cultural identity of the nation and to guarantee for its youth the development of personality and a unity of purpose.

b) Enjoining the Right and Forbidding the Wrong – The Qur’aan says: “Let there be among you, people who propagate the Good and enjoin the Right and forbid the Wrong” (3:103). Thus, the Muslim is reminded of his responsibility towards God and called upon to develop that self-discipline without which the rule of the Law can never become effective. In an Islamic state, this principle must underlie the activities of all the organs of public information – such as radio, press, cinema, publications, etc., which ideally should assist the individual in leading a decent life, as demanded by all religions.

c) Punishment and Penalties – Islam legislates penalties for crimes against society resulting from a lapse of individual self-discipline. Because such crimes are exceptional rather than the rule, the injunctions in on the other hand, there is hardly a page which is devoid of moral exhortation. These few penalties are severe indeed because the entire Qur’aanic Law envisages so fair a social structure that crime itself should have no justification whatever.

      Take for instance, the cutting of the right hand for theft. This is, no doubt, an extremely harsh punishment but when we look at the occurrence of theft, (or, to be more precise, of burglary) within a society in which the economic needs of every individual are assured a priority, so that a theft can never be motivated by hunger or need – it assumes equality – paradoxically enough – has so often desecrated the very relationship, at large in social contacts or even in the orbit of the family,  this modern relationship between a man and a woman so that the latter’s basic frame of mind has become on of insecurity and of self-defence. Man liberated her from the condemned veil, gave her precedence in and out, kissed her hand in public and so on… yet what an anguishing price she has been the aspect of an attack against the very foundations of the society which mind that a burglary, to be thus penalised, must involve objects above paying of her innermost beauty, security and peace. When Qur’aan says: “He created mates for you, from yourselves, so that you might find refuge in them, and He put between you love and compassion, surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect” (30:21), it indicates not only the closeness of the union in marital relationship, but also the counterpart of man’s administrative leadership: woman’s all-embracing role. To be a refuge for man, is to make home the foundation of human activity and peace. This “home” is no prison but rather headquarters and base. Having taken that into full account, woman is by no means limited to the walls of her home. Well-known is the story of the Muslim lady who, in the courtyard of the mosque, stood to discuss a certain issue with the Prophet by saying: “I have been deputed to you on behalf of woman.” Um-Atiyyah Al-Ansariyyah, another Muslim lady stated that she accompanied the Prophet in seven battles where she cooked for the soldiers, looked after rations and supplied and attended the wounded. In all her outdoor activities and contacts Islam demands of the wife to seek her husband’s consent, so as to safeguard the stability of the home which should be her main concern.

      Further, Islam has laid down certain standards of decency in dress and behaviour between men and women, and established rules intended to ensure the sanctity of the home and the inviolability of marital intimacy. With a view to safeguarding motherhood and maintaining a healthy home atmosphere in which the young may receive adequate care, Islam had imposed on the male, the financial duties of maintenance and has exempted women therefrom. At the sane time, Islam does not prohibit women from gainful employment if they so desire. The rights to individual inheritance are also safeguard and their rights to financial dealings are unrestricted.

      The Family is the cornerstone of the social structure, with the man and the woman as its two components. The general relationship between them has been described by the Prophet in the words: “Women are but the sisters of men.” The marital bond is the only permissible basis of procreation. Every non-marital sexual relationship is considered in Islam as a threat to the very fabric of family and society. Having thus described the mutual relationship between man and woman as on of equality, Islam goes on to degne their relationship within the realm of family: “The rights and obligations of women towards men are equal, and men are a degree above them”(Qur’aan 2:228). This “degree” does not relate to the human qualities of man and woman but rather to the function of the male partner who is responsible for the happiness and the well-being of the family as a whole. It is a degree that implies only man’s administrative leadership of the family.

      In order to strengthen the bonds of the family and to ensure the stability of the home, Islam has laid down several principles. The first of these is the man’s right to choose his wife and the woman’s right to choose her husband. The Prophet enjoined Al-Mugheera Ben Shu’ba, one of his Companions, to become acquainted with his intended bride, for “it is important that permanent affection should grow between you.” When a newly married girl complained to him that her father had chosen her husband without consulting her, the Prophet allowed her to annul her marriage.

      Another principle of family life, is the duty of consultation between husband and wife in all domestic affairs. As a matter of fact, the Qur’aan even prescribes consultation and mutual consent between divorced parents regarding the weaning of their child.

      The much repeated slogan of equality between man and woman should not be allowed to eclipse the fact that being equal does not imply a uniformity of all qualities. This slogan was once a reaction to certain injustices but soon became an Oblique motto distorting many but interdependent. There missions in life are diverse, but complementary.

      The fallacy of “modern equality” is manifest in what it has brought in today’s human society, in the unbecoming hardness in many women and in the unpleasant softness in many men. What is alarming indeed is the fact that the feat qualities of tenderness, delicacy, devotion and pure love are fading away in our social outlook and build-up. Whether of elevating society to its most perfect form. He once said: “I swear by Him in Whose hand lies my soul that it is better for a man to take a rope and go into the mountains to cut wood and then return with load on his back in order to earn his bread, than to ask other for help. He fostered the spirit of social co-operation among the community, by sayings like this: “The best of the people is he who is most             

      Every individual has a claim on society and on the government that a certain limit in value, must be proved beyond any possibility of doubt, and must be devoid of any mitigating circumstances. Also the culprit should be in complete possession of is senses.

      Social Cohesion – The principle of cohesion is the chief characteristic of Islamic social life. In discussing social co-operation and its connection with religious belief, we usually hear such terms as “Charity”, “Philanthropy” and, more frequently, the institution of Zakat 1. But these terms by no means circumscribe the entire role of Islam in the domain of social co-operation.


1. Zakat is a compulsory tax prescribed by Islam. Its rate as practised by the Prophet was a two and one-half percent of the surplus property in money, and at a variety of rates in other categories. The income of Zakat goes to a special treasury and is to be spent only on the objects explicitly mentioned in the Qur’aanic injunction: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and for those employed to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of God, and for the wayfarer; they are a duty imposed by God (ix:60)

      Islam has evolved a full-fledged social system relating not merely to mutual financial aid in it various forms, as implied in such concepts as “social security” or “social insurance”. Financial assistance is but one aspect of the mutual aid ordained by the principle of co-operation and cohesion in Islam. This co-operation and cohesion can be described thus:

a) As we have seen, Islam starts with the relationship between the individual and his conscience. The individual is duty-bound to cleanse his heart of evil, to avail himself of the good things of life, to give himself a fair share of work and rest so that he may not fall into idleness nor succumb to exhaustion from overwork. The self-training of the individual in this manner is but a preparation for the role which he is called upon to play within society.

b) Thereupon we move from the realm of the individual to that of the family. As already mentioned, the family structure is based upon the interdependence of advantage and liabilities, rights and obligation. Such cohesion is not confined to economic affairs alone; it is all-embracing in it scope and includes the financial maintenance of the family, the protection of marital relations and of motherhood, the obligation of caring for the children physically, mentally and spiritually, and the duty of children towards their parents in their old age. To the extent that the individual members of the family care for, and protect, one another, the social obligations of the state are reduced and lightened.

c) Proceeding from the family to the wider social structure, we find the principle of cohesion and indispensable element in the social relationships, not merely in the sphere of economics but also in that of ethics. Every individual is duty-bound to perform his own job to the best of his ability because the fruits of his toil necessary affect the society as a whole. He is also obliged to refrain from evil and to endeavour to persuade others to do likewise.

      The Qur’aan extols the virtue of positive labour: “And say to them (O Muhammad): Work! And God will see your work, and so will His Apostle and all believers” (9:105). To illustrate this principle, the Prophet on many occasions stressed the value of work as a means represents it, to be assisted; both in theory and in practice, in acquiring perform such work. In other words, the Apostle of God not only counselled the able-bodied to work for their livelihood but also made provision on the right of the worker to be suitably rewarded for his work, saying: “On the Day of Resurrection I shall be the enemy of him, who, having hired a worker, did not recompense him after he had fulfilled his obligation.” The “enmity” of the Prophet implies a corresponding attitude, ties of life commensurate with the needs of the time. If he wishes to which has to be adopted in such cases, by the Muslim community.

d) Every citizen is entitled to adequate housing to protect him from head, cold, rain and to ensure the privacy of his home. He is also entitled to adequate clothing, food, health facilities and other necessities. To marry and one does not possess the financial means to do so, the state is obliged to help him satisfy this natural need for marriage and thus safeguard him from the temptation of indulging in illicit sexual relations. These rights of the individual have been succinctly stated by the Prophet in sayings like: “ He who is performing work for us, and has no home, shall have a home; and he who has no wife shall be enabled to marry, and he who needs a servant and has none shall have a servant. And he who had no animal to use for his transportation shall be given one.” On another occasion, the Prophet said: “Your servants are your brethren; and if anyone has his brother working for him, he shall give him to eat of what he himself eats, and clothed him as he clothes himself, and shall not burden him with work beyond his capacity; and if you entrust your servants with hard work, held them therein.”

e) Those who are unable to work or cannot find work or whose income are insufficient for their needs, are specifically mentioned as the recipients of help from Zakat funds. It is to be borne in mind that the payment of Zakat is not merely a personal charitable contribution left to the discretion of the individual but a tax to the exacted by the State, and, if necessary, the State is entitled to take to task those who refuse to pay it. The Zakat is to be spent in ways similar to those which in modern times are comprised in the terms “social security” and “social insurance”. This tax is to be administered in a decentralised manner.






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