Islam and the Eradication of Poverty

by Maulana Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad

The Light (Pakistan), 24th January 1980 Issue (Vol. 60, No. 2, pp. 13–14)

In Islam it is the foremost duty of the State to see that no poverty in its true sense exists anywhere in the nation, but not always through direct inter­ference. And here comes in another question that has been unnecessarily puzzling the minds of our Christian friends of the West.

State is neither a curse nor a punish­ment nor indeed the sole vehicle of collective social expression. It is a self-felt need of the individual. State is a provision made by the individual himself for guiding and controlling himself in moments of forgetfulness or excitement. It is an essential need and yet not the supreme need of social life. In normal condition of things, the native social feeling of man guided by his practical common-sense is enough guidance for social behaviour. State interference in such a condition will do more harm than good. It will stunt the growth of the nation mentally, morally, econo­mically and politically. The State, however, must took after the cases of acci­dent. Islam favours that view of the question which stands for as little State interference as possible, but it insists that its range of interference must cover all cases of accident.

Like all other accidents, the accident of poverty must be a duty to avert and to redress. The State its accordingly held responsible for the provision of food, clothes and residence to the individual if he cannot provide for these himself. But it must not be burdened with the entire duty of feeding and housing the whole population. That will be a task too unwieldy and cramping at the same time. It will, more­over, be an unsuitable approach to the question to paralyse the instincts spring­ing from biological elements of animal life, because on these lines, as Islam rightly holds, lies the moral and spirit­ual evolution of man. It is noteworthy that whereas other religions as they exist today discard animal instincts as wholly Satanic, Islam considers these as the very basis of spiritual faculties. According to this religion original animal instincts properly guided and controlled are transformed into moral qualities which in their turn give birth to spirit­ual life in man. As we see it, Marxism has its moral source in the other, i.e. non-Islamic theology and believes animal instincts as of the devil and productive of nothing but evil. That is why it is anxious to crush the animal instincts of family affection and natural group loyalty. It may be that it possesses no means whereby to utilise them to the advantage of man but that was a weakness of Christianity as well. But just because you cannot handle a thing, is it wise to kill it particularly when you find some other systems using it to the great advantage of humanity? It is not only wrong but arrogant. So at the bottom with all its abhorrence for re­ligion and theology, Marxism is blindly following Christian theology. It would appear as if one can never get rid of theology particularly when one is de­aling with human conduct and character. You have to go by some theory or other about the potentialities and draw­backs of human nature; you must have some conception of the ultimate aim of human social life and this is entering in the field of theology. Let, therefore, no one be, seduced into the belief that Marxism involves no religious belief and has nothing to do with Christianity. Let it be realised that although Marx­ism has repudiated some mystical be­liefs of Christianity it has faithfully adopted what really matters in that faith viz., the conception of human nature and its ultimate goal. Its con­ception of State and the idea of its jurisdiction is a natural and logical sequel to the Christian conception of human nature. It wants to eradicate poverty by force because it cannot trust the good sense of man. It regards poverty as a natural state because it regards human nature instinctively callous. It fails like Christianity to see that man’s callousness towards some has its paradoxical counterpart some­where in the opposite quality of exor­bitant love for some others. It is the want of balance and proportion that causes the mischief. If one religion has failed to establish the balance, all religions cannot be said to have failed. Islam’s appeal to our Marxist friends is that they should not wholly distrust human nature and for that matter the individual man and his natural affec­tions, as these are the seeds of the spiritual man to whom are revealed the hidden laws of existence and the soul-stirring vision of the ultimate destiny of man.

Given necessary guidance, the nature of man functions quite normally, mak­ing for the best of ordered social life. But it has its lapses, causing accidents and consequent disturbances which must be provided against. It is here that State must step in. Provided the State knows where to step in and stop the accident growing into a menace, the society will exhibit all those qualities of brain and heart which are the only real safeguards against poverty.