The Problem of “Thine and Mine”
Five Pillars of Islam
by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din
All of them have sprung from a common source, the one perennial root-cause, viz.,
“This is thine, and that is mine.”
The successive stages in the life of a family would perhaps furnish a very fitting illustration of my theme. There is a time up to which all the children in a family represent the various parts of one body-politic (family). The parents look to all their needs, and the affection they have one to the other is the common bond which unites them into one single whole. But the solidarity of this whole begins to be a little shaken when this passion for “thine and mine” begins to find expression—however feebly—in their little acts and words. This is the beginning of what causes disintegration in the midst of not one family, but a larger social unit as well, viz., a nation or a community, and its still larger prototype the whole human race. The wars of one nation against another only represent on a very large scale the petty jealousy between one member of a family against another. The self-same motive of “thine and mine” being responsible everywhere.
Similarly, we find this idea of “thine and mine” as the chief incentive to all civil crimes. We wish to possess the belongings of others by questionable means, and it leads to crime. Usurpation, theft, fraud are only different forms of unfair means which we use to convert “thine” into “mine” in a wrong way.
Let us enlarge our viewpoint and study the act of a whole nation in this light. We should find that the real aim of all wars and international rivalries lies in the motive of the rapacity of one to dispossess the other of a tempting prize, which may be a large piece of unexploited land, some trading interest, or any other similar object. However insignificant this source of temptation, the devastation and bloodshed which results from them is often appalling. Consequently, the first concern of an institution aiming at the establishment of peace in the world should, in the first place, be to attempt most seriously to solve this problem of “thine and mine.” For where we find this motive of “thine and mine” in its abnormal aspects giving rise to quarrels and wars, we find it also the fountainhead of all our good activities. It is both a blessing and a curse, and the way how it might only be the former, and never the latter, is the duty and province of the religion from God to discover and expound. This idea of “thine and mine” is not altogether valueless. It creates, as a matter of fact, that instinct which makes people active in the hope that the reward of these activities would be theirs. If there were any law by which the price of John’s labour could be handed over to James, the end of civilization would not be difficult to see. Any attempt to do away entirely with this personal motive of “thine and mine” would be a failure. Those who have tried to do so have miserably failed in their efforts. They denude men from the very incentive to action. This unnatural phase of Socialism has proved to be its grave in the West. We read the same about Jesus Christ. He was a true prophet of God. He believed and tried to preach that all the bloodshed in the world was entirely due to the presence of the idea of “thine and mine.” But he did not succeed in his mission. The age, perhaps, was too sordid to receive his message. He was taken to be a seditionist by his own men and a violator of the status quo. Candidly speaking, if what we find in the New Testament be taken as a genuine record of Jesus, his compatriots were not to be blamed too much if they could not see their way to endorse the visionary view of the dreamer. Leave apart others; will those who have undertaken to shepherd his flock care to act upon his following views?
“And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither have two coats apiece.
“And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.
“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” (St. Luke, 9:3–5)
The prime need of the world is not the ideal in its abstract form, but it is, on the other hand, the laying down of such practical rules and guidances—a course of life-discipline which may enable us to read abstract ideas in the terms of actualities. The work of a reformer or preacher should not end at
“Blessed are those who are peacemakers,” (Matthew, 5:9)
but should advance into the realm of practicalities and soar into regions of realities. It should definitely direct how this peace is to be made and the peace-making psychology created. That this highly personal motive “thine and mine” be allowed to work within desirable limits, and a rule of actual practice be brought into existence, it is desirable that practical ways be suggested which would regulate the activities of human life. Instead of bringing about equilibrium in the possession of individuals by means of force, it would be much better to inspire them with the spirit of charity and self-sacrifice. To deprive people of the fruits of their honest labour would not only be unnatural and preposterous, but freeze as well, the very spirit of energy and bring the wheel of civilization to immobility. The world would be more prosperous and peaceful, too, if all were allowed to reap fully the benefits of their work, with a strong sense created in them to part voluntarily with their earnings in relief of distress and misery. This will chasten the evil aspect of the spirit of “thine and mine” into a blessing.
This was a big problem, and the Last of the Prophets came to solve it. He lays down through these five pillars of Islam a course of life which, without killing the instinct of “thine and mine”—the sum-total of human consciousness—atrophies its evil consequences.
Nothing would deter us from giving up our all for the sake, and to win the goodwill of our object of adoration. Islam points that object to be Allah and it expects its votaries to stint nothing in all that they possess to win the goodwill of One who is the Best, the Holiest, and in every respect most fit to be the object of every true human devotion.
“By no means shall you attain to righteousness; until you spend (benevolently) out of what you have.” (The Holy Quran, 3:92)
—so says the Quran.
Let me now show you a few of those things we love and for the achievement of which this guiding motive of “thine and mine” becomes a source of disaster rather than that of bliss for men, and makes them authors of limitless evil and harm. Money, as we all know, is the great token of exchange for everything in the world, and is obtained by spending one’s time in the best possible manner. Time itself means money. We need time to accomplish all great purposes. None of our great national triumphs would be realized until we spent our time freely in their pursuit. Next after time come those means which satisfy our physical hunger: the provisions which sustain life, and keep the vigour of life alive in us. After these are the needs of our body in the way of apparel. Next in the upward scale is our want of conjugal life. We are animals, though rational, and our natural state of life after we are grown up demands a reasonable satisfaction of our human instincts which directs us to find in a conjugal life the best form of a happy and contented life; as a necessary corollary to the last mentioned is our need of finding means to successfully bring up our children and to provide all that is needful for their future happiness in life. The last great object of our attachment and devotion is our nation and the country to which we belong. All of these more or less directly move our activities in life, and become useful or harmful to other fellowmen according to the degree and interest with which they are served. The passion for our country as for instance, which we designate patriotism, has always been the cause of immense blood-spilling and ruin when it began to work beyond the limit of self-determination. Let it not follow from this that the love of one’s self, one’s belongings, one’s wife and children, and of one’s country, are nothing but evil. Far from it. On the other hand, man being a social creature depends for his well-ordered and progressive existence on these essential main-springs of his activities. The harm lies in his attachment to these interests to such a degree as would lead him to trample on the rights of others. A religion under which the rich man is confronted with the insuperable difficulty of making the camel pass through the eye of the needle before he can enter the kingdom of heaven has never appealed to humanity. It would cause inertia and lethargy as it did in the days of the Middle Ages. We need a religion from God which may create the happy means and save us from the disasters of going to extremes. Religion without such, solution is myth and fable and of no consequence to mankind. Mere belief in certain events in the history of the world is only fetishism in different form.
A true religion would create in us a spirit which if on the one hand would induce us to be ever-active in winning riches of life, it on the other would also make us ready to part with them in making others happy. It should create in us a spirit of self- sacrifice—making it meritorious in our eyes to spend our earnings in the interest of the other. Man is a worshipping animal. He has always adored the Unseen, and has ever been ready to give up everything near and dear to him to please the Deity. Islam has on the one hand, therefore, prescribed a course of discipline under which a Muslim would learn to give up his time, his wealth, his eatables and drinks, and his family and country attachments in the way of God, and on the other hand the religion of God impresses on the minds of its votaries that the cause of Allah is another name for the cause of humanity.