THE Objectives Resolution passed in 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan made Islam the religion of the Pakistani state. Further, it is mandatory for all governments to pass laws that are not repugnant to religious injunctions. This has been a cause of much debate and, probably, of the increasing power of religious groups who bring people out on the streets any time they figure that their version of Sharia has been violated.
Few recognise that states do not possess religions and there is no shared understanding of the Sharia among any two Muslims, let alone the diverse sects in the country.
As scholars argue about beards and hijabs, polygamy and slavery and domestic violence, little attention is paid to the level of accountability each member of society has towards the people she or he serves. Everyone has rights and obligations that must be fulfilled if basic Islamic values are to be followed. Without this, no number of religious rituals can be accepted by God.
Above all, rulers who have been given the responsibility to look after the socioeconomic development of a nation carry the responsibility of the greatest accountability to the people they serve.
The Quran considers corruption one of the worst abuses against society.
As stated in the Quran: “And O My people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption” (11:85).
The Quran considers corruption and wrongdoing to be one of the worst abuses against society. The higher the status of the person committing such actions, the more severe the accountability. There are rulers who have justified almost every benefit they accrue either because of their position or because of what they consider their personal creativity. Islam encourages development of personal wealth, they claim. If they are rich and prosperous, their religion and God gives them blessings. What they fail to realise is that the Quran warns against the hoarding of wealth, especially if other people are suffering from poverty, lack of education and basic facilities.
Hazrat Sulaiman, one of the greatest kings of all time, had control over a vast empire. His wealth and power spread over a vast area, but his people enjoyed the benefits of this development. A ruler who enjoys the best of comfort and luxury while the people he is supposed to be governing suffer hunger, death and oppression will have much to answer for in the court of God.
As stated in the hadith: “Any man whom Allah has given the authority of ruling some people and he does not look after them in an honest manner, will never feel even the smell of Paradise” (Sahih Muslim — Volume 9, Book 89, Number 264).
One of the best Muslim rulers was the second caliph of Islam, Hazrat Umar, who set in place a system of governance that forms the basis of what we call good governance today. He established a special department for the investigation of complaints against government officials. Complaints could be made against any of his officers without fear of repercussions, and nepotism and bribery were unknown.
None of his officials were allowed to benefit from any business dealings whilst being in a position of power. They were eligible only for their salaries. A governor, Al Harith ibn K’ab ibn Wahb, was found to have extra money beyond his salary and Umar inquired about this. Al Harith replied that he had some money which he used for trading. Hazrat Umar said: “By Allah, we did not send you to engage in trade!” and took away the profits from him.
Hazrat Umar walked the streets of Madina to see if any of his people were in need. One night, he found a woman boiling water with stones in a pan, hoping that her hungry children would be lulled into thinking that food would be ready soon and fall asleep. Not knowing that the man inquiring after their welfare was their emir, she complained bitterly about him.
He returned on foot, carrying bags of grain on his own back, refusing to pass on the burden to his companion. He vowed to feel the weight for being negligent towards his people. Compare this to the responses of our governments to the deaths of children in Thar.
People who have authority in a state are either the government officials or religious scholars who can move people for or against any situation. If these two are upright, so will be the people; if they are corrupt, the whole society will be corrupt. We have only to look at ourselves and around us to observe the contamination of our collective and individual souls which we justify by saying that our leaders are doing the same. If we are not to be damned, we must do something about this collectively.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2016