Sunday, February 04, 2007

Social Solidarity & Social Security in Islam


Translated by: Yasmin Muhammad Moslem

Revised by: Magdy Abd Al-Shafy

Social solidarity is one of the principles that Islam has established to enable man to lead a decent life. Thus, Islam has laid down many forms of religious donation to achieve social solidarity. Among them are Zakat (regular obligatory charity), (voluntary) charity, Al-Waqf (Religious endowment)(1), expiation(2), vows(3), etc. Such forms do not reduce donation to meeting human basic needs. Instead, they are to reach the limit of financial independence and prosperity. As `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, stated: “When you make a donation, grant financial independence”, which can be achieved through providing additional access to employment opportunities and assisting in starting, managing and growing small businesses. Scholars have stressed the fact that social solidarity can be categorized into two kinds: financial and molar solidarity. The latter is represented by many forms because human needs are not only financial ones, but they also include different forms such as consultation, advice, friendship, education, and other forms of donation. Therefore, time and in-kind donation is not less significant than financial donation. Moreover, it should be a human development-oriented means rather than a motive for dependence, the result of limiting donation to meet basic needs, which is considered as a palliative; ignoring the roots and rational solutions of the problem. So, each one should play a real effective role in society and take responsibility for putting an end to poverty and unemployment. Furthermore, one should offer even least assistance to one individual or family through providing them access to income or education, which can achieve their independence, the basis of social solidarity.

Social Solidarity in Islam:
Definition of Social Solidarity in Islam:
Social Solidarity in Islam is one of the bases of society through which it can achieve its permanent happiness, goodwill, security, unity, and peace. Simply, each member of society should help those in need so that they can lead even the least decent life and meet their basic needs. This includes all members of society whatever their religion or nationality. Scholars have stressed that solidarity is categorized into financial and molar solidarity. Solidarity does not only mean negative sympathy, but also positive reaction. Financial solidarity includes financial assistant, aiming at making the poor reach the limits of “financial independence” or “prosperity” . In this sense, `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, said: “When you make a donation, grant financial independence”, and Ali bin Abi Talib, may God be pleased with him, said: “God imposes a duty on the rich to donate as much money as adequate for the poor in their society.” On the other hand, molar solidarity is represented by many forms because human needs are not only financial ones, but they also include different forms, such as consultation, advice, friendship, goodwill, education, consolation, and other many forms of donation.

Definition of Social Secrutiy in Islam:
Scholars have made clear the fact that there is a difference between the two terms, “social solidarity” and “social security” although they seem alike. Social Security is a ruler’s duty to citizens or, in a more contemporary language, a government’s duty to its people as it has an obligation to enable them , at least ,to lead the minimum standard of life and to offer assistance to all who need it.
Social Solidarity in Islam as a means of prosperity of society
The concept of “Social Solidarity” is stated explicitly in many Quranic verses and Hadith(4) reports. God says in the Holy Quran what means: “The believers are but brothers.” (49:10). Also, He says in the Holy Quran what means: “The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another.” (9:71). Prophet Mohummed Hadith promote fraternity and altruism.Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other.” He, peace be upon him also said: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.”‏ Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, also said: "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself."
Islam has made clear that money God grants us is not ours, but His. Thus, a Moslem is not to spend such money according to one’s vain desires, but rather, according to God’s instructions. Moreover, Islam has stressed the fact that this universe and all what is in is God’s, not man’s. Allah (=God) says in the Holy Quran what means: “To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth” (48:14). Also, He says in the Holy Quran what means: “… and bestow upon them of the wealth of Allah which He hath bestowed upon you”(24:33). As money is God’s, people are just its stewards; He entrusts them with it and, on Qiyamah (the Day of Judgment), He will ask them what they used it for. Among the parameters laid down by God in His Messages is spending (in charity) in the cause of God. God says in the Holy Quran what means: “Behold, ye are those invited to spend (of your substance) in the Way of Allah: but among you are some that are niggardly. But any who are niggardly are so at the expense of their own souls. But Allah is free of all wants, and it is ye that are needy. If ye turn back (from the Path), He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you”(38:47). He also says in the Holy Quran what means: “And let not those who covetously withhold of the gifts which Allah hath given them of His Grace, think that it is good for them: nay, it will be the worse for them; soon shall the things which they covetously withheld be tied to their necks like a twisted collar, on the Day of Judgment” (3:180). Furthermore, Islam obliges a Moslem to help the poor ; even if obligatory charity (Zakat) and (voluntary) charity are not adequate, subsistence available should be common to all the members of society, as God says in the Holy Quran what means: “… Thus, it will not remain monopolized by the rich among you” (59:7). The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “He is not a believer who goes to bed having eaten his fill while his neighbour remains hungry and he is aware of that fact.” Also, he, peace be upon him, said: “If someone grows hungry among residences of a town, God and His Messenger will reject them.” Moreove, `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, said: “I am keen on not leaving a need unmet as long as we can help each other. When we cannot do so, we should lead similar lives of subsistence.”
Thus, social solidarity is one of the essential human rights guaranteed by God fourteen centuries ago. The human right to decent life is one of the parameters laid down by Islam; it is not a result of human experiences gained through development of the political and economical systems, which has taken place only in the West in the 20th century. Islam has found several means to enhance social solidarity, such as Zakat (regular obligatory charity), (voluntary) charity, Al-Waqf (Religious endowment, considered a kind of incremental charity), blood money, expiation, and vows. There are suggestions made by some intellectuals which we can follow at this stage. Among them is the family solidarity; each clan should establish social solidarity fund to help poor relatives. Such help can take the form of giving them a monthly salary, giving them an amount of money to start a project, or helping the sick. There is also a suggestion that social solidarity committees should be formed in districts so that the rich can regularly help the poor, the wretched, and the orphan. It is necessary to bequeath the principles of social solidarity to future generations.

Zakat as a means of “Social Security”
Zakat has a great role in enhancing “Social Security.” Many scholars consider Zakat the social security establishment as it is obligatory, has specific recipients, and is of a predetermined amount (Nisab). In previous Islamic eras, Zakat, represented in the Public Treasury, one of the charges of a ruler, was actually able to encourage economic development. In his book Social Solidarity in Islam, Dr. Naseh Ulwan stressed that “it is obvious that when the principle of Zakat used to be applied in previous Islamic eras, it succeeded in combating poverty, enhancing social solidarity, beating envy and grudge felt by the poor towards the rich,… making believers accustomed to generosity and donation, and paving the way for the broke to find jobs.” Thus, Zakat was not just giving money to feed the poor, but also it was a means for beating poverty through providing additional access to employment opportunities. For example, a poor young man can be given a capital of a business with which he can buy a machine for a craft at which he is skillful. So, Zakat is a means of development and actual beating of poverty.
Caliphs, `Umar bin Al-Khattab and `Umar bin Al-Aziz, may God be pleased with them, set the most wonderful examples which stressed the fact that a righteous ruler is able to dispense justice and prosperity to his nation through typical adhering to honesty and justice while distributing money of the nation. In the Year of the Dearth, `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, said: “By God, which there is no god but Him, each one has due share of this money, which I may pay or not. No one deserves it more than another one, and I am but one among you… By God, if I live more, a herdsman on the Mountain of Sanaa will receive his share while he is pasturing his animals.” In the era of the Caliph `Umar bin Al-Aziz, may God be pleased with him, he beat poverty and replace it with prosperity of the whole nation, including Moslems and non-Moslems. On the authority of Suhayl bin Abi-Saleh, `Umar bin Al-Aziz, wrote to Abd Al-Hamid bin Abd Ar-Rahman, when he was in Iraq, commanding him to give donations to the people. Al-Hamid replied: “I gave them their donations, and there is still money in the Public Treasury.” `Umar bin Al-Aziz, replied him: “look for those in debt from what cannot be considered a kind of foolishness or wastefulness, and pay up in behalf of them.” Al-Hamid replied: “I paid up in behalf of them, and there is still money in the Public Treasury.” `Umar bin Al-Aziz, replied him: “look for men who have never been married, and, if they want to marry, help them and pay dowry on behalf of them.” Al-Hamid replied: “I helped all those I had found unmarried to marry, and there is still money in the Public Treasury.” `Umar bin Al-Aziz, replied him: “look for those who are to pay Jizyah(5) and has become not able to afford their farms' expenditures, and lend them money that can support them in their work on their farms and do not ask them to pay Jizyah for a year or two years.”
Islam stressed that a ruler must dispense justice to his people and to enhance social solidarity and social security. On the authority of Abu Hurarira, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, says: “Each chieftain will come, on the Day of Judgment, with his hands tightened. Nothing could free him unless he used to dispense justice (to his people).” Also he said: “Whenever he whom God, exalted be He, made a president of some people dies, while he is unjust to his people, God would deprive him from going to Paradise.”
To sum up, each male and female Moslem should take into consideration the fact that the whole Moslem Nation, both individuals and governments, have responsibility for solving the crisis of poverty, corruption, and iniquity suffered by millions of Moslems allover the Islamic World. We should take the initiative and encourage one another to enhance social solidarity. Thus, we would be able to be absolved by God on the Day of Judgment as we exert every effort to enhance donation and justice, which is the least of faith.

(1) Al-Waqf (Religious endowment): A legal term that signifies the appropriation or dedication of property for charitable uses and the service of Allah. The object of such an endowment must be of perpetual nature and can not be sold or transferred.
(2)Expiation (Kaffarah): A legal term which signifies a certain punishment upon people who commit sins. Expiation may take the form of Fasting, feeding the poor or releasing slaves from bandage.
(3) Vow: A solemn promise to perform a legal act or behave in a certain manner.
(4)Hadith: Collection of reports that document the sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad (Sunna), one of the main sources of Islamic law (second in authority to the Quran).
(5) Jizyah : A head-tax imposed by Islam on the non-Muslims when they are under Muslim control. The Jizyah is a small tax incurred by non-Muslims for protection. They do not pay Zakat (obligatory charity on Muslims) which is much higher.It is worth pointing out that it is not levied on the poor or on those who have no income; nor is it imposed on women and children, or on the blind who have no trade or job, or on an infirm who is in financial straits, or on monastery monks, except if wealthyJizyah was lawfully permitted only in return for the actual protection provided by the Muslims for the non-Muslims who were under their rule. No Protection, no Jizyah.

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