The integrated nature of Individual-Society-State relationship in Islam

A critique of Islamic thought patterns will reveal that different aspects of Islamic social framework have been united into one whole by their axiological, existential base – the principle of "Tawheed" (oneness of Allah) which owes its origin from the repeated Our'anic teaching of Oneness of Allah. Such unitary character is found in all dimensions of Muslim socio-structural order, system of knowledge and metaphysics. Islamic economic issues are simply a part of the integrated whole. Whatever may be the nature of investigations of the Our’an and the Sunnah, there is practically no differences of opinion as regards integrated overall-view of life and society. The social philosophy, owing to the unitary character of Islam, knows no distinction between a spiritual and a temporal realm nor between religious and secular activities in the society. The whole range of man - society and man - state relationship is to be understood against the background of this social philosophical thought of Islam.

Society or State in Islam is for the individual who is responsible for his actions and accountable to Allah for his conduct. It is evident that Allah could not possibly have made the individual accountable for his conduct if everything in his life was determined by the forces external to him. This notion of accountability gives him freedom to participate in the construction of the society in which he belongs as well as puts restriction on him not to degrade the society Islamically. In an Islamic state, the individual is seen as an integral part of his own family, his community, his State and the international community at large. Therefore, he has some economic and social responsibilities towards each of the components of his integrated life.

Now the question arises as to where individual freedom ends and social control begins. As a matter of fact this social control guarantees individual freedom as it enables the individual to perform his duties as prescribed by the Shari’ah. Therefore, freedom and control are not contradictory but complementary to each other, because it is control which protects the freedom and vice versa. It is the essence of Islamic concept of freedom and control. What is important then is to describe the operational limits of altruistic behaviour of individuals in a particular social and economic context. The social authority in the form of the State which is recognized by Islam for the prevention of exploitation and moral degeneration as well as for promotion of material and spiritual interest of man is to be understood from this angle of social vision.

Thus a purposive relationship based on good-will and co-operation is found in the Individual-Society-State relationship. It is the state which enforces the Islamic law and makes individuals fulfill their obligations towards society but it is the individuals who select their rulers to enforce the Shari’ah. The rulers cease to deserve obedience, should they transgress the Shari’ah. These checks and balances are found in all dimensions of Islamic social framework which can be expressed in terms of moral, social, economic and political dimensions.

In the moral sphere Islamic faith is essentially a unity. It is at once worship and work; secular conduct of life is not divorced from religious beliefs of Muslims. In social sphere its distinguishing feature lies in its complete human equality, just and coherent unity of existence and mutual responsibility of individuals and societies in Islamic scheme of things, nobody would be allowed to exploit the other; everybody should be given equal opportunity to go up the social ladder. This is operational not only through the institution of prayers in the mosques but also through acquisition of wealth and property.
The economic dimension is manifested through emphasis on the distributive justice and beneficent use of the “bounty” of Allah. According to the Qur’an, all resources of the universe belong to none but Allah. This concept of absolute ownership by Allah promotes redistribution of wealth among have-nots and also creates a non-capitalist
frame of mind. Individual ownership has been recognized to provide incentive to work but the state has even the right to deprive the ownership of property in extreme cases if it is remained unused or used against the interest of the community. Lastly, the political dimension of Islamic social framework can be expressed in terms of three fundamental conceptions: sovereignty of Allah, equality of mankind and the principle of co-existence.
The main conclusion which emerges from the preceding discussion is that the integrated model of Islamic social framework of which Islamic economics is a part, is among others, based on the following nine criteria:
(a) fair balance between worship and work;
(b) human equality;
(c) mutual responsibilities and co-operation in a society;
(d) distributive justice
(e) family, intra-family and collective obligations carrying individual responsibilities and accountability;
(f) balanced and beneficent use of the “bounty of Allah”;
(g) limited sovereignty of people in society;
(h) principle of co-existence and
(i) freedom of action and conscience.
These criteria on which Islamic social framework is based are coordinated and integrated so that they provide a positive motivation for economic activities, steered by the concept of fair balance between material and spiritual needs and between private and social needs.