3(a) Private Ownership: Its Principles

Islam recognizes private ownership of property. This ownership is relative, not absolute. For, the Qur’an categorically states that absolute ownership belongs to Allah alone. The state can intervene if individual misuses his ownership of property and causes harm to the society. This is a predominant Islamic position on the concept of private property in Islam. Although there is a consensus as regards the intervention of
Islamic state, opinions differ on the question of the extent of such intervention. There is in fact no hard and fast rule in this regard, although state intervention can be reduced to a bare minimum, when individual discharges his Islamic obligations voluntarily. In its final analysis, it depends on Islamically justified social awareness of the individual as well as the nature and the state of the economies and their concerned institutions.

However, from a careful study of the Shari’ah, it should be possible to derive at least the following eight rules governing private ownership of property:

1. Continuous use of property as non-use of property is not allowed having implications for land reform in many Muslim countries.

2. Payment of Zakah: Owner of the property must pay Zakah in proportion to property owned subject to the rules of the Shari’ah rules of the Shari’ah.

3. Beneficent use of property.

4. Use of property without causing any harm to others having implications for state intervention.
5. Lawful possession of property; acquisition of property through “halal” means.

6. Balanced use of property: use of property not in a prodigal or parsimonious way.

7. Use of property for the purpose of securing for himself due benefits; utilization of property for securing undue benefits in social, economic affairs to the neglect of the larger interest of the community is not permissible.

8. Rightful application of the law of inheritance, as the institutions of inheritance seeks to break up concentration of wealth and income that occurs through transfer of property in the secular economies.

The above mentioned basic rules governing the Islamic concept of private ownership have profound economic and social implications for contemporary Muslim societies particularly in countries where land tenure system is still linked to the colonial legacy. From the preceding discussion it is also evident that private ownership contains an element of public share. As such there is no pure form of private ownership as found under secular economies.