Human Rights in Islam : The Preservation of Wealth

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Private wealth and property are the basis of the economy and of the livelihood of the members of the society. Islam protects personal wealth and imposes very strict penalties against banditry, robbery, and any violations against the sanctity of property. Cheating, embezzlement, monopoly, hoarding and many other harmful practices are also prohibited. This is done with the intention of ensuring protection to the wealth and personal assets of individuals. Islamic law imposes the corporal punishment of cutting off the hand of the thief who steals the property of others, in accordance with strict requirements and due process of law. God, the Almighty, states in the Qur’an:

([As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hand in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.) [5:38]

It must be noted that the process of amputating the hand of a thief is only implemented with strict conditions, which include the following:

The stolen items or valuables must be in a sealed area requiring the thief to have to trespass. If a thief steals an item that is left outside negligently or not cared for, there is no punishment by amputation. The thief in this case may be subjected to the penalty of snatching, wherein the authorities determine the appropriate penalty or “Ta’zeer.”

Islam protects personal wealth and imposes very strict penalties against banditry, robbery, and thievery. 

The theft committed must not involve food for survival from hunger. The second Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab during the famine of the “Ramadah Year” did not apply the punishment for stealing due to the conditions of widespread hunger.

The value of the stolen items must be above the range of the value set for stealing that obligates amputation of the hand; in other words it must be larceny and not petty theft.

Islamic law demands that the oppressor must return the amount he unjustly confiscated from other Muslims’ land or property, or alternatively he is forced to pay the value of such unjustly confiscated property.

These physical punishments are not to be carried out unless there is irrefutable evidence (i.e. no doubt that the crime has been committed) and that it is punishable by Islamic law. Islamic jurisprudence, however, in cases where it expiates corporal punishment for a crime he committed, will substitute it with another type of disciplinary punishment. Disciplinary punishment is usually less than the corporal punishment and is determined by the Muslim judge according to the type, level, category and severity of the crime and the criminal himself and his criminal record. Disciplinary punishment may be imprisonment, flogging in public, reprimanding him or imposing a fine for his crime.

Other than thievery, Islam has banned all types of transgression against private possessions, estate and land ownership. This is based on the statement in the Qur’an:

(And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people unlawfully, while you know [it is unlawful].) [2:188]

Therefore, the transgressor will be subjected to a tremendous and severe penalty on the Day of Judgment. This is based on the statement of God’s Messenger (pbuh),

“Whosoever unjustly takes any money or the wealth of another Muslim without a due right, God will meet such a person in a state of anger.” (Reported by Ahmad no. 3946)

Another statement of God’s Messenger (pbuh) is:

“Whosoever usurps a hand span of land, God will have this oppressor wear seven earths (around his neck) on the Day of Judgment.”

Islamic law demands that the oppressor must return the amount he unjustly confiscated from other Muslims’ land or property, or alternatively he is forced to pay the value of such unjustly confiscated property. Furthermore, the oppressor in such a situation is subjected to a lashing penalty determined by the Muslim judge. Islam entitles the owner of wealth to defend all that he owns, even to the point of killing the aggressor, if that is the only means of stopping the aggression. If the owner kills the aggressor he is not to be killed for killing him, if he can prove that he killed him while defending his property. If the aggressor, on the other hand, killed the defending owner, the owner is a martyr and the attacker a murderer. This is based on the statement of God’s Messenger (pbuh),

“Whosoever is killed defending his wealth is a martyr.” (Reported by Bukhari no 2348)

Note on the preservation of the national resources:

Reserved national resources are public property and the income generated from these natural resources must be placed in the Public Treasury to finance the needs of the public. Such resources are not to be owned privately by a specific group or class of people or individuals for any specific merit. The revenue of such resources is solely to be used for public welfare. It becomes a collective responsibility of the Islamic society to be vigilant against any intruder or aggressor against this property. Any unlawful exploitation of common natural resources is banned according to Islamic teachings and principles. God, the Almighty, states in the Qur’an:

(…and do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth.) [2:60]

Any unlawful exploitation of common natural resources is banned according to Islamic teachings and principles.

Furthermore, this is based on the statement of God’s Messenger (pbuh),

“Muslims are partners in three (natural resources): water, grazing grass and fire.” (Reported by Abu Dawood no.3477)

Note on public and private rights in Islam:

Islam endeavors to strengthen the social ties among the members of the Islamic society. Islam addressed the rights of the immediate members of the family first, then the kindred who have obligations and rights towards each other according to their closeness. The value and the importance of such rights vary according to the kind and degree of relationship. God, the Almighty, states in the Qur’an:

(O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah , through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.) [4:1]

Islam endeavors to strengthen the social ties among the members of the Islamic society.

And God says in the context of inheritance rules:

(You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children, are nearest to you in benefit, these fixed shares are ordained by God. And God is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise.) [4:11]

Other relationships were not neglected in Islam either since they are all part of the network that joins people making them closer to each other personally and socially. People who are more distant to each other also need a type of bond that brings them together in order to build a cohesive society. God, the Almighty, states in the Qur’an:

([And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give the obligated charity and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.) [22:41]

Strengthening of relationships is also guided by the statement of God’s Messenger (pbuh),

“Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices on one another; do not hate one another; do not turn away from one another; and do not undercut one another, but be you, O servants of God, brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he fail him, he neither lies to him nor does he hold him in contempt. Piety is right here – and he pointed to his chest three times. It is evil enough for a man to hold his Muslim brother in contempt. A Muslim to another Muslim is sacred; his life, his property, and his honor.” (Reported by Muslim no. 2564)

And he (pbuh) said:

“The example of believers in love, affection, cooperation and sympathy is like that of one body. If one organ of the body aches, the entire body will support the aching body part by wakefulness and fever.” (Reported by Bukhari no. 2238 and Muslim no. 2586)

Reference : Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Sheha, Human Rights in Islam, Usool International Centre, Riyadh, ISBN: 978-603-90936-9-5

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