The Islamic State, on gaining the resources, implemented the above outlined precepts and assumed responsibility for meeting each person’s needs for food and clothing. In the time of Hazrat Umar(ra), when the New Order was completely established, a census was taken, involving registration of the individual’s name, in order to facilitate the task of providing food and clothing to everyone. Even European writers acknowledge that it was Hazrat Umar(ra) who first held census and initiated the system of registration. In order to carry out the responsibility of providing food and clothing to everyone, the government needed to know the number people living in the country. It is generally believed today that the Soviet State was the first to recognise its responsibilities towards its people in meeting their primary needs, but the fact is that Islam had done this more than thirteen hundred years ago. Registers maintained by Hazrat Umar’s(ra) administration were thorough and complete. They listed the members in each family, their ages, needs, and the quantity and kind of food sanctioned.
It is recorded in history that Hazrat Umar(ra) in his earlier decisions had not provided for the needs of suckling babies because an infant’s due ration was granted only after it had been weaned. One night, while out on a round of quiet inspection, Hazrat Umar(ra) heard the wailing sound of an infant, which made him pause. But the cries continued, even though the mother tried to put the child to sleep by patting him. At last Hazrat Umar(ra) entered the tent and enquired of the mother: ‘Why do you not suckle the child?’ The woman did not recognise the Khalifah and answered, ‘Hazrat Umar(ra) has decreed that no ration be granted in the case of infants until they were weaned. We are poor people with hardly enough to make both ends meet. I have weaned the child early so that we should get a measure of ration that includes the child’. Hazrat Umar(ra) was shocked when he heard this, and he hastened at once to the Baitul-Mal (Public Treasury) muttering painfully to himself, ‘You have weakened the coming generation of the Arabs by causing infants to be prematurely weaned; the responsibility for this lies on your head.’ He opened the door of the store and lifted a sack of flour on his own back. When an attendant offered to carry it for him, he replied, ‘No. I failed to discharge my responsibility. I must make amends for it myself.’ He then carried the flour to the woman and ordered the next day that a ration be granted for a child from the day it was born, because the nursing mother, in any case, needed better nourishment.
It is therefore beyond dispute that as soon as Islam was in a position to do so, it put into operation a fair and just economic system. In fact, it is evident from the Holy Quran that this system originated at the dawn of history, in the time of Hazrat Adam(as), not with Hadrat Umar(ra). In the earliest revelation to Hadrat Adam(as) we find him directed by God to live in a garden wherein it was ordained that:1
Meaning that: ‘O Adam, We have ordained for you to live in the garden and it is provided for you that you will not hunger therein, nor will you be naked; and you will not thirst therein, nor will you be exposed to the sun.’
It is a mistake to assume, as many people do, that this garden was not located on this earth and that only when he entered paradise in the Hereafter, would man be free from want as depicted in this passage. The Holy Quran is clear on the point that Hazrat Adam(as) was raised as a Prophet in this world, as is said: ‘I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth’. (Surah al- Baqarah, 2:31). And a person born in this world is undoubtedly exposed to hunger and thirst, and is in need of clothing and shelter. This verse therefore clearly means that Hazrat Adam(as) was given the Law for the creation of a civilised society and its implementation was intended to ensure fulfilment of just needs of its members on the basis of a system of joint responsibility of all. Food, clothing and shelter were laid down as the primary needs; and the new society was made responsible for ensuring that all its members were properly provided for in these respects.
This was the first revelation and the earliest dawn of civilisation established through Hazrat Adam(as); and from the very outset Almighty God made it manifestly clear that He is indeed God not only of the strong and well-fed, but of all high and low, rich and poor. He never willed that a portion of humanity should wallow in luxury while the rest suffer from want of food and clothing.
This was the Order that Islam came to re-establish. Unfortunately the system was in operation only for a brief period, but this is not unusual. Great upward movements in human progress are followed by decline as old customs and practices reassert themselves. Nevertheless, the achieved progress is not forgotten but remains in the people’s collective memory, and noble and fair-minded persons continue to strive to re-institute the earlier improvements. Thus, although the earlier Islamic Order disappeared, it is now the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that seeks to re-establish it in the world. This Community, when it gets the opportunity, would seek to prevent undue accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few, while striving to improve the lot of the poor and ensuring that everyone gets the basic requirements of food, clothing and shelter.
To sum up, the Islamic economic system is based on:
Exhortation against undue accumulation of wealth;
Curbing the motivation behind undue accumulation of wealth;
Insistence on expeditious redistribution of concentrated wealth; and
Recognition that it is the State’s responsibility to spend money on meeting the legitimate basic needs of the poor and weak members of society.
It is only the Islamic system that is complete, comprehensive and satisfactory because:
It allows individuals to provide for the life Hereafter;
It fosters in man the habits of plain, simple and productive living;
It is not based on force and compulsion;
It does not crush individual capabilities;
It provides for the comfort and progress of the poor and the weak, and
It removes the basis for the rise of opposition and enmity.
1 Surah Ta Ha, 20:119–120, (publishers)