A study of all these movements, however, reveals one feature common to them all: it is that the State ought to exercise a great deal more control over national wealth and sources of production than it has done in the past. Experience has shown that the old systems of taxation do not enable the State to provide an adequate system of relief and help for the poorer sections of the community. It is necessary, therefore, to devise new means whereby a more equitable distribution of national wealth should become possible of achievement. We may be asked what Islam has done to achieve this object.
I have already mentioned the institution of Zakat. But it may be asked whether Zakat by itself would be adequate in these days to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical attendance and relief for every member of the community? The only honest answer to this question will have to be that at the present day Zakat by itself would prove inadequate for the purpose. The responsibilities of a civilized State have increased manifold in recent years. In the past, the main functions of the State were to provide for the defence of the country, maintain internal security, establish educational institution, hospitals and means of communication etc., and to embark upon beneficent activities the necessity of which may become manifest from time to time. The relief of poverty and distress was not looked upon as one of the functions of the State. This was left to private charity and enterprise. But private charity and enterprise have failed to make adequate provision for the purpose, so poverty and distress continue to multiply. It is now urged and is beginning to be recognised that it is the duty of the State to make adequate provision in respect of these matters. Islam has from the very beginning laid down this duty for the State. That being so, it must either be shown that the institution of Zakat can adequately meet these demands, or it must be explained what other provision Islam has made in this behalf.
This is an important problem and we must address ourselves seriously to its solution. Had it not been claimed that Islam makes the State responsible for adequate provision in this behalf, it would not have been obligatory upon us to discover the solution of this problem in the Islamic teaching itself. The problem would have been dealt with as a new social problem for which a new solution must be found. But the problem is as old as humanity, and we claim that Islam is the only religion which has essayed to bring about practical equality between the rich and the poor. It seeks to bring various sections of the community so close to one another that class distinctions should in practice disappear and all sections should be able to fulfil their needs with regard to food, clothing, shelter, health and education, in an adequate measure. That being so, the solution of the problem must be found within the Islamic teaching. If Zakat does not make adequate provision in this respect, we must be able to discover supplemental provisions in the Islamic teaching.
Socialism has sought to find a remedy for the present disparity in the distribution of wealth by making workers’ share in the profits of industry and commercial enterprise; that is to say, it advocates that labour should be rewarded not by means of wages but by the distribution of a certain percentage of the profits of each industry and commercial enterprise among the workers. But this principle is bound to lead to various anomalies in practice. Some concerns may yield much larger profits than others, which means that for similar work, workers employed in one concern will be paid very much more than workers employed in another concern. This is bound to cause trouble. As under this system a worker’s wages will be determined not by the quantity and quality of the work performed by him but by factors many of which will depend upon pure chance, very soon the more successful concerns will attract the more skilled and the more diligent workers and people will refuse to work in less successful concerns. It may be urged that under a socialist system a uniform level of adequate wages will be fixed for all workers. Even that would afford no solution as skill and enterprise in the management will enable some concerns to work more profitably than others, and in the case of the latter gradually the cost will begin to eat up the capital. The problem can be tackled only on the basis of competitive earnings by the exercise of skill and labour supplemented by a State system of relief wherever necessary. But neither of the two devices to which I have just made reference proceeds on this basis.
Another device advocated by Socialism is State control of all basic industries and enterprise like railways, mines, electric power, etc. But this also is open to various objections. In any case, measures of this description are likely to vary from country to country and the system lacks the element of universality. Some countries might succeed in eliminating want and poverty under this system and other countries may continue to suffer from them. Each State will still be responsible only for the poor of its own territories. Again, this system also, would tend to discourage individual talent which, as I have tried to explain, leads to intellectual decline.
I am not familiar with the details of the scheme which National Socialism may have put forward or adopted for this purpose. I do know that in Germany a great deal of State encouragement is given to capitalists and industrialists who contribute generously towards the social services. I am not aware, however, to what extent the State makes itself responsible for individuals or whether by such voluntary means adequate resources become available to the State. In any case, the scheme leaves the State very much at the mercy of leading capitalists and industrialists.
The Bolshevik scheme is that all important industries and commercial enterprises should be run by the State, and all surplus wealth whether derived from agriculture or other occupation should be taken over by the State. I have already detailed the principal objections to this system. Briefly, it kills individual initiative and is bound in the end to absolutism. The French Revolution tried to set up a people’s Government but only succeeded in producing a tyrant like Napoleon. Conversely, in Russia the Czarist regime produced Bolshevism which appears at the moment to be gaining strength but, in a short time, will produce a new absolute Dictator or Ruler. Again, it has engendered a considerable amount of class bitterness by persecuting the propertied and intellectual sections of the community. Islam sets up quite a different ideal before us. In the first place, it points out that comfort and happiness have not the same meaning as has been given to them in Europe and America. In those continents comfort and happiness are understood to mean luxurious living and methods of indulgence. The object of the different equalitarian movements is to provide all these for everybody. Against this, Islam seeks to bring about equality by prohibiting luxury and indulgence even in the case of the rich. It is true that the object to be aimed at is universal happiness, but Islam, while encouraging the pursuit of happiness, also desires to raise the moral standard, so that a striking difference between the objectives aimed at by these movements and that aimed at by Islam is that whereas these movements seek to spread happiness through luxury and indulgence, Islam desires to bring about equality by persuading everybody to adopt simple modes of living. That is why wine, dancing etc., are prohibited in Islam. In Europe when the poor sections complain of hardships, they point out that whereas they can get only a glass or two of beer a day, the rich are able to drink as much wine as they feel inclined to. This grievance is admitted to be just and the governments then proclaim that they will take steps to enable the poor of their countries to drink more wine and beer! Against this, Islam would say, ‘Your grievance is just but the remedy is that neither the rich nor the poor shall be permitted to indulge in the drinking of wine or beer; for, this habit is injurious both for body and for soul.’ Again, poor people complain that the rich have many facilities for going to balls and dances, while the poor are deprived of any such pleasure. The reply of those in authority is that dance halls must be provided for the poor also and that the rich must contribute towards this object. Islam would say that dancing leads to moral deterioration and that equality is brought about not by providing facilities for dancing for the poor, but by prohibiting dancing altogether, so that the moral standards of the community should suffer no deterioration, and true culture and civilization should rise.