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Social Solidarity & Social Justice in Islam

Over the last years, the whole world has experienced severe problems and seen many changes.

In 2007 the global financial crisis swept the whole world.

It has become the norm to see on the news each day labor strikes, political demonstrations and riots, acts of civil disobedience, … etc.

The reasons behind these unrests are many, including high unemployment, large scale corruption, rising food prices, oppression and lack of freedom, … etc.

Who’s Next and What’s Next?

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Who’s next is known only by God. What’s next is our focus here.

Many people are asking what does Islam have to offer, i.e. how does Islam deal with these issues?

Islam and Muslims have a lot to offer. Muslims should support oppressed people with all possible means. At times of crisis, Muslims should leave out differences of faiths and make a contribution for positive change for a better future for all of society.


Family & Neighbors

At the family level, the spirit of shura and consultation should prevail to guarantee freedom of expression for all family members. The role of men and women in a Muslim family are complementary not competing roles, and family relations should be built on the foundation of mutual love, compassion and cooperation.

Beyond the immediate family, the scope of solidarity is much wider and extends to include the extended family. Family networking is very important, and with the current technological revolution there is no excuse for cutting family ties. Mobile phones and the Internet are now available for relatives to easily communicate and keep in touch.

The extended family is not only a social entity, but it is also an economic unit for mutual aid and assistance for its members. In socially-connected families, children can be taken care of in the best way.

I shall go one step further. Neighbors are our partners in society. In Islam, neighbors are to be taken care of, and they should help each other in ordering good and forbidding evil.

Aisha, the Prophet’s beloved wife, reported that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Jibril (Gabriel) kept on recommending that I treat neighbors well until I thought that he would order me to treat them as my heirs.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet is reported to have said:

“A man who fills his stomach while his neighbor is hungry is not a believer.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said:

“A person whose neighbors are not safe from his evil will not enter Paradise.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

This is the kind of care and concern that Islam asks Muslims to follow with their neighbors, and this helps establish one of the best forms of social solidarity.

Zakah: The Third Pillar of Islam

Zakah (obligatory charity) is the third pillar of Islam, which was ordained by God to achieve social justice in society. The rich give the poor voluntarily because it is the poor’s due on them. The eight categories of zakah recipients are as follows:

{The offerings given for the sake of God are [meant] only for the poor and the needy, and those who are in charge thereof, and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and [for] those who are over burdened with debts, and [for every struggle] in God’s cause, and [for] the wayfarer: [this is] an ordinance from God – and God is all-knowing, wise.} (9: 30)

Zakah has a deep humanitarian and social aspect. It prevents the concentration of wealth in the hands of few people. It is a call for solidarity among Muslims, and it also purifies one’s soul and encourages a Muslim to thank God for His many bounties.

Zakah is the not ceiling. If you want to give more, Islam encourages that and offers another channel for giving more to the needy; i.e. sadaqah (non-obligatory charity).

The Prophet said:

“There is no envy except in two: a person whom God has given wealth and he spends it in the right way, and a person whom God has given wisdom (i.e. religious knowledge) and he makes his decisions accordingly and teaches it to others.” (Al-Bukhari, 1409)

Achieving social justice is also the responsibility of Muslim rulers. A ruler administers the country’s social, political and economic affairs, and is entrusted to protect peoples’ rights. He is to help the poor and the needy by spending from the state treasury to cover their needs. He is to fight corruption, and is responsible for the welfare of the people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The ruler has the right to receive a state salary for his job, and is not allowed to make personal profits out of his position. When he is given a present, it is to be added to the state treasury.

He is held accountable before God for the responsibility entrusted upon him. The Prophet said:

“Each one of you is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. The ruler, who has authority over people, is a guardian and is responsible for them…” (Al-Bukhari)

On the other hand, citizens are urged to give sincere advice to their rulers. The Prophet said:

“Religion is sincerity and giving advice.”

Upon this the companions said:

“For whom?”

He replied:

“For God, His Book, His Messenger and for the leaders and ordinary Muslims.” (Muslim)

Brotherhood in Faith and in Humanity

Another aspect of social solidarity in Islam is reflected in the concept of brotherhood. First and foremost is the brotherhood among Muslims because they share the same religious beliefs.

God says: {All believers are but brethren} (49:10)

The Prophet said:

“The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” (Al-Bukhari)

God created us all from Adam and Eve. Therefore the source of creation is one, but there are differences in religion, nationality, color, etc. All these differences should be overlooked. The fact remains that we are all brothers and sisters in humanity.

Imam Ali said:

“People are of two kinds: either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity.”

This unique feature of Islamic teachings reflects the universal aspect of this religion.

Islam urges Muslims to earn their living through lawful means, and prohibits usury, monopoly of food and essential goods which are needed by people all the time. Islam prohibits cheating and taking other people’s properties by force. If such prohibitions are committed, it is the role of the state to put things right.

Finally, the Quranic injunctions on the law of inheritance also guarantee the redistribution of wealth among many people, and thus money and properties do not remain concentrated in the possession of a few people for a long duration of time.

All in all, if these guidelines are applied correctly, we will have a society free from corruption, bribery, misuse of influence, etc. People would then show full loyalty to their countries and live in peace.

About Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Dr. Mohsen Haredy holds a PhD in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait, and a contributing writer and counselor of Reading Islam. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University.