by Waseem Shehzad (Background, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 1, Rajab, 1441)
The noble Qur’an narrates the stories of many tyrannical figures from history. Nimrud, Fira‘on and Qaroon immediately come to mind. The Qur’an narrates these not merely as stories but as lessons from history. The Qur’anic discourse is meant to guide us to the straight path. In this endeavor, both positive and negative traits are highlighted so that human beings can distinguish right from wrong (25:01; 57:25).
Two aspects are regularly highlighted: power and wealth. It is a common experience that people pursue the acquisition of power and wealth. Often, one is used to acquire the other. Thus, people that have wealth use it to get into power. People that get into power abuse it to amass wealth.
One of the most common traits found among the vast majority of people is their quest to acquire ever increasing amounts of wealth. This appears to be particularly pronounced among the elite in Pakistan. It matters not what means are used—fair or foul, in fact often foul—to acquire wealth. ‘Competing with the Joneses’ is another common trait. Most people live beyond their means. This forces them to run after wealth to be able to meet the demands of a lifestyle that is beyond their means.
Honesty, we are constantly reminded from every pulpit, is one of the fundamental qualities of a committed Muslim. A dishonest person not only cheats others, he also betrays his trust with Allah (swt). Such a person is denounced as a munafiq. Yet regrettably even those preaching honesty to others are themselves thoroughly dishonest and corrupt. An honest person is often ridiculed as a simpleton.
Success in Pakistan is measured not by one’s level of education or moral probity but the amount of wealth one has acquired. This is reflected in the mansion-like house one lives in, the number of pricey cars in one’s driveway and the army of servants at one’s beck and call.
Equally bizarre is the notion of taqwa in Pakistan. Performing umrah every Ramadan and going for Hajj frequently, are considered hallmarks of taqwa. Nobody cares to ask how the person acquired his wealth. Can umrah or Hajj be performed by using money acquired through illegal means? Is there no notion of right and wrong, halal and haram anymore?
Another disconcerting fact is that despite performing multiple umrahs and Hajj, there is not an iota of improvement in their manners. They continue to be as ill-mannered and corrupt as before taking the journey to Makkah. Should the performance of Umrah and Hajj not bring about some change in a person’s character and behavior?
This is even more apparent in the month of Ramadan. Most high-class hotels in Pakistan get booked very quickly for iftar programs. Hotels advertise lavish iftar menus with “eat as much as you can” offers, defeating the very purpose of fasting. But for the majority of elite, this is not an issue. They do not fast at all; they only hold iftar parties! This is also done to flaunt their wealth. Far be it for these people to feed the hungry, the needy or the poor that crawl like insects outside the hotel’s heavily-guarded gates, their hands stretched out for a morsel of food.
Theoretically, Pakistan is an Islamic State. The constitution calls it ‘The Islamic Republic of Pakistan.’ Before taking office, every ruler takes the oath to uphold the constitution. The constitution clearly states that no laws shall be enacted that are contrary to the Qur’an and the Sunnah yet there is little or no Islam in Pakistan. There is only the law of the jungle where the rich and powerful exploit the poor and weak.
Islam has a different outlook on life. It provides clear guidelines for social, economic, and political activity. A sincere Muslim is committed to Allah (swt) and is considerate toward other human beings regardless of their religion, status or outlook in life. This is what the noble Messenger (pbuh) exemplified in his blessed life.
Allah says that all people are equal in His sight. This does not mean that everyone has equal power or the same amount of wealth. There are power differentiations among people and societies but Allah has in His infinite wisdom and mercy has regulated the use of power. The same applies to wealth.
The powerful are not permitted to oppress or otherwise humiliate the weak (17:16-18; 18:58-59; 28:76-78; 28:83; 68:12-28). Similarly, the rich are called upon to help the needy and poor (2:177; 2:254; 2:262-264; 2:267 and many other ayats). Allah bestows wealth on people both as a gift as well as a test from Allah. The wealthy are not permitted to humiliate or oppress the poor although in real life we find that this regrettably is the norm. Allah also establishes a clear criterion for judging people: taqwa (consciousness of Allah’s power presence in life—Al-Qur’an, 49:13).
Unless the present-day followers of Qaroon abandon their greed and rapacious lifestyle, they will bring about the wrath of Allah upon themselves. Allah’s verdict may take time—He delivers justice according to His timescale, not ours—but it will surely come. If the Qur’an reminds us of the destruction of earlier societies, this is meant to warn us against the conduct that brought about their annihilation.