Economic challenge for Muslim countries

The Spirit Of Islam

Mufti Taqi Usmani

IT is common knowledge that Ummah’s basic economic problem is the dependence of the Muslim countries on others. Most of them are borrowing huge amounts from the rich Western countries. Dependency on foreign loans is the basic disease of our economy that has not only shattered our economic life, but has also devastated our self-determination and has forced us to submit to the demands of our creditors, sometimes, at the price of our collective interests. It is no secret that the creditors impose their own conditions before they advance a loan. These conditions keep us under a constant foreign pressure, often stop us from pursuing our own objectives and force us to follow the policies dictated by others. The evil consequences of dependence on foreign loans are too obvious to need any further elaboration.
Islamic teachings consider “Indebtedness” as a detestable phenomenon, which should not be resorted to except in cases of extreme necessity. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) even refused to offer the funeral prayer for a person who died before paying back his loan. Moreover, the Muslim jurists have discussed whether it is lawful for the ruler of a Muslim State to accept the gifts offered by a non-Muslim. The answer: It is lawful only where the acceptance of gifts does not result in any kind of pressure against the interest of the Ummah.
Islamic principles require that the Muslims should avoid incurring foreign debts, even if they face some hardships. But our present indebtedness was not created by lack of resources. In fact, the Muslims have never been so resource-rich. They own enormous natural resources. They occupy important strategic positions on the globe. They are joined together by a geographical chain from Morocco to Indonesia, broken only by India and Israel. They produce nearly 50% of the oil of the world. They are said to account for more than one third of the world’s export of raw material. What is more, the cash they have invested in the western countries alone may be more than sufficient to set off their total liabilities.
According to a recent report of Islamic Development Bank, the total external debt of the IDB member countries in 1996 amounted to 618.8 billion dollars. The deposits and assets kept by the Muslims in the Western countries are said to be much more than this amount.
Obviously, there is no authentic record of such deposits, because their owners do not disclose them. However, the economic experts have estimated them to be between 800 and 1000 billion dollars, out of which 250 billions are said to be taken back by the Arabs to their own countries after the Gulf War. Practically it means that we are borrowing a part of our own money at a high rate of interest. Our dependence on foreign loans is self-imposed for which we cannot blame anyone but ourselves. We did never probe in to the factors underlying the flight of our capital.
We did never try to remove those factors and instill confidence in our own people. We could not deliver ourselves from the corrupt and oppressive system of taxation. We were not able to create a peaceful atmosphere for investment. We could not provide our countries with stable political system. We did not bother to create opportunities for the sound utilization of capital and, above all, we failed to mobilize the spirit of Islamic unity and to activate the strength of the Muslim Ummah as a whole.
But all this requires the unified efforts from the leadership of our countries. This is the biggest challenge faced by them. They must meet it, not only for the betterment of the Ummah but also for their own survival. A great responsibility, in this respect, lies on the shoulders of OIC, which should take the initiative and create a Muslim talent pool to design new policies for the Ummah as a joint body.
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