Economic challenge for Ummah

The Spirit Of Islam

Mufti Taqi Usmani

THE nineteenth century was a century of political oppression whereby the powerful Western nations enslaved most of the Asian and African nations including a large number of Muslim countries. The present century, which is nearing its end, has witnessed the gradual independence of these countries from Western imperialism. However, despite our apparent success in achieving the goal of political liberty, we could not succeed in acquiring independence on intellectual, economic and strategic levels. That is why Muslim Ummah could not yet reap the fruits of its political freedom. Now the Muslim world is looking toward the coming century with hope that it will bring for it total independence in the real sense so the Muslims may find their due place among the nations of the world and may be free to live according to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). However, this hope cannot be realised through wishful dreams. We will have to work hard for our total freedom even more than we did for our political freedom. We need a total revision of our strategy, a well-considered plan, a collective resolution, and a revolutionary approach.
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. Some countries are incurring these heavy interest-bearing loans not only for the development projects, but also for their day-to-day expenses, and what is more serious, for the payment of interest accrued on their previous loans which keeps the size of their indebtedness ever-increasing through a vicious circle. 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 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 $618.8b. 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 $1000b, out of which $250b 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 instil 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 utilisation of capital and, above all, we failed to mobilise the spirit of Islamic unity and to activate the strength of the Muslim Ummah as a whole.
We will have to take the challenge of time seriously. Our economic and political leadership will have to find ways and means to free ourselves from dependence on foreign countries. We already have the basic resources for that. All we need is to design new policies to utilize the wealth of the Ummah within the Muslim world, and to develop the concept of Islamic brotherhood and mutual understanding and cooperation. The Quran says: “All the Muslims are brothers.” Quranic injunctions and the Prophetic teachings require that the Muslim Ummah should act as a single body. The geographical barriers should not divide them into different nations with conflicting objectives. The political boundaries may only be tolerated for the internal administrative affairs of each country, but all the Muslim countries must have a united face at least with reference to the common objectives of the Muslim Ummah vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Gone are the days when technical know-how was the monopoly of a few Western countries. Now, the Muslim talent is capable of at least handling the immediate requirements of the Ummah. What we need is to seek this talent, and to put it to the service of this Ummah with a missionary zeal. But all this requires unified efforts from the leadership of our countries. This is 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 initiative and create a Muslim talent pool to design new policies for Ummah as a joint body. — Courtesy:

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