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Islamic socialism is a term coined by various Muslim leaders to describe a more spiritual form of socialism. Muslim socialists believe that the teachings of the Qur'an and Muhammad—especially zakāt—are compatible with principles of economic and social equality. They draw inspiration from the early Medinan welfare state established by Muhammad. Muslim socialists found their roots in anti-imperialism. Muslim socialist leaders believe in democracy and the derivation of legitimacy from the public.
Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, a Companion of Prophet Muhammad, is credited by many as a principal antecedent of Islamic socialism. He protested against the accumulation of wealth by the ruling class during ‘Uthmān's caliphate and urged the equitable redistribution of wealth. The first Muslim Caliph Abu Bakr introduced a guaranteed minimum standard of income, granting each man, woman, and child ten dirhams annually; this was later increased to twenty dirhams.
The first experimental Islamic commune was established during the Russian Revolution of 1917 as part of the Wäisi movement, an early supporter of the Soviet government. The Muslim Socialist Committee of Kazan was also active at this time.
In the modern era, Islamic socialism can be divided into two, a leftist and a rightist form. The leftist (Siad Barre, Haji Misbach, Ali Shariati, Yasser Arafat and Jalal Al-e Ahmad) advocated secular proletarian internationalism and encouraged Muslims to join or collaborate with international socialist or Marxist movements. Right-wing socialists (Mohammed Iqbal, Agus Salim, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Musa al-Sadr, and Mahmud Shaltut) are ideologically closer to third positionism, supporting not just social justice, egalitarian society and universal equality, but also Islamic revivalism, and implementation of Sharia. They also reject a full adoption of a class struggle and keep a distance from other socialist movements.
Revolutionary activity along the Soviet Union's southern border, Soviet decision makers recognized, would draw the attention of capitalist powers and invite them to intervene. It was this understanding which prompted the Russian representation at the Baku Congress in September 1920 to reject the arguments of the national communists as impractical and counterproductive to the revolution in general, without elaborating their fear that the safety of Russia lay in the balance. And it was this understanding, coupled with the Russian Bolsheviks' displeasure at seeing another revolutionary center proposed in their own domain revolutionary, that galvanized them into action against the national communists.
Ideas and concepts
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One of the Five Pillars of Islam, zakāt is the practice of imposition (not charity) giving based on accumulated wealth (approximately 2.5% of all financial assets owned over the course of one lunar year). It is obligatory for all financially able Muslim adults and is considered to be an act of piety through which one expresses concern for the well-being of fellow Muslims, as well as preserving social harmony between the wealthy and the poor. Zakat promotes a more equitable redistribution of wealth and fosters a sense of solidarity amongst members of the Ummah.
Zakat is meant to discourage the hoarding of capital and stimulate investment. Because the individual must pay zakat on the net wealth, wealthy Muslims are compelled to invest in profitable ventures, or otherwise see their wealth slowly erode. Furthermore, means of production such as equipment, factories, and tools are exempt from zakat, which further provides the incentive to invest wealth in productive businesses. Personal assets such as clothing, household furniture, and one residence are not considered zakatable assets.
- Those living in absolute poverty (Al-Fuqarā').
- Those restrained because they cannot meet their basic needs (Al-Masākīn).
- The zakat collectors themselves (Al-Āmilīna 'Alaihā).
- Non-Muslims who are sympathetic to Islam or wish to convert to Islam (Al-Mu'allafatu Qulūbuhum).
- People whom one is attempting to free from slavery or bondage. Also includes paying ransom or blood money (Diyya). (Fir-Riqāb)
- Those who have incurred overwhelming debts while attempting to satisfy their basic needs (Al-Ghārimīn).
- Those fighting for a religious cause or a cause of God (Fī Sabīlillāh) or for Jihad in the way of Allah and for Islamic warriors who fight against the unbelievers but are not part of salaried soldiers.
- Children of the street / Travellers (Ibnus-Sabīl).
According to the Hadith, the family of Muhammad should not consume any Zakat. Zakat should not be given to one's own parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, or spouses. Also, it is forbidden to disburse zakat funds into investments instead of being directly given to those who are in need. Some scholars disagree whether the poor who qualify should include Non-Muslims. Some state that Zakat may be paid to non-Muslims, but only after the needs of Muslims have been met.Fi Sabillillah is the most prominent asnaf in Southeast Asian Muslim societies, where it broadly construed to include funding missionary work, Quranic schools and anything else that serves the community (ummah) in general. Zakat can be used to finance a Jihad effort in the path of Allah. Zakat money should be used provided the effort is to raise the banner of Islam. Additionally, the zakat funds may be spent on the administration of a centralized zakat collection system.
In the United Kingdom, according to a self-reported poll of 4000 people conducted by Zarine Kharas, Muslims today give more to charity than people of other religions,. Measured in US Dollars, Muslims, on average, gave $567, compared to $412 for Jews, $308 for Protestants, $272 for Catholics and $177 for atheists. Today, conservative estimates of annual zakat are estimated to be 15 times global humanitarian aid contributions.
The concepts of welfare and pension were introduced in early Islamic law as forms of Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, under the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century. This practice continued well into the Abbasid era of the Caliphate. The taxes (including Zakat and Jizya) collected in the treasury of an Islamic government were used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058–1111), the government was also expected to stockpile food supplies in every region in case a disaster or famine occurred. The Caliphate can thus be considered the world's first major welfare state.
During the Rashidun Caliphate, various welfare programs were introduced by Caliph Umar. In his time, equality was extended to all citizens, even to the caliph himself, as Umar believed that "no one, no matter how important, should live in a way that would distinguish him from the rest of the people." Umar himself lived "a simple life and detached himself from any of the worldly luxuries," like how he often wore "worn-out shoes and was usually clad in patched-up garments," or how he would sleep "on the bare floor of the mosque." Limitations on wealth were also set for governors and officials, who would often be "dismissed if they showed any outward signs of pride or wealth which might distinguish them from the people." This was an early attempt at erasing "class distinctions which might inevitably lead to conflict." Umar also made sure that the public treasury was not wasted on "unnecessary luxuries" as he believed that "the money would be better spent if it went towards the welfare of the people rather than towards lifeless bricks."
Umar's innovative welfare reforms during the Rashidun Caliphate included the introduction of social security. This included unemployment insurance, which did not appear in the Western world until the 19th century. In the Rashidun Caliphate, whenever citizens were injured or lost their ability to work, it became the state's responsibility to make sure that their minimum needs were met, with the unemployed and their families receiving an allowance from the public treasury. Retirement pensions were provided to elderly people, who had retired and could "count on receiving a stipend from the public treasury." Babies who were abandoned were also taken care of, with one hundred dirhams spent annually on each orphan’s development. Umar also introduced the concept of public trusteeship and public ownership when he implemented the Waqf, or charitable trust, system, which transferred "wealth from the individual or the few to a social collective ownership," in order to provide "services to the community at large." For example, Umar brought land from the Banu Harithah and converted it into a charitable trust, which meant that "profit and produce from the land went towards benefiting the poor, slaves, and travelers."
During the great famine of 18 AH (638 CE), Umar introduced further reforms, such as the introduction of food rationing using coupons, which were given to those in need and could be exchanged for wheat and flour. Another innovative concept that was introduced was that of a poverty threshold, with efforts made to ensure a minimum standard of living, making sure that no citizen across the empire would suffer from hunger. In order to determine the poverty line, Umar ordered an experiment to test how many seers of flour would be required to feed a person for a month. He found that 25 seers of flour could feed 30 people, and so he concluded that 50 seers of flour would be sufficient to feed a person for a month. As a result, he ordered that the poor each receive a food ration of fifty seers of flour per month. In addition, the poor and disabled were guaranteed cash stipends. However, in order to avoid some citizens taking advantage of government services, "begging and laziness were not tolerated" and "those who received government benefits were expected to be contributing members in the community."
Further reforms later took place under the Umayyad Caliphate. Registered soldiers who were disabled in service received an invalidity pension, while similar provisions were made for the disabled and poor in general. Caliph Al-Walid I assigned payments and services to the needy, which included money for the poor, guides for the blind, and servants for the crippled, and pensions for all disabled people so that they would never need to beg. The caliphs Al-Walid II and Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz supplied money and clothes to the blind and crippled, as well as servants for the latter. This continued with the Abbasid caliph Al-Mahdi. Tahir ibn Husayn, governor of the Khurasan province of the Abbasid Caliphate, states in a letter to his son that pensions from the treasury should be provided to the blind, to look after the poor and destitute in general, to make sure not to overlook victims of oppression who are unable to complain and are ignorant of how to claim their rights, and that pensions should be assigned to victims of calamities and the widows and orphans they leave behind. The "ideal city" described by the Islamic philosophers, Al-Farabi and Avicenna, also assigns funds to the disabled.
When communities were stricken by famine, rulers would often support them though measures such as the remission of taxes, importation of food, and charitable payments, ensuring that everyone had enough to eat. However, private charity through the Waqf trust institution often played a greater role in the alleviation of famines than government measures did. From the 9th century, funds from the treasury were also used towards the Waqf (charitable trusts) for the purpose of building and supporting public institutions, often Madrassah educational institutions and Bimaristan hospitals.
Guaranteed minimum income
Guaranteed minimum income is a system of social welfare provision that guarantees that all citizens or families have an income sufficient to live on, provided they meet certain conditions. Eligibility is typically determined by citizenship, a means test, and either availability for the labour market or a willingness to perform community services. The primary goal of a guaranteed minimum income is to combat poverty. If citizenship is the only requirement, the system turns into a universal basic income. The first Muslim Caliph Abu Bakr introduced a guaranteed minimum standard of income, granting each man, woman, and child ten dirhams annually; this was later increased to twenty dirhams. Some, but not all Islamic socialists advocate the renewal and expansion of this policy.
Muslim socialists believe that socialism is compatible with Islamic teachings and usually embrace secular forms of socialism. However, some Muslim socialists believe that socialism should be applied within an Islamic framework and numerous Islamic socialist ideologies exist.
Muammar Gaddafi outlined his version of Islamic socialism in the Green Book, which was published in three parts (1975, 1977, 1978). The Green Book was heavily influenced by the pan-Arab, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and served as the basis for the Islamic Legion.
The Green Book rejects modern liberal democracy based on electing representatives as well as capitalism. Instead, it proposes a type of direct democracy overseen by the General People's Committee which allows direct political participation for all adult citizens.
The book states that "Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally, to express his or her insanity." The Green Book states that freedom of speech is based upon public ownership of book publishers, newspapers, television, and radio stations, on the grounds that private ownership would be undemocratic.
A paragraph in the book about abolishing money is similar to a paragraph in Frederick Engels' "Principles of Communism," Gaddafi wrote: "The final step is when the new socialist society reaches the stage where profit and money disappear. "It is through transforming society into a fully productive society, and through reaching in production a level where the material needs of the members of society are satisfied. On that final stage, profit will automatically disappear and there will be no need for money."
Islamic communism can be used to refer to a number of communist ideologies rooted within Islamic thought. Islamic communism traces its roots to late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Russia when a group of Muslim farmers, peasants, and petty-bourgeoisie in Russian Tatarstan founded the Wäisi movement. Members of the Wäisi movement would go on to establish an experimental commune in the town of Chistopol. Numerous movements and ideologies have appeared since then, each promoting their own form of Islamic communism.
The Wäisi Movement
Founded by Bahawetdin Wäisev, the Wäisi movement was a religious, social and political movement that took place in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Tatarstan and other Tatar-populated parts of Russia. Wäisi doctrines promoted disobedience to civil law and authority in favor of following the Qur'an and Sharia. Supporters of the movement evaded military service and refused to pay imposition or carry a Russian passport. The movement also incorporated elements of class struggle and nationalism. The Wäisi movement united Tatar farmers, craftsmen and petty bourgeoisie and enjoyed widespread popularity across the region.
Despite going underground in the aftermath of Bahawetdin Wäisev's arrest in 1884, the movement continued to maintain a strong following. Bahawetdin Wäisev's son Ğaynan Wäisev led the movement after his death in 1893. An estimated 100 members were arrested and exiled in 1897 after encouraging people not to participate in the population census. The Wäisi movement increased in size after the First Russian revolution in 1905–1907 and by 1908 there were nearly 15,000 followers in the Kazan Governorate, Orenburg, and other guberniyas, in Central Asia. Wäisi followers supported the Soviet government in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917 and organized a regiment in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. Members of the movement distanced themselves from the Russian Bolsheviks and founded the autonomous commune of Yaña Bolğar in Chistopol during the 1920s, but were persecuted and disbanded during the Great Purge of the 1930s.
Islamic Marxism attempts to apply Marxist economic, political, and social teachings within an Islamic framework. Traditional forms of Marxism are anti-religious and promote state atheism, which has led many Muslims to reject Marxism. However, the affinity between Marxist and Islamic ideals of social justice has led some Muslims to embrace their own forms of Marxism since the 1940s. Islamic Marxists believe that Islam meets the needs of society and can accommodate or guide the social changes Marxism hopes to accomplish. Islamic Marxists are also dismissive of traditional Marxist views on materialism and religion.
The term has been used to describe Ali Shariati (in Shariati and Marx: A Critique of an "Islamic" Critique of Marxism by Assef Bayat). It is also sometimes used in discussions of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, including parties such as the People's Mujahideen of Iran (MEK), a formerly designated terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Iraq, and the Islamic Republic of Iran that advocates of overthrow of the latter.
The Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party was created by the military regime of Siad Barre under Soviet guidance in 1976 as an attempt to reconcile the official state ideology with the official state religion by adapting Marxist precepts to local circumstances. Emphasis was placed on the Muslim principles of social progress, equality and justice, which the government argued formed the core of scientific socialism and its own accent on self-sufficiency, public participation and popular control, as well as direct ownership of the means of production. As part of Barre's socialist policies, major industries and farms were nationalised, including banks, insurance companies and oil distribution farms. While the SRSP encouraged private investment on a limited scale, the administration's overall direction was essentially socialist.
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