The economic law of Islam given to man by the Almighty through His last Prophet (sws) for the purification of the economy is based on the Qur’anic philosophy of creation: the Almighty has created this world as a trial and test for man; every person has therefore been made to depend on others for his living. No one in this world can live independently as regards his needs and requirements. A person of the highest rank turns to the most ordinary to fulfil them. In other words, every single person has an important role to play, without which this world cannot continue. This role depends upon his abilities, intelligence and inclinations as well as upon his means and resources, which vary from person to person. In fact, it is because of this variation that a society comes into being. Consequently, labourers and workers, artisans and craftsmen, tillers and peasants are as indispensable as scholars and thinkers, savants and sages, leaders and rulers. Every individual is an integral component of the society and contributes to its formation according to his abilities.
The Qur’an says: We have apportioned among them their livelihood in this world [in such a manner that] We have exalted some in status above others so that they can mutually serve each other. And better is thy Lord's mercy than what they are amassing. (43:32)
By creating various classes of people, the Almighty is testing whether the big and the small, the high and the low create a society based on co-operation and respect or create disorder in the world by disregarding the role each person has been ordained to play. The latter attitude would, of course, lead them to humiliation in this world and to a grievous doom in the Hereafter.
The Qur’an says: We are trying you by giving you happiness and sorrow, to test you, and unto Us you will be returned. (21:35)
It is to salvage man in this trial that the Almighty has guided man through His Prophets and revealed this economic law to cleanse and purify him.
Following is a summary of this law:
1. Zakat: It is obligatory upon a Muslim to pay zakat from his wealth, produce and livestock if he is liable to it.
2. Sanctity of Ownership: If a Muslim has paid his zakat dues, then his rightfully owned wealth cannot be usurped or tampered with in any way, except if on account of some violation by him, the Shari`ah endorses it. So much so that an Islamic State has no authority to impose any tax other than zakat on its Muslim citizens.
3. Establishment of a Public Sector: For the just distribution of wealth, the establishment of a public sector is essential. Consequently, everything which is not, or cannot be owned by an individual should in all cases remain in the ownership of the state.
4. Incompetence: Since a person's way of using his wealth and property also influences the development and welfare of a society, the state has the right to deprive him from using them, while acknowledging him to be the owner, if he is proved to be incompetent .
5. Usurpation: It is prohibited to devour other people's wealth and property by unjust means. Illegal gratification, gambling and interest are some horrendous forms of usurpation. Other economic activities should also stand permissible or prohibited in the light of this principle.
6. Evidence and Documentation: In affairs such as financial transactions and making a will and acquiring a loan, the parties involved should write down a document and call in witnesses to safeguard against any moral misconduct by either of the parties.
7. Distribution of Inheritance: The wealth of every Muslim must necessarily be distributed after his death among his heirs in the following manner: If the deceased has outstanding debts to his name, then first of all they should be paid off. After this, any legacies he may have bequethed should be paid. The distribution of his inheritance should then follow.
After giving the parents and the spouses their shares, the children are the heirs of the remaining inheritance. If the deceased does not have any male offspring and there are only two or more girls among the children, then they shall receive two thirds of the inheritance left over, and if there is only a single girl, her share is one half. If the deceased has only male children all his wealth shall be distributed among them. If he leaves behind both boys and girls, then the share of each boy shall be equal to the share of two girls and, in this case also, all his wealth shall be distributed among them.
In the absence of children, a deceased's brothers and sisters shall take their place. After giving the parents and spouses their shares, the brothers and sisters shall be his heirs. The proportion of their shares and the mode of distribution shall be the same as that of the children stated above.
If a deceased has brothers and sisters, whether he has children or not, the parents shall receive a sixth each. If he does not even have brothers and sisters, then after giving the husband or wife his (or her) share, one third of what remains shall be given to the mother and two thirds to the father. If there is no one among the spouses, all of the inheritance shall be distributed among the parents in this same proportion.
If the deceased is a man and he has children, his wife shall receive one eighth of what he leaves, and if he does not have any children, his wife's share shall be one fourth. If the deceased is a woman and does not have any children, then her husband shall receive one half of what she leaves and if she has children, the husband's share is one fourth.
Together with these rightful heirs, after them or in their absence a deceased can make a near or a distant relative except his parents and children an heir. If the relative who is made an heir has one brother or one sister, then they shall be given a sixth of his share and he himself shall receive the remaining five sixth. However, if he has more than one brother or sister then, they shall be given a third of his share and he himself shall receive the remaining two thirds.
If a person dies without making anyone his heir, his remaining legacy shall be distributed among his male relatives according to the principle `closest to the next closer’.
This is the law the Almighty has revealed to us to purify our economic dealings. While following this law in letter and in spirit, a person may encounter financial difficulties, and he may have to sacrifice his interests. The real reward for this is the kingdom of heaven which the Almighty will grant him on the Day of Judgement. However, He has promised that if the Muslims in their collective capacity adhere to faith and adopt a God-fearing attitude, the Almighty shall provide them abundantly in this world as well:
Had the people of these cities accepted faith and kept from evil, We would have showered the blessings of the heavens and the earth upon them. But they rejected [the truth] and [so] We punished them for their misdeeds. (7:96)
According to the Qur’an, the Prophet Noah (sws) recounted this established practice of the Almighty in the following words:
I said to them: Ask forgiveness from your Lord. He is oft-forgiving. [As a result], He shall send rain upon you in abundance and give you increase in wealth and children and bestow on you gardens and shall bring forth for you springs of water. (71:10-12)
This what the Old Testament says in this regard:
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command this day, the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. (Deuteronomy, 28:1-7)