First, we would like to anchor the basic concept that Muslims have a duty towards the world and towards the fellow humans. It is their unilateral obligation to invite others, and to work together in building a better and a peaceful world: a world which is free from oppression and exploitation, where rights are a reality and where justice prevails over hypocrisy.
Dr. Shahid Athar, a member of the Karachi- based World Muslim Congress and the Interfaith Alliance, Indianapolis, USA, states the following: “Before Islam, the tribes of Arabia were notorious for their corruption and depravity: they buried female infants for the fear of false shame; they fought with each other over small things; after the death of their fathers, they took their mothers as their property and made them their own wives; they kicked the women out of their homes, when they did not need them, without even a formal divorce; they dishonoured and oppressed women; and no crime was too small for them.
In that society that we call Jahiliyah, or society of ignorance, Islam came as a beacon to lead them out of the darkness to a new future. In the course of a few decades, these very people became the harbingers of knowledge and civilization to many other people in the world. Islamic civilization helped to revive, rejuvenate and enrich other civilizations. Internal decline and colonial intervention greatly impaired this civilization. It was a culture of civilized co-existence and not a culture of clash or coercion.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, came to remove the prevalent corruption that was rampant before his message. The Qur’an that was revealed to him is ‘a glad tidings as well as a warner’ that is meant to guide people and show them the right path. The Our’an reminds us of nations who were destroyed because they had rebelled, spread corruption and disobeyed. It also gives us a glimpse of the life in Hereafter of people who do good and who love and obey Alah. In the scheme of divine revelation, the past, present and the future are one continuum.
Islam: All Out War against Corruption
In Islam, service to humanity is a function of their duty towards Allah. The Qur’an says: “And from among you there must be a society, community or party that should invite people to all that is good and enjoin the doing of all that is right and forbid the doing of all that is wrong.” (Aal-`Imran :104)
In inviting people to goodness, forbidding from the wrong, Muslims will need to join hands with other believers who share a great deal of these values about good and bad and about right and wrong. The conflicts that we witness today are not conflicts between religions, they are conflicts of irreligion. Therefore, those who believe in God and know the right from the wrong – Jews, Christians and Muslims, especially – can join together to build not a perfect, but an incomparably better world than we live in today: a society of neighbors who are just and fair to each other.
The Need to Be Aware of Media Orchestration
Many in the media seem to enjoy inventing and orchestrating a dark and dreadful image of Islam and Muslims. However, Muslims who know Islam and their duty towards humanity will neither be provoked by nor succumb to such campaign of distortion and defamation against their faith and their personality. They will keep their dignity and self-esteem.
The second half of the millennium has seen two worlds and several local wars. It saw nuclear incineration of entire populations. It invented a savage new crime against humanity: ethnic cleansing. Let the people of faith and goodwill work together to turn the world into a thousand years of peace and prosperity, love and mutuality.”
As to the use of power and its relation to corruption, we would like to cite for you the following:
Islam Gives Full Recognition to Two Basic Realities of Human Existence:
1-Exercise of some authority or power by some individuals over others is necessary to create and maintain order and progress in the society. Allah Almighty referred to this in the Qur’an saying: “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.” (An-Nisaa’: 59)
2-It is easy for power to get corrupted and become a source of injustice, oppression, and stagnation. Allah Almighty says, “Go thou unto Pharaoh! Lo! he hath transgressed (the bounds).” (Taha: 24)
Below, we will briefly outline in broad terms the way Islam deals with these two realities.
In general, there are two ways in which Islam aims to control the tendency of power towards corruption. First, it reforms the concept of power itself by depriving human authority of absolute basis of every type, making it accountable, and defining its function. Second, it empowers the people to oppose corrupt power.
Basis and Function of Legitimate Power and Authority
The starting point for the Islamic conception of human power and authority is the declaration: ‘la ilah illa Allah’ or ‘there is no god but Allah.’ The Qur`an often relates this declaration, which is the first part of the basic Islamic confession of faith, with the statement that power and authority reside only in Allah. Referring to this, Allah Almighty says: “ Yet of mankind are some who take unto themselves (objects of worship which they set as) rivals to Allah, loving them with a love like (that which is the due) of Allah (only) – those who believe are stauncher in their love for Allah – Oh, that those who do evil had but known, (on the day) when they behold the doom, that power belongeth wholly to Allah, and that Allah is severe in punishment!” (Al-Baqarah: 165)
This means that no human being can legitimately exercise any power or authority over any other human being except as a servant of Allah.
Often corrupt power and authority uses religion itself to install and perpetuate itself. Islam has safeguard people against this in the principle that there are no intermediaries between Allah and human beings. There are no ordained priests. Everyone can lead the prayers and perform religious ceremonies. The Qur`an explicitly rejects the idea that human beings need the mediation of any beings other than Allah to bring them closer to Allah.
The Messengers of Allah do, of course, exercise divinely sanctioned authority but they simply call people to Allah and help them by their teaching and example to build a relationship with Allah.
In Islam, they do not act as intermediaries between Allah and the people. Indeed, their true mission is to enable human beings to have an independent relationship with Allah without any intermediaries.
Oppressive power is also often sustained by perpetuating established ideas and traditions which are given a nearly absolute validity. Allah Almighty says: “. The likeness of those who disbelieve (in relation to the messenger) is as the likeness of one who calleth unto that which heareth naught except a shout and cry. Deaf, dumb, blind, therefore they have no sense.” (Al-Baqarah: 170)
However, the Qur`an is not rejecting here past traditions just because they are past traditions or just because they are man-made. It simply wants people to critically judge what their forefathers have passed on to them. The followers of the Qur`an are neither compulsive rebels against traditions, nor their uncritical slaves. Indeed, the main cause of all human problems is either the tendency to slavish adherence to the past authorities or to compulsively rebel against them. The Qur’an rejects both extremes.
The Qur`an further teaches that legitimate human power and authority exists for one and only one function to “… to establish worship and pay the poor due and enjoin kindness and forbid iniquity. And Allah’s is the sequel of events.” (Al-Hajj: 41)
It is significant that the words for right and wrong ma`ruf and munkar refer in the first place to what is universally approved or disproved by human nature when it has not been perverted. Religion itself is viewed in the Qur`an as the religion of the true (uncorrupted) nature or fitrah of man, a knowledge of which is ingrained in human beings. Prophets and Messengers of Allah manifest this fitrah of man and revelation is nothing but such manifestation.
Finally, since no human being has an inherent right to exercise authority over others, all human authority is held accountable. In the Qur`an there is a great emphasis on the accountability of all human actions, including, of course, those related to the exercise of power and authority.
All the above principles apply to all individuals without exception, even to the Messengers of Allah. The authority that the Messengers exercise is “by Allah’s leave” as Allah says: “ We sent; no messenger save that he should be obeyed by Allah’s leave. And if, when they had wronged themselves, they had but come unto thee and asked forgiveness of Allah and asked forgiveness of the messenger, they would have found Allah Forgiving, Merciful.” (An-Nisaa’: 64)
The Messengers, like other human beings, are accountable, even they would stand before Allah and account for what they did with their divinely appointed mission.
The need for Messengers arises because the tendency for power and authority to get corrupted is ultimately related with the tendency towards corruption in all of us.
Hence there is need for some persons to arise who have not only themselves overcome this tendency for corruption but are also able to shine as an example for others. Muslims are those who have accepted Muhammad as such a figure, a fact that finds expression in the second part of the Islamic confession.
Messengers are almost always raised from among the relatively weak sections of the society. This is true, for example, of the three of the major Prophets: Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Moses was raised from among the downtrodden Israelite slave community of Egypt. Jesus was raised from among the Jewish nation under Roman occupation, and even in the Jewish nation he belonged not to the rich and powerful but to the peasant community in a little known village in Galilee. And Muhammad was born as a poor orphan. Although, assured of final victory the Messengers are almost always opposed by the rich and powerful. Allah Almighty says: “ The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.” (Al-Ma’dah: 33)
Empowerment of the People to Oppose Corrupt Use of Power
Sometimes, Allah himself intervenes to dislodge a corrupt power, first by sending a Messenger as a warner and then by the destruction of the powerful if the message is not heeded. This happened in a most clear way in the case of Pharaoh, but every Prophet and Messenger of Allah in fact necessarily gets involved in an opposition with some corrupt and established powers and dislodges them, sometimes during his lifetime (as in case of Moses and Muhammad) and sometimes after his departure (as in case of Jesus).
But since Muhammad is the last of the Prophets of Allah, the Qur`an ensures opposition to power’s tendencies to corruption by empowering the only source from which challenge to power can come without a direct divine intervention through a messenger: the people. The Prophet did not appoint any person as his successor because after his departure his function passes on not to any particular individual but to the whole community of believers. Thus in his life he was a “witness” while after him the role of witnessing passes on to the community as a whole. Allah Almighty says: “ Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind. and that the messenger may be a witness against you. And We appointed the qiblah which ye formerly observed only that We might know him who followeth the messenger, from him who turneth on his heels. In truth it was a hard (test) save for those whom Allah guided. But it was not Allah’s purpose that your faith should be in vain, for Allah is full of pity, Merciful toward mankind.” (Al-Baqarah: 143)
The task of enjoining right or ma’ruf and prohibiting wrong or munkar is not left in the Qur`an to individuals in authority, but is given to the whole community. Allah Almighty says: “Believing men and believing women are protecting friends of one another; they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong; they establish regular prayer and regular charity …” (At-Tawbah:71)
A well-known hadith also states this in clear terms: “If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart and this is the weakest faith.” Some versions add: “there is no part of faith behind that, not even so much as a mustard seed.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
Islam does not recognize any attempt to justify one’s conduct by blaming the powerful or the previous generations; each person is obligated to stand for what is right to the best of his or her abilities. Further empowerment of the people is found in verses where it is from among the people that some are expected to rise up and check others who may spread corruption in the land. Allah Almighty says: “If God had not defended people some against others corruption would have spread over the earth; but God is bountiful to all the worlds.” (2:251).
In another verse, He Almighty says “If God had not defended people some against others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which God’s name is remembered much, would have been destroyed.” (Al-Hajj:40)”