Economy occupies most of our daily talk. In rich and poor countries alike, few communities are immune from escalating economic problems. The majority of people in the world live on the breadline while many countries depend on foreign 'aid' for survival. Receiving foreign 'aid' adds more to their problems, since, unable to pay even the interest, these countries face great hardship.
From health to education, all issues are kept moving by means of finance. However, whether developed countries or not, economic conditions hit people hard. Wealth, extravagance and their natural consequence, degradation, sit next to impoverishment. Unable to meet their essential needs, people fight with each other. Many reports and studies, programmes for improvement, and seminars to raise awareness of the issue flounder for want of viable solutions and the fact remains that, each day adds to the despair and misery of much of the world.
Unemployment is a major global problem. Even if people are employed, their wages are not sufficient to secure good living conditions. Even so, hundreds of candidates apply for a few vacancies in public service, which will bring a rather moderate income. People wait in queues for hours in front of unemployment offices in the hope of finding a job.
What is the solution, then? Why do measures fail to eradicate these problems?
In any country, economic development, productivity, flourishing job opportunities, and a productive workforce are essential to maintain economic stability. Yet, statistics indicate that there are almost 820 million unemployed around the world. When we add the number of dependants to this figure, the dimensions of the problem become even more serious.
In our day, economic systems, especially in underdeveloped countries, rely on bank interest. The high interest rates offered to depositors by banks have a destructive impact on national economies. This becomes the main reason why people put their money in banks rather than investing or using it productively. The wealthy find it easier to live on the interest they receive rather than working and in a society where most people do not work it is unlikely to boost investment, which is essential for the improvement of the country.
In such systems, newspapers carry bank advertisements giving the following message: "You can stop investing in your business and go on a holiday…" This rationale, albeit seemingly simple and attractive, brings devastation to a country rather than welfare and wealth. An economy that is not nurtured by investments is doomed to ruin. Money accumulated in bank accounts and safes is the main source of such economic problems as inflation. Those who do not contribute to the economy and who put their money in the bank and "go on a holiday" will themselves suffer the consequences in the long term. Their money resting in the bank will constantly lose value since, in the course of time, it will not keep up with the rising rate of inflation.
In an economy resting on production, an overall recovery occurs which benefits everyone. Indeed, Allah commands us to spend our money for the benefit of people. In Surat at-Tawba, Allah gives the news of a painful punishment for those who amass their possessions:
You who believe! Many of the rabbis and monks devour people's property under false pretences and bar people from access to the Way of Allah. As for those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the Way of Allah, give them the news of a painful punishment… (Surat at-Tawba: 34)
In a society where the Qur'anic principles are applied, practices which are essentially to the benefit of people keep the system moving. Thus, Allah prohibits usury and thus prevents people suffering under the burden of debts:
Those who practise usury will not rise from the grave except as someone driven mad by Satan's touch. That is because they say, 'Trade is the same as usury.' But Allah has permitted trade and He has forbidden usury. Whoever is given a warning by his Lord and then desists, can keep what he received in the past and his affair is Allah's concern. But all who return to it will be the Companions of the Fire, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-Baqara: 275)
In another verse, Allah stressed that usury does not bring prosperity to man:
Allah obliterates usury but makes charity grow in value! Allah does not love any persistently ungrateful wrongdoer. (Surat al-Baqara: 276)
To improve living standards, stability and order are essential in all domains of social life. This also holds true for the economy. Believers are those who should assume the responsibility of providing solutions. In this respect, nobody has the time to lose waiting for others to take the initiative. That is because Allah gave this responsibility to every believer. To fulfil it, one primarily needs to communicate the religion and the blessings that the religion adds to one's life.
The members of a community having a sincere faith that possessions, unlike usury, spent for the good of people will bring prosperity, will spend the part of their possessions they do not need for a good cause without hesitation. The benefits of such a system are evident to society. However, people should not see such a system as unattainable. The way to prevent this is to teach people the Qur'an.
It is also important to stress that, in the type of social life that is guided by the Qur'an and the Sunnah people strive not only for their own welfare, but for the welfare of the public since the values of Islam demand co-operation, solidarity and unity.
Being prohibited by Allah from doing so, people do not violate one another's rights. No one tries to unlawfully take others' possessions or rights. No one commits fraud in measuring and weighing. In a society living by the Qur'an, injustice is never allowed. Consequently, usury-ridden relations end. The wealthy do not rip off the poor and people do not attempt unlawfully to take other's portions.
In a society where religious values apply, nothing is wasted. People consume but avoid extravagance. Co-operation and justice maintain better living standards and welfare. The Blessed Period of the first community of Islam, an age of welfare when people in general adhered to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, is an explicit example of this fact.