Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 188..........Part 3
And do not consume each other's wealth unjustly, nor offer it to men in authority with the intent of seizing unlawfully and knowingly a part of the wealth of others.
(Chapter 2: Verse 188)
The phrase “do not consume each other's wealth unjustly, nor offer it to men in authority” addresses a destructive issue that is commonplace these days. It is the issue of bribing or befriending people in power in order to lobby for legislation that legitimizes unlawful dealings. In other words, there are those who spend money in order to get special treatment from the authorities and have them look the other way when unjust dealings are taking place.
Words in the Arabic language often have roots in the desert environment. In the phrase ‘nor offer it to men in authority,’ the verb ‘offer’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘tudloo ÊõÏúáõæÇ.’ It is the same verb used to describe lowering a bucket to draw water out of a well. It is also interesting to know that the Arabic word for bribery ‘Rishwa’ is derived from the noun ‘ar-Risha’ which is the rope tied to the bucket used to draw water from a well.
The result of this fraudulent transaction is that bribed rulers pass legislation allowing the rich to consume other people’s wealth unjustly. This only happens when human law rules us; but if we choose divine law, then this type of act is not possible. The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, warned us against cozying up to people in power. He (peace be upon him) said: “I am only a human being, and often you bring your disputes before me. Some of you may be more eloquent in presenting your case than the other, whereby I may consider that you are truthful and issue a judgment in your favor. If I ever issue judgment in your favor and give you what is not rightfully yours, then whatever you wrongfully take is nothing but a piece of hellfire. It is up to you to take it or leave it.”
Many governments have allowed dealings in usury and interest. Some people who engage in interest loans argue that the government has allowed it; therefore they bear no responsibility. This sort of reasoning is faulty because a government cannot make lawful what God has made unlawful. And even if they permit something that is unlawful in the sight of God, then you as a believer must avoid it. You and I will be ultimately judged by the divine law, not man-made law.
If you want to find out about the character of any nation, their moral integrity and honesty, then look at their dealings amongst each other. Perhaps one of the best ways to spot and gauge corruption in a society is to look at construction and real-estate. If you find that developers are cutting corners, using subpar materials, using less than what proper engineering requires, or using materials that are hazardous to the health, then you will know that corruption is widespread. Constructing such buildings often requires the collusion of many layers of officials; from fraudulent and greedy financiers to dishonest engineers, corrupt contractors, and untrustworthy inspectors. The result of which is a waste of capital, and occasionally the loss of innocent life upon whom the building might collapse. This is one of the clear consequences of consuming wealth unjustly. The Poet Shawqi said:
People cannot build and thrive if their morals are in ruins
Thus, it is recommended to keep a comprehensive record of every person who is involved in the construction of a building from the first drawing until the last stone is set. And that record should be kept for reference in case future defects appear as a result of poor and corrupt work. In such event, those who are responsible can be brought to justice. Otherwise, the hard earned money and sometimes the lives of honest people may go to waste. Every one of us has a responsibility in life, and none of us should violate the trust of others.
Let’s give an example here from simple everyday events: suppose that you are standing in line to apply for a driver’s license. The first person in the queue arrived early in the morning. Another person –who came late after sleeping in and eating breakfast- finds the long line and decides that he does not want to wait. He goes to a clerk and gives him some money in order to bypass all the people in line and get his papers done quickly. This individual has violated the rights of each and every person ahead of him in line. This individual may claim to be smart and resourceful; he or she may say that anyone in line could have done the same. We answer that this corrupt person has not only robbed the people in the line of their time, but he also spread the feelings of resentment within those who do not have the willingness or ability to pay.
God Almighty says: “And do not consume each other's wealth unjustly, nor offer it to men in authority with the intent of seizing unlawfully and knowingly a part of the wealth of others.” The phrase ‘of others’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Fareeq’ which means a small or isolated group. More specifically, it warns against unjustly targeting the weak and unprivileged to rob them of their wealth.
What is the tool that you should use to differentiate between the justice and the injustice? It is the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”