The concept of integrity in Islam is not exclusive to whom one leads but is a moral value that each of us must internalise in our heart and manifest in our daily lives.
WITH the election fever in full pitch, some Malaysians, coincidentally, are busy dealing with their tax filing obligations at this time.
Why should we be concerned with both the elections and our tax obligations? What has the elections got to do with tax in the first place?
The answer, inextricably, lies within another question: who will run and how will he manage our country after the elections?
As responsible citizens cum taxpayers, we have every right to know how and where our money is spent by the elected government.
We also reserve the right to the information about how the government spends the wealth of the nation for the benefit of whom it rightfully belongs.
Such concerns, although typical, are valid. They occupy our minds simply because of our desire for this country to prosper both socially and economically.
The higher the economy, the better is the nation’s prosperity as expressed in the Quranic verse 15 of Surah Saba’, “baldantunthoyyibatunwarabbunghafur” or “a good land and a Forgiving Lord”.
In this regard, the integrity of elected leaders as well as the government plays a key role in the pursuit of social and economic prosperity. People or leaders of integrity will practise integrity in everything and will act consistently with full accountability and responsibility in any situation and to different types of people.
However, the concept of integrity in Islam is not exclusive to whom one leads. In fact, it is a moral value that each of us must internalise in our heart and manifest in our daily lives. As such, a person of integrity will only cast his vote for a candidate of integrity, for he knows that a nation can only excel if it is headed by a trustworthy leader.
On the other hand, a corrupt leader will only look out for his own personal interest rather than that of the public. He will draw around him people of his ilk, resulting in the proliferation of corruption in the nation.
Then, another question that comes to our mind is: how to fight corruption and nurture a culture of integrity in our lives?
As a complete way of life, Islam aims at the attainment of righteousness and goodness (solah) in the world. IbnAshur (d.1973) explains that what is meant by righteousness is setting things right in worldly conditions and social affairs. Corruption, on the other hand, is something that Islam is against as it affects the welfare of the entire world.
In the process of materialising the above objective, the concept of jalb al-maslahah and daf’ al-mafsadah (promoting man’s well-being and preventing harm) serves as the principal guideline put forward by Islam for everyone to follow.
So well-encompassed and universal in nature is the concept that it can be applied to all aspects of the human life at all levels, be it individual, communal or organisational.
In other words, for an individual to achieve success in this world and the Hereafter, he must abide by the Syariah laws.
On the contrary, all predicaments we face in our lives are the prima facie evidence that we are not rulecompliant. If we examine further the root cause of these quandaries, it points to none other than our disobedience to Allah’s command to uphold justice as underlined in the Quran.
In the concept of justice or ‘adl, Islam gives due emphasis to its importance. Many Quranic verses expressly state the command to do justice. Perhaps, the often-cited one is the following from Surah al-Nahl which seems to be de rigueur in most Friday sermons.
“Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and he forbids indecency and evil and rebellion; he admonishes you that you may be mindful.” (16:90)
In essence, ‘adl or justice means to place everything, every action and every thought where Allah has specified. By this, the Islamic concept of justice is highly comprehensive in its scope. Not only does it transcend the boundaries of colour, caste and religion, it also requires fairness and equality in words as well as actions.
This includes our daily habits of making comments, passing judgments, handling differences of opinions or treating others regardless of their background or relationship to us, be they our family, friends or foes.
Thus, in dealing or carrying out our responsibilities to others, we must ensure that it is executed within the parameters of fairness and equality. The concept of ‘adl or justice should remain the utmost principle that will guide us.
For one thing, each of us is a leader. By internalising the concept of justice and manifesting it through our actions may bear success in whatever we do. With all the intensity currently focused on the upcoming general election, the function of the concept of justice becomes all the more apparent, for a nation can only progress further if the leaders are trustworthy and bears integrity.
In a hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, Prophet Muhammad pronounced that among the early signs of the nearness of the Day of Judgment is when leadership is entrusted to undeserving people.
Indeed, Muslims believe in the concept of the Day of Judgment when the universe and all its contents will be destroyed. More significantly, we can take the Prophet’s pronouncement as his warning of the magnitude of destruction that could possibly befall on any nation if corrupt practices were prevalent among its leaders.
Nonetheless, the severity of the pronouncement can be mitigated by exercising our electoral rights in voting for only leaders with integrity and good leadership qualities.
As such, we should utilise our voting rights responsibly.
The election process can, in fact, turn out to be a concerted effort for Malaysian citizens to detoxify corrupt practices from our country to thrust it forward in a more holistic manner.
In this regard, the fall of ancient and modern governments could serve as a good lesson for us to learn. The Arab Spring phenomenon has revealed that countries with leaders who let self-interest and favouritism precede their good sense of justice would only jeopardise the chance of the nation to grow to its full potential. Such a scenario is definitely something we neither want nor need in Malaysia.
Muhammad Hisyam Mohamad is a Fellow at Ikim’s Centre for Economics and Social Studies. The STAR Online Home News Opinion IKIM Views 23/04/2013