Islamic economy is, to a great extent, based on egalitarian principles which aim at maintaining the equality of man through equitable distribution of wealth, thus eliminating the disparity between the rich and the poor. Islam has struck at the root of the principle of making the rich richer and the poor poorer, which has been followed in the capitalist and imperialist states since times immemorial. It has prevented the exploitation of the poor at the hands of the rich.
Islam has evolved its economic principles on such lines as to minimise these disparities and eliminate distinctions in the distribution of human fortunes. The wealthy people are to be heavily taxed through Zakat in order to help the poor and this taxation forms one of the cardinal principles of Islam which no true Muslim can violate. Its denunciation of “interest” and emphasis on the annual payment of Zakat-a religious obligatory tax levied on capital income forming one of the fundamentals of Islam, is an effective step towards nonaccumulation of wealth. The Holy Quran, while enumerating the qualities of a Momin (true Muslim) states that he is one who distributes his wealth for Allah, among his needy brethren. The Prophet of Islam has observed that if the Muslims would faithfully pay their Zakat, a time would come when there would be no needy person left to receive the same.
Islam in its early days produced many zealous exponents of the egali. tarian principles of Islam. They sacrificed their all for the sake of God. Instances of unparalleled generosity and benevolence are two numerous to be adduced from the life of the Companions of the Prophet. But the most vocal and fearless exponent of non-accumulation and wider distribution of private wealth was Hazrat Abuzar Ghaffari, a highly respected and trusted Companion of the Prophet.
Born in a tribe of brigands, named Ghaffar, residing near the caravan route leading from Makkah to Syria, Jundab, later known as Abuzar, soon rose to be a great leader of marauders and a terror for the surrounding country.
But Jundab possessed a live conscience and a moving heart. The ravages caused by his terrible raids and the miseries of his victims provided a turning point in his career. Introspection led to remorse, which not only made him abandon the vicious life but also dissuade others from it. This created a furor in the tribe and an unwholesome atmosphere for him which obliged him to leave the place and take shelter elsewhere.
He had now developed an extreme revulsion for his past immoral life of lust and plunder. This turning point in the life of Abuzar is of great significance as it gave the world of Islam one of its most sincere and revolutionary figures.
He, along with his mother and brother Anees, migrated to Upper Najd, where one of his maternal uncles resided. This was the first migration of Abuzar in search of truth and righteousness. Here, too, he could not stay for long. His revolutionary ideas had antagonised his tribesmen who complained to his maternal uncle. In a world of lust and vice, he seemed to be a strange figure. He left his maternal uncle’s house and took refuge in a village near Makkah.
Abuzar now yearned for something else. He was in search of truth. Even before embracing Islam, he was against idol worship and considered God as one and supreme. Once he said :
“I used to say my prayers three years before I had the honour of beholding the Holy Prophet of Islam”
His brother, Anees who had gone to Makkah brought him the news of the dawn of a new horizon–Islam. It was the time when the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam had created a stir in Makkah and had sent a wave of resentment throughout Arabia. Abuzar was naturally drawn towards the Messenger of God and longed to see him. He arrived in Makkah, occasionally visited Kaaba and for more than a month closely studied the conduct and teachings of the Holy Prophet in the hostile environments of Makkah.
The Kaaba which, in those days, was packed with idols and was frequently visited by idol worshipers of Quraish was a popular meeting place. The Prophet of Islam, too came to offer his prayers there. Abuzar at last had a chance of meeting him. This provided him an opportunity of fulfilling his heart’s desire. There and then he embraced Islam and became one of its most zealous and dauntless champions.
Now started his period of trials and tribulations. He openly offered prayer and preached the new faith in Kaaba. One day, the Quraish idolators fell upon him and had he not been rescued by Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, who reminded the assailants that their victim was an important member of the Ghaffar clan, who happened to inhabit the area encompassing their trade route to Syria. As such, the members of the clan were in a position to put a stop to their commerce with that country. This argument cooled down their fury for the time being.
Thenceforward, Abuzar dedicated himself to the service of Islam and its founder. He soon earned an enviable and venerable place among the Companions of the Prophet and came to be recognised as one of his very close and trusted Companions.
He was deputed by the Prophet to preach Islam in his own tribe. He went to his own land and enthusiastically preached the new faith and met with tremendous success. Not only his mother and brother Anees, but almost the entire clan of marauders and brigands also embraced Islam. He was one of the foremost and rather the first missionary of Islam. Crowned with exceptional success in his difficult mission, he returned to Makkah to be all the more honoured by the Prophet and his Companions.
He was held in high esteem by the Prophet. When he later left Medina to participate in the “Battle of Rags”, Abuzar was appointed as the Imam and Administrator of Medina. On his death bed, the Prophet sent for Abuzar and embraced him, declaring:
“Abuzar would be the same all through his life. He would not change even after my death”.
The words of the Prophet proved true. Abuzar passed an utterly simple and pious life, abhorring pomp and show and denouncing the capitalists and their wealth throughout his life, specially in the time of the Third Caliph of Islam, when the members of Quraish were rolling in wealth.
Abuzar was a staunch champion of the egalitarian principles of Islam. His adherence to and interpretation of “Aya-i-Kanz” (verse on concentration of wealth) raised a great controversy during the time of Hazrat Usman, the Third Caliph. This “Aya” in “Sura-i-Tauba” of the Holy Quran runs as follow:
“Those who accumulate fondly gold and silver and do not spend in the path of Allah, tell them dire perdition will be their lot. On that day, their foreheads, sides and backs will be branded with the very gold and silver, made red-hot and it will be said:
“This is what you had accumulated for your benefit. Now taste what you had accumulated”.
Deadly opposed to the idea of accumulating wealth he considered it against the spirit of Islam. He could not reconcile himself with the growing capitalism among the Muslims in Syria governed by Muawiya. In his opinion, it was obligatory on all true Muslims to distribute their surplus wealth among their needy brethren. In substantiation he cited the following incident in the life of the Prophet:
“One day as the Holy Prophet was going for a walk along with Abuzar, the mountain of Ohad came in view, he said to Abuzar : “If I have gold equal to the weight of the yonder mountain, I would never care to look at it and have it with me on the third day except that which will be required to pay off my debts. The rest I would distribute among the slaves of Allah”.
He lived up to his convictions and practised what he preached. In his attitude towards capitalism he was so uncompromising that he did not care for the highest dignitaries. Hazrat Abu Hurairah, a very renowned Companion of the Prophet, was appointed the Governor of Bahrain. He came to see Abuzar who refused to see him at first. But, on enquiry, as to why he was so annoyed with him, Abuzar replied :
“You have been appointed Governor of Bahrain”.
“Yes”, was the reply.
“Then you must have built a palatial house and purchased a big estate there”, added Abuzar.
“Nothing of this sort”, replied Abu Hurairah.
“Then you are my brother”, retorted Abuzar and instantly embraced him.
His preachings were never challenged during the time of the first two Caliphs. He passed a peaceful life, and was respected by all. But the trouble arose during the time of the Third Caliph.
Abuzar had migrated to Syria, where he found Governor Muawiya living in luxury and consolidating his authority with the support of a privileged class which had amassed enormous fortunes. Abuzar’s egalitarian preachings awakened the masses against this privileged class. He became a problem for the local Government. When Muawiya built his green palace, Al-Khizra, Abuzar questioned him:
“If you have built this palace out of the state funds, you are guilty of misappropriation; if out of your personal income, you are guilty of ‘israf’ (extravagance).” Muawiya was stunned and could give no reply.
Muawiya tried his best to dissuade Abuzar from his egalitarian preachings but Abuzar was adamant and uncompromising on his principles. The Ameer arranged discussions with him by learned scholars of Islam, whose arguments cut no ice with him. People were forbidden to associate with or listen to him. Nevertheless people thronged around him for advice. At last Muawiya cornplained to Caliph Usman that Abuzar was preaching class hatred in Syria which might lead to serious consequences.
Thereupon, Abuzar was summoned to Medina by the Caliph. Long before his arrival in the city, the residents of Medina had come out of their houses to welcome this revered Companion of the Prophet.
In Medina, too, he could not have a peaceful life. The wealthy section of the population felt uneasy over his activities advocating equitable distribution of wealth.
The Caliph at last arranged a discussion on the subject between him and Kaab Ahbar, a learned person. The latter questioned the desirability of keeping the law of inheritance in Muslim jurisprudence when Islam did not permit the accumulation of wealth. But this was off the point. The discussion bore no result and Hazrat Usman asked him eventually to leave Medina and settle at Rabza, a small village on the caravan route from Iraq to Medina. The enemies of Islam like Abdullah ibn Saba, tried to incite him to revolt against the Caliph but he rebuked them saying:
“If Usman hangs me on the highest mountain, I will not lift my finger against him”.
Thus ended the life of this trusted Companion of the Prophet who preached and practised true socialism more than a thousand years before Karl Marx. He lived and died for his principles denouncing the accumulation of wealth.
The Holy Prophet of Islam had certified him as the “most truthful”, and Hazrat Ali had declared about him:
“There is now none, except Abuzar, in the world, who is not afraid of the tirade of recriminations from the side of delinquents in matters of religion. Even I am no exception”.