Ayah 26:183 a good test of economic justice

Ayah 26:183 of the Quran contains the following advice; “Do not diminish people’s goods” (Bewley trans.) It forms part of a discourse concerning the Arabian Prophet Shuyab (peace be upon him), who was sent to the nation of Midian to warn them about their sins. As with many of the destroyed peoples whose fate is recounted in the Quran, the Midian regime was unjust on the economic arena and they had stoked Allah’s ire. In his blessed commission, Shuyab (pbuh) said he was a Messenger from Allah; he was a mere ‘postman,’ if you will, who delivered the letter of the Creator without questioning the contents of the letter. He further asked to be obeyed, and, in particular, preached economic justice. ‘Full measure’ was to be given and a level balance was to be used, the implication of his advice being that this was not what was occuring at the time in Midian.

One metric of these commands was the above quoted advice; people’s goods were to generally increase, as opposed to decrease (subject to them being treated fairly in the marketplace). It’s also important to emphasize that these goods should belong to people; they should have full possession of those goods, and not merely have them on loan.

From the following advice, it can be seen that observable characteristics of a tyrannical government are (1) people on the whole are worse off the longer such a regime stays in power, (2) people on the whole lose control of their possessions, falling under the power of loan-sharks and the like, and (3) such loss of financial independence and clout can be attributable to specific actions of the government (famines are unavoidable in some regions of the world and not necessarily indicators of poor government, and there may be other factors diminishing wealth outside the control of government).

Unlike Shuyab (pbuh), we have no edict of destruction when we advise against diminishing people’s goods but we do have a warning from the Quran. If people lose control of their wealth, it incurs Divine wrath.

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