Chapter 7: Fundamentals of Islamic Economic System by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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Fundamentals of Islamic Economic System

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



  1. Importance as Factor of Production

  2. Private Ownership of Land

  3. Acquisition of Ownership Rights

  4. Tenancy or Muzara’a

  5. Irrigation

  6. State or Public Ownership of Land

  7. Feudalism or Jaqirdari System

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I- Importance as Factor of Production

The factors of production have been classified as land, labour, capital and organisation or enterprise. In this chapter, we shall discuss land while in following chapters we shall discuss labour, capital and enterprise.

The term land has been given a special meaning in Economics. It does not mean soil only, as understood in ordinary speech, but it is synonymous with all the natural resources available from air and water, from above the land surface ad below it, which yield income or useful produce. In the words of Marshall, land means “the materials and the forces which nature gives freely for man’s aid, in land and water, in air and light and heat.” Most of the economic activities of man depend directly on land even today, as in the past, such as hunting, fishing, breeding of cattle and sheep, agricultural produce, gardens, minerals, metals, industrial raw material, electric power, water and other natural resources.

Islam has recognised land as one of the most important factor of production. But in this chapter, we will discuss Islamic view-point regarding agricultural use of land. Since most of the matters pertaining to agriculture are of temporal character, Islam has not laid down any hard and fast rules to govern each and every affair so as to restrict the freedom of action of the people. Rather most of these matters have been left to the discretion of the people of each age and each place to decide the same according to their ever changing socio-economic situations. Only a few general instructions have been issued by al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam and Muhammad (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam, in the fields of land-ownership, land cultivation, reclamation of dead lands, peasant-landlord relationship, irrigation, etc.

A tradition is reported in Sahih Bukhari on the authority of Abu Umamah that when the Prophet saw a plough and some other agricultural implements, he said: “This does not enter the house of a people but it brings inglory with it”. From this Hadith, some critics have tried to deduce that the Prophet of Islam discouraged rather condemned agriculture. But this is a misconceived impression. In fact, the Hadith implies that a people which gives itself up entirely to agriculture to the neglect of other sectors like trade and industry cannot rise to the position of glory among the comity of nations. Subsequent history has proved this fact right as the nations who have concentrated only on agriculture have been left much behind in the race of economic development in comparison to the nations who have paid attention to trade and industry and have followed policy of balanced sectoral growth.

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II- Private Ownership of Land

Some people, especially those having inclination towards socialism, believe that the concept of ownership of land is alien to Islam. However, this view does not have any locus standi when we look at the teachings of Islam. The institution of ownership of land, which exists among the humankind since time immemorial, has not been abolished either by the Qur’an or by the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam. No doubt according to the Qur’an overall concept of absolute ownership over everything including earth and heavens belongs to Allah, but the man has been vested with proprietary rights over land as Allah’s trustee or vicegerent. Institution of individual or private ownership of land has thus been recognised by Islam.

Land is needed by man either for habitation or for the purpose of earning livelihood through its cultivation. For both these purposes the Holy Qur’an concedes individual’s right of ownership and possession of land. For the purpose of habitation, the Qur’an says: O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own without first announcing your presence and invoking peace upon the folk thereof…….                                                -(24:27)

Thus ownership of land for the purpose of houses has been recognised by the Holy Book in this verse. In another verse the Qur’an affirms the right of ownership of land for the purposes of cultivation and earning sustenance. The verse states: ………… Eat ye of the fruit thereof when it fruiteth, and pay the due thereof upon the harvest day, and be not prodigal……….”  -(6:141)

From the above verse it is clear that one has to pay Zakat on his fruits and agricultural produce if one owns and cultivates land. This verse thus concedes the individual or private ownership of land for the purpose of agriculture.

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III- Acquisition of Ownership Rights

Initially private ownership of land is acquired through colonisation of land or through allotment or grant of land by the state. These two methods of acquisition of ownership rights over land have been recognised by society since ancient times. Although land is also acquired by an individual through purchase from another person, through inheritance, through gift, through bequest, etc. but these are the subsequent transfers with which we are not concerned. In this section we would, therefore, discuss initial two methods of acquisition of ownership rights over land and see what is the view-point of Islam about them. Discussion would be restricted to agricultural land only.

Colonisation : When man settled on earth, the rule of ownership of land which emerged in due course of time was: The land which one occupies and develops for cultivation is his and he has better right to use it. This ancient rule was maintained by the Prophet of Islam with certain useful conditions. Some of his traditions are reproduced below:[1]

1.       Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) said: “Whoever colonizes a land which does not belong to another, has the better right to keep it. Urwa bin Zubair states that Hadrat Umar (Allah be pleased with him) acted upon the same rule during his reign.”

-(Bukhari, Ahmad, Nisai)

2.       Jabir bin Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) related the tradition that whoever reclaims dead land (i.e. colonizes wasteland), acquired proprietary right over it.

-(Ahmad Tirmidhi, Nisai, Ibn-e-Haban)

3.       Tawus (Tabii) reported that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) had said: “Ownerless land which has no trustee or heir belongs to God and His Apostle and then it is open to use by you. Hence anyone who reclaims dead land shall keep it; and he who occupies it without using it shall lose his ownership right over it at the expiry of three years.”

-(Abu Yusuf : Kitab-ul-Kharaj)

4.       Saeed bin Zaid reported that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) had said: “Anyone who reclaims some wasteland shall keep it. But he who colonizes another person’s land illegally has no right over it.”

-(Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)

From the above traditions of the Prophet, two principles emerge which regulate the rights of ownership arising out of colonisation of land:

(i)      Whoever colonizes a land which does not belong to other acquires proprietary right over it. But he who colonises another person’s land illegally has no right over it.

(ii)      He who reclaims dead land shall keep it; and he who occupies it without using it, shall lose his ownership over it at the expiry of three years.

Grants or Allotments: The Prophet of Islam as head of Islamic state and his immediate successors known in history as right-guided caliphs made grants of land to people. Some of their traditions are related as under:[2]

1.       Alqama bin Wail reports that his father (Wail bin Hajr) stated that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) had granted him a tract of land in Hadramut.

-(Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)

2.       Asma, the daughter of Hadrat Abu Bakr states that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) had granted her husband Hadrat Zubair a tract of land in Khyber which contained date-palms and other trees. Apart from this Urwa b. Zubair reports that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) had granted him an Oasis situated in the lands formerly belonging to Beni Nazeer. Furthermore, Abdullah b. Umar relates that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) had granted another large tract of land to Hadrat Zubair in the following manner. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) told Zubair:

“Race your horse and the point where it stops shall be the boundary of your estate. Zubair raced his horse and when it stopped at a spot, he cast forward his lash. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) then said:

“All right, give him the land up to where his lash has fallen.”

-(Bukhari, Ahmad, Abu Dawud)

3.       Amr bin Dinar reported that when the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) arrived in Madinah, he granted lands both to Abu Bakr and Umar (Allah be pleased with them).

4.       Abu Rafia states that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) had granted a tract of land to his (Rafia’s) family, but they could not colonize it. (Abu Rafia) sold it for 8,000 Dinars in the reign of Hadrat Umar (Allah be pleased with him)


5.       Bilal bin Harith Muzni related that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) had granted to him the entire land of Aqiq.


6.       Nafa, the son of the famous physician in Arabia Harith bin Kaalda, represented to Hadrat Umar (Allah be pleased with him) that a certain estate in Basra was neither a tribute paying tract, nor was the interest of any Muslim involved in it, so it should be granted to him and he would grow on it fodder for his horses. Hadrat Umar (Allah be pleased with him) issued a decree to his Governor Abu Musa al-Ashari that if the facts stated by Nafa were true, the estate should be granted to him.


7.       Musa bin Talha reported that Hadrat Uthman (Allah be pleased with him) during his reign had granted lands to Zubair b. Awam, Saad b. Abi Waqqas, Abdullah b. Masud, Usama b. Zaid, Khubab b. Art, Ammar b. Yasar and Saad b. Malik (Allah be pleased with them).

-(Kitab-ul-Kharaj : Kitab-ul-Amwal)

8.       Abdullah b. Hasan related that on Ali’s application Umar had granted to him the estate of Uniey.

-(Kanz al-Ammal)

9.       It is further reported : The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) had granted the whole valley of Aqiq to Bilal b. Harith Muzni. But he could not bring a major part of it under cultivation. Hadrat Umar, therefore, in his reign said to him, “The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) had not granted this land to you to keep it fallow and withhold it from use by others. So retain as much of it as you can use and return the remainder so that I may distribute it among the Muslims.” Bilal b. Harith refused to comply with this advice. Umar persisted in his demand. Finally, except the land which was actually under his (Bilal’s) use, Umar (Allah be pleased with them) took away all the land from him and divided it into plots, which were distributed among the Muslims.

-(Kitab-ul-Amwal by Abu Obaid)

Following principles emerge from the land-grants made by the Prophet and the right-guided caliphs:

i)    A grant which is not being put to proper use or if a grantee could not develop his land, his ownership over it could be abolished, as was done by Umar in case of land granted to Bilal by the Prophet himself.

ii)    State can make grants only out of state lands and dead lands. State has no power to deprive a person from his land illegally and grant it to some other person.

iii)   State lands are not to be distributed as gifts among favourites. Such lands are to be allotted in accordance with rules made in this behalf to those persons who have rendered some meritorious services or who can be helpful in Jihad against the enemies of Islam.

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IV- Tenancy or Muzara’a

Cultivation of land can be done in two ways: Either the owner of the land may cultivate his land himself, or he may give his land for cultivation to another person on the basis of share in produce or fixed rental in cash. If land is given by the owner to another person for cultivation, it is called tenancy or Muzara’a. Tenancy is of two types: one is share-tenancy in which the tenant and the landlord share the produce of the land in agreed proportions, and the other is cash-tenancy in which the tenant pays the fixed rent of the land to the land owner in cash.

In this section we shall discuss in detail both types of tenancy, in the light of the traditions of the Prophet of Islam and practice of his companions, in order to understand Islamic view-point regarding this important issue.

Share Tenancy: In this form of cultivation the landlord receives from the tenant a certain fixed share of the produce, may be one half or one third or one fourth, as agreed in the contract. This system is called batai or produce-sharing. In Arabic it is called Muzaraat in case of land and Musaqat in case of garden.

Those who support share tenancy and consider it as permissible in Islam produce the following traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions in favour of their contention:[3]

1.       Abdullah bin Umar reports that when the land of Khaibar fell into the hands of the Muslims, half of it was made the property of the state and the other half was divided among the fighters. The Jews requested the Holy Prophet to allow them to stay and they would cultivate the land and would be prepared to accept one half of the produce of the land. The Holy Prophet agreed but warned them that they would have to vacate the land if they broke the contract or the state wanted to take it back. This arrangement continued until the time of the Caliphate of Umar when the Jews broke the contract and were asked to vacate and were settled in Taima and Ariha.


2.       Abu Hurairah says that when the Holy Prophet came to Madinah, the Ansar wanted that their gardens be divided between the Muhajirin and themselves. The Holy Prophet did not accede to their request. Afterwards, the Ansar asked the Muhajirin to look after their gardens and thereby share the fruit crop with them. The Muhajirin agreed to this proposal and the Holy Prophet approved of it.


3.       Many companions of the Holy Prophet, including Quais bin Muslim, Abu Jaffar, Ibn Abi Shaiba and Musa bin Talha say that every Muhajirin family in Madinah used to cultivate land on a crop-sharing basis with their landowners. And that many famous companions of the Holy Prophet like Abu Bakr, Umar, Ali, Sa’d bin Malik, Abdullah bin Masud, Umar bin Abdul Aziz, Qasim and Urwah used to let their land for cultivation on share tenancy.


4.       It is reported that Othman, the third Caliph, gave lands to Abdullah bin Masud, Ammar bin Yasar, Khubab bin Artat and Sa’d bin Malik; and that Sa’d bin Malik and Abdullah bin Masud gave their lands for cultivation on share tenancy and shared the crop by one-third or one-fourth.


5.       Taaos reports that Muaz bin Jabal gave his land for cultivation on share tenancy and shared the crop by one-third or one-fourth during the reign of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr, Umar and Othman.

-(Ibn Majah)

Those who oppose share tenancy and consider it prohibited in Islam rely on the following traditions:[4]

1.       Rafey bin Khadij reports that while he was watering his fields, the Holy Prophet passed that way and enquired about the land. He told the Holy Prophet that it belonged to him and that labour and seed were supplied by another person who would share half of the total produce of the land with him. On hearing this, the Holy Prophet told him not to indulge in such a transaction which contained the element of Riba.


2.       According to Rafey bin Khadij, his family used to buy land and give it for cultivation on share tenancy, taking one-third or one-fourth or a fixed quantity of the produce of land. One day one of his uncles came and told them that the Holy Prophet had forbidden them a business which was profitable. The Holy Prophet forbade them from letting land on rent and sharing produce of the land by one-third or one-fourth or a fixed quantity. The Holy Prophet told the landowner either to cultivate land himself or give it gratis to others for cultivation. And he disliked the letting of land on rent or on any other basis.


3.       Abu Hurairah reports that the Holy Prophet said that anyone who owned any land should either himself cultivate it or give it gratis to one of his brothers in Islam or leave it fallow.


4.       Zaid bin Thabat reports that the Holy Prophet forbade Mukhabira which meant letting land on a crop-sharing basis by one-half one-third or one-fourth.

-(Abu Daud)

5.       According to Salim bin Abdullah, Abdullah stopped the practice of letting his land on hire when he heard from Rafey that the Holy Prophet had forbidden this form of cultivation. Abdullah stopped this practice, but he said that, though he knew that land was given on hire during the time of the Holy Prophet, he stopped from letting land on hire fearing that the Holy Prophet might have forbidden it and he might not have heard it.

Cash Tenancy: In this form of cultivation, the landlord gives his land to another person for cultivation and gets fixed rent from him in the form of cash.

Those who support this system of tenancy and consider it as permitted by Islam produce the following traditions in their favour:[5]

1.       According to Saeed bin Musayyib, Rafey bin Khadij said that the Holy Prophet forbade crop-sharing and the sale of dates on trees and said that the cultivation may only be done by three persons:

(i)   The owner of land who himself cultivates it;

(ii)   One who gets land gratis from another and cultivates; and

(iii)  one who hires the land on cash tenancy (for gold or silver).

-(Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)

2.       Abdullah bin Mufaddal reports from Thabat bin Zahhaq that the Holy Prophet had forbidden Muzaraa and permitted letting it on hire and had said that there was no harm in letting it on hire.


3.       Rafey bin Khadij reports that no one among the Ansar cultivated land more than us and we used to give land on rent. We fixed one part of that land for rent but sometimes it grew (rich crop) and nothing was reaped from the other part and vice versa. Therefore we were forbidden by the Holy Prophet from this form of cultivation but were not forbidden to give land for cultivation in exchange for gold or silver.


4.       It is reported that someone asked Rafey about letting land on hire in exchange for payment in dinars and dirhams and he replied that there was no harm in letting land on hire in return for dirhams.


5.       Hanzalah-bin-Qais from Rafe-b-Khadiz reported that he said: My two uncles informed me that they used to let out lands at the time of the Holy Prophet for what the aqueducts produced or something which the owner of the land set apart. The Holy Prophet prohibited us from that. I asked Rafe’: Then how is it in exchange of dirhams and dinars? He said: There is no harm in it? And that was what was prohibited as it were. If any man of understanding looks therein with (a sense of) legality and illegality, he will hold it as unlawful on account of what is therein of cheating.

-(Bukhari, Muslim)

Those who say that cash tenancy is not permitted by Islam quote the following traditions in the support of their contention:[6]

1.   Thabat bin Zahak is reported to have said that the Holy Prophet had forbidden landlordism (i.e., letting land on hire for cultivation).


2.       According to Jabir bin Abdullah, the Holy Prophet forbade Muzanba and Haqal. He explained that Muzanba was exchanging plucked dates with the dates on the trees and Haqal was giving land on hire.


3.       Nafey reports that Abdullah bin Umar kept letting his land on hire during the time of the Holy Prophet and his four Caliphs till the year 50 Hijra. Then he was told that the Holy Prophet had forbidden letting of land on hire. When he confirmed it from Rafey bin Khadij, he stopped letting land on hire.

4.       Rafe-b-Khadiz reported: We were many men of Madinah who had cultivation. Someone amongst us used to let out his land and say: This plot is for me, and this is for you. Often it yielded crops and another did not yield. The Holy Prophet prohibited it.

-(Bukhari, Muslim)

5.       Amr reported: I said to Taus: Would that you had given up agricultural leases! Verily they think that the Holy Prophet forbade that. He said: O Amr! Verily I give them and help them, and verily the most learned of them meaning Ibn Abbas informed me that the Holy Prophet did not prohibit it but he said. The gift of anyone of you to his brother is better than his realising a fixed rent from him.

-(Bukhari, Muslim)

6.       Abdullah-b-Mugaffal reported that Sabet-b-Zuhhak held that the Messenger of Allah prohibited agricultural leases and enjoined mutual labour. He said: There’s no harm in it.


Conclusion: From the way the traditions of the Prophet of Islam are used by different people to promote their particular point of view, some immature mind are led to believe that the traditions are inconsistent with each other or contradict each other. But this belief, I am afraid to say, is absolutely incorrect and misconceived. There is no contradiction or inconsistency in the Ahadith of the Prophet, but there may be some discrepancies in the reporting of these Ahadith. In the contract of tenancy what has been prohibited by the Prophet is the element of exploitation, riba (usury) and gambling. So the legality of the tenancy system will have to be judged with the criterion whether it contains or does not contain any element of exploitation or riba or gambling. If the system contains such elements, it would be unlawful; but if it is clear of such elements, it would be lawful. Since judgement on the basis of this criterion is very difficult if not impossible, the system of tenancy itself has become very controversial.

Some jurists hold that both the forms of tenancy i.e. share tenancy as well as cash tenancy are illegal; whereas some others hold that both are lawful. Some jurists prefer share tenancy over cash tenancy, while some other jurists prefer cash tenancy over share tenancy. Imam Abu Yusuf, for example, holds both the forms of tenancy lawful. He says:

“Just as ‘Muzarabah’ is lawful i.e., one man gives capital and the other labour and both share in the profits, similarly in my opinion, land is Muzarabah capital (                ), one man owns the land and the other hires it and both share the profit, whether it is a matter of share tenancy (Muzaraa) or hire.”

But this view of the great Imam does not appear to be very sound. What the great Imam seems to have forgotten is that in case of Muzarabah business if there is loss the capitalist bears the whole of such loss; whereas in tenancy the landlord does not bear any loss when crops are damaged or lost. So the contract of tenancy cannot be likened to contract of Muzarabah business.

Maulana Maududi, however, holds that only share tenancy is permitted in Islam. According to him, cash tenancy is not permitted because in this form of tenancy the landlord does not share any loss in case the crop is damaged. The landlord gets his rent even if nothing is produced from his land and thus the tenant suffers the whole loss. In the view of Maududi, giving of land on rent is like lending of capital on riba, and thus the transaction being in the nature of riba is unlawful in Islam.

Although tenancy system has not been prohibited by Islam as it was in vogue during the time of the Holy Prophet and many famous companions used to let their lands for cultivation on crop-sharing or on cash rental, but the best course of action is what has been suggested by the Prophet himself. Abu Hurairah reports that the Holy Prophet said: Anyone who owns any land should either himself cultivate it or give it gratis to one of his brothers in Islam or leave it fallow (Bukhari). So this Hadith prefers leaving the land fallow rather than giving it on rent in kind or cash to others. Thus this Hadith on the one hand promotes brotherhood among the Muslims by enjoining upon them to give their land gratis to their brothers and on the other `hand it cuts at the root of feudalism which exists on the tenancy system.

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V- Irrigation

Irrigation of land has been attached paramount importance by Islam as without proper irrigation, agricultural produce cannot be enhanced. Disputes regarding irrigation of land among the people living around the same water channel were common in those days, as are today. The Prophet of Islam, therefore, made certain rules regulating the use of water by such people. These rules are found in the following Ahadith:

1.       Urwah reported that Zubair had a dispute with one of the Ansars about streamlets in the lava plain. The Holy Prophet said: O Zubair, enjoy water and then send the water to your neighours. The Ansars said: In case he is your cousin. His face became changed (in rage) and he said: O Zubair, water your ground and then stop water, till it returns to the enclosure and then send the water down to your neighbour. He gave Zubair his full right in clear order when the Ansar made him angry. And he had pointed out to them both an affair wherein there was advantage for both.

-(Bukhari and Muslim)

2.       Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Don’t withhold excess water so as to prevent therewith the (growth of) additional herbage.

-(Bukhari and Muslim)

3.       Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There are three persons with whom Allah will neither speak on the Resurrection Day, nor look towards them: A man who took goods in excess of what he was given by taking a false oath; a man who took false oath after afternoon prayer to deprive there-with a Muslim of his property; and a man who denied excess water. Allah will say: This day I shall withhold My favour on you as you withheld excess water which your hands did not produce.

-(Bukhari and Muslim)

4.       Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: All Muslims are partners in three things-in water, herbage and fire.

-(Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)

5.       Asmara-b-Muqarres reported: I came to the Holy Prophet and took allegiance to him. He said: He who first occupies a place of water which no Muslim had occupied before becomes its owner.

-(Abu Daud)

6.       Amr-b-Shuaib from his father from his grandfather reported that the Messenger of Allah gave decision about the Mahzur stream that it should be withheld till it should reach the ankles and then it should be flowed down from the upper to the lower.

-(Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)

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VI- State or Public Ownership of Land

The idea of state control or public ownership of land came to the mind of the Muslims during the caliphate of Umar when vast lands of Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Iran fell to the sword of Islam. The institution of state ownership was introduced by caliph Umar, which continued during the time of later caliphs. The aims and objectives of the great caliph in establishing this institution were:

1.       He wanted a regular of revenue for the government to pay the soldiers and other state officials and also to purchase the arms.

2.       He wanted to retain the land not only for the generation then living but also as Fai belonging for all time to the whole Muslim Ummah for the benefit of all future generations.

3.       He also feared that if the Arabs devoted themselves to agriculture, they would become ease-loving and non-martial.

4.       He knew that the stability of the state depended on the prosperity of the agricultural classes and depriving the farmers of their lands would not only be a great hardship to them but also would undermine the stability of the government.

5.       He had noticed evils of feudal system which was mainly responsible for the fall of Iranian and Roman empires, and, therefore, he wanted to save the Islamic state from the evils of this oppressive system.

However, it would be of great academic interest if we describe, in brief, the events which led to the introduction of the institution of public ownership of lands of the above mentioned countries and how the caliph could do this great act despite a lot of resistance from the very influential persons.

After the death of the Prophet, when Iraq, Iran and Egypt were conquered by Muslim armies, there was a controversy among the people concerning the lands of these countries. Companions of the Prophet at request of caliph Umar held meetings to discuss and deliberate upon the issue. Imam Abu Yusuf in his book Kitab-ul-Kharaj gives a lengthy and interesting account of these debates. Abdul Rahman, Zubair and Bilal backed by the army generals were of the view that the conquered lands should be divided among the soldiers just like other categories of spoils from which one-fifth is taken out for the Muslim community and four-fifth is distributed among the participating soldiers. On the other hand Hadrat Umar backed by Ali-b-Abi Talib and Muadh-b-Jabal were of the opinion that these lands should be retained in state control and should not be distributed among the soldiers. Letter written by Hadrat Umar to Saad bin Abi Waqqas, the commander of Islamic forces in Iraq and Persia, throws light on the views of the Caliph: “You urge in your letter that whatever property God has given you in booty should be distributed. On receipt of my letter you should distribute all the chattels including animals among the army after deducting one-fifth provided the booty has been obtained after the actual warfare, and allow the lands and the camels to remain in the hands of the original owners so that they may be used in support of the allowances of the Muslims. If you distribute (the latter) among the present generation, there would be left nothing for the posterity.”

Hadrat Umar addressed the companions, in order to persuade them to accept his view, as follows:

You heard the people who say I am depriving them of their right. I think that after the lands of Kisra (Chosroe) no lands will be left for conquest. God has granted us their wealth and lands. I have distributed wealth among Muslims, but I wish that lands be left with their tillers and I should impose Kharaj and Jizyah which they would be paying us to meet the expenses of the army, children of Muslims and generations to come. You have seen the borders, we need the army to protect them; you have seen the big cities and to protect them a regularly paid army is necessary, and if I distribute the lands, how will they be paid?”

So on the basis of these arguments Hadrat Umar tried to press his point but was not successful due to strong opposition of Bilal and others who were not ready to concede anything for future generations. At last he did Ijtihad for some days and then convinced the companions of the Holy Prophet relying on the verses 7 to 10 of Surah Al Hashr of the Holy Quran. In these verses, Allah declares that Fai belongs to the poor among the Muhajreen and the Ansar ---- and to “those who come after them.” Hadrat Umar laid emphasis on the clause “to those who come after them” and carried his point through. In this way with the consensus of Majlis-e-Shura, it was declared that the conquered lands in these countries would be considered Fai property and would be kept under state control for the benefit of all Muslim Ummah including future generations.

Soon after taking over the conquered lands in the state control, Hadrat Umar applied his best administrative abilities to reorganize the administrative system of these areas. He entrusted the work of survey of land in Iraq to Usman-b-Hanif who was an expert in this field. Usman-b-Hanif carried out the survey very efficiently. Imam Abu Yusuf writes that the area of swad of Iraq amounted to 3,60,00,000 Jaribs (one Jarib equal to almost 3000 square yards of these days). Kharaj was imposed on these lands. Total Kharaj collected from these lands of Iraq rose before the death of the great caliph to impressive figure of 12,80,00,000 Dirhams. Similarly lands of Egypt and Syria placed under state control brought Kharaj of 1,20,00,000 and 1,40,00,000 Dinars respectively to Muslim treasury.

With this considerable amount of funds in Bait-ul-Mal, the great caliph introduced a widespread network of social security unparalleled in the hitherto history of the mankind.

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VII- Feudalism or Jagirdari System

A feudal lord or jagirdar is a person who owns vast tracts of land on which hundred of farmers or cultivators work either for petty wages or for some share in the produce and so often without any compensation. In this system the whole of the produce or the lion’s share of the produce goes to the jagirdar who does not work and lives in ease and luxury and sucks the blood of the poor farm worker like a parasite. The owner of the big chunk of land is called feudal lord or landlord or Jagirdar, the land is called estate or Jagir and peasants are called serfs or tenants.

The tenant does not enjoy many rights in this system. He does not own the land he cultivates, nor can he inherit or alienate rights of cultivation. He so often is compelled to work in jagir without any wages. He works from morning till evening and sometimes during the night on the land under most unfavourable circumstances and unfriendly weather, but hardly gets enough to satisfy his hunger, to hide his nakedness and to meet other basic human needs. He spends all his life in misery, poverty and drudgery in a single room hut which he does not own. On the other hand, the Jagirdar who owns hundreds of hectares of land enjoys life of luxury on the labour of others. Most often he lives in a big town or a city, but despite being an absentee landlord he rolls in wealth without working. His treatment with his tenants and farm workers is usually that of an oppressor and a tyrant.

Although Islam recognises the right of an individual to own land, but it does not favour landlordism or feudalism. In fact, Islam condemns all oppressive, tyrannical and reactionary institutions which lead to suppression of basic human rights such as right to equality, right to liberty and right to basic human needs. How Islam a religion of peace, equality and brotherhood, can tolerate such an undemocratic and tyrannical institution like feudalism which renders millions of humans to the status of serfs and slaves?

Those who contend that feudalism or landlordism exists in Islam mainly give two arguments in the favour of their view: firstly that the Holy Prophet as well as his successors granted lands to the people, and secondly that the system of cultivation of land through tenants on the basis of produce-sharing or cash-rent remained in vogue during their times. But both these argument hardly carry any force if examined impartially and dispassionately. No doubt the Holy Prophet allotted some tracts of land to his companions but such allotments were made in small tracts of land only to those needy persons among the Muhajirin and Ansars, who had no possessions and no source of income, just to enable them to earn their livelihood. These small land owners generally cultivated their land themselves. Those who could not cultivate their lands themselves due to some reason, they got it cultivated through tenants on crop-sharing basis or cash rent. But when the system of cultivation through others came to the notice of the Holy Prophet, he discouraged his companions to do so. He enjoined upon them to cultivate their land themselves or to give it gratis to their brothers in faith or to leave it fallow rather than giving it on hire. As we have stated earlier, caliph Umar placed all the lands of conquered countries like Iraq, Syria and Egypt under state ownership and refused to allot the same to individuals who participated in the conquest thereof despite the pressure of some influential companions. So the lands of these countries remained in the control of the peasants and farmers who paid Kharaj in kind or in cash to the state. This land tenure system was continued during the period of Usman and Ali. So the system of Jagirdari was never allowed to take its roots during the reign of the Prophet and the pious caliphs.

For the following reasons, I believe, the system of Jagirdari is incompatible with the teachings of Islam and so it cannot be allowed to exist in an Islamic state:

1.       Feudalism or Jagirdari system is the most exploitive, the most oppressive and the most retrogressive system that has ever lived in the history of man on earth. How a humanitarian religion like Islam which believes in justice, fairness and equity can tolerate this system?

2.       Economically feudalism is even worse and more exploitive than usury because a feudal lord lives on the blood of his farm workers treating them as chattel and paying them little or insignificant compensation while the usurer does not maltreat his debtor as long as he regularly gets his usury. Usury, as we have already studied, has not only been prohibited by Islam but has also been declared by its revealed book as equivalent to war against God and God’s Messenger.

3.       Islam provides all the fundamental human rights to its followers including right to equality; right to liberty; right to protection of person, honour and property; right to basic needs; right to freedom of profession or vocation and right to rest and leisure. But all these rights are denied to farm workers and tenants by the feudal system. This system makes them serfs and slaves having no rights.

4.       In feudal system, the landlords own thousands of hectares of land without any limit or ceiling. Vast tracts of lands are placed in the possession of few jagirdars while majority of the people have no lands and are thus forced to work on the lands of these jagirdars. Such a tyrannical and unjust system is alien to Islam which believes in equitable and fair distribution of wealth and economic resources. As stated earlier, if a landowner colonises some land or is granted some land by the state and does not put it to use for a period of three years, he loses his ownership rights according to Islamic system. Similarly, state can make law prohibiting purchase of land by certain persons in certain areas as was done by Caliph Umar who prohibited the Arabs to purchase lands in the conquered countries. Thus, in this situation, one cannot be a jagirdar in an Islamic state as all the means of acquiring of land are placed under the control of the Islamic state which exercises its powers judiciously so as to keep the distribution of land among its citizens fair and equitable.

5.       We have gone through the Ahadith of the Prophet of Islam and we know that the Prophet not only discouraged Muzara’a or tenancy system but also forbade his companion like Abu Rafaa, whose family was a big landowner family of Madina in those days, to indulge in this practice.

The Prophet advised those who owned lands to cultivate their lands themselves or to give their lands gratis to their brothers-in-faith without any charge or to leave the land fallow. Thus the Prophet preferred to leave the land fallow instead of giving it on Muzara’a or tenancy system because of the evils attached with this system such as exploitation, riba, idle life, and unearned money.

Feudalism depends on cultivation of land through Muzaraa or tenancy system because no single individual or family, how much efficient and hardworking it may be, can cultivate vast lands of jagir or estate. Since Muzara’a is disallowed, Jagirdari cannot exist in Islamic state.

6.         Both the major forms of Muzara’a or tenancy system contain elements of riba and exploitation. In cash tenancy, the landlord gets his fixed rent of land even if the tenant suffers a loss, and so the transaction becomes like that of riba on capital because the lender of capital also gets his riba without having any concern whether the borrower earns any profit or suffers a loss in his business. In case of share-tenancy, the landlord suffers only loss of his share when the crop is damaged, but the tenant suffers not only loss of his share but also loss of capital spent on seeds, fertilisers, pesticide and other inputs. Thus the transaction becomes tainted with exploitation.

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[1].      Ahadith quoted by Abul ‘Ala Maududi in Economic System of Islam.

[2].      Traditions quoted by Maududi in Economic System of Islam.

[3].      Traditions quoted by Afzal-ur-Rahman in Economic Doctrines of Islam.

[4].      Traditions quoted by Afzal-ur-Rahman in Economic Doctrines of Islam.

[5].      Traditions quoted by Afzal-ur-Rahman: Economic Doctrines of Islam.

[6].      Ahadith quoted by Afzal-ur-Rahman

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