One can only be wealthy at the expense of another being poor [Archives:2007/1089/Opinion]

September 27 2007

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
There is no doubt that Ramadhan entails among other things abstention from food and drink. This is one of the most significant worship rites that a man (and woman) can find an opportunity to have a stronger expression of faith to the Lord and a chance to contemplate on the agonies of poverty and deprivation from which so many human beings must suffer here in Yemen and throughout the world.

It goes without saying that wealth is not abhorred in Islam. In fact, the rise of Islam owes its success to the strong support that some of the early rich Moslems provided to the Prophet Mohammed [peace and Blessings of Allah Be upon him (PBAUH)]. Surely, the support of the likes of Abu Bakr Ibn Quhaza and Uthman Bin Affan (the first and third Caliphs, or Succeeding Ruler after the Prophet, respectively was instrumental to the early sustenance. The two are also among the “Ten”, who have been told that they have been guaranteed a place in Paradise for their unfailing support for the early rise of Islam.

Thus, in Islam, it is essential that the wealthy recognize that whatever resources or capital means they possess or are entrusted with, they must handle with extreme care. These resources should not be misused or squandered simply for the betterment of the life of its holder or for the building of extravagant mansions with 25 bathrooms, when one only has 2 or 3 children. In fact it is forbidden to waste funds even if they are fully possessed by the holder. If one possesses significant amounts of capital means, most of it should be used to further the cause of Allah or to establish enterprises that work to further the economic welfare of the society. In our society, regretfully, many of those who have been entrusted with large means tend to have forgotten that they are Moslems and that Islam expects them to remember that the funds at their disposal are not theirs, but the Lord's and they are bound to use it prudently for furthering the welfare of their society. If this is the case with means in the hands of people who rightfully own these means by their hard work, inheritance or simply good luck, one can imagine the awesome responsibility that those who hold significant amounts of public funds or are in control of the resources of the state must have before their people and the Lord Al-Mighty.

Many people are wondering, why is there so much poverty and destitution in the Moslem World today? This is despite the considerable bounties that the Lord Al-Mighty has bestowed upon the vast expanse of the Earth that makes up the Moslem nation. The answer is really rooted in the fact that Moslems, whether in public life or private life, who have been entrusted with the resources of the land or with significant capital means, have regarded this as being their very own. Those who are in the private sector tend to direct all the means at their disposal to further amass wealth by usually pursuing the most exploitative enterprises that work to further impoverish their people. As for those who are in public life and have managed to control all access to the resources of the land that are deemed to be “shared” resources, which should be accessible to all the citizens of the country, it is not difficult in this country and in several Moslem countries to see that all these resources have simply fallen in the wrong hands. Anyone looking at the vast mansions and other structural assets as well as the fast moving fancy vehicles, will find that they are mostly owned by public officials, who have ignored the basic meaning of trust and tend to regard all the resources deemed as public resources are their very own to do as they please and spend as they please, as though they were chosen by God among all their fellow citizens to enjoy these resources and to squander them as their whims dictate, without any economic principles to guide them, let alone the guidance of the dictates of Islam to deter them, since the fear of accountability by the Lord should act as a deterrent to any evil inclinations that the latter could be driven by.

Thus it is not the rise in prices internationally that is bringing suffering to untold millions of Yemenis, who have now reached the point that a piece of fresh bread and a canister of imitation yoghurt would become an almost inaccessible luxury to break the fast with. It is really the small elite of corrupt officials that cross all levels of military, as well as civilian authority to blame as they are lavishly lavishing on feasts that would make Haroun Al-Rashid turn in his grave if he could see them.

When one learns that these officials then entertain “breakfasts for the poor” or donate an insignificant part of their illicit wealth to charity, this just adds insult to injury.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.