The old saying “power tends to corrupt” has certainly proved true for British MP’s in recent weeks. Whilst thousands of people lose their homes during the recession, MP’s are claiming second-home allowances for multiple properties all charged to the public purse. In addition to this they have claimed thousands of pounds in expenses for services such as moat cleaning, duck houses and even church donations! Understandably confidence in the British government is at an all time low.
The attitude of British politicians towards their abuse of public funds was summed up by MP Harry Cohen, who topped the expenses chart by claiming a massive £310,000, on a second-home allowance. He said, “When MPs were given this allowance they were told “Go and spend it, boys” and that is what I have done. It is my right.”
This ‘right’ to abuse taxpayers’ money is not confined to simply one or two MP’s. An investigation by the Sunday Telegraph found that 65 MP’s are claiming expenses for a second home while earning rental income from letting out a third. These politicians – one in ten of all MPs –claimed between them almost £6 million since records on expenses began in 2001, an average of £85,000 each.
The Mail on Sunday summed up nicely the actual problem with British politicians. “The next most startling aspect of the problem is how few MPs – supposed to be beyond reproach – seem to have any strong sense of right and wrong, or any ability to resist temptation. People whose job it is to make the law are plundering the public purse because there is nothing in the rules to say they should not do so…Men and women who went into politics with honest intentions see all this going on around them and, unless they are exceptionally strong-willed, are swiftly drawn into the swamp of tax-funded greed.”
It’s the core western values of freedom and benefit which give rise to no “strong sense of right and wrong, or ability to resist temptation” that is at the root of government corruption not just in Britain but the entire world today including the Muslim world.
In Pakistan the current President Asif Zardari was previously imprisoned for corruption and siphoning off public funds, so much so that he was given the title “Mr 10%”. Now he is President of the country Allah only knows what his current percentage is.
So how does Islam deal with corrupt politicians?
The most important guard against corruption is the politician’s Islamic ‘aqeedah. Even if they manage to keep their corruption secret and avoid prosecution in this life, Allah sees everything and knows what is hidden. Allah will bring everyone to account on the Day of Judgement and people will see every atoms weight of good and bad they have done.
فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ
وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ
“Whoever has done an atom’s-weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom’s-weight of evil will see that.”
Politicians in Islam, whether they hold government posts or not, have a completely different viewpoint towards politics and their role within the state. Politics in Islam concerns looking after the affairs of people. The politician is the one who is a servant of the ummah. They do not take any government post with the aim of achieving personal benefit. Rather they see their position as a responsibility that they will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement.
It is narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: “A man gave as a gift to the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihi wa-salam) a slave who was called Mid’am. Whilst Mid’am was bringing down a saddle for the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihi wa-salam), an arrow came out of nowhere and killed him. The people said, “How fortunate he is! Paradise is his,” but the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihi wa-salam) said, “No, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, the cloak which he took from the war-booty on the day of Khaybar before the booty had been shared out will burn him with fire.” When the people heard that, a man came and brought one or two shoelaces to the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wa-salam) and said, “A shoelace of fire” or “Two shoelaces of fire.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
The war-booty (ghaneema) is one of the revenues of the Islamic State and part of the public funds. If someone was punished simply for stealing a piece of cloth from the public funds, what about the rulers in the Muslim world who have stolen $billions of oil and natural resources from the ummah?
Islam recognises that human beings are not angels and will commit sins. If a politician becomes overwhelmed by shaytan and abuses his position or commits oppression against the people then the Caliphate has mechanisms in place to address this.
Building on al-Mawardi’s classical work Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s book Nidham ul-Hukm fil-Islam describes in great detail two institutions that are tasked with addressing government corruption. The first institution is an independent, powerful, judicial court called the Mahkamat al-Mazaalim (Court of Unjust Acts). The second is an elected house of peoples’ representatives called the Majlis ul-Ummah (Council of the Ummah), whose decisions on certain affairs of state (not legislation) the Caliph is constitutionally obliged to accept.
The Mahkamat al-Mazaalim contains judges whose sole responsibility and expertise is government oppression (Mazlema), constitutional law and legislation. Unlike a standard court the judge (Qadi al-Mazaalim) has investigatory powers and can initiate a court case without a plaintiff. This court has the power to oblige government officials including the Caliph to pay back any money they took from public funds. Mismanagement of the public properties such as oil wealth or the imposition of unjust taxation on the people can all be investigated by this court and practically resolved through issuing a judgement that the officials must abide by.
Ibn ‘Umar said that when ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab was in need, he used to go to the man in charge of the Bait ul-Mal and seek a loan from him. Often he might be in difficulty and the man in charge of the public treasury would come to him, seeking repayment of the debt and would oblige him to pay it, and ‘Umar would be evasive to him. Then often ‘Umar would receive his stipend and so pay his debt. [Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa]
The Majlis ul-Ummah is comprised of elected representatives of the people who are voted in every five years. These representatives can be men, women, Muslim or non-Muslim. Accountability of government officials is one of the Majlis’s central tasks. It has the power to hold any government official accountable on all matters related to the state, and some of the Majlis’s decisions will be binding on the Caliph to enact.
Government corruption in Britain or the Muslim world can never be resolved whilst the politicians hold on to the Capitalist values of freedom and benefit. No matter how many anti-corruption mechanisms they put in place, politicians will always find clever ways to hide their abuses.
Only when sincere Islamic politicians take the reins of power in the Muslim world, and establish a righteous Caliphate will we again see rulers like Umar bin Abdul-Aziz who was so careful not to abuse the public funds that he wouldn’t use a candle paid for from the Bait ul-Mal for his own personal use.