Islamic Leadership and the Issue of Food Security

Be a step closer to solve global poverty and starvation. Focus on these three things.

For hundreds of years, Muslim activists and reformists have consistently chanted:

“Poverty and global famine are due to non-adherence of the world systems to Islamic principles. It is time for the world to learn from Islam to solve today’s food crises.”

A Muslim, activist or not, believes that the practice of genuine Islamic systems is the way out. Still, it is ironic to see some Muslim countries today enjoy extravagance while some other Muslim countries are scraping by.

Looking at the Muslim countries, you know that you could not blame geography and scarce natural resources for starvation. You can live in your Muslim-majority country in the middle of the desolated desert, while still being able to stuff luxurious food into your mouth.

After all, the greater factor that makes them different is the attribute of leadership.

Leadership determines whether your country can creatively overcome the limitation of natural resources. Alongside it, leadership also determines what kind of means you may use to achieve that purpose.

Moreover, leadership determines whether you realise or not that the natural resources are not yours or your country’s people alone to exhaust.

When overpopulation and finite natural resources are blamed for poverty and starvation in the world, people are being led away from the issue of global leadership that both causes and worsens this issue.

For the leaders and Daies, here are three things based on standard Islamic principles that you should focus on instead to be a step closer to solving global poverty and starvation:

1. Curbing overconsumption

Developed countries today use ten times more resources, even though their population is only 25% of the total global population. Thanks to their wealth, they are living a lifestyle of overconsumption.

“And do not spend wastefully. Surely, squanderers (spend-wasters) are brothers of Satans, and Satan is very ungrateful to his Lord.”

al-Quran 17:26-27

One might think of overconsumption as a personal sin since the Daies often advocate this topic in such a narrow perspective. 

Whereas in fact, the Satan-motivated ‘sin’ of self-indulging overconsumption is the footsteps towards greater evils. From the initial greed of earning more to be able to spend more, people start to develop a lustful materialistic mindset. Subsequently, a capitalist economic system is built around that desire  which eventually justifies inflicting any form of injustice to satisfy it.

2. Advocating and implementing Islamic consumerism

Consumerism in Islam is divided into three categories: the dharuriyyat (the essential), the hajiyyat (the complementary) and the tahsiniyyat (the desirable or the embellishments). Optimal consumption of natural resources is reached when all mankind focus their consumption on the first two levels.

Consumerism in the third category (tahsiniyyat), although permissible, is a grey-area trap that could lead to sinful waste-spending.

Despite the fact that tahsiniyat is commonly known and preached against by Daies, great challenges arise when it comes to confronting it in the real systems.

The tahsiniyyat is about indulgence in luxurious consumption. Driven by pressing greed for more tahsiniyyat itself may eventuate in corruption, bribery, and usury.

3. Returning the actual ownership of the natural resources

The mismanagement of natural resources occurs because politicians, leaders and rulers unashamedly think that the ownership or sovereignty over this world belongs to them.

This mindset is reflected in how they distribute the resources for their selfish political interest and creating socio-economic disorder in the world. They do not adhere to the rule and manners of resource utilisation as ordained by the absolute owner and sovereign of the resources: Allah The Almighty.

“(Remember) when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to create a vicegerent (Khalifa) on the earth!”

“They (the angels) said, “Will You create there one who will spread disorder on the earth and cause bloodshed, while we (the angels) proclaim Your purity, along with your praise, and sanctify Your name?”

al-Quran 2:30

From the beginning, the angels have raised their concern that a vicegerent should not be among those who spread disorder on earth and cause bloodshed.

Now that disorder is rampant on the planet and blood is conveniently shed, can you still sit comfortably on your throne and mimbar (pulpit) of leadership and absolve yourselves of fulfilling the responsibility of your creation and vicegerency?

Credit: The Impact of Population Growth Against the Natural Resources in Islam (Pengaruh Pertambahan Penduduk Terhadap Sumber Alam dalam Islam) by Nurul Suhada Ismail, PhD

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