I received this question from a reader last week: “What then do we the poor masses do? Is there a yardstick to measure a politician who has people’s interest at heart?” – Rahmat Oyiza
I promised her that I would attempt to answer the question. And in doing so, I will draw from three sources: from the good book, from a caliph and a scholar. Also, the three sources are neatly divided into the following themes:
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A simple way to handle reward and punishment
Two expectations of a leader – this removes the confusion about the functions of leadership
A guaranteed way to protect the people’s welfare
Let’s start with the last one. In March 2022, I had the privilege to deliver a lecture on juristic perspectives on democracy and Islam at IET Minna. During my talk, I mentioned the very simple way Ibn Taymiyyah tied welfare to justice.
I’ve not seen anyone handle the subject in such a magnificent manner except, to some extent, Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio.
Ibn Taymiyyah said that the key to a good welfare system is justice. Once you have justice in a society, God will preserve the system. Injustice, on the other hand, causes the demolition of a welfare system. This rule holds whether the handlers of the system are believers or disbelievers.
Indeed, Ibn Taymiyyah said “human welfare in matters of this world can be attained more with justice that is accompanied by sins than with injustice in matters of people’s rights even if that does not accompany sins.”
This means that even if our leaders spend all their days in mosques and churches our affairs will be in the gutters provided they refuse to enact justice.
And what is justice? Equality of opportunities. Islam agrees with social scientists like Jordan Peterson, who argue that what we should push should be equality of opportunities, not equality of outcomes.
What this means is that if the President’s children have the opportunity to work in PenCom or NDIC, the poor villager’s child should have the same. How? By having access to participate in the application process. But more than that, the poor guy should have the same opportunity to prepare himself i.e. decent education.
After these opportunities are equalized, the outcome (who gets the job after the interview) should be left to the individual effort.
Accordingly, when I was the chief press secretary to a governor, I was told of recruitment ongoing through the back channels. So people whispered to me “this is an opportunity to employ your wife. They will do it for you!”
At that time, my wife had just left a well-paying business to return to Nigeria and was without a job.
“No,” I said firmly, “it would be a conflict of interest. It wouldn’t be justice. And why should we continue to cheat the people in the way of PDP while we promised people change?”
Then I went to the head of the service to advise him to put a stop to the back door recruitment. But he told me that it wasn’t true that there was secret recruitment.
And that’s how God operates His equality of opportunities. He teaches us right and wrong through His messengers and gives us the faculties and tools to do right. But the outcome, that is, whether we go to hell or heaven is the choice of the individual.
That’s why Allah has made injustice Haram for Himself. And it is the reason why Uthman Dan Fodio said that “a nation can endure unbelief but can’t endure injustice.”
Ibn Taymiyyah continued:
“That is why it has been said: God establishes a just state (dawla), be it unbelieving, but does not establish an unjust state, be it Muslim. It is also said: (the affairs of) this world can last with justice and unbelief but cannot last with injustice and Islam.”
Why is that? The Prophet (P) said: “no sin is quicker in divine chastisement than the usurpation of other’s right and severance of family ties”.
Ibn Taymiyyah added: “The usurper is punished in this very world, even if he might be forgiven in the hereafter.”
Then Ibn Taymiyyah concluded with this significant insight on leadership from which we should all take benefits – whether we’re leaders in the United Nations or leaders in the family.
“Thus, inasmuch as its affairs are based on justice, a state will persist even if its rulers have no share in the hereafter (due to lack of faith), and if justice is absent, it will not persist even if its rulers are rewarded in the hereafter for their faith.”
So as we move into the next election season, Hajiya Rahma Oyiza, ask yourself which person is likely to enact justice as argued above? Because “justice is the principle of everything.” The questions of race, religion and ethnicities are secondary – and may not matter.
To be continued.