The assumption by some in the west is that socialism and communism are at war with Islam. After all, the former tend to be atheists and the latter are focused on the will of Allah. But according to Asghar Ali Engineer, head of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, the two are actually compatible and work closely together. They are in fact very similar. From the Pakistani paper Dawn he writes:
“IS Islam compatible with socialism? The question is asked because to many ‘socialism’ means an atheistic philosophy, and at the very core of Islamic teachings is the belief in one God. How can then Islam and socialism go together?
However, this is not the correct view. Many noted ulema had accepted socialism as an essential part of Islamic teachings. In India, Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi enthusiastically supported the communist movement. Maulana Mohani was one of the founders of the Communist Party of India.
Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, who had migrated to Afghanistan during the Khilafat movement and had formed a transition government there along with Mahendra Pratap Singh, left for Russia when the king of Afghanistan came under pressure from the British to expel the members of this government. In Moscow they met Lenin and discussed with him the strategies to fight British colonialism. Maulana Sindhi returned to India only in the early 1940s.
Allama Iqbal also paid rich tribute to socialism in his Khizar-i-Rah which he wrote after the decline of Usmani power in Turkey and on the eve of the Russian revolution. He also paid rich tribute to Marx and called him ‘a man with a book’ without being a prophet (peghambar neest wali dar baghal darad kitab).
He also wrote an interesting poem, Lenin Khuda Ke Huzur Mein (Lenin in the presence of God). W.C. Smith, a noted scholar of Islam and a left-leaning Christian priest who taught in Government College, Lahore in the 1930s, writes in his book, Islam in the Modern World, that Islam was the first organised socialist movement in the world.
The Quran even goes to the extent of advising the believers to spend all that which is more than one needs in Allah’s way. The word used by the Quran is ‘afw’, i.e. whatever is left after meeting one’s basic needs. Thus, this verse, 2:219, says, “They ask you as to what they should spend. Say what is surplus with you”.
The instruction comes very close to the socialist formulation ‘To each according to his need’. The Quran’s basic emphasis is on justice (adl), and in fact one of Allah’s name is Aadil, i.e. Just. Thus an unjust society cannot be an Islamic society.
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