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Today the majority of people in the world live on the breadline while many countries depend on foreign 'aid' for survival. Receiving foreign 'aid' adds more to their problems, since, unable to pay even the interest, these countries face great hardship.

From health to education, all issues are kept moving by means of finance. However, whether developed countries or not, economic conditions hit people hard. Wealth, extravagance and their natural consequence, degradation, sit next to impoverishment. Unable to meet their essential needs, people fight with each other. Many reports and studies, programmes for improvement, and seminars to raise awareness of the issue flounder for want of viable solutions and the fact remains that, each day adds to the despair and misery of much of the world. Last month, Johannesburg hosted one such meeting which offers no permanent solutions. More than 100 presidents and prime ministers attended the World Summit on Sustainable Development. More than 2000 journalists attended the summit which had more than 40 thousand participants. However, people knew from the beginning that this summit would not solve anything just like all other similar organizations which have been held for years. In this article, we will maintain that the only solution for many unsolved issues such as economical problems lies in living by the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and we will present you some of the solutions drawn from the Qur'an.

Reasons for the Increase in Poverty

Some statistics that were put forth during the summit in Johannesburg revealed that great problems await the world unless swift solutions are taken. To put briefly:

Today the population of the world is 6.1 billion. This figure is expected to reach 11 billion in the last quarter of the century. All these people need to find food and employment and their health problems need to be solved. At the moment, there are 1 billion people in 15-25 age group. 3 billion people have less than 2 dollars income per day; 2.4 billion people cannot afford to meet their basic needs in order to survive. One third of the world population is at the edge of famine. Out of this, 800 million are children. 90% are nourished only with cereals. It is a fact that two third of the world population will encounter the danger of drought within 25 years. Presently, 1.1 billion people cannot find drinking water. 2.4 billion do not have access to clean water

This gloomy picture reveals the urgent need in finding solutions to economical problems. What is the solution, then? Why do measures fail to eradicate these problems?

In any country, economic development, productivity, flourishing job opportunities, and a productive workforce are essential to maintain economic stability. Yet, statistics indicate that there are almost 820 million unemployed around the world. When we add the number of dependants to this figure, the dimensions of the problem become even more serious.

In our day, economic systems, especially in underdeveloped countries, rely on bank interest. The high interest rates offered to depositors by banks have a destructive impact on national economies. This becomes the main reason why people put their money in banks rather than investing or using it productively. The wealthy find it easier to live on the interest they receive rather than working and in a society where most people do not work it is unlikely to boost investment, which is essential for the improvement of the country.

An economy that is not nurtured by investments is doomed to ruin. Money accumulated in bank accounts and safes is the main source of such economic problems as inflation. Those who do not contribute to the economy and who put their money in the bank and "go on a holiday" will themselves suffer the consequences in the long term. Their money resting in the bank will constantly lose value since, in the course of time, it will not keep up with the rising rate of inflation.

In an economy resting on production, an overall recovery occurs which benefits everyone. Indeed, Allah commands us to spend our money for the benefit of people. In Surat at-Tawba, Allah gives the news of a painful punishment for those who amass their possessions:

You who have iman! Many of the rabbis and monks devour people's property under false pretences and bar people from access to the Way of Allah. As for those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in the Way of Allah, give them the news of a painful punishment (Surat at-Tawba: 34)

In a society where the Qur'anic principles are applied, practices which are essentially to the benefit of people keep the system moving. Thus, Allah prohibits usury and thus prevents people suffering under the burden of debts:

Those who practise usury will not rise from the grave except as someone driven mad by Satan's touch. That is because they say, 'Trade is the same as usury.' But Allah has permitted trade and He has forbidden usury. Whoever is given a warning by his Lord and then desists, can keep what he received in the past and his affair is Allah's concern. But all who return to it will be the Companions of the Fire, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. (Surat al-Baqara: 275)

To improve living standards, stability and order are essential in all domains of social life. This also holds true for the economy. Believers are those who should assume the responsibility of providing solutions. In this respect, nobody has the time to lose waiting for others to take the initiative. That is because Allah gave this responsibility to every believer. To fulfil it, one primarily needs to communicate the religion and the blessings that the religion adds to one's life.

The members of a community having a sincere faith that possessions, unlike usury, spent for the good of people will bring prosperity, will spend the part of their possessions they do not need for a good cause without hesitation. The benefits of such a system are evident to society. However, people should not see such a system as unattainable. The way to prevent this is to teach people the Qur'an.

It is also important to stress that, in the type of social life that is guided by the Qur'an and the Sunnah people strive not only for their own welfare, but for the welfare of the public.

In a society living by the Qur'an, injustice is never allowed. Consequently, usury-ridden relations end. The wealthy do not rip off the poor and people do not attempt unlawfully to take other's portions.

In a society where religious values apply, nothing is wasted. People consume but avoid extravagance. Co-operation and justice maintain better living standards and welfare. The Blessed Period of the first community of Islam, an age of welfare when people in general adhered to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, is an explicit example of this fact.

Religious Morality Commands Us to Protect the Needy and Orphans

Today, poverty is no longer a problem restricted to some particular countries. The world agenda is dominated by children who make their living on streets collecting trash, who spend freezing nights out on the streets and have dangerous jobs in return for which they receive little money, risking their lives. So, much of the world is not safe from the child deaths stemming from malnutrition and other poverty-linked problems.

Statistics on poverty and on street children alone reveal the serious dimensions of the situation.

In 1982, UNESCO reported 200,000 street children in Istanbul, 10,000 in Bogota, and 2 million in Rio de Janeiro. In Africa, this figure is estimated to be 5 million and is steadily increasing. Around the world, 30 to 70 million street children are homeless on any given night. In America, the number of children living in poverty tripled in only two decades. In 1989 one of every six children in America were officially recognised to live in very poor conditions.

No doubt, children suffer most from the consequences of poverty. Poor children, especially the homeless, are often turned away by public schools because they lack permanent addresses, proof of age and immunisation records. They hardly find food to eat. Mostly, they are forced to work under difficult conditions. In some countries, children are even sold by their families to workplaces as "slaves".

For the most part, these children earn little money, in the most health-hostile environments imaginable that can prove lethal in some cases. The population of India is 940 million and there are 44-100 million child workers in the country - more than the total number of working children in the rest of the world. The sad state of poor children is no different in the rest of the world.

Many countries in the world allocate important portions of their budgets to defence. India and Pakistan, countries where education, health and industry call for urgent reform, are no exceptions. For instance, Pakistan allocates 60% of its budget to armaments and to defence spending. That the majority of the public is blighted by poverty does not alter the situation in Pakistan. Nuclear armament spending in the USA is 35 billion dollars a year. From 1946, the year when programmes linked to the atom bomb were initiated, until the year 1996, approximately 5.5 trillion dollars were spent.

No doubt, these budgets allocated to defence and armaments could simply be offered to bring relief to the problems of poverty-stricken people. However, despite the fact that the lives of little children are at stake, political concerns and calculations of vested interests have long hindered the development of viable solutions to these problems.

One point deserves special mention here: under the following conditions, defence spending is unavoidable. Because disbelief brings more conflicts, chaos, outrages and violence, it seems that these problems will persist. Therefore, a country will have to rely on her defence to maintain its existence.

However, misery is everywhere. Evidently delivering speeches on problems will not produce any solutions. Nor will merely avoiding side-stepping beggars and giving charity. As in all other issues, it is essential to see that the solution lies in living by the Qur'an and the Sunnah. That is because only a person endowed with the values of the Qur'an and the Sunnah could give his own share of food to the needy or an orphan when he, himself, is hungry. By the same token, that person is the one who does not offer things he dislikes to others, and he is the one who offers help without demanding anything in return. Allah explains in Surat an-Nur how wealthy people should conduct themselves:

Those of you possessing affluence and ample wealth should not make oaths that they will not give to their relatives and the very poor and those who have left their homes in the Way of Allah. They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nur: 22)

Once all these facts are considered, we arrive at the conclusion that only living by the Qur'an will ensure a completely fair social structure. That is because only the morality of the Qur'an brings moral conduct and wisdom. Selfish, egotistical, heedless people will change into merciful, just people who think for the good of others and thus provide solutions. This simply means the end of many problems.

In societies enjoying real justice, people do not stoop to moral weaknesses such as pursuing vested interests, fraud or violating other's rights. The basic Qur'anic teachings command matters such as co-operation and mercy, which are the essence of a just society. In such a society, everyone safeguards each other's interests and thus the rights and interests of all are secured. This is what brings overall peace and security to society. In this sense, the responsibility of all believers is to communicate the values praised by Allah and the just religion to the whole world. This is one of the most important attributes of the believers:

Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success. (Surah Ali 'Imran: 104)

Those who make tawba (repent), those who worship, those who praise, those who fast, those who bow, those who prostrate, those who command the right, those who forbid the wrong, those who preserve the limits of Allah: give good news to the believers. (Surat at-Tawba: 112)

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