The Koran

By Islam

Socio-Economic Doctrine / Social Legislation

Islam, or complete submission to the will of God requires the implementation of moral principles both individually and within the sociopolitical order. To this end the Koran includes much practical direction on the correct way to live one's life, in relation to God, to one's own soul, and to other people. Holy life is envisaged within a closely-knit Muslim community, or "Ummah". This brotherhood of the faithful is a very important notion within the Koran; Muslims are addressed as one family, the descendants of Abraham, and are expected to behave as such, according to the instructions laid out in the Koran. Muslims are referred to as "brothers unto each other" and the Ummah as "the best community produced for mankind", whose function it is to "enjoin good and forbid evil" and to cement the Koran's moral and socio-economic doctrine. Laying down often very specific rules regarding almost all aspects of community life, including marriage, divorce, inheritance, adultery, drinking, eating, gambling, quarrels, and general social conduct, the Koran forms the basis for all Islamic law.

Although at points merely fragmentary, the Koran also provides directives for the basic duties of the faithful, known as the "Five Pillars of Islam". These are: the Shadadah, or profession of faith; prayer; the Zakat, or community tax; fasting and the Hajj, or pilgrimage. The Shadadah, "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God", as the first pillar, reflects the fundamental importance of belief in the uniqueness and unity of God, reiterated rigorously throughout the Koran. It also demonstrates the sanctity of the Koran, the physical incarnation of Muhammad's holy message, as does the second pillar, prayer. As the revelation of God's will, intimate knowledge of the Koran is essential in Islam, indeed, the scripture states, "when you recite the Koran, seek refuge in God from accursed Satan: no power has he over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord"(K. 16;95). Zakat, the third pillar, is an obligatory tax, which translated literally means "purification". This is the only permanent tax levied by the Koran and was payable annually on food grains, cattle, and cash, after one year's possession. It was collectable by the state, to be used primarily for the relief of the poor, but was also put towards other public services within the Ummah. This doctrine of social service is integral to Koranic teaching, particularly in view of man's weak and selfish nature, "Man is by nature timid; when evil befalls him, he panics, but when good things come to him he prevents them from reaching others". The Koran teaches that charitable expenditure will constitute a credit with God, whilst usury and the hoarding of wealth and ignoring the needs of the poor, will lead to fearful punishment in the life after death. Such behaviour is seen to be one of the main causes of the decay of earthly societies;, " Give generously to the cause of God and do not with your own hands cast yourselves into destruction"(K.2:193)

Fasting during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar) is the fourth pillar of the faith. The Koran lays down (K. 2.183-85) that the it was in this month that Muhammad received his revelations, and that in order to remember this, and to give thanks, believers should fast during this period, "He (God) desires you to fast the whole month so that you may magnify God and render thanks to Him for giving you His guidance". The Fifth pillar is the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to the sacred Ka'aba sanctuary at Mecca during the month of Ramadan. This too has a basis in the Koran, which relates how Abraham, the father of Islam, built the sanctuary for the worship of the One God, and pilgrimage here is proscribed "provided one can afford it" in order to glorify God and reaffirm personal faith.