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The Influence Of The Fifth Caliph On Islamic Trade And Business

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Islam is a both a religion and a way of life. In addition to prescribing acts of good and bad, Allah Subhana Wa Tallah also presented a code of conduct in the form of Holy Quran and Holy Prophet (PBUH), pertaining to every sphere of our lives. Like Almighty Allah has instructed us about Namaz, Hajj, Zakat, Roza and Hukook-ul-Ibaad etc in Quran-e-Kareem, He has also talked about the acts that make Allah happy and “Doing trade justly and honestly” is one of them. Regarding Trade it comes in Quran: “But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest”. This Ayaat stresses the importance of Trade and prohibition of Interest in Islam. Speaking of honesty in Trade, Allah says: “And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even honest balance. That is good and the better at the end”. In Islam, Quran-e-Kareem’s practicality was shown by our Holy Prophet (PBUH). Whatever comes in Quran, our beloved Prophet implemented it and others followed. Regarding the topic of Trade and Business, He said: “An honest and trustworthy merchant will be raised with the Prophets, the truthful and the martyrs”. All these Quranic Ayats and Hadith show that trade has always been encouraged in Islam, but unjust and dishonest means are a source of distancing from the mercy of Allah Almighty.

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Trade and business are surely not new concepts as Muslim history is full of examples where our Prophets’ and Prophets’ families pursued the profession of business and was their source of income. In Islam, trade has always been recognized as an important aspect of human life. Arabs used to trade and were merchants by profession. Concept of Islamic Finance was not new to them; however, the principles of trade were not defined at that point in time. Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was also a trader and worked for Hazrat Bibi Khadija tul Kubra, who also had a flourished business. Hazrat Abu Bakr was a cloth merchant. Hazrat Umar used to do on trade tours with his father and knew about trading. Many Sahaba earned from trading and fed their families. Not only they knew about trade but they also, in their respective Caliphate periods tried to create a strong Islamic Financial system to boost economy. Not only that system included the prohibition of Riba (Interest) but also included the strengthening of systems of Zakat and Waqf. Similarly, strengthening of system also existed because unjust dealings in trade were penalized and hoarding of wealth was discouraged. In Islam, there came many personalities who influenced the Islamic Financial systems like Hazrat Bibi Khadija (RTA) and Hazrat Umar Bin Khattab (RTA). The personality whose contributions I would like to highlight is the one who maintained the legacy of the four Caliphs and is also known as “The Fifth Caliph”.

Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz belonged to the noble clan of Banu Ummayah and was from the descendants of Sayadena Umar Khattab – the 2nd Caliph of Islam. He revolutionized the Islamic Financial system in his short Caliphate period and was hugely successful in reducing the problems of poverty because of unhealthy economic system. Hazrat Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was one of the great and influential Islamic figures of all the time. He became the name of piety, fairness and justice. He is remembered as a great Caliph who continued the noble legacy of the first four Caliphs of Islam – Caliph Abu Bakr, Caliph Umar Ibn e Khattab, Caliph Usman, Caliph Ali Ibn Abi Talib. His piety and sincerity were the reasons that he also referred to as the “Fifth Caliph”. Starting a life of simplicity was the primary step towards the attainment of just and ideal system of Islam that existed at the time of Holy Prophet (PBUH). He led a very simple life especially after being appointed as the Caliph of the Muslim Umma. He had a Caliphate period of only 30 months, but he changed the world during this short period of time. Umar preferred simple lifestyle and disregarded the luxurious life that previous rulers had adopted. His simplicity was such that he deposited all the assets and wealth for the appointed Caliph in Bait-ul-Maal to serve the common people justly. He even left the royal palace and stayed in a simple, modest abode. His preferred to dress like a common person which made him unrecognizable in public like his great grandfather – Hazrat Umar Bin Khattab (RTA). Allama Suyuti records in his historical work that Umar Bin Abdul Aziz spent only two dirhams a day when he was a Caliph. His salary was less than his juniors and by contributing his property to Bait-ul-Maal, his private income was shrinked to just 200 dinars per annum. He was very concerned about the well-being of people under his rule and thus, made many reforms and restructured the governmental policies to protect people.

Ibn Kathir writes that thanks to the reforms undertaken by Umar, the annual revenue from Persia alone increased from 28 million dirhams to 124 million dirhams. Success of his rule and reforms was evident from the fact that in two and half years, people were so prosperous that it was hard to find someone who was poor enough to accept charity. Hazrat Umar Bin Abdul Aziz also took actions to abolish the practices established by his predecessors – Ommayads. In the rule of Ommayads, there was no accountability of the money of the State. Huge taxes were collected from common public which were used to fulfill the lavish wants of the rulers. He also restored the garden of Fidak to Public Treasury which was made personal estate by Ommayads. These practices not only helped to establish a strong economic system but helped greatly in creating the social system of honesty and kindness. Hazrat Umar Bin Abdul Aziz, in his short reign did much work in the strengthening of Islamic Finance and Business by managing the funds of Bait-ul-Maal. As it is said country progresses with a strong economy and good business environment, Hazrat Umar worked hard to stabilize the economy by managing the funds and creating a business-friendly environment. His efforts made people involve in business and make a living out of it. His biggest contribution was properly managing the funds of Bait-ul-Maal and distributing them in a just manner. Bait-ul-Maal is a treasury store or sort of a bank that managed the properties and financial resources of Muslims. It was used to manage the assets and finances owned by Muslims such as Zakat, Wakf, Khaarar etc.

Effective management of Bait-ul-Maal led to poverty reduction and socio-economic development of the Muslim community. Primary reason for founding this institution was to help poor Arab Muslims. Before Umar Bin Abdul Aziz took charge as a Caliph, economic condition of the State was unstable. Rich people got richer day by day and poor people got poorer. When Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz replaced Caliph Umar Ibn Abdul Malik, he worked hard to create a healthy economic environment that eventually led to more Bait-ul-Maal’s funds. He prohibited monopolies and strictly forbade the confiscation of any citizen’s assets. All these policies helped in effectively managing the funds of Bait-ul-Maal and also encouraged people to do business and invest in Bait-ul-Maal. Zakaat and Usyar funds increased greatly. Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz also being a great Islamic scholar issued Fatwas. He issued a new fatwa that helped in expansion of law of zakat for the trades of fish and honey which increased Zakat’s funds as well. Khaaraj funds were increased because of prohibition of the sales of land bounded by land’s tax. Additionally, he also worked on building the drainage systems for betterment of irrigation department and roads to provide ease of transporting the crops from one place to another. As a result of these favorable policies towards agricultural sector, price of agricultural products declined and demand by people increased which made business more attractive. People saw incentives and attractive future in trade which proved to be the reason of economy’s growth and stability.

According to many Islamic studies and research, Bait-ul-Maal also acted as a guarantor and insurance partner. Muslims traders who lost, or whose merchandise was stolen, or their goods were destroyed by a disaster were given help too. All their losses were to be guaranteed by Bait-ul-Maal. This motivated traders and gave a boost to business sector. Bait-ul-Maal also acted as a debt-settler. Any merchant who faced issues and declared bankruptcy, his debt was the responsibility of Bait-ul-Maal. Whatever the amount of the debt was, it was to be settled. Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz took this step especially for those who were new in the business sector to encourage them to participate in business activities without the fear of loss or failure.

The funds of Bait-ul-Maal were also used for helping people who suffered from illnesses or paralysis. Prisoners of wars and slaves were also freed using Bait-ul-Maal’s funds. All these actions were result of frugality shown by Hazrat Umar Bin Abdul Aziz in the usage of funds. He avoided waste and extravagance to help allocate the funds where they were needed the most. Hazrat Umar Bin Abdul Aziz also took the step of prohibiting trade for government officials. The Caliph realized the fact at an early time that, if officials and governors would take part in the field of commerce and trade, it would lead to either preoccupation with their businesses or they would be treated with importance which would disturb the market’s balance. He was well-aware of the nature of government officials and their power of exploiting their status that he banned trading for them. After eight centuries, Ibn-e-Khuldun understood this concept and appreciated the Caliph’s decision.

The other personality that made huge contribution in the field of business was Hazrat Abdur Rehman Bin Awf – the wealthiest Sahaba of all time. Hazrat Abdur Rehman Bin Awf was among those people who made huge contributions to field of Islamic Business and was one of the closest companions of Hazrat Mohammad SAWW. He was among those ten fortunate Companions of Holy Prophet who were promised the gift of paradise (Ashra Mubashira). He acted as an advisor to Muslims because of his religious and business knowledge. He was truthful, sincere and pious. His character made him stand out and was given the responsibility to take care of Hazrat Muhammad (SAWW)’s family after he passed away. His journey in Islam started at the age of 30 when he accepted Islam after being invited by Hazrat Abu Bakr (RTA). He was named by Holy Prophet (SAWW) himself. His birth name was Abdul ‘Amr or Abdul Ka’bah but was later named as Abdur-Rahman Ibn ‘Awf which means Servant of the Merciful One (Allah Tabarak Wa Tallah). In Medinah, he made his name in business and was honored by many people. He was one of the wealthiest Sahaba at that time. History of his business success starts from the day he travelled back to Madina. At that time, he was penniless. He had nothing – no money or property. When about seventy Muslims travelled to Madina, including Hazrat Abdul Rehman, they were asked to share the houses of Ansar. Hazrat Abdul Rehman met Saad Ibn Ar-Rabi’ah to share the house. Sa’ad was one of the wealthiest men in Madinah at that time and out of his generosity, he offered Hazrat Abdul Rehman Ibn Awf “My brother, among the people of Madina I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two wives. See which of the two orchards you like, and I shall vacate it for you, and which of the two wives is pleasing you and I shall divorce her for you. ” Where others accepted such offers from their fellow Ansaris, Hazrat Abdul Rehman Ibn e Awf politely declined the offer and asked Sa’ad Ibn Ar Rabi’ah (RA) “May Allah bless you in your family and wealth. But show me where the market-place is. ” Hazrat Abdur Rehman knew much about the business dealings as his father ran businesses and he learnt from him. Success of his father’s businesses was such that before he accepted Islam, he was considered to be born with a silver spoon in mouth. The way Hazrat Abdur Rehman Ibn e Awf handled his business affairs was very efficient that he started making money quickly. At the start, he sold some dried butter-milk (yogurt) and butter. Later, he realized that horse trading would be a good business. In this area, due to high supply and demand, profit margin was minimal. So, he switched to saddles of horses which proved to be more profitable. His sharp business-mindedness and experience made him successful quickly. It was not long when he was well-off and married to a noble lady.

Besides his business, Hazrat Abdur Rehman Ibn Awf also had agricultural lands as a property. His huge charities and donations were evident of his generosity, piety and kindness. He is known to donate 20000 dinars to subsidize the military force. His entrepreneurial skills were a blessing from Almighty Allah and he realized it at his early business career and gave away much of his wealth freely to people who were on need. He also used to business earnings to free slaves and donated money to the survivors of Battle of Badr. After Hazrat Muhammad (SAWW) passed away, he took the responsibility to look after the widowed wives of Muhammad (SAWW).

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