Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura
20 December 2013 / 17 Safar 1435
Preserving Islam In The Era Of Globalisation
Dear Friday jemaah,
On this noble Friday, let us come together and strengthen our resolve to increase our takwa towards Allah s.w.t. Obey His commands and avoid what Allah has prohibited upon us.
Throughout the past few weeks, we have been reminded to take advantage of the advent of globalisation, while at the same time holding true to our principles as people who deeply love Allah and Rasulullah.
Today, I would like to call upon all of you to think about other negative effects of globalisation that we have to be aware of, and how we can play our roles as global citizens who are Muslims.
My brothers, along with globalisation comes the ease of doing business and thus, more opportunities to earn profits. This is definitely a positive outcome of globalisation. However, it may be otherwise if these opportunities fall into the hands of those who are irresponsible. One of the ill-effects of a global market economy that we have seen today is the widening income gap.
For example, there are many people in developing countries who toil away in factories producing branded goods. They receive meagre wages and work in extremely vulnerable conditions. Many children in these economies are also forced to work to help support their families. Instead of a childhood filled with laughter and the opportunity to seek knowledge, theirs are filled with hours of hard labour, some even have to stay in those factories, suffering from poor living conditions. Without education, it is extremely hard for them to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and sadly, it often continues from one generation to another. Thus, we should be conscious of this, and should consider carefully before selling or buying products that are produced under those circumstances.
I am not saying that engaging in business is not encouraged. Far from it. In fact, Islam is a religion that strongly encourages one to engage in business. Rasulullah s.a.w. was asked what is the best source of income:
“What is the best source of income” Rasulullah s.a.w. replied: “The best kind of work is the work of a man who performed it with his hands and every sale that is mabrur (accepted).” [Hadith narrated Imam Ahmad]
While we engage in business to earn profits, Islam seeks that the economic progress that we strive for must be based on fairness and equality. Allah s.w.t. says in surah Ash-Shu’ara verses 181-183:
This means: “Give full measure and do not be of those who cause loss. And weigh with an even balance. And do not deprive people of their due and do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption.”
These values were also highlighted by Ibn Khaldun, a prominent Muslim scholar, known for his various contributions in many fields including economy. He discussed the concept of division of labour and specialisation which can improve economic productivity, yet he stressed that this would require justice and equality in order to ensure that it continues to function well.
Thus, for those of us who are entrepreneurs, we must ensure that we are ethical entrepreneurs, and are not solely profit-motivated. We should never reap profits from the losses of others. And for buyers, we can also play our part by being responsible consumers. We should research about the products that we want to purchase. With advancements in technology in today’s globalised world, such information can be acquired easily. We should use the information we gather to make better choices. We should not limit our research to the halal status of a product, but also from an ethical perspective. We want to consume products that are halal and good (toyyib).
Thus, before we rush to buy anything, we should ask ourselves: By buying that new pair of shoes, are we actually contributing to the expansion of a company that uses child labour to produce these goods? Are we indirectly supporting the oppression faced by these individuals who work in terrible conditions and do not get justified wages? The decision to consume is within us, and we have to make the choice to be more aware of these problems and make a responsible decision. We must be aware that our power and influence as consumers can have a great impact on the production process in today’s globalised economy.
As the demand for goods and services increase, this will lead to an increase in processes that will harm the environment, for example through certain processes in the manufacturing industry. The situation is worsened by those who do not take steps to reduce pollution. Lately, we have been experiencing changes in the weather globally, with rain, typhoon and snow hitting many countries, and at alarming records. We are all responsible for reducing pollution. Not just because we fear for the future of our children and grandchildren, but also because it is our responsibility as Muslims to care for the environment.
It was reported that Rasulullah s.a.w. passed Saad Abi Waqqas r.a. who was taking his ablution, and the Prophet said to him: “O Saad, why this wastage?” Saad then asked the Prophet, “Is there wastage even when we take our ablution? The Prophet s.a.w. replied “Yes, even if you are taking the ablution from a flowing river.”
Look at how Rasulullah s.a.w. greatly emphasised conserving natural resources, to the point that he did not allow us to waste resources even when performing ibadah. It is true that with globalisation, we are able to get hold of what we want conveniently, to the point that we may take this convenience for granted. As the ummah of Rasulullah s.aw. who truly love the Prophet, we should not contribute to the destruction and wastage of the earth’s resources and should always be mindful of the impact of our actions to the environment.
We should start the process of conserving natural resources with small, simple steps such as recycling goods like glass bottles and metal cans as well as paper instead of throwing them away at the trash bins. We should collect them and place them in the recycling bins available near our housing estates. As far as possible, we should avoid using Styrofoam and plastic products because when they are broken down, they emit harmful gases which can pollute the environment.
When we recite the syahadah ’lailaha illallah wa anna Muhammadar Rasulullah”, we are in fact making an oath to Allah s.w.t. that we will obey Him and protect this earth from destructions. Have we fulfilled our promise to Allah s.w.t.?
Globalisation has brought about numerous advantages for us. However, in leveraging on these advantages, we must always preserve our Islamic values and ethics. We must be concerned with our development as Muslim individuals and at the same time, the Islamic requirement for us to fulfil our responsibilities as a citizen of this world.