Islamic Welfare State: A Critique of Parvez's Ideas About Islam


Abstract. This study attempts to contextualize the Islamic economic system in the light of writings of Modern Muslim thinkers in general and Ghulam Ahmad Pervez in particular. In the contemporary Muslim world, Muslims have been facing enormous challenges, including extremism, whose root-cause seems to be primarily economic, i.e., poverty, unemployment, inflation, concentration of wealth in a few hands and the resulting societal imbalances. It seems that within the Muslim world, the conflict is mainly between the “haves and have nots”. Even though, Islam as a religion provides guidelines for establishing a welfare state which could become a model for the non-Islamic world as well but somehow the Muslim world has failed to achieve that end. To remedy this situation many Muslim thinkers in modern times have interpreted the economic system of Islam in the light of Quran, Hadith and Islamic History.

Ghulam Ahmad Pervez is one of those who have expounded on the Islamic economic thought, which he argues, if implemented, can ensure the establishment of an Islamic welfare state. Therefore, it is important to understand, what constitutes an Islamic economic system and how it can be implemented in the contemporary times and what would be the result of establishment of a welfare state.

Keywords: Pervez, Quran, Rububia, Economic System, Welfare State


    Muslims believe that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) was the last and the final prophet of Allah (God). Islam, the divine religion, which began with the Prophet-hood of Hazrat Adam was completed with last Prophet Muhammad (PUBH). According to Muslim beliefs Qur'an was God’s last revealed message to humanity and He has guaranteed its preservation. Muslims consider it as their religious duty to acquire and impart all kinds of knowledge. In the lifetime of the Prophet, he was the sole interpreter of the Qur'an, and after his death, his companions undertook to explain the meanings of the Qur'an in the light of the Qur'an and Hadith. In their turn this duty was then assumed by their successors who wrote many significant books on the Qur'an, Hadith, history and philosophy. Since Islam's message is believed to be eternal, it must suit all times and space.

    Therefore, in almost every era, the commentators and interpreters of the Qur'an have kept in view the socio-political, economic and geographic conditions of their times, to explain the meanings of the Qur'an.

    The downfall of Muslim rule in South Asia deeply influenced the Muslim thinkers. Some of them have emphasized the study of Hadith in order to find solutions to the problems facing the community. They came to be known as the 'Ahl-e-Hadith'. Another group laid stress on mysticism and was satisfied in isolating themselves from every kind of worldly development; they were known as the 'Bareliwis'. A third group which emerged tried to bring about a synthesis of both these groups. They were known as 'Deobandis (Metcalf, 1982).

    A fourth group of thinkers comprised of modernist Muslims who were equipped with Islamic and western education and were very conscious politically as well. The precursor of the last group was Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), who not only tried to arm Muslims with modern and scientific education but also tried to break the rigidity of taqlid (traditionalism) (Khan,1973).

    Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) bridged the gulf between the medieval and modern Islam in India. For the propagation of his ideas, he used two techniques. First, he launched the journal, Tahzib-al-Akhlaq, to propagate modern social ideas. Second, he gave the new Mutazalite interpretation of the Qur'an. His philosophy matured with the passage of time. His religious thought gradually evolved from orthodoxy to apologetic and then from apologetic to modernism. He criticized the methodology of classical Hadith compilers including that of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. He maintained that any tradition repugnant to human reason should be rejected. Although Sir Syed had no direct interest in religious revival and sought social, economic and political welfare of the Muslims, yet his impact on religious revival is quite tangible. He left a tradition of reasoning in theology which was followed by later philosophers.

    Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1838), was a philosopher, poet of the East and the person who contextualized the idea of a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims. He believes that religion is not a departmental affair; it is neither mere feeling, nor mere thought; nor mere action, it is an expression of the whole man. In The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (Iqbal, 1965), he tried to prove the superiority of religion over other sources of knowledge. But he admits that without natural science, history and intuitive knowledge are incomplete and a proper comprehension of religion without these is impossible. Like Sir Syed, Chiragh Ali and others, he also believes in the need of Ijtihad. Gibb maintains that the counterpart of Ijma'a is Ijtihad. (Gibb, 1978) According to Aziz Ahmad the Ijma'a is a revolutionary sense, a consensus of government in an Islamic state. (Ikram,1970)

    He presented the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims of South Asia. According to Rosenthal, Iqbal suggested socialism as an ideal system for a Muslim state. Ghulam Ahmed Parvez seems to have carried further the thread of Allama Iqbal’s philosophy of Islamic socialism.

    Chaudhry Ghulam Ahmad Pervez was born on July 9, 1903, at Batala, Gurdaspur district (at present in East Punjab, India), which was then a well-known centre of religious activities of the Muslims. Despite belonging to a conservative family and receiving a traditional education he was nonetheless bestowed with an inquisitive mind. Pervez, who was a protestant to mysticism, studied Iqbal's writings and was greatly influenced by his insight into mysticism.

    When Pervez came to Lahore for a job, he began to meet Allama Iqbal frequently. Thus, Pervez came to know the secrets of the Qur'an. He realized that Qur'an does not deal with one subject completely at one place. Therefore, one should carefully understand all the verses and chapters to judge the real essence of an issue. Moreover, modern knowledge of all kinds of developments is necessary.

    With this background, Pervez started to write on various aspects of Muslim society. His major criticism was on Azad's secular approach to religion in which he had pleaded that all religions were basically equal. Pervez commented that Islam was the best religion and that it was not a religion in the ordinary sense of the word but a complete system of government. He was one of those Muslims who dreamt and struggled for the creation of Pakistan with the goal of establishing an Islamic constitution.

    Pervez, from his adolescence onwards, kept himself busy in studying and writing. He was not a blind follower of religion. He tried to comprehend every article of religion. Like Sir Syed, Ameer Ali and Iqbal, he tried to rationalize everything. Sir Syed, Aslam Jayrajpuri, Allama Iqbal and many others exercised great influence on him.

    Pervez was a product of his age. For him Islam is the name of progress and he tried to interpret it according to the needs of the time. The focal point of his interpretation was political-economic theory. His concepts were not totally new. Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) and Shah Wali Ullah had already raised economic issues and suggested ways and means to bridge the gulf between the poor and the rich; they had done this much earlier than Karl Marx. Pervez, like many other modernists, presented an economic theory similar to that of Marx but he hardly acknowledged any one's influence on his thinking. He contended that his was an independent interpretation of the Qur'an which could be changed if needed.

    The writings on Pervez can be put into two categories: (i) by those who were impressed by his ideas; (ii) by his opponents who find nothing special in his ideas.


    Ghulam Ahmad Pervez discusses in detail the economic order of the Quran and argues that the main concern of the Quranic teachings is to develop the physical and...

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