The concept of welfare state has become very popular these days; the term means a state in which the government assumes responsibility for minimum standards of living for every citizen. The term is generally used to describe a state which possesses all or some of the following features:
- Provision of social security for unemployment, health issues, old age and disability.
- Provision of free or subsidized education and medical services.
- Social justice through fair distribution of income and wealth among all citizens by through effective system of taxation.
- Provision of full-time employment to everyone as per his education and skills.
- Public ownership of utility services to make sure uninterrupted supply on affordable rates and even further subsidized rates for low-income groups.
Welfare State in Islam aims at achieving the total welfare of mankind, the Islamic concept of the Welfare State is based not only on the manifestation of economic values but also on moral, spiritual, social and political values of Islam. Islamic welfare state ensures socio-economic welfare of its citizens. Its functions for material welfare of its people include provision of basic necessities of life for all, ensuring of a comprehensive social security system, establishment of social justice, etc., since its functions for the spiritual well-being of its people include the establishment of Islamic system of life for the Muslims and full religious freedom for the non-Muslims.
- The Islamic welfare will make sure the share of revenues for the poor and the needy; it is the responsibility of state to give basic needs to its citizens. Islam has made no distinction between the Muslims and non-Muslims. Caliph Umar once found a Zimmi begging alms. He granted him pension and absolved him from payment of Jizyah. Khalid, the famous general of Islam, concluded a treaty with the non-Muslims of Hira which made a provision for financial help to the poor and destitute of non-Muslims.
- The Prophet of Islam Peace be upon him has also defined the least necessities of life. He is reported to have said: “The son of man has no better right than that he would have a house wherein he may live, and a piece of cloth whereby he may hide his nakedness, and a piece of bread and some water”-(Tirmizi). From this tradition of the Prophet also, the barest necessities of human life include food, water, clothes and a house.
- Every person living in the Islamic state is entitled to these basic needs, but if he is unable to procure them for himself or for his family then the Islamic state is duty bound to provide him the same. Many Muslim jurists have held that Islamic state is responsible to give minimum standard of living, in the form of basic necessities of life, to all those persons who being poor, needy, sick, disabled, old or unemployed, are somehow unable to do the same.
- The economic philosophy of an Islamic state is based on the concept of social justice. An Islamic state provides equal opportunities to all its citizens to earn their livelihood. In order to meet social justice, Islam takes two major steps: Firstly it discourages rather condemns concentration of wealth in few hands; secondly it ensures fair and equitable distribution of wealth through effective measures. To check concentration of wealth in few hands, unlawful and unfair means of acquiring wealth like interest, games of chance, bribery, business malpractices such as short measuring, short weighing, hoarding, embezzlement, theft and robbery have been strictly prohibited. Fair and equitable distribution of wealth has been ensured by Islam through Zakat and charity, through taxes and compulsory contributions levied by the Islamic state, and last of all through the laws of inheritance and will. In order to meet its ideal of socio-economic justice, Islam imposes social rights over personal wealth such as rights of the poor relatives for financial support, rights of the needy neighbors for assistance, rights of the slaves and servants for help, rights of the wayfarers, friends and general Muslims who need financial aid. Since afore mentioned social rights of others are to be fulfilled and payment of Zakat may not be enough for the same, the Prophet of Islam is reported to have said: “In one’s wealth there are other rights to besides Zakat”. Thus the followers of Islam are required to fulfill the needs of the poor and if Zakat revenues are insufficient, the Islamic welfare state can ask them to give more so that the needs of the poor can be met.
- Islamic welfare state is also duty-bound to protect the weak against the strong. For this purpose many steps have been taken by Islam. Usury which is a strong instrument of human exploitation has been totally abolished. Unfair means to acquiring wealth and exploiting the weak such as bribery, usurping the wealth of orphans, gambling, speculative business, embezzlement, spurious weights and measures, fraudulent business practices have been banned in the Islamic state. Rights of the weak like orphans, women, slaves and servants, laborers and workers, tenants, consumers, etc., are also protected in the Islamic welfare state from the onslaught of the usurpers, oppressors, capitalists, feudal lords, industrialists, etc., as discussed in the previous chapter.
- Education and health play very vital role in the welfare of the people as well as in the development of a nation. So a welfare state to achieve its socio-economic goals cannot ignore these two sectors. Therefore, to provide education and healthcare to all of its citizens free or at heavily subsidized rates is one of the foremost duties of the Islamic welfare state. Islam’s emphasis on education can be understood from the very fact that the first verses of the Holy Qur’an which were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) laid stress on reading. The Prophet of Islam has made it obligatory upon every Muslim, whether male or female, to acquire education and knowledge. Islam also lays much stress on health and the Prophet of Islam has enjoined upon his followers to look after the sick. Providing healthcare and medical aid to the sick is thus another onerous duty of the Islamic welfare state.
- The last, but not the least, important duty of the Islamic welfare state is to look after the spiritual welfare of its citizens. To discharge this duty, the Islam welfare state establishes the Islamic system of government as contained in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Muslim citizens are enabled to lead their lives in accordance with the teachings of Islam; because non-Muslim citizens are provided with full religious freedom so that they may do their religious practices in their places of worship without any restriction. The Islamic state is obliged to work for the spread of Islam because the salvation of humanity ultimately lies in Islam. But this is done through preaching, persuasion and not through coercive measures or exercise of pressure which has been strictly prohibited by Islam.