Islam encourages social justice

Islam is associated with terrorist activities but this is most unfair, for my faith teaches me to sp

Some believe praying five times a day and fasting in the month of Ramadan are all that you need to do to be a good Muslim. While these are fundamental features of the faith, in order of closeness to God, they are rated less.

Standing firm for justice is considered closest to Godliness. In other words my religious and social responsibility is to work for just causes. In my faith I am required to stand witness to justice, fairness and equality not just in words but in practice. In Qur’an God says "be just, that it closest to Godliness".

My faith demands that I do not lead a passive life. I am reminded in the Qur’an that I have to stand for justice at all cost, even if it means I have go against myself, my family or friends. I must serve justice even against my bitter enemies. For God does not favour the unjust.

In a trouble filled world my faith has become synonymous with violence and hate. It is often associated with terrorist activities and suicide bombing. Unfortunately this is most unfair, for my faith teaches me to spread peace on earth. In fact unless I submit to peace, i.e. peace inside myself and at peace with everything around me, I am not considered a good Muslim. No wonder the blessed Prophet used to make this prayer on a regular basis –

“Oh God,
You are peace.
From you comes peace
To you returns peace
Revive us with a salutation of peace
And lead us to your abode of peace”

For me social justice starts at home. I must care for my parents as my responsibility especially when they reach old age. Qur’an reminds me that after being loyal to God I must be good to my parents. Once a man came to the blessed Prophet and said “O prophet I have performed Hajj – pilgrimage, carrying my elderly mother on my shoulder, have I paid her back for everything?” The prophet replied, “Not even for one contraction”.

One of my regular prayers to God is “O God please be merciful to my parents just like they were merciful to me when I was little”.

To lock up my parents in a care home when they are old, frail and most vulnerable is simply cruel and unjust. Thus in Islam social justice starts from home. I must be just to my wife and my children as I will be asked about my duties and responsibilities on the Day of Judgement.

I must do everything possible to sustain a good relationship with my relatives. I am reminded by the prophet who said “one who cuts relations with relatives; God will cut relations with him or her”.

Social justice in Islam extends to even to those who are not related to me such as the neighbours, orphans and the needy. I am not considered a Muslim if I go to sleep with my stomach full while my neighbour sleeps hungry. I must help the orphans and the needy by sharing with them part of my wealth through paying Zakat (a proportion of my surplus wealth which must be given on a yearly basis to poor and the needy) and voluntary charity. The blessed Prophet once said “he is not a Muslim who sleeps with his stomach full while his neighbour stays hungry”.

Social justice is about my struggle against inequality. In today’s world I must fight against poverty. We have excessive amount of wealth that is often wasted in the developed world while millions of people in the developing world die of hunger. Islam stands firmly against such inequality and encourages me to be involved with initiatives that would eradicate poverty and challenge the root causes of inequality. Everyday many people from Africa and Asia risk their lives to cross to the West simply looking for a better life. Most do not make it this far and perish on the way. Islam teaches me to be prepared to share what I have with those who do not have it.

I am concerned about the abuse of our environment and exploitation of our natural resources. My faith says that I am a “custodian” of this earth and its surrounding. As a custodian I do not have the right to either abuse it or stand by watch it get destroyed. I have to take active steps to ensure its healthy longevity. This too is my struggle for justice.

Ajmal Masroor is regularly invited to speak on issues on integration and Islam in the modern world. He leads Friday prayers in several Mosques across London.
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Inside the progressive alliance that beat Zac Goldsmith in Richmond

Frantic phone calls, hundreds of volunteers, and Labour MPs constrained by their party. 

Politics for a progressive has been gloomy for a long time. On Thursday, in Richmond Park of all places, there was a ray of light. Progressive parties (at least some of them) and ordinary voters combined to beat Ukip, the Tories and their "hard Brexit, soft racist" candidate.

It didn’t happen by accident. Let's be clear, the Liberal Democrats do by-elections really well. Their activists flood in, and good luck to them. But Richmond Park was too big a mountain for even their focused efforts. No, the narrow win was also down to the fast growing idea of a progressive alliance. 

The progressive alliance is both a defensive and offensive move. It recognises the tactical weakness of progressives under first past the post – a system the Tories and their press know how to game. With progressive forces spilt between Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Women’s Equality Party and more – there is no choice but to co-operate, bring in proportional representation and then a whole new political world begins.

This move opens up the wider strategy – to end the domination of the City, and right-wing newspapers like the Mail, so Britain can have a real debate and make real choices about what sort of economy and society it wants. A pipedream? Well, maybe. But last night the fuse was lit in Richmond Park. The progressive alliance can work.

Months before the by-election, the pressure group for a progressive alliance that I chair, Compass, the Greens, and some Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs and activists, began considering this. The alternative after Brexit was staring into the void.

Then the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith stepped down over Heathrow. To be fair, he had pledged to do this, and we should have been better prepared. In the event, urgent behind-the-scenes calls were made between the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Compass acted as the safe house. The Greens, wonderfully, clung onto democracy – the local party had to decide. And they decided to stand up for a new politics. Andree Frieze would have been the Green candidate, and enjoyed her moment in the autumn sun. She and her party turned it down for a greater good. So did the Women’s Equality Party.

Meanwhile, what about Labour? Last time, they came a distant third. Again the phones were hit and meetings held. There was growing support not to stand. But what would they get back from the Liberal Democrats, and what did the rules say about not standing? It was getting close to the wire. I spent an hour after midnight, in the freezing cold of Aberdeen, on the phone to a sympathetic Labour MP trying to work out what the party rule book said before the selection meeting.

At the meeting, I am told, a move was made from the floor not to select. The London regional official ruled it out of order and said a candidate would be imposed if they didn’t select. Some members walked out at this point. Where was the new kinder, gentler politics? Where was membership democracy? Fast forward to last night, and the Labour candidate got less votes than the party has members.

The idea of a progressive alliance in Richmond was then cemented in a draughty church hall on the first Tuesday of the campaign – the Unitarian Church of course. Within 48 hours notice, 200 local activist of all parties and none had come together to hear the case for a progressive alliance. Both the Greens and Compass produced literature to make the case for voting for the best-placed progressive candidate. The Liberal Democrats wove their by-election magic. And together we won.

It’s a small victory – but it shows what is possible. Labour is going to have to think very hard whether it wants to stay outside of this, when so many MPs and members see it as common sense. The lurch to the right has to be stopped – a progressive alliance, in which Labour is the biggest tent in the campsite, is the only hope.

In the New Year, the Progressive Alliance will be officially launched with a steering committee, website and activists tool-kit. There will also be a trained by-election hit squad, manifestos of ideas and alliances build locally and across civil society.

There are lots of problems that lie ahead - Labour tribalism, the 52 per cent versus the 48 per cent, Scottish independence and the rest. But there were lots of problems in Richmond Park, and we overcame them. And you know, working together felt good – it felt like the future. The Tories, Ukip and Arron Banks want a different future – a regressive alliance. We have to do better than them. On Thursday, we showed we could.

Could the progressive alliance be the start of the new politics we have all hoped for?

Neal Lawson is the Chair of Compass, the pressure group for the progressive alliance.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones.