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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We still have time to change our minds on Brexit

The British people will soon find they have been misled. 

On the radio on 29 March 2017, another "independence day" for rejoicing Brexiteers, former SNP leader Alex Salmond and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage battled hard over the ramifications of Brexit. Here are two people who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. Farage said it was a day we were getting our country back.

Yet let alone getting our country back, we could be losing our country. And what is so frustrating is that not only have we always had our country by being part of the European Union, but we have had the best of both worlds.

It is Philip Hammond who said: “We cannot cherry pick, we cannot have our cake and eat it too”. The irony is that we have had our cake and eaten it, too.

We are not in Schengen, we are not in the euro and we make the laws that affect our daily lives in Westminster – not in Europe – be it our taxes, be it our planning laws, be it business rates, be it tax credits, be it benefits or welfare, be it healthcare. We measure our roads in miles because we choose to and we pour our beer in pints because we choose to. We have not been part of any move towards further integration and an EU super-state, let alone the EU army.

Since the formation of the EU, Britain has had the highest cumulative GDP growth of any country in the EU – 62 per cent, compared with Germany at 35 per cent. We have done well out of being part of the EU. What we have embarked on in the form of Brexit is utter folly.

The triggering of Article 50 now is a self-imposed deadline by the Prime Minister for purely political reasons. She wants to fix the two-year process to end by March 2019 well in time to go into the election in 2020, with the negotiations completed.

There is nothing more or less to this timing. People need to wake up to this. Why else would she trigger Article 50 before the French and German elections, when we know Europe’s attention will be elsewhere?

We are going to waste six months of those two years, all because Prime Minister Theresa May hopes the negotiations are complete before her term comes to an end. I can guarantee that the British people will soon become aware of this plot. The Emperor has no clothes.

Reading through the letter that has been delivered to the EU and listening to the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament today amounted to reading and listening to pure platitudes and, quite frankly, hot air. It recalls the meaningless phrase, "Brexit means Brexit".

What the letter and the statement very clearly outlined is how complex the negotiations are going to be over the next two years. In fact, they admit that it is unlikely that they are going to be able to conclude negotiations within the two-year period set aside.

That is not the only way in which the British people have been misled. The Conservative party manifesto clearly stated that staying in the single market was a priority. Now the Prime Minister has very clearly stated in her Lancaster House speech, and in Parliament on 29 March that we are not going to be staying in the single market.

Had the British people been told this by the Leave campaign, I can guarantee many people would not have voted to leave.

Had British businesses been consulted, British businesses unanimously – small, medium and large – would have said they appreciate and benefit from the single market, the free movement of goods and services, the movement of people, the three million people from the EU that work in the UK, who we need. We have an unemployment rate of under 5 per cent – what would we do without these 3m people?

Furthermore, this country is one of the leaders in the world in financial services, which benefits from being able to operate freely in the European Union and our businesses benefit from that as a result. We benefit from exporting, tariff-free, to every EU country. That is now in jeopardy as well.

The Prime Minister’s letter to the EU talks with bravado about our demands for a fair negotiation, when we in Britain are in the very weakest position to negotiate. We are just one country up against 27 countries, the European Commission and the European Council and the European Parliament. India, the US and the rest of the world do not want us to leave the European Union.

The Prime Minister’s letter of notice already talks of transitional deals beyond the two years. No country, no business and no economy likes uncertainty for such a prolonged period. This letter not just prolongs but accentuates the uncertainty that the UK is going to face in the coming years.

Britain is one of the three largest recipients of inward investment in the world and our economy depends on inward investment. Since the referendum, the pound has fallen 20 per cent. That is a clear signal from the world, saying, "We do not like this uncertainty and we do not like Brexit."

Though the Prime Minister said there is it no turning back, if we come to our senses we will not leave the EU. Article 50 is revocable. At any time from today we can decide we want to stay on.

That is for the benefit of the British economy, for keeping the United Kingdom "United", and for Europe as a whole – let alone the global economy.

Lord Bilimoria is the founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and the founding Chairman of the UK-India Business Council.