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Last Updated: 2011/05/22
Summary of question
Why is there corruption in Islamic Governments?
Why is there corruption in Islamic Governments?
Concise answer

The reason for corruption in Islamic Governments is summarized in one sentence by the Quran: The lack of faith in God and condemnation of taaghut (whatever is not in accord with the divine). On the contrary, faith in God and the condemnation of taaqhut, especially when joined together, occasion the excellence of each and every individual in society.[i]

In other words, the Islamic society’s interest and prosperity has been contained and conveyed to mankind in the form of religion. Now if this man, deliberately implements all of the legal rulings, teachings and moral principles of religion, in every aspect of his life, he will definitely fulfill his innate needs and achieve the goals of his very creation. But, if he inclines toward material interests and what this material world consists of (taqhut), by neglecting religion – in part or wholly – he has followed his nafs (ego), which is exactly what gradually ruins society. The main and fundamental role in corrupting society is played, in order, by the rulers, scholars affiliated with the government, informed but indifferent and silent scholars and finally the people. Likewise, the path of greatness and excellence for society is paved out by the hukkaam (rulers), scholars and people.

[i] Nahl:36; Baqarah:256; Taha:123-124.

Detailed Answer

The success and downfall of a society is firstly, in the hands of the Hukkaam (rulers) of that society. If the rulers are religious, devout and absolutely submitted to the legal doctrine of religion and seek to spread and precisely propagate them throughout the society and encourage the scholars and renowned figures who struggle in this path, the people will definitely follow the footsteps of their rulers and scholars and stay protected from going astray. However, if the rulers are not inclined to religion and instead yearn material desires, like maintaining their positions as rulers by doing anything possible, to the extent of drowning in lust and desire and using scholars and renowned figures for their evil interests, neglect the problems of the people and oppress them, this attitude will spread throughout the society and if the great thinkers and influential figures don’t proceed in moderating the class of rulers and the people also refrain from al-amr bil ma'ruf wa al-nahy 'an al munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil), eventually everybody in society will unknowingly deviate from the right path and being righteous will become very difficult for the good believers. Therefore, the origin of corruption in society is the greed for material positions by the rulers, the absorption of the influential figures by the governmental system and the silence of the people and pertaining to their personal problems in life.

For instance, when someone like Yazid rules the Islamic society, who simply wants to boast and brag about his superiority, obtain material possessions, positions and fame and drown himself in the lust and desires of this world while others, like some narrators of hadith, were advocators and supporters of his government and the rest were simply afraid to stand up against him and would simply watch him and the readers of history – that are practically the judges of history - introduce the governors of that time as mujtahids who acted based on their ijtihad (interpretation) and basically misunderstood the truth and subsequently repented even though it caused a great deal of pain for the progeny of the Prophet (saw), and hence – because of their repentance - must be respected and no one has the right to condemn what they did or despise who they were or else they are considered to be kafir and mushrik! And when the people of the society accept this nonsense and submit to it, there is no chance in putting an end to corruption in society or no way of expecting it to become better.

Therefore, the downfall of a society can be anticipated when the people lean towards the taaqhut and put aside religion, which manifest in the following forms:

A. Denying the Prophets and defying the divine ayahs or not applying them practically[1]

B. Injustice and oppression by rulers[2]

C. Disunion, confusion and exploitation[3]

D. Neglecting al-amr bil ma'ruf wa al-nahy 'an al munkar and encouraging bad deeds and conforming to such environments;[4]

E. Abstaining from sacrificing for religion, both in wealth and life and greed for worldly possessions.[5]

As for the solution: There is only and only one solution; defying the taaqhut and faith in Allah throughout all classes of the society – rulers, scholars, prominent figures and ordinary people. If man ponders about the fact that life in this world is very short and that it will end soon and recalls the terrible outcomes of following the nafs and lustful desires and materialism, etc., in this world and the hereafter and reminds himself that there is a mighty overseer constantly watching over him and that there are scribes always recording his every action that he will be held responsible for in the life to come. If he follows his intellect and adheres to his pure fitrah as opposed to following his animalistic nafs and surrenders himself to the demands of God, this will insure his eternal salvation from corruption and will guarantee his salvation in this world and the hereafter.

Indeed, in a society where corruption becomes a standard by which people are measured and evaluated and religion is condemned, faith and good deeds will be difficult to have and do, so what is the solution? If an individual has the ability and power to influence the society, ruler and others, he must advise and guide them and change the atmosphere even to the extent of sacrificing his life and wealth, but if it is the other way around – where his word won’t have any effect – he is bound to be patient, stand strong in the face of criticism, shield his religion, seek refuge to Allah and pray to help him stay firm on his beliefs and assist and support those who seek to be faithful like him. Inshallah, we will soon witness the dhuhur (appearance) of Imam Mahdi (as), the savior of mankind, for he will spread justice, peace and prosperity throughout the world.

References and sources:

1- The Holy Quran.

2- The tafsirs of Nemouneh and Al-Mizan, under the verses mentioned in the footnotes.

3- Tabatabai, Muhammad Husein, BarResihaye Eslami, Hijrah Publications, Qom, pp. 97 and 158.

4- Motahhari, Morteza, Jame’eh va Tarikh, Entesharate Eslami Publications, Qom.

[1] A’raf:96.

[2] Qasas:2.

[3] An’aam:53 and 65; Anfaal:46.

[4] Aal Imran:104, 110 and 113; Ma’idah:79.

[5] Ma’idah:33.

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