By SHAMIM A SIDDIQI
In this Section
Capitalism has attained its perfection in the form of corporate management system. The Corporate System of America and elsewhere in the world symbolises all the inherent evils of capitalism – greed, temptation, monopolisation, exploitation, concentration of wealth and resources in the hands of a few, top heavy management, cheating, lying, misinformation, tax evasion, bribery, and extraordinary competition towards maximisation of profit. It has created a vested class of top executives [CEO] and the board of directors to maximise their “ill-gotten gains” at the cost of poor shareholders, employees and the consumers.
Personal greed, desires and caprices of this vested class are boundless. Their glimpses can be seen in getting huge compensation, extraordinary allotment of bonus shares and extra innumerable facilities that they enjoy at the cost of taxpayers. These evils had been ballooning within the system for decades together but the patching-up process was in yoke through manoeuvrings in fiscal policies, exaggerating profits by shifting or hiding losses, high cost of lobbying and contributing huge amounts of donations to political parties, whether in or out of power, for delaying, torpedoing, or killing legal provisions that are introduced to reform the system or an individual industry, trade or commerce one way or the other.
The entire corporate system is sitting, in fact, on the top of a smouldering volcano. The bursting up of the so-called “bubbles” of economic giants: Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco, AOL, Xerox, Merrill Lynch and other corporate bankruptcies are just “tips of the top of the iceberg”. How many “scorpions and dragons” of corrupt corporate bodies are hidden inside can be anybody’s guess? In 2001 alone, 257 companies with total assets of $258 billion were declared bankrupt.
Arianna Huffington in her latest marvellous book: Pigs At The Trough has given a vivid and a very eye-opening description of all these corporate scandals. It shows how much top notch of the corporate world is corrupt and making the political system more and more corrupt in every industrialised country day in day out through political donations and lobbying for the vested corporate interests of different industries, trade, commerce, agriculture, environmental agencies, oil and electricity generation plants, projects and production. The most unfortunate thing of this universal calamity is that the parties in power, in fact, are a despicable part and parcel of the process of the corrupt corporate system.
The question arises: why is it so? Why our political life has become so much corrupt at the top, irrespective of the fact whether it is political, religious, economic, trade or commerce? It is a deep-rooted question and we have to dig in it and find out the answer within the existing system itself.
In every industrialised country, the emphasis is given on professionalism and technical know-how. Its entire educational system produces workers, technocrat, engineers, doctors and men of skill of different trades and commerce. It matters a lot for different trades and industries how much a candidate is skilful and possesses the technical know-how of the trade. But little or no emphasis is given on character building, honesty and trustworthiness in individual men and women, boys and girls and the society at large. An individual is accepted for the job or the position applied for irrespective of the fact whether he or she is a scoundrel, a thief, and a rough or has a worthless character. As a result, those who are apparently well dressed, look smart, know manners of the materialistic world, are impressive in dialogue, master of the trade and science and belong to high social resources in the society are offered the job sought after without ascertaining the fact that they are honest, God-fearing, trustworthy for the responsibility to be assigned to them and are conscious of accountability here and in the Hereafter.
In such a situation, when they get the chance to play with the fortunes of others or when they reach at the top of an institution or become Chief Executive of a financial house or a corporate body, or become head of the state, they try to maximise their personal gains and bounties giving little consideration to the condition of thousands and thousands of workers, assistants, employees and the masses who are under their control or subordination and whose faith very much depends on their corporate behaviour and policies that they formulate. In all the cases of bankruptcies that have been listed above, the CEO made fortunes and the poor employees and the common investors suffered beyond description. They all had blindly manipulated accounts, hidden losses, artificially maintained the stock prices, reaped profit in share trading, kept their employees and workers in dark and contributed in millions to election funds of political parties, directly and through lobbyists and, thus, destroy the very character of the corporate life.
These so-called chief executives, heading a corporation are so worthless that they cannot be trusted to be given even the post of a “messenger” or that of a “postman” in an Islamic state.
Islam takes care of every Muslim man and woman, builds their character, inculcates in them an acute sense of accountability and makes them Allah-conscious [God fearing]. It thus develops a trustworthy character in its citizens. The entire educational, social, economical, political and judicial system rotates on the following fundamental beliefs and convictions that help its followers to live, act and behave like responsible humans.
* Islam advocates that the entire cosmos and what it contains belongs to Allah, the Creator and the Sustainer. He is not only the Creator but also regulates this universe.
* Humans on this earth are not the masters but only custodians or trustees. They are to use these resources the way their Lord ordains and not in the way they desire out of their whims and caprices as we see the people doing around us, filling the earth with disorder, corruption, bloodshed and arrogance.
* Humans are the trustees of what they see and possess and hence they are accountable to their Lord in the life Hereafter about the way they had used them on this earth. They will be rewarded or punished accordingly. If they were obedient to their Creator and Sustainer, they will be rewarded with eternal bliss of Paradise otherwise will be thrown in the hellfire as pieces of garbage.
* These basic concepts are imbedded in the minds of each individual Muslim and Muslimah right from his or her childhood. It helps in developing a character that is God-fearing, responsible and trustworthy. As such, whatever responsibility is entrusted to him or her in life, he/she discharges it with an extreme sense of care, honesty and accountability in the life Hereafter. A Muslim, irrespective of the fact whether he is a labourer or a chief executive or a layman, he is always conscious of the fact that his Creator and Sustainer is constantly watching him wherever he is and whatever he is doing and he is accountable to Him for all of his actions and deeds. This makes him extremely conscious and responsible of his duties and trusts placed in him, as there is a constant inner check in the heart and conscience. He can do no wrong, especially when he is entrusted with power, position or resources both of men and material. A God-conscious person will prefer death or starvation to misusing or plundering the sources entrusted to him.
* Thus, Islam creates a different character than what we see today in the midst of the corporate system. It would be totally in contrast to the irresponsible, reckless and good-for-nothing character of our present day’s top executives. Human society should cherish to develop such noble characters and entrust their financial, industrial and political institutions in their hands for the benefit of mankind. This character can be produced only with the fundamental beliefs that I have pinpointed briefly above. The present secular and capitalistic system cannot amend the situation that it has developed in centuries. It is reaping the harvest of corporate corruptions that are the unavoidable by-products of capitalism and the liberal values that are promoted under its banner.
* The history of the first four Caliphs of Islam can be cited as glaring examples to this effect. They were controlling the greatest and the mightiest kingdom of their time but living the life of a saint or hermit with no distinction over the people. It would be in the fitness of the matter to give just one example of an extreme sense of honesty and trustworthiness of that ordinary Arab soldier who found the crown of Iranian Commander-in-chief, Rustom, worth millions of dollar lying in the desert of Qadsia, Iraq. He covered it in his rags and covered his face too and silently placed it in the tent of Sa’d b Waqas, the Commander-in-chief of the Muslim army and retreated without even showing his face. Nobody knows his name but this incident shows the exemplary character that Islam inculcates in its followers.
Islam can come to the rescue of corporate system, help in getting rid of its inherent corruption, provided it is understood in its true perspective of monotheism, accountability in the life hereafter and the cure is sought in the life pattern of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), failing which the corporate system will eat away the vitals of America and its allies in Europe and Asia at an accelerated pace, making the respective societies hollow both from inside and outside.