Efficiency and Justice in Islamic System
The Concept of Efficiency: Three Interpretations
Efficiency like many other abstract concepts can accept various and even dichotomous interpretations and definitions. Owning to the same reason, the relationship between efficiency and other concepts such as "religion" has always been a matter of controversy and intellectual debate.
What follows are three major interpretations concerning "efficiency":
1. The first interpretation relates to the definition of efficiency from the perspective of a non-religious government. According to a non-religious government, efficiency refers to "the ability of the government to tackle the affairs of people in various political, social, cultural and economic aspects."
Obviously, this definition of efficiency has something to do with the level of the government's success in handling the worldly affairs of the people.
2. The second interpretation features an esoteric view, and looks at efficiency from this perspective. This approach introduces efficiency as inconsistent and incongruous with religion. According to this interpretation, there is no consistency between "religious concepts" and " efficiency". Those who subscribe to this approach are of the view that "efficiency" is a concept applicable to worldly affairs, not to heavenly matters. According to the argument put forth by the advocates of this view, the worldly affairs fall out of the boundary of religion. Therefore, each of these two concepts (religion and efficiency) are incongruous with each other in the sense that the approach particular to each of them requires distancing one of them from the other. Some of these Christian interpretations are based on such a perception from the relationship between religion and the world. Those, who hold such views, consider "happiness in this world" and "salvation in the Hereafter" as opposed and irrelevant" to each other. Naturally, according to this approach one cannot look for an efficient religious government. Basically an "efficient religious government" is seen as a paradoxical concept.
3. The third interpretation is esoteric like the previous one. The difference between this interpretation and the previous one is that this interpretation not only considers efficiency and religion as consistent but it stresses that religion is based entirely on efficiency.
In fact, the third definition, which is also the chosen definition, is always opposed to the interpretations from Islam and religion that are based on "monasticism" and "negation of the world" and that it considers efficiency to be one of the greatest characteristics of Islam.
Islam and Monasticism
Unlike other religions one of the most important and greatest characteristics of Islam has something to do with the type of doctrines it has presented. Islam presents a religion which is in no way incompatible with the world. Islam has come to make an arrangement for man's life in this world to help him attain heavenly prosperity. Islam has not come to destroy this material world to make the other world so as to attain prosperity in hereafter. It is for the same reason that Islam is opposed to monasticism or a way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits.
The reason Islam opposes monasticism is not because a person secludes himself and cleaves to a corner; rather it is opposed to the idea beyond which there exists seclusion. That idea supports the dichotomy between the worldly life and spiritual concepts.
In view of the foregoing explanation, it has now become clear that efficiency is completely consistent with an Islamic religious context. However, efficiency in the said context has its special meaning. That is: "Only that government is efficient that not only administers the worldly affairs of people but also steer their lives in various aspects towards spirituality. For example, when it comes to the economic situation of people which is supposed to grow and improve, the atmosphere governing the economy should be such that the way for spiritual growth and promotion of people should be paved therein.
If a society has a strong, active and dynamic economy in a way such that people's lives improve and that they enjoy facilities and comfort and in the same time the spirituality does not improve or even declines, such an economy is a religous efficient economy.
In general, it can be concluded that religious efficiency or efficiency in a religious context is more complex as compared to efficiency in a non-religious context. That is because efficiency in a religious context involves the management and administration of the worldly affairs of people and it also implies that the events of this world should be led towards a direction where spirituality, religious belief and religious understanding and knowledge of people and spirituality develop in the society.
Therefore, it is necessary that while evaluating a religious government, one should take notice of two special points and aspects: First, it should be made clear as to how far a government is successful in maintaining and managing the affairs of people. Second, how far are those affairs which have been run, have brought about spiritual promotion and development of religious values in society?
Obligation-orientation in Religion and Efficiency
The point that may come to every individual's mind in regards to the relationship between religion and efficiency is the possibility of the efficiency of religion in spite of its being obligation-oriented. In other words, how is it possible to expect the religion to be efficient despite its being obligation-oriented? It is likely that some of the religion through its obligations might form a barrier towards the development, progress and advancement of the human society.
In this regard, it should be said that if we are discussing about religion and we mean the religion of Islam, there is no doubt that it is obligation-oriented. However, it should also be noted that these obligations stem from human beings' creational characteristics. That is to say, since God is the Creator of human beings and He knows their creational features, He has assigned them obligations that are consistent with our creational nature and identity. These are such obligations that guarantee the maintenance of this world and promotion of spirituality which is the ultimate objective of the religion.
Therefore, there is no contradiction between obligation-orientedness in religion and efficiency. In fact, religious obligations are in line with efficiency and it is for this reason that attention has been paid to the same in the religion. In case, for some reason an obligation is no longer efficient in a special time or circumstance, the obligation will change. If it is an individual obligation, then there are certain criteria through which the individual can discern it. And if it is a social obligation or a social issue, then it is the administrator of the society i.e. a wali faqih who through certain standards and principles distinguishes the obligation.
A clear example of these can be the "secondary rules" which signify that there is something practically incongruous with the objectives of the religion in the general atmosphere of society. That is to say, that thing is inconsistent with other objectives of the religion in which case the secondary rules come into being in line with the worldly and heavenly benefits of the person or society.
The Islamic Revolution and Efficiency
Today after 32 years, the Islamic revolution has presented an objective model of a government based on religious methods. It is believed that this model bears the features of a modern-day government. That is to say, the political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran can be called as an up to date government based on religious concepts.
It is therefore necessary that today after thirty two years of the victory of the Islamic revolution, we should go through what has already been achieved. We must follow up the causes of the conception, formation and continuation of the Islamic system and the extent to which it has reached its goals.
The Necessity of Setting Models
Given the nature of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, naturally one of the sensitive, vital and serious issues has been to carry on and maintain its efficiency. That is to say, if we are unable to present clear and tangible views concerning religious efficiency, there is no doubt that we will face serious challenges over time as the revolution continues to proceed. One of the most important solutions is to present "models".
Essentials of Setting Models
1. Introducing a Criterion
One of the most important discussions launched recently in scientific circles in the universities as well as seminaries is an Islamic Iranian model of progress. This model is characteristic of two distinct features:
- Islamic feature
The first criterion which the model should bear is its being "Islamic". That is to say, the model should have arisen from Islamic concepts. These concepts are not dependent on temporal and spatial circumstances.
- Iranian feature
The second criterion of this model is its being Iranian. In reality, this feature signifies that the temporal and spatial circumstances of progress and development should be taken into account.
Hence, when it comes to efficiency, it is not sufficient to present some general concepts; rather, it is imperative to move on towards presenting a clear and comprehensive model to explain religious efficiency.
2. The Need for Theoretical Work
The second task that needs to be taken into consideration in regards to setting models is theoretical work. That is because it is necessary that the researcher should have a clear judgment towards his theoretical foundations, or else, he will naturally face problems. One of the foundations is that the Islamic concepts are concepts that are not restricted to special temporal and spatial circumstances; rather, they are universal and unchangeable. Now, if these foundations are not clear, naturally, we will not be able to carry on our discussion and reach the ensuing stage of research.
Now that it has become clear that the concepts are universal, the question arises as to how these concepts have been applied during the period of the infallibles? Did they consider the temporal and spatial circumstances in applying these concepts? For instance, if an economic structure existed in the City of the Holy Prophet (s), have the characteristics and features particular to the Arabian Peninsula been observed in that structure? The answer is: There is no doubt that they have been observed.
Now, if those characteristics have been observed, we must differentiate between those characteristics that are dependent on the conditions and those things that are universal and have nothing to do with varying circumstances. That is because, if we do not differentiate between them, many of the problems will continue to remain unresolved and unsettled. This same issue i.e. the importance of differentiating between the two aspects, has led to formation of three groups of thinking as will be enumerated below:
1. The first group includes those people who because of not differentiating between the two standards (the unchangeable and the changeable or the variable and invariable) have been led astray. These were people who rejected the Islamic economy by considering the Islamic economy as the economy of wool and camels saying that it belonged to 1400 years ago and that it no longer served the needs and interests of the current-day society with all its complexities.
2. Contrary to this group of people, there are those people who were religious and spoke in defense of the religion. They opposed the issues of the modern day world and temporal and spatial circumstances to the extent that they adopted such a stance towards the Islamic Republic of Iran saying that it is not in conformity with classical and traditional structures. Because Ali bin Abi Talib (a) did not have in his government anything like separation of powers, parliament, board of ministers etc. Hence, these are innovative and that the structure on which the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based is un-Islamic.
3. The third group that represents a special mindset is people who, while knowing these two elements, engage in analyzing them in the present time.
The third group, which is also the chosen group, argues as such: It is true that the society during the Holy Prophet's time (about 1400 years ago) was simple and featured a simple political, cultural, social and economic structure but there are, for example, some criteria and rules in the same apparently simple economy that are applicable to today's complex economy.
Also they say to the third group that one cannot look at the history of the prophets as though they lived without keeping the temporal requirements and demands into consideration. In fact, the prophets lived ordinary lives like all other people. They adapted themselves to the circumstances and kept the element of time into consideration. Naturally, in these circumstances they gave instructions in accordance with their own time and place. Therefore, it is possible that the standards of the government of Imam Ali (a.s.) or those of the government of the Holy Prophet (s) might be particular to their own times. For example the political, cultural and social structure of the time of the Prophet (s) required the government to be established in the form of an emirate. In this form of the government, the amir (ruler) exercised his authority in legislative, judicial and executive areas in a different way.
Hence, it is necessary to discover two standards in the history of the prophets; one is the unchangeable standards which are derived from religious concepts and which are universal, and the other is the variables which are linked to the spatial and temporal circumstances and requirements. Therefore, we can speak of multiple Islamic models of progress. For example, the Islamic model in the early period of Islam was an Islamic model of progress characteristic of the land of Hejaz.
Therefore, we must separate the elements that are related to Hejaz from the elements that do not belong to this period. Of course, this differentiation stands in needs of a theoretical foundation and a scientific methodology. Efforts have been made, however, to discuss its theoretical foundations and methodology in the "Systematic thought theory".
Therefore, we cannot say we should not use the modern tools and we should use our fingers to eat food because the Prophet (s) used to eat food with his fingers. In fact, since Islam had been revealed in a land where the general tradition was that the people used to eat food with their hands. In order to give a spiritual tint to these practices, Islam created special rules for them. These rules included washing the hands before eating food, reciting Bismillahir Rahmanir-Rahim, eating the food with the right hand, picking up small-sized morsels etc.
Therefore, one of the most important and necessary things that is an essential part of of setting models is theoretical work.
At present, the problem that exists relates to the same area, i.e. the theoretical area. There is no doubt about the necessity of such an idea. The only problem that exists is that it does not have a strong theoretical support.
One thing that has been done in this regard is the "theory of written thought". This theory has not yet got a patent status among the elites and scientific figures. However, endeavor is made to take more serious steps in this regard.
The necessity of theoretical work is because we can reach special results after doing away with the ambiguities and becoming further minute. Thence, we can present formulas on whose basis special behaviors could be prescribed in various scientific, political and cultural spheres. That is only when these prescriptive behaviors could guarantee prosperity of the individual in the hereafter.
The Aim of Setting Models
Generally speaking, the object of setting models is not describing and rendering a report on the status quo; rather the object is to pass the existing situation to reach a desirable one. Speaking of a model can be rational only when people are trying to attain a desirable situation. This is where different groups and thoughts try to illustrate the desirable situation or to show it on the basis of value-laden concepts so as to motivate the addressees to move towards that direction. For example, the aim of the capitalist model is to move towards a direction where there is absolute freedom and no monopoly in a way such that everyone in the economic domain has an income proportionate to his ability.
In fact, the message of the said objective is that the existing situation is suffering from monopoly and that there is no opportunity for everyone in it. Hence, therefore, it is necessary to move forward towards attaining the desirable situation.
Also, the socialist and Marxist models speak of their aims and objectives in such a way that everyone should enjoy equal economic opportunity. Therefore, every model that is introduced aims to get past the existing situation to reach a more ideal one. Hence, having an ambition and a pursuit is essential for a model.
When it comes to the ambitions, it is necessary to make mention of two things: One, that it should be consistent with our principles and tenets. Another is that, the ideal situation should be attainable. The fact is that many of the ideals set by the capitalist system are not practically achievable. For instance, they persist on a free economic market saying that such a market helps boost the economy.
That is to say, as soon as a free market comes into being, then immediately the one who is stronger can acquire more resources. Once it has acquired the resources, then monopoly will begin to come into existence. And when everything is monopolized, then the free market goes away. In other words, they believe that a free market is a momentary phenomenon and comes into being at once.
The Distinction between Islamic Thought and Non-Islamic Thought in Its Need for Reconsideration
It is wrong to believe that the capitalist system changes its principles when it faces a problem in the real world. In other words, the realities do not change the principles of the capitalist system because, basically, the principles of the capitalist system transcend the reality. In fact, they have nothing to do with the reality. The principles of capitalism want to build and describe the reality. Basically, the Marxist system is also as such. Hence, whenever they face a problem in the process of making and building the reality, they start to review their theory.
The rules and mechanism of reviewing are essentially different in Shiite's Islamic thinking. According to Shiite theological foundation, the religion has been sent in correspondence with the realities of this world. God, the Exalted, who is the source of all laws, has been aware of all the aspects of the universe. We cannot, therefore, assume that there is something hidden to the Lord. In addition, consistency exists among religious concepts in various domains. Therefore, there is no contradiction or dichotomy between political and economic or political and cultural concepts. However, in view of the fact that Shi'ism believes in the possibility of committing errors as an accepted principle, it is therefore likely that our discoveries may not be in accord with the reality. That is why we review our methods when we realize that we have committed a mistake.
One thing which we speak of in the 'Systematic thought theory' is that when we have discovered the economic elements and then the political element, we should thereafter see harmony among these elements. If any disharmony or incoherence is seen, then it is understood that an error has taken place in our discovery. That is because, there is no incoherence in reality and if there is no coherence, it is because of our mistake. Insofar as the harmony exists, we do not require reviewing but as soon as the harmony faces a problem in practice and when we realize that the elements, which we had worked out, do not function and will not help materialize the goals and there is a vacuum, then we will come to know that we had designed and presented a deficient system or we had not properly applied it and that we now need to revise it.
However, the reviews we make are within a special circumstance and on the basis of certain criteria. Since, we are the discoverer and we might make mistakes in our discoveries, we should continuously rectify and correct ourselves. The correction can take place in two ways. Either the inference elements are corrected in parts or the whole system or school is overhauled.
As for the first part i.e. the inference elements which in the Systematic thought theory have been referred to as law, activities have taken place over the history. However, when it comes to the second part i.e. the inference of the school or system, not too much work has been done. To give an example of the work that has been done, we can refer to Martyr Baqir Sadr's "Our Economy". In fact, in this work authored by him, he has obtained a school not a system. Some of the activities done in this regard (inference of economic systems) are general (because in a general view they should be harmonious with the political and cultural systems) and partial at the same time. Actually, very little has been done in the area of fiqh (jurisprudence) because it is impossible for our deductions to be inconsistent.
Therefore, since there is no inconsistency in the Shari'ah itself, when we come across any inconsistency in our discoveries, we should revise and correct them. Thus, the door of revising our discoveries and deductions is always open and we can check and verify them anytime we want.
Generally speaking, in non-Islamic thoughts, everything is supposed to be created. So the process of creation has to be reviewed whenever necessary, but in Shiite Islamic thought, everything is supposed to be discovered and as such inconsistency with the reality and discovery of variation with Shari'ah standards are the criteria for revision.
The Reason behind the Existence of Variables and Invariables in Religion
A question may arise as to what the reason behind the existence of the variables and invariables are. Why do we claim that there are variables and invariables in the religion? The best and most important reason is the finality of the religion of Islam. Definitely, a religion that has been revealed for eternity and is supposed to guide the entire humanity throughout the history, cannot be confined to a specific location like the Arabian Peninsula. That is because the Arabian Peninsula has its own specific circumstances and it does not have the potentiality to encompass the circumstances of all the places at all times. That is why it is claimed that there are variables and invariables in the religion. The invariables are those matters that are universal and include all times and places. The variables are those things that are restricted to a time and a place. Hence, in order for one to know the true image of Islam, one should separate the universal elements from the variables.
There are also many historical evidences confirming the existence of variable and invariables. The jurist have also emphasized upon this and they have given a lot of attention to it. They have in many places used this idea to solve juridical questions.
One of the examples is selling of weapons to the enemies of the religion during war time. Shaykh Ansari deals with traditions in this regard in his book titled Makasib. He tries to analyze and to somehow combine between the traditions. That is because some of the traditions forbid selling of weapons and some others allow it. However, Imam Khomeini was very well cognizant of the rules of the variables. He has not faced a difficulty like Shaykh Ansari in dealing with the traditions. So he has very easily dealt with the issues. He says that selling weapons to the enemies of the religion in the state of war is obligatory under some circumstances; it is abominable under some other circumstance and permissible under other circumstances.
Therefore, selling weapons has five religious rules which are linked to the circumstances and requirements of the time and place in which the transaction takes place. In reality, Imam Khomeini (r.a) resolved the contradictions with reliance on the variable and time-bound laws.
Another evidence for this idea which the jurisprudents have, over the history, confirmed and which denote the existence of variables and invariables in the religion is the theory of manteqat al-feragh (unoccupied area) which was raised by Martyr Baqir Sadr.
Martyr Sadr was of the view that the legislator has legislated but his legislation is not complete; he has left some vacant areas. We benefit from those areas which the legislator has legislated to fill the vacant area as required by circumstances. Hence, our duty is to fill the unoccupied and vacant area with appropriate laws.
Related link: Tabnak News Agency
 - Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani's lecture published in Kheradnameh Hamshahri, June 2011, No.78, pp.9-17.