Economic Relationships

Man’s behaviour, according to Sadr, is categorized into three types of
relationships: social, economic and religious. They stem from man’s basic
relationship to other men, to the environment, and to God. The economic
relations, however, are outcome of his inner instinct of self‑love that "always drives him to seek good thins for himself, to secure his interest, and satisfy his needs.

Man’s behaviour, according to Sadr, is categorized into three types of
relationships: social, economic and religious. They stem from man’s basic
relationship to other men, to the environment, and to God. The economic
relations, however, are outcome of his inner instinct of self‑love that "always
drives him to seek good thins for himself, to secure his interest, and satisfy
his needs. [2] Accordingly, man, in his relationship with the environment, was
predisposed to utilize all possi­ble resources to satisfy his needs and increase
his pleasure. In due time, he was willing to use animals and plant to help him
in his struggle against the environment. Although his essential needs were
simple in the early period of history, his mental capacities enabled him to
devel­op new means to help him utilize the resources of the environment. Thus
his needs are always expanding due to the complexity of utilizing the resources
of the environment.

Man’s relationship with others of his kind was the natural outcome of his need
to satisfy his desires. The complexity of life, arising from his relationship
with the environment, made it difficult for him to cope adequately with his
needs. Cooperation with others made the effort to satisfy his needs manageable.
Cooperation with others result in a shar­ing of benefit with all participant in
the community. [3] The inner instinct of self‑love that drove man to create the
first community are evident. These instinct gave rise to man’s exploitation of
his brother.

Because people were not equal in their physical and mental capacities, they
obviously differed in their utilization of the resources of the environment.
Such differentiation of capabilities is part of the divine plan for bringing
about cohesion through the division of labour to the human community. People of
different capabilities function in different tasks within the social order. [4]
However, man’s desire to maximize his interest drove some men to exploit the
situation for their benefit. Human needs were growing due to man’s mental and
economic development. His experience broadened his capacities to utilize the
resources of his environment. His passion to acquire more of the environmental
resources for himself became prevalent. Consequent­ly, some men were willing to
oppress others to satisfy their greed and egos (both outcome of self‑love). It
was then that the human com­munity faced oppression in the form of economic
exploitation.

This conflict between social peace and individual instinct of maximizing
interest was persistent throughout history. This historical conflict, Sadr
argues, is between two classes: those individuals who control the environmental
resources (economic and social) and endeavour to protect their interest, and the
rest of the society which strives to live in peace and cooperation. Marxist
believe the problem originated with a few people controlling economic resources.
The only way to bring about peace to the social order is through the revolution
of the oppressed class to destroy the special interest of the privileged class.
Capitalist, on the other hand, believe such social conflict to be the result of
limited natural resources of the environment, which are not sufficient to
satisfy the needs of all people. [5] Thus, social conflict will always be
prevalent. Only through incremental and gradual reforms can society hope to
manage social conflict from overtaking human progress. On this basis,
capitalists oppose any type of social revolution. However, Islam disagrees with
both the views and considers environ­mental resources to be sufficient to
satisfy all people’s needs.

According to Sadr, the proem rests with the channelling of human nature: how can
the instinct of self‑love be directed in a proper manner? Unless a solution
emerges to control human desires and deflect the potential for exploitation of
others, social order rests on shaky foundations. Therefore, $adr clearly states
that the socioeconomic problem is the result of the misconduct of man. He
specifies two reasons for the socioeconomic problems: (1) the oppressive
character of man, arising from his self‑love; and (2) man’s inefficiency in the
utilization of economic resources.

According to Sadr’s interpretation, the ills stemming from man’s oppressiveness
in the economic realm of life persist in the form of inequitable distribution of
economic resources on the one hand and from inefficient utilization of these
resources, which result in under­development of economic resources and their
waste. A solution must overcome these two basic ills of the economic behaviour
of man. Sadr specifies three components of the Islamic solution: (1) cessation
of the various forms of oppression manifest in the unjust distribution of
economic resources; (2) disciplining of "human nature to achieve control of the
instinct of self‑love; and (3) utilization of economic resources to satisfy the
needs of all humanity.

Notes:

[2]. Al‑Sadr, "Al‑Nizam al‑’Islami muqaranan bil‑nizam al‑ra’smali wa al‑Markisi"
(The Islamic System Compared with the Capitalist and the Marxist Systems) in
Ikhtarnalak, 160.

[3]. Ibid., 161

[4.] Al‑Sadr, Iqtisaduna (Our Economics) (Beirut: Dir al‑Ta’aruf, 1982),
311­313.

[5]. Here Sadr seems to mention the view of Thomas Robert Malthus. He
dis­regards other capitalist economic thinkers who believe that the source of
economic problem is the distribution of economic wealth.

Source – An Islamic Perspective of Political Economy: The Views of (late) Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr