Islamic Finance

Society and its priorities change with the seconds of the change in time. Whereas morality and integrity were of utmost significance at a time in an obscure past, the priority of society, today, is amassing heaps of wealth. One may question, why not? If, having more zeros after a figure in your bank statement, surely, means having a greater influence and a vaster dominion over the world, then why are you playing the guilty conscience card on us? Well, but, I say, wasn’t it us, in the first place, to form a direct proportion between wealth and influence in the world? You, seriously, cannot tell me that this is how it has been since time immemorial! About time we embarked on some insightful journey, wouldn’t you say?

If money was really directly proportional to influence, then the exemplary case of the second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab r. a., for instance, would be a scientific anomaly! It was in 637 AD that after a prolonged siege of Jerusalem, the Muslims finally took the city. While Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, had fled, Sophronius, the Greek Orthodox patriarch, surrendered the city on the condition that no one was to be harmed. The terms were observed and the patriarch gave the key to the city to Umar ibn al-Khattab r.a. Umar r. a. entered Jerusalem, to sign the peace treaty, with humbleness, walking in by foot alongside his servant who was comfortably being conveyed by a camel. Umar r. a. and the servant had been travelling by foot and on the camel in turns (Muir: 135).

When Sophronius met the Ameer-ul-Mo’mineen, Umar r.a., one of the most influential men in the history of Islam and the rest of the world, he was dressed in his travel-stained battle tunic, while Sophronius was attired in sumptuous robes. Sophronius was very surprised to find the Commander of the Muslim world dressed in anything but royal clothes and even questioned Umar r.a. about the simplicity of his apparel, to which he replied that Allah SWT doesn’t “demand extravagance”. The Patriarch then explained that he did not wear all the regalia to adorn himself but to ‘check the confusion and anarchy in the world’ and he was “God’s office”. In other words, for the sake of appearances, he had to portray in his dressing that he was a representative of God. It is, indeed, the concept of appearances that has confused us as to what influence is in actuality. That confusion has, consequently, led to forgetting the reason behind the creation of lofty appearances earlier in time, even if it was a result of flawed thinking.