Islam, Justice & Good Governance
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “One day of justice by a just ruler (or leader) is better than the continual worship of sixty years.” The Prophet also declared that “the man most beloved and closest to God is the just leader, and the man who is most hateful and contemptible in the sight of God is the unjust leader.” Having considered all relevant religious texts, al-Imam al-Ghazali concluded that “there is no act of religious worship greater to God than just governance.”
When Saidina Abu Bakar as-Siddiq was appointed as the First Caliph upon the demise of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), he delivered a powerful speech reflecting several critical principles of governance, accountability and justice. He said: “O people, I have been elected as your leader, although I am not the best among you. If I am in the right, then help me. And if I am in the wrong, then set me right. Truthfulness means fulfilling the trust; while disregard for truth is tantamount to treachery. The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them what is rightfully theirs. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me, until I take from them what is rightfully due to someone else’s.”
According to an article published in October 2008, in the prestigious journal Science, written by Dr Ara Norenzayan, a psychologist from University of British Columbia, Canada, “religious people behave better and act more ethically than atheists, because their belief in God assumes the presence of a supernatural, all-knowing and all-powerful force that monitors their behaviour.”
Looking at the empirical evidence or “hard scientific evidence” that anthropologists, psychologists, economists and other researchers have gathered for 30 years, experiments show religious people behave more kindly and generously (or more “pro-social”) even towards strangers, who are genetically unrelated people, when they have been freshly reminded of God in a subtle and subconscious way. In addition, various psychology experiment of which some were conducted by Dr Norenzayan himself, have shown that belief in God leads to honesty by reducing cheating and selfish behaviour.
Faith and religion are reinforced by mechanisms like policing, social surveillance and courts of justice. Without religion, enforcement power destroys sense of justice and brings about injustice. Without justice, power misuses religion to its own benefits. Without enforcement power, religion and justice are not sufficient to form a good society and governance. Sa‘id an-Nursi remarks, that “principles of wisdom have no effect upon ordinary people unless they are combined with the state’s laws. Similarly, laws of truth have no effect upon ordinary people unless they are combined with enforcement power.”
Good governance cultivates conformity to constitution, rule of law and syari‘ah law. God requires us to “obey those who are in authority from among yourselves [whether duly elected or duly appointed authority]” (the Qur’an, surah an-Nisa’, 4:59). To be successful, there must be compliance with aims and objectives of organisation. Good governance promotes discipline through internal rules and regulations.
Governance contributes to commitment of excellence in the service or product offered to customers and clients—to be caring and hospitable in service to customers; to be efficient in processing and production; to be conscious of moral values in work ethics. One of the powerful tools is to promulgate and publish Clients Charter, which is compliant with Consumer Protection Act and takes responsibility to disclose material facts on goods and services.
Just as how clients and customers are important to an organisation, so is the management of human resources and capital. Governance is also about managing the relationships among staff members. Of relevance is Employees or Workers Charter, compliant with Labour Law as well as Industrial Relations Act. Organization must strive to realise employees’ satisfaction and nurture a sense of belonging. Common-sense management dictates business enterprise to provide good working conditions and pay decent wage to command respect, loyalty and productivity. To have strategies and track record which are consistent with employee centric-thinking is the only way to be successful over the long term.
Governance thinking in the last decade has shifted to acknowledge organisation’s responsibilities to the environment. This requires compliance with laws and regulations related to environmental quality, in order to control pollution of air, water and natural resources.
The Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) says, “Faith has seventy-odd branches, the highest of which is to acknowledge that there is no god but Allah, and the lowest of which is to remove something harmful from a way.” (narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)
Governance also relates to community and social responsibility. Organisations must uphold public well-being, and observe transparency to avoid misinformation. Companies should enact competition policies, and comply with competition laws. Otherwise, public services and consumer welfare will have no protection against the issues of cartels, monopoly and anti-competitive prices.