Integrity and Good Governance
Last week we heard that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has arrested thirty four people including a special officer and a private secretary to two politicians for bribery involving sand mining and smuggling activities. It is very unfortunate that corruption cases seem do not diminish in spite of various efforts taken by the government to improve integrity. On the contrary, the incidence of corruption has escalated. It is more shameful when most, if not all of those involved above are Muslims.
According to National Integrity Plan, the spread of corruption, incompetence, malpractices, abuse of power, fraud and other unethical behaviour as well as the lack of work motivation, have been attributed to the decline in integrity among individuals, organizations and society at large. Corruption undermines good governance, fundamentally destroys the integrity of the organization. The big question is why this happens? Why our people have no integrity?
Integrity of an individual is the bottom line for the integrity of an organization. It is not a question of whether you are offered a bribe or you could ask for it easily, but rather one must have a strong motivation and conviction that corruption is evil and sinful. It does not matter whether or not there is an ‘opportunity’ for one to take a bribe for if integrity has been inculcated in him, then he would refuse it no matter what. Integrity must be part of one’s principles of life and to inculcate this one must begin it from young age. It should be included in our education syllabus on these noble values that our children should adopt.
There is a famous saying that ‘everyone has his own price’. This saying shows how one’s integrity and principles could be compromised at a given price.
Islam is a religion that condemns corruption but sad to say corruption cases are alarming in Muslim countries. It reflects how the Muslims today do not really hold fast to the teachings of Islam. Islam has become a ceremonial religion and traditional cultures rather than principles and values that serve as a guidance for the Muslims to lead their lives in this temporal world. Whereas, the early generations of Islam, before they started doing anything, they would first contemplate on what Islam says about it. Is it permissible or not? If it was fine, only then they would proceed. Otherwise they would abandon it no matter how much gain and wealth that they got from doing the prohibited things. They have a very strong conviction that God is watching them at all times and because of that their integrity is at its peak.
There was a famous anecdote happening during the time of the second caliph Umar al-Khattab. He was told that milkmen tend to mix pure milk with water and sell not 100% pure milk anymore. The people were not happy with that and complained to him. So Umar issued a ‘government circular’ saying that whoever mixed pure milk with water then he or she would be punished.
One night as always, Umar disguised himself and made his night walking to listen to his people complaints. When he passed by a small house, he listened to a talk between a mother and her daughter. The daughter told her mother do not mix water with milk because the Caliph already warned us. But the mother said, it would be fine because Umar was not there to see them doing it. The pious daughter replied, though Umar was not there yet Umar’s god was there watching us all the time. The daughter has reflected the highest degree of faith or Ihsan in Islam and maintains her integrity in spite of the fact that no one else was watching them.
This integrity of an individual is not possible to suddenly emerge out of nowhere. It must be inculcated and it takes time to develop. It must be ingrained in the heart of every single person of us so that when situation that challenges our principles and values that would destroy our integrity, we are ready to face it easily without any second thought. No amount of money and wealth could buy our principles to commit corruption, for our fear of the hellfire is so immense and the saying of the Prophet “a briber and one who takes a bribe both are in hellfire” is ringing into our ears.
Though we are living in a world full with corruption where everyday people committing corruption, we must remember that each and every individual will be asked by God in the Day of Judgement based on his personal actions, not his organization. We must be resilient. One should not imagine that he could easily get away and answer to God that he took bribes during his lifetime just because everyone in his office or organization did the same thing.
We also know that it is not possible to completely combat corruption by means of establishing procedures, laws or acts because dishonest and corrupt officials always manage to find loopholes where laws could be easily circumvented. It goes back to individual’s integrity and his principles of life.
For a person to nurture his integrity, it must be made through education and religious teachings. Good exemplary leadership of his country, community, families also serve as a motivation for one to follow their noble footsteps. This was exemplified by the Prophet himself. He never allowed his grandchildren to take even one grain of dates belonging to Baitul Mal. He himself practised what he has been preaching to his people when he said “whichever flesh that grew due to corruption, then hellfire is more deserving for it”.
For a Muslim, he must remember that no amount of bribes is worth taking in exchange of hellfire that awaits those who committed the grievous sin. If he thinks that it would be fine to take it now, and later he would repent, then he is again wrong. Repentance for sins between human beings is not sufficient by seeking God forgiveness alone. He must seek forgiveness from the people he took the bribes from, return the money he had taken and the worst is he must seek forgiveness to the whole community and the people that he had victimized along the process, which is quite impossible to do. Integrity should become a culture in our society so that anyone who has no integrity would feel so low and has no value. People with integrity can be counted on to do the right thing at all times.
In connection to that, IKIM will be organizing one-day workshop on good governance on the February 2. The workshop will be conducted by Dr Stephen B. Young who is the Global Executive Director of the Caux Round Table, Minnesota USA and Prof. Doran N.Hunter, a research fellow of the Caux Round Table.