On ill-gotten wealth and asset declaration

Islam, and for that matter all religions, reminds its followers that true belief and good conduct are essential not only to the welfare of the nation but also the people’s temporal affairs. This is so that the people of a nation can flourish in honour and the nation can attain the highest respect.

Fighting bribery and corruption is an integral part of the teachings of the Quran. Ill-gotten wealth is not God-given. It’s acquired by those who are dishonest and gluttonous. Islam wants people to refrain from lust and ill-gotten wealth.

Unfortunately, a PAS lawmaker who represents a political party that is supposed to champion Islamic principles has failed to understand this very basic tenet. PAS’ version of Islam seems more for the party’s political expediency.

As reported, the lawmaker in the ongoing parliamentary session claimed that the law requiring all MPs to declare their wealth is “defective and not Islamic”. Asset declaration according to him is against Islamic teaching. This has baffled not only many religious scholars but also the ordinary people out there, and must be the weirdest statement coming from a lawmaker who claims to represent Islam.

Simply put, the whole idea of making MPs declare their wealth is to curb corruption. Corruption tarnishes the image of the country and causes misery to the people. The courts today are filled with politicians and personalities charged with corruption. Many of them were in power and some were shielded by devious political masters at one time.

Wealth acquired through corruption has been proven not to be a source of prosperity. Instead, it could land one in a despicable quandary. These are the people who have abandoned their attitude of gratefulness and adherence to religion and who are therefore stripped of their honour. It has brought humiliation to them and the country. The country cannot afford to see this degradation of human dignity continue unabated.

Not fair to use Islam for political expediency

Haram or forbidden in Islam also applies to ill-gotten wealth obtained through sinful acts. Ill-gotten wealth is associated with something that is prohibited such as wealth earned through cheating, stealing, corruption or any other means that are detrimental to the nation and to fellow human beings.

The Quran is clear on this matter: “They said, ‘By Allah, well ye know that we came not to make mischief in the land, and we are no thieves!'” (12:73)

There are at least 50 verses in the Quran related to the many forms of corruption on earth. Islam as a whole strictly declares that “any believer who benefits from or lives off wealth obtained through haram is a sinner”.

It is therefore unfair to use Islam for political expediency when it comes to the nation’s interest in combating corruption. Wealth through corruption cannot be characterised as God-given wealth. It’s without a doubt ill-gotten wealth which is considered sinful in Islam as well as all other religions.

The PAS leader must be staging a political stunt by using Islam as a tool. He was quoted as saying, “If God gives us wealth, you do not reveal it to the public, because it will cause envy.” Strange that he stopped short of saying that the extra-Quranic hadith he quoted meant that the wealth should be acquired through licit means and not through corruption.

The Quran is explicit when it comes to ill-gotten wealth but constructive when wealth is earned through the right path. This is when one earnestly desires and endeavours for wealth through legal means.

The PAS leader who quoted the hadith without mentioning its exact intention must have confused Muslims. This usually happens when religion orients one towards political expediency.

The Quran says: “And whosoever keepeth his duty to the Lord, He will appoint a way for him. And will provide for him whence he hath no expectation.” (65:2-3).

This does not imply that wealth amassed through corrupt practices is God’s way of providing with worldly delights.

Why the fear of declaring their wealth?

Corruption has become a menace in our society. Power corrupts and we have seen this happening in all countries. Malaysia is not spared. The whole idea of making lawmakers and their families declare their assets is indispensable to curbing corruption.

A nation riddled with corruption is not acceptable. MPs have approved the move to declare their assets in a bid to clean up politics. This is religious in spirit – at least some kind of promise of reform is taking place in our society. As such, all MPs must declare their assets or face censure by Parliament’s disciplinary panel. They can be referred to the Rights and Privileges Committee, which is Parliament’s disciplinary panel.

God’s wealth is bounteous for those who choose the path of truth in life. The Quran says: “If you are grateful, I will give you more”. (14.7) The Quran also says: “And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].” (2:188)

Why then the fear of declaring their wealth if the wealth has been gained through permissible means? For MPs, top government servants and other public figures to declare their wealth and that of their spouses, adult children and trustees to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is not against Islam and neither is it defective. The proactive measures taken by the present government must be seen positively and from the perspective of the public who are the taxpayers.

Moaz Nair is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.