15 February 2013

Nigeria: What Islam Says About Agriculture

It is quiet obvious that the agricultural sector is one of the backbones of any local or national economy. It provides jobs and livelihood for the people, and has a great influence in facilitating the means of earning foreign exchange. It helps in enhancing the rapid growth of any nation that has adopted good agricultural measures for making general infrastructure and providing for the well-being of the populace. Thus, it will right to claim that the growth of the national and international economy hinges on the prosperity in this sector.

With this and much more in mind, Islam offers the agricultural sector a special consideration and impatiently enjoins Muslims to benefit as much as they can from the bounties of Almighty Allah, which He has widely bestowed on the earth. This has clearly appeared in numerous Qur'anic verses from which are the following: "It is He who has spread out the earth for his creatures. Therein is fruit, and date palms, with spatters, and husked corn, and scented herbs. Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?" (Q 55:10-13). "Then let man look at his food, how we pair forth water in abundance, then we split the earth into fragments and produce therein corn and grapes and nutritious plants" (Q 80: 24-28).

There are several prophetic hadiths in which the Prophet (PBUH) commends agricultural production and ordered Muslims to engage in it. He said: "When a Muslim plants a tree or cultivates a crop, no bird or human being eats from it without it being accounted as a reward of charity for him" ) Sahih Muslim). The Prophet (PBUH) also stressed on some special aspects like irrigation and the redemption of land for agricultural purposes. He said: "Whoever brings dead land to life, for him is reward in it, and whatever any creature seeking food eats of it, shall be considered as charity from him" ) Musnad Ahmad).

Anas bn Malik reported the Prophet (PBUH) saying: "If the last hour comes, and it happened that one of you possessed a tree, he should plant it before elapsing of the hour" (Musnad Ahmad).

During the regime of four rightly guided caliphs, and precisely in the reign of Umar bn Khattab, a Prophet's companion called Khuzaimah bn Sabit refused to plant his patch of land on account of old age. Umar warned him and insisted that he should cultivate the land. Thereupon the man complied. (Al Suyuti, al Jami' al Kabir)

Conspicuously enough, the meaning of agriculture has nowadays become broader than it had been in the literature of the medieval ages. By the effect of new classifications introduced in the sciences, the content of agriculture has been moved from production and cultivation of crops only, to become an art involving the production of plants and animals for man's consumption, which might be in the form of food, building, ornament and clothing, or in raw materials for use in industries. This evidently consists of the following: Crop farming, which includes food crop, cash crops, Livestock, Fishing, Hunting, and Forestry.

The Islamic juristic books have dealt extensively with each one of the stated types. As for the first two, they have been vividly expounded in the section of food and drink in jurisprudence books, while the last three are fully discussed in the sections dealing with hunting (Sayd).

It is clear that a Muslim must always be guided by the Islamic principle of Halal and Haram in his daily life. This, of course, is the starting point of any business he or she undertakes as a means of livelihood. The Prophet (PBUH) had appreciated the habit of hard work for getting livelihood. He, according to Miqdam's report, said: "No one has earned a better living than the one who has earned it with his own hands" (Bukhari). Agriculture, of course, would be the first to be borne in mind, among the whole means of earning, acquisition and working with the hands. Hence, the marketing of unlawful products like pigs, marijuana, tobacco and the likes, is categorically Haram.

It is worth emphasizing here that over any acquired wealth, be it agricultural commodities or other kinds of wealth, the owner has three different basic rights, which together expose his full right of ownership, first, the right of private ownership of the capital. It peculiarly belongs to him alone: no one shares it with him. Second, the right to exploit and utilize the wealth in line with the Islamic principles of utilization and the last is the right of disposal, where the wealth can be offered as a gift, or given as charity or even sold to somebody else.

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