The horse meat scandal: An age old tradition of deceit in trade
The Islamic economic legislation makes God consciousness integral to seeking economic gains.
The recent scandal involving the contamination of burgers and other meat products with horse DNA has even shocked a society desensitised to scandal and irresponsible behaviour.
The sad reality of modern living is that busy lifestyles, career chasing and break up of the family unit have all meant that ready meals form the staple diet of many people in the UK – such that the ready meal market in the UK is worth £1.85bn per annum. With such a big market to aim the manufactures of ready meals and other ready to eat products are all too keen to maximize their profits with little concern for the health and wellbeing of consumers.
Minimising costs in order to maximise profits means supply chains cross international borders in order to source the cheapest materials possible to maintain the pretence of a ‘meat burger’.
There will no doubt be calls for stricter checks, better legislation and more accountability of the big corporations that monopolize the market. A legislative approach to these kinds of scandals is all too common in a Capitalist society where the only method available to correct the actions of individuals or corporations is to hand out custodial or economic punishment, yet the values of benefit and sustaining profts at any cost are never questioned.
It has been demonstrated repeatedly that no amount of legislation in the UK or across the globe will prevent people from wanting to make a quick buck, endangering public safety in the process. Only a sense of moral obligation, personal responsibility and a fear of accountability even when not caught in the act will deter people from engaging in such unscrupulous money making. This may seem alien to Western people, but these are the guiding principles of the Islamic economic system.
Even during the time of the prophet (saw) cheating in the markets and the exploitation of the people was a known phenomena. However unlike Capitalism which tries to contain such behaviour through fines and the like, Islam came with ideas which engaged the intellect and gave people a sense of moral obligation to trade fairly.
In the early part of the revelation of the Quran Allah (swt) revealed to the prophet Mohammad (saw) the following:
“Woe to those who give less [than due] , Who, when they take a measure from people, take in full. But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss. Do they not think that they will be resurrected” [Al-Muţaffifīn, 1-4]
Ibn Kathir mentions in relation to Surah Al-Mutaffifin: An-Nasai and Ibn Majah both recorded from Ibn Abbas that he said, “When the Prophet (saw) came to Al- Madinah, the people of Al_Madinah were the most terrible people in giving measurement (i.e. they used to cheat). Thus Allah revealed, “Woe to Al-Mutafiffin”. After this they began to give good measure”.
Furthermore, the Prophet (saw) said: “Any (human) flesh that grows from illegal (suht) property will not entre paradise, then the Hellfire deserves it more”, narrated by Ahmed from Jabir Ibn Abdullah.
This is clear proof of the kind of morality, trust and integrity that is embedded in the Islamic economic legislation. This legislation makes the conscious of man towards his Creator integral to seeking economic gains and thereby acts as the first and primary defence against corruption. In contrast, in Capitalism morality, honesty and truthfulness are seen as signs of weakness in a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world of big business. Legislation in Capitalism exists with the sole purpose of catching those who have not been thorough enough to cover up their crimes.
With the world suffering due to the flawed fiscal logic of Capitalism and its debt ridden economies, the latest scandal is just another window into Capitalism’s flawed value system. Islam’s view on economics offers the world a more enlightened alternative to the status quo.