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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Individual Obligations, Rights and Self-Interests

In Islam man is charged with certain obligations toward his Creator, nature, himself and other human beings, all of which are outlined by the shari’ah. When these obligations are fulfilled, certain rights and freedoms, which are also delineated by the shari’ah, are gained. Limitations which are imposed by the shari'ah on the rights and freedom of the individual are in the direction of removing certain negative possibilities from the human life. The obligations, rights and limitations defined by the shari'ah must be observed if the individual and the system are to have an Islamic identity.
Within the framework of the shari’ah, and as a result of the Islamic concept of justice, the individual has the right to pursue his economic interests. Pursuing one's economic interests, within the framework of the shari’ah , is first an obligation and a duty, then a right which no one can abrogate. So long as the individual has the ability, the right of pursuing his economic interests is, concomitantly, extended to him. What is, however, significant is the fact that i f power and ability to pursue one's economic interests is lacking, the responsibility is no longer incumbent upon the person, while his rights are still preserved. II The right to economic benefits is never negated as a result of the lack of the ability of the individual to undertake his duty of pursuing his economic interests. The potential right remains even if a person is unable to actualize it. Conversely, if the person is able but does not perform his obligations, then his rights are abrogated.
According Khan and Mirakhor, In Islam, contrary to popular opinion, self-interest is not negated. Islam, in fact, considers it as a primary factor in its incentive/motivation system; a necessity in any organized society if the individual is to find it utility maximizing to follow behavioural rules prescribed by the system. Provided that self-interest is defined to cover spiritual and temporal, or temporary and eternal, all rules in the shari'ah carry with them their own justification in terms of individual self-interest. It is for his own benefit, material and spiritual, in this world and for his ultimate salvation in the next that the individual is invited to follow the rules of the shari’ah. This is made amply clear by the Qur'an in which all injunctions are generally coupled by the assertion that compliance with them with by the individual is for his own benefit.13 Often the incentive and the rewards, both here and in the hereafter, for compliance and th e retributions for non-compliance are enumerated. It is in pursuit of self-interest that individual obligations and rights as well as the limits to these rights are specified by the shari’ah.

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