Report: The Islamic Approach to Fighting Corruption

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June 21, 2017 at the CSID headquarters, Montplaisir

As part of its contribution to combatting corruption, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy organized a seminar on “The Islamic Approach to the Fight Against Corruption” on Wednesday June 21, 2017 at the Center’s headquarters in Montplaisir, Tunis. Speakers at the seminar were Mr. Benaissa Demni, Professor of Philosophy, Mr. Mounir Rouiss, Director of the Higher Institute of Usul al-Din (theology) and Mr. Jamaleddine Draouil, Professor of Modern Civilization.

After welcoming the guests, Mr. Radwan Masmoudi stressed the need for society to focus on establishing a strong culture of tackling corruption, given that combatting corruption is a religious duty for every Muslim

In the first intervention, Mr. Benaissa Demni presented the Prophet Mohammed’s approach to combating corruption. He pointed out that Qur’anic discourse was directed at the Prophet in the context of his social obligations and his management responsibilities at the historical and social levels. The prophetic approach to combatting this scourge is based on four components. First, at the leadership level, it is preferable for those with senior positions of responsibility within the state to avoid any possible suspicion of corruption, especially financial corruption. Second, equality before the law for all crimes, especially those related to misuse of public money. Third, strengthening transparency and denying impunity to those who abuse their position or are accused of corruption. Fourth, the need to establish an educational approach that may become part of public culture in which integrity is based on coherence between belief and conscience so that religious considerations transcend professional considerations. At the end of his paper, Mr. Demni addressed the crime of al-ghulul (breach of trust) mentioned in the Qur’anic text, which means to deny the rights of others and misuse public funds for one’s private benefit

The second speaker, Mr. Mounir Rouiss, referred to a number of books that can be used to understand the phenomenon of corruption, namely works on jurisprudence, dictionaries of Qur’anic terminology, history books, literature and books on jurisprudence and quotations. He also set out a number of different terms related to forms of corruption such as bribery, injustice, disorder, hijacking, fraud, etc. Using the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah (practices of the Prophet Mohammed), Mr. Rouiss pointed out that manifestations of corruption have varied from corruption of systems and corruption of the state to corruption of individuals. Its meanings also differed, including financial corruption, theological corruption, social corruption and environmental corruption

To combat the phenomenon of corruption, Mr. Rouiss pointed to the following factors – the role of pure doctrine in reforming human behavior, the need to develop a religious framework that helps human beings to understand their rights and duties, the adoption of the mechanism of promoting righteous conduct and discouraging vice to reform societies and, finally, establishment of a mechanism for accountability

The last speaker, Mr. Jamaleddine Drawil, stressed that the heart of the Islamic message is aimed at promoting the public interest and preventing evil. He considered that the principle of monitoring and accountability is one of the key principles of the Islamic faith, as well as being a fundamental principle within a democratic framework. Mr. Drawil pointed out that the body of literature known as al-siyasa al-shar’iyya (political jurisprudence), al-aadaab al-sultaniyya (ethics of governance), and nash al-muluk (advice to rulers), which includes political principles, encourages blind obedience to rulers, which is not based on holding them to account. Islamic political jurists inflated the powers of the Sultan in an effort to ingratiate themselves with those in power, which is completely contrary to the conduct of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, who was held to account despite his special political status.

In the context of his paper, Mr. Drawil stressed that from the Islamic perspective, political authority is a purely civil authority. The best proof of this is the Islam’s introduction of the principle of shura (consultation), which the Holy Quran established as one of the pillars of governance (verse 38 of Surat al-Shura). Blind obedience without monitoring and accountability is “a form of immorality”, as the speaker put it. In conclusion, Mr. Drawil considered that the jurisprudence of monitoring and accountability has roots in Islamic jurisprudence but is absent from the books of Islamic politics, which is unreasonable. Thus, Muslims have to build a model of politics that overrides what is written in the books of political jurisprudence.

During the discussion, most of the attendees mentioned the need to restore religious values in order to put an end to all manifestations of corruption. Mr. Kamel Hajjem stressed that corruption begins when there is an imbalance in the tripartite relationship between God, humanity and the earth, whereas religion came to reform and to combat corruption. Mr. Rouissi probed the issue of which Islamic approaches and mechanisms must be adopted in dealing with the phenomenon of corruption.

In response to the audience’s questions, Mr. Jamaleddine Drawil encouraged everyone to read the writing of Mohammed Tahir bin Achour, who considered the freedom of societies as one of the fundamental objectives of Islamic law. Mr. Rouiss again highlighted the role of religious doctrine in the transformation of peoples and nations. Mr. Demni stressed the need to accelerate the development of a realistic and proactive national strategy, in which everyone can contribute as part of a vision of the future based on intellectual renewal, while moving away from ready-made solutions. To conclude, Mr. Radwan Masmoudi highlighted the dangers of underestimating imams who play an important role in spreading enduring Islamic values.