[This article was first intended for a newspaper article. The sentences used might be a lil bit formal, nevertheless we still hope it attracts lot of readers to learn something from it, e.g. the meaning of haq and baatil, plus advice for business owners in regards of being honest with your customers as the source of money is all from al-Razzaq]
Corruption and bribery are inseparable. Bribery is defined as “one of the misuse of authority to give profit or advantage to certain parties by way of access, contract or special treatment by the authorities or corporation in return for money, gifts or events and celebration.”
The bribe is the gift bestowed to influence the recipient’s conduct. It may be money, goods, rights in action, or privilege in exchange for favorable treatment, such as awards of government contracts. This act in the end leads to corruption.
Bribery involves up to millions and billions. Unfortunately, in common situation criminals of bribery avoid legal repercussion of their offense while the poor who took a few Ringgits to provide for their starving children usually convicted and condemned severely.
When corruption occurs, development projects are granted to parties not deserving and not fitting the prerequisite requirements of the project developer. The project cost skyrocket and denies the fund that was supposed to be accorded for the citizen. Also, higher tax have to be imposed to accommodate for the additional cost caused from change in materials, delay in delivery and completion time among others, all due to the bribery as the selected party has no real skills and capabilities. In the end, the poor have to suffer to cover the wrongdoing by the bribers. The money that was supposed to be distributed to help the needy are instead channeled to the bribers’ bank account.
Just by examining the act of bribery itself, one can comprehend the negative value of delving into the act. The money that people received from bribery, the contract they secured through bribery, at the end will give them some source of money. If the money is then used to support their own family, how could blessings be spread in that family?
Most people are really concerned when it comes to Haram and Halal food. But this Halal and Haram labelling are not addressed clearly in money matters.
During last Ramadhan in 2016, there was a khutbah relating this issue given by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, the founder of Bayyinah Institute in United States. The khutbah discussed specifically on the verse 2:188, from Surah Al-Baqarah. This article will dive deep into some structure of this verse in order to understand bribery from unique perspective.
Introduction of the verse:-
The rough translation given by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan is as following:
Al-Baqarah [2: 188] :”Don’t consume your money among each other, using falsehood or without purpose, and don’t use this money to draw in the rulers (don’t corrupt them using your money), so you end up consuming a huge chunk (a separated chunk) from among the people’s money (public funds) sinfully, and you well-known.”
This verse begins with some basic level of corruption, which is first and foremost, “don’t consume each other’s money using falsehood or without purpose.” It progresses to a level of corruption that can even destroy the entire society. After consuming money using falsehood and without purpose, people have the tendency to bribe the authorities to get what they want. When bribery occurs, the bribers end up consuming the public funds in a most disrespectful manner, while being aware of their own misconduct.
We might have corrupted business that can seduce the government. And then by seducing government, we are able to get discounts, subsidiaries, and tax advantages. Those advantages, the savings that we might get is similarly to consuming a huge chunk of public funds, which is the fund that was supposed to be distributed to the public. There are actually people that are being bled dry, because their fund are being taken. By delving into bribery, we might completely cut them off from the money that they were entitled to.
What seem like very basic statement from thousands of years ago in the Quran is still extremely applicable nowadays. And noted that the verse ends with, “and you well known.” Those who are involve in bribery, are very aware of what they are doing.
Sequence of the Verse:-
The sequence of this verse is worth to be pondered upon. Prior to this verse, there are 5 verses from 2:183 to 2:187 that are specifically dedicated to Ramadhan. Then there is this strange verse (2:188) out of nowhere that talks about finance. And then comes the next verse (2:189) that talks about Hajj. Two pillars of Islam, Ramadhan and Hajj are there, and in between them is the verse about money matters.
Why is understanding this sequence important? First of all, Ramadhan is supposedly to build our consciousness of god. If we recognize the presence of god in our life, we will be conscious of our behavior, not just when we are fasting or praying, but also when we are doing our business. The positive attitude will actually extend.
Just like our fasting, the hunger and thirst extends to everything we do throughout the day, the taqwa to Allah should also extend to our entire activities especially in finance. Ramadhan is supposed to transform us in every sense, including the ethical and moral sense, not just the spiritual sense. And then, as we clean up our money, when we no longer consuming or spending corrupt money, now it’s time for us to talk about Hajj. Because we shouldn’t be going to Hajj with corrupt money.
The Root of Bribery:-
The verse begins with “Don’t eat your money among each other, using falsehood or without purpose”
Take a look at the word use, which is ‘eat’. When we speak about money, we relate it to spending, not eating. In Arabic, the word ‘la tunfiqu’ (don’t spend) should be used, instead of ‘la ta’kulu’ (don’t eat).
An imagery is being drawn here, and it picks up from the verses prior to this, which is all about Ramadhan. In Ramadhan, we don’t eat. Speaking of not eating, don’t eat each other money either. Eating is only done when we have an appetite. So the idea of greed being parallel with hunger. Human want more money for themselves, even when they have everything taken care of as the greed doesn’t stop. So god compare it to unassociated, unfulfilled kind of hunger. The stomach is full, but we still want to eat foods. The money is more than enough, but we still want more and more.
Another point worth pondering is, “using falsehood/without purpose” (Taken from “Don’t eat your money among each other, using falsehood or without purpose”). The word used in Arabic is ‘baatil’.
Baatil is the opposite of Arabic word ‘haq’. The word ‘baatil’ can mean two things.
First, it could mean ‘falsehood’. Quran uses the word baatil in the sense of lying and falsehood. Secondly, it could also mean ‘purposelessness’. Let’s look at both implications:-
 Falsehood – First, don’t eat each other money using lie/falsehood/corruption/cheating. Don’t tell someone we will deliver the product when we have no intention of delivering the product. Don’t promise the customer saying that the work can be done in 2 weeks, and it the end it took 6 months – and because of the time, the price has quadrupled. This is ‘baatil’ – Falsehood. Corruption occurs when we lie or cheat people in order to get their money in buying from our service or product, while we don’t deserve that money.
 Purposelessness – Second, don’t eat each other money on things that has no purpose. That is also the source of corruption in great society. Things that has no purpose including going to expensive concerts, watching movies after movies at the cinema, paying for an online game like Facebook – these are actually acts of supporting an entire industry that creates corruption and purposelessness.
When we feed purposelessness for the rest of society, we are actually becoming part of the industry. If the kids for example are spending 8-15 hours on video games, completely immersed and lost in the gaming world would not have the time to think on other things. They are no longer capable thinking of other good things, because all of their intellectual capacity is spent on winning video game. The mind is unable to think clearly anymore.
These two implications mentioned;  Don’t be corrupt, and eat each other money,  Don’t spend money wastefully (on purposelessness kind of activity) – are actually hand in hand.
We will find horrible level of political economic and social corruption taking place in our society when we spend our money on things that has no purposes. What happen is we can’t even think clearly and stand up for things that really matters, because we’re too engrossed in purposeless activities. Falsehood spread when purposelessness spread. These two things are interconnected.
In this one brief verse, god has actually given us a very powerful set of instruction. On one hand, we don’t just bash corrupt business, or government that are up to billion.
We should start with ourselves. We should change the way we do business with each other. We have to change the way we manage money.
Those of you that has a job that provide particular service, be honest at your job. For example, if you are running a car mechanic workshop, you constantly have an opportunity to shortchange your customer. You tell your customer they need a new transmission when what they only need is an oil change.
A contractor for example, you tell them the house foundation is gone, so that they need to build a new one while all they need was a new plan of wood on the side. The problems do not lie only on car mechanics or contractor, but all other business service providers are constantly in a position to consume people’s money using falsehood.
If people are having a clear thoughtful mind, they will never take the money bribed to them as they know the source of abundance is definitely from Al-Razzaq, the one who owns everything on this world. He is the only one who can give it to us, and He is also the one who can take it from us anytime that He wants.
Translation by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali, Ph.D. & Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan http://www.noblequran.com/translation/
Al-Baqarah [2: 188] : And eat up not one another’s property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.), nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully.