For thirteen centuries, the Muslim Ummah enjoyed unmatched prosperity in this life through the implementation of the rules of Islam. This prosperity was not limited to the advancement in science and medicine, as we often hear, but it spanned all aspects of life including social well being, healthcare and education. Even during the weaker periods of the Islamic State, the well being of its citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, was always one of the primary functions of the State.
This is not surprising since Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ
“We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures”
And He سبحانه وتعالى says:
فَمَنِ اتَّبَعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا يَضِلُّ وَلَا يَشْقَىٰ
وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْ ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنْكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ
“whosoever follows My Guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery. But whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a life narrowed down, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment”
[Ta Ha, 20:123-124]
In this article, we will provide some examples of how people lived under the rule of Islam throughout Islamic history. This will inshaAllah, help us appreciate and better understand the reality of life under the rule of Islam.
In Islam the health of an individual is highly valued, and is considered one of the basic needs of man, along with food and security. RasoulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“Whoever becomes free of illness, secure and safe among his people, and has food for his day, then it is like if he owns the dunia” [Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]
Consequently, in Islam, providing free and competent healthcare has been made a responsibility on the Islamic State towards all its citizens – rich, poor, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. RasoulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“The imam (khalifah) is the caregiver and he is responsible for his people” [Al-Bukhari]
Providing free healthcare to people was exemplified by RasoulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم in Madina. Ibn Ishaaq reported in his sirah book that a tent was built in the masjid and a woman named Rofaydah from the tribe of Aslam used to provide diagnosis and medication to people free of charge for both the rich and poor. When Saad Ibn Muadh (ra) was hit by an arrow during the Battle of the Trench, RasouAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم told the companions to take him to the tent of Rofaydah. Rofaydah was paid by the State through shares from the booties of war as Alwaqidi mentions in his book Almaghazi.
Providing healthcare services to the citizens of the State continued throughout the Islamic history and the kuffar themselves bear witness to this. For example, Mr. Gomar, one of Napoleon’s leaders during France’s campaign (1798-1801) to occupy Egypt, described the healthcare services and 600 year-old health facilities that he saw, “all sick people used to go the Bimaristan (i.e. hospital) poor and rich, without distinction. Doctors were hired from everywhere in the east, and they were well paid. There was a pharmacy stocked with medicine and instrumentations. Two nursing personnel were serving every patient. Those with psychological disorders were isolated in a separate section and were taken care of. They were entertained by storytelling among other things. Those who recovered (from either physical or psychological illness) would spend some time in the rehabilitation section. When discharged, each patient would be given five pieces of gold so the patient would not need to work as soon as he/she left”. The French Orientalist, Prisse D’Avennes, describing the same hospital, said, “the patients’ halls where either cooled down by using huge fans spanning from one side of the hall to the opposite side, or warmed up by burning perfumes. The floors of these halls were covered by branches of the (Hinna) or pomegranate trees or other aromatic trees”.
The well being of citizens is exemplified by the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayra in Sahih Muslim stating that RasuolAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“whoever leaves money, then it is for the inheritors, and whoever leaves weak offspring then it is to us” [Muslim]
That is, the State is responsible for providing the basic necessities like food, shelter, and clothing to those who cannot afford it for any reason. The well being of the people under the rule of Islam is a result of implementing the ahkam of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. The understanding of the responsibility that the khaleefah and State have towards people is what made Abu Bakr (ra), as the khaleefah, serve an old blind women living in the outskirts of Madina. Omar Ibn Alkhattab (ra) wanted to serve her too, but he found that Abu Bakr (ra) had already cooked food, cleaned the house and washed her clothes for her. It is the same understanding and feeling of responsibility that made Omar (ra), when he was the Khaleefah, go back to the Bait-ul-Mal (treasury) and carry bags of wheat and food on his own back all the way to a woman and her kids living outside the Madina and cook food for them. He (ra) refused his servant’s offer to carry the bags for him by saying, “will you carry my sins and responsibilities for me on the day of judgment?”
The care for people extended to children too. During the Khilafah of Omar, there was a policy to pay a stipend whenever a child finished breastfeeding. However, one day Omar (ra) heard a baby crying so he asked the child’s mother to “Fear Allah سبحانه وتعالى in your baby and take care of him”. She explained that she stopped breastfeeding early in order to receive the stipend from the Islamic State. The very next day, after Fajr, Omar revised the policy to pay the stipend at birth. Omar (ra) feared Allah’s سبحانه وتعالى accounting and said while crying “even the babies O Omar!” – meaning he would be accounted for harming the children.
Animals are also safeguarded by the Khalifah. Ibn Rushd Alqurtobi reported on the authority of Malik that Omar (ra) passed by a donkey burdened by blocks of stones. Realizing the animal was in distress he removed two blocks from its back. The donkey’s owner, an old woman, came to Omar and said “O Omar, what do you have to do with my donkey? Do you have an authority to do what you did?” Omar said “what do you think makes me fill this post (khaleefah)?” Omar (ra) meant that by assuming the responsibility of Khaleefah Omar (ra) was responsible for all the ahkam of Islam, which includes acting on the hadeeth of RasoulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم that was narrated by Abu Dawood, on the authority of Abu Hurayra (ra): “Beware not to take the backs of your animals as (minbars), for it that Allah سبحانه وتعالى has made them to carry you to a place that would be hard for you to reach, and made the earth so you fulfil your needs on its surface.” That is, we must be merciful to animals and not overburden them.
This pattern of providing for the people and caring for their well being continued throughout the khilafah until its destruction in 1924. Ibn Aljawzi reported in his book about the lifetime of Omar Ibn Abdulaziz that Omar asked his governors throughout the State for the counts of all blind people, those with chronic diseases, and the disabled. He then assigned a guide for every blind person and two servants for every chronically ill or disabled person throughout the whole Islamic State that spanned from China in the east to Morocco in the west, and Russia in the north to the Indian ocean in the south. Ibn Aljawzi also reported that Omar asked his governors to bring any poor person in need. Once they did, he covered all their needs from Bait-ul-Mal. He then asked for those who had debt and could not pay back. He paid their debt, in full, from Bait-ul-Mal. Then he asked for those who wanted to marry but could not afford to, and he paid for their marriage. The well being and prosperity of the people under the Islamic rule was such that during the khilafah of Omar Ibn Abdulaziz, the State could not find poor people to pay the zakat money to.
Ibn Jarir reported during the time of khaleefah Alwaleed Ibn Abdulmalik that the State built and took care of the masjids, built roads, fulfilled the needs of people, paid the disabled and ill people, and ordered them not to beg people but rather ask the State if they did not have what sufficed them. He was the first khalifeeah to build and institutionalize Bimaristans (hospitals). He assigned a servant for every disabled person, a guide for every blind person, salary for the imams (of masjids), and built “guest houses” for strangers and travelers everywhere in the State.
During the Ummyads and Abbasid khilafah, the travellers’ routes from Iraq and bilad-uSham (today’s Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine) to Hijaz (region of Makkah) were setup with “guest houses” along the routes which were equipped with water, food and shelter supplies everyday to ease the travel for people. The remnants of these facilities can be seen today in bilad-uSham. The records of the charity trusts (Waqf) for some hospitals in bilad-uSham testify to this. For example, the records for the charity trusts of Alnnoori hospital in Allipo (Syria) mentions that each mentally-ill person was assigned two servants who are responsible, everyday, for giving him/her a shower, dressing in clean cloths, assisting in prayer (if he/she can) and listening to Quran, and walking him/her outside in the open air to relax.
The Uthmani Khilafah carried out this obligation too. This is evident in servicing the people by building the famous Istanbul-Madina “Hejaz” railway during the time of Sultan Abdulhameed II to facilitate travel for the pilgrims to Makkah as well as to improve the economic and political integration of the distant Arabian regions. While the Muslims rushed to donate and volunteer to building the railway, the Uthmani khilafah offered the transportation service to people free of charge.
This is only a snapshot of how the life of people under the rule of Islam used to be in the days of khilafah. May Allah سبحانه وتعالى help us all to work for it and make us witness and enjoy its existence again. Ameen.