After a month of focused worship and prayers, day and night, I had the chance to reflect on many matters that are currently happening in the world and in our societies. One of the greatest factors that I identified as a blessing of Allah on us is stability in all its forms. The stability we have in politics, in business, and mainly in our lives. The lack of chaos, for the most part, is a catalyst to advancement of society and business through giving each of their aspects the space to advance without any inhibition or impedance.
That said, there are many different factors contributing towards stability, which include the generous and wise leadership, sufficient growth opportunities, appropriate laws and regulation, and enforcement of these regulations. However, I would like to specifically focus on laws and regulation in the realm of business as well as society. The reason for my emphasis on laws and regulations is that they pave the path for stability through providing justice to all parties and ensuring that everybody’s best interest is looked after. This, in my opinion after the Grace of Allah, led to the widespread acceptance of Islam during the Era of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him). As a result, Islamic empires thrived when this was successful and deteriorated when this was tampered with.
In order to be effective, I believe that regulation needs three main supporting elements: a just enforcement system, alignment of incentives of all stakeholders, and most importantly, preservation of context.
First, it is no surprise that a just enforcement system is the first prerequisite to a successful regulatory system. Rules and guidelines without an enforcing body are usually not effective unless we assume that societies are self-policing. For example, having a law that prevents theft together with an enforcement system that imprisons thieves would be more effective than just having a law that prevents theft. In addition, I believe justice must be preserved in the entire process to result in stability in the society. Many examples of fair policing are evident throughout Islamic history and specifically in the era of the second Caliph of Islam, Omar ibn Al Khattab, when policing became an official profession.
Second, there needs to be alignment of interests of all stakeholders for rules and regulations to contribute towards stability. A rule that requires adapting or compliance (usually at a financial or physical cost) will seldom be adhered to if it does not align all stakeholders’ interests. The transparent alignment of interests through active involvement of all stakeholders in policy making allows stakeholders to see the value in the additional effort (or cost) and as a result leads to compliance.
“…and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when thou hast Taken a decision put thy trust in Allah. For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)“ -The Holy Quran (3:159)
Third and most important, effective regulation requires preservation of context. What do I mean by this? Rules, put simply, are a discrete way to regulate an infinite or continuous reality. They are usually constructed in a generic manner for a specific purpose or objective. There are an infinite number of cases that can be prone to any specific rule. Due to this very nature of rules, it is natural that there will always be exceptions. These exceptions should be welcomed so long as the context of the regulation is preserved.
For example, murder in light of self-defense has a very different interpretation than murder for the sake of theft.
That said, I have realized time and time again that in today’s world, we tend to focus more on the rule than on the context of the situation. This phenomenon, if persistent, can disturb stability and can counteract it to make rules the most dangerous part of society by nullifying the two preceding conditions of effective regulation.
In summary, one of the greatest bounties of Allah upon us today is stability. In my opinion, one of the major factors that protects stability in our lives is the existence of rules and regulations. Effective rules and regulations, I believe, can be achieved through three main elements: a just enforcement system, alignment of interests of all stakeholders, and preservation of context.
The next time we are in a situation confronted with policy making, whether it be at a department level, a company level, or a state level, let’s keep these factors in mind for better, effective, and stable outcomes.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.