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Agrarian Laws In Islam

Agrarian laws in Islam organize the relations of farm workers, sharecroppers, and farmers and denote how to possess the land, how to hiring out the farmer for agricultural production is accomplished, and Islam limits the opinion about land ownership and man's relation to it.

Before we talk about the way in which Islam organizes the relation of the cropper, the farmer, and the farm-worker with the land, it is important for us to understand that Islam dedicates agriculture, urges the Muslim individual to take care of it, and respects the farmer and the sower.

The Prophet of Allah (S) was asked:

"Which properly is the best?"

He answered:

"The field: their owner plants them, reforms them, and accomplishes their rights on the day of their harvest.”1

Shortly before bid death, Allah's Apostle (S) recommended Imam Ali (‘a).

He said:

"O Ali, the farmers should not be oppressed in your presence, the land tax which has been fixed should not be increased, and the Muslim (the wage earner) should not be exploited."2

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) reported that Imam Ali (‘a) wrote to his governors:

“Do not exploit the Muslims (the wage-earners) and whoever asks you to give him other than his share certainly trespasses, then do not give it to him.”

“And he wrote to his governors to treat the farmers kindly.”3

It has been reported that Imam Ja'far bin Muhammad at-Sadiq (‘a) said:

“Verily, Allah, the Great and Almighty, chose for His prophets cultivation and planting lest they should hate a drop of rain front the sky.”4

“The great alchemy (treasure) (Kimya') is agriculture.”5

“The sowers are the treasures of mankind, they plant good (things) which Allah, the Great and Almighty takes out. And on the Judgment Day, they will be the best of all people in position and the closest or them all in place; they will be called the blessed.”6

This group of excellent Islamic texts shows us the Islamic opinion about land, agriculture, cultivation, the Islamic love for agriculture, its care of it, its urging to cultivate the land and exploit its agricultural wealth, because agriculture is the resource of foodstuff, and it is the base of life, so it is the treasury of life and the great alchemy [Kimya'] as Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) expressed.

As Islam has given this importance in life to the land, agriculture, and the sower, it has made suitable laws to achieve increase in production and protect the sower's rights, then; through these laws, welfare and economic justice are accomplished.

Islam has limited the relationship of human effort with the land, its products, economic and human relations concerning distribution, and the laws of economic method, in the following states:

1. The state of cultivation of the uncultivated land.

2. The state of crop sharing.

3. The state of the crop-sharing contract over the lease of a plantation.

4. The work for a wage on the agricultural land.

5. The state of hiring out the land by the farmer.

Let us explain these five states to give an illustration of the system in Islam; this system has liberated the farmer's effort and prevented feudalism from creeping into the Islamic Society, because it has decided that the first principle to deal with, about the land, is that the land should be put in the possession of the sower who cultivates it with effort and sweat upon his brow.7

1. The State of Cultivation of Uncultivated Land

1. The State of Cultivation of Uncultivated Land8

The Holy Qur'an has limited man's relation with the land as follows:

“And the earth, He has set it for (His) creatures...” (Holy Qur’an, 55: 10)

So, the natural land is for all; it is the store of food, and the source of man's life; each person takes his need from it and lets other take their need from it, too, for Allah has created all men to live off the earth and enjoy themselves with the good things of life and the blessings of the earth; Allah, the Exalted, says:

"He it is Who made the earth subservient to you, so go about in the spacious sides thereof, and eat of His sustenance, and to Him is the rising (after death)."(Holy Qur’an, 67:15)

“...and ordained therein its foods, in four days; alike for (all) seekers.” (Holy Qur’an, 41: 10)

According to this Qur'anic concept regarding man's relation with the land, the holy traditions have become legal rules to denote the way, which the natural land is possessed.

The Prophet (S) said:

“Whoever plants a tree or digs a valley from the very beginning - no one precedes him in this work - and cultivates an uncultivated land, then it (the land) belongs to (according to), the judgment of Allah and His Apostle.”9

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said:

“Any people who cultivate a plot of land are worthier of it, and it belongs to them.”10

And he (‘a) said:

“'Any man who comes to an uncultivated ruined (land), then he digs its rivers, and cultivates it certainly should pay the alms for it, and if the land belonged to a man before him, then he (the man) became distant front it and left it, so he destroyed it, then, he came afterwards to request it, certainly the land belongs to Allah and to him who cultivates it.”11

The Prophet (S) said:

“Verily, the earth belongs to Allah, He has made it an endowment for his slaves, so whoever leaves a land for three successive years without cause, it is taken out of his hand and handed over to other than him, but whoever leaves saying that a right belongs to him for three years, no right belongs to him.”12

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said:

“He whose land is taken and does not request it [or three years has no right to request it after the three years.”13

If we study these texts and analyze the ideas and formations therein, we will conclude that laws which organize the way in which the uncultivated lands are cultivated and limit the way in which these lands are possessed:

A. It is permitted for all Muslims to possess and cultivate the natural land where man's efforts have not touched it.

Sometimes this natural land is possessed with the prior permission of the Islamic State, and sometimes without its permission, that is according to the possession of the land and the right to possess and cultivate it, then, each person has the right to cultivate the land and possesses it with his efforts that grant life and cultivation to the land, so no one has the right to exploit his efforts or take this land from him.

B. It is not permitted to leave the land uncultivated for over three years. When the three years term expires, the land is taken from its owner and given to another person to cultivate, develop its products, invest human and natural powers, distribute its utility among all people, and destroy the idea of greed and monopoly.

The Islamic State has the right to intervene to divide the waste and uncultivated lands among people to achieve a just division, so that all people have the right to possess the governmental lands with their own efforts.

Therefore, Islam has forbidden feudal domination and arranged it so the farmer should possess the land, which he cultivates, thereafter; he has the right to possess the land and the fruit of his own efforts.

2. The State of Crop Sharing

The second state which the Islamic law has adopted is the state of crop sharing, which stands on the agreement between two parties - one party offers all requirements of agricultural production, such as land, seed, water, etc., while another party offers his effort for a limited share, or the two parties are partners - one party offers the land and the effort, and another party offers seed, or one party offers the land and seed, and another party offers the effort, then the two parties are partners in the fruit and production.

Islamic jurisprudence provides that crop sharing should be common in everything coming out of the land, and the production is divided between the contracting parties according to the agreement14 and the productive elements each party offers, so they agree on dividing the production equally, or one of them takes the third or the quarter of the production, and another party takes the rest.

3. The State of a Crop Sharing Contract over the Leas of a Plantation

In this state, the farm-worker offers his own effort to organize water and take care of the fruit bearing trees for a certain share of the fruit.

This method, like the previous one, in the Muslim society, is achieved within narrow limits, because the sower, himself, is able to cultivate and possess the land.

4. Work for a Wage on Agricultural Land

In this state, the worker hires his own effort to do the agricultural work for a fixed wage. This kind of work is subject to the same laws that organize the relations of the industrial workers and of those who offer services and utilities in all productive fields. We have already explained this method, so there is no need to repeat it.

In all these states, the feudal lord has no existence or effect as in all various regimes that regard feudalism as a regime able to run society in economic, judicial, political, moral, social, etc., fields.

5. The State of Hiring Out the Land by the Farmer

In this state, the farmer hires out the land from the State or from its owner, so the farmer contracts with the owner of the land to take all the products of the planting and give the owner a certain wage for using his land.

The farmer guarantees the recompenses when he leaves the land without working it or does not cultivate it. He should pay the recompenses to the owner of the land - a State or a person - to develop production and create a secondary resistance against laziness and prevent man from freezing human or natural power.

And Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

  • 1. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 260.
  • 2. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 284.
  • 3. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, 284.
  • 4. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 261.
  • 5. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, 261.
  • 6. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, 261.
  • 7. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 280.
  • 8. There are juristic detail about the possession of one-tenth and the tax lands and of the cultivated and the uncultivated lands. See them at their source; as for our research, it is devoted to explain the general sense of cultivation of the natural land.
  • 9. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 280.
  • 10. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 280.
  • 11. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 279.
  • 12. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 297.
  • 13. Al-Furu’ min al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 297.
  • 14. There are two other conditions - the land should be arable, and the period of time should be fixed.