Shaykh Yusuf da Costa: Cooking the books

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A few days ago [2011] I heard something in our offices here, which disturbed me. On many previous occasions, I have heard about people talking about how they “diddled” SARS (South African Revenue Services), and I have also heard and seen how people divert electricity and water for their own use. I have always wondered or rather worried about the different ways we sometimes diddle government structures or other organizational structures. I do not know whether this is allowed in Islam, and many times I just listen to what my heart says. When my heart worries, I worry. When my heart is concerned, I am concerned. This is because of the massive sensitivity of the path on which we walk, and also because I do not wish any one of us to do anything that will cause damage, not to the organizations concerned, but to our spirituality.

The path that we are walking on has considerable pitfalls and as many obstacles. I sometimes ask the question: If I bring any form of corruption into my affairs, would that corruption spread, or perhaps impact on the rest of my religious affairs? I have always been afraid of this; always been afraid of the impact of any form of corruption, which might appear legal, but which impacts on our spirituality. That is why I do not consider the religious legality or illegality of such corruption (although it is not permissible by both the teachings of external and internal knowledge).

If one does something which is corrupt and this involves deviousness and dishonesty, would being devious and dishonest in a particular affair impact on our other affairs? Here I might be wrong. Sometimes I hope that I am wrong. You see, Tasawwuf expects us to be as honest as we can under all circumstances, and it expects us not to be devious under any circumstances; so that when we walk this path, we walk it, as far as possible, with all possible honesty and all possible integrity at our disposal. You see, it is always very easy to excuse the financial tricks we get up to. This is easy. We will find in our minds an array of explanations or justifications for our actions. Perhaps those who do so might think that they are right. On the other hand, how does one explain away dishonesty and the lack of integrity? This is the difficult part. There are so many things that come into play in one’s affairs, so many variables that impact in different ways on one’s spirituality, even though we might think that we are justified in our actions. When one walks this path, the rules are different. This path expects one to be honest in one’s relationship with one’s Lord, His Messenger (ﷺ), and His creation. And so, if one is asked for example, to pay out a certain amount of money to SARS, the matter is so insignificant with regard to one’s religious affairs, that one pays it in order to continue one’s state of worship. In Tasawwuf, one is always supposed to be in a state of worship, one is always supposed to be in a state of remembering one’s Lord. If one is dishonest or devious in one’s actions, then surely that would have a negative impact on the state of remembrance and on the state of worship. It cannot be otherwise. When one steals, even from a corrupt government, what is the impact of that stealing and stealth on one’s state of remembrance? You would agree with me when I say that stealing and stealth would cause a temporary suspension of one’s remembrance of one’s Lord. In fact, one goes into a state of forgetfulness of remembering one’s Lord. Many of the pious people have found that the worst sin is to forget one’s Lord and the Tradition of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) says that those who are in Paradise will regret the periods that they forgot their Lord on this planet; and so dishonesty and the lack of integrity make a major contribution to one being in a state of forgetting one’s Lord.

Let me repeat what I said in the beginning, I have not even considered the religious legality or illegality of, let us say diverting our electricity so that we “diddle” the municipality. This just worries me for all the reasons I have explained in this letter. I would rather ask all the murids to refrain from all these things or any other form of dishonesty. We should rather focus on our Lord and at no time during that focusing should negative characteristics spoil what we are doing. We should always try to be as honest as humanly possible; even to our enemies. We must always try to demonstrate integrity even if such integrity is not demonstrated to us. We are people of Tasawwuf. We are trying to be special by our Lord. We should not do anything that interferes with us becoming special. We ask Allah (ﷻ) to help that our hearts are totally for Him under all circumstances and not to let our hearts deviate from this, amin.

NB: It must be clear now that if we cook our books to pay less tax for example, it is not permissible according to both internal and external knowledge.

[Unpublished 2012]


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