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Articles


Favoritism and Nepotism

Author : Dr. Mufti AbdulHakim Tawfeeq

Date Added : 29-02-2024


Favoritism and Nepotism

 

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

 

His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, may Allah protect him, launched the sixth discussion paper, which focuses on the rule of law.

 

Among the issues raised in this paper are favoritism and nepotism as behaviors that undermine the development of societies. This emanates from the fact that they aren`t only an obstacle to the advancement of the nation, but also undermine what has been accomplished by undermining the values of justice, equality, equal opportunities and the values of good citizenship, which are the basis for the development of any society.

 

Appointment to government positions, especially high-ranking ones, is one of the most discussed topics when addressing favoritism and nepotism. In recent years, we have witnessed some practices in this regard, which I see as a violation of our institutions and a burden on them and on citizens, with the appointment of incompetent employees. This deprives institutions and citizens of competent leaders who contribute to their advancement and improvement in serving the nation and its people. Here, it is essential to adhere to the principle of competence and merit* as the sole criterion for appointments." ([1]).

 

The phenomenon of favoritism (Wasta) and nepotism (Muhassabiyya), which has become widespread and is considered by some as social norms (in certain countries), despite being condemned by the public, is practiced by many individuals as well.([2]).

 

In this article, we will address the phenomenon of favoritism and nepotism by defining them, examining Islam's stance on them, exploring the reasons behind the prevalence of these phenomena, discussing the consequences of their prevalence, and proposing ways to combat them.

 

Definition of "Wasta" and "Muhassabiyya" - Linguistically and technically:

Wasta - Linguistically: "Wasta is what leads to something... between two ends, and it is from it."([3]).

Muhassabiyya - Linguistically: "Sufficient, enough... it is said: 'this is sufficient for you'."([4]).

Wasta - Technically (Isti'laahan): "Seeking assistance and support to accomplish something from an influential person who has the authority to provide assistance to achieve the desired goal for someone who cannot achieve it through their own efforts."([5]).

Muhassabiyya - Technically (Isti'laahan): "Considering familial, political, or sectarian relations in achieving a benefit (such as job assignments, promotions, etc.) and prioritizing kinship or affiliation above all else."([6]).

 

The position of Islam regarding favoritism and nepotism:

 

Islam has encouraged benefiting people and striving to fulfill their needs. The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said, "Allah assists His servant as long as the servant is assisting his brother" ([7]). Allah considers aiding His servants among the most beloved deeds to Him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked, "Which people are the most beloved to Allah, O Messenger of Allah?" He replied, "The most beloved of people to Allah are those who are most beneficial to people" ([8]). However, this should be done on the basis of cooperation in righteousness and piety, not on the basis of cooperation in sin and aggression.

 

The concept of intercession, which includes the notion of favoritism, is mentioned in the Quran. It is divided into two categories: good intercession and bad intercession. Allah says in the Quran: "Whoever intercedes for a good cause will have a share [reward] therefrom; and whoever intercedes for an evil cause will have a burden [of sin] therefrom" (An-Nisa, 85). Al-Shawkani ([9]), a renowned Islamic scholar, explained this concept by stating that intercession involves associating someone else with your status and means. It is about realizing the position of the intercessor in the eyes of the one being interceded for and delivering benefit to them. Good intercession occurs in matters of righteousness and obedience, while bad intercession occurs in sinful acts. Whoever intercedes for good to benefit others will have a share in its reward, while whoever intercedes for evil will bear a share of its burden."

 

Furthermore, the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said: "Intercede, and you will be rewarded" ([10]). This type of intercession was aimed at upholding justice, delivering it to its rightful owner, or lifting oppression and revealing falsehood ([11]). It was mentioned in Fatwa No. (3322) that "As for good intercession, it is done to prevent injustice, deliver rights to their owners, and relieve the distressed." It has conditions, including "seeking the pleasure of Allah the Almighty, and intercession should not be at the expense of others. It should be for those whom you know are entitled to it" ([13]).

 

As for bad intercession, it is the opposite of good intercession. It results in "harm, injustice, or deprivation of someone's right, giving this right to someone undeserving, and it is prohibited in Islamic law" ([14]), as the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said: "There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm" ([15]).

 

 

Indeed, the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) did not accept intercession from Usama bin Zaid (may Allah be pleased with him) when he sought to intercede in the punishment prescribed by Allah for a woman from the Makhzumi tribe who had committed theft ([16]).

 

Reasons for the spread of favoritism and nepotism:

 

The spread of favoritism and nepotism occurs due to several reasons, including:

 

First: Weak religious drive within society, leading to injustice and oppression ([17]).

Second: Adopting favoritism and nepotism as perceived shortcuts to facilitate transactions ([18]) and achieve desired outcomes.

Third: Direct influence of the surrounding environment on the behavior of individuals ([19]), where inherited customs and traditions impose themselves on organizations, leading to the use of familial, regional, or sectarian affiliations in official dealings and exerting pressure on administrators to gain undeserved benefits, particularly evident in hiring and job placement ([20]).

Fourth: Weak or ambiguous laws, regulations, and rules, or the absence of appropriate mechanisms for their enforcement, translation into practical reality to serve people, preserve their rights, facilitate their transactions, and prevent transgression. These conditions create loopholes exploited by those with nepotistic tendencies, making it easier for them to penetrate and circumvent these systems and laws ([21]).

Fifth: Granting extensive decision-making powers in administrative matters without effective ([22]) oversight or accountability, coupled with a lack of fear of deterrent punishment ([23]), especially when not adhering to the principles of employee selection and appointment prescribed in regulations and laws ([24]).

 

The Consequences of the spread of favoritism and nepotism: 

The persistence in exploiting favoritism and nepotism, which negate rights or validate falsehoods, leads to grave consequences. This is because "one of the most prevalent forms of corruption is administrative corruption represented by favoritism and nepotism, and the lack of adherence to laws and regulations."([25]).

 

The consequences of the widespread prevalence of favoritism and nepotism are severe and include:

 

First: Undermining equality and squandering equal opportunities, as those with connections or favoritism towards a certain entity have greater opportunities and advantages than others, leading to a disruption of justice.

Second: Depriving many people of their legitimate rights granted by Sharia or the legal system ([26]) to the extent that the term "favoritism" in society has come to signify injustice and oppression, and encroachment upon the rights of others.

Third: Failure to place the right person in the right position due to the adoption of a policy of favoritism and nepotism.

Fourth: Generating tension and resentment within society, along with a weakening of national allegiance ([29]), resulting from the injustices and oppression perpetuated by favoritism and nepotism.

A society plagued by the roots of corruption, notably favoritism and nepotism, is rightfully labeled as regressive. Its productivity is meager ([30]), and it remains almost paralyzed ([31]).

 

Ways to combat favoritism and nepotism:

 

There is no dispute that favoritism and nepotism, which negate rights or grant them unlawfully, are reprehensible and should be countered. Despite the difficulty in controlling ([32]) favoritism and nepotism, they remain a troubling issue, causing anxiety among senior officials due to the significant harm they entail. ([33])

 

Here are some ways to combat favoritism and nepotism crimes, and address the harmful effects resulting from them:

 

First: Establishing and forming bodies tasked with combating corruption*, entrusted with developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to combat corruption and prevent it institutionally ([34]), while ensuring the selection of individuals known for their integrity, transparency, firmness, and zero tolerance for corruption.

 

Second: Issuing strong and explicit deterrent laws, regulations, and organized procedures, with careful monitoring and strict follow-up on their application without discrimination. It is also necessary to punish anyone found to have violated the law ([35]). Having the right systems and mechanisms in place to apply these laws will expose manipulators and favoritism facilitators, making it easier to convict them and impose deterrent punishment ([36]).

 

Third: Raising awareness ([37]) and working to educate citizens about the dangers of corruption, forming a public opinion opposed to favoritism and nepotism. This can be achieved by leveraging media platforms, shedding light on this phenomenon, highlighting its detrimental effects, and explaining ways to file complaints, follow up on them, and resolve them within the framework of the legal system.

Fourth: Nurturing the religious drive, as bad intercession is deemed forbidden by Sharia Law. Hence, it should be addressed. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said: "Support your brother whether he is an oppressor or oppressed." People asked: "O Messenger of Allah, we help him when he is oppressed, but how can we help him when he is an oppressor?" He said: "By preventing him from oppressing others ([38])." In this hadith, bias towards anyone with falsehood is condemned, and the focus is on standing with the truth. Supporting the oppressed means lifting the injustice they face, while supporting the oppressor involves preventing them from committing further wrongs, without discrimination. This is the basis upon which cooperation and mutual advice should be built.([39])

 

In conclusion, I hope that I have succeeded in shedding light on some of the most important aspects of this dangerous phenomenon, namely favoritism and nepotism, which have spread in many of our Arab and Islamic societies. I wish for all sincere efforts, at both official and grassroots levels, to unite in combating it and mitigating its harms, so that these societies can progress and move forward.

 

And our final prayer is: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all worlds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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