The political and economic discourse of the last two centuries has been dominated by two diametrically opposite schools of thought, viz. Capitalism and Socialism. All other forms of polity and economies can be explained as by-products of one or the other. Socialism is an idea of the distribution of wealth justifiably among the citizens by the state while capitalism advocates a free market economy. It is not the place to divulge into nuances of these two theories.
Often it is believed that Karl Marx was the first one to propose the ideas of socialism in the 19th century and his thoughts were developed after a reading of the conditions of industrial workers in Europe. So, essentially socialism, as a theory, can be assumed to be a result of the industrial revolution which occurred in the latter half of the 18th century.
All these scholarships on socialism, or communism, have overlooked the fact that an Indian scholar had proposed a similar socio-economic system much before the industrial revolution or the birth of Marx. Shah Waliullah Dehlvi was an Indian scholar of the Quran, Hadith, logic, and philosophy, who lived in the 18th century. He studied Indian culture and civilization closely to understand the social, economic, and political interactions in the light of Islamic scriptures.
Waliullah wrote several books to propagate his political and social ideas. He called his mission ‘Fakku Kulli Nizām’ (dissolving and revolutionizing every order), i.e., only political change was not enough rather revolutionizing every order of the society was as important to bring justice to the society. In his book, written in 1731, Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bāligha (Conclusive Arguments of God), Waliullah defined a process of social evolution and argued that civilizations had gradually evolved from primitive to caliphate through different stages. These arguments have quite a lot in common with Marx, who more than a century later, wrote about the need for a complete revolution and ideas of social evolution.
Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, an important freedom fighter of India, visited the USSR and studied Marxism to understand it. He concluded that the socio-economic system proposed by Marx was completely in agreement with Waliullah's ideas. Sindhi believed that Waliullah’s thoughts were superior and could be followed in entirety as they provided solutions to more problems than Marx could suggest.
Waliullah in his book, Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bāligha (Conclusive Arguments of God) explained the need for a just economic system. Dr Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi of Darul Uloom, Deoband in his paper, Shah Waliullah: The Pioneer Thinker of the Modern World, has explained the socio-economic principles presented by Waliullah. Gathering from different chapters of Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bāligha, Qasmi explained:
Waliullah was not thinking about those living in palaces and changing crowns among themselves. He was worried about the common Indian and India of his times. His theory of society, economy, and politics was later identified as socialism but his name remained at the margins. It is time that we remember this great thinker who gave these socialist ideas much before the industrial revolution.