When fruits like apples and pears ripen they produce a gaseous hormone called ethylene, which is, among other things, a ripening agent. When fruit is stored together, the ethylene from each piece serves as a catalyst to the other pieces around it to ripen further causing a positive feedback loop.
Therefore, the riper a piece of fruit, the more ethylene it produces, and overripe fruit gives off even more ethylene, eventually leading to a concentration of the gas that’s enough to over-ripen all the fruit. Given the right conditions and enough time, one apple can push all the fruit around it to ripen—and eventually rot. Additionally, an apple that is infested with mold will contaminate other fruit it’s stored with as the mold seeks additional food sources and spreads. In both cases, it actually does take just one single apple to start a domino chain that ruins the rest of the bunch. Note the expression:
A rotten apple spoils the barrel
It is interesting that both in English & Arabic the words for corruption also mean something that is decayed or rotten.
1. Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
2. The process by which something, typically a word or expression, is changed from its original use or meaning to one that is regarded as erroneous or debased.
The Arabic word for corruption is فَسَاد it comes from the following root with the corresponding derivative meanings.
ف س د = to become evil; corrupted; invalid; decomposed; bad; spoiled; tainted; vicious; wrong; make mischief or foul deal; violence; make trouble; corruption; disorder; lawlessness; chaos; evil; trouble, decayed
Throughout the Quran God warns of those who not only are corrupt, but specifically spread corruption. I believe this is the connection between corruption in society and rotten food, both forms inevitably infect and eventually destroy the like of what is around it. We see this root utilized fifty times in the Quran, with the first use in the following verse:
[2:11] When they are told, “Do not commit evil,” they say, “But we are righteous!”
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ
God informs us in the Quran that if a person mediates a good deed or sin, they will partially earn a portion of the credit or sin thereof.
[4:85] Whoever mediates a good deed receives a share of the credit thereof, and whoever mediates an evil work, incurs a share thereof. GOD controls all things.
مَنْ يَشْفَعْ شَفَاعَةً حَسَنَةً يَكُنْ لَهُ نَصِيبٌ مِنْهَا وَمَنْ يَشْفَعْ شَفَاعَةً سَيِّئَةً يَكُنْ لَهُ كِفْلٌ مِنْهَا وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُقِيتًا
This is why corruption is so destructive because unlike some other sins it has this cascading effect on the overall society. We see in the following verse that the word for “disaster” is again الْفَسَادُ which also mens corruption. This verse is informing us that the people who have participated in this spreading of corruption are the ones who will inevitably suffer the consequences for their actions.
[30:41] Disasters have spread throughout the land and sea, because of what the people have committed. He thus lets them taste the consequences of some of their works, that they may return (to the right works).
ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
In a free society people get the society they deserve not the the society they want
There is an experssion that states: “In a democracy people get the government they deserve, and not the government they want.” The reason behind this is because when the people are free to choose their representatives in government, those individuals are a reflection of the people. If people choose to elect corrupt individuals into office that reflect evil policies then they have no one to blame but themselves.
But this same principle applies in a free market where individuals are free to choose what products or services they wish to purchase. If individuals opt to select product and services that are detrimental to the environment or society at large then they are choosing to vote with their dollars which companies, products, and services they want to support. So for instance, if people choose to buy junk food over healthy food then they can’t blame the market for having more junk food options and less healthy food options.
Today we live in the attention economy, where many of the largest tech companies are fighting to win the most attention from the greatest number of people. In a free society where people can choose for themselves where they want to focus their attention the market is going to just provide them more of whatever the people of that society choose to focus their attention upon. So if a society chooses to watch vanity programming or demeaning material or immoral content, then they are fueling that content and incentivizing more production of this evil behavior as opposed to content that is moral and spreads a message that promotes righteousness.
Therefore, in a free society the people of that society receive the society they deserve and not necessarily the society they want as the producers of that society are only providing the members of that society what it is that they are vying for through their votes, dollars, and attention.
How to tell if a society has been plagued by corruption?
Today there are many indexes that are used to judge the overall corruption of a society, but probably the most well known is the Corruption Perception Index which is conducted by Transparency International. From their website we see a summary of how their index is conducted:
But is there a simpler method to gauge the corruption of a society without the need of extensive surveys, interviews, and evaluating mass amounts of information? When the rock band Van Halen would perform a show they required the promoter to agree and follow an extensive list of demands that spanned hundreds of pages. These demands specified all the requirements they needed in order to be able to perform a successful show. One of these demands that was wedged in the middle of their list of demands was that backstage there would be a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown M&Ms removed from the bowl.
For years people assumed this request was frivolous and nothing more than the band behaving as prima-donnas. But never the less, the band was incredibly furious any time they found brown M&Ms in their bowl. It wasn’t until years later that they disclosed the reason for this request. The logic to include such a clause in their contract was a quick simple way to gauge how carefully the crew setting up their venue followed their guidelines. It would have be unreasonable for them to be able to check every aspect of all the necessary setup for each show, so instead by being able to see if the crew met the brown M&M request it was indicative that they followed the specs accordingly. If on the other hand they get to the catering table backstage and noticed that there were brown M&Ms in the bowl or no M&Ms at all then it meant that they would be required to check every aspect of the set up. Below is a video from David Lee Roth explaining the genius of such a clause in their contract.
But God in the Quran provides us a much simpler way to determine the corruption in a society. A sign of a society that has tolerated corruption and allowed it to be spread can be made apparent through the chaos that is prevalent in that society.
[8:73] Those who disbelieved are allies of one another. Unless you keep these commandments, there will be chaos on earth, and terrible corruption.
وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ إِلَّا تَفْعَلُوهُ تَكُنْ فِتْنَةٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَفَسَادٌ كَبِيرٌ
Additionally, in the same verse God also provides us a solution to combat corruption is to maintain the commandments from God. So because of this an indication of a society that that is plagued by corruption will also be full of chaos. I believe this can be reflected either by natural disasters, or man made disasters, but in either case both lead to the destruction of property and lives.
[2:204] Among the people, one may impress you with his utterances concerning this life, and may even call upon GOD to witness his innermost thoughts, while he is a most ardent opponent [2:205] As soon as he leaves, he roams the earth corruptingly, destroying properties and lives. GOD does not love corruption.
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يُعْجِبُكَ قَوْلُهُ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيُشْهِدُ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا فِي قَلْبِهِ وَهُوَ أَلَدُّ الْخِصَامِ وَإِذَا تَوَلَّىٰ سَعَىٰ فِي الْأَرْضِ لِيُفْسِدَ فِيهَا وَيُهْلِكَ الْحَرْثَ وَالنَّسْلَ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَسَادَ
So if we want to gauge the level of corruption in a society just take a look at the level of overall chaos that is occurring in that society. Sadly when we look at American society we see so much chaos these days COVID, civil unrest, riots, looting, as well as hurricanes, and fires. This should probably serve us a sign that it is time to start cleaning up corruption in our societies and start applying God’s laws.
[9:126] Do they not see that they suffer from exacting trials every year once or twice? Yet, they consistently fail to repent, and fail to take heed?
أَوَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّهُمْ يُفْتَنُونَ فِي كُلِّ عَامٍ مَرَّةً أَوْ مَرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ لَا يَتُوبُونَ وَلَا هُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ
Notice that the Arabic word that is translated as “exacting trials” in 9:126 is يُفْتَنُونَ (yuf’tanūna) which comes from the same root as فِتْنَةٌ (fit’natun) which is used in the previous verse in 8:73. I understand this to mean that a society that does not uphold God’s commands in the Quran will continue being hit with exacting trials, be it natural disasters or man made disasters. God does this for us to potentially take a hint and reform.
[32:21] We let them taste the smaller retribution (of this world), before they incur the greater retribution (of the Hereafter), that they may (take a hint and) reform.
وَلَنُذِيقَنَّهُمْ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ الْأَدْنَىٰ دُونَ الْعَذَابِ الْأَكْبَرِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ