Research Paper in Focus

Expanding the Frontiers of Economics: Some Insights from the Qur’anic Revelation

Paper Title: Expanding the Frontiers of Economics: Some Insights from the Qur’anic Revelation

Author:        Prof. Muhammad Akram Khan

Publisher:    Turkish Journal of Islamic Economics, 6(1), 1 – 34.

The noted author is one of the pioneer contributors in the field of Islamic economics. He has written on methodology of Islamic economics from time to time. He is an objective thinker who had made critical evaluation of both mainstream economics as well as Islamic economics on some aspects.

In principle, he wants Islamic economics to be an analytical field. He expects that mainstream economics shall avoid bias against religion and should not undermine and disregard knowledge that comes from religious texts. Some knowledge that comes from religious sources dates back to centuries. However, such knowledge is still applicable today. Instead of arriving at same conclusions and reinventing the wheel, it is not unwise to pay heed toward the knowledge that emanates from religion.

He gave examples of knowledge on which there is now almost universal consensus and that such knowledge was part of religious texts since a long time ago, such as consensus on equality of human beings, accountability for all, respect for property rights, women rights, safety net for the poor, documentation of business dealings, government’s responsibility toward the governed, restraint on economic power, and governance through consultation, for instance.

Indeed, such knowledge regarding morality, justice, fairness, transparency, responsibility, moderation, kindness and cooperation not only can influence behaviour, but also gives spiritual fulfillment and contentment as virtuous actions are promised deterministic rewards in life hereafter in the Islamic worldview.

The author critically evaluates ‘Happiness Reports’ and shows that many of the critical aspects of human happiness are covered in Islamic sources of knowledge. Religious knowledge, if practiced and observed, can help in achieving Falah both in this life and hereafter. Adding the spiritual dimension can further help in focusing on broader aspects of human personality. Despite material affluence, many developed countries still have thousands of people suffering from depression, anxiety, personality disorders and which lead to hundreds of people committing suicide despite having material affluence.

The concept of moderation, avoiding waste, responsible use of resource and considering oneself as custodian and steward of material resources rather than an ultimate owner who can consume resources at whatever rate and ways, are also critical aspects that can change and transform habits towards a more responsible and cooperative lifestyle.  

Socialism was a very enticing and attractive philosophy to achieve equity and reduce injustices and class conflicts. However, getting rid of private incentives in a faithless governance framework is a weak model to ensure that the ruling class does not become the new oppressors. It also undermines innovation, creativity and exertion of efforts in seeking knowledge and creating knowledge.

Capitalism, on the other hand, provides incentives for innovation and creativity, but it is unable to ensure broader access to capital from which basic necessities are to be met and investment is to be carried out in enterprises and human capital development. Interest on money capital allows capitalists to not only preserve their wealth, but also get increase in it continuously without any regards to the productivity of that capital.

In this regard, religious knowledge which bans interest and introduces a broad based wealth tax, is conducive for encouraging investment and circulation of wealth while reducing unemployment and wealth inequality.  

This paper is a good articulation by the author to introduce the economic contribution that religious knowledge can bring in terms of rules of behaviour and institutions which undermine and regulate the negative aspects in human personality and elicit positive and productive decisions.

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