Book: Reflections on the Origins in the Post-COVID-19 World
Author: Salman Ahmed Shaikh
Publisher: Islamic Economics Project
Distributor: Liberty Books
Reviewer: Zubair Naseem
Why am I in this world? What is the purpose of life? These types of questions can come to anybody’s mind frequently in some challenging phases of life (like in the COVID-19 era) or less frequently in normal days of life. Such questions can be answered in mainly two ways. One of them is to discuss these questions through the lens of faith and divine knowledge given by the Qur’an and Sunnah, which have clear answers about existential questions. The second way is to discuss these questions with the help of Science, Philosophy, and other contemporary areas of knowledge, which are more popular and effective for the people who are well educated in these disciplines with contemporary education. This second style of writing in the Islamic literature proved effective in the case of Syed Abul Ala Maududi, who had a vast influence on people who had received secular education. In this spirit, the book under review discusses the existential questions with the help of many contemporary disciplines of knowledge.
The book is divided into five chapters. The Foreword is written by Prof. Dr. Mohammad Kabir Hassan, in which he highlighted the multidisciplinary nature of the author’s interests and the book. After that, the author, Salman Ahmed Shaikh, raised the existential questions in the Preface. Chapter one presents existential questions and problems with contemporary answers coming from scientists and philosophers. Chapter two focuses on contemporary science and shows how complete reliance on science can hamper the quest for knowledge about many fundamental questions in ethics, and even social and behavioral phenomena. The author shows how scientific tools in social sciences like economics are impotent in explaining real-world behaviour. The author argues that norms, institutions, and culture play an important role and oftentimes, they are influenced by religious values. Thus, disregarding norms, culture, institutions and the transformative and malleable nature of human preferences can be limiting in understanding human behaviour in markets. The author wrote that it is a misconception that scientific knowledge is only the output of western efforts. The author argues, with the help of many references, that Muslims’ contribution to science cannot be neglected. Therefore, the author dispels the myth that those who are faithful are oblivious and antagonist to scientific knowledge. The author refutes this myth both in the light of history as well as Muslim attitude towards science as captured by the World Values Survey.
Chapter three presents the faith-based perspective on existential questions with references from Islamic sources of knowledge. In later sections, the author argues that faith is not in any contradiction with established scientific knowledge. It is quite ironic that established scientific facts are consistent with Qur’an even though it was revealed more than 1400 years ago. In Chapter Four, the author shows his academic expertise by integrating Islamic concepts and references with contemporary concepts such as “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. This chapter discusses economic concepts in Islamic teachings in a brilliant way. The last chapter of the book discusses the misconceptions about Islam. The author argues that divine guidance is not merely limited to bodily worship, but this guidance is also applicable to the other areas of life, such as in trade and commerce.
Overall, this book discusses science, philosophy, and faith in an integrated way and quotes not only Islamic sources but also the many prominent scientists and researchers. This book is focused on the topic and is not limited to the boundaries of specific academic disciplines. This targeted work can be beneficial for general readers as well as those who are interested in economics, psychology, sociology, and philosophy.