Divine Economics framework provides an empirical basis of behavioural comparison between religious and non-religious agents with regards to their economic and non-economic choices. It incorporates the methodological framework of mainstream economics for the study of religion and economics in each other’s perspective. It looks at religious behaviour from the lens of ‘economic good’ and ‘economic behaviour’ in markets where the choice has economic considerations, such as relative prices, opportunity cost of time, income effect and substitution effect. However, reliance on stated preferences, overlap between religious and non-religious activities, inability to observe the motivation and intention behind choices and to judge the quality of religious activities are some of the challenges in this research framework.
This article highlights the points of distinction and compatibility between the Islamic and mainstream economics framework. The distinction comes in the decision horizon and the addition of moral filters on the choice set. The difference also appears explicit when one looks at the encouragement and incentive structure for pure altruism in a two-worldly Islamic framework. The distinction is even deeper in values whereby the Islamic framework encourages contentment, pure altruism and self-less behaviour while the mainstream economics framework is at best neutral between the moral content of economic choices.
With a predominantly Muslim population which engages in significant private giving, social intermediaries who can transparently and efficiently mobilize charitable giving can enhance the socio-economic impact of private giving. Given the high prevalence of cash based giving and higher trust deficit between people and the public Zakat agency, the Islamic institution of cash Waqf can be suitable for effectively channelizing the charitable giving in the form of cash.
A great number of empirical studies now challenge the position of conceptualising human behaviour only in the framework of a rational, utility-maximizing homo-economicus. Yet, this framework is used for the purpose of simplicity and tractability in situations where abstraction does not result in major loss of focus and information at hand.