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Re-readings of Islamic Economic Philosophy and Economic Justice in an Islamic milieu

Re-readings of Islamic Economic Philosophy and Economic Justice in an Islamic milieu Foto: Christophe André, via flickr.com

Islamic economics, though hotly debated, is little implemented in the modern academic world. Yet, in order to study economic philosophy one does not need to be an economist. A new reading of Islamic economics is needed which will address it's very core.

Two aspects of this Islamic economics debate are conspicuous. The first is that the notion of economic justice appears to be central to Islamic economics, but the concept as such is little used in writings and deliberations. Contemporary Muslim thinkers situate their discussions in an Islamic juristic discourse rather than a philosophical and epistemological discourse. But the use of such discourse is not only more justified from a historical perspective, but also will do more justice to the central themes of Islamic economics as presented by modern thinkers.

Islamization of knowledge

The second conspicuous aspect of modern thinking on Islamic economics is submerged in the so called “Islamization of knowledge”.  This process aims to justify the thinking on each domain of human action in Islamic terms. It results in a self-perpetuated narrative of its own economic philosophy, that rather aims to distinguish itself from other mainstream economic systems.

A new reading  of Islamic economics is needed which will address the very core of economic understanding in Islamic thought: its epistemology, the nature of economic conduct, and its ontology. Therefore my research traces intellectual history on economic philosophy in Islam. Especially in the fields of law and ethics, since many authors based their economic approach on legal and juridical terms. Important concepts in defining the epistemology of Islamic economics and its relation to economic justice are: the institution of zakat, hisba and economic justice, Islamic law and its relation to the concept of maslaha or social utility, and, in general, economic teachings of the Qur’anic.

The inextricability of ethical driven conduct of Islamic behaviour is of substantial importance in regard to economic activities. So the question is: on what bases has this been justified in the classical period? First it is needed to offer a critique of contemporary Islamic economic thought and try to define the following concepts in relation to economic justice: epistemology of Islamic economics, Islamic law, ethics, economic philosophy and theory. Then to research the methodology, field of study, and aims of prominent Muslim figures and ontemporary Muslim scholars (e.g. A. Azhar, Naqvi, al-Sadr, M. Khan, Choudhury, Chapra, Sidiqqi) and their theoretical, and philosophical approaches in their writings on ethics, economy and economic value. Also other contemporary theoretical material on Islamic economics, science, ethics and culture will be used. I’ll also study Islamic economics in its relation to the theory of “Islamization” process. If possible, in the textual analysis of the scholars from the medieval period,  a correlation to classical Islamic scholars will be drawn (e.g. nature of economic conduct, concept of public good, notion of societal development, role of ethical conduct in trading activity, etc.). 

Various mdieval Muslim scholars e.g. al-Ghazali, have made seminal contributions to economic philosophical thought, and also influenced European scholasticism Yet this contribution has remained neglected. Among others, texts like Iḥya’ Ulūm al-Dīn, Muqaddima, al-Fatwā al-Kubrā, etc., are crucial to the analysis of economic justice and conduct, objectives of Islamic law (maqasid al-Sharia) and social utility (maslaha). By analysis of the key concepts (e.g. economic and social justice, maṣlaḥa or common good, farḍ kifāya or connective obligations, ḥisba or Islamic institution performing business accountability, etc.), by inquiring authors’ methodology, field of subject in relation to Islamic economics, authors’ aims, and the applicability of their concepts in the discourses on economic development, we’ll see what economic philosophy meant for classical Muslim thinkers.

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