ECONOMICS IN ISLAM
Dr. Waquar Anwar
Markazi Maktaba Islami Publishers
D-307, Dawat Nagar, Abul Fazl Enclave, Jamia Nagar, Okhla, New Delhi – 110 025
Reviewed by KAMRAN SHAHID ANSARI
Economy is one of the strongest pillars on which a state or an empire stands. Ever since man started building civilizations, economy or trade became an indispensible and quintessential part required to make them stand. However greed and cupidity to earn more and more turned trade and business into a cut-throat competition where only profit mattered and left almost no or very little room for ethics and morality.
To introduce mankind to a good and just economic or trade system, the Almighty, through the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), revealed some basic guidelines for running a complete economic system. However, once again, with the rise of capitalist ideology based on only profit, just principles of economics started losing their sheen, as the urge to earn more and more without giving regard to others’ interests made people break the just and kind principles. The utterly disgusting concepts propounded by Herbert Spencer in Social Darwinism and by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nation, which is considered to be the Bible of capitalism, helped people in throwing away whatever humanity and regard-for-others they earlier had. The need of the hour is to reintroduce the just and correct economic principles of Islam, whose flouting is the cause of the current economic instability in the world.
The book Economics in Islam by Dr. Waquar Anwar fills this vacuum and reintroduces the basic guidelines which Islam provides and permits for trade and business. The 136 pages book is divided in nine chapters and proceeds step by step by first explaining the prevalent practices in trade followed in the time of the Holy Prophet and then the rationale behind certain practices like riba which Islam forbids, and then moves on to discuss Islamic finance and banking.
The book is simple, yet lucid and is a good read for a layman who wants to understand the basic economic structure of Islam. The introduction of the book is written by Dr. Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi, a very well-known scholar of global repute who is considered an authority on Islamic Economics.
Normally when people talk of wealth and property in Islamic perspective, they get a feeling that it is against the notion of Islam to have wealth, property and other possessions. However the first chapter of the book completely cuts this notion and presents Islam as proactive about worldly resources for mankind. It mentions quite a few ahadith (sayings and traditions of the Messenger of Allah) which dispel the negative attitude of some Muslims towards wealth and puts a condition that “Good wealth is good for a good person.” It further talks about the dignity of labour and argues that Islam does not link the nature of work a person does to dignity of a person. In fact, the book mentions ahadith which praise manual labour.
There is a myth about the scarcity of resources and claims the theory of ‘unlimited wants and limited means.’ Many thinkers like Lionel Robbins and David Ricardo propelled this idea; however the book refutes all such claims and blames only the greed of human beings responsible for such artificial or man-made shortage. Excerpt:
“The concept popular with the contemporary economists that resources are basically scarce is not true in the sense that God has created man on earth and provided optimum resources. The idea of niggardliness of nature as said by Ricardo is obnoxious. Nature has provided all that is needed. Now if any paucity is felt it is because of the faults of man like greed, inefficiency, atrocity on fellow human beings, etc. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said that man will not be ever satisfied. If he gets one valley of gold, he would desire another. The earth can satisfy the needs of all persons, but not the greed of even one person.”
The book further explains in detail the ruling of the prohibition of riba (interest or usury) and even mentions the punishments and warnings God has given for those who swallow riba. The book gives full translation of the text of the Qur’ān and ahadith along with the references and stresses leaving aside even raibah (whatever raises doubts in the mind about its rightfulness). Excerpt:
“Surely, Riba has many gates, big and small, and it can make inroads any of them if a person is not alert to save himself from its ignominy.”
The book further explains the laws of transactions as per the Islamic law and puts stress on Ayatud-dain (the verse of transactions) which commands the believer to write the transaction or contract, no matter big or small. The book delves into a fine discussion on usable and consumable goods and hence explains the justification and locus standi of prohibition of riba in Islam. Excerpt:
“Suppose a person borrows five litres of petrol and utilises it as fuel in his car and consumes that item. Now the person who borrowed the fuel will either pay the price of this fuel consumed or purchase five litres of petrol and return. The petrol so returned is not the same petrol that was borrowed as the original commodity has been consumed. Islam will not permit any rental in monetary terms or excess in quantity while returning the consumed item. Now let us consider the case of a man using a car of another person on rental basis. The car in original form is returned after using and rental for using its services is paid. This transaction is proper and fully justified in Islam.”
The last three chapters of the book namely, An Introduction of Islamic Finance, Risk and Debt in Economy and Islamic Banking take the discussion a little deeper, but by giving various examples enabling the reader to comprehend the subject. In the last chapter the book talks about the dilutions that have occurred in the core idea of Islamic banking and claims Murabaha (cost plus service charge) as one such dilution in the idea. The book deals with just the principles of economics in Islam that must be followed and hence provides a fair understanding of the principles and rules. However one discussion that the book completely circumvents is the discussion on currency. The book does not talk about the prevalent paper currency system where currency has no intrinsic value, instead it is a mere trust that we repose on the government.
Still, the book is a good read and in a lucid and comprehensible way explains the principles of economics that must come and replace the ones in vogue in order to provide stability and strength for the faltering economic system of today.