Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Defining Islamic Economics

Islamic economics is economics in the political context of Islam. Because the Qur'an spoke against usury in the context of early Muslim society, it generally entails trying to remove or redefine interest rates from financial institutions. In doing so, Islamic economists hope to produce a more 'Islamic society'. However, liberal movements within Islam may deny the need for this field, since they generally see Islam as compatible with modern secular institutions and law.

For centuries Muslims have developed ways to integrate their religious beliefs with the external economic realities of the nations they live in. This has had varying degrees of compatibility with the empires and customs they encountered. Like most things in Islam, commerce adapts to al-urf, "the custom".

In the 1980s and 1990s Muslim bankers and religious leaders developed ways to integrate Islamic law on usage of money with modern concepts of investing and ethical investing. In parallel, a sophisticated economic discipline has emerged, almost an Islamic science, with its own categories, concepts, analytical tools and institutions. Some of these revived traditional micro-venture capital and ethical investing frameworks that thrived in medieval times. However, they incorporated many modern techniques and technologies. Some consider the emergence of these economic practices to be part of a revival of Islam and an Islamization of knowledge. Others see them simply as a practical and wise response to problems of global debt and debt slavery.

Islamic economic institutions, not just the Islamic bank but all those connected with Islamic banking, operate on the basis of zero interest. Most also advise participatory arrangements between capital and labor. Both of these rules reflect the Islamic norm that the borrower must not bear all the cost of a failure, as it is Allah who determines that failure, and intends that it fall on all those involved.

Conventional debt arrangements are thus usually unacceptable - but conventional venture investment structures are applied even on very small scales.

Definition of Islamic economics - wordIQ Dictionary & Encyclopedia