Dr. Javed Jamil
Publication Date: 
Fri, 2010-11-12 22:47

Wealth has a central position in economics. But economic
fundamentalism tends to regard it as the most, not just one of the most,
essential requirements of life. The business community has, throughout the
world and for ages, always cared little for anything but its own economic
interests. But the businessmen of the past made only individual efforts in that
direction and they had little influence over the happenings in their
surroundings. They were the cranes that would use their cunning eyes to capture
the prey when it came close to them and not leopards that would roar their way
through the forest in search of their preys. They did not have any say in
political and administrative affairs; the law of the land safeguarded the
interests of the common people, or the interests of rulers. During the last few
centuries, especially in the wake of industrial revolution, businessmen have
organized themselves into an aggressive, domineering, dexterous, ingenious and
inexorable class. It has wrongfully or rightfully but successfully mastered all
the new information, techniques and opportunities available to it for the
protection and expansion of its interests. This is where economic
fundamentalism begins to emerge. Now, businessmen, unlike in the past, are no
more weak and submissive. They are not cranes any more but leopards that want
to rule and roar. They have not only learned to assert themselves but have
perfected the skill to push their plans defying all obstacles that may come in
their way. Not any longer are they bootlickers of the rulers that they used to
be; they have now mastered the art of maneuvering them into submission. From
the sycophants that they used to be they have now positioned themselves in a
way that the administrators even often become their sycophants. Not any more
are they silent followers of the rule of law; they have become articulate
votaries of such modification in the law and the legal systems as better suit
their interests. They have ceased to be introverts seeking comfort in solitude;
they now socialize in a way that gives them a plateau of eminence in society
and of course the economic monopoly. Still, they sacrifice moles for gaining
mountains in return. It is this assertive, aggressive, cunning, provident and
ruthlessly selfish approach toward economics that breeds what I have termed
"economic fundamentalism."
Economics is surely one of the essential constituents of
human life. Without money, one cannot survive; we need coins for food, drinks,
clothes, house, treatment, entertainment, marriage, bringing up of children,
their education; even for funeral. But the problems arise when money is assumed
to be the biggest essential of life. Economics is the stomach that supplies
food for the body. It cannot and must not become the heart and brain. For a
wholesome living, good relations among members of family and of society, proper
spiritual and moral development and proper environment are also needed. Love
for money is nice as far as it does not disturb mental, family and social
peace. But as soon as it transforms into lust encroaching upon others' spheres,
it becomes a curse. When the lust for making money becomes organized, its
effects on society are bound to be devastating. And when this organization
turns global and uses highly advanced information and technology available to
it, mankind faces imminent ruin.
It can be seen that economic fundamentalism is becoming
increasingly aggressive with every passing day. What has facilitated its
stupendous growth is the outstanding ability of its generals to deal with the
hurdles coming in their way. The truth is that they have been marching toward
their ultimate destination without facing any appreciable resistance. They
studied and recognized all the possible sources of obstruction well in advance,
and prepared a meticulous plan to thwart them. All possible weapons were and
are being employed for this purpose: persuasion, advertising, misinformation,
defamation, bribing, maneuvering and use of power. The ballistic missiles of
their money-power have proved to be too destructive for the resistant elements
to withstand. Through persuasion or threats, they are either overpowered or
purchased. The opposing forces have failed owing not only to the lack of
resources but also to the glaring deficiency of will and spirit. What further
paralyzed them is innumerable divisions in their ranks, based on religion,
region, race, ideology and language. The economic fundamentalists have used
this lassitude to gain on them; they are now, virtually, the rulers of the
world. Their trumpet blows everywhere - from the north to the south and from
the west to the east. There is little evidence in sight to foretell that their
dominion will shrink to any remarkable extent in the foreseeable future.
Whatever few areas or fields have till now remained beyond their reach will soon
be ransacked by their visible or invisible forces. How long they will be able
to retain their hold, only time will tell.
Thus, the rise and growth of economic fundamentalism has
been, from historical standards, rather rapid taking hardly a few centuries.
The think-tank of the world of economic fundamentalism has taken innumerable
steps to strengthen their hold.
They have transformed through political maneuvers the state
into their estate. They have incessantly and relentlessly been trying to
organize a grand farewell for religion. They have captivated the people's
imagination through the media. They have got the attire of society redesigned
so that it looks gorgeous and inviting to their eyes. They have industrialized
sex, in which they have discovered the hen that always lays golden eggs. They
have relocated the entire educational set-up on the Wall Street. They have
monopolized the tree of economy whose fruits and shadows are only theirs;
others can only admire its beauty from a safe distance. They have taken science
and technology as their mistresses that are always keen to offer their glorious
best to them. They have nipped all the challenges in the buds by masterminding
popular movements. They have lynched the 'civilization', which has been given a
new incarnation; and now Bohemians are called civilized. Last but not the
least, they have been busy colonizing the good earth in the name of
This does not mean however that whatever the economic
fundamentalists sought to do or undo was all misplaced. Nor does it mean that
the economic fundamentalists are solely responsible for all the wrongs
perpetrated on mankind. What is true nevertheless is that they have always
striven to support those ideas and movements that would become uranium for their
commercial nukes. Sometimes, they would themselves spearhead a particular
campaign. More often, they would financially back such activities as suited
their strategies. At other times, they would make overt or covert efforts to
contain, dilute or minimize the damages to their interests consequent on the
popularization of certain ideas or customs. Many a time they might have pursued
or backed a good cause; but they have invariably been selective in their
support, calculating its positive or negative impact on their business
prospects. It is this preferential and partisan attitude that has to be
denounced and renounced, if the world has to be saved from the impending doom.

It is clear that the Qur'an recognizes the importance of
wealth but it warns against giving it supremacy over the other important
aspects of life. The ultimate aim of the Qur'an is to attain Comprehensive
Peace, and economics too has to supplement that aim. The economic activities
(Prohibited Economics) that endanger the ultimate goal have no place in an
Islamic system. In the following verse, knowledge and physical power have been
given more importance than wealth:
"Their Prophet said to them: "(Allah) has
appointed Talut as king over you." They said: "How can he exercise
authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority, and
he is not even gifted with wealth in abundance?" He said: "(Allah)
has Chosen him above you, and has gifted him abundantly with knowledge and
bodily prowess: Allah grants His authority to whom He pleases. Allah cares for
all, and He knows all things." (2: 247)
The following verse condemns spending of wealth against the
cause of God:
"The Unbelievers spend their wealth to hinder (man)
from the path of Allah, and so will they continue to spend; but in the end they
will have (only) regrets and sighs; at length they will be overcome: and the
unbelievers will be gathered together to Hell." (8: 36)
The following verse clearly condemns love of wealth over love
of Allah,  His Messenger and His
"Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your
brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the
commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight - are
dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause; then
wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the
rebellious." (9: 24)
Wealth not spend in accordance with the commands of God will
prove to be fire in the Hereafter:
On the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth)
in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks,
and their backs - "This is the (treasure) which ye buried for yourselves:
taste ye, then, the (treasures) ye buried!" (9: 35)
Allah condemns those wealthy persons who refuse to be part
of Jihad in Allah's way:
When a Surah comes down, enjoining them to believe in Allah
and to strive and fight along with His Messenger, those with wealth and
influence among them ask thee for exemption, and say: "Leave us (behind):
We would be with those who sit (at home)." (9: 86)
Those who use their wealth for the rightful cause are
But the Messenger, and those who believe with him, strive
and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are (all) good things:
and it is they who will prosper. (9: 88)
And Qur'an makes it clear that though wealth is good for the
comforts of life, it is the conduct that is more important:
Wealth and sons are allurements of the life of this world:
But the things that endure, good deeds, are best in the sight of thy Lord, as
rewards, and best as (the foundation for) hopes. (18: 46.)
And it is clarified that wealth does not necessarily mean
"Do they think that because We have granted them
abundance of wealth and sons, We would hasten them on in every good? Nay, they
do not understand." (23: 55-56)
Wealth is not to be monopolized, and every effort is to be
made to make sure that the needy get their share:
"What Allah has bestowed on His Messenger (and taken
away) from the people of the townships, belongs to Allah, to His Messenger and
to kindred and orphans, the needy and the wayfarer; In order that it may not
(merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. So take what the Messenger
assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you. And fear
Allah, for Allah is strict in Punishment." (59: 7)

The Qur'an establishes a three-dimensional system comprising
fundamental rights, fundamental duties and fundamental prohibitions. Economics
related to fundamental prohibitions has become massive in the current world
order leading to serious problems at the individual, family, social, national
and international level. I have coined the term dangerous economics for the
economics related to prohibitions because this is responsible for the death of
at least 60 million human beings every year. These include death related to sex
transmitted diseases, abortions, alcohol and gambling related problems.
Dangerous economics relates to the businesses related to sex, alcohol,
gambling, usury, etc, which Qur'an prohibit. The verses related to these are
very well known.

To understand the true nature, scope and extent of the
Islamic philosophy of economics however, we will have to discuss in detail what
Qur’an intends and how the aims of Islamic philosophy are different from the
current philosophy.
1. The current economic philosophy that rules the world
revolves around economic fundamentalism, which dominates all the spheres of
life. Its overriding influence can be seen in all the programs at every level
and in every field. Islamic economic philosophy is based on the supremacy of
peace, which is a comprehensive state covering individuals, family and society;
human peace, health, security and welfare are the guiding factors, and
howsoever strong are the economic reasons, any activity that threatens
comprehensive peace cannot be permitted.
2. In Islam, economics cannot be seen or developed
separately from the grand objectives of the system; the economic system has not
only to work within the framework of fundamental rights, fundamental duties and
fundamental prohibitions but has to play a proactive role in achieving those
objectives. In the current economic scenario, market forces rule and play the
most decisive role in determining what is good or bad for society; their
interests are often directly opposite to the interests of a healthy, secure and
peaceful society.
3. In Islam, all actions are economic activities but it
makes a clear distinction between prohibited, undesirable, desirable and highly
desirable activities depending upon their effects on society. An activity that
is prohibited cannot be allowed to take place; if it takes place, the culprits
will have to be punished in accordance with the procedure of Law, the
punishment being proportional to the dangers posed by the activity. In the
current international system dominated by the market, only an activity that is
supportive of the market interests is a desirable economic activity; other
activities are either totally disregarded or are given minimal importance. I
will give a few interesting examples. Suppose, a patient comes to a doctor
friend and receives medical care worth $20. But the doctor obliges him by not
taking any charges from him. In return, the patient, a car mechanic, rectifies
his car, an activity for which he would normally charge $20. But he obliges his
doctor friend by not charging anything. Now, these activities will not find any
place in the Gross Domestic Product of the country, as no currency has been
exchanged. If on the other hand, the mechanic would have given the doctor $20
and the doctor would have given the mechanic $20, an economic activity of $40
would have been recorded. If a woman serves food to her husband, she performs
no or an insignificant economic activity but if she serves food to a customer
in a hotel, this becomes a significant economic activity. If one sleeps in
one's own house, howsoever palatial it is, he does not perform a significant
economic activity, but if he sleeps in a hotel, howsoever cheap it is, it again
becomes a significant economic activity.
4. The aims and objectives of Islamic philosophy of
economics are for the whole world, not just for the Muslim world. Its aims are:
(1) To ensure the overall peace in society at every level: individual, family,
national and international; (2) To ensure that no individual or group of
individual indulges or is made to indulge in any activity that is dangerous to
their own health or the health of others or for the general level of peace and
security of society; (3) To ensure that all the activities are duly rewarded in
accordance with their benefices for society or punished in accordance with
their hazards. (4) To ensure that while individuals are given adequate freedom
to engage in economic activities of their liking, society acts proactively to
reverse any large scale disparities and prevent all forms of exploitation; (5)
To ensure that the disabled, the less privileged, the needy and the ones who
sacrifice themselves for larger aims are duly protected, socially and
economically; (6) To ensure that the diverse abilities of individuals are given
societal and economic support.
Unfortunately, "Islamic Economics" has been
reduced to Islamic finances meant for Muslims and has failed to address the
needs of the world. An article, "Islamiceconomic jurisprudence",
appearing on Wikipedia and "Islamic Economics" says:
"Islamic economics is economics in accordance with
Islamic law. Islamic economics can refer to the application of Islamic law to
economic activity either where Islamic rule is in force or where it is not;
i.e. it can refer to the creation of an Islamic economic system, or to simply
following Islamic law in regards to spending, saving, investing, giving, etc.
where the state does not follow Islamic law." The definition fails to
capture the Qur’an's philosophy of economics and does nor indicate the basic
aims of the Islamic economics. In the following definition, I have tried to
capture the true nature of Islamic economics:
"Islamic economics refers to the establishment of a
world order where people, individuals or groups, are free to earn their
livelihood through rightful use of the provisions of God and their abilities,
natural or acquired, without the violations of the true goal of Comprehensive
Peace that Qur’an envisages, that is within the boundaries of the
three-dimensional system of fundamental rights, fundamental duties and fundamental
prohibitions, and the establishment of a system that ensures comfortable living
for each and every human being including those who are in a disadvantageous
position, temporarily or permanently, due to some reason."
It needs to be emphasized that economics is not just about
the currency but is also about the work and services; it is not just about the
goods and services produced by the big industry but also about the services of
all kinds and goods of all kinds produced by all the individuals and all the
groups, small or big; and it is not just about the calculation of Gross
Domestic Product, annual growth and per capita income but also about the
effects produced on individual's health, family peace, social order and national
and international peace. The position taken in the above statement is quite
different from the current international definitions of economics as well as
from the so-called Islamic economics. The modern economic system dominated by
market economics is not ready to accept anything that restricts its functioning,
does not care about the adverse effects of economic activities and is not
interested in helping the needy at the cost of the interests of the market; if
it makes any concessions it is only for political reasons so that their
position does not face any substantial challenge from society. "Islamic
Economics" on the other hand is more or less the continuation of the
modern economic system with minor adjustments to suit the religious
requirements so that the money of Muslims can be attracted and the clerics are
kept in good humor. Islamic finance simply involves legal tricks to make it
look compatible with Shariah in finer details without changing in any
substantial degree the economic philosophy behind the system, which continues
to be nearly the same as that of the market economics. It is only a legal
exercise, nothing better than the other famous Shariah tricks like Halala and
Tamleek. The effects of such a financial system, especially in absence of a
coexistent fiscal policy based on the spirit behind the Qur’anic directives,
are only marginally different from that of the modern financing systems. In
addition, it is an abysmal failure in influencing in any way the direction of
the globalization, which revolves around the commercialization of not only
human strengths but also of human weaknesses.

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