The Creed of Islamic Economics
The basic creed that promotes Islamic economic behavior evolves from the Islamic concept of God, Allah, with the attributes ascribed to Him. Thus, acknowledging of Him the attribute Al-Malik (the absolute Owner of all) or Al-Rahim (who gives blessings and prosperity, particularly to those who use these gifts as He has permitted) contributes towards building up a Muslim mind. It is Allah Who watches over and protects all things, Who donates all things to His creatures, even for the non-believers, Who is the Provider of all things that are beneficial to His creatures (Al-Razzaq), Who opens the solutions to all problems, and eliminates obstacles and the Propitious. The Divide attributes do not only have metaphysical significance; a firm belief in them acts as a powerful source of inspiration and guidance in economic pursuits and planning.
Along with these Divine attributes a number of Qur’anic verses and an abundance of Prophet’s saying (peace be upon him) construct a mind that guides individual behavior in a direction which truly reflects firm belief in Allah’s Unity, tawhid. Without this firm belief the Islamic economic system and, for that matter, the whole of life falls prey to inconsistency and discord. It is firm belief in the concept of reward in the Hereafter, not the economic calculation, which induces a man to act upon the injunctions regarding physical and financial sacrifice. It is the concept of punishment in the Hereafter, not the economic calculations that stops one from undesirable consumption and forbidden earnings. The degree of firmness in these beliefs determines the degree of success of the Islamic system. To illustrate more precisely, the Qur’anic exposition of the attribute Al-Razzaq (Who is the Provider of all things that are beneficial to His creatures), for example, is given in the Qur’an itself in the following words:
“And there is no creature on earth but that upon Allah is its provision, and He knows its place of dwelling and place of storage. All is in a clear register.” [Al-Qur’an, Hud (11): 6]
“And there is not a thing but that with Us are its depositories, and We do not send it down except according to a known measure.” [Al-Qur’an, Al-Hijr (15): 21]
They are the ones who say, “Do not spend on those who are with the Messenger of Allah until they disband.” And to Allah belongs the depositories of the heavens and the earth, but the hypocrites do not understand. [Al-Qur’an, Al-Munafiqun (63): 7]
And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent. [Al-Qur’an, Al-Talaq (65): 3]
How does belief in this attribute influence economic attitude? A firm belief in the divine attribute of the Provider eliminates insatiable lust for amassing wealth through unlawful means and cools down impatience. It dissuades from unhealthy competition and egotism. It relieves tension and anxiety and unhealthy reaction in the event of poor return for one’s effort. Plus, the fear of loss in excise duty anticipated in the case of prohibition, or the fear of the failure of the economic and financial system due to abolition of interest, or the fear decrease in saving or bank deposits due to the imposition of Zakat, do not present serious challenge to the true believer in Allah.
A very important and characteristic feature of the economic teaching of the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad is that they are profoundly infused with the moral concepts which act as an inspiring force. At places an economic principle is given economic rationale. But such cases are few compared with those economic principles which emphasize the moral aspect. It is clearly found that economic considerations are subordinated to moral considerations as, for instance, in the verse of prohibiting interest (riba) wherein the practice is treated as injustice. Allah said:
“O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal – [thus] you do no wrong, nor are you wronged.” [Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah (2): 278 – 279]
This moral view is underlying motive for distribution of wealth among the needy and seeks a balance to regulate distribution. This basis in morality has not been neglected in other spheres of economic activity. The act of farming is associated with dispensing charity. An honest trader is ranked among the martyrs in the Hereafter. Earning one’s livelihood is esteemed as jihad. Contrarily, those who indulge in undesirable economic activities are denounce and threatened with condign punishment in the Hereafter.
The above discussion should suffice to make it clear that the economic structure envisioned by the Qur’an and teaching of Prophet Muhammad is thoroughly infused with religious and moral principles. But while the current of morality is made to flow beneath the surface of economic life, a process of moral perfection operates also within the economic life itself. While a man is required to refrain from hoarding wealth and exhorted to spend it for a noble cause, he is advised by the Qur’an to spend of superior but not inferior things and to abstain from capitalizing on his spending through publicizing it. Allah said:
“O you who have believed, do not invalidate your charities with reminders or injury as does one who spends his wealth [only] to be seen by the people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. His example is like that of a [large] smooth stone upon which is dust and is hit by a downpour that leaves it bare. They are unable [to keep] anything of what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” [Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah (2): 264]
“O you who have believed, spend from the good things which you have earned and from that which We have produced for you from the earth. And do not aim toward the defective therefrom, spending [from that] while you would not take it [yourself] except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy.” [Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah (2): 267]
Apart from these moral principles of Islam which have their bearing on economic life, the entire Islamic order is based on moral discipline, which, in turn, derives inspiration from its basic conceptions about Allah, about the purpose of man’s life, etc. In this way it is essentially the religious world-view of Islam which motivates the entire Islamic way of life and which provides those sanctions that make its rules of conduct effective.
S.M. Hasanuz Zaman. (1991). Economic Functions of An Islamic State (The Early Experience). The Islamic Foundation: United Kingdom.