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The Economic Directives of Islam
Economic Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Ever since the industrial revolution stunned the world more than two centuries ago, the discipline of economics has grown in import. It has become a specialized field attracting the attention of several minds. Alive to the situation, Muslim scholarship set about to frame and formulate the economic teachings of Islam in a more lucid and concrete manner. In particular, the last half-century has witnessed a phenomenal amount of work being done in this regard. Without taking anything away from this endeavor, it can be said that this effort could have been more fruitful and productive had it not been marred by a grave flaw: the belief that  Islam provides a complete economic system and the only thing needed is its implementation in favorable circumstances.

In spite of a tremendous amount of work and dedication, unfortunately, Muslim scholarship today appears in shambles because of this flaw. It has been unable to come to grips with this challenge, which still spitefully stares at them. This grave flaw, it seems, can only be overcome if the approach to the whole issue is completely reviewed in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah.

It needs to be appreciated that man has been blessed with the faculty of intellect and reason and has also been blessed with innate guidance regarding good and evil. In the affairs of life, his intellect and the innate guidance are generally enough to guide him and show him the way. It is only at certain crossroads that he needs divine guidance to select the right way. Consequently, in all such affairs a detailed system of directives has not been divinely revealed to guide mankind: only a broad outline has been given in the form of a set of rules and regulations which must be adhered to. Bearing this in mind, intellect and reason must evolve a system suited to the requirements and needs of a society. Since these requirements vary with time and place, the resulting systems will also vary accordingly. However, these systems shall be based on the same set of rules and regulations. In other words, the law, which is a set of rules and regulations is divine and, therefore, eternal, but the system evolved upon this law is a human inference and, therefore, flexible. This flexibility, obviously, has been left to accommodate changing circumstances and evolutionary developments of human societies.

Therefore, instead of extracting an economic system from the Qur’ān and Sunnah which, of course, does not exist, all out efforts should be made by Muslim scholars to derive the economic law of Islam. The task of formulating a system on its basis should be left to the economists and to those who understand the intricacies of this field.


 Working on the pattern outlined above, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi has attempted to derive the economic law of Islam from the Qur’ān and Sunnah. He has shown that this law consists of seven basic principles and each of these principles is based on specific verses of the Qur’ān. During the course of his research, he has revived the true concept of Zakāh and shown that the issue of ‘ِرَبوا اْلفَضْلِ’ (ribā al-fadl: interest in transactions concluded on the spot) is a case of misinterpretation and has arisen in our Fiqh because the narrators have mixed up the words of certain Āhadīth. He has also derived that the establishment of a public sector in a country is an essential ingredient of this economic law. His research on the law of inheritance merits separate mention keeping in view its profound nature. Approaching the whole issue through the universal principles of language and working abinitio on their basis, he has come up with what can be termed as a prodigious piece of research. He has demonstrated that if a person has a flair for relishing the finer aspects of a language, the verses of the Qur’ān unfold their meaning to him. There is absolutely no need to employ the ‘Doctrine of Increase’ (‘awl) to proportionately decrease the shares if the law of inheritance is understood on this basis. All the shares can be perfectly distributed. Similarly, the correct meaning of ‘َكلالة’ (kalālah) can be ascertained very easily if this approach is adopted.

This effort is by no means the final one. However, being an original piece of research, both in approach and content, it deserves a serious reading from all those who want to understand the economic message of Islam. It needs to be weighed in the scales of reason and revelation and not in those of conventionality.

For the benefit of the English reader, in the following pages, I have attempted to translate Ghamidi’s research article from Urdu1.


1. The article appears in Ghamidi’s Mīzān, 1st ed., Dāru’l-Ishrāq, Lahore, 2001

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