About the Book
The book is an attempt at bringing out the distinguished features of the economic system of Islam, concerned with the concrete problems of economic life and their solution according to the injuctions of the Shari’ah, Attention is focused on the system of land tenure and the development of the minor resources, stressing the basic principle of Islam that the gifts of Nature be always free without any man or human agency, such as the state, charging any rent for the same. The prohibition of riba is beyond all question, but it is not the panacea for all the economic ills.
Recalling the history of the development of banking institutions from the Abbasi’d times; the main function of the banks as a middleman between the investor and the industrialist and some aspects of the working of the corporations are shown to be incompatible with the Islamic nations of equity and justice. The sprit of western nationalism is a negation of Islamic universalism, which makes no distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim in the field of economics.
According to the author, only an appeal to reason in relation to the concrete situations of life can put Islam on the offensive as the champion of justice and equity (of course, not equality) in the economic relationship of man to man. In this way, the rise of Communism and Socialism is Islam’s opportunity. The fashionable defence of Islam with the only armour of “ideology” (in itself an outlandish, disreputable terms) is already crumbing, having only served to discredit Islam as a prop of an intolerably unjust order.
The capitalist system of economy plagued the Muslim countries as part of the Western civilisation which engulfed them in the wake of their political subjugation. The Muslims singled out the most palpable feature of it, namely, the riba, for severe condemnation, which was but due from the Islamic viewpoint. However, the Muslim scholarship, being at a low ebb, failed to make a comprehensive and penetrating study of the entire capitalistic system of economy so as to evalute and expose the other features of it which, through a dialectical process, developed in its womb the ideology of socialism and .gave birth to the system of totalitarian economy run by a powerful junta in the name of the revengeful dictatorship of the proletariat.
Since the rise of socialism Islam has been on the defensive.
The defence is based primarily on religious faith. which is unwittingly designated by the fashionable unreligious term “ideology”. The defenders would not concern themselves with an appeal to reason in relation to the actual problems of this mundane world. For long no serious attention was paid to reconstructing the Islamic system of economy and presenting it in an intelligible way to the modern world. An unfortunate result of this exclusive concern with ideology is the identification of Islam with the props of a crumbling, intolerably unjust economic order.
Iqbal was the first to proclaim that the rise of socialism was Islam’s opportunity-an opportunity for Islam to rediscover itself and to project itself so as to pose a challenge to socialism while making the best of the decay of capitalism. It called for a revolution within the Islamic society before Islam set about to revolutionise the world. That was not to be.
The tyranny of landlordism continued to rage unabated in the Muslim lands. The banking, commercial and industrial systems of the West became the order of the day with the support of the ruling class and the big business despite the condemnation of riba by the religious doctors and the common people. With political in- dependence, industrialism emerged as the prime policy of the State. Soon the phenomenon of abject poverty of the teeming millions in the midst of the ill-gotten, inflated wealth of a few millionaires caused the reaction against capitalism to burst in all its fury. Defence based on ideology began tottering and political exigencies compelled some concern for improving the lot of the common man. When it came to finding an answer to the concrete problems of economic justice, the modernists made attempts at tailoring Islam according to the Western notions of economic development. And, to our dismay, some of the politically-minded ‘ulama’ found it easy to copy out for Islam that brand of patched capitalism which some Western countries, particularly Britain, have evolved to meet socialism half-way in a realistic effort to stave off the evil day.
The present book is mainly concerned with the concrete economic system of Islam. The religious faith (disparaged by the popular designation “ideology”) is referred to only in so far as it motivates and characterises the system. In dealing with the concrete problems of economic life, controversies around the accepted principles of Islam such as the prohibition of riba are discarded. Attention is focussed on agricultural land tenure and the methods of industrialism, which violate the fundamental guarantees’ of Islam in regard to the free character of the gifts of Nature, the freedom of trade, the operation of the natural factors of supply and demand and the maintenance of the gold standard. The problems arising out of the above violations are not cured by the prohibition of riba, which is often regarded as the panacea for all ills. Even if the banks substitute partnership in business for interest on deposits, the evil consequences of a middleman intervening between the investor and the manager cannot be easily overlooked. Priorities of planning by the State are all-important for economic justice .and social welfare. My efforts shall be-amply repaid if only the attention of the readers is directed to the problems casually dismissed or scantily treated so far.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my revered teacher. Dr Abid Ahmedali, for his kind encouragement. suggestions and deep interest in the preparation of the book.
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