A Syllabus for Islamic Economics

Dr. Mabid Al Jarhi proposed a new syllabus for Islamic Economics, and circulated it for comments and discussion. This generated a very lively discussion. This post (4/19/18)  post explains why an Islamic Syllabus should be based on Islamic Sources, not on Samuelson. See also later posts in this discussion:  “Another Syllabus for IE“, “A First Lecture for Islamic Micro“, and “Spiritual Obstacle to Genuine IE“. My own Lectures on Islamic Economics illustrate the concepts discussed in these emails.

The difficulty that I have with the approach of Dr. Mabid Al-Jarhi is that there is no answer to the question posed by Dr. Mahmoud El-Gamal: why do we need to use the word “Islamic”? The economics being done is purely from Western sources, whether orthodox or heterodox, and the emphasis on math and analytics is a purely Western emphasis, which has no contact with Islamic teachings. Some Islamic topics like Fiqh and others are to be tacked on as an almost superfluous and un-necessary adjuncts – exactly as Cliff Cobb recognizes in his email: “you have indicated a desire to develop an endogenously developed Islamic economics, one that is not simply a response to or adjunct of neoclassical thought.”  Unless we can put Islam at front and center, we cannot call it “Islamic Economics”. Here is how I propose to do so, in my Third Generation Islamic Economics paper.

We start by considering the diversity of human purpose – Inna Sa’yakum la Shatta. Human behavior is driven by the desire to achieve goals (which are diverse) and to understand it, we need to understand human purpose. Neoclassical economists believe that all rational humans have only one purpose – maximizing the pleasure they obtain from consumption. This is obviously wrong, and so using Islamic ideas would be an obvious improvement. In my short note on “A Methodology for Islamic Economics”, I spell out how we must found this on three elements – the positive or descriptive, the normative or ideal, and the transformative, the method to move from the current reality towards the ideal. The third element, creating change, was obviously part of the mission of the Prophet Mohammad SAW. Emphasizing these three elements would distinguish Islamic Economics from any of the currently available approaches, whether orthodox or heterodox, and, being firmly grounded in Islamic traditions, would justify the label “Islamic”.

In many papers, I have spelled out how Islam is diametrically opposed to Economics; for example, see “Islam Versus Economics”. The second generation of Islamic Economists have spent more than three decades overlooking the conflicts and striving to harmonize conventional economics with Islamic teachings, to the extent of even accepting utility maximization as a valid principle. A genuine Islamic economics can be built only if we reject “TheIllusion of Scarcity” as a foundational principle of economics. Instead, the first priority of an Islamic economic system would be to provide for the basic needs for all members of the society, and ensure access to equal opportunities for education for all. Making these the CENTRAL problems of economics would lead to a radically different kind of economics, which would justify a distinct and distinguishing name like “Islamic Economics”.

To summarize — if we wish to create an “ISLAMIC ECONOMICS” then the FOUNDATIONS for the discipline must come from Quran and Hadeeth. Current versions of second generation Islamic Economics have foundations in Samuelson, and trimmings from Islamic ideas — this approach is not acceptable. I think Dr Mabid Al-Jarhy’s proposed syllabus also falls into this category. How we can create a discipline which is founded on Islamic teachings is spelled out in my papers on Re-Defining Islamic Economics, and in Reviving the Promise of Islamic Economics. Modern Economic theory is DEEPLY FLAWED. If we have the COURAGE to do so, we can launch a revolution. Just as Islamic teachings created a revolution 1400 years ago, they have exactly the same potential today. However, today unfortunately, islam has become a stranger, and the Ummah is crawling into lizard-holes after the Christians and Jews.

PS: I have taken the liberty of adding a few names whom I thought would be interested in this discussion. Furthermore, the issues under discussion are of universal interest, wherever Islamic Economics is being taught. So I have copied the first twenty emails into a webpage linked below, and hope to update it later, so that a record is available for use by others. The link to the history of this email conversation is as follows:




This entry was posted in islamic economics by Asad Zaman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Asad Zaman

BS Math MIT (1974), Ph.D. Econ Stanford (1978)] has taught at leading universities like Columbia, U. Penn., Johns Hopkins and Cal. Tech. Currently he is Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. His textbook Statistical Foundations of Econometric Techniques (Academic Press, NY, 1996) is widely used in advanced graduate courses. His research on Islamic economics is widely cited, and has been highly influential in shaping the field. His publications in top ranked journals like Annals of Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, Journal of Labor Economics, etc. have more than a thousand citations as per Google Scholar.

3 thoughts on “A Syllabus for Islamic Economics

  1. Pingback: Is Islamic Economics for Muslims Only? | An Islamic WorldView

  2. Pingback: Another Syllabus for Islamic Economics | An Islamic WorldView

  3. Pingback: The Spiritual Obstacle to Genuine IE | An Islamic WorldView

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s