Further progress of Islamic calls for closer cooperation between Islamic economists and shari’ah scholars, on the one hand, and between Islamic economists and their colleagues, especially the non-Muslims among them. The way in which a faqih arrives at hukum or policy prescription (in matters not directly covered by the teks of the Qur’an and Sunnah) and the way in which an economist does so have a great deal in common. Both are trying to promote the social good and resolve any conflict between private interest and public interest. But each does it in his own way.
The jurist often quotes authorities more than reporting arguments or stating his reasons. The economist is trained to deal with reasons in analytical manner. Interaction with the economist is likely to force the jurist to go back to first principles more often than he has lately been accustomed to. The jurist, however, has a broader perspective on the objectives on the shari’ah in relation to economic transactions, with which the economist’s narrowly focused training never provides him.
Any policy prescriptions coming from the economists need to be reexamined in a broader perspective. The economist should not, however, accept the juristic verdicts passively. Rather, he should understand the jurist’s methodology, assimilate his perspective, and reexamine the issue. Only this kind of close interaction, centered on specific issues such as rent, profit-sharing, or zakah on industrial assets, is likely to yield a body of ahkam or policy prescriptions more responsive to needs of society and in consonance with the objectives of the shari’ah.
Interaction with the profession of economics is needed to ensure rigor in analysis and relevance to the international economic situation. Islamic economics is not meant to be specific to Muslim countries. Its appeal is universal. Let its descriptions and prescriptions be examined closely by men of robust common sense in comparison and contrast with that with which they themselves are familiar. They may judge Islamic economics on the twin criteria of logical consistency and practical efficacy in the light of their own understanding of the economic situation.
Since these criteria also constitute the points of reference for Islamic economists, along with the objectives of the shari’ah which is their unique point of reference, they definitely stand to gain by this interaction. It is also a necessary exercise for gaining universal acceptability for Islamic economics. The objectives of the Shari’ah are none other than the repositories of what is good for man. Professional economists cannot but appreciate the Islamic economics is seeking to ensure through reason, aided by divine guidance, some of the very ends they are seeking to secure through reason alone.
Putting Ideas to Practice
Islamic economics has recently attracted the attention of the rulers of some Muslim countries. Who want advice on development strategies, financial management, and welfare programs. This is a welcome development as it makes fresh demands on this nascent discipline and obliges it to move from the general to the specific and from the academic to the practical and the operational. Islamic economists need to make their own analysis at the existing condition in the countries in which they operate before they can translate their models of banking and finance, fiscal policy and distribution, in to operational program in specific countries. So far this has not been a strong point of Islamic economics. The research institutions serving Islamic economics should pay special attention to this aspect of their work.
The classroom and the faculty lounge have been the cradle of academic disciplines, but Islamic economics has yet to find its proper place in these areas. A concerned effort on the part on of its sponsors can easily win ground, as their case is strong.
No department of economics anywhere can afford to ignore it altogether. Colleges and universities in the Muslim world can be persuaded to accord it a much better treatment.
But the lack of suitable teaching materials the difficulties in gaining access to what is already available are frustrating indeed. Better arrangements of distribution of the available literature and a planned effort to prepare suitable reading materials, including textbooks, should receive top priority.