Sunday, July 31, 2005

Islamic Economics and Kalam (Theology)


It can take our breath away to see how theology (kalam) matters in Islamic economics. Economics as a study of choice can find deeper enrichment when it takes kalam on board to examine what really choice can mean in Islamic economics.

As I have mentioned in my first essay that Islam sees no harm about the concept scarcity. Scarcity requires man to make choices but to do so requires knowledge.

Muslim scholars who writes about Islamic economics agreed in principle, that the knowledge one applies in making choices is primarily derived from revelation (wahy). For example, what people want may requires us to ask on what basis people prefer goods X to goods Y. On this, reason can provide answers.

But reason may not easily explain why is alcohol beverages not found in the basket of goods of the Islamic economy? Or why the alcoholic drinks considered bads and not goods. The answer is that Allah swt prohibits the consumption of liqour and reason helps explain that what God has said is true indeed.

But it is interesting to find out how this (i.e. choices based on revelation) has become the fundamental principle in Islamic economics. To explore further, theology (‘ilm kalam) provides an interesting explanation.

According to ahlul sunnah jamaah (i.e. the Islamic orthodoxy) value derived from revelation is superior to value derived from reason. But there is no conflict between revelation and reason. In this manner, Islamic economics has subscribed to ahlul sunnah jamaah in matters of espitomology. But the question is why God has given man reason (‘aql) if revelation is the one man must obey? What is role of reason? Can reason determines what is good and what is evil? Can one discover the Truth by way of reason?

For example, the Quran says that riba is haram. Can reason say the same thing? Honesty is a good value i.e. nobody of a right mind would cherish dishonesty. But do we need the Quran to say that honesty is good? Isn’t reason good enough to imply the same? Can reason explain that God exists? Or do we need the Quran to prove that God exists? These are the questions that theologians have answers.

In theology, two group of people, namely the Mu’tazilites and the ‘Asaharites hold contrasting views about the above questions. These are explained the following:

1) The Jabarite school of theology:: They say that man’s actions are determined and predestined by God. Man has no will of his own. He could do nothing on his own choice. Jabarites thinking is also called determinism. Good and evil are all God’s own making.. Believing in the jabarites doctrine will make an individual docile and living without hope of improving his life as everything has been decreed by God. In this manner, the jabarites are also known as the fatalist The Mutazilites protested against this belief by saying that God has given man complete power over his actions as he is free to act any way he liked. It was this freedom of choice between good and evil that man responsible for his deeds. They also say that is man’s actions were predestined, why should God exhort man in the Quran to acquire virtue. Thus determinism of man’s action is not line with the Quranic teaching.

2) The Mu’tazilites school of theology: they are guided by reason and says that man has absolute freedom of will. Man has the power to build his own character, whether to lead a virtuous or vicious life. They maintained that human reason was competent to know the verities of the universe and was completely free to go searching after the Truth. They applied reason to all truths contained in the Quran and explained away those passages that they did not find conforming to reason. They even speculate about the duty of a believer in that if he is incapable of knowing truth by reason, they would be doomed to the hell fire.

2) The ‘Asharite shool of theology: ‘Asharism is a movement that ran counter the ideas of Mu’tazilism. It aims at compromising between reason and revelation. It wants to reconcile the dictates of reason with the dogma of faith. The ‘Asharites gave authority to God and advocates the view of predestination and predetermination of man’s past activities. Man has no freedom of will, no liberty of action but has been given the power of acquisition

One good example to see the doctrinal differences of the Mu’tazila and ‘Asharites is one concerning God, namely:

1. The existence of God
2. The obligation to worship God

The Mu’tazila argued that reason can prove the existence of God. But ‘Asharites then asked: can reason lead people to worship God? Can reason make it obligatory for man to worship God? According to the ‘Asharites, only through revelation that man will oblige to worship God. Reason is inadequate to do so.

Based on the above discussion, understanding the conception of choice in Islamic economcis will require students to examine in greater detail the study of Islamic theology (‘ilm kalam). It tends to show that Islamic economics is no longer merely fiqh oriented but demand an intimate knowledge of theology as well as philosophy to further enrich the discipline.

15 Comments:

Blogger weni said...

I just want to give my comment about Islamic Economics and Kalam (Theology). Based on the article that I have just read, We have to combine the revelation and knowledge in making decision to choose something. I don't agree with the Jabarite school of theology. This is because they make the human being live without hope and also make them feel lazy to do some efforts in reaching something they want. However, in this case I agree with the Mu'tazilities and 'Ashariate school if they combine their theology. The Mu'tazilities more concentrate toward reason in proving God on the other hand the 'Ashariate focus more on revelation in proving God. In my opinion, we have to combine the revelation and reason in proving the God. We also use revelation and reason in Islamic economics. We can not rely only reason or only revelation but we have to use both in economics. In addition, we have to know what the reasons about the prohibition of consumption something. Take for example, consumption pork and drinking beer. Furthermore, as a Muslim we have to relate the prohibition with the revelation. The conclusion based on my point of view is as a Muslim revelation and reason are very important for us in making decision in Islamic economics.I hope my comment could give the contribution for Prof. Saiful's article.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Orawan said...

To make the point on this topic above is making choices in aspect of Islam which must underlying principle and (revelation from two sources; Al-Qur’an and Al-Hadith). In my view points, Kalam or Theology as a fundamental of Islamic religion, we must believe on that and understanding. Second point, Islam introduced man to think and reflect upon creation in the world, it may lead a person to believe in the oneness of Allah and made him strong in his responsibility as vicegerent of Allah. Furthermore, Allah (s.w.t) has gifted man with reason, which is the tool required to know the world around him, to utilize it in satisfying his need and in shouldering his position. While, given divine revelation as a guide for man towards knowledge of the aims of righteous life, of the definition of his responsibilities and of ascertaining his components. Revelation enlightens man since his mental powers is limited on metaphysical concept, relationship in the whole universe and on earth, the complexities of human and social interaction and concepts. All of these are indispensable for endowing the human mind and will with the power to account for liabilities and guiding man’s energies and behavior in accordance with his aims in life. Reason will balance when it submits to the revelation as the ultimate aim of existence. In contrary, if reason is utilized in other than its correct ways and under influence of Greek thought in which thinking depend on erroneous guesswork or follow only mind, it would be astray. Thus, revelation and reason are both complementary and essential for righteous life on earth. There is no sense in the assumption of contradiction between revelation and reason. There are both meant to complement each other in human life, to help man realize his aim and shoulder his responsibilities. The last point, economic is an one activity that human have to act in develop society, therefore, to create the proper society as last time, Muslim have to be critical thinker in which to make a good choices by using their mind and intellect bestowed properly.

ORAWAN HEEMMAHMAD
G0515464

7:33 PM  
Blogger kamaruddin said...

I would like to give my piece of mind in regard to this article. As a muslim whatever presented in the Koran or revelation through hadiths are our two main sources of information and from which we as a human beaing should based our decision. As for the study of economics, the idea of scarcity in goods together with the unlimited wants of human being have made it more or less a decision making type of field. Sometimes I wonder if it really the scarcity in goods that really matter or is it the inadequatecy of knowledge that lead to this problem. That is why mankind keep progressing to fulfill their needs and along the way find a better way to do things.
by. kamaruddin

11:32 PM  
Blogger nira said...

Why Allah has given man reason ('aql)if revelation is the one man must obey? Can one discover the Truth by way of reason? Absolutely, Insya-Allah! The above is true because without reason, the truths of revelation cannot be valued / appreciated. I am agreeable to the 'Asharism that compromises between reason and revelation. Through revelation, man will oblige to worship God and reasons / logics / 'aql verifies the existience of God. Hence Islam as an ad-din, guides us through revelation and 'aql in making choices in life as we are the appointed caliph on earth. When choices are abundant, thus iman / faith shall be the fundamental in our day-to-day decision making including our decision in making wise choice to maximise our wants over scarcity of goods' supply in an economy. Only with this understanding that we can inculcate the values of 'insan rabbani' in our society. Wallahualam.

8:57 PM  
Blogger nadia said...

Allah is the creator and He created human as a dweller and caliph on this earth to surrender to Him. As caliphs, it is our duty to prosperous the earth. This is how we show our obedient to Allah besides our basic duties as a slave such as praying, fasting, paying zakat and performing haj. Prospering the earth can be done in many ways and one of it is through economy. When our economic prosper, people get benefits. Time has proved that those who conquer the economy will conquer the world. However, the sad thing to say about Muslim’s world is that not even we couldn’t conquer the economy, even worst, we couldn’t compete with them. That was why nowadays, most Muslims have been oppressed by the non-Muslims.
The basic thought about economic is no more than scarcity. With the limited resources to fulfill human unlimited desires, it requires knowledge to do so. What make Islamic and conventional economics different is in the sense of revelation. I believed, we as a good Muslim should always put revelation (wahy) as our main source in making decision. Revelation is a guide for us to determine right and wrong.
I think as human, we absolutely have the rights to make choices. But, at the same time we must obey to God’s rules and regulations. Here, revelation plays an important role.
From the article, I totally disagree with the Jabarism, which says that people had nothing to do with their life since everything have been determined earlier by God. Human is categorized as hopeless. I believe that Allah gives us chance to prove our trustworthy to Him through our actions. Thus, Allah rewards us with ‘aql’ to think and determine what is the best for us. So, it is our own effort to be good or bad, to success or to fail. Allah ask us to work hard just like we want live another 1000 years and He want us to obey to Him just like we want to die tomorrow.
As I mentioned earlier, men have the rights and free to make choices, but it should go inline with the God rules and regulation, which means that they are not totally free. What ever we do, Al-Quran and As-Sunnah become our main sources to be referred and followed, thus in this sense I disagree with the Mu’tazilism. I think the third school of theology (‘Asharism), is the best to desribe the concept of choice in Islamic Economic System.

Nurnadia Haisyah Hassan
G0328758

11:04 PM  
Blogger nadia said...

Allah is the creator and He created human as a dweller and caliph on this earth to surrender to Him. As caliphs, it is our duty to prosperous the earth. This is how we show our obedient to Allah besides our basic duties as a slave such as praying, fasting, paying zakat and performing haj. Prospering the earth can be done in many ways and one of it is through economy. When our economic prosper, people get benefits. Time has proved that those who conquer the economy will conquer the world. However, the sad thing to say about Muslim’s world is that not even we couldn’t conquer the economy, even worst, we couldn’t compete with them. That was why nowadays, most Muslims have been oppressed by the non-Muslims.
The basic thought about economic is no more than scarcity. With the limited resources to fulfill human unlimited desires, it requires knowledge to do so. Revelation is a guide for us to determine right and wrong.
I think as human, we absolutely have the rights to make choices. But, at the same time we must obey to God’s rules and regulations. Here, revelation plays an important role.
From the article, I totally disagree with the Jabarism, which says that people had nothing to do with their life since everything have been determined earlier by God. Human is categorized as hopeless. I believe that Allah gives us chance to prove our trustworthy to Him through our actions. Thus, Allah rewards us with ‘aql’ to think and determine what is the best for us. So, it is our own effort to be good or bad, to success or to fail. Allah ask us to work hard just like we want live another 1000 years and He want us to obey to Him just like we want to die tomorrow.
As I mentioned earlier, men have the rights and free to make choices, but it should go inline with the God rules and regulation, which means that they are not totally free. What ever we do, Al-Quran and As-Sunnah become our main sources to be referred and followed, thus in this sense, I also disagree with the Mu’tazilism. I think the third school of theology (‘Asharitism), is the best to desribe the concept of choice in Islamic Economic System.

11:10 PM  
Blogger siti rubiah said...

Quoting Dr Saiful said “……………understanding the conception of choice in Islamic economcis will require students to examine in greater detail the study of Islamic theology (‘ilm kalam). It tends to show that Islamic economics is no longer merely fiqh oriented but demand an intimate knowledge of theology as well as philosophy to further enrich the discipline”. My two cents, this is indeed very true. The eagerness to jump into the application part of the discipline such as Islamic Banking and Finance has made Islamic economics kind of stuck at the state of numb for which it was claim to already reach its plateau without really exploring what the discipline might would had offered. Pardon me if I’m being to judgmental on the branch of its discipline.

We know that the economic problems of man are as old as man’s existence on the planet. So is the human effort to resolve them, not only to make both ends meet, but to make life more comfortable and to enhance their power to mould things according to their vision. Looking at conventional economics, the last two hundred years have witnessed resourceful advancement, sharpening of methodologies, greater sophistication with extensive use of empirical analysis and econometric models for the purpose of estimation and forecast. Individuals, research organizations and governments are all actively participating in this development. Of course it will be unfair to compare these achievements and developments of conventional economics to Islamic economics which had its resurgence only over the last three to four decades. The number of parties involved in its development is relatively quite small and resources available in hands to finance such research activities also insufficient as majority Muslim countries are poor. But this shouldn’t be the excuse for Muslims to remain left behind. No question that there is still long way to go for Muslim economists to explore and contribute to the development of this discipline. Perhaps more literature on the methodology of economics itself will help, which by far, does not receive the deserved attention from the Muslim scholars.

Regarding the school of theology, I opt for ‘Asharite School that compromise between the revelation and reason. Human mind or reason even how brilliant it is, still need some sort of foundation to guide his thought and quest to find the truth. And for that reason, Revelation beyond doubt will play the best role in moulding our thoughts towards discovering the Truth. This is because, it is very unconvinced that through reason alone one will make himself obliged to worship God, for instance. Yes, there is likelihood that one will worship God based on reasoning at times like for example when their ‘prayer’ has been ‘answered’ the way they wish it by God. But what if it happens the other way around? Will reason successfully enough to guide our thoughts back to the right path?

Wallahu’alam

Siti Rubiah G0423340
August 11, 2005. 3.00pm

1:03 AM  
Blogger masa said...

The Assalamu alaikum
title ‘Islamic Economics and Kalam (Theology) draws readers’ attention to the world of theology and philosophy. One may ask: Does the word “Kalam” (Ilmul Kalam) mean Islamic theology or any theology? However, looking at the context, the author in fact refers to Islamic theology which has philosophical basis. The author puts it clearly that Islamic economics require an in-depth analytical knowledge of Islamic theology and philosophy as well.

The basic framework for an Islamic economics system is a set of rules and laws, collectively referred to as Shariah. Shariah originates from the rules dictated by the Quran and its practices, and explanations rendered (more commonly known as Sunnah) by the Prophet Muhammad. Further elaboration of the rules is provided by scholars in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) within the framework of the Quran and Sunnah.

However, Prof.Saiful Azhar’s argument that Islamic theology and philosophy play an important role in understanding the concept of choice as a field of study in Islamic economics has fundamental basis in line with the Islamic notion of Ikhtiyar: Choice.

Mere dependence on revealed knowledge does not seem to produce much good to the public wellbeing in any aspect of life. In order to prosper in life there is a need to have continuous research effort employed in various disciplines of social sciences using various Islamic schools of theology and philosophy.

I understand that Prof.Saiful Azhar implies that there is an important need to have strong research and development (R&D) framework for Islamic economics to stand and develop for all time to come. And being fanatic towards any particular school of theology or philosophy will never bring good for the people. One should make sure that it promotes efficient allocation and equitable distribution of limited resources, and promotes stability in the economy.

It is equally important to apply analytical philosophy in understanding the concept of choice in Islamic economics. I hope that Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy on the basis of Islamic Economics can also be a guide to understanding the said concept.

Prof. Saiful Azhar’s writing on Islamic Economics and Kalam has infact redirected me to a better understanding of Islamic economics and Ilm al-Kalam (Theology) on the the concept of choice. It would have been much beneficial to the reader’s circle if there would have been some elaborations of various schools of Islamic philosophy in relation to Islamic economics.

Sarabdeen Masahina
IIUM
D518872

1:48 AM  
Blogger hazim said...

assalamualaikum,
fellow bloggers, for a muslim the theological perspective - name it aqidah,kalam or tauhid - is fundemantal in any field of thought and sciences.there is no doubt on that.But then it doesn't disapprove rule of reason and experience.Islam recognize the rule of reason and experience.This can be observed from seerah or history of Prophet Muhammad's life.
as an example, during the battle of Badr, Prophet Muhammad decided to set muslim camp near the Badr valley well.A companion,Habbab bin Munzir questioned him whether the decision was a revelation from Allah or merely his strategy.upon knowing that it was his strategy, habbab objected the decision and suggested muslim army to secure the nearest well to the enemy's position and destroy any other wells.this strategy appeared to be effective, where during the battle enemy force have lost their logistic advantage and ran out of water.(refer Said Ramadhan Al-Buti)
the stress point here is that the questioning shows that there is room and rule for reason in Islam.this apply in economics and finance too.the thinking that as long as there is an islamic finance system then things are done,is a little bit off the track.it is important to make sure that it serves the objectives of syariah. In fact,Islamic civilization fell into dark era after shcolars during the period declared that the era of ijtihad is over.
wallahualam.

Ahmad Hazim Alias

1:57 AM  
Blogger hazim said...

just minor correction,when I wrote 'rule' in previous post,I meant 'role'.

2:46 AM  
Blogger iryani said...

Determinism sometimes can lead to confusion when man wants to make decision. Making decision in acquires things in life; whether small or big illustrate the ability of evolution in man constitute of mind. Men are guidance by his or her logical thinking or aql which sometimes accompanied by the revelation tracks. In Islam, every action made must consider the validity of the rules and laws consists in the religion. I do believe, in making what man wants must come together with this package. But ironically, not every man alerts in this matter for example nowadays when buying a house or a car some people just don’t really mind if the loan they applied consists a high interest rate. Not many tend to choose to go to the Islamic banking but rather to the conventional baking institutions. This irreconcilable phenomenon is just one of many example that mushrooming in our Muslim community. Lacks of understanding the importance of revelation making men are loss. No doubt that man has absolute freedom of will but that doesn’t mean that the freedom passes to him or her can be exploited easily without any revelation guidance. Men are sending to this earth with a purpose, to be a khalifah as well as to worship to Allah, as the ultimate creator. If this reason of purposes understands by Muslims then the objective of choices and the role of reason will not be a tripping problem. Thus the concept of choice in Islamic economics can be easily tackled. But again, human are not perfect except for Allah swt. Rationality and irrationality are two command behaviors posses by human. It’s all up to human to make a choice, what good or bad. All that are given to us, we should use it wisely. Wallahu’allam.

A’ina Iryani Dol Razlan

4:56 AM  
Blogger siti hajar samsu said...

Assalamualaikum...

After all have been said, I’m strongly believe theology become a centre in any thought and sciences concept. Nevertheless, Islam does recognize rule of reason in explaining the nature of creation in this planet by observation or experiment. But, bear in mind
To some point, rule of reason failed to explain the truth of something. Essentially, reasoning method need facts in order to prove the truth and this method is a fundamental in sciences thought. For example, how rule of reasoning explain the life after death? No one can explain through observation and experiment, because it’s beyond our ability. Hence, it demonstrates that we need both revelation and reason (‘aql) to guide our thought to discovery the truth.

9:13 PM  
Blogger sueraya said...

The Hisbah is a religious institution under the authority of the state that appoints people to carry out the responsibility of enjoining what is right, whenever people start to neglect it, and forbidding what is wrong, whenever people start to engage in it. The purpose of this is to safeguard society from deviance, protect the faith, and ensure the welfare of the people in both religious and worldly manners according to the Law of Allah. Allah has made it obligatory upon all Muslims to enjoin good and forbid wrongdoing to the extent of their knowledge and abilities.
Allah says:
"Let there arise from you a group calling to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. It is these who are successful."(Q.3:104)
Allah's Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Whosoever among you sees an act of wrong should change it with his hands. If he is not able to do so, then he should change it with his tongue. If he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and this is the weakest of faith."
We have already mentioned that the Hisbah is a religious institution, meaning that it is one of the official offices of a Muslim state, one that specializes in fulfilling the obligatory task of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. The Hisbah is the official means of carrying out this duty.
The Hisbah is essentially organized around safeguarding the limits of Allah from being violated, protecting the honor of the people, and ensuring public safety. It also includes monitoring the marketplace, craftsmanship, and manufacturing concerns to make sure that the laws of Islam are upheld by these entities. It must also ensure that quality standards are maintained. The Hisbah carries out these responsibilities in conjunction with the appropriate government agencies and other relevant establishments. The importance of the Hisbah in the overall Islamic order: Islam aims to bring about a stable and secure society filled with love, whereby the members of society work together in righteous and wholesome activities. Such an environment allows everyone to carry out the responsibility of being Allah's vicegerent on Earth and to fulfill their purpose for existence, which is to worship Allah. Allah says:
"I did not create Jinn and mankind except to worship me."
People are constantly in need of order in their lives and, consequently, they are in need of some authority to ensure that order. Because of this, there must be someone there to remind the people of this order and to keep tabs on how well they are adhering to it. This is why enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong is so important.

Sueraya bt Mohd Alwie
G0513108

9:31 PM  
Blogger sueraya said...

Islam offers a complete way of life; it provides rules and guidelines that cover every aspect of society. Naturally, a successful economic system is a vital part of a healthy society: the consumption of goods and services, and the facilitation of this by a common medium of exchange, is essential if people are to realize their material and other goals in life.
Islam sets standards, based on justice and practicality, for the establishment of such an economic system. The aim is to prevent the enmity that often divides different socioeconomic status. While money is considered to be one of the most important elements in society, the accumulation of which concerns almost everyone who participates in transactions with others, its position is secondary to the real purpose of human existence, the worship of Allah.
We can see that, in harmony with other religions, Islam teaches social justice. Allah will provide for every person whom He has brought into life. The competition for natural resources that is presumed to exist among the nations of the world is an illusion. While the earth has sufficient bounty to satisfy the needs of mankind, the challenge for us lies in discovering, extracting, processing and distributing these resources to all who need them.
Sueraya bt Mohd Alwie
G0513108

11:03 PM  
Blogger Abduh said...

Muhammad Abduh G0415065

This article is talking about how to make choices.
To make choices we need knowledge that we can take from revelation and reason.
Sometimes there is a thing that only stated by revelation but can not be explained. Sometimes there is a thing that can be explained by reason, and no need to state by Qur’an.
As Muslims, that believe in Allah, we should also believe in Qur’an. Because Qur’an is Allah’s words, no doubt on it. If we don’t believe to Allah, we can not say that we are Muslim. The definition of Muslim is a man that give his self up to Allah by awareness physically and spiritually.
Allah’s knowledge is the biggest compare to all His creation. Our knowledge compare with Allah like a scum in the ocean.
In study Islamic theology, we may apply the conception of choice to Islamic economics but we have to sterilize the concept and not accept it true one hundred percent. Maybe we can combine the good one from each concept and make it a new one concept and apply it to the Islamic economics. To understand Islamic economics, we can use whatever discipline that are exist as long as we can take a good value on it

5:57 AM  

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