From Issue: 523 [Read full issue]

An Islamic Economy?

There is no "Islamic economy." What can be found in the Islamic Universe of reference is a series of principles outlining an ethics, a general philosophy of the economy's goals, but there is no such thing as an economy that is "Islamic" by essence or through some specific disposition. There is no "Islamic economy," therefore, but an "Islamic ethics" of the economy. What has been represented, and is still being represented today, as an "Islamic economy" is in fact a set of principles and techniques (rejecting interest - riba, imposing a purifying social tax - zakat, risk sharing - musharakah) that are applied within the classical economic system and are supposed to represent an alternative.

By giving the label "Islamic economy" to a set of techniques based on two or three general principles totally out of touch with the framework of ethics and the general philosophy of Islamic teachings on the subject, one manages to propose formal, technical adjustments without questioning the higher goals of economic activity. The perversion goes even deeper and is particularly dangerous: this "Islamic economy," along with its sister "Islamic finance," suggest a series of reforms of the techniques and modalities of transactions at the heart of the classical system, which they do not question in its essence, but which on the contrary they confirm both in its philosophy of productivist profitability and in its global domination.

Presented in this way, the great catchphrase "an Islamic economy" is far from being an alternative. At best it is simply a "marginal option" whose function is insensibly to confirm the preeminence of the "mainstream" - that is to say, the liberal market economy. We are here at the heart of an in-depth debate: are we speaking about an adaptation reform, which - in its undeniable movement - confirms that to which it adapts, or are we trying to undertake a transformational reform that questions existing practices and suggests other ways in the name of the higher goals of ethics? In other words, we should be less pompous and bombastic in our rhetoric and more ambitious and bolder in our fundamental reflection and our practical, concrete proposals.

Compiled From:
"Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 242, 243