This paper was presented at the workshop on “Basic Concepts and Thoughts in Islamic Economics” held in Istanbul during 1-3 March 2013. The papers presented at the workshop will be published in a volume of proceedings of the workshop eventually.
There is a huge number of definitions of Islamic Economics available in the literature. The vast majority take existing definitions from the western literature and modify them to incorporate an Islamic angle. This leads to the widespread belief that Islamic Economics is a variant or a branch of conventional economics. We argue that something can be called “Islamic” only if it is based on the Quran and Sunnah. In this paper we propose a new definition based purely and directly on Islamic ideas and sources. We show that this definition differs radically from any available in the West, as well as the vast majority of definitions proposed by Islamic Economists. It creates entirely new ways of looking at and organizing the subject matter of Economics. This paper discusses ten dimensions of contrast, where our new definition suggests that the methodology of Islamic Economics is directly opposed to western methodology. Zaman (2012, Crisis In Islamic Economics) describes the current crisis in Islamic Economics, widely acknowledged by leaders in the field. Conventional views are that Islamic Economics must be a compromise between Islamic ideals embodied in homo islamicus, and realistic views embodied in homo economicus. However, there is substantial disagreement on the nature and extent of the compromise required. Consensus on defining “Islamic Economics” appears to be a pre-requisite for progress. I believe that a definition which can be justified purely and directly from Islamic sources will be able to command consensus that compromises cannot. Furthermore, this definition opens the way to radically new approaches, which can fulfill the promise initially held out by Islamic Economics. This (now largely forgotten) promise was that Islamic Economics will provide justice, and eliminate oppression and inequities associated with capitalist, communist and socialist economic systems.