Book Review: Islam, Poverty, and Income Distribution

Book Review of  Islam, Poverty, and Income Distribution by Ziauddin Ahmed.
Journal of Islamic Studies, Oxford University Press, January 1993.

(Asad Zaman)

Book:  Islam, Poverty and Income Distribution
Author: Ziauddin Ahmad
Publisher: Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 1991
Pp. 112. Price PB £3.50. 0-86037-213-8.

First Paragraph of Book Review:
In a field marred by uneven quality Ziauddin Ahmad’s book stands out as exceptional. To put it into proper perspective, a brief overview of the field will be useful.

Most of the literature in Islamic economics may be put into one of two broad categories. On the one hand we have exercises in modern neoclassical economic theory painted in Islamic colours. For example, introduction of the zakdh, ‘ushr, prohibition on interest, and other characteristic features of Islam given an appropriately constructed neoclassical model fall into this category.
Due to the intellectual rigour and austerity of modern economic theory, such exercises offer challenges and rewards. Furthermore, for students working on dissertations in Western institutions, this is certainly the path of least resistance to Islamic economics. It must be clearly recognized that the intellectual heritage of this class of works comes from Adam Smith and Paul Samuelson, and not
from Islam and Muslim scholars. The framework implicitly supposes that additional consumption always improves welfare, and assesses policies in terms of their impact on consumption. On to this largely anti-Islamic broad vision are grafted some rules of the sharPa.

Concluding Paragraph:
The final chapter summarizes and concludes. This reviewer feels that the author has initiated an important line of enquiry. If we take the hallmark of Islamic economics to be the concern for the poor, as is strongly suggested by Ahmad, this would bring about significant changes in emphasis and material.
This concern would distinguish the theory from neoclassical economics, which is equally concerned with luxury and basic needs of consumption. It would provide an authentic underlying vision to guide the development of theory. It is the reviewer’s hope that others will follow in the direction pointed out by Ahmad.

Asad Zaman
The Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC
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