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Teaching Programs in Islamic Economics: A Comparative Study PDF Print E-mail

Munawar Iqbal


Islamic economics is a new discipline but it is gaining strength and maturity very quickly. Its development in the last few years has led to the establishment of teaching and training programs at a number of places in several countries. With increasing literature of high quality becoming available due to tremendous interest in the area, it is hoped that several new programs will appear in the near future.

Therefore, it is a very crucial stage in its development. The seed has been sown but there are years of hard work ahead. This is the time for fertilizing and watering on the one hand and weeding and pruning on the other. While it is imperative to increase the present effort manifold, it is also important to keep a vigilant eye on the experiments under way in order to ensure that they achieve me objectives for which they were designed. It is in this spirit that the present comparative study of the major teaching programs in Islamic economics are being undertaken.

Initially, Islamic economics was introduced as one of the subjects in degree programs in the economics and shari'ah faculties in some universities. It was comprised of only one or two one-semester courses.

The number of courses gradually increased. It was only in the early 1980s that complete degree programs in Islamic economics were introduced. At present, there are four accepted teaching programs-the partial program, the undergraduate program, the graduate program, and the training program (designed to meet the short term needs of the Islamization process). In the following pages we will say a few words about each of them. But before doing so we present some broad objectives that the teaching programs should attempt to achieve. The existing programs shall be evaluated according to these.

Objectives of Teaching Programs in Islamic Economics

The major universities of most of the Muslim countries have inherited or borrowed their style of teaching economics from Western universities. Their approach is purely secular and the contents of their courses mundane. Such an approach is, of course, quite suitable to countries whose ground is materialism and secularism but is most contradictory to Islamic societies where all disciplines should have a profound imprint of Islam so as to provide Islamic vision. Before listing the objectives of teaching programs in Islamic economics, some general remarks about the existing education system may be useful.

The major defects from which the education system in most of the Muslim countries suffer may be identified as follows:

  • First, the education system has been bifurcated into so-called 'modern' and 'religious' education. The two are being imparted through entirely independent and completely different institutions with no interaction between them. In most of the Muslim world, religious education is given through madaris (literally, schools, but here meaning religious schools) while secular, modern education is imparted through colleges and universities.
  • Second, religious education receives neither patronage nor recognition. Public funds controlled by the state support the public schools and universities while it is left to charitable institutions to support religious schools. Similarly, the graduates of dini madaris (religious schools) receive no official recognition; almost all public jobs go to the graduates of colleges and universities. The graduates of madaris have to survive on very meager and irregular allowances in the informal sector. They have no status in the society and are often looked down upon by the so-called 'educated class'. The natural result has been that most of the talent flows into the secular system of education.
  • Third, the quality of education has been pathetically low. The curricula and syllabi for the university education are out dated. The system of education and examination is such that the critical and creative abilities of the students are not promoted. The situation in the religious schools is even worse. The system of education and examination is very loose. Quite often it is very informal. Even curricula and syllabi are not standardized. They vary from one madrasah to another both in coverage and standard. There is hardly any place for the study of modem developments, new technology, or research.

The brief review of the problems given above provide useful insights into planning out a strategy for their solution. Any prescription for the treatment of the ailing system must include the following elements:

  • So-called 'modern' education and the 'religious' education systems must be fused together.
  • Education must be purpose-oriented. It should be considered as 'ibadah and must result in a better understanding of the Islamic faith. It should aim at character building and spiritual elevation along with an increase in knowledge.
  • Quality of education must be improved so as to produce people who are not only qualified in modem science and technology but are also imbued with Islamic knowledge, character, and spirit. They should have all the necessary qualities that will enable them to reconstruct modem knowledge on the foundations of Islam and to suggest ways and means for putting it into practice.

In the light of these broad principles the teaching programs in Islamic economics should aim at the following:

  • Knowledge of Arabic good enough to enable the students to have direct access to classical Islamic literature and original sources.
  • Knowledge of the shari'ah in general and Islamic economics in particular.
  • Knowledge of traditional economics.
  • Knowledge of 'quantitative' tools of analysis.
  • Ability to critically evaluate economic theory.
  • Professional awareness of the need for a new approach towards the science of economics.
  • Motivation of the students to participate in the process of Islamization of knowledge.
  • Preparation of the students for the job market in order to meet the requirements of Islamization efforts on the one hand and to provide a decent means of living for the graduates on the other.

Salient Features of Various Kinds of Teaching Programs in Islamic Economics Partial Programs

Overall content

As mentioned in the introduction, there are four kinds of programs being offered. The partial program is the least ambitious of them. It involves only one or two courses in Islamic economics. The contents of these courses vary but they are usually very elementary. A typical course is "Economic Values and System of Islam" offered at Punjab University , Pakistan and includes the following topics:

1. Meaning and scope of Islamic economics: Economic system of Islam as a part of its overall philosophy of life; sources of Islamic economic concepts; Islamic economics and modern economics.

2. Basic Values and Principles: Concepts of equality musawah (equality), ikhwah (brotherhood), 'adl (justice), taqwa (fear of Allah), ihsan (benevolence), and ta'awwun (cooperation) as the basis of all economic policies; concepts of halal and haram and their application to economic activities; Islamic code of business ethics.

3. Islam and other economic systems: The economic system-its meaning and functions; a comparative analysis of the broad economic features of Islam, capitalism, and socialism.

4. Consumption: Importance and principles of consumption in Islam; principles of moderation and its economic significance; behavior of the Muslim consumer.

5. Production: Islamic approach to production; areas of private and public ownership in Islam; ownership and cultivation of land; forms of business organizations-mudarabah (partnership between one who has capital and one who has expertise) and musharakah (joint venture, partnership in which the participants contribute both capital and expertise).

6. Dignity of labor: Importance, dignity and rights of labor in Islam; measures to improve labor-capital relationship.

7. Product pricing: Concept of just pricing in Islam; prohibition of exploitative prices-monopolistic, speculative, etc.; regulation and control of prices; behavior of firms under the influence of the Islamic spirit.

8. Principles of distribution of national income and wealth: Qur'anic emphasis on the circulation of wealth among all sections of the community; limits on rents and profits;

Islamic approach to determination of wages; measures against accumulation of personal wealth-the institutions of zakah (poor-due; public welfare tax), sadaqah (charity), khayrah (good deed), and awqaf (endowments); distributional aspects of the Islamic law of inheritance; state's power for further measures; rights of specified sections of the community to receive pensions; death duties; the revolutionary concepts of al'afw (waiver of punishment).

9. Interest-Free Banking and Insurance: Prohibition of interest and its economic and social significance; interest-free banking; introduction of interest-free investment and deposit accounts in Pakistan; insurance and Islam.

10. Public finance, fiscal policy and budgeting: Taxation in Islam; the institution of bayt al mal (public treasury); principles of public expenditure; the institution of zakah; zakah as an instrument of fiscal policy; the Zakah and 'Ushr (one tenth) Ordinance, 1980.

11. International trade: Islamic approach to trade among nations; new world economic order and Islam.

12. Economic development and planning: Islam's keen interest in economic development; encouragement of technology, inventions, and innovations; nature and importance of economic planning in Islam; goals for development policy in Islam.

13. Role of the state: Maintenance of law and order; security of life and property; social security; provision of basic necessities of life; social overhead capital; education and tabligh (spreading the message of Islam); economic development; social justice.

14. Social justice in Islam: Social justice in Islam; goals, strategies and instruments.

15. Role of Muslim economists: Muslim civilization and the development of world trade, commerce, agriculture, technology and transportation; contribution of Muslim economists to development of economics as a science.

16. Islamization process in Pakistan : The character and objectives of any Islamic economy; the choice of an appropriate policy package.

Two one-semester courses

It goes without saying that partial programs cannot help much in the objective of Islamization of knowledge. However, they have their own importance. They are a good precursor to full-fledged degree programs where introduction of the latter is not possible for one reason or another. They are like the first few drops of rain that herald a downpour. The contents of these courses can, however, be improved.

Assuming only two one-semester courses to be offered, we suggest the following sequence: Economic Doctrines of Islam and Introduction to Islamic Economic Theory.

In addition, every teacher should be asked to introduce Islamic elements into the conventional courses as far as possible. The suggested contents of the two courses are given below:

Economic Doctrines of Islam

1. What is Islamic economics and how does it differ from secular economics?

2. Islamic economic system: a comparative study; salient features of the Islamic economic system.

3. The Islamic principles guiding consumption and production.

4. Shari'ah guidelines for the theory of exchange.

5. The concept of ownership and its limits in an Islamic framework.

6. The redistribution mechanism in an Islamic economy.

7. The concept of riba (interest), its interpretations and implications.

8. Alternative institutions to interest-based operations and their justification in the shari'ah.

9. Zakah and its economic role: The place of zakah in Islamic fiscal policy, its effects on consumption, saving and investment activity in the country.

10. Institutions of 'ushr, kharaj (land tax), jizya, (head tax on free Nonrnuslims under Islamic rule), etc. as sources of public revenue.

11. The economic role of state in an Islamic economy.

12. Muslim economic thinking: A survey of contemporary literature.

Introduction to Islamic economic theory

1. Consumer behavior in Islamic perspective and its effect on demand.

2. Behavior of f m s in the Islamic framework and its effect on supply.

3. Market equilibrium.

4. Islamic view on market structures-perfect competition, monopoly, oligopoly, and monopolistic competition.

5. Factors of production and determination of return.

6. Distributive justice and need fulfillment.

7. Measurement of gross and net national product-some considerations from an Islamic perspective.

8. An introduction to macroeconomic modeling for an Islamic economy

9. Consumption-saving and investment functions in an Islamic economy.

10. Interest-free banking and monetary policy.

11. Public sector economics in an Islamic economy.

12. Project evaluation from an Islamic perspective.

13. Shari'ah guidelines for international trade.

14. Concept of economic development in Islam.