Economics and Business

Teaching Islamic Economics in Malaysian Universities: Lessons from the Department of Economics, IIUM

Islamic economics, in both theory and practice, has been an area of discussion and debate for the last three decades. While literature on Islamic economics, particularly Islamic banking and finance, has increased tremendously in the last two decades, one very neglected area has been in Islamic economics education.  This paper tries to fill this gap by discussing and analyzing the ‘Islamic economics curriculum’ at the Department of Economics, Kulliyyah of Economics and Management Sciences (KENMS), IIUM and how its 25 year experience could provide some insights and lessons for curriculum reform in Malaysian universities.

 The next section discusses the background of the KENMS as well as the program structure of the B. Economics (Honours) offered by the Department of Economics, IIUM. Section 3 presents an analysis of the program by the type of courses offered. Section 4 presents selected issues in Islamic economics education and the relevant development of Islamic economics curriculum in general, while the last section concludes.

  1. Background of the KENMS

The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) was established in 1983 by the Government of Malaysia. Based on the recommendations of the First World Conference on Muslim Education held in Makkah in 1977, the university’s ultimate aim was to create professionals who, while being educated in their traditional values, were able to function and change contemporary society according to the vision of Islam.

To achieve this goal, the IIUM attempts to introduce a unified teaching and learning process along with the inculcation of moral and spiritual values through Integration, Islamization, Internationalization and Comprehensive Excellence (IIICE). Its curriculum combines courses in Islamic civilization and worldview (which are compulsory for all students),  with contemporary disciplines. The process of integration in the IIUM is done at two levels.  The first is at the Kulliyah (faculty) level where an Islamic perspective of the various disciplines is presented, requiring a process of critical evaluation and de-westernization of those bodies of knowledge and the infusion of Islamic values. The second level involves university level required courses offered by the Department of General Studies, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, as well as non-formal activities for students from all faculties. The non-formal activities include the compulsory weekly halaqah tarbiyah al-Islamiyah (Islamic education circle) and the cibadah camp (week-end retreat) which is also compulsory for students in their first year of study at the IIUM.

2.1 Program Structure of the B. Economics (Honours) 

Since 1997, students in the B. Economics program at the KENMS are required to fulfill 125 credit hours of course work. As can be seen from Appendix I, the program is made up of the following components: University Required Courses (17 credit hours), Kulliyyah Required Courses (36 credit hours), Department Required Courses (36 credit hours) and Elective courses (36 credit hours). Two major reforms/reviews were undertaken at the Department, one in 1989/1990 and the most recent in 1997. The current program allows students to choose from 4 concentrations namely in Islamic Economics, Finance, International Economics and Development Economics. In addition, the 1997 reform also saw the introduction of a double-degree program for B. Economics students who could pursue another degree in B. Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage (IRKH) by taking approximately 2 additional semesters of IRKH courses.

  1. An Analysis of the B. Economics Program by Type of Courses Offered
    For purpose of analysis, we categorized courses offered in the B. Economics program as consisting of the following 6 categories:
    a. Conventional economics courses (Conv.)
    b. Courses with some Islamic input/Comparative courses (SI/Comp.)
    c. Islamic economics courses (IE)
    d. Fiqh courses (F)
    e. Usul al-Fiqh courses (UF)
    f. Other Islamic courses (OI)

The type of courses is determined based on the course outlines provided by the Department of Economics. Conventional courses are defined as courses which do not have any additional Islamic input (content following purely the conventional content and no reference to materials from the Islamic perspective); Courses with some Islamic input and comparative courses are those that provide some Islamic input and references either on a few or many topics;  Islamic economics courses are courses in Islamic economics or those related to Islamic economics; Fiqh courses are those that concentrate more on the legal aspects of the subject matter; Usul al-Fiqh courses are those that discuss methodology/sources of knowledge in Islam; and Other Islamic Courses are courses which are not directly related to Economics, Fiqh or Usul al-Fiqh. Tables A-F provide some data of courses in the B.Economics (Hons.)  program.


3.1 Conventional Courses
At the university level, students in the B. Economics program at the KENMS will take at least 7 conventional economics courses and a possible maximum of 19 conventional courses, which equal to 21-57 credit hours (see Tables 3-5 of Appendix I). This represents between 17-46% of the total degree requirement at the KENMS. External examiners for the B. Economics program have indicated that the amount and depth of these courses (based on outlines and examination questions) are sufficient and compare equally with international standards. While 6-7 minimum courses in conventional economics are theoretically sufficient for a minor or even a major in many American degree programs, quantity alone may not be sufficient to gauge the effectiveness of these courses. Not only is the course outline important, but equally so is the ability of these outlines to be effectively taught and learnt by students, an issue that will be taken up later.

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