Economics and Business

The Role of Ethics in Economics and Business

Quite apart from the distinct dichotomy of man’s life into the secular and spiritual, conventional economics is still plagued with undue emphasis on the positive at the expense of the normative treatment of the subject.  ‘What is’ becomes the norm, in fact, the rule rather than ‘what ought’. The positivity of economics is one of the factors which stems from the desire to be exact, scientific or objective without any consideration for its behavioral aspects. It is as though man is a pure technocrat who has no feelings, prejudice or value judgments. It is as though of necessity that man, in his economic pursuit, must discard all values so that he can achieve his objectives independently of any other considerations. At the same time, economists, accept blindly that the axiom of selfish actions inherent in man as rational behaviour. In attempting to portray economics as a science, the economists created their ‘economic man’ whose sole purpose is maximizing his objectives in every economic pursuit.

Islam, on the other hand, has recognised the integrative nature of the secular and the spiritual. Both components of man are simultaneously considered, not only in economics but, in fact, in every facet of human life. The very basis is that Islam is a complete way of life and not just a religion which is completely divorced from material life. The material life has to be governed by Islamic injunctions as much as the spiritual. This integration is based on the ‘Unity’ or ‘Tawhidic’ paradigm which needs to be translated into actions, whether in the realm of the material or spiritual. The objective of all actions in Islam is nothing but to seek the pleasure of Allah – one of which is to establish a very balanced or just world. It is in this context that we attempt to approach this subject. The establishment of justice as lauded by Islam by Islam is not possible however, unless it is preceeded by Tawhid. Hence, section 2 of this paper will dwell on this precondition to prepare us for the sections to follow. Section 3 is concerned with the second fundamental principle of the establishment of justice. Once these two principles have been explained and their significance highlighted, we shall then synthesize ethics with economics and business practices which are different from those we are used to.  


THE TAWHIDIC PARADIGM

Tawhid is not only an important concept but also a fundamental principle and basis for the Islamic faith. It occurs in the belief system of every revealed religion, so much so that Islam has been acclaimed to be the only religion taught to man since Adam (A.S.). Literally, Tawhid signifies a unique relationship with the Only One that excludes all similar relationships with anyone else. Its uniqueness negates the remotest possibility of admitting the existence of another being worthy of worship.

The Oneness or Tawhid is not only confined to number but it also implies oneness or uniqueness in all His sublime qualities or attributes. All other beings have to be different from Allah in every respect. In its simplest from, the difference can be in terms of degree, For example, if one is rich, others are richer but Allah is the richest. Obviously the superlative is only for Allah and the difference is infinite. Any similarity is negated for otherwise it contradicts the very concept of Tawhid itself. Such uniqueness is qualities not only makes Him different from all others but also easier for us to logically accept His complete independence from all others. This quality of being completely independent makes it logical to believe that He provides for all and that all His creations depend upon Him.  Hence man is expected to be committed to Allah alone Who is the focus of all his reverence and gratitude. Man has no other choice but to recognize that there is no other authority except His and that there is no other guidance except His.

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