Economics & Islam

Course Title: Economics & Islam
Course sub-Title: Theories, Institutions and Ideas of Economics and Religion

Enrolling info.: RELS:3333:0001 Economics & Islam (@ U of I)



For it to maintain a sustained existence as a social entity, a religious tradition must regulate its own economic practices and articulate a vision for a broader economic paradigm consistent with its teachings and practices. Where religion, as an institution, is integrated in state systems, national political economy becomes deeply influenced by religious beliefs and practices. When religious and state institutions are separated, a religious entity becomes a business enterprise, whose survival or thriving is largely dependent on its ability to merge creed and economic ideas and practices. In all cases, organized religions must develop an economic theory to deal with external and internal pressures. In today’s global context, where many economic, business, and finance activities are less limited by international borders, religious institutions are hard pressed to articulate a worldview that are consistent with their religious and ethical values, yet, flexible enough to compete with each other and with secular institutions. These and other issues make the study of religion and economics vital for understanding current and future social, political,  and economic trends.

 Theoretically, economics of religion became a thriving field of study that examines socio- economic theories and methods to explain the religious behavioral patterns of individuals, groups or cultures and the social consequences of such behavior. The effect of competition and government regulation for religious denominations on the quantity and quality of religious services, for instance, has been debated lively. Religious economics is a related subject sometimes conflated with the economics of religion. It uses religious principles to evaluate economic perspectives and practices.

 More recently, especially after the financial crisis of 2008, scholars paid more attention to the role of religion in sustaining economic development and inspiring financial institutions to offer religion-compliant products and services. Limits on interest-based loans to the growing Muslim community in Western societies forced many banking and investment organization to create shari`a-compliant products and services. The success of Islamist governments in Turkey and Iran to create thriving middle and entrepreneurial classes brought to focus the relationship between religious belief and economics. Globalization, too, played a significant role in raising the profile of religion-inspired financial endeavors, services, and products. Scholars and public policy makers increasingly ask specific questions:


·       Has Protestant ethic actually promoted the rise of capitalism?

·       Should religious institutions be considered businesses?

·       What are the bases for subsidizing religious institutions in some modern societies?

·       Should the public continue to subsidize non-profit organizations, including religious centers and institutions?

·       Do Semitic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—promote capitalism?

·       What links are there between Islamic piety and capitalist success?

·       Is there a “religious ethics of economics” in Islam? In other religions?

·       Do inheritance rules in Islamic family law prevent the accumulation of capital, which is necessary for innovation and economic growth?

·       What functions, if any, have institutions, like the waqf, zakāh, khums, and sadaqah, play in economic development and capital divestment?

·       Is there an Islamic economic system that is wholly or partly distinct from other systems?

Ahmed Souaiaia,
Mar 10, 2016, 10:26 AM