The debates and discussions regarding the relationship between ethics and economy in Islam are one of the most controversial and never-ending ones in the history of economics. To have a brief grasp of this issue, let’s take a look at some of the arguments and what Islam thinks of this relationship.
Many of the modern economists believe that economic issues, just like other materialistic ones, are only governed by specific natural and scientific rules that can be examined through empirical evaluations . Accordingly, since ethical and moral matters cannot be understood through scientific ways of assessment and are not empirical, then they cannot be in any way related to the science of economy and business.
While it is true that both the economy and natural sciences are based on the principle of causality, the nature of this relationship entirely differs in each one of them. That is, cause and effect work for natural phenomena in a deterministic way, while in the case of the economy, one party -human beings- in this relationship is capable of choosing based on his/her own free will .
In other words, in economic issues, this law of causality appears in an indeterministic way, since human beings are born naturally to be independent and free to choose. So, here comes the issue of ethics through which human values would be defined, and their choice would be directed.
Moreover, the other reason that some economists believe in the separation of economy and ethics roots back in their worldview, that is their view of human being and their relationship with the world and their Creator.
This opinion is mainly based on the humanistic and philosophical principles of capitalistic societies such as Deism, Humanism, Individualism, and Utilitarianism, all of which exclude God and spiritual matters and regard human beings and his desires as the sole purpose of life. On the other hand, according to the Islamic worldview, God is the center and pivot of the universe in which human beings are His successors .
Consequently, the whole of nature with all its resources is given to humankind as a kind of loan which he can only use for a specific period. Furthermore, Islam considers two aspects of human beings: one spiritual and the other material, both sides of him/her should be taken into account in all his/her activities, including business. As a result, he is bound to execute financial affairs concerning ethical and moral principles.
According to the Holy Quran, a person who observes moral and ethical principles in his financial affairs would develop some characteristics in his life regarding materialistic issues, such as
1. Being observant of other people’s economic interests and sometimes preferring their interests over his/her own ,
2. Not being dependent on his/her wealth, only using it with the intention of God’s satisfaction and serving the people in need ,
3. Showing self-restraint and patience when facing difficulties, not losing his/her control at the time of prosperity, and avoiding extravagance and ostentation ,
4. Having foresight and deep insight into the way he/she earns and spends money .
To conclude, an economic system without moral principles will have no result other than causing injustice and dissatisfaction both for each individual and the society in which he/she lives. Ethical issues, specifically of Islamic kind, should be salient in all aspects of the economy -e.g., production, distribution, spending, etc.- for the people in society to reach a desirable environment for lawful and satisfactory business and trading .
- Tafazzoli, Freydoon. Tarikhe Aghayede Eghtesadi (A History of Economic Ideologies). 1st ed. Tehran, Nei Publication
- for more information about Islam’s idea regarding human beings willpower see the Holy Quran: 18:29, 76:3 and 13:11.
- 1:265, 51:19
- 35: 29-30
- Iravani, Javad. Akhlaghe Eghtesadi Az Didgahe Quran va Hadith. Majaleye Takhasosie Elahiat va Hughugh 14, 1383. P 90-100.
The concept of responsibility in Islam covers all the aspects of human beings and considers different situations one may encounter in his/her life. Islam is not only a religion but also a life plan; a divine plan that addresses all the humans throughout the history of humankind. Since religion, as a plan deals with the daily life of humans, it has illustrated the tasks and responsibilities in Islam of humans.
These duties can be summarized in four items:
The rights that God has over humans;
The rights that one has over himself;
The responsibilities towards other humans;
And, the responsibilities towards other creatures in this world.
These four categories will be discussed under separate topics each considering one responsibility in Islam. Here the focus is on the humans’ responsibility in Islam towards God.
According to Imam Sajjad (AS), the rights that God has over human beings, which are the most important rights over everybody, are to know that we are His servants, to pray Him and not ascribe any partners to Him . This means that we have two main responsibilities in Islam towards God: first, to recognize and believe in God then, practically demonstrate it.
The first thing is to accept the existence of the one true God and to recognize all his divine attributes such as very powerful (Qadir), the provider (Razzaq), generous (Karim), etc.
By knowing these attributes and then believing that they are unique to God, one will be more successful in his duties responsibilities in Islam towards God [i]. For example, knowing that God is the only provider (Razzaq) in the universe, a true Muslim does not worry about livelihood, nor he\she will be greedy for more wealth. He\she knows that if he\she works adequately according to his\her capacities, he\she will be provided with the sustenance that God has reserved for him\her.
Imam Ali (AS) has advised his son Imam Hassan (AS) to recognize God since it is a duty over every human being: “He is One Allah whom we should all recognize and worship” .
Then, Imam (AS) enumerates some of the attributes of God that a Muslim should believe in :
“Nobody is a partner to Him in His Domain”;
“He is Eternal, has always been and shall always be”;
“He existed even before the Universe came into being, but there is no beginning to His Existence”;
“He shall remain when every other thing shall vanish, and there shall be no end to His Existence”;
“His Glory and His Existence is so supreme, pre-eminent, transcendent, incomparable and excellent that it is beyond the grasp of intellects”;
“No one can understand or visualize Him.“ .
To recognize God and to believe in Him deeply in the heart are not enough; one should also say that he\she believes in God; otherwise, no one will be aware of his\her belief if it is not declared. That is why one should pronounce two testimonies (Shahadatain) to become Muslim.
In Surah Fatir, it is said that “To Him ascends good speech” (35:10), which means that the verbal admission to God is appreciated and is surely beneficial. But, it should be accompanied with good deeds and obedience to God to be more valuable: “and righteous work raises it.” (35:10).
Indeed, demonstrating the belief in God in practice is as important as believing in Him. If a child loves his\her parents but ignores their expectations and advice, he\she, in fact, does not respect them and the parents will not believe the his\her claim of having affection for them.
The same happens between a Muslim and God. A Muslim who ignores God’s commands, which are beneficial to him\her, does not truly believe in Him. Otherwise, he\she knew that everything that God has ordered to is to help him\her to live a better life, to improve and to reach the perfection that he\she merits.
According to Imam Ali (AS) , after accepting the facts mentioned above about God, a Muslim’s behavior should be like that of a person who realizes God’s superior status and power. He\she should try to gain His blessing through prayers and obedience, fear His wrath as well as His Punishments and feel him\herself absolutely in need of His help and protection .
In the Quran, it is stated that humans are created to worship God (51:56). Prayer and worship of God are duties over every Muslim as they remind him\her of the his\her creator and the fact that there is a reason to be in this world.
Another practical duty is to obey God’s commands that are mentioned in the Quran or explained in the narrations from prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Imams (AS). Simply said: to do what is obligatory (Wajib) or advised to (talk pleasantly to others (2:83); to do good to others (16:90); to fast (2:183) and pray (4:103); etc.) and to leave what is Forbidden (Haram) (talking behind back of others (49:12); wasting water and nutrition (7:31))2.
Briefly, there are three main duties over every Muslim about God: to recognize Him, to declare the admission to Him, and to obey and worship Him. Duties of a Muslim towards him\herself and his responsibility in Islam, other people, and other creatures will be discussed in the next parts of the article.
[i] Recognition and belief are two different concepts. The recognition of God means to accept His existence and all His divine attributes, while the belief in God means to have faith in Him.
[ii] The two other categories of acts according to Islamic jurisprudence are: Recommended (Mustahab) acts and Detestable or abominable (Makruh) acts. Recommended (Mustahab) acts are those practices which are not compulsory in Islam, but a believer prefers to do it for God’s satisfaction. Detestable or abominable (Makruh) actions are not subject to punishment, but a believer abstains from them for God’s satisfaction.
- Imam Sajjad (AS), Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq).
- Nahj al balagha, Letter 31.
Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world, with many apparent similarities between their beliefs. However, there is a crucial difference among some sects of Christianity and Islam, which is the question of the divinity of Prophet Jesus (PBUH). Christianity is usually regarded as a Monotheistic religion, some of its denominations, though, hold that Jesus (PBUH) is a part of Trinity and is God. But Muslims believe Jesus (PBUH) is a human being. They love prophet Jesus (PBUH) and honor him as one of the greatest prophets, yet for them, Jesus (PBUH) is not God nor the son of God.
According to the verses of the Quran and what Muslims believe, God is One and unique in essence, attributes and actions, and is not like any of His creatures. So having a child, which is the reproduction of a similar one, is impossible for Him. “The originator of the heavens and the earth—how could He have a child when He has had no spouse? He created all things, and He has knowledge of all things” (6:101).
From the Islamic perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to consider human form for Allah. This is also acknowledged in the bible as Jesus (PBUH) said once when he was among his followers: “You have never heard His voice at any time nor seen His form” John (5:37).
Muslims believe Jesus (PBUH) was created just as Adam (PBUH) was created without a father. And that his life as a human began miraculously by Allah just as He created Adam (PBUH) the first time. If Jesus Christ (PBUH) was God, then how could he be born of his mother, Saint Mary? Or how could he die in the hands of humans? Also, if God could take human form, wouldn’t there need to be another God to run the universe? These ideas are explicitly rejected in the holy Quran: “There is no god but Allah, and indeed Allah is the All-mighty, the All-wise” (3:62)
We, human beings, need to have children for various reasons. We would satisfy many of our desires, having them, like our sensual or emotional needs. Some of us might want to have one to assist us with our works and needs. Some might seek a name after death, etc. None of these, however, would make any sense about Allah, who is the Creator of the universe, the All-mighty and the All-sufficient: “O mankind! You are the ones who stand in need of Allah, and Allah—He is the All-sufficient” (35:15).
The other reason that proves Jesus Christ (PBUH) is not God or the son of Him is that he was a human being with all human attributes and requirements. He was in his mother’s womb for some time; he was born; he would eat, drink and sleep and was nothing different from all other human beings except that he was the messenger of Allah: “The Messiah, son of Mary, is but an apostle. Certainly, [other] apostles have passed before him, and his mother was a truthful one. Both of them would eat food. Look how We clarify the signs for them, and yet, look, how they go astray!” (5:75).
More importantly, Jesus Christ (PBUH) himself never claimed that he is a God and has to be worshipped. In fact, he said the contrary in Mathew (15:9): “They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Or, in Numbers (23:19), he said: “God is not man… or a son of man”. In many other verses, he admitted that he was only an apostle of God, not God, nor the son of Him, and there is only one true God: “Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only TRUE God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” John (17:3).
You see, there are serious contradictions and misconceptions between different verses of the New Testament and also what Christians believe about Prophet Jesus (PBUH). But what the holy Quran suggests is clear: “Say, ‘He is Allah, the One. Allah is the All-embracing. He neither begat, nor was begotten, nor has He any equal.’” (112:1-4) And that Jesus (PBUH) was a prophet, born without a father, just as Adam and Eve were born without parents. Miracles were given to him by Allah to convince people that Allah, the only true God exists.