Ethics and Economy in Islam: How are They Related?

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 economy. 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 [1]. 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 [2].

 

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.

 

economy in Islam, Salam Islam

 

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 his relationship with the world and his 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 [3].

 

Consequently, the whole 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 [4],

 

2. Not being dependent on his/her wealth, only using it with the intention of God’s satisfaction and serving the people in need [5],

 

3. Showing self-restraint and patience when facing difficulties, not losing his/her control at the time of prosperity and avoiding extravagance and ostentation [6],

 

4. Having foresight and deep insight into the way he/she earns and spends money [7].

 

economy in Islam, Salam Islam

 

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 [8].

 

 

References:


[1]. Tafazzoli, Freydoon. Tarikhe Aghayede Eghtesadi (A History of Economic Ideologies). 1st ed. Tehran, Nei Publication, 1372, p.70.

[2]. for more information about Islam’s idea regarding human beings willpower see the Holy Quran: 18:29, 76:3 and 13:11.

[3]. 1:30

[4]. 59:9

[5]. 1:265, 51:19

[6]. 11: 10-11

[7]. 35: 29-30

[8]. Iravani, Javad. Akhlaghe Eghtesadi Az Didgahe Quran va Hadith (Economic Ethics With Regard to Quran and Hadith). Majaleye Takhasosie Elahiat va Hughugh (Theology and law specialist magazine). 14, 1383. P 90-100.