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Unformatted text preview: . 290-291.
18 Al Sadr, ibid. 10 that studies the economic system of Islam (positive part), and the other
studies the behaviour of Muslims within the system.19
An Islamic Definition of Economics
8. Among Islamic economists, very few may dispute the fact that "economics" is a relatively new discipline conceived of, and delivered in
the West with the rise of the market oriented "Laissez Faire" doctrine, in
which the free market occupies a central place whereby individual
actors, all of whom have material concerns, interact20. This happened
especially after Adam Smith. Although many economic writings existed
long time before The Wealth of Nations, in the Muslim land (since the
end of the second century of Hijrah), and in the non-Muslim land (since
Aristotle), the fact remains that these writings did not form a distinctive
discipline reasonably defined and understood.
In a recent comment, Taysir Abd al Jabir questions the wisdom of
putting the word "Islamic" as a prefix to "economics". As obvious from
his argument, he might have feared that such a prefix requires "redoing"
the two hundred years of development of economic theory.21 This fear
19 M. A. Zarqa, op.cit., pp. 31-39. It should be mentioned, however, that Zarqa and Sadr
differ on whether Islamic economics, in its two parts, is a science or not.
20 Irving Kristol, "Rationalism in Economics", in the Crises in Economic Theory, Daniel
Bell and Iriving Kristol, ed., Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1981, pp.201-218, see especially
21 Taysir Abd al Jabir, "Comments on the paper of Khurshid Ahmad on Problems of
Research in Islamic Economics" presented at the Amman Seminar on Problems of Research in 11 may be partially justified taking into account the sensitivity with which
many Muslims (even scientists) approach ideas developed in the West.
9. In the process of searching for a definition of economics compatible with the Islamic principles, it may be a useful exercise to
look into our heritage and search for a similar experience in our scientific
history. What we need is a discipline in the area of behavioral sciences
that is born in the Muslim land and on the hands of Muslim social
scientists, who did not have the sensitivity many of us have today. The
closest candidate is obviously Ibn Khaldun's "Ilm al 'Imran ÚÜáÜã
ÇáÜÚÜãÜÑ Ç ä.
Ibn Khaldun invented a new and unprecedented behavioral
science, which he called the science of mankind's civilization and human
socialization ÚÜáÜã ÇáÜÚÜãÜÑ Ç ä ÇáÜÈÜÔÜÜÑ í æÇáÇ
ÌÜÊãÜÇÚ Ç áÅäÜÓÜÜÇ äÜí.22 He defined this science as the study of
mankind's civilization and human socialization from the point of view of
Islamic Economics, April 23-28, 1986. See the Seminar Proceedings, op. cit. in Arabic, pp.
Ibn Khaldun, "al Muqaddimah", Dar al Qalam, Beirut, 1978, p.38. this translation of the
name of Ibn Khaldun's new science may not reveal the exact meaning of his Arabic wordings.
The world "Imran ÚÜãÜÑ Ç ä" is derived from the Qur'anic verses: "It is he who has formed
you from Earth and commanded you to build it åÜæ Ã äÜÔÜÃ ßÜã ãÜÜä Ç áÃ Ñ Ö
and "They were superior to them in strength, they
tilled the land and populated it in greater number than these have done ßÜÇ äÜæ Ç Ã ßÜËÜÑ
ãÜäÜåÜã ÞÜæ É æ Ã ËÜÇ Ñ æ Ç Ç áÃ Ñ Ö æ ÚÜãÜÑ æ åÜÇ Ã ßÜËÜÑ ãÜãÜÇ
“Imran” means progress, prosperity, filling the earth with
activities, constructing it, populating it, etc. It should be noted, that in translating the Qur'anic
verses, I deviate from Yusuf Ali's translation whenever I feel he does not give the exact
meaning. 12 "showing what happens to them by way of changes and situations on
their own nature".23 In explaining the objectives of his new science and
its being indispensable for understanding history, Ibn Khaldun
repeatedly emphasized that his new science aims at discovering the
nature of human socialization as it applied to all human beings. In this
regard, he repeated the words "nature" of human socialization to be
understood "on its own" eight times in three pages24. In other words, Ibn
Khaldun did not feel any need to restrict this science to Islamic societies
or to Muslims only, as this makes his new science less general, and
reduces its analytical ability to explain the behaviour of all mankind and
The aim of Ibn Khaldun's new science is to derive universal laws
which can be used to examine history and to verify its true stories and
events from the false ones.25 Obviously, by this universality of outlook,
Ibn Khaldun never meant to be "un-Islamic", rather he perhaps was more
Islamic than many contemporary writers who repeat the word "Islamic"
in every sentence, and his new science of human civilization "Ilm al
'Imran" was an Islamic discipline, not a conventional one.
10. Thus, we have a precedent of a behavioral science that deals with a universal phenomenon...
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- Fall '08