Towards a Plural Financial System
Studies in Islamic Finance, Accounting and Governance series
Edited by Valentino Cattelan
Chapter 1: Introduction. Babel, Islamic finance and Europe: preliminary notes on property rights pluralism
In Genesis 11, 1–9, the story of Babel warns mankind not to challenge God’s majesty. According to the Bible, the city of Babel (or Babylon) united all of mankind, speaking a single language, but soon the inhabitants decided to build an immense tower for the glory of man, and the Lord punished their arrogance, gave each person a different language and scattered the people throughout the Earth. The Mishnah, the first written redaction of the oral Torah (around 200 CE), describes the tower as a rebellion against God. The Qur’an (2: 102) names Babylon, referring to two angels, Harut and Marut, who taught the inhabitants the sinful art of magic to trial their faith; in Qur’an, 28: 38 and 40: 36–7, the Pharaoh asks Haman, his chief minister, to build a clay tower to reach heaven and challenge the God of Moses. While this book does not deal with the meaningful images of the Old Testament and their reciprocal recall in the three great monotheistic religions, its specific matter, namely Islamic finance in Europe, makes the reference to Babel very helpful.