History of Islamic Economic Thought

History of Islamic Economic Thought

Contributions of Muslim Scholars to Economic Thought and Analysis

Abdul Azim Islahi

This unique book highlights the contributions made by Muslim scholars to economic thought throughout history, a topic that has received relatively little attention in mainstream economics. Abdul Azim Islahi discusses various ways in which Muslim ideas reached the European West, influencing scholars and helping to form the foundations of modern economic ideas and theories.

Chapter 4: The Islamic tradition in economic thought (ii): production and distribution

Abdul Azim Islahi

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought, islamic economics and finance


Inspired by the Qur’anic consideration that engaging in lawful economic activities is seeking ‘bounty of Allah’ (cf. the Qur’an 62:10 and 73:20) and inspired by the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying that planting a plant is also a good deed (cf. al-Qurashi, 1987. pp. 115–16), the Muslim scholars gave high value to productive activities. al-Shaybani (1986, p. 40) classified productive activities into four categories: services, agriculture, trade and industry. An eighth/fourteenth century scholar, Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahman al-Wasabi, (1982, p. 8) divides basic sources of earning into three categories: agriculture, industry and trade. Depending upon basic needs of the living entities, al-Ghazali (n.d.[a] Vol. 3, p. 225) classified them into five categories: farming (food for people), grazing (food for animals), hunting (including exploration of mineral and forest products), wearing (textiles or clothing) and building and construction (for dwelling). He suggests another classification of industries quite similar to that found in contemporary discussion, that is, primary, secondary and tertiary, which refer to agriculture, manufacturing, and services respectively (ibid., Vol. 1, pp. 12–13; 1964, pp. 328–9). Traditionally, commerce was assigned high value by the Muslim scholars, because, perhaps, it was once the occupation of the Prophet (pbuh) himself and it was the main source of earning in the Arabian Peninsula.

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