Edited by Abbas J. Ali
Chapter 13: The ethics of Islamic accounting
One beautiful chapter in the Qur’an narrates the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph). It describes how he was forced out of his homeland after a conspiracy by his brothers. The story depicts how he went to Egypt and started to work in the king’s palace earning a prestigious position in public office. He was appointed as a custodian of the ‘land’s treasures,’ which mostly included Egypt’s food supplies: And the king said, ‘Bring him to me; I will appoint him exclusively for myself.’ And when he spoke to him, he said, ‘Indeed, you are today established [in position] and trusted.’ [Joseph] said, ‘Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. Indeed, I will be a knowing guardian.’ (Qur’an, 1997, 12:54–5) Despite the fact that the Prophet Yusuf was not appointed as an accountant in the modern understanding of the word, his duties definitely involved elements of accounting and control. Thus, his story is used among some modern-day Muslim scholars and accountants as an example of an early public official whose duties involved keeping records and keeping track of large amounts of food supplies for the whole kingdom. As explained below, some researchers have also linked the attributes of Prophet Yusuf, as mentioned in the Qur’anic chapter, to the attributes that need to exist among modern-day Muslim accountants (see for example Al-Bohaisi, 2010). This is perhaps the first example of a form of accounting stemming from Muslim sources.
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