Handbook on Islam and Economic Life
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Handbook on Islam and Economic Life

Edited by M. Kabir Hassan and Mervyn K. Lewis

Handbook on Islam and Economic Life is a unique study, one of the first of its kind to consider Islam within a broader economic sphere. Covering a wide breadth of topics and research, it explores how Islam impinges upon and seeks to shape major aspects of economic life including economic organisation, business and management, finance and investment, charity, mutuality and self-help, and government. It concludes by analysing the link between religion and development, the present economic situation in Arab countries and the causes of underdevelopment in Muslim countries.
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Chapter 15: The Islamic position on corruption

Zafar Iqbal and Mervyn K. Lewis


The principal objective of this chapter is to research the Islamic position on corruption and compare it with Western social scientific thought on the topic. It is shown that the original sources of Islam, the Holy Qur’an and sunna, employ a variety of terminology and narration to elucidate and condemn a broad category of behavioural digressions involving corruption including bribery, nepotism and rule substitution. Corruption is seen to stem from the abuse of administrative power of any kind, judicial power, political authority and financial dominance. Further, all corrupt acts are construed as lacking in virtue from a moral perspective and unjust in relation to the principles that safeguard rendering to everyone their due, thereby undermining communal harmony. This position matches well with the shift in social scientific thought from viewing corruption as ‘grease that oils the economic wheels’ to a ‘menace that undermines economic growth’. Where the two differ is with respect to remedial action. The Western approach focuses on designing systems and institutions that seek to root out corruption while minimizing opportunities and enticement for corruption. In short, it emphasizes constraints external to the individual. By comparison, Islam seeks to go beyond such constraints, and also instil in believers a clear ‘second-order’ preference for non-corrupt behaviour. It recommends developing a firm belief in transcendent accountability and stresses character building through practising moral virtues and shunning vices. In essence, in circumstances where the chances of detection are low, the restraint comes from within. It is our contention that both emphases are important in eliminating corruption.

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