Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Islam and Economics
I want to briefly devote a blog to economics and Islam. I have personally undergone a difficult financial period during the past year due to the sluggish economy and was reflecting on how Islam protects our economic freedom and sanity. I want to illustrate an important point with a simple economic paradigm - that of the farmer and the masses. To a large extent, a landowner or farmer can be seen as the first economic agent of modern civilization since industrialization is a product of agrarianism. Let's examine these concepts closely. Let us take the simple organizational model of the family farm. Here, a farmer who owns a piece of land is able to utilize simple or advanced farming methods to cultivate the land and produce crops that sell on the market. He might own farm tools such as wheelbarrows and plows, pitchforks and spades. He might also raise livestock and employ traditional or natural methods of farming and irrigation. The farmer is ultimately responsible for his farm and his machines, methods and know-how are essential for his continued productivity. The tools also depreciate in value as they are used over time. There is a unique balance that must be met for this type of economic activity to occur. Quality agriculture is almost always based on fairness and shared work ethics. The ability of the farmer's methods and machines to produce economic benefit is also an appreciable asset. The spade, one concludes, has investment potential and has depreciation value. Thus, the use of these tools must promote fair economic practices or they would be ill-used. Thus the farmer must maintain a unique agricultural balance to be profitable. The entire operation of the ideal farm is an economic greenhouse of sorts that sustains itself through a self-sufficient process. In reality, the farm benefits others who depend on the agricultural production. Thus, the farm supports civic and community life through the provision of food supplies to the masses. The masses must therefore be able to acquire the food at reasonable rates and apply it for their own sustenance or other needs. Thus, the farm is an essential component to the dynamism of civil life. For the farm to continue to operate in a proper way it must be supported by the masses, who in turn need to be highly sophisticated economic consumers. If this does not occur, the entire economic balance of the farm and the community it serves is threatened. This is where Islam can be most effective. Why - because its central tenets encourage good economic practices that support the natural order of economic conditions. It asks the masses to build homes, roads, mosques and schools to create thriving economic conditions that ultimately support and uphold agricultural efforts. Both are symbiotic and complementary. Ultimately, the burden is on the economic agents to fulfill their duties. Islam teaches us to be fair and fearful of God - and that is the ultimate check on our actions - thus, the farmer who is righteous will reap an abundant harvest and the public who buys his goods will also be well served if they are mindful of their roles and duties. Thus, the economy will thrive and individuals will prosper, civic life will flourish, peace and prosperity will spread and natural economic progress will be preserved. The farmer and the masses are a good basis for any discussion on Islam and economics.