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Constructing an Economic System in Line with Islamic Values

“There is a reality called the bank on the face of the earth, there is a reality called credit, there is an established order, there are macro and microeconomic balances; we cannot change this, we cannot generate an alternative to it, we cannot establish our own system. If someone, a community, or societies that look at this and think, ‘How can we adapt ourselves to this?’ from the love of Ilahi Kelimetullah (the Word of God) and the horizon of taking the name of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to every place where the sun rises and sets, wouldn’t this be a dark comedy?” The question is can we construct an economic system in line with Islamic values?

The reader begins like this regarding the proposal I have suggested for the inclusion of an inflation differential to compensate for the depreciation of money, which I have expressed in my two articles. Then, he mentions that the Prophet did not accept the established economic system after his arrival in Medina and built a new system. He also talks about our obligation to build a system in line with Islamic values in today’s world by taking him as an example. And he concludes his dissenting thoughts as follows: “Shouldn’t one reflect on whether I will be on the side of Allah and His Messenger, or whether I will adhere to the existing established order of the world?”

If I were to engage in a polemic – and column articles are a good platform for this – I would say the following: Is anyone holding our hands? As Muslims, have we built a system like the current capitalist system, and has anyone prevented us from doing so? Please do not object immediately. Just think. I am not talking about the transition of theory to practice. In theory, those who will be affected by the established system/model in practice will certainly object. They will do their best to prevent its implementation, not share their slice of the pie, and struggle to protect their interests. Therefore, the construction of the system or model I mentioned and the question, ‘Is anyone holding our hands?’ are on a theoretical level. It’s on paper.

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Now, if you have accepted this perspective, let’s ask ourselves: Have we been able to build such a system? I am not bringing up the past 14 centuries, 10 centuries, or 5 centuries; I am talking about the recent past and today. Let’s think within the limits of our own lives as long as we can follow; have we done it? 57 Islamic countries, thousands of universities, thousands of madrasahs, tens of thousands of Muslims studying finance and economics, numerous politicians with plenty of authoritarian rulers who make laws out of the corner of their mouths, and millions of grassroots supporters who chant slogans like “we want Sharia, interest is forbidden, a just order, the truth has come and falsehood has vanished, Islam will come, and problems will end.” Yes, where is the system mentioned only on paper?

Another point; the information that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not accept the existing economic order is incorrect. I will use technical terms; he accepted some of the practices of the pre-Islamic period, such as muzaraa, musaqa, mudarabah, and even shirk, while reforming some, rejecting others, and rebuilding others. Because they were the achievements of humanity. These were tried and tested rules that regulated socio-economic life and allowed people to live in harmony together. There was no need for fantasy. In fact, the small touches he made to the existing system ultimately pushed the Jews and polytheists who had dominated the market in Mecca and Medina for years, if not entirely, to the sidelines, showing that there was now also a reality like Muslims in this market. Here our reader is correct. What had he done to go from being oppressed to dominant among the Muslims in the conditions of that time? What had happened to the market outside Medina, which the Jews had dominated, before the arrival of the Prophet in Medina?

Well, how will the real policies followed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in those conditions be transferred to today? Just as they are? Or by adapting the purposes and messages to today’s conditions? After all, we did not live in Mecca and Medina of 14 centuries ago, and we are far from the conditions of an agricultural society. So, shouldn’t we do something different now?

Let’s get to the final point: of course, we are not obliged to comply with the rules imposed by the West, the capitalist system, right? There will be a debate, but I have to say it: then let’s not comply. Is there a force that says, ‘You will comply with us by force’? Let’s not comply individually or as a state. Let’s not comply individually; let’s not visit the bank in our commercial life, let’s make open account transactions, let’s work with cash, let’s not use credit cards, let’s not establish companies that operate according to the rules imposed on us. I can give more examples. Is it possible? But if we are going to live among the wheels of the Western world and the capitalist system that dominates the economy, you might say there is no other way. No, there is. Let’s replace them. Let’s become as powerful as they are. Let’s impose our own system. No, let’s not impose; let’s express that our own system is more humane, more ethical, and more profitable, and let’s prove it. Is anyone holding our hands?

Let’s act the same way at the state level. Let’s not knock on the doors of the IMF. Let’s be content with our own wealth. Let’s stretch our feet according to our own blanket. Let’s form pacts where mutual interests are at the forefront, even though we have different religions, ethnic backgrounds, and cultural understandings. Or let’s form blocs with states that share our religious and cultural closeness. Let’s base it on geographical proximity. It is possible to extend these possibilities, but is it necessary? Is it possible to do this in a globalized world, for God’s sake?

Yes, some things are easy to talk about. Producing plans and projects on paper is also easier compared to talking. The most difficult part is to implement those projects in real life. We have been talking for centuries as Muslims, and we have neither made any plans nor implemented them. To see this, all you have to do is examine the Islamic finance system. We voluntarily enter the “spider’s web” and experience what the Prophet warned us about centuries ago, and we experience it of our own accord. And most importantly, life goes on. We strive to remain Muslim within this continuing established order. Where I stopped in my last three articles and what I tried to explain is this.

I’ve finished. I’ll end it here. Until the next article on another topic.”

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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