The Islamic economy: its origin, its world view and its claims

  • Hans Visser Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Aim: This article takes a critical look at the claims made by advocates of an Islamic economy, in particular that it differs fundamentally from capitalism and socialism because it is built “on a superior ethical basis. The aim is to find out whether this claim can be creditably sustained and why it is made.
Design: The world view behind the Islamic economy is probed into by means of a literature study encompassing publications by prominent students of Islam and Islamic economics, predominantly themselves Muslims, which have appeared in a wide range of professional books, magazines and paper series.
Conclusions: It is concluded that an Islamic economic system does not differ fundamentally from mixed-economy non-Islamic ones and that there is little reason for non-Muslims to accord Islamic ethics special status. Further, it is found that important drivers of the attempts to Islamize the economy are frustration about the sorrow state of the Islamic world at least since the early nineteenth century and a wish to regain something of its former glory. In other words, identity politics is at play. There may an element of subjectivity in this conclusion, as it depends on interpretations that are hard to prove or disprove conclusively, but statements by leading Muslim advocates of Islam economists give it weight. The conclusion may help to interpret developments in the Muslim world, which is an indispensable step in finding a way to deal with them.

Author Biography

Hans Visser, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Professor Emeritus, School of Business and Economics


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