Saturday, September 12, 2009


Ibn al-Qayyim: The Man and His Age
Shams aI-Din Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr, known as Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, was born in Damascus on the 7th Safar 691 AH (29th January, 1292) and died there on 23rd Rajab 751 AH (26th September, 1350).
Before we go into the details of his ideas on Islamic economics, it would be useful to consider in brief the socio-political and economic conditions of the time, for, it is likely to have influenced his thinking. Ibn al Qayyim lived in the times of Sultan Nasir Muhammad b. Qalawun (1293-1341 AD) who was able to establish a relatively stable government and pay attention to the improvement of educational and economic conditions of the country. He effected a comprehensive redistribution of land and made reforms in the taxation systems. There was a number of schools and libraries in the Mamluk period. The 'ulama had great influence on the Sultan and the people.
An important aspect of the period was the widespread cults of Sufism and taqlid (following and supporting opinions of a particular Imam). Ibn al-Qayyim was well versed in all the main disciplines of the time. He was the most famous pupil of Shaikh aI-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah (1253-1328 AD).

Economic Philosophy of Islam
Ibn al-Qayyim has laid special emphasis on the following points:
Homo Islamicus and Not Homo Economicus
Ibn al-Qayyim highlights the basic Islamic faith that every man is accountable before Allah (SWT) for his conduct and that Allah (SWT) is the source of guidance and direction. Ibn al-Qayyim emphasizes the Islamic view that this life is a test and a trial. This test and trial is administered by Allah (SWT) through awarding riches as well as through taking them away. The possession of wealth is not a proof of Allah's favor, nor is lack of it a disfavor. Wealth is not meant for mere enjoyment, which is a level on which beasts live.
According to Ibn al-Qayyim, justice "(adl) is the objective of the Shari'ah. In fact, the Shari'ah comprises justice, blessing and wisdom. Anything contrary to justice which turns the matter from blessing and welfare into a curse and an evil, and from wisdom into disutility has nothing to do with the Shari'ah.
Values and Their Impact on Economic Life
After describing the Islamic view that it is required of people to adopt values like God-fearing, piety, virtue, honesty, truth, and to keep them away from evils like falsehood, fraud, corruption, Ibn al-Qayyim states that the natural corollary of falsehood is corruption and that success cannot be achieved in the worldly life and the hereafter by means of corruption. It is injurious to economic life as well as to the other aspects of worldly life. The consequences of falsehood are well-known.
Shedding light on the bad consequences of disobedience and social evils, he writes elsewhere that the effects of sins are vicious and condemnable. These are injurious to body and soul, which causes damage to this world and the life after death. He argued that one of the obvious effects is deprivation from livelihood. He supports his opinion with a Hadith of the Holy Prophet (SAW) saying that sin causes a decrease in man's livelihood. On the contrary, God-fearing piety and good deeds cause increase in livelihood and success in economic matters and in the hereafter.
The evils like falsehood, fraud, jealousy, exploitation and dishonesty create chaos, suspicion, instability and frustration in the society and hinder economic progress. On the contrary, the absence of these evils and the presence of Islamic values create an atmosphere of confidence and security in the society that will lead to cooperation in production and stability in economic condition. These positive Islamic values are expected to increase production and general prosperity.

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