Economic studies are important in many respects:
- Economic activity is man’s predominant and essential activity.
- The laws of every society are the result of its economic conditions and development.
- People’s customs and the Way of thinking in every society are the product of their economic conditions and development.
Man’s material and spiritual progress is dependent on his economic conditions.
1.1 Economic Activity is Man’s Predominant and Essential Activity
- The importance of economic studies is due to the fact that man’s essential and predominant activity is economic.
- Although we believe that the material factor is crucial in life and that economics is essential in the orientation of the action of history. we are. however, strongly opposed to the idea which claims that material interests alone determine people’s behavior, and that economics is the key to history. There exist other interests and factors. e.g. moral. religious. Psychological, etc. Man does not live on bread alone. (Al-Fanjari I982: 37 ff.).
- The importance of economic studies has increased following the evolution and development of production strategies, and the expansion of economic activity. The conflict between East and West is purely economic. The present world problems are caused by the emergence of Europe. Japan and China as world economic powers. The major problem of the Third World, represented by Asia, Africa and Latin America, is underdevelopment. The world’s main concern today remains economic development. (Cf. Namiq 1968; Nasr (1965) [Note: Dr Nasr(1965 309) argues that national progress means good longevity average for the people (about 70 years in the West). a high standard of living, provision of various health. educational and leisure services. National progress means the use of machines to replace man in doing oppressive work. It means respecting Man giving women their rights and not allowing children to work at an early age. Last, but not least, it means development and enrichment at fast speed. Underdevelopment in a given country means short longevity (between 30 and 40 years in poor countries). lack or insufficiency of proper food. Clothing and housing. It means the spread of disease. Ignorance and witchcraft as well as that of unemployment and the exploiting of workers. It is employing women and children in exhausting jobs. It is also dictatorship of parliament, when there is one. and the slow rate of development if it ever takes place. In many cases, underdevelopment also means backwardness due to the increase of the population and the decrease of production”.]
1.2 Jurisprudence in any Society is a Product of its Economic Circumstances and Development
The prevailing type of economic activities is another aspect which shows the importance of economic studies because it determines the various levels of organization in any society – be they political, social or economic.
Thus, the slavery and aristocracy systems which prevailed in the past were no more than an expression of the dominant economic conditions in those days. Also, the emergence of socialist systems and their triumph in the modern world is not simply the result of coincidence or of preference of one ruler over another but it was the natural consequence of a particular stage in the economic development of the world. We agree, in this respect, with those who say that, instead of sheer insults and invective, the best critique of feudalism or capitalism should be launched on the grounds of their inability, at a certain period in the economic development of the world, to cope with the needs of the community and their failure to meet the requirements of growth and progress (See Zakaria, 1965 pp.4 and 337)
- However, although we take for granted the effect of economic circumstances and development in determining legislative systems, we do not accept it as the unique or predominant influencing factor, since, undoubtedly, each people’s readiness and religious commitments, its ideals and aspirations as well as its conception of Justice contribute effectively with other elements to differentiate between legislative systems regardless of economic circumstances and situations. Perhaps, the best illustration of this is the Moslem society in the early days of Islam; for it is not surprising to see science and civilization flourish in an environment where both the means of knowledge and the elements of growth abound; but that they should prosper in an arid land not suitable for crops is indeed a phenomenon that calls for serious thought.
- Moreover, the relationship between law and economics has increased nowadays according to economic activity and its expansion so that if economy is the essence, law is the form which is worked out to organize and maintain that essence. Thus, with the expansion of the field of economic activity and its increasing threat, a new discipline, ‘Economic Law”, has seen the day. (Cf. De Loubadir 1971, Atia .1972).
1.3. The Character of People and their Thinking are the Product of the Economic Conditions and Circumstances of Society
- Another clue to the importance of economic studies is the fact that the character of people and their way of thinking are the outcome of economic development and circumstances. Hence the remarkable difference between agricultural and industrial societies. Thus, while we find the farmer rather contented and resigned, sowing and awaiting such fatal judgments as aspects of the weather and agricultural catastrophes. his counterpart in industry is more ambitious and combative as he is in control of the machine and of production (see Hilmi I961). It is a fact that the basic difference between advanced and underdeveloped societies stems from their differential decrees of economic growth and development.
- However, although we take for granted the effect of economic growth and development in shaping the lives of people and their ways of thinking. we do not accept them as the unique or the predominant factor.
There is no doubt that the prevailing creeds in society whether divine or secular, play a vital role in molding the character of people and their way of thinking. Perhaps, the best evidence for this Islam, which, in a very’ short span of time. has turned lost and backward peasants into masters of and guides to, mankind who changed history and enriched and gave a profound meaning to life.
- Marxism on the other hand attributes all change and development to the means of production and to the material conditions of society and claims that it is these elements only that guide mankind and shape society affirming that it is not people’s perceptions of the world which define or determine their living but their material status.
Islam refutes this altogether by highlighting man’s role and his faith as the effective and crucial elements in change. Thus, from the viewpoint Islam, rather than matter, it is man who changes and development and only he can chance and modify the modes and relations of production. Hence the words of the supreme Being :”Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts” (The Thunder II). and also His words “That is because Allah never changeth the grace He hath bestowed on nay people until they first chance that which is in their hearts. and (that is) because Allah is Hearer, Knower.”(Spoils of War 53). Undoubtedly material conditions have their part to play since man cannot detach himself from his environment: and it would be a sterile and unfair attempt to judge an individual or a nation irrespective of their material possibilities or economic circumstances.
Nevertheless. man’s will and his lucid faith hold pride of place in bringing about change and realizing progress. Hence, the primary concern of Islam with the preparation of the spirit and its education according to right ethics in the first place.
That is the point of departure since it is a truism that individuals and nations can only exist with good morals and human relationships and not with wealth, social status, or material progress. The exact conception of Islam stems from its concern, on the one hand, with the education of man and, on the other, with the betterment of his living since these affect, and complement, each other to the extent that humanity cannot further its progress if it neglects either of these aspects the will of man and the conditions of the environment.
1.4. Man’s Material and Spiritual betterment is Conditioned by the Improvement of his Economic Situation
- Lastly, the importance of economic studies emerges from another angle which is the synthesis of the previous ones, namely that man’s material and spiritual betterment is conditioned by the amelioration of his economic conditions. Thus, material underdevelopment cannot lead to civilization. Similarly, we cannot expect high moral standards and good behavior from the hungry and the deprived.
It is from this perspective that we understand the balanced concern of Islam with Sharia as well as with faith; and how, being the ultimate religion, it is concerned with both the spiritual and secular aspects of life. This is because unless people are comforted in their living, and unless they feel that society is ready to help and secure them in dire need, their faith cannot be expected to be incorruptible nor their morals develop.
We have mentioned above, the securing to all citizens of a good standard of living (Al Kafaf) and not just the satisfying of their basic needs (Al Kafaf) and that private property, difference in wealth and riches should not be allowed until this right is guaranteed to all.
- Although we take for granted the importance of the material aspect, we do not agree that it is only its abundance that brings about welfare to human communities. This material welfare must be twinned with faith; otherwise it will turn into threat, the effects of which we clearly see in the U.S.A. and in the Scandinavian countries in the increasing suicide incidents and immoral behavior. [Note: An alarming report broadcasted by the Swedish Ministry of Social Affairs declared that 25% of the Swedish population are mentally ill. The report has also shown that the suicide rate has increased, that 30% of the health budget is spent on mental health, and that 40% of those who retire prematurely or because of their inability to work are mental patients. On the grounds of the statistics it cited, the report concluded that material progress without faith or control is likely to render people miserable and crush the solidarity of society.]
- Likewise, we do not question the fact that the underdevelopment of Moslems nowadays stems basically from their economic underdevelopment. This state of affairs reflects itself on their behavior to the extent that they repudiated their Islamic ethics and wandered away from the essence and spirit of Islam. (Cf. Al-Fanjari 1978: 39 ff.).
- Economy has become so important in modern times that the issue of human development and progress has become the issue of economic development or underdevelopment. Yet, if the purpose of any society is to progress and improve morally, then we have to understand that it is necessary for progress to be complete with both its material and spiritual aspects, i.e., its economic and religious facets. Concern with one aspect at the expense of the other will lead to disequilibria and disorder in the lives of individuals and of society.
In this respect, I am happy to report parts of an illuminating lecture, entitled “How I converted to Islam”, delivered in French by the Moslem French thinker Raja Garaudy on March 11, 1986 A.D. (1 Rajab, 1406 A.H.) in Riyadh. The lecturer said among other things “The Third World is dying because of a penury of means, whereas the Capitalist Western and the Socialist Eastern Worlds are dying because they lack ends”.
“Indeed, Modern science and technology have put great potentials in the hands of a little deviate and straying man which he exploited to serve his whims for power, pleasure and material growth, thus threatening the rights of the majority, crushing it with hunger, frustration, and suffering. This phenomenon has led to what is now referred to as consumed peace or balance which is based on horror and which might lead the two conflicting super powers to annihilate all life on this planet”.
“There are millions of well-intentioned people all over the world who seek worriedly through this darkness to give a meaning to their life and death as well as a sense to their common history”.
“To all these people, Islam can bring a light which leads to the right path to which Allah guides His people. Only Islam can bring back to human reason, illuminated by divine commandments, its two genuine and full dimensions
- The dimension of a means-seeking science.
- The dimension of an ends-pursuing wisdom which seeks Allah the Creator.”
It is this full and endless use of reason which combines human science and divine revelation that made the greatness of the early Moslems.
Such a living Islam. Practiced in the same way and according to the same principles. can enjoy an expansion which will have nothing to enjoy to its expansion in its flourishing era in the 8 th century. Islam was able in those days in the face of two able in those days in the face of two great powers- the empires of the Sassamidal and Byzantium- which were eaten away by the same forces of disintegration and turmoil which we witness now to give a feeling of their genuine humanity and a sense to their secular life to millions of people and bestowed upon them a new blissful life by setting them on the path to Allah the One and Only to whom we must return, and to whom we shall be accountable. for, he who makes the slightest good shall be rewarded for it and he who makes the smallest harm shall be punished for it. [Note: This Koranic verse is given no reference in the text. It has been rendered into English by the translator.]