Limited desires, unlimited resources
Sahibzada Hussain Mohi ud Din Qadri
Member Supreme Council
International trade rules and regulations and different business models are under the process of evolution. Societies with different cultural and civilisational backgrounds are out in the run for earning maximum profits by designing new business rules every now and then. This explains the permeation of materialistic forces in societies. Islam is the only religion whose trade laws, which were formulated some l400 years ago, cannot be altered. These principles would continue to guide man till the Day of Judgement. Any state and society could reach the apex of growth and prosperity by following these principles. Before we dilate on the Islamic business system, it is in fitness of things to look at the prevailing conditions for an objective assessment.
Today western businessman, western corporate world, organisations and policies happen to be our role model. The western world put forward a new system after it managed to achieve unbelievable successes in the economic domain with the result that the rest of the world was left with no option but to follow the Western model as a means for sustainable growth. Even Islamic countries, which are supposed to implement Islamic system, are tied to the apron-strings of western economic model. There is a dominant feeling within the Muslim elites that either Islam is unable to respond to complex contemporary challenges in the fields of economics and trade or its economic concepts are outdated. Both of these perceptions are incorrect. The fact is that the spirit of the Islamic economic model has not been understood. To cap it all, the Islamic economic system has not been codified in the modern jargon and there is acute dearth of presentable research work on it.
History bears witness to the fact that about 800 years ago when the western world did not know how to live a decent life, the Muslim in Spain prided itself on vast material progress in multiple fields. Their success emanated from practical implementation of economic and business model designed by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). China is moving ahead with this cost efficient model but it has become more of a copy cat thing, which has never been able to become superpower.
Undoubtedly, there is a need of mentioning other models besides the Islamic one, which receded into background with the passage of time. One such model was Relativism. This model did not urge people to follow pre-determined principles. Rather they were required to do whatever they thought was correct. Thus no system could be put in place with the result that society rejected it. Utilitarianism replaced Relativism.
Utilitarianism weighed human actions on the touchstone of pain and pleasure. Whatever constituted pleasure was good and hence acceptable even though it may be morally wrong. Universalism was the third model, which preferred good intentions rather than factoring process and final outcome into account. Islam recommends the totality of intention, action and result or outcome and then passes judgement about its being fair or foul. Thus this model of Universalism does not resemble the Islamic business doctrine.
The fourth model hinges on the idea of Distributive Justice, which is closer to the Islamic system of trade and is in operation in a number of countries including Pakistan. But it has not been implemented with its spirit since it hinders the maximisation of profits. This system talks of the rights of employer and employee both. Capitalist system and socialist economy are both alien to the Islamic trade system. While the former protects the rights of the employer or those having means of production, the latter fully recommends and guards dictatorship of the proletariat. Both systems are poised on extremes.
Moderation is an important plank of the Islamic system. Distributive Justice ensures apportioning of rewards to both employer and employee without causing loss to one at the cost of the other. Islam protects rights of the individual if these rights do not encroach on the rights of society.
Islam does not favour the quantitative democracy. Rather, it puts emphasis on qualitative democracy.
It is necessary for the promotion of Islamic business ethics at corporate level that a position of moral advocate is created tasked with the responsibility of promoting and projecting excellence of trade morality and good attitude in the entire organisation. The company owner could also be a moral advocate. Difference could only be made and felt if the employer or CEO practised these golden principles of honesty and propriety. The right of the customer is the duty of the employer in the Islamic system of trade. The customer right includes product quality and cost efficiency. Islam talks of cost and time efficiency not for company but for customer. West reached this conclusion after years of experiments but Islam designed these rules 1400 years ago. The Western Business Model is based on limited resources and unlimited desires, whereas the beauty of the Islamic Business Model is that it is based on limited desires and unlimited resources. Who can defeat such a society, which endeavours for acquisition of unlimited resources but makes sure to limit its desire?
If this Islamic model is implemented, the country and industry would grow and the poor would have share in the economic benefits leading them to make their mark in life and live honourably in society. The Islamic economic model discourages concentration of wealth in a few hands. It is in favour of establishing welfare state where economic rights of all and sundry are protected. If the Muslim business class adopts honesty the concept of limited desires and unlimited resources as a driving force behind their business pursuits, there is no reason why the Muslim community cannot reach the top.
The writer is a PhD scholar in Economics at the Australian University
This Article was printed in Daily The Nation on June 05, 2009