The Contribution of Islamic Scholars to Economics

Waqf
Waqf 16th Century | Public domain

Whenever there is a reference to what Muslims did in the Islamic Golden Era in terms of the contributions to the body of knowledge, it is because it is worth it. These early Muslims did so much in various spheres of knowledge that it is not possible to forget their efforts in a hurry. The interesting thing is that whenever the contributions of these Muslims are referred to, many quickly think of mathematics, astronomy, and other similar sciences. What many do not know is that the Islamic scholars of that era also contributed to economics.

The period that spanned from the 9th to the 14th centuries was one of great intellectual development for Muslims in the niche of economics. They made so many advancements that they redefined entire sections of finance, taxation, production, investment, economic development, and many others. They also never failed to promote halal economic concepts like the waqf. Waqf refers to Islamic trusts that were used widely on the economic scene.

What distinguished these Muslim scholars was that all their actions were guided by the provisions and rulings of Islam. For example, they applied and promoted Islamic rulings in taxation, money, property, and charity. Hence, they advocated for zakat which is the Islamic form of taxation, the prohibition of riba (which is known as usury), and many others. Take zakat, for example, it encompassed the taxation of specific items like farm products from harvests, the allocation of the taxes collected, and how the poor and downtrodden were going to benefit.

The hawala agency was also prominently promoted in this era. Hawala is a system of informal value transfer and it covered different types of transactions and how debts were to be handled. Also, the waqf concept that was hinted at earlier on was developed very well during the Islamic Golden Age and many researchers have compared it with the trust law in the United Kingdom.

What is now referred to as classical Islamic economic thought cannot be discussed without making mention of some scholars. One of the most prominent of these is Al-Ghazali. It was Al-Ghazali who did the classification of economics as a whole, as one of the sciences that are linked with ethics, religion, metaphysics, and even psychology. Another scholar and early Islamic economic thinker of that era is Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi.

There was also the brilliant Abu Yusuf who wrote the Kitab Al-Kharaj (translated as the Book of Taxation). In the book, he took the time to outline and provide more details on concepts such as agricultural production, taxation, and public finance. He elaborated on the proportional taxation system as it affected produce as against a fixed taxation system on the property. He even went as far as calling for the forgiving of taxes in a way that will make it beneficial for the primary producers. He even advocated for a centralised structure of administration of taxes to eliminate corruption.

May Allah (SWT) make Muslims of this generation lead in every aspect of science and technology again, aameen.