Capitalism Justice


Economic justice is a beautiful slogan. Intended to foster social equity and ecological sustain- ability, the slogan is common to both the capitalist society of the free market economy and the scientific social doctrine of dialectical materialism. It is rather unfortunate, however, that both have failed to do full justice to this golden principle. The vast majority of the Third World continues to live in abject poverty and destitution while those in the economically advanced world live in compar- ative comfort and ease. The economic situation in most of the developing world, compared not only with the West but with the rapidly rising economies of East Asia, is becoming increasingly wretched. As advanced countries face new challenges from emerging economies, and their own economies begin to stagnate, they become more callous in their dealings with the Third World and impervious to the cries of the poor and the m a rginalised. Economic pene- tration and exploitation – the now thinly disguised veneer of globalisation – which accelerates the widening gulf between the rich and the poorer nations is an example of the unfair practices adopted by the advanced Western world. In addition, international aid is provided with strings attached designed to take undue advantage of helpless people rather than ameliorate the melancholy plight of poor individuals or their nation states. The Islamic economic system, on the other hand, commences with the premise that all that is in the heavens and the earth has been created by God and has bestowed upon man various provisions on trust. The possession of wealth is a means of trial so that those who are mindful of their account- ability may be distinguished from those who resort to pitilessness and pay scant attention to the sufferings of the rest of mankind. Islam attempts to create an attitude whereby 2 The Review of Religions – July 2004 Editorial governments and the wealthy are constantly reminded that it is in their own ultimate interest to establish an absolutely just and equitable economic system. Central to the economic philo- sophy of Islam, therefore, is the total absence of the interest factor which distinguishes it from interest-based capitalism. God loves goodness and beneficence towards the poor and the needy, fair and equitable distribution of wealth among people, and peace among the nations of the world. The system of interest, however, strikes at the heart of these blessings. This month, in I n v e s t m e n t , I n t e rest and Islam , Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (Allah have mercy on him) gives a brief insight into the Islamic economic p h i l o s o p h y. He explains why Islam promotes share-holding and profit-sharing and how the system of Zakat is employed to prevent the hoarding of capital. He also answers the vital question as to why Islam has prohibited the use of interest, arguing that both individuals and nations become poorer with the passage of time when they borrow from their future at interest. The prohibition of usury, however, is not limited to Islam alone. In this month’s feature article, the authors present A Short Review of the Historical Critique of Usury p r o v i d i n g evidence that all major world religions, and even modernist thinkers, have discountenanced lending on interest. Using the growing practice of ‘Islamic Banking’ as an example the writers go on to conclude that ‘by applying the Islamic approach, a lot of human misery could have been avoided.’ Bockarie Tommy Kallon, UK. 3 Editorial The Review of Religions – July 2004