On Islamic Political Economy: A Brief Reply to Choudhury, Asad Zaman

Author Information: Asad Zaman, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, asadzaman@alum.mit.edu

Zaman, Asad. “On Islamic Political Economy: A Brief Reply to Choudhury.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 12 (2014): 89.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1Mj

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Image credit: Muzaffar Bukhari, via flickr

According to the abstract and the first few sentences, this article is about the budding field of Islamic Political Economy. Since the labyrinthine prolixity of the article defied my attempts at comprehension, I looked at the reference list to find a more readable entry into this topic. Other than the author’s work, the bibliography only lists two dated articles on Islamic Political Economy. With no relevant articles within the past decade, and only three authors writing on this topic, is this really a “budding” field? 

I have written an article called “Re-Defining Islamic Economics.” In this article, I suggested that more than 20 extant definitions of this term are fundamentally flawed because they mix contemporary western definitions with Islamic ideas that are diametrically opposed. For example, Islam puts forth an ideal of generosity and concern for the after-life, while conventional economics idealizes selfish behavior and maximization of utility within this life. In this paper, I introduce a new definition of the subject matter of Islamic Economics based purely on Islamic sources, and then I show that it is directly opposed to current western definitions of the subject in ten different dimensions.

I was trying to find a definition of “Islamic Political Economy”, but could not penetrate the text that has a Gunning Fog Index of 22.7 (requiring more than ten years of education past high school). Perhaps if Dr Choudhury could provide a simple and comprehensible definition of the term “Islamic Political Economy” under discussion in his paper, and other works, I might be able to comment upon it. My suspicion is that his approach to the subject similarly mixes mathematics and post-modern erudition, but has very little contact with its Islamic roots. Certainly it would not have been comprehensible to the Prophet Mohammad and his companions, and has virtually no contact with the thousand year plus Islamic Intellectual tradition (William Chittick provides a good, readable exposition for outsiders in his Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul: The Pertinence of Islamic Cosmology in the Modern World.)

However this opinion of mine is just a guess, based on what I could grasp from the few fragments and phrases that I could understand of the article under discussion.

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