Arshad Ahmed Baig and - Khurram Khan - The planet is sharply divided into two economic groups, rich countries and poor countries. The affluent societies have higher GDP and per capita income; people living in these countries enjoy highstandard of living including better health and education facilities. On the other hand, poor societies live indisease, malnutrition, poverty, unemployment, inflation, miseries of all sorts. This sharp division is due to capitalism in the present world.

Capitalism is characterised by private ownership of means of production and creation of goods and services for profit. In this system, consumer is the kingpin and market forces play the regulatory role. Capitalist economy is driven by market forces. In this scheme, wealth of a nation is divided amongst four factors of production, viz., capital, land, entrepreneur and labour. Maximum share is appropriated by capitalist, land owners, senior managers and professionals, and only a small fraction is left for manual labour (industry, construction, unskilled) and farmers. Most of them live below poverty line.

Situation in so-called socialist countries is not dissimilar. There is also an elite class enjoying all facilities and for labouring class there are limited resources leading to abject poverty and deprivation. In China majority of population subsists on $2 per day.

Both capitalism and socialism philosophies start from the premises of scarcity of resources. In free economies, market forces decide distribution of resources and wealth whereas socialism gives this role to state planning. Classical socialistic model is non-existent in the modern world; In Russia and other so-called socialist countries private sector is gaining much large space. China has joined the club of capitalistic countries. Laissez faire market economy does not exist in any part of the present world as ideal socialistic has disappeared.

In capitalist societies governments are playing important role in planning and managing resources and wealth of nation. Fiscal and monetary policies are also used to manipulate market forces, supply and demand. In some Western countries, welfare programmes like health and social security are regulated by the government. These countries, Scandinavian, are nicknamed welfare states.

This is age of neo-capitalism with increasingly interventionist role of international financial institutions in internal affairs of these countries. International Monetary Fund (IMF) is playing important role in the policy formulation in developing countries. Multinational organisations also have big role in these economies in production and distribution of wealth.

Media, especially electronic media, is also playing significant role in spreading consumerism in developing societies. This is new dimension to economic decision-making at micro level. Industry and Media are hand in glove to create artificial demand for consumer goods. This tendency is leading to many economic and moral issues like conspicuous consumption and demonstration effect. In Pakistan an elite group has monopolised political and economic space. More than 90 per cent resources are owned and controlled by less than one percent of the population. Corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have stalked ill gotten money in foreign banks or invested in off shore companies. Common man is leading a miserable life. Deprivation of basic human needs is wide spread. This is happening in the name of democracy. When commercially motivated politicians are at the helm of affairs, blurring of boundaries between economics and politics is the inevitable eventuality.

In Pakistan the concept of Islamic Socialism was used as a political slogan by a political party in 1960-70. Now it is history. Maulana Syed Abu al Aala Mawdudi was one of the pioneers of Islamic Economic thought in Pakistan.

Book under review is an important addition to existing literature on Islamic thought. The authors have rightly stated that it is a thought provoking compendium of information for students and scholars, who are interested in studying Islamic teachings on today’s burning issues. However, they have not offered an Islamic Economic Model. Only Islamic perspective has been introduced on burning issues impacting concept of wealth and processes of production, distribution and consumption in the modern world economies.

The authors of this book reject the scarcity of resources argument of secular economists. According to them; Allah (swt) has provided sufficient means of sustenance, in accordance with the needs of not only human beings but for all living creatures (P 8). This is the basic difference between secular thinking and Islamic thinking regarding economic dispensation. Allah is not only Creator of the ever expanding universe but also Sustainer and Nourisher. His planning cannot be defective in the domain of sustenance. Baig and Khan argue that He (ALLAH) provided the earth with all necessary resources and conditions in proportion to the need of all who seek sustenance (P 4).

The authors further argue that issue is not the scarcity of resources but mismanagement of these unlimited resources, human and material. According to ethical approach, there is no scarcity of resources, because Allah (swt) has planned ‘rizq’ for every human being. Islamic economic system is ethics based with emphasis on just and fair distribution of wealth.

Professor Dr Anis Ahmed has rightly observed in the Foreword that key concept in this (Islamic) model is not ‘maximisation’ of profit or so-called ‘equal’ distribution of resources but ethical , fair and just sharing of benefits in an enterprise with a sense of accountability in front of the Creator, Allah (swt).

In Islam individual is the pivotal in economic decision making. Man is a two –dimensional personality; body and soul. Man cannot satisfy biological needs at the cost of spiritual needs, therefore economic planning should encompass both dimensions of human personality. Food, shelter and clothing are important, but more important question is how to access them. Here comes the issue of Halal or legitimate ways to acquire material resources to satisfy basic human needs. Islam urges honest hard work and discourages idleness and illegal ways like gambling, usury, theft, deceit and fraud.

The Book is divided into 10 Units and an Annexure on Riba. Each Unit starts with Questions for Deliberation and ends with Readers Insight. In this unique Book questions regarding production, consumption and distribution have been discussed in the light of Islamic perspective. Authors have profusely quoted from the Holy Quran and sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) in support of their arguments.

Authors state in the Introduction that the Book is not a research treatise, but thought provoking effort.

The authors have taken pains to include Islamic teachings about production, distribution and consumption domains in their present research effort. Readers Insight at the end of each Unit is a good guide for further study and research.

It is sadly observed that there is a contrast in the Divine Message and its inadequate manifestation in the lives of Muslims the world over. There is not a single Muslim country in the world where Shariat is supreme in the business and economic world. Some form of Riba is found in all business transactions and dealings.

Population planning is another challenge for the Muslim world. Population is not only an important factor of production but also element of power. Authors have given the example of China, where cheap labour is an attraction for foreign investors. However, China is also facing the problem of aging population, as share of youth in the populations is decreasing due to their one-child family policy. Population should not be analyzed in numerical strength only rather quality of population is more important. In Asia the case in point is Singapore, an educated and highly skilled population is an asset. Health of mother is also a moral issue for consideration in population planning.

Another important issue related to population planning is the child labour. In Pakistan, young children are found engaged in some sort of economic activity. They are employed as domestic servants, assistants in workshops, in agriculture and cottage industry, construction industry. Child labour vitiates against human rights issues, specifically principle of a child’s right to education.

The book has gone through a panel of reviewers including economist, banker, social scientist, Islamic scholars. Prof. Dr. Anis Ahmad, an eminent scholar and the vice chancellor of Riphah International University wrote ‘foreword’ of the book. Comment from Prof. Dr. Akram Laldin, Executive Director International Shariah Research Academy ISRA, Malaysia has made the book really valuable and commendable.

“Reflections on Socio-Political Economy” is a reliable Reference Book for students of economics, business management, researchers and religious scholars. Riphah Centre of Islamic Business (RCIB) has taken pains to publish it in a presentable form.

Reviewed by: Asghar Mahmood Senior Analyst (at peace and security in Pakistan)