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Shariah, Economics and the Progress of Islamic Finance: The Role of Shariah Experts

Shariah, Economics and the Progress of Islamic Finance: The Role of Shariah Experts
Dr. Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi
Seventh Harvard Forum on Islamic Finance
April 2006

"Discussing the role of Shariah experts in the development of Islamic economics and Islamic finance calls for a look at the nature of economics and the focus of Shariah. The chief concerns of economics over the ages have been efficiency and equity. Shariah in its broader sense that gives primacy to objectives over rules and regulations shares these concerns. However the same may not apply to shariah meaning fiqh : i.e., laws codified at a particular time and place. The historical context in which we approach our subject today sends mixed signals. The schools of traditional Shariah learning had long tilted towards teaching codified fiqh with few insights into the objectives, the maqasid al-shariah. But the new assignments given to Shariah scholars trained in these schools increasingly called for paying attention to objectives while interpreting the rules. How far have they been able to meet this challenge, is one of the questions whose answer I will try to explore. I begin by first narrating what happened in the name of Islamic economics during the last century then trying to understand where we find ourselves today and how we arrived where we are in the business of Islamic finance."

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