Copyright © 2004 International Development Options
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Volume Three Winter 2003-Spring 2004 Numbers 3-4.
ECONOMIC UNDERDEVELOPMENT AND SOCIAL VALUES: THE CASE OF ISLAM
Yusuf M. Sidani
Suliman S. Olayan School of Business
American University of Beirut
Bliss Street – Ras Beirut
Published online: February 10, 2017
This article critically evaluates the conflicting propositions brought forward regarding the link between Islam and underdevelopment in Muslim societies. One proposition contends that Islam cannot be blamed for the economic problems that exist in Muslim societies since these problems should be attributed to a host of other factors. Another view asserts that Islam has traditionally produced, among other things, a system that is anti-market and accordingly does not lend itself to economic growth. The article draws on Weber’s analysis to uncover the potential relationship between economic ethics and economic development relative to Muslim societies. The article presents an understanding of economic development that traces the potential historical areas where Muslim societies were not able to develop. It is suggested that there are indeed severe drawbacks in the existing value system that may impede development. But while differences in state assets, human resources, technology, knowledge and a capital investment cannot alone explain the observed variations in economic prosperity of different societies, framing economic underdevelopment in a form of discrepancy in values does not work, either. Rather than blaming Islam itself, a worthwhile effort lies in assessing the existing social structures and developing them where needed.