Dr. WAQUAR ANWAR relates his experience of having been in communion with Professor Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi through letters as well as in person, and mentions as many as six of the exclusive contributions Professor Siddiqi made to Islamic Economics and Finance.

I came in personal contact with Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi very late. Janab Arshad Ali Kidwai, my boss in the organisation where I was working as an account professional, had introduced me to him in absentia. When I met with Nejat Sb for the first time, he referred to that introduction. I wrote a book, Economics in Islam, which he edited word by word, guiding at every step, getting discussions deleted, added and merged. It was beyond my expectation to get so much time and attention from a person of his calibre. This is how he encouraged and developed his juniors. Once he provided me with an article, which he was in the process of writing, for comments. My reply to him on that occasion is reproduced hereunder:  

“Mohtaram Dr. Nejat sb. Assalam Alaikum

“I read and re-read your article and now I am ready with my comments. As you know I once worked as a subordinate of Janab Arshad Ali Kidwai in Hamdard Dawakhana. He used to give me his write-ups with the instruction, “read it with the eyes of an enemy” [ba- nazar dushman dekhye]. So, I have been taught to be straight in comments! I know you also encourage this attitude. This is how knowledge has grown and its lack is one of the causes of stagnation we are noticing these days in the Muslim scholarship.

“You have also stated your similar opinions, including biographical description of involvement with Islamic Economics in your other articles, including the one titled ‘Reflections on Islamic Economics.’

“Let us begin with what I agree and the ones I have taken notes of:

  • Need of cooperative approach emanating from tadbeer e manazil making family as the primary unit of economics as against the competitive, often cut-throat and inhuman, approach which is market oriented.
  • Need of information on cooperative approach.
  • Risk sharing giving way to risk shifting as a result of trade emergence of Murabaha, absolving the (so-called) Islamic financial institutions of all risk in lending and ensuring a decent return on money irrespective of what happened at the user’s end.
  • Shariah scholars being used for financial engineering for replicating almost all financial products available in the market.
  • Muslim aspirations being totally in sync with contemporary reality, considering their role to either teaching or grafting old to the new world [the anecdotes you have described of the apathy of our scholarship are sadly true].
  • We may congratulate ourselves and pat our own backs for re-inventing capitalism by using Islamic jurisprudence [re-inventing the wheel!]

“You have suggested some solutions to the problems. I noted following points:

  • Creating a new vision of money and finance largely not based on debt.
  • Modern money is all debt and it does not suit the social nature of human existence.
  • Risks and uncertainties should be fairly distributed and shared.
  • Framework of living as a cooperative enterprise.
  • The decline of the West and the shifting of power to the East provides us with an opportunity.
  • Islam with its emphasis on equality, human brotherhood and sharing may well succeed in building an economy that is different provided its adherents (we) are able to generate new ideas suitable to our times.

“You have also suggested to replace traditional rules by rules designed to serve maqasid. You had suggested a methodology for the purpose in your book, Maqasid e Shariah. The book generated unwanted, rather unwarranted, heat. I agree with the process but feel that the examples of such an approach that you provided in the book derailed the debate. As those were not your ideas, so you did not owe consequent responsibility, absolving yourself from arguing in their favour. Here, in this article, you have given the example of the decision of Hazrat Umar to treat the conquered lands of Syria and Iraq as fai. I suggest you to write another article describing the methodology of jurisprudence required today. Write this time in English and keep the contemporary examples at bay!

“A point where I do not agree with you is that despite your opinions about the wrongs being done in the name of Islamic finance you are with them. Or if you are not with them, at least, their practitioners consider you as part of their team.

“The process through which capitalism has hit humanity hard includes the idea of unrestricted deficit financing. This current expenditure based on future income (enjoy now, pay later) is the root cause of consumerism, creation of new (debt based) money and ecological imbalance, etc. Individuals, families, corporate and non-corporate entities and nations all are enjoying the fruits of future incomes and making the future of humanity bleak. [Even (so called) Islamic Financial Institutions have devised products for (say) education loan.] However, total ban on deficit financing is perhaps not possible. The point where I think you may express your ideas is the basis of restricting it.”

He did not disapprove or dislike my harsh comments, as above, and wrote back to discuss them in person when we meet. He did so, informing about his position of going along with the developments being made in the field of Islamic finance, besides making his points clear, whenever required.

EXCLUSIVE CONTRIBUTIONS OF DR. SIDDIQI

A number of areas in Islamic Economics and Finance may be described as ones having exclusive contributions by Dr. Siddiqi, including the following:

  1. Providing detailed theoretical, well-documented and properly referenced bases for flow of national resources from Islamic perspective. His work on issues relating to land ownership (Islam ka Nazri’ah Milkiyat) encompassed the related discussions in the four juristic schools in Sunni jurisprudence. It is interesting to note that deliberations on the issues based on Shia jurisprudence by As-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr (in Iqtisaduna) are similar in nature.
  2. Shifting the attention of Islamic economics to business enterprises

He has righty noted, “my book Economic Enterprise in Islam continues to inspire students despite its simple language and elementary economics. The reason: it tried to build an Islamic behavioural model from the scratch, in the light of the texts, the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Unlike other Islamic publications of those days, its backbone was not a critique of capitalism, socialism, etc. It focused exclusively on divine guidance relevant for economic life.” In fact, this book proved to be a game-changer.

  • Pioneering a scheme of Interest Free banking

He first compiled a book on “Partnership and Sharing in Islamic Law” and then, based on the principles described therein, he wrote a book on Banking without Interest. It was a pioneering contribution.  The blueprint of the banking system he proposed was not applied totally for any considerable period as other easy-going variants came up in practice. However, that work done by Dr. Siddiqi remains a historical moment in this field.

  • Course Correction

Once I enquired about the work he was doing then. He replied, “course correction.” Every caravan needs someone to do the course corrections so that the path may not be lost or the convoy derailed. Dr. Siddiqi performed this task successfully in the case of tawarruq and was not that much successful in the case of deviation in certain practices of sukuk. Further, he has written extensively on the undesirability of lion’s share of trade-based products of Islamic Financial Institutions ignoring the primary modes of finance. Despite his several writings on the subject in a number of his presentations, the aberrant practices continue and things are going unhindered and becoming stronger day by day. As course-correction is an on-going process, one can only wish that good sense prevails.

  • From Guidance to Blueprints

Dr. Siddiqi tried to usher in the idea of developing workable solutions for the present based on divine guidance from Allah and His Prophet ﷺ without giving unnecessary importance to the answer to problems which earlier wise human beings derived for their times. He abhorred the idea of deriving laws from laws derived by non-prophetic persons, however great they may be, as they were naturally affected by the issues of their days and their environment. In other letter to me he wrote, “There is a difference between guidelines and blueprints. Much of our literature in the past has confused between the two, often presenting eternal guidelines as blueprints for here and now, forgetful of the need for human reason to make a blueprint on the basis of the guidance in the texts. Worse still, realising the need, some go back to 1000 years expecting some wise person in that time to have done this for them.” He highlighted this approach in his book, Maqasid e Shari’ah, which was, however, rejected vehemently by some religious scholars.

  • Guidance for Researchers

He kept himself aware of all developments and researches being made in the areas of Islamic Economics and Finance and was a permanent source of guidance to budding researchers. He took pains in attending to all related queries and replying to any email sent to him. The very first requirement of a research-scholar is to know what works have been or are being done so that he or she may do the gap analysis and do work to fulfil the gap. I am not aware of any other person, other than Dr. Siddiqi, who took so much interest in collecting related information and sharing it with any scholar.

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