Maulana Maududi’s books acquainted me with the Islamic concepts of education and knowledge. If any solid work could be done on these lines in any field, it was Islamic economics, and its credit goes to Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi, who is called, and aptly so, Father of Islamic Economics, opines Syed Sadatullah Husaini, President Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
Like Maulana Maududi’s, the distinction of Professor Mohmmad Nejatullah Siddiqi too was that he was neither a captive of age-old traditions nor enchanted by the glamour of modernity. His attempts at revivalism on the one hand proved detrimental to inertness and moribund traditionalism, while on the other served as an effective message for liberation from the stupid and obtuse traditional mindset which had no power to think outside the circles woven by the west. Whether it is his epoch-making works on Islamic economics or ideological researches on the strategy of Islamic Movement in India, his balance and moderation is palpably felt everywhere.
During my student life, I was introduced to Dr. Siddiqi through his books on Islamic economics. For a science student of Standard XI, who hadn’t studied economics at any stage, it was not easy to understand the concepts of economics and banking. His books not only introduced me to Islamic economics but also aroused my interest in economics. Maulana Maududi’s books acquainted me with the Islamic concepts of education and knowledge. If any solid work could be done on these lines in any field, it was Islamic economics, and its credit goes to Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi, who is called, and aptly so, Father of Islamic Economics. Maulana Maududi’s adage, ‘Not conformists’ excellence but rather the excellence of pathbreakers and pioneers’ always comes to the mind and as practical model of this adage comes only the name of Dr. Siddiqi.
The first distinguished quality of Dr. Siddiqi is his devotion and constancy, stability and commitment towards his objective and mission. At the age of 15, he ascertained a field to serve the Tahrīk and committed the entire life thereto. He published a collection of letters that he had exchanged with the various personalities, though limited copies for circulation only in close circles. A study of his letters in this collection reveals his zeal and enthusiasm for Islamic economics which had been at work at every stage of his life, right from the age of 15 until he reached 75 years of age (when he published this collection). In his very tender age, he is seen in communication with economists of international level and raising questions before them. The letters clearly indicate that this youth bubbling with brilliance, always startling others, is to contribute something great and extraordinary to his field. In his student life, he started publishing a magazine named Islamic Thought, in English. I was able to go through its files at his residence. Every single line of it speaks of the creativity of a young mind – his passion and vision, keenness and fervour for shaping a new world and new culture.
Later on, this dream turned into his biggest interest as he kept on interpreting it all through his life. Every important decision and every important step he took in his life was based on this very dream. It was for this objective that he changed his career. And it was in view of its demands that he decided to live abroad. With this consideration in mind, he remained concerned about and of course actively working for till the fag end of his life. Right from the playful age of 16 or 17 years till the care-seeking age of 80 or 85 years, he committed all the breaths of his life, all the energies, and all the drops of heart to this dream. It remains a fact that for some great, extraordinary work, such clear vision for one’s objective, such devotion to one’s cause, and such an extent of one’s strivings with a strong sense of sacrifice of one’s all is inevitable. Unless and until a goal overwhelms one’s senses, he cannot do anything great.
Mera kamāl-i-sher bass itna hai aiy Jigar / wo mujh pe cha gaey mein zamaney pe cha gaya (My excellence of poesy, O Jigar, is only that / they overwhelmed me, I overwhelmed the era).
Dr. Siddiqi sowed the seeds of Islamic economics, watered it, brought it up with the blood of the heart and eventually made it a very large tree. When he had dreamt of Islamic economics, his letters tell us, it was a quite unknown concept. It was something quite unfamiliar and impracticable even for great economists. It was also mocked at. But today Islamic economics is an acknowledged science. There are formal departments for its teaching in the most important universities of the world. A large industry with investment of trillions of dollars has come into existence on its basis, and its principles are winning fast the attention of the world.
Like a successful gardener, Dr. Siddiqi not only kept on bringing this plant up but also paid attention to weed out the weeds that had crept in around it or eating into its roots as termites do. He faced any trend that wanted to change it into a form of capitalist economy by diverting it from its objective and real spirit on jurisprudential excuses. Dr. Siddiqi’s vision for Islamic economics was a vision for total change on the basis of Islamic concept of justice and equity.
Later on, unfortunately Islamic economics went on falling prey to the global trend of financialisation. First it came down from total economy to mere Islamic finance. Then finance too limited itself to banking. Then instead of the sticking to the real Islamic equity-based concept of economy, the process that sought to engraft upon mainstream banking on jurisprudential excuses started becoming a trend. Dr. Siddiqi boldly challenged every such trend. For instance, in this regard his continued strivings against tawarruq can be cited. Whenever I got a chance to talk to him, especially in the last stage of his life, I always felt his concern over it.
Even in the difficult condition in India, he kept on making efforts to further the cause of Islamic economics on the basis of the real Islamic concept thereof. He had been supervisor of and advisor to many institutions. He established institutions like Association for Islamic Economics. He also helped Indian Centre for Islamic Finance run under his supervision.
The lifelong strivings of Dr. Siddiqi on this front on the one hand are a brilliant chapter of the history of Islamic economics while on the other provide impetus as well as footprints for youth to make such focused, sustained and patient efforts in other fields. May Allah the Exalted, with His Munificence, bless us with such zealous travellers for other academic fields too and fill the vacancy caused in Islamic economics.
[This article is an extract, translated into English, from the article the author wrote in Urdu after the sad demise of Professor Nejatullah Siddiqi.]