Prof. Nejatullah Siddiqi Doyen of Islamic Economics

Dr. Abul Hassan recounts how he came in contact with Professor Siddiqi, how the latter helped and provided guidance for him in furthering the cause of Islamic economics, and recognises his towering personality in this particular field, believing that the legacy of this doyen of Islamic Economics is there to continue and inspire numerous people…

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Dr. Abul Hassan recounts how he came in contact with Professor Siddiqi, how the latter helped and provided guidance for him in furthering the cause of Islamic economics, and recognises his towering personality in this particular field, believing that the legacy of this doyen of Islamic Economics is there to continue and inspire numerous people globally.

Prestigious King Faisal International Prize-winning Islamic economist who occupied a significant position among the promoters of Islamic economics and helped shape Islamic economics and finance as an academic discipline. An intellectual of reconstruction of the theory of Islamic economy who had deep sense of history, laws, moral integrity and was strong in his faith with scholarly commitment to Islam.

Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi was interested in learning Islamic education; so, he was enrolled at the Thanwi Darsgah, Rampur and later Madrasatul Islah in Saraimir in Uttar Pradesh during 1950-1954. He was a brilliant student there. After completing his religious education, Siddiqi joined Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 1956 and completed his BA and subsequently MA in 1960, obtaining highest ranks. Immediately after completing his MA, he was appointed Lecturer in Economics at the AMU.

Later on, he did his Ph.D. in Economics on ‘A Critical Examination of the Recent Theories of Profit’ from AMU in 1966. After his Ph.D., he was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in Economics in AMU. When the first International Conference on Islamic Economics was jointly organised by Ummul Qura University, Makkah, and King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1976, Professor Siddiqi was engaged as a member of the academic committee of the conference. This conference provided a spinning point for promotion of Islamic economics as an academic discipline, truly in the sense of practical orientation in the various universities in the world especially in the Middle Eastern and Muslim countries. Siddiqi, after coming back from the conference, made an attempt to introduce Islamic Economics as a subject at the Economics Department in AMU by submitting a proposal to the University curriculum committee.

Following up the recommendations of the first International Conference on Islamic Economics, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, established an International Centre for Research in Islamic Economics. Professor Siddiqi joined the Centre in 1978. After joining there, Professor Siddiqi was in the first generation of leading experts in Islamic economics, who volunteered to develop and establish Islamic economics as an academic discipline. Professor Siddiqi promoted and inspired the second generation of Islamic economics scholars who should carry out the promotion of Islamic economics and finance goal as he coordinated with the researchers and academics on Islamic economics all over the world. In recognition of his excellent contributions to Islamic economics, in the year 1982, Professor Siddiqi was awarded with prestigious King Faisal International Prize.

My introduction with Professor Siddiqi was via letters of correspondence on the advice of renowned Islamic scholar, Late Maulana Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi (Ali Mian). Before my joining Durham University, UK for pursing PhD in Financial Economics, I went to see my mentor and spiritual guru Late Ali Mian at his ancestral home Rae Bareli near Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India in May 1997. During my visit there, he advised me to read the literature on Islamic economics and banking and wrote a letter of introduction to Professor Siddiqi with a request to help me understand Islamic economics and banking. Within a month and a half, I received a parcel from Professor Siddiqi, containing 4-5 books on Islamic economics and a copy of the Journal of KAU. Immediately I acknowledged with many thanks.

After my moving to Durham University, UK in 1997, I had been in regular contact with him. In 1999, I personally met with Professor Siddiqi, in Markfield, UK where he used to visit from time to time to the Islamic Foundation, the publisher of several of his books. He introduced me to another first generation veteran Islamic Economist, Professor Khurshid Ahmad. After a few months, while I was doing PhD, the Chairman of the Islamic Foundation, Markfield, Professor Khurshid Ahmad gave me responsibility of the Coordinator of its Islamic Economics Unit, to promote research on Islamic economics and to introduce Islamic Finance as an academic subject in British Universities. I continued to act as Coordinator of Islamic Economics Unit of the Islamic Foundation, Markfield till June 2011. I must point out here that Professor Siddiqi extended me a helping hand to carry out my responsibility as Coordinator of the Islamic Economics Unit, whenever he visited Islamic Foundation from time to time.

Professor Siddiqi was a prolific writer in Urdu and English. Several of his works have been translated into Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, etc. He delivered numerous numbers of lectures worldwide while ground-breaking Islamic economics. His most widely read book is Banking without Interest (1983), published in more than 30 editions between 1973 and 2022. His other works in English include Islam’s View on Property (1969), Theories of Profit: A Critical Examination (1971), Economic Enterprise in Islam (1972), Muslim Economic Thinking (1981), Issues in Islamic Banking: Selected Papers (1983), Partnership and Profit-Sharing in Islamic Law (1985), Insurance in an Islamic Economy (1985), Teaching Economics in Islamic Perspective (1996), Role of State in Islamic Economy (1996) and Dialogue in Islamic Economics (2002).

During his long academic career, he supervised a number of Ph.D. dissertations in universities in India, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. He was also associated with a number of academic journals as editor or advisor.

Professor Siddiqi’s legacy is there to continue and inspire numerous people globally. His academic works transformed him into a superstar of Islamic economics, and the coming generation would certainly call him the father of contemporary Islamic economics.

Affable and approachable, he was not just a source but a well-read go-to person whose knowledge and expertise never went to his mind. Talking to him about things like Islamic economy and Islamic philosophy, especially where the two crossed, was like having a hearty chat with a scholar at a conference venue or a tea table. He will be sorely missed.

[Dr. Abul Hassan, Associate Professor in Finance, KFUPM Business School, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia]