The purpose of this paper is to critique the philosophical underpinnings of the growing field of Islamic economics.
A critical and comparative review of Islamic economics texts written by key proponents during the last eight decades is undertaken. The origins of this nascent science are traced and factors that gave impetus to its development examined. The different characterisations of the discipline as it has developed within the broader socio‐political context are contrasted.
The proponents of Islamic economics have had little success in shaping a distinctive paradigm for their discipline, beyond arguing that it is underpinned by a strong moral ethic. By and large, its epistemological roots have remained firmly within the framework of rationalism/empiricism and methodological individualism. Consequently, Islamic economics has not been able to shed its neoclassical moorings, the very paradigm it originally set out to replace. Several of the contradictions apparent in the discipline are discussed. Islamic economists, recognising that their mission has remained unfulfilled, have variously suggested different approaches to regenerate the process and chart the way forward. These propositions are examined and evaluated.
If Islamic economics is to fulfil its raison d'être, that is, articulate a coherent theoretical paradigm and demonstrate its relevance to the real economy, its proponents must resolve its theoretical and practical difficulties by clarifying its Weltanschauung and developing an appropriate content and form.
This study evaluates how the discipline has developed and exposes its inherent contradictions. These inconsistencies are identified and explained at the foundational level, highlighting where and why they have occurred.