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Considering an Alternative

If we recall our approach in part I and try to stay loyal to the general principles of Islam in the area of economics and finance, it becomes clear that Western Muslims are going to have to develop a fundamentally new approach. As we see it, the principle of integration and reform, the requirement to respect ethics in financial management, respect for private property alongside the obligation to pay zakat, and the prohibition of riba have to be applied in the West by developing a dynamic global concept. The very general nature of the [Islamic] guidelines makes this possible on condition that we study seriously the societies in which we live and try to think on the basis of the realities we find there.

It must also be added that the classical fiqh tradition, although it incorporates the idea of stages of development of regulations (on the very basis of the circumstances of their revelation in the Qur’an), remains very structured and necessarily compartmentalized, founded on rules for what is legitimate (halal) and what is illegitimate (haram). But economics and finance, by their own nature and especially today because of the complexity of the factors in play and the constant interaction of practices, are areas that require thinking that is aware of the dynamics, the logics of accumulation, and always the time factor. This is not where fiqh (law and jurisprudence) and jurists (fuqaha) are naturally at home, and it is often the awareness of this complexity and incompatibility of natures that causes some jurists to avoid pronouncing legal opinions on these subjects, so complex is the situation and so significant the risks.

Observance of the formal obligations concerning zakat and the undisputed prohibitions concerning riba is naturally the best form of protection, even if it cannot claim to be the best solution. There is no other area in which we are more in need of going back to the principles in our sources and to put forward a detailed study of the maslaha (public interest) of Western Muslims in the matter, of the ijtihad that needs to be developed, and of the fatawa that need to be pronounced. Many routes can be explored that will make changes in Western communities possible.

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