Ovi -
we cover every issue
worldwide creative inspiration  
Ovi Bookshop - Free Ebook
Join Ovi in Facebook
Ovi Language
Michael R. Czinkota: As I See It...
The Breast Cancer Site
Murray Hunter: Opportunity, Strategy and Entrepreneurship
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
BBC News :   - 
iBite :   - 
Entrepreneurship as a Means to Create Islamic Economy
by Murray Hunter
2013-06-11 09:53:23
Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author
DeliciousRedditFacebookDigg! StumbleUpon

This is a paper presented to the 6th Annual Muslim World Conference 2013, “Competitive Collaboration Strategies and Muslim Common Culture in the ASEAN Community”, Bangkok, Thailand, May 2013.


Today, the Ummah (Muslim community) represents over 20% of the world's population. However most of the Ummah exists within the bottom of the economic pyramid, lacking any real integration with the world economy, and devoid of entrepreneurial opportunity. They are left to languish within a generational cycle of poverty. Even within some of the 'rich' Islamic nations of the world like Saudi Arabia, poverty and acute unemployment are on the rise[1].

Table 1. Selected statistics from a number of Islamic counties[2]



Muslims as % Population

% Urbanization

Unemployment (15-24) (%)

Poverty (%)

GDP Per-capita (USD)

GDP Per- capita World ranking





36% (adult)




























Burkina Faso




































































16% (adult)
























30% (adult)
















30% (adult)








30% (adult)
































23.9% (adult)




Saudi Arabia




















20% (adult)
















60% (adult)








2.5% (adult)




Western Sahara
















This malaise is hampered by regular natural disasters and social unrest through many parts of the Islamic world. One of the Ummah's special problems in South-East Asia is the predominant rural domicile, where many have become victims of 'rural underdevelopment'. The feudal-like structure of many societies where  'cronyism' and 'corruption' exist as part of the culture is taking away the fundamental human right to opportunity[3].

The symptoms of 'rural underdevelopment' and 'feudalism' can be seen through growing unemployment, which is not always captured in official government statistics. In addition, a growing unbalanced affluence biased towards city dwellers, the lack of resources, and access to business networks to enable greater entrepreneurial activity within these regions exists. Lack of exposure to contemporary urban society greatly affects the scope of rural youth to discover and develop new entrepreneurial ideas. Consequently, this encourages a narrow view of the world on the part of youth, where they begin to feel powerless. Lack of access to markets and the ability to acquire skills, contributes to a deeply ingrained lack of will and acceptance of the status quo, from which they feel unable to escape from.

An isolated Ummah from the rest of the world is a source of disadvantage which contributes to the cycle of poverty. While the world is progressing economically, much of the Ummah is being left behind economically. However this poverty isn't just economic. It extends to social poverty which acts as a breeding ground for ignorance, apathy, drug dependence, crime, and amorality. This leads to spiritual poverty.

Many Muslims feel that they are prisoners of secular society where values are contrary to Islam, and consequently they are unwilling to engage. Most Islamic countries have modeled their economies upon Keynesian fiscal and Friedman's monetarism framework as their basic platforms. Others, like Malaysia, are business friendly, but exercise a great amount of regulation within the marketplace. Banking systems are internationalized where speculative currency exchange and interest rates fluctuations are markets in their own right, promoting a speculative and rent seeking society. Civil secular laws and business conventions provide an unappealing business environment. Many young people see business as a career being contradictory to their religious devotion. Therefore very few see entrepreneurship as a way to deepen their faith.

In addition, higher education, particularly within the sphere of business and entrepreneurship are very much biased towards 'western theories' and 'ideals', which excludes the possibility that Islamic concepts can form an alternative and unique framework for the practice of business and entrepreneurship[4]. Today within the ASEAN region there are very few places where Islamic entrepreneurship is taught.

So this is the challenge. To develop an entrepreneurial pedagogy for the Ummah. Finding ways to teach entrepreneurship where the Ummah not just sees enterprise as being compatible with Islam, but as a way to enhance one's faith. Existing entrepreneurship theories can't provide this. "Conventional" business models advocated by local business schools do not provide the answer. Many young Muslin entrepreneurs are looking for guidance and mentorship about how they can develop their businesses closer to Tawhid principles[5].

The lack of published academic and intellectual thought on Islamic business has not assisted this cause[6]. Intellectual guidance could assist in developing more balanced views about how the principles of Islam can be utilized in business. The focus of most published works on Islamic economics and business has been within the domains of finance and morals[7], which leads many to the conclusion that Islam has little to contribute in the theories of economics and business.

Dr. Umer Chapra in an on-line interview was very critical of the development of Islamic economic and business theories claiming they were unbalanced in their approaches. He was reported to state that “Primary attention has been given so far to Islamic Finance. This has led to the false impression that interest-free finance is all that Islamic Economics has to offer. Since most of the governments in Muslim countries are not yet convinced that interest-free finance is workable, excessive emphasis on it has created a resistance in official circles against Islamic Economics. They find it to be of little value. This is unfortunate. We must blame ourselves for this. Islam is a complete way of life and is capable of solving the problems of not only Muslim countries, but also of mankind[8].

In the same interview Dr. Chapra said that it was the responsibility of Islamic intellectuals to show how Islamic economics could solve the socio-economic problems that humankind faced. This is in great need because there is a distinct lack of theoretical and empirical analysis to show that an Islamic strategy can help solve economic problems, particularly with the current state of the Islamic world, where there is decline in moral values, exploitive financial systems, illegitimate governments, landlordism, lack of education, absence of justice and ineffective operation of incentives and deterrents. Dr. Umer Chapra believes that there is great repetitiveness in what is written about Islamic economics which is not serving any cause. An alternative Islamic perspective needs to be spelt out.

The message of Islam forms its basis from the Al-Qur’an, which is the direct word of Allah (S.W.T.). The Hadĭths are documents made up of lessons taken from the life of the Messenger Muhammad (S.A.W.), written down by a number of apostles, which put the knowledge from the Al-Qur’an in the context in which they were revealed to assist in developing a general and universal significance[9]. Without the Hadĭths many important aspects of Islam would not be known today and the Al-Qur’an would be at the mercy of those who misinterpret it[10].

Need for an Islamic Model of Business

To date “The fanaticism and prejudice for Western managerial systems have also, among other things, veiled the relevancy of Islam as a model of management, as well as generating a cynical reaction that the Islamic model existed in history and concept only, but never practiced in modern life, even by countries with a Muslim Majority[11]. Islamic scholars argue three main reasons for the need to develop and implement an Islamic business framework;

  1. The nature of man: Man has both the potential to rise to great spiritual heights and also disintegrate into total immorality. Man’s ability to act rightly or wrongly is a matter of moral choice. Under the Islamic viewpoint, man’s purpose on earth to carry out ibadah (relates man to Allah {S.W.T} through spiritual acts)[12] and follow God’s will with total devotion, according to his natural disposition (fitrah); where everything fits into the divine pattern under the laws of Allah (S.W.T)[13]. Submission to the laws of Allah (S.W.T) brings harmony to man, however man was created with many weaknesses[14], forgetfulness[15], greed for material comforts and power[16], is capable of oppressiveness and ignorance[17], is rash and impatient[18], stringy and miserably[19], ungrateful[20], quarrelsome[21], ruthless[22], and full of self interest[23], which can easily lead him astray.
  2. The amoral society: General society has become amoral and lapsed in faith, believing that truth and reality is based on what can be touched, smelled, seen, heard and tasted. This has lead to a society that has become materialistic and less spiritual. This absence of spirituality is leading business into immoral activities such as stealing, lying, fraud and deceit, making people believe that they cannot succeed without pursuing the same practices[24].
  3. The underdevelopment of Islamic societies: Approximately 80% of the World’s Muslins live in poverty, as cultural minorities in other countries, with high incidences of unemployment and low productivity[25]. Countries with majority Muslin populations, are declining in their knowledge generation, research, innovation and educational standards[26], have a generally a lower life expectancy, higher illiteracy rates, lower GDP per capita rates with the majority of people living in fragile and non-arable lands, poorer infrastructure and water supplies and a larger number of dependents than the non-Islamic World[27]. Islamic GDP as a percentage of total World GDP is estimated to be only 45% of what it should be, in order to be on par with the rest of the world[28].

The Al-Qur’an was written mostly within a business metaphor

The Al-Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who was born into a trading family and brought up by Abu Talib, who was a trader. Society in the Prophet’s time was almost totally dependent on trade as a means to earn a living and unlike any other religion, the Al-Qur’an is heavily written in the metaphor of business and trade. Within many parts of the Al-Qur’an life is paralleled to a business venture, where one earns profits to gain entry into heaven – profits meaning faith and good deeds to others and those that accept Allah’s (SWT) guidance as a bargain to save them from punishment on judgment day[29]. Islam urges individuals to strive their utmost to earn large monetary rewards and spiritual profits, while at the same time being inspired to be successful and honest people[30]. This is part of the concept of ad-din, which makes material and spiritual pursuits inseparable, where one’s whole life is concerned with the needs of humankind here on earth to secure a comfortable life in the Hereafter[31]. Consequently, Islam does not prohibit worldly success[32], in fact Allah (SWT) has provided opportunities for humankind to obtain success and it is certainly the responsibility of the individual to do so[33]. However involvement in business should also carry with it benevolent intentions for others while seeking success for oneself[34].

Islam espouses a transparent market economy

Islam espouses a market economy with freedom of the individual to operate a business with minimal outside interference;

“He who brings goods to the market is blessed with bounty, he who withholds them is cursed.”
(Ibn Majah & Al Hakim)

A market mechanism is urged with free flowing knowledge without exploitation by middlemen;

“Do not chase after those who are going to the market before they reach the place.”

(Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Islam also prohibits price manipulation;

“Anyone who withholds goods until the price rises is a sinner.”


The basic tenants of an Islamic economy

Most Islamic countries sought out economic models that promoted economic development. The concept of social market economy which Islam requires was often discarded in favour of secular models. Most countries adopted concepts of "Islamic socialism"  where references to Islamic teachings and Shariah were only cursory or cosmetic[35].

The general principles of an Islamic economy can be summarized as follows[36];

·         Islam provides a supportive value system where a person should seek to achieve economically as well as spiritually.

·         People are expected to earn their own living, if possible.

·         The pursuit of wealth is legitimate, however moderation in lifestyle is espoused.

·         Prices should be just, based upon competitive markets.

·         The inequality of income should not be allowed to become too wide, therefore the state should intervene to ensure  that equality is maintained.

·         The needy are protected by society through Zakat.

·         Land and capital are productive factors, only when combined with labour. Therefore income should not just be derived from ownership. Finance, leases, loans, etc., should be based on the sharing of risk as a basic principle of justice and equity.

·         Islamic values frown upon wasted resources, human skills, and idleness.

·         Humans are God's custodians and only possess resources temporarily. As trustees, they must ensure these resources are passed onto the next generation intact, consequently Muslins have a duty to protect the environment[37].

·         Private ownership is paramount within the economy, where the state should only interfere under exceptional circumstances. Monetary policy should only be utilized to stabilize prices. Fiscal policy should only be used to preserve an equilibrium between tax revenue and public expenditure. The state's role is solely to provide sufficient infrastructure for society to operate fairly and equitably[38]. 

·         Antisocial practices that damage society are forbidden where monopoly and hoarding and other market distortions are not permitted. In addition all transactions where 'one person wins and one person losses' are forbidden.

Social justice in Islam is derived through productive work, where equal opportunities exist for all, and everybody can utilize their abilities to work and gain just reward for their efforts[39] - This is entrepreneurship.

Ironically Islamic economics offers one of the oldest theoretical foundations for any economic model today. It is the only economic model that built in moral and ethical mechanisms, with guidelines to control speculation. In this way, Islam is not just a divine belief in God, but a carefully worked out set of rules that provides a set of principles and code of conduct which organizes and regulates society[40].

Piety through business

Thus Islam espouses that free trade is a major factor in the enhancement of living standards of the general community, subject to some constraints on business in the interests of the wider community.

Central to Islam is Tawhid “…a man’s commitment to Allah, the focus of all his reverence and gratitude, the only source of value. What Allah desires for man becomes value for him, the end of all human endeavour[41].”  Tawhid is the Islamic way of life, the fundamental of all Islamic civilization, which is process, means and end together. Tawhid is both the essence of the individual and the society he or she lives in. Tawhid is acceptance of one creator and His divine guidance of humanity[42]. Tawhid implies both the mission and morality of humankind in both social and spiritual contexts.

Mankind’s responsibilities under Tawhid fall into two categories, fard’ain which is an individual’s obligation to perform his or her religious duties and fard kifayah, which is an obligation for man to serve the entire community, through services to each other, necessary for the community to live safely and comfortably. Thus the obligation to improve the Muslim Ummah (community) falls under fard kifayah[43], where undertaking business is the principal method[44] of improving the economy and community;

“Be involved in business as nine out of ten sources of income lie in business”  (Ihya)

An Islamic Business Framework

The building blocks of Tawhid are the concepts of al-iman (belief), al-ilm (knowledge) and al-amal (pious acts and efforts). Al-iman is the belief in the existence of one God and Creator, with a commitment to His teachings and revelations, revealed through the Al-Qur’an, and Prophets, through the Hadĭths and Sunnah (What the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said, did, agreed or disagreed to). Our faith in Allah (S.W.T.) is reflected in our daily behavour, influenced by our moral system formed and contained within us. It is our inner self;

“Faith is not expectations and not outward ornamentations, but implanted in the heart and realized through actions." (Ibn Najjar & Dailami)

Al-iman is deepened by al-ilm[45], which is the responsibility of all Muslims to seek[46] in order to fulfill and perform al-amal. Knowledge (spiritual, wisdom and scientific) is the foundation of all acts of al-amal which would be futile and unproductive without the search for further knowledge[47] to enhance the wellbeing of society[48]. Islam places great importance on scientific discovery, knowledge and wisdom to develop civilisation[49]. Al-iman and al-ilm manifested through al-amal is the basis of the advancement of civilization for the benefit of humankind and the Ummah in particular. This is undertaken under the principle of ad-din, mentioned above, which is referred to as ibadah.


Figure 1. An Islamic Business framework

In Islam a person, who of faith, knowledge and pious devotion, manifested in effort and acts, using reason and experience and adheres to the teachings of the Al-Qur’an and Prophets is a person of Taqwa, adhering to the philosophy of Tawhid. He is fulfilling his purpose on earth to perform ibadah[50] to God, through obedience (ta’ah), which conforms to his true and essential nature (fitrah) of man. This relates man to God through everything an individual does, including spiritual duties, thoughts, actions and deeds to other people[51].

As man operates in a social environment, Islam prescribes a number of forms of business organization, through which his obligations can be fulfilled. A mushharakah can take a number of forms;

a)  Mudarabah: Partnership where one manages the partnership and another supplies the financial support,

b)  Shirkah: where two or more individuals pool financial resources and share profit and loss on an agreed ratio and held liable to the extent of their capital, and

c)  Syari’ah: each partner is able to operate other businesses, independent of the principle business.

Such business organizations are founded and operated on the principle of al-ta’awun (mutual assistance and cooperation) among members of a society for both their mutual benefit and that of a society as a whole[52].

Islamic business is governed by the rules of syar’iah, the path by which all Muslims should follow. The syar’iah is the divine law that establishes the standards of justice and human conduct, as well as what is permitted and prohibited in action. The syar’iah is based on the Al-Qur’an, Sunnah and interpretations by Islamic scholars. Some Muslim scholars have stated that these standards are beyond human and are a goal or path of guidance[53], where others see these utopian ideals as mandatory for advancement of the community[54]. 

Central to the syar’iah are the concepts of halal and Toyyibaan, which govern all the economic activities of man in wealth production and consumption of wealth, where certain means of gaining a livelihood are declared unlawful[55]. Halal means lawful or permitted for Muslins[56], a concept that is much wider than just issues of food, concerning as to whether things are undertaken according to the syar’iah[57]. Toyyibaan is a much wider concept, meaning good, clean, wholesome, ethical in the Islamic concept. In nutrition, toyyibaan is much wider than halal, as food must also be clean, safe, nutritious, healthy and balanced[58]. Toyyibaan would also mean that agriculture must be undertaken within sustainable practices[59], and in business that things are done with good intentions[60].


Figure 2. The concept of Halal and Toyyibaan in relation to HACCP and GMP[61].

In Islam, the individual’s vision, mission and objectives in business is to achieve both success in this world and the hereafter. This is al-falah. Islam puts very little restriction upon the scale of worldly success[62], except specifying, it must be reasonable, provides the comforts of worldly life[63], with consideration to the poor and suffering[64], and within the balance of worldly and spiritual life[65]. Mans success must also serve the legitimate needs of the ummah[66]. This is in great contrast to the singular objective of profit maximization in contemporary business thinking[67].

Allah (S.W.T.) equipped man with the faculties of understanding right and wrong, so that he may obtain a bright destiny[68]. Man has a free choice in what he chooses. Opposition and straying from his true nature (fitrah) will bring discord to the individual where negative attributes will distort his true nature, which could lead him into doing evil deeds[69]. The individual has his al-iman and al-ilm to keep him from this path of self destruction (al-fasad), which would manifest itself through nepotism, favourtism, envy, greed, corruption, injustice and ignorance[70]. This in Islam is the influence of satan, manifested in many different ways to man to lure him away from God’s chosen path for him. Man becomes unfocused through ignorance and lack of knowledge[71].

Achieving al-falah means that man has lived up to God’s trust placed upon him, through performing his ibadah, while obeying all the laws of the syar’iah. This is where man has overcome his weaknesses in the service of Allah (S.W.T.) through righteous deeds (amal), in his obligation of fard kifayah. Man has reached the state of amanah, fulfilling the trust God has put in him[72].

Islam also specifies the way organizations should be operated and managed. As discussed, an organization must base all its work on al-amal and ibadah with the overall management objective of achieving al-falah for the organization as a whole and each individual within it. This is based upon a foundation of al-iman and al-ilm, within a civilization based upon a tawhid philosophy, so that employees have the opportunity to achieve taqwa and avoid straying towards the state of al-fasad. Central to achieving this are the concepts of shura and adab (justice and rights).

Shura is total organizational community participation in decision making to ensure an organization gets the best views, is creative, to develop employees understanding of decisions made, to achieve better implementation of decisions and strengthen the Islamic fraternity[73]. Shura is can also be seen as a organizational control mechanism to prevent management and individuals within the organization from straying down the path of ignorance, greed and oppression[74], so that the organization can continue to serve its members and the wider community and thus sustain itself. Shura creates a positive learning environment within an organization, similar to the concepts of learning organization. The Al-Qur’an states that the concept of shura is mandatory upon an organisation[75].

An organization should build its foundations upon the basic principles of human rights in its administration based on the concept of adab. Adab is based on the existence and recognition of Allah (S.W.T.) and recognition of his commands and laws (syar’iah). Within an organizational context, adab persuades man to do good and avoid evil (al-fasad), in accordance with the nature of man (fitrah) and nature of his action (al-amal). Adab comprises four major responsibilities, 1. responsibility to God, 2. responsibility to oneself, 3. responsibility to society and other human beings, and 4. responsibility to the universe and other creatures[76].

Over the last few decades ‘Western’ management ideas and ethics have moved closer to Islamic principles and ethics. Stephen Covey, a devout practicing member of The Church of Latter-Day Saints, evangelistically preaches personal development, fulfillment and spirituality within the context of the organization. Covey’s first book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective people set a standard of highly ethical and humanistic principles that all individuals should strive for in business[77]:

• Be proactive as this will develop the ability to control one’s environment, rather than be controlled by it, as is generally the case;

• Begin tasks with the end result in mind, avoid distractions and concentrate only on relevant activities, which will make you much more productive;

• Organize correctly and undertake the most important tasks first in a step by step approach;

• Look for win-win strategies so that all benefit;

• Listen to people first and understand them before you try to make them understand you, which will assist in maintaining positive relationships with people;

• Look to develop synergy between people which will develop a better outcome, greater than what individuals can achieve working by themselves; and

• Continually seek self-renewal, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, socially and physically.

Covey’s book sold over 15 million copies and launched him on a career of consulting to many of the top Fortune 500 companies. Covey built a training and consultancy company which has over 12,000 direct facilitators with curriculum materials translated into numerous languages. Covey’s organization has also developed pilot programs with cities wishing to become principle centered communities. Covey’s set of life rules is not without their critics who claim his ideals are too idealistic and difficult to implement as well as being seen as a quick fix approach. However, this does not detract from the extremely large following of devotees to Covey’s methods growing around the world. There are similarities with Peter Drucker, Dale Carnegie and David Allen in the approach. Dale Carnegie’s work is also on the rise again in popularity and consequently, corporations are taking notice of the importance of employee personal growth within the corporate environment.

The above ‘Western’ management ‘gurus’ have had great impact upon the corporate world and way management is taught at business schools. In the world where 20% of the population follow Islam, there is little evidence that Islamic management principles are practiced in Islamic countries of South East Asia. Ironically, unlike the ‘West’, Islamic Scholars, in agreement with Dr. Umer Chapra’s observations have not agreed due to various interpretations of Islam to any universal Islamic business model for the Islamic World to embrace and espouse. ‘Western’ management scientists have taken the initiative on similar principles that were laid down in the Al Qu’ran and Hadiths, more than 1500 years ago.

Entrepreneurship as the driver of Islamic economy

As entrepreneurship embraces community through a Tawhid model, then any entrepreneurship pedagogy should also be community based. A village through a Community Shura Council, the source of true democracy and empowerment, must play a role in espousing entrepreneurship to the youth within their community.

The existing higher education infrastructure is not suitable to assist in developing Islamic entrepreneurship pedagogy at this point of time. Business schools and entrepreneurship courses are fixed upon the metaphor of 'high growth entrepreneurship', where the mushharakah has more complex objectives.

The teaching of Islamic entrepreneurship should be conducted at the schools, and madrasas  to reach the young, and mosques to reach the rest of the community. Within Islamic communities large pools of funds exist through the Zakat mechanism which could be channeled for empowerment. “Zakat revenue can be spent under tamlik mechanism for providing an opportunity or raising productivity of the poor. Viewed from the long term perspective the poor would become in time self-reliant, hence reducing the national burden of spending money on social security schemes[78].”

Community savings Cooperatives based on Islamic principles can promote micro-entrepreneurs through the provision of riba free micro-finance where risk is shared. The sharing of risk will eliminate the exploitative nature of microfinance upon the Ummah[79]. This has the potential to open up a completely new paradigm in economic behavior.

Community mentoring and teaching should aim to strengthen the Islamic aspects of culture to overlay other cultural aspects within the community that may inhibit a true understanding of Islamic entrepreneurship. Raja Petra Kamarudin criticized Malay Muslims for being too focused on “Islamic practices” without accepting “Islamic values”, “…Malays pride themselves on being good Muslims. ….. Malays are very ritualistic in their Islamic beliefs. They do not care much about values. It is practice that counts when it comes to Malays and Islam. Values don’t count. For that matter, the Malays do not even begin to understand what Islamic values are[80]”.

Therefore culture has a large influence upon cognitive perceptions and beliefs, and thus a role to play in enriching community religious values. Community perceptions to a great degree drive behavior, thus there needs to be a move from ritual to value driven behavior. Perceptions are heavily influenced through the attitudes and beliefs we develop through our upbringing and integration into the society we feel we belong to. Our values and beliefs shape our views, where we try to fit what we sense in the world according to these sets of beliefs. This helps form our values, which are reinforced by artifacts such as symbols, storytelling and group behavior. It is a complex and circular phenomenon where beliefs reinforce the artifacts and the artifacts reinforce the beliefs. This is why culture is hard to change because its elements act like bonding glue, pulling those who deviate back in, or if the bond is actually broken casting the individual out of the critical mass of the rest of the populace. Our values are based upon a set of conscious and sub-conscious assumptions that would seem to be shared throughout the community.

This simplistic model of culture highlights attribute sets made up from the assumptions, beliefs, values and artifacts of the society in question. Each set of attributes can be looked at as being either negative or positive in a dialectic sea that continues to ebb and flow within itself. Culture is a living entity, sometimes developing strong negative attributes, which are destroyers, rather than the enrichment of a religious culture.

So for example in the case of entrepreneurship, there is a set of positive influences (or attributes) and a set of negative influences (or attributes) within a community. The strength of each attribute will be different and even change from time to time as new information or events happen and are perceived through their shared cognitive ‘glasses’ within the community. The key will be; how to strengthen the positive and weaken the negative. With different strengths as is with water, air and solids, one can only work with what can be molded and shaped. It's easier to work with sand on a beach that granite on the side of a mountain.  Leadership facilitation dialogue seems the best way to engage the unconscious assumptions within a communities culture.


Figure 3. The flow and Ebb of the Cultural Dialectic

Working with this model may enable real mindset change. The author believes that failure to solve the many community issues and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities, has a basis in a socio-psycho ‘mindset’. Without mindset change, the allocation of resources into communities is not likely to change the nature of the Ummah.

Each village needs to determine their scope of interests and activities their particular community may best be suited, according to the surrounding hinterland. Thus a seaside village would be expected to engage in different activities from a farming or mountain community. These selected activities should be supported by the development of 'appropriate indigenous technologies' that suit the lifestyle of the community. Public universities have a major role to play through outreach programs in this area.

The objective should be to create ideas that fit into the schema of the people living in a village, which builds enthusiasm and pride. This requires a diagnosis of positive and negative cultural attributes to understand the root causes of cultural behaviour, so that groups can be engaged and assisted in seeing new ways of acting in the world. Much can be learned from the work of Paulo Freire in this area.

From an idea, opportunity must be seen and developed into a strategy that can be accepted and followed, according to the aspired lifestyles of the people, which in the Ummah's case is an Islamic one.

Markets must be identified and accessed utilizing the current means of communications, transport and logistics available (one must add here that the advent of the internet is one of the tools with the largest potential for empowerment – something that didn’t exist a little more than a decade ago). Resources must be acquired and exploited to enable the opportunity to be exploited. There must also be access to skill development forums, so groups can acquire the necessary knowledge to undertake a venture. The elements needed to create a village based venture are summarized in Table 2 below;

Table 2. The Required and Existing Elements of Empowerment




Islam very positive values towards enterprise, independence and empowerment. This has to be brought to the surface of some cultures or sub-cultures, i.e., refocusing on the functional rather than the dysfunctional aspects.


Confidence is a group phenomena and can be improved through engagement of group processes to achieve new ways of seeing.


The skills of ideation can be developed through access to communications technology and developing both partial and whole brain thinking.

Potential Opportunities

By linking ideas to markets, modes of entry, resources and skill needs, potential opportunities can be constructed.


Focus on themes rather than marketing mixes, look for ways to incorporate consumer fears, existence, acceptance, hopes and dreams in the product (spiritual materialism)


Markets exist in various forms and segmentations with much more fragmentation, coupled with the ability to communicate are potentially accessible to village communities. Identify aspirations of consumers, connect products and channels  to these aspirations.


Technology is a way of how to make and do things. Product manufacture can be undertaken in scaled down models to suit decentralization, small unit output and flexibility. The focus is on how to do things in more cost effective ways, within the existing cultural socio-organisational setting.

Competitive Advantage

In many FMCG markets competitive advantage has more to do with theme, schema and branding, through selected channels of distribution, than economies of scale. The product is a fulfiller of dreams.


Not all the skills taught at formal educational institutions are needed to start an enterprise. In this regard its only necessary to provide people with what they need from the point of view of business, product development and production. There is a need for the “village university” to focus on showing people how to see, learn how to do and connect to consumers.


Through modern communications technology (internet & travel) it is now possible to contact and interact with very wide groups of people, including agencies of interest, customers, grant agencies and sourcing know-how.


Logistics have advanced in recent years and can be coupled together such as the internet and EMS to create direct logistic systems between producers and consumers.


We have to learn to use what we have and utilize these limited resources innovatively. There are many methods of alternative funding that can be explored and set up, i.e., Zakat, unit trusts, closed equity markets, etc.


New forms need to be generated from often discarded forms such as cooperatives. Cooperatives can exist at both production and market levels. People can form their own companies under umbrellas, organizations should be focused on linking the young with their older generation. Coalitions can be sort with larger organizations in developed countries for branding and market purposes. Organisations have to fit with existing social schema and develop from there, as people are ready.


Positive values towards enterprise are required to motivate people to do things. Groups hold various values associated with fate and future, abilities, possibilities, and the rewards of their labours, etc. Any positive values that exist within Islamic doctrine are often immersed by other values developed through social and life interactions. Changing values is the most challenging aspect of empowerment. One must not make the mistake of trying to convert others to our own values, however noble we feel they are. This has been one of the greatest mistakes of those ‘trying to help’ in the past. A village may not be ready for a new industry, but it might accept a new idea to pass the time and earn some small extra income. Not all people want to be an entrepreneur in the sense we teach in conventional entrepreneurship programs.

The facilitation of change thus involves the creation of new contexts that would break up the old established patterns, in favour of new ones. Competing invisible forces (attractors) compete with each other to generate a situation where the group can travel along different paths in the future. The mentor must find the right place and time and facilitate new contexts that make the present paradoxes or contradictions irrelevant. Change becomes dialectic, where potential new futures have their opposites which are resisting any change, for example[81];


Positive                                         Negative

Innovate ---------------------------Avoid mistakes
Think long term--------------------Live for today
Spend for the future---------------Spend for today
Work as a group-------------------Work by oneself
Be flexible--------------------------Follow rules and norms
Make joint decisions---------------Make your own decisions

Changing values also requires a group acceptance of new sets of values and individual confidence in the group’s acceptance. This requires dialogue to build new consciousness. David McClelland, best known for his achievement model and work on power in organizations, also researched a person’s needs for affiliation. He found that the need for affiliation or intimacy with a group plays an important role in motivation[82]. There are various reasons behind the need for intimacy. Groups are perceived to provide a sense of security for individuals where there is some uncertainty, or fear of something external to the individual and group. Groups also provide individuals with a cognitive clarity (sense of how to interpret events around them) and a way to make a self evaluation and social comparison about the way they should dress, talk, think and act. Thus developing motivation, based on McClelland’s model and work with entrepreneurs in India, may best be undertaken within a group context[83]. 

Ideas, shape the future of any individual, enterprise and village. It is ideas that have the potential to become opportunities and ‘going-concern’ ventures.

Young graduates are the hope for future entrepreneurship in villages around the region, as the catalyst of change. They are tomorrow’s leaders and have a specific role to play in development. Students have access and knowledge to the information tools of our age. They are the potential mobilizers, liaisers and leaders of village empowerment, should they choose to stay and do something. Graduates understand their own and also understand universities as a source of technology and can learn how to deal with relevant agencies for their cause. Graduates and the young are the only people who can build enterprises in rural areas in the future. Through linking all the elements together new organizations can be evolved that are based on the village model and link with consumers in developed markets in two way communication. Figure 4 shows what could be[84]. Due to the advances in communication through the internet, graduates and villages now have unprecedented access to a wider international community of buyers, retailers, Fairtrade organisations and consumers directly, with which to communicate their intentions and seek support and customers; to advance the cause of empowerment to people in developed countries without third party agents.

Figure 4.  Overall Producer, Marketing and Mentor Model[85]


A producing company would be a democratic co-operative based upon shura, of local producers, workers and collectors, mentored by professionals who come from their own villages. The venture, will have ethical trade at its heart, working in partnerships with producers to first meet their nutritional, food and health needs, including local communities, have long term arrangements with the marketing company, and will act as a resource base for its producers/partners, fully supporting them in providing them with required services at their doorstep, leaving them to farm and on farm responsibilities, in adhering to Tawhid principles. The aim is to provide a smooth, transparent, and fully managed supply chain, from primary production, knowledge, management, adding value, holding capacity and ensure the ‘Cash to Cash Cycle’.  The company would act according to the following based principles;

1. Commitment to Social Justice in Organic Agriculture

2. Transparency and Accountability

3. Direct and long-term trade relationships built on trust and mutual respect. 

4. Equitable distribution of returns to stakeholders

5. Communication and information flow

6. Skills development and capacity building

7. Internal ethics, and

8. Professionals manning the PC, support the local community[86].

The cooperative would be committed to organic, integrated and sustainable production. The cooperative would be involved either in agriculture or in both agriculture and product manufacturing as part of the overall marketing strategy of the marketing company.

Finance for the cooperative will come partly from the marketing company which will channel funds according to the cooperatives designated projects.

The producing companies aim is to develop a share holding structure that is beneficial to all parties involved. It is hoped that key producers will become shareholders in the company, thereby becoming ‘producer partners’. Although PC will also engage in one-off trades with producers considered ‘non-partners’, the above benefits, and the option to become ‘shareholders’ and therefore receive a yearly ‘bonus’.

 Three types of shares are envisaged to add maximum flexibility to the way the village can be organized:

a.       The Founder’s shares, which would be the majority initially

b.      Shares bought by large investors (which will not be sought initially)

c.       Shares held by producers, who would not invest other than with their products and favourable pricing.

The objective of the central marketing company would be to develop the market and organize producers according to the needs of the market. The company would primarily be involved in product development in association with a university, organizing logistics from producers to the market, providing finance to producer units and undertaking the national marketing.

The management of the company would be by a small group of professionals, preferably post graduate students under mentorship. The organization would aspire to be a knowledge based company, which would compile and disseminate information to those groups that require it for smooth operations. The specific groups within the company would include;

l  Strategic group

l  Management group

l  Marketing group

l  Product development group

l  Extension group

l  Resource sourcing group

l  Direct Marketing (sales group)

A interdependent and cooperative cluster can develop according to these community enterprises, based on their special skills, resources, and location. This will help develop differentiation, where the village can create a form of comparative advantage that brings new wealth. This is the philosophy behind many of the Halal hubs being developed around the Asian region today. For example, regions like Satun (Thailand) and Kelantan (Malaysia) can develop cultural Halal tourism and Islamic herbal medicine. Sarawak could specialize in jungle based handicrafts, and Janda Baik just North of Kuala Lumpur could enhance the Halal farming project through cluster development.

Such projects would enhance community identity and create further economic opportunities, where whole communities can become an integrated matrix, where for example there may be collectors of raw materials, processors, traders, and other support businesses developing through the cluster.


Figure 5. An pictorial depiction of a localized Entrepreneurial Islamic Economy.

An Islamic economy can be developed from village level where amanah and equity can be assured. Community shura councils will be much more able to deal with local village issues than any provincial or regional government, where bureaucracy finds it very difficult to deal with anything outside the scope of its responsibilities. Community Shura Councils can also play the role of commercial arbitrators where there is the absence of law enforcement and court jurisdiction is not practical.

Even the Dinar and Dirham can be brought into the community as a means of exchange at a community level. Dinar and Dirham can be issued by a local authority, implemented by the savings cooperative taking on the functions of a central bank, and overseen by the Community Shura Council, which can set conversion rates to local legal currencies.

An Islamic economy is based upon community iman, ilm, integration and interdependence. However each entrepreneurial agent is also independent within his or her own business, that fulfills a function within new value chains that are constructed. The key to any successful cluster is therefore, community vision and thereafter close cooperation. In this way unique value chains can be developed to serve potential markets.

However the greatest challenge to overcome in implementation is overcoming community division and non-cooperation.

There are enough mentors within the Ummah today to assist in this form of community empowerment. Today's Muslim business academics have a responsibility as part of their own personal jihad to integrate Islamic principles into business theory and entrepreneurship pedagogy.

New forms of competitive advantage can be developed when Islamic values have been integrated into the heart of a firm and its products. Table 3 below shows that themes and branding philosophies some companies have used successfully in the past.

Table 3. Market/Brand Paradigms Utilized by Some International Companies



The Body Shop

HPA (Malaysia)

Hain Celestial


Est. Sales

USD619mil (2006)

USD1.5Billion (2006)


USD738Mil  (2006)












Personal Care

Personal Care


Organic food and cosmetics

Basic Philosophy

To sustain the environment and give back to communities

Social humanitarianism activism on many issues

Halal & Toyyibaan

Free of artificial ingredients, Kosher foods




































Mode of Distribution

Direct Marketing/Salon

Retail and e-Commerce

Direct Marketing

General distribution


Estée Lauder Companies Inc.


Private Ownership

Listed company

Both the Halal and ethical markets are growing exponentially today throughout the world. Consequently, the need for an Islamic model is increasing in importance today. There is a growing awareness among Muslims about their duties and responsibilities to adhere to the Tawhid. As Muslim consumers require more Islamic goods and services[87], Islamic compliant supply chain development is a major growth industry in itself, and is becoming a feature within conventional supply chains internationally. The concepts of Halal/Toyyibaan are compatible with GMP/HACCP,and also incorporate a strong ethical framework that is consistent with the rapidly growing global ‘ethical product’ and ‘Fairtrade’ movements[88]. However how many ‘Islamic corporations’ on the ground are actually complying with Islamic principles, other than Halal certification remains an interesting area for future research. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are developing Halal food hubs without taking into consideration the underlying Tawhid principles to make these proposed hubs holistic in their approach to Islamic business.

Conclusion - Towards Islamic Economy

An Islamic economic system is compatible with the concept of 'western' social economics[89]. Islamic economics provides a way of creating equity within a community, which other models have failed to achieve[90]. Entrepreneurship is the preferred method of agency within an Islamic economy, where high levels of interdependency through clusters based on community are advocated.

Developing entrepreneurship based upon Tawhid principles is empowering to the Ummah and a way to integrate with the world without the need to compromise religious beliefs and values. The nexus of 'appropriate indigenous technology', 'branded differentiation', and deeply held firm values can create new sources of wealth within a community. This helps to enable the creation of barriers to entry for imitators, a problem with many village based clustering around the world.

To achieve the above requires a paradigm change. The Islamic economic paradigm has been largely ignored by both 'western' and Muslim economists. However the Islamic approach to economy and entrepreneurship limits speculation, debt, and exploitation, all casual factors to some degree in the 2008 global financial crisis. Islamic economy and entrepreneurship encourages mudarabah (profit and loss sharing) and thus lays the foundation for a cooperative society. This is the challenge for academics, policy makers, and most importantly, the communities themselves. An economically prosperous community has better chance of reaching community piety than an impoverished community. The Al-Qur’an is not just a book of divinity, it is a practical book of empowerment, largely ignored for its potential in this regard.

So much can be achieved through the right intention:

"Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves"[91].


Notes and References

[1] Abdullah Abdul Elah Sallam & Murray Hunter (2013), Where is Saudi Arabian Society Heading?, Eurasiareview, May 1, http://www.eurasiareview.com/01052013-where-is-saudi-arabian-society-heading-analysis/

[2] The World Factbook, CIA, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

[3] Hunter, M., (2012), The Curse of Feudalism, New Mandela, August 24, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2012/08/24/the-curse-of-feudalism/

[4] Hunter, M., (2013), Are Western management ideas crippling Asian business education?, University World News, February 9th, http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20130206154746686

[5] Hunter, M., (2012), Southern Thailand's Islamic Business Revolution, Asia Sentinel, October 24, http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4925&Itemid=392

[6] Hassan, R., (2006), ‘Islamic world faces intellectual stagnation’, Asia News Network, http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/11/04/opinion/opinion_30018026.php, (accessed 6th November 2006).

[7] Shams, R., (2004), ‘A Critical Assessment of Islamic Economics’, HWWA Discussion Paper 281, Hamburg Institute of International Economics, Hamburg, Germany.

[8] Islamic Voice, ‘Islamic Economics Offers the Best to Mankind’, http://www.islamicvoice.com/june.2003/ine.htm, (Accessed 20th December 2006).

[9] Al-Qur’an (3:164)

[10] Koya, P.K., (Editor), (1996), Hadĭth ans Sunnah: Ideals and Realities, Kuala Lumpur, Islamic book Trust, Introduction xiii.

[11] Hassan, M., A., (1992), The Tawhidic Approach in Management and Public Administration: Concepts, Principless and an Alternative Model, Kuala Lumpur, National Institute of Public Management, pp. 6-7.

[12] Al-Qur’an (51:56)

[13]Al-Qur’an (30:30)

[14] Al-Qur’an (4:28))

[15] Al-Qur’an (20:115)

[16] Al-Qur’an (102:1-2)

[17] Al-Qur’an (33:72)

[18] Al-Qur’an (17:11)

[19] Al-Qur’an (17:100)

[20] Al-Qur’an (17:67)

[21] Al-Qur’an (18:54)

[22] Al-Qur’an (70:19-20)

[23] Al-Qur’an (4:128)

[24] Beekum, R., I., (1996), Islamic Business Ethics, Herndon, VA., International Institute of Islamic Thought.

[25] Mohsin, M., (1995), Economics of Small Business in Islam, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Visiting Scholar Research Series No. 2., Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank.

[26] Mehar, A., (2004), From Knowledge Creation to Economic Development: Missing Links in the Muslim World, Munich, Germany, MRPA Paper No. 358, http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/358/, (Accessed 19th December, 2006).

[27] Kahf, M., (2003), Sustainable Development in the Muslim Countries, , Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, IDB Prize Winners’ Lecture Series, Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank

[28] Beal, T., (2006), The Global Islamic Economy: A rough estimate of the position of Islamic peoples

in the global economy, paper presented to the Seminar on Islam And The Global Economy
Malaysian And Nz Perspectives, Wellington, New Zealand, Tuesday 13th June. (
http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~caplabtb/beal.html,  Accessed  19th December 2006).

[29] Al-Qur’an (35:29), (26:207), (17:82).

[30] Al-Qur’an (2:164)

[31] Al-Qur’an (5:3)

[32] Al-Qur’an (2:168)

[33] Al-Qur’an (14:32-34)

[34] Al-Qur’an (24:37)

[35] Nienhaus, V., (2010), Fundamentals of an Islamic economic system compared to the social market economy, Kas International Reports, 11, P. 77, http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_21079-544-2-30.pdf?101110141450

[36] Umer Chapra, M., (2000), The Future of Economics: An Islamic Perspective, Leicester, Islamic Foundation.

[37] Al-Qur’an (20:6).

[38] Al-Qur’an (2:275-279)

[39] Al-Qur’an (2:279)

[40] Presley, J., R., & Sessions, J., G., (1994), Islamic Economics: The emergence of a new paradigm, The Economic Journal, Vol. 104, pp. 584.

[41] Siddiqi, M., N., (2005), ‘Tawhid: The Concept and Process’, in Syed Agil, S., O. and Ghazali, A., (Eds.), Readings in the Concept and Methodology of Islamic Economics, Kuala Lumpur, CERT Publications, P.1.

[42] Al-Qur’an (2:170), (43:22-24), (7:28-29).

[43] Al-Qur’an (22:77)

[44] Al-Qur’an (2:275)

[45] Al-Qur’an (17:36)

[46] Al-Qur’an (92:4), (29:69).

[47] Hassan, M., A., (1992), op. cit., P. 24.

[48] Al-Qur’an (31:20)

[49] Al-Qur’an (35:28)

[50] Al-Qur’an (51:56)

[51] Al-Qur’an (2:21)

[52] Ismail, A., H., (1992), ‘Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd.: Principless and Operations’, in Sheikh Abod, S., G., Syed Agil, S., O., and Ghazali, A., (Eds.), An Introduction to Islamic Finance, Kuala Lumpur, Quill Publishers, P. 258.

[53] Doi, I., A., R., (1981), Non-Muslims Under Syar’iah, Lahore, Kazi Publications, P.4.

[54] Al-Buraey, M., A., (1988), Administrative Development: An Islamic Perspective, London, Kegan Paul International, P. 145.

[55] Chaudry, M., S., (2006), Social and Moral Code of Islam, Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia, Masterpiece Publications, P. 15.

[56] Halal-Haram Guide (2006), Penang, Consumers Association of Penang, P. 17.

[57] Amin, M., (1965), Wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad, Lahore, Pakistan, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf.

[58] Abdullah, A., and Huda, N., (2006), ‘Nutrition Security in Muslim Countries: The Drive Towards a Healthy Ummah’ in Saifuddeen, S., M., Mohd. Salleh, S., and Sobian, A., Food and Technological Progress: An Islamic Perspective, Kuala Lumpur, MPH Publishing, P. 173.

[59] Al-Qur’an (7:58)

[60] Al-Qur’an (5:5), (2:168)

[61] Hunter, M. (2009), Essential Oils: Art, Agriculture, Science, Industry, and Entrepreneurship: A Focus on the Asia-Pacific Region. New York: Nova Scientific Publishers, P. 670.

[62] Al-Qur’an (2:198)

[63] Al-Qur’an (7:31)

[64] Al-Qur’an (25:67)

[65] Al-Qur’an (22:77)

[66] Al-Qur’an (3:1-2), (4:125)

[67] Al-Qur’an (6:132), (16:97), (16:93)

[68] Al-Qur’an (90:8-10)

[69] Al-Qur’an (30:41), (103:1-3)

[70] Al-Qur’an (33:72)

[71] Al-Qur’an (2:169)

[72] Al-Qur’an (33:72)

[73] Hassan, M., A., (1992), op. cit., pp. 66-68.

[74] Al-Qur’an (42:36-40)

[75] Al-Qur’an (3:159)

[76] Lapidus, M., (1984), ‘The Place of Adab in South Asian Islam’, in Metcalf, B., D., (Ed.), Moral Conduct and Authority, Berkeley, Los Angeles, University of California Press, P. 39.

[77] Covey, S. R. (1990), Principle Centered Leadership. New York: Free Press.

[78] Khaliq Ahmad 2002 Intellectual Discourse Vol. 8, no. 2 (IIUM)

[79] Mitra, S., K., (2009), Exploitatative Microfinance Interest Rates, Asian Social Science, Vol. 5, No. 5, pp. 87-93, Prabhu, G., N., (2011), Potential exploitation of vulnerable poor by publicly held microfinance firms, Network, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 14-15, http://www.iimb.ernet.in/~gprabhu/microfinancenetwork2011.pdf

[80] Petra Kamarudin, No Holds Barred – Heat on the Street, http://www.malaysia-today.net/nuc2006/barred.php?itemid=448, (Accessed 20th August 2007)

[81] Morgan, G., (1984), Images of Organisation, Newbury Park, Sage

[82] McClelland, D., C., The Achievement Society, Princeton, N.J., D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1969

[83] McCelland, D., C., and Winter, D., G., Motivating Economic Achievement, New York, Free Press, 1969.

[84] Hunter, M., Proposal Outline to Develop a Community Based Enterprise to Manufacture and Market Cosmetics, Personal Care, Household and Medicinal Products in Pattani Province, Thailand, Submitted to the Hon. Governor’s Office, Pattani Province, April 2007, Unpublished document.

[85] Hunter, M., (2008), Revolutionary Empowerment: A Re-look at Spirituality, Cultural Integrity and Development, Proceedings of the Monash University SME Business Conference, July 8-10, Melbourne, Australia.

[86] Principles set out for peoples companies by Dr. Subash Mentha, Bangalore, India, as communicated to the author.

[87] This is much wider than food and includes banking, finance, insurance, entertainment, tourism, and cosmetics, etc.

[88] Hunter, M. (2012), “The Emerging Halal Cosmetic and Personal Care Market,” Personal Care March: P. 40.

[89] Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, C., F., (2009), Guidelines for Prosperity, Social Justice and Sustainable Economic Activity, Berlin: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_17025-544-2-30.pdf

[90] Umer Chapra, M., (2003), Islam and the Economic Challenge, Leicester, The Islamic Foundation and The International Institute of Islamic Thought.

[91] Al-Qur’an (13:11)

Print - Comment - Send to a Friend - More from this Author

Get it off your chest
 (comments policy)

© Copyright CHAMELEON PROJECT Tmi 2005-2008  -  Sitemap  -  Add to favourites  -  Link to Ovi
Privacy Policy  -  Contact  -  RSS Feeds  -  Search  -  Submissions  -  Subscribe  -  About Ovi