Islamic Business Ethics

‘THE ISLAMIC ETHIC is expressed in terms on the immanent presence of God in the earthly affairs of man. His Omnipotence imbues material reality with normative content. Both God's law expressed in the Qur'an and Sunna and the objective circumstances in which man must strive to obey them are divinely ordained.'

The values that The Qur’an and the Prophet’s sayings prescribe address individuals in relationship to other persons, as we now do when we term other members of our society as ‘stakeholders.

Islamic and Business Ethics-Overview

[Extract from Foreword by Prof. Rodney Wilson on Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance 2003]

Many question why the global economy appears so unjust, with huge income and wealth disparities and exploitation all too apparent. Rewards in business are too often unrelated to effort.

At the heart of capitalism there appears to be an immoral core, where CEOs get ever-larger pay rises and bonuses while the asset values of their companies slump. Pension rules are unilaterally changed without consulting those who will lose out, and insurance companies that are supposed to offer protection try to escape from their obligations through legal loopholes embedded in the small print of their contracts.

Although there has been a growing interest in business ethics with courses offered as an integral part of most MBA degrees, the ethics taught are essentially socially derived, relative and secularist rather than being based on religious moral authority. It is often difficult enough to ensure that national laws are enforced in business, but business ethics, which promotes codes of good conduct over and above the legal minimum, lacks any enforcement mechanism, and instead relies on individual moral conscience. In the absence of a higher moral authority and religious guidance, personal conscience cannot determine social standards but merely results in individuals determining their own rules, moral uncertainty and even chaos.

Muslims have a huge advantage in being able to turn to their religious teaching for guidance in their business dealings. Belief in God provides not merely the motivation, but the imperative for adhering to shariah law, which is to be applied in all spheres of life. For Muslims moral conduct in their daily lives is part of their devotion. Revealed teaching provides moral certainty, and a set of standards to which the entire community of believers can adhere.

Islamic ethical values are not a substitute for universal values and virtues, but rather build on these by stressing compassion, tolerance, leniency, benevolence and hospitality. These are matters of principle and faith, but Dr Hasanuzzaman readily admits that many Muslim societies have abandoned both religious and universal values for the sake of material wealth. Paradoxically despite the decline in the influence of religion in the West, there has been a reaction by many to corporate excesses and the malpractices associated with capitalism. This has resulted in a proactive approach in the West to ensure more widespread awareness of ethical issues in business. In some respects there is scope for the ethical business movement in the West and Islamic scholars to learn from each other and move forward together.

Clearly ethics, as Syed Hasanuzzaman notes, should not be merely at the margins of business, imposing constraints, but rather at the heart of management decision-making, providing the motivation. He emphasises that Islamic ethics is not simply about justice in the legal sense, but ihsan, benevolence that transcends justice. Moral business is successful business, as although immorality can result in short term gains by taking advantage of others, in the longer term such business is unsustainable. Trust matters in business, and where there are shared religious values, this creates great opportunities for industry and commerce as analysts of Muslim history have observed from the time of Ibn Khaldun.

The desire for wealth is seen as natural, but there is a need for balance, and wealth should not be worshiped. Man may work hard, strive to make his business profitable and seek value for money in expenditure; but for the devout Muslim justice, honesty and compassion should temper these efforts. Dr Hasanuzzaman believes that man must train his inner self to abandon selfishness in favour of social interests. Markets are seen as a legitimate institution for economic transactions, but regulation is needed to prevent fraud, hence the institution of the hisba, which provides ethical guidelines for monitoring and managing business transactions.

This relates to the discussion of the concept of the just price and the Islamic law on contracts and the shariah position on options. Marketing issues are considered in considerable depth, as it is in this area that some of the greatest abuses occur with misleading and inappropriate advertising and publicity material and pressurised selling that neglects the interests of the client. The issue of insider trading is also considered, a practice that is illegal in most jurisdictions, but which too often goes undetected to the detriment of shareholder and other stakeholder interests.

There is much that non-Muslim students of business ethics can learn from Islamic teaching, with its emphasis on khilafah or responsibility to God for the management of resources. Those concerned with corporate governance should be aware of the concept of shura that implies consultation on policy formulation rather than simply the introduction of new initiatives by management dictate.

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

There is nothing to discover with regard to business ethics in Islam. The edifice of the entire Islamic way of life rests on absolute ethical values. One cannot be a true Muslim unless one adheres to these values. Justice and equity, honesty, integrity, veracity, leniency, compassion, tolerance, selflessness, benevolence, cooperation, mutual consideration, sacrifice and harmlessness, are the guiding values in all walks of life, business being no exception. Muslims are ordered truly to observe these values in whatever position they are: whether employer or employee, landlord or peasant, trader or customer, ruler or ruled, officer or subordinate, transporter or passenger, depositor or fiduciary, relatives or strangers, neighbours or fellow-workers, nobody is allowed to disregard these values at any time. To recognise these values as binding is a concomitant of true faith; to neglect them in practical life means a serious lapse these values are laid down and emphasised in the Qur’an and reinforced in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him).

In addition to these general values, there are sector-specific injunctions to guide different sectors of activities meticulously. These relate to each department of life, trade being one of them. A person who observes the basic values and abides by the guiding principles of trade, as laid down in the Qur’an and the Hadith, is deemed to be commendable in this world and in the Hereafter. Thus a businessman whose object is earning his livelihood through a business activity without violating these principles is treated, in the next world, as being on par with the apostles.

Many of the ethical values laid down in Islam are not unique to Islamic society. No civilisation could progress and no social, economic, political, scientific or technological development would be possible without people adhering to the values of patience, perseverance, determination, tolerance, strength of resolution, self-control, cool temperament and mutual consideration. These universal ethical values and virtues are, however, constrained by temporal and spatial limitations because of the need to apply them to achieving the interest of some particular person, society, class or territory. These virtues are necessary to win over other societies and find a respectable place in them require some additional values, such as justice, honesty and integrity, kindliness, selflessness and sympathy. A strong, prospering society may overawe smaller and weaker societies with its material prosperity and strength and scientific and technological achievements, but cannot command true respect, love and popular support in these societies. The latter would claim their alliance and friendliness simply share their prosperity and progress.

Islamic ethical values are but a complement of universal ethical values. They prescribe compassion, tolerance, leniency, benevolence and hospitability over and above the basic universal values.

The value system set forth in Islam does not accept any constraints, because of its source and the objective behind observing it. God has laid down these eternal values in His revealed Book and conveyed them through His Prophet. These values, whether in the Qur’an or in earlier Scriptures, are not amenable to restriction to a particular society or region; they are of universal import. God has ordained these values to the entire human race for all time. These values are observed with the object of seeking God’s pleasure and earning regards in the next world, rather than pleasing any group with which one is identified or from whom one seeks to obtain some benefit. Thus both the source of the values and the objective in observing them prevent them being confined to any specific place or time.

The capitalist countries in the West, where ethics have been alien to business activity for some time, are not in search of a moral code for business. This is apparently a paradoxical situation. The secularist intellectual orientation in the West had pushed ethical values to a secondary position and divorced economic activity from its fold. According to Solomon, “the way we think about business all too often tends to relegate ethics to the margins, to see morals as a set of side constraints, necessary but tangential to the real business of business’. The multifarious problems that the secular orientation created triggered a reaction first among religious leaders and philosophers and then among intellectuals. The reaction against business malpractices was so strong that some thinkers tried to divest business of its primary object — earning a livelihood. Those who fail to distinguish between business ethics and ethical business do not seem to be clear headed on the issue. They have mixed up myth and reality and attempted to suppress the symptoms rather than to cure the malady.

Changes in modes of production and trade, development in information technology, globalization of the market, the role of international financing agencies, and the role and impact of multinational corporations, have given rise to new challenges, problems and dilemmas. There is now a genuine need to meet these challenges and discover which set of Islamic principles can be applied to these problems, and how.

Trade and industry are but a part of the business, but not the whole of it. Banks, insurance companies, transport, education and health are also among the most thriving businesses. Banks and insurance companies are the ultimate repositories of all the earnings and expenditures of society. These have not been examined by our scholars. As critically as they deserve. Banking business, a centre of misappropriation and exploitation of its owners — the depositors — insurance companies which inherit a propensity for trickery and fraud, health and education, which trade on the life and intellectual growth of generations, are also going unnoticed by our scholars and critics. Stock markets, a hotbed of organised swindling, confederacy and complicity, also need serious treatment.

Basic Considerations

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hassanuzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

Emphasises that love for wealth is a natural instinct and should not be suppressed. 
Emphasises that this wealth should not be made the object of worship and that self-interest should give way to the duty of social welfare.

Ethical values laid down by the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 
The emphasis that inheres in this value system is aimed at training the inner self of man, so as to motivate him to abandon selfishness in favour of social interests. Among these values, justice and benevolence (ihsan) are the most important. This emphasises that absolute justice is a purely legal concept, but benevolence is supererogatory and transcends justice. Observance of benevolence would automatically protect the precincts of justice.

Market mechanism which Islam visualises
It allows the free operation of market forces only for as long as one benefits without damaging others’ interests.

The edifice of the whole of life in Islam rests on absolute ethical values. These values are laid down and emphasised in the Qur’an and reinforced in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Many of the ethical values laid down in Islam are not unique to Islamic society. They have been universally observed, but constrained by temporal and spatial limitations in order to achieve the interest of some particular person, society, class or territory. Islamic ethical values represent universal ethical values. These values, whether in the Qur’an or in the earlier Scriptures, are not amenable to restriction to a particular society or region; they are of universal import. God has ordained that these values should be observed by the entire human race for all time, with the object of seeking God’s pleasure and to earn a reward in the next world.

Human Instinct

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

Islam discards self-abnegation and monasticism. It does not try to suppress human instincts that motivate one to work hard, organise one’s economic activities efficiently and profitably and discover new methods of exploiting resources and multiplying wealth. It does, however, control, regulate and discipline them, so as to stop injustice and exploitation of any sort due to man’s love of wealth and his desire to maximise his earnings and get rich overnight. Islam seeks to control and discipline these instincts by instilling in man a firm belief in a One and Only Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient God and all His Attributes, in man’s resurrection and accountability for his actions and in reward and punishment in the Hereafter. It is this firm belief that induces man to act upon the injunctions regarding physical and financial sacrifice and turns him from undesirable consumption and forbidden earnings. With this firm belief, it is well nigh impossible for a believer to be misguided by his instincts and to cross the limits of ethical guidelines laid down by God and His Prophet. The manmade laws and regulations act as a secondary support and help suppress any digression by those who have become weak in their belief.

Wealth and Affluence

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

The objective behind the set of eschatological beliefs is to root out a mundane materialistic outlook on wealth, which dissuades one from discharging one’s social responsibilities. Islam does not castigate wealth or application to economic pursuits. The ideal economic standard for man that the Qur’an envisages is a contented life. It recognises the significance of wealth as an adornment of this worldly life. Material prosperity enjoys God’s blessing and is desirable. Yet this prosperity is very much qualified. God’s rules ensure that affluence does not breed vices. The Qur’an and the Prophet have paid greater attention to remedying the evil effects of wealth than to planning the elimination of poverty. In Islam, moral and social betterment transcends affluence in importance. Islam encourages man to earn as much wealth through lawful means as possible; it does not allow him to monopolise the means of production or to restrict circulation of wealth. It imposes limits on ownership, possession and consumption. It introduces its law of inheritance to diffuse accumulated personal holdings. The Qur’an and the Hadith both condemn demonstration of one’s resourcefulness through luxurious living. The Prophet, in the following words, conveys the relative value of wealth: “There is no harm in opulence for one who fears God. For the God-fearing health is better than wealth. And happiness is also wealth.”

The Islamic Values

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

In Islam, the Creator is the real Owner of the universe and everything therein and of mankind, too. This fact belies the pretension of man’s unbridled freedom in any sphere of his activity. It also implies that human life as a whole should be subjected to the values that God and His Messenger have prescribed. The Qur’an makes a mention of a number of economic pursuits in a tone of approval, except for a few that it condemns. The approval and condemnation are put in literal terms, not in figurative or metaphorical terms, which would allow their interpretation according to human whims or wishes. The Prophet further plugged the interpretative loopholes by defining the procedural details of lawful pursuits in such a way as to protect the larger interest of the society. In addition, he also emphasised moral discipline, honesty and trust and mutual consideration.

The Market Mechanism

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

With the requirement for strict observance of the elaborate system of values that Islam prescribes and with its negation of full freedom, the question is whether there is still any possibility of a market economy in an Islamic system. How will the benefits that free market operation brings about in the domestic sector be achieved? The market mechanism calls for the unhindered interplay of the forces of demand and supply in determining the price of a product. Price reacts to surpluses and shortages. What the Islamic system of values ensures is that supply should not be artificially suppressed or withheld, nor should demand be artificially created. The Prophet refused to interfere in the free operation of real market forces. He condemned the ousting of a new entrant in the market. He also prohibited the anticipation of the proper market price. He condemned hoarding with a view to creating artificial scarcity. He similarly discouraged the operation of those forces that artificially create a demand market. He regulated demand by rejecting the dictating of an arbitrary price by monopoly purchasers, placed moral restrictions on the advertisement of products and emphasised simple living. By regulating the activities of intermediaries and brokers, he discouraged the manipulation of prices.

All these facts lead to the conclusion that Islam does not allow unbridled freedom to traders to manipulate the supply, demand or price of the available goods. Buyers and sellers are motivated to maximise their utility without involving themselves in unethical or unsocial activities. A trader has complete freedom to maximise his profit through the optimum utilisation of resources, planning, accurate anticipation and managerial efficiency, but not through the means that Islam treats as immoral or sinful.

Justice and Generosity

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

Among the set of values the Qur’an and the Prophet’s sayings emphasise are the concepts of justice and benevolence. The concept of justice (‘adl) occupies a central place in the economic system of Islam. This value is prescribed in legal, social, moral and economic dealings. It is to be practised with individuals, orphans, wives, tribes, communities and nations and even with peaceful enemies. It is applicable to speaking, giving witness, acting as a guardian, writing an agreement, arbitrating between parties, dealing with other people, judging in a court of law and making business transactions. The concept of justice in an economic context encompasses fairness, equity, balance and equilibrium, symmetry and impartiality.

The Qur’anic verses address individuals not only in their personal capacity but also in their capacity of being rulers, administrators, directors, employers, and all who deal with others. Justice, like truth, is a Divine virtue. Islam does not compromise on this value as it does not compromise on truth. While the Qur’an lays great emphasis on the value of justice, the Prophet has repeatedly persuaded the Muslims to stick to the value of ihsan, which stands for benevolence, generosity, proficiency and magnanimity. The absence of ‘ad! inflicts harm and disturbs peace and harmony, but the absence of ihsan does not harm anybody. It implies a more liberal treatment than justice demands. It begins where the limits of justice end.

Absolute justice is a legal requirement and, therefore, essential, but the Prophet, in line with the Qur’anic requirement, has persuaded his followers to behave magnanimously in claiming their rights and be generous in discharging their duty. ‘While ‘adl eliminates injustice and exploitation and strikes a real balance between rights and responsibilities in society, ihsan decorates the society with generosity, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, self sacrifice, mutual co¬operation and affection. ‘Adl is the primary condition for setting up an Islamic government, while ihsan plays a vital role in building up a truly Islamic society; the former is a legal phenomenon while the latter is moral and religious.

The Ethics of Advertising

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

It is not proper to reject advertising altogether. There are situations where advertisement is justifiable. But there are also situations where advertisement becomes controversial or altogether unjustifiable. The way in which, and the extent to which, business enterprises advertise has seriously jeopardised the concept of the free market. Suppliers manipulate consumer choice and persuade them to choose what the supplier wants them to, not what they really need. Falsity and deceit are unjustifiable and sinful. The Qur’an warns the believers that God, the Omniscient, keeps an eye on each one of us and everything we do. Deceitful publicity persuades the consumer to buy a thing which actually does not possess the attributes conveyed in the advertisement and for which the consumer becomes agreeable to part with his money. The Prophet is reported to have condemned the traders who sell their goods with the help of a false oath. He has also given a very stern warning to those traders who sell their goods without pointing out any defects. In such a case, the purchaser has an option in Islam to rescind the contract of sale.


[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

The success of a trader depends on salesmanship, in order to achieve a quick turnover of whatever he has in stock. Good salesmanship does not necessarily involve falsity and deceit. It does, however, usually involve exaggeration, the use of puns, pomposity and digression. Another technique of salesmanship involves haggling, which also implies the customer’s partial or conditional acceptance of the deal. Along with such tactics of salesmanship, claims are often made about merchandise that are far from the truth and made with a view to deceiving the customer. The Prophet not only condemned such practices but also emphasised good manners, leniency and courtesy.

The Just Price

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

‘When we say that prices must be just, or fair, does this justice or fairness involve a moral value? Wholesale prices for all the dealers are almost the same. Can we then justify price variations at different centres? In Islamic law, if anybody charges an extraordinarily high price, it is termed as grave deception and is unacceptable. The Ottoman Code of Civil Law defines grave deception as higher than 5% (profit) on goods, 10% on animals and 20% on immovable property. The concept lays down the rate of profit but not the sale price. As a matter of fact, the wholesale price alone does not determine the sale price. It is determined by locality, standard of intramural decoration, packing, service, environment and other overhead costs. A trader has to add all the incurred and accrued expenses to the wholesale price, in addition to a profit for himself/herself. What rate of profit he should charge is determined largely by market forces and the nature of the competition, given a normal or prevailing price. All this proves that the concept of a just price is not a moral concept except where monopolies or oligopolies arbitrarily fix an unrealistically high price quite out of proportion with costs.

The Islamic Law of Options 

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

The objective behind Islamic law and procedure in trading is that of protecting both the trader and the customer from any harm being inflicted by the other party. Harmful situations may arise in the process of payment of price by the buyer or delivery of goods by the seller.

The Islamic law on sales of goods also provides the use of options by either party in order to protect their interest. The Prophet has given to the seller the option to annul the sale if he finds that he was paid less than the market price in the off-market purchase made by brokers. He also enjoys the option to rescind the contract of sale if the buyer fails to pay the price within the stipulated period. The law protects the consumer by giving him options on a number of grounds. The first is the option on account of false description, where the seller has sold goods as possessed of some good quality. The buyer also enjoys the option of inspection, after which he has a right to annul the purchase. A third kind of option the buyer enjoys arises as a result of a defect in the goods which the seller has knowingly concealed.

Insider Trading 

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

In Islam confidential information is a trust and must be honoured, whether it be contractual or implied and understood. This principle is based on Quranic verses and the Prophet’s sayings safeguarding others’ secrets, whether express or implicit. These automatically discard using secrets for personal gain, such as the disclosing of trade secrets or undisclosed manufacturing formulas or any other information that might adversely affect the business position of the enterprise concerned.

Monitoring and Surveillance

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

According to the Qur’an, it is the duty of all Muslims to enjoin the maintaining of good conduct and to forbid indulgence in misconduct, just as it was the duty of the People of the Book before them. The official organisation that was entrusted with the task of enjoining good and forbidding evil was the hisba (lit, accountability) headed by a muhtasib (monitor or ombudsman). Its function was to encourage and help people to observe Islamic tenets and rituals, and, in particular, to ensure and facilitate a healthy environment in public places, mainly shopping centres. In the early days this department was supposed to look after quality control, professional honesty and reliability, hygiene and sanitation, professional competence, control of intermediaries, decency and good manners, the flow of traffic and other miscellaneous functions. This department set out standards of ideal service and workmanship for different trades and professions. It was also supposed to protect the rights of service providers, traders, craftsmen, customers and visitors. In addition to these duties, it was also supposed to ensure efficient service by some public utility projects.

The Movement of Business Ethics in the West

[Extract from Preface of Islam and Business Ethics by Dr S M Hasanuzzaman, published by the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance, London, UK 2003]

Business immorality has becomes a universal menace. Its nature and extent varies according to the mode, scale and impact of the business organisation concerned. In the West, however, a meaningful change is taking place. Many world organisations have diverted their attention to the role of multinational organisations (MNCs) in the host countries and laid down some broad operational guidelines for them. A look at the guidelines laid down by these organisations leads to the impression that they are focussed on serving highly developed and well-managed countries. A major part of the world falls outside the range of these well-sounding compacts, which reflect the capitalist philosophy and hedonistic individualism of the market, money and exchange. They seem to believe in a kind of free-trade under which consumers are no more than a means of profiteering.

The unfortunate situation is that most of the developing countries desperately need foreign capital and technology to overcome their backwardness. They are thus vulnerable to blackmail by MNCs and their home governments if they dare to take a stand. The guidelines fail to protect them from this situation. Apart from the role of these international organisations, private efforts are also under way to touch upon this situation. Persons involved in the modern theory or practice of economics or business have also picked up the gauntlet and seem to be determined to bring about a change in the existing situation.

Over and above the activities on the academic plane, concerted efforts are also being made at national and international level to enlist the support of the largest number of academics, traders and communities. In London, in 1986, an Interfaith Institute of Business was launched which was represented by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Institute, with the consensus of the three communities, adopted a declaration that emphasised the key moral values of justice, mutual respect, trusteeship and honesty. An international group of thirty business executives from Japan, Europe and the United States, who meet each year in Caux, Switzerland, have agreed on operational principles and procedures which could be made a standard of accountability for corporations the world over. The Caux principles accommodate the Japanese concept of kyosei (working together for the common good) and the Western concept of human dignity.

A look at the Interfaith Declaration and the Caux Principles reveals an almost identical approach to the issues involving MNCs. It will not be out of place to point out here that the US Department of Commerce has also released Model Business Principles, thereby encouraging corporations to develop their own codes of conduct. Adoption of codes of conduct reflecting these principles is made voluntary. These principles incorporate the provision of a safe and healthy workplace, fair employment practices, employees’ right to organise and bargain collectively, and responsible practices to protect the environment. The International Society of Business Economics and Ethics (ISBEE) organised the first World Congress in 1996 near Tokyo. The papers at the Conference were edited and published in 1999.

The Compacts, the Declaration and the Principles all have many good points and need to be supported. But all these deliberations place all forms of legal trade in the same category. What we feel is that a distinction should be made between essential and non-essential goods. If we are advancing towards forming a world community, governments and businessmen should demonstrate feelings of mutual consideration and sympathy for the members of a human community who are the children of Adam and Eve, the family of God.

These efforts to make business more ethical may be objected to on many grounds. Firstly, the seminars and conferences remain academic exercises. Why do not governments enforce rigid laws to curb business malpractices and punish offenders? This objection fails to realise that the existing state of affairs is longstanding. Ethics have been alien to business for centuries. Governments have been upholding a laissez-faire policy towards trade. Absolutely free trade, an unregulated market mechanism and cut-throat competition have been the motivating forces of traders.

These business values, which have become firmly imbedded in businessmen’s minds, cannot be replaced by mere legislation. It will require a change in the inner selves of the traders, shareholders and executives. This change can be brought about by intellectuals, academics and theorists, all of whom have always been the precursors of change by preparing an active team of their followers, convincing the business community and mobilising public opinion. This paves the way for initiating reforms, after which alone legislation can become effective.

In addition to this objection, discussion of business ethics in the context of MNCs is susceptible to suspicion, especially in South East and Far East Asia, where people equate MNCs with the role played by The East India Company. The flurry of resentment against this company and its followers has not yet died down. The abundance of MNCs is seen to be a stratagem to pave the way for economic imperialism by industrialised nations. According to them, the movement to ethicise MNCs seems to convey a sense of contrition for whatever was done in the past by the East India companies and an attempt to persuade them to now welcome them. The suspicion described above is not totally unfounded, but it is also the result of xenophobia. No foreign foothold is possible anywhere without active local support. Moreover, the critics should distinguish between two things: the objectionable role of the East India companies, on the one hand, and the MNCs and the need to reform them on the other. It is in the interests of all to appreciate and support these attempts at reform rather than adopting a negative attitude.

Another argument against the movement that has much weight and logic behind it is the movement’s incongruity with the philosophy of life that Western thinking has hitherto upheld. Unless we bring about a basic change in our attitude to, and concept of, life, we cannot expect a meaningful and effective change with respect to the different compartments of life. A change emerging from the Inner Self is more reliable and lasting than piecemeal changes. I he significance of the movement lies in the realisation of the evils caused by a value-free system.

Month for Reflection

[The Qur'an 2:185]

"Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind, also humanity, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong).”

According to Muslim belief The Qur’an teaches us how to live our lives as complete human beings. It teaches us how to live our lives with respect, dignity, honor, and love in the mainstream of our earthly existence. 

During the month of Ramadan we are required to reflect upon our condition in a society. It is so easy to become a cog in the political, economic, social, and industrial machine. In short, to become a spiritually forgetful being in the material and mechanical processes of ordinary life.

The Islamic perspective is that we, as human beings, are composed of both body and soul or matter and spirit. We are also considered to be both the viceregent of God on earth and His servants. As viceregents, we are directed to perfect our earthly existence whether it is in our private, domestic, social, economic or political lives. As servants of God we are directed to perfect our spiritual existence.