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Globalisation & Islaam

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Globalisation is generally seen as an economic movement -a worldwide process of homogenising prices, products, wages, rates of interest and profits-whichdependsonthemovement of commodities, money, information and labor around the globe.

More generally, globalisation is a comprehensive term for the emergence of a global society, a result of advances in communication, transportation, and information technologies. It describes the growing economic, political, technological, and cultural links between individuals, communities, businesses, and governments around the world. 

Major Forces in Globalisation
Three major organisations, established at the end of World War II, have spurred the growth of globalisation by enabling poorer countries to participate in world trade and by protecting producing countries from devaluation of both their tangible and intangible products.

The World Bank (WB) was established to provide loans to developing countries to encourage accelerated growth and provide a higher living standard for their people; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was established to give loans to developing countries so that they can maintain the value of their currencies and repay foreign debts; and the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) was created to lower tariffs and to encourage the trade of products, services, investments, and the protection of intellectual property rights.

It is worth noting that the IMF and WB have certain conditions, or “structural adjustment programs” required by fund recipients: detailed instructions on required economic changes, with the aim to develop free markets through privatization, or the selling off of government enterprises; deregulation, or removing rules that restrict companies; and trade liberalisation, which opens local markets to foreign goods by removing import/export barriers.

 

Pros and Cons of Globalisation
There are several general benefitsofglobalisation, including the familiarity and connectedness that geographically distanced peoples and cultures can experience. Products, services, and technologies are becoming standardized, which makes travel, trade and communication easier.

The legal and monetary systems around the world have similarities, allowing greater communication with shared languages. Infrastructures, such as transportation and communication, are coordinated and standardised to facilitate the delivery of products and ideas worldwide. Finally, people have better access to products not available locally, which also encourages production, development and greater profits.

However, there are also several recognised adverse effects of globalisation: it promotes materialism as people develop artificialwants,increases credit-based economies, contributes to an unequal distribution of wealth, widens economic gaps and inhibits national industry and jobs. Local cultures are gradually lost or destroyed (sometimes referred to as cultural imperialism), and the environment and natural resources are irresponsibility exploited for monetary gains.

Tabb (2007) shares some statistics and incidents in criticism of globalisation:

  • More than 80 countries had lower per capita income at the end of the 1990s than they had at the end of the 1980s;
  • In countries worldwide in 1960, the top 20 percent had 30 times the income of the poorest 20 percent. By 1999, the top 20 percent had 75 times the income of the poorest 20 percent;
  • Rich countries negotiate trade agreements at the expense of the poor countries. For example, the 48 least-developed countries in the world face tariffs on their agricultural exports that are on average 20 percent higher than those faced by the rest of the world on their agricultural exports to industrialized countries;
  • Wealthy countries grant agricultural subsidies to their farmers to protect national industries from foreign competition.
    For example, the U.S.A. can sell corn and soybeans at half of what it costs to produce them, resulting in artificiallylow world prices that hurt producers in poor countries where there are no government subsidies;
  • In 2002 the US president authorized $4 billion in subsidies to 25,000 cotton farmers. This action lowered world cotton prices by one-fourth.
    As a result, West African countries lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and the region’s 11 million cotton-producing households suffered increased poverty;
  • Although there are several health crises in the developing world, (eg malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS), the WTO’s stand on intellectual property rights, in particular the patent laws that protect medicines made by pharmaceutical companies, require that people pay high prices for life-saving drugs. The result is that the poor die of easily treatable diseases.

These examples show that globalisation, particularly in the economic sense, is detrimental to weaker peoples and nations who are often at the mercy of the rich powerful who make the laws, set the standards and control the prices.

 

Islaam: For or Against Globalisation?
Islaam, in many ways, supports globalisation since it connects people, facilitates communication and business, and provides employment opportunities. For example:

  • The ’Qura~n requires the democratization of information, meaning that God’s message is for all mankind and that those with knowledge have the responsibility of conveyance. “And we have not sent you (with this message) except as a mercy to [all nations]” (21:107);
  • Mutual acquaintance and travel is encouraged with the well-known Quranic verse: “O mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another…” (49:13);
  • The annual pilgrimage (’haj) is an international religious service spanning several days, when people from around the world meet, discuss, trade commodities and information, and establish brotherly ties. Early trade routes and information exchange in the Muslim world had their origins in the ’haj;
  • Trade and employment in one another’s service is a natural aspect of life. God said, “It is We who have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and have raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service…” (43:32).


Moreover, Muslims are advised and urged to undertake and participate in whatever may be beneficial for mankind with no limits to ethnic, religious, geographical or political boundaries. This principle supports the idea of globalisation, and globalisation facilitates the application of this principle in communities worldwide.

 

Islaamic Business Ethics
Injunctions and advice detailed in the ’Qura~n and prophetic traditions encourage mutual cooperation but also defineproperbehaviorsothatthepoor,weak and vulnerable are protected against the avarice and subjugation of others.
Trade laws are applicable whether business partners are Muslim or not; Islaam does not accept discriminatory treatment of non-believers. There is a place for a free market system in Islaam, but with the following conditions:

  • Reckless exploitation, consumption and bribery is forbidden in Islaam: “And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly, nor give it [in bribe] to authorities in order that [they might aid] you to consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin while you know [it is unlawful]” (2:188);
  • Fair dealings and economic transparency are required: “Do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly, but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent.” (4:29);
  • Brokerage or agency (contracting middlemen in the sale of goods) is permissible unless it interferes with free trade. The prophet Mu’hammad taught that it is unethical (and therefore illegal) for a broker to store goods in order to inflate prices; even though it benefits businessmen, it harms the general public;
  • Hoarding money and goods is forbidden unless it is done in order to meet the needs of society, such as the storing or rationing of grain during a drought. The ’Qura~n warns, “Give tidings of a painful punishment to those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend them for God’s sake.” (9:34) One’s super fluous wealth should be used to give loans to the needy, for unconditional aid to the needy, or as venture capital for development and investment projects;
  • Fraud is prohibited according to the Quranic verses “Woe to those who deal in fraud, those who when they have to receive by measure from men exact full measure. But when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account?” (83:1-4) and “Give just measure, and do not be of those who cause loss. And weigh with an accurate scale, and do not deprive people of their due. And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (’Qura~n 26:181-183).

The Prophet Mu’hammad also cursed the one who bribes and the one who takes bribes.

 

Wealth management in Islaam
Spending and consumption are both allowed and encouraged in Islaam as long as one does so without extravagance, wastefulness or inconsideration of the poor. The ’Qura~n says, “O children of Adam, wear fineclothes…eatanddrink…” but also reminds us to “be not excessive (7:31) and that “whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.” (59:9).

Likewise, unlimited savings are allowed, but an annual poor due is to be levied as a tax (zakat) which is used for social security and public services. Specifically,zakatisfor“the poor, the destitute, those who collect it, reconciling people’s hearts, freeing slaves, those in debt, ...” (9:60). The wealthy are reminded in the ’Qura~n that charity is not an optional benevolent deed, but rather that “from their properties [is] the right of the beggar and the deprived” (51:19).

 

Debt management in Islaam
Interest on loans, which channels wealth from the poor to the rich, encourages exploitation of the poor and widens economic gaps, is strictly prohibited in Islaam. The ’Qura~n states that “God has permitted trade and has forbidden interest” (2:275).

The receiver of interest, as well as the giver, witness and scribe are all cursed, according to prophetic tradition. The treatment of those in debt is also addressed with ’Qura~nic injunctions: “You who believe, heed God and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers….and if the debtor is in difficulty,then[let there be] postponement until [a time of] ease. But if you remit it by way of charity, that is better for you, if you only knew.” (2:278-280).

Conclusion
Globalisation is a fact of life. While its prevalence is undeniable, its methods and applications remain a choice for us as global citizens, and therefore so do its results. Islaam offers a framework that allows us all to benefitfromtheadvantages of globalisation while protecting us from its harm. The result is a global community of producers and consumers who promote just and equitable business in an atmosphere of mutual service and compassion.


References

  • Tabb, William K. “Globalization.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2007 [CD]. Redmond, Washington: Microsoft Corporation, 2006.
  • The Quran: Arabic Text with Corresponding English Meanings. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Saheeh International, 1997.
     
Teresa Lesher -

Teresa Lesher has a Ph.D. in Information Science fom Loughborough University and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, College of Basic Education, Public Authority of Applied Education and Training in Kuwait.Read More >>

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 July 2008 10:43  

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