Economics & Islam

Theories, Practices, Institutions, & Ideas

Reading assignments, lectures, and discussions will be framed along macroeconomic themes and the intersection between religious teachings and economic principles and practices. In today’s global context, where many economic, business, and finance activities are less limited by international borders, religious institutions are hard-pressed to articulate a worldview that is consistent with their religious and ethical values, yet, flexible enough to compete and with secular institutions.

After the financial crisis of 2008, scholars started to pay more attention to the role of religion in sustaining economic development and inspiring financial institutions to offer religion-compliant products and services. Limits on interest-based loans to the growing Muslim community in Western societies forced many banking and investment organization to create sharia-compliant products and services. The success of some governments like those in Turkey, Indonesia, and other Muslim-majority countries to create thriving middle and entrepreneurial classes brought to focus the relationship between religious belief and economics. Globalization, too, played a significant role in raising the profile of religion-inspired financial endeavors, services, and products. We will discuss some of the economic ideas, principles and practices and reflect on the critical questions, including,

  • Do Semitic religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—promote capitalism?
  • What links are there between Islamic piety and capitalist success?
  • Do inheritance rules in Islamic family law prevent the accumulation of capital, which is necessary for innovation and economic growth?
  • Is there an Islamic economic system that is wholly or partly distinct from other systems?
  • What are the key principles and norms that qualify economic and financial transactions as being “Islamic”? What are the counterarguments?
  • What are some of the key economic institutions/schemes that sustain capitalism? How does Islam judge these institutions/schemes?

Whether it is the debate of the role of Protestant ethic in the rise of capitalism or the more recent discussion of pious business ventures that is fueling the fast rise of an influential middle class in some Islamic societies like Malaysia, Turkey and Iran, the place of religion and religious institutions in the public sphere cannot be ignored. Religion plays a significant role in every society. It inspires adherents to support certain social initiatives and reject others. Religious organizations provide social services that state institutions fail (or unable) to undertake. Religious people, acting on their faith imperatives, lobby politicians and influence public policy. They participate in boycotts and support social causes. They can cause one business to collapse and help another prosper. In some Western countries, many religious institutions and organizations have embraced business models, in the form of mega churches and mega-mosques, that enabled them to project immense power and influence like that exerted by large corporations and for-profit entities. All in all, the economic impact of religious groups is undeniable.

This course examines the body of literature and data dealing with economics and Islam from the perspective of a variety of disciplines, including law, economics, sociology, anthropology, history, and political science. Students of these disciplines will be able to understand how religion and culture shape economic decisions. The course draws on settled knowledge in a variety of disciplines to allow students to see the rich connections among academic disciplines and economic and social institutions.

In short, and most importantly, this course is about the origins, functions and impact of Islamic and other religions’ ideas and practices in the realms of economic development, financial services and products, business ethics and practices, and business models. Students will explore the ways such ideas and practices affect legacy issues like property rights, poverty, and access to healthcare, education, and social security. Lastly, students will examine the impact of religious ideas and practices on social justice matters that touch on individual and group identity along class, gender, ethnicity, and race, as well as, the role of religion in deciding public policy and directing international relations.


In addition to selected chapters contained in the assigned textbooks, there might be additional reading materials to be made available to students online.

A detailed schedule of lecture topics, reading assignments, and in-class activities will be made available on the online course management system. The schedule may be updated as the course progresses.

Textbooks (Required):
  • Reading Packets: Collection of Chapters and Articles (Online course management system)
  • A detailed weekly schedule of Reading Assignments is made available online

Isik, Damla. Just Like Prophet Mohammad Preached: Labor, Piety, and Charity in Contemporary Turkey. In Feminist Economics, 20.4 (2014): 1-23.

Keister, Lisa A. Faith and money: How religion contributes to wealth and poverty. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Kuran, Timur. The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East.

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Sadr, Sayyid Muhammad Bakir. Islam and the Schools of Economics. Teheran: Bonyad. 1984.

Tripp, Charles. Islam and the Moral Economy: The Challenge of Capitalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
More… see Economics and Religion selected bibliography online

  1. Class Participation: For every class session, students are expected to finish reading the assigned reading selections and be prepared to discuss them in
  2. Homework Assignments: Students must read assigned materials before each class session in order to participate and benefit from the lecture Each student must submit a reaction (summary and critique) to the assigned readings and comment on at least one classmate’s summary/critique.
  3. Quizzes: There will be a number of announced and un-announced quizzes covering lecture materials and the reading If for some reason, you are forced to miss a quiz, you will need to talk to the instructor (or Teaching Assistant if one is assigned) ASAP.
  4. Exams: midterm and final exam are proctored during the times listed on the registrar’s website. If a time conflict arises, we will announce the time in class and online.
  5. Topic of the research paper and/group projects will be assigned by the third week of the semester
  6. Assignments and exams turned in after due date, without valid reason, will not be graded.

Grades will be based on the following distribution:

  • Weekly summaries: 20%
  • Peer-reviews, comments/reactions to classmates submissions: 15%
  • Quizzes and exams: 35%
  • Group projects and/or writing assignments and presentations, 30%

The breakdown of the grade per category/exam will be outlined on each test/project and posted online.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Rules

Students must consult the University Handbook on academic integrity and plagiarism. For quick reference, I provide these simple rules:

  1. A student could be considered in violation of academic integrity if they,
  • represent the work of others as his or her own,
  • obtain assistance in any academic work from another individual in a situation in which the student is expected to perform independently,
  • give assistance to another individual in a situation in which that individual is expected to perform independently, and
  • offer false data in support of findings and
  1. By submitting work for evaluation or to meet a requirement, a student is providing assurance that the work is the result of his/her own thought and study, produced without assistance, and stated in that student’s own words, except as quotation marks, references, or footnotes, in which case the student must acknowledge the use Submission of work part of which may have been used previously must first be approved by the instructor.
  2. By submitting a paper, a student is agreeing that he or she have read the above guidelines and agree to the terms and conditions as stated herein and in the University
  3. Unless explicitly designated as a “group project,” students should not work collaboratively with other persons (students or otherwise) on any graded
Reminders and Resources:

For each semester hour credit in this course, students are expected to spend 2 hours per week preparing for class sessions (e.g., three-credit-hour course requires 6 hours per week for preparation.

A tentative schedule and assignments will be made available online, but changes may occur; students must check regularly for updates that will be reflected in the online version.

The University of Iowa relies on email system to disseminate information and reach students regarding academic matters; it is the student’s responsibility to establish an email account and check his/her email regularly for updates relevant to this course.

Please contact me during my office hours if you are one who has a disability which may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements so that appropriate arrangements may be made.

The Writing Center is available to any U of Iowa student, faculty, or staff for help with any kind of writing, academic, personal, or professional. All writers can use feedback on their writing and someone to act as a sounding board for their ideas. Three programs are available: the Enrollment (twice a week program), the Evening and Friday appointment program, and E-mail tutoring through the web site at Tutors help you with any aspect of writing–from brainstorming an assignment to comma placement.

Please be advised of the university policy on plagiarism and cheating, as any such act will be dealt with as outlined therein.

Students who wish to complain about the course, the Teaching Assistants, and/or the Instructor may follow the Colle ge’s polic y as summarized below:

  • The student should to resolve the matter with the person of concern
  • If the complaint is not resolved to the student’s satisfaction, the student should discuss the matter further with the course supervisor (A. Souaiaia), the departmental executive officer, another faculty member designated to receive complaints if
  • If the matter remains unresolved, the student may submit a written complaint to the Associate Dean for Academic Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall (335-2633). (Graduate students should be directed to the offices of the Graduate College, 205 Gilmore Hall, 335-2137.)
Disability Statement:

“I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability which may require seating modifications or testing accommodations or accommodations of other class requirements, so that appropriate arrangements may be made. Please contact me during my office hours.”

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