Islam, Impact, & Investing: Philosophy
July 18, 2018
In light of Calvert Impact Capital's initiative under the Jubilee Assembly to inclusively convene investors from diverse faith communities and design collaborative ventures, is a series of brief pieces on the intersection of Islam, responsibility, and business. This first article introduces the foundational principles underlying Islam and its commercial-financial ethics. Subsequent articles will endeavor to explain how these principles serve as an umbrella for collaborative and socially responsible investing.
If we were to sketch the faith of Islam, we could begin by drawing a wonderfully large circle, and write inside it the word, God. "Nothing," the Qur'an informs, "is like even the like of God." Everything other than God is creation, and creation manifests the Majesty and Beauty of its Creator. Indeed, all of creation revolves around God, affirms the Divine's singularity, constantly remembers God, and lovingly surrenders before His Wisdom and Magnanimity.
The Shari'ah is best understood as the proper balance maintained between the spiritual and the material. Every principle and law, drawn out from the Shari'ah, must preserve and protect religion, life, intellect, wealth, and property. One might sketch these primary objectives as the next concentric circles, that themselves serve the ultimate aim: worship. Rules of trade and commerce are no different in this regard. Gain and the avenues to it - whether in production, investment, or consumption - must honor these objectives, at either micro- or macro- levels.
The Shari'ah emphasizes responsibilities owed to God and to creation. Those to whom responsibilities are owed hold rights. Fulfilling them falls within the expansive concept of worship countenanced by Islam, and that includes serving creation.
Relationships with capital, a creation itself, surrender before God. As such, they are designed and documented mindful of the interconnectedness of existence in its diverse facets and elements. That interconnectedness is reflected in Islamic ethics and law, as Muslim thinkers developed a broad framework of stakeholders and their respective responsibilities and corresponding rights.
Islam presents a rich tradition of environmental consciousness, concern for social welfare, and good governance. Muslim scholars articulate a wide range of stakeholders, beginning with God and extending to the natural environment, animal and plant life, community and neighbors, and counterparties, among many others. Engaging and consulting stakeholders is a central governance norm.
What then might be the purpose of business? We begin to answer this question with the goals of the Shari'ah, amongst them preserving life (human and other) and wealth (and its constituents). As wealth includes the Earth, its many inhabitants, systems, and resources, its preservation necessitates avoiding harm and affirmatively promoting its continuity and welfare. Life is also protected by business that duly considers stakeholders and relationships with capital that fulfill the objectives of the Shari'ah, thereby creating positive impact.
Umar Moghul is a partner at the law firm of Roberts Moghul & Partners (www.rm.partners), where he handles a variety of cross-border corporate and financial matters, and also partner at Gateway LLP (www.GatewayLLP.com), a global consulting firm exclusively devoted to the Islamic economy. His work focuses on the design of products and frameworks to help create participatory, inclusive, and more responsible transactions and markets. He can be reached at either email@example.com or umar.moghul@GatewayLLP.com.