26/07/2013 02:31Islamic finance sits awkwardly in a modern business school - FT.com
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Can supposedly objective centres of learning such as international business schools
teach economics constructed around rules derived from a holy book?
We need to distinguish between studying a doctrine or phenomenon and training practitioners.
Within academia the proper place for training practitioners of Islamic finance is divinity schools,
where beliefs may be treated as sacred and left unquestioned. It is not the place of an economics,
business or law programme to teach future bankers the tricks of disguising interest. As a global
phenomenon involving hundreds of billions of dollars, Islamic finance may be studied and
should be studied, dispassionately within multiple core disciplines and professional schools.
But global sharia assets could reach $1.8tn this year. Can business schools ignore
this large sector?
It should not be ignored. Business schools should use the tools of the social sciences to
understand the social, political, economic and of course religious forces that account for its
Presumably Islamic finance and economics dominate the curriculums of business
schools across the Muslim world?
Not at all. The overwhelming majority of the Muslim world’s business schools teach the
economics taught at the world’s leading business schools. A few require a sprinkling of Islamic
courses. It is generally understood that these courses have little practical value.
What development in the teaching of Islamic economics can you foresee?
Funding for Islamic economics programmes is tied to oil wealth. If oil prices stay high,
legitimacy-seeking Arab oil producers will continue to finance such programmes. The role that
fundraising now plays in academia practically guarantees the promoters of Islamic economics
will find university administrators willing to accommodate their requests.