The Third Islamic Economics Workshop was convened with labour on its agenda and emphasized that an economic system in which labour is valued as it deserves would enable a more just and prosperous society.

The Third Islamic Economics Workshop was organized by Association for Science Culture and Education (ILKE), Scientific Studies Society (İLEM) and the Association of Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics (İGİAD), was sponsored by Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and hosted by the Istanbul Commerce University between the dates 4-5 April of 2015.

Various dimensions of Labour in Islamic Economics were discussed in the six sessions held within the scope of the workshop. Presentations of the scholars working in this field and discussions that followed shed light on the various aspects of the issue. It was emphasized in the workshop that labour needs to be re-evaluated from the perspective of Islamic economics in order to construct a more just, prosperous and sharing world. We have decided to share the following remarks with the public in light of the presentations of the scholars who came from all over the world and from Turkey to participate in the discussions of the workshop within these two days:

  • With a changing global economic system in the post-1980 era, the science of economics focused on banking and finance and failed to pay enough attention to the causes of the socio-economic problems encountered by people and societies. In a similar vein, studies in the field of Islamic economics focused on finance as of this date and quests for another economic system became secondary. Discussions and researches on the fundamental concepts of Islamic economics would provide important suggestions of solutions for the humanity facing serious problems with respect to this issue.
  • In the current predominant economic structure, Islamic economics and finance have come to be recognized. However, Islamic economics is seen as a complementary and marginal reality. To overcome this assumption, theories and practices based on Islamic economics need to be extended to cover the whole economy.
  • When principles of Islamic economics and law with respect to labour are considered, it is seen that there is no problem at the normative level. However, some of the problems encountered in Islamic countries illustrate that these principles could not be put into practice. Therefore, it is important that the studies to be conducted in the field of Islamic economics need to be not only theoretical, but also problem and solution oriented.
  • There is a need for further research, development and practice in the field of Islamic economics. These studies could provide for serious solutions only if they draw on the particular cultures of thought in the Muslim societies while attending to the current problems. However, drawing on these cultures would require a serious re-interpretation as well.
  • The currently pre-dominant economic policies increasingly devalue and marginalize manual labour. These policies need to be questioned to approach the issue of labour as needed.
  • The issue of labour remains hidden beneath such discourses as development, economic growth, global competition and free market in Muslim societies and the processes of “devaluation of labour” and “exploitation of labour” which have a serious impact on large parts of the society are not discussed properly.
  • When the issue of labour is examined, the value attributed to labouring and labour by the Islamic economics at a theoretical level is being restricted by the practical conditions created by the dominant economic system and thus, fundamentals of the relation between Islamic economics and labour are not discussed in an explicit way.
  • According to Islam, human beings are not commodities; they are bestowed with the dignity of being human. Therefore, the processes to which the human labour is subjected and the value given to labour in the economic system need to be compatible with human dignity. According to this perspective, approaches which reduce human beings to mere labour power are not compatible with the fundamental values of Islam. All labouring processes need to be constructed in a way to respect justice and human dignity.
  • In modern understanding and practice, labouring and the value of labour are evaluated in terms of their outcome, namely in terms of profit and their contribution to the socio-economic system. However, labouring and labour are in themselves precious and quite valuable for the subsistence of human beings. This value needs to be brought to the agenda and appreciated in the light of the Islamic principles.
  • According to Islamic understanding, social welfare, legal rights of workers and their role in the production process are quite important and need to be secured. However, it is a fact that there are serious shortcomings in practice with respect to this issue. As in many countries, in Muslim countries today workers are not properly compensated for their labour, are devoid of their legal rights, are commodified in the production process and cannot have their share of social welfare. Labour needs to receive sufficient share from the economic growth for the economy to ensure social welfare.
  • Labour is not simply a problem of labourers; it should be considered as an issue of the all social parties. From an Islamic perspective, employers are also responsible for and obliged to do justice to labour right and prevent its exploitation. However, the primary responsibility lies within the domain of the State in this process. Public authorities have to develop necessary policies and practices to ensure that labour is compensated for justly and in due time, that the worker’s legal rights are secured and work safety measures are taken. In this regard, Islamic countries need to reach the current international standard and then contribute to improve those standards.
  • There is a need to establish new standards in wage price policies in particular. In many countries, the minimum wage is short of providing for the most fundamental needs of the workers and ensuring a humane life standard for them.
  • To overcome this shortcoming, IGIAD’s proposal for the approach and implementation of “humane wage” needs to be extended and supported by the public. Within this framework, the wage is to be seen not as something bestowed to the worker by the employer, but as the right of the labourer and thus, a moral attitude beyond a simple economic stance comes to be at stake.
  • Not only the relations between the worker and the employer but also the responsibility of the consumer is to be on the agenda when labour and consumption are in question. Just like the responsibility of the employers who try to reduce costs as much as they can in today’s particularly competitive world, the importance of the consumption patterns and responsibility of the society need to be considered as well. Within this framework, fair trade and production certification systems need to be extended against the exploitation of labour.
  • The capital is free but the labour is not in the free market economy. While the capital is globalized, the labour is kept under national borders in a way to cater the needs of the capital. According to Islam, the mobility of the labour is free for the whole humanity, it cannot be restricted with a particular geography. Free mobility of labour has a potential to provide solutions for the global problems of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.
  • In some of the today’s Muslim societies, immigrants are treated in a way which is incompatible with the fundamental economic and moral principles of Islam. Such systems as surety systems (kafâlah) burden the workers with debt, cause them to work by force, lead to human trafficking and limit their free mobility. Therefore, international and intergovernmental organizations -Organization of Islamic Cooperation being in the first place- and non-governmental organizations need to establish the necessary monitoring mechanisms and urge for the creation of urgent solutions with regard to this issue.
  • One of the problems encountered with respect to labour is about the skills of the workers. It is seen that the exploitation of labour has more to do with unskilled labour power. Measures to increase human development globally need to be taken to solve this problem. Therefore, researches to be conducted need to consider this issue as well.
  • When the issues regarding labour are considered within the concepts of Islam such as ummah and brotherhood in Islamic countries, it will be seen that the negative practices we encounter today are not compatible with Islam’s historical and cultural origins. Therefore, the consciousness of fellowship and the rule of law need to become applicable for the practices with respect to labour today.
  • The Third Islamic Economics Workshop was concluded with a call for the international institutions, universities, research centers, public institutions and non-governmental organizations to play a larger role and contribute to the development and implementation of Islamic economic at every level.