Establishing Social Justice throughout the World is an Indispensable and Vital Duty for Muslims

4th Islamic Economics Workshop “Social Justice from the Perspective of Islamic Economics” has been organized on April 2-3, 2016 in Istanbul, in cooperation with ILKE Association for Science Culture and Education, Scientific Studies Association (ILEM), Turkish Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics Association (IGIAD). In the workshop 12 academics, experts and NGO representatives from different countries such as Tunisia, Italy, Malaysia, and Indonesia have met with academics and participants from Turkey. The workshop has taken place in Istanbul University Congress and Convention Center with 200 participants and experts discussed “Social Justice from an Islamic Perspective” for two days.  

In the final declaration of the workshop, it has been clearly emphasized that social justice is the basis of Islamic economics and this basis should not be abandoned; usury is the basis of social injustice and it is a great favor to the world to establish a usury-free economic system. In the declaration, it has also been pointed out that zakat is the best model for social equilibrium and justice, there is a need to found new models of collecting, distributing and utilizing zakat and participation banks should be more active in social distribution by observing social justice and Islamic principles. 

1.   Islam has emphasized the importance of social justice, encouraged the protection of the weak and required to transfer power to the society from the first day that it was revealed. In this framework Muslims should be reminded of their responsibility to be a model and lead the world for the establishment of social justice in accordance with Islamic principles and wisdom.

2.   Income inequality is increasing and poverty is becoming a worldwide problem day by day. In addition, the striking social injustice in Muslim countries also draws specific attention. It is only by establishing justice that the world will be a prosperous place for all.

3.   Debates on Islamic economics and the search for an Islamic economical system have arisen around the necessity of founding social justice. However, it has been recently observed that in Islamic economics studies, subjects such as social justice, poverty and labor have been ignored and the emphasis has leaned towards finance. Therefore, subjects other than finance should be brought into the agenda of Islamic economics studies in order for them to gain more depth and to nurture current practices of Islamic economics.

4.   Throughout the world, distribution problems generated by the capitalist system have triggered various economic, political, social and intellectual crises. For that reason, the mainstream economical system and thought should be criticized more. Doing that, alternatives for a new system should also be emphasized more strongly.

5.   In Muslim countries, basic decisive and operative mechanisms should be taken out of the sphere of capital and accumulation; and should therefore be reformulated on the basis of just distribution and social equilibrium. There is an urgent need to fulfill that in order to establish a more productive economy and balanced social structure.

6.   It is an obligation for intellectuals to transform their criticism towards the economic system and practices into a systematic alternative and thus contribute to the development of new practices. Muslim executives from all business areas should encourage this endeavor and support related practices.

7.   Income equality and unequal distribution of wealth is a common problem throughout all developed, developing and underdeveloped countries. In solving this problem which creates various other social and economic complications, short term policies and social aids are not sufficient alone. For that reason, it is first of all a necessity to reconsider the economic system which paves the way for injustice and then to systematically eradicate the roots of the problems.

8.   Today, one of the most significant reasons of social injustice is usury. Recent researches and observations clearly indicate that there is usury behind the huge income and wealth inequality; and that in usury-based economical systems, welfare is transferred only to a specific minority group in the whole society. For that reason it is imperative to develop policies and practices aiming at eradicating usury once and for all and bring them into the current agenda. Otherwise, all criticisms, alternatives and practices will have to remain insufficient.

9.   Today, income inequality separates the different segments of the society from each other and erects impenetrable obstacles between them. This results in serious conflicts among different classes of the society. One of the reasons of income inequality is usury. By prohibiting usury, Islam hinders injustices that can arise out of this reason in the first place. For that reason, studies should be improved in order for usury problems to be clearly identified.

10.        Today, economists offer the method of fortune tax as a solution for income injustices. This idea stands out to be the most radical suggestion in order to establish social justice. On the other hand zakat, which is also one of the five pillars of Islam, offers a more comprehensive and systematic solution to this problem. In this framework, zakat institution should be paid more attention as a way to the solution.

11.        Along with the traditional distribution of zakat by the hand of individuals, systems that are developed in various countries to collect, distribute and utilize zakat in an effective and productive way should be examined and long-term researches should be conducted in this field.

12.        Zakat is a significant instrument which supports the poor and contributes to the establishment of social justice to a great extent. As a result, it is an important tool in fighting with poverty.

13.        Similarly, as a result of the fact that Islam encourages a Muslim to care about the hereafter as much as this world, institutions as sadaqa (almsgiving) and infaq (aid) emerged. These two aid mechanisms created the institution of waqf together. Throughout the history, waqfs have contributed to a great deal in channeling welfare to the society. On the other hand waqf is an interest-free institution based upon charity and aids; and accordingly it is an important institution in instating economic stability. Waqf institution offers significant opportunities in order to prevent today’s economic instabilities and social justices. Making use of this tradition, the contribution of waqf to social welfare and justice should be evaluated on in a broader and deeper framework today. In addition, new models and practices of waqfs should be improved.

14.        Social justice is not only an economical issue and problem. Economical inequalities create utterly important problems and irreversible devastations within a society. Similarly, all kinds of transformations and changes that may corrupt the balance within a society have a potential to create social justice. In this context, it is imperative to take social equilibrium into consideration in all related social practices.

15.        The prevalent capitalist economical system and free market approach today enables the wealthy and powerful groups to gain even more power by tyrannizing the poor and needy. This situation resulted in the creation of disadvantaged groups in the society. Islamic economics studies should emphasize more the concepts and institutions that protect the rights of these disadvantaged groups.

16.        The prevalent economical system promotes human freedom and free market, but at the same time important numbers of people in the society lose their freedom because of their debts or unnecessary consumption habits. In this framework an Islamic economics which is not based on debt and consumption offers valuable prospects to todays’ societies.

17.        An economical system based on social justice also increases labor productivity. Infaq (aid) and sadaqa (almsgiving) culture in Islam should be remembered in today’s societies in line with the Islamic principle of social aid.

18.        Tabarru’ (donation) is one of the important concepts of Islamic law and it enables the foundation of a social capital based upon almsgiving and aid. In this framework, by raisingaid and solidarity funds in micro scale, it is necessary to establish cooperation among individuals of a single society.

19.        Islamic financial institutions should not only aim for maximum profit; and unlike the conventional banks, they should come up with new mechanisms that will reinstate social justice in a society. In order for this to happen, applications that directly or indirectly result in social benefit should be improved and utilized more.

20.        Islamic economics has to be founded on social balance. This will only be possible with Islamic and ethical values. In this regard, Islamic banks should take on an effective role in distributing wealth to different segments of society in a just and equal way.

Scholars, academics, experts and civil society organization representatives who have organized, participated and contributed to 4. Islamic Economics Workshop on 2-3 April 2016 in Istanbul declare that social justice and related problems in our world and especially in the Muslim world can be diminished to a great extent as long as the aforementioned principles, theories and applications of Islamic economics are taken into consideration; and thus call academics, policy makers and decision makers to hear and participate in this effort.