Thursday, February 28, 2013


Just landed at Istanbul Atartuk International Airport with ISDEV Deputy Director Dr Zakaria Bahari yesterday morning at about 0545. Observed fajr prayer at a corner of the airport's baggage claim area. There were 3 prayer mats. Ablution was done at the rest room nearby. There is no proper praying room at the airport.

Fetched by a travel agent provided by the organiser of the Conference we are participating, safely check-in at Green Park Hotel in Merter, have a little rest, observed zuhr prayer at a mosque nearby and had a lunch with Turkish Kebab at a stall outside the mosque.

Today we were guided by Mervan, a third year Islamic economics student of Istanbul University appointed by the conference organiser, to the historic Blue Mosque (where we observed our Zuhur prayer), Aya Sophia, Space Market and the tomb of the Companion of Rasulullah SAW, Abu Ayub al-Ansari. We took tramp and buses to the destinations, as well as walking quite a distance. The temperature was 6'C. It is winter now in Turkey.

Istanbul is just like other cities in other parts of Europe. It is a modern city with urban facilities and population divided generally into two, firstly those who are already conscious of Islam, and secondly, the other with secular lifestyle. At the prayer place at the Airport, for instance, we encountered two young men belonging to Said Nursi Bediozzaman movement, while outside the airport we witnessed quite a number of women smoking (may be Turks, or may be others from other countries). While on the tramp on our way to the Blue Mosque today, a guy sitting beside me was reading the Qur'an. He is an Hafiz - memorising the whole Qur'an from a madrasah in Istanbul itself, and now working as a graphic designer. On our way back to Merter, there was a couple kissing in front of us in the tramp, reminding me of similar lifestyle of young couples in England and Europe. Our Islamic conscious guide Mervan leaves it to his parents to choose a wife, for to him, it is haram to have a free social life before marriage, while other youngsters, according to him, are having lovers before marriage.

However, Islam seems to be reviving in Turkey, and the authority, I was told, is keen of it, Ahamdulillah.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah SWT, another ISDEV PhD student passed his viva this morning with flying colours. This time is the turn of Heri Kusmanto, who writes on Islamic-Based Civil Society in Indonesia: Political Accommodation and Democratization of Muhammadiyah and Al-Wasliyah in North Sumatera. He is supervised by Dr Mohammad Zaini Abu Bakar and myself.

The Board of Examiners unanimously recommended his thesis to be nominated for Outstanding Thesis Award. He is the 10th ISDEV PhD students that have achieved such a flying colours, Alhamdulillah.

As the normal tradition of ISDEV, prior to the viva, Heri Kusmanto went through a thorough mock viva  at ISDEV yesterday. Then before the viva this morning, ISDEV lecturers and students gathered at USM Mosque to perform solat-ul-hajat for Heri Kusmanto, to seek the help of Allah SWT in positioning Heri Kusmanto in the benefit of himself and Islam. If his PhD is good for him and Islam, ISDEV appeals to Allah SWT to pass him. But if it is otherwise, ISDEV appeals to Allah SWT to fail him, so that he is safe from the punishments in the Day Hereafter. After a hard work in producing an excellent thesis, ISDEV leaves it to Allah SWT to decide for the best for Heri Kusmanto. Alhamdulillah, Allah SWT has answered ISDEV's appeal by passing him.

The viva was concluded with a thankful khenduri (feast), as usual.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


My apologies. The deliberations on Kelantan and Besut experiences as promised have to be defered a  little bit. I am at De Plama Hotel in Shah Alam at the moment, since yesterday, attending a meeting for Selangor Zakat Council (LZS) to redefine the beneficiaries (asnaf) of zakat for contemporary needs.

To ensure that the redefinitions are within Islamic teachings, they will be forwarded to Selangor Fatwa Council for further deliberations and approval, and eventually realised by the Selangor Zakat Council.

As the redefinitions are still in progress, hence confidential, I could not mention them here. What I could say at this stage is the interesting widening of the definitions to fulfill the contemporary needs of the beneficiaries (asnaf), within the context of contemporary socio-economics problems.

If these redefinitions are approved by the Selangor Fatwa Council, I anticipate an innovative mechanism in maximising the benefits for the asnaf in Selangor. As one of the leading zakat instutitions in Malaysia, Selangor Zakat Council is receptive of any innovation, including the one on decentralisation of zakat management we proposed earlier, which is now already in staggered execution, Ahamdulillah.

Friday, February 15, 2013


As promised, here is a little contemplation on Kelantan politics.

During my trip to Kelantan early this week, I came to understand some simple reasons why pro-PAS Kelantanese are not in favour of the present Federal Government. These reasons were reflected during a dinner at my friend's house, a retired teacher, who hailed from Besut but now living in his wife's hometown in Kelantan. He is not a PAS member, but very keen of Islam, hence in favour of PAS as PAS is viewed as more Islamic than UMNO.

Some of the reasons are as follows:

1. The Prime Minister is not capable of ruling Malaysia. He could not even educate his wife to wear a proper Islamic dress, especially her headgear (tudung).

2. In the history of Islam, the higher the authority one is having, the poorer he is. Unlike many UMNO members who become richer with the authority they hold, the present Kelantan Chief Minister lives in a relatively poor condition.

3. When do the Prime Minister and his Deputy actually work? They are always on the move at the moment, campaigning for UMNO and Barisan Nasional on the pretext of attending formal programmes at all levels.

4. Could the UMNO Chief Minister of Kelantan-to-be recites a prayer (doa) if UMNO wins the 13th General Election? Does he really know and practice Islam? The Kelantanese want an Islamic knowledgeable and practising Muslim leader to manage the State.

5. The Federal Government is depriving Kelantanese by denying Kelantan's right to have petroleum royalty. Instead, the royalty is channeled to the Federal-controlled State's Federal Development Department (Jabatan Pembangunan Persekutuan, JPP) in the form of Wang Ehsan. Though it is for the Kelantanese, it has been used for the benefit of UMNO's political mileage. Such a dissatisfaction is apparent on the road in Kelantan where many cars are having the stickers "R", meaning royalty.

The five reasons may seem to be simple, but they have great impact on the Kelantanese mind, hence their votes. If UMNO is really interested in getting Kelantan, it has to address these reasons seriously.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


On request of all my children to have a family retreat outside Penang during the Chinese New Year holidays, we headed for Kelantan last Saturday with a view to come back to my hometown in Besut after that.

During the 5 days in Kelantan and Besut, we enjoyed and learnt a lot of things, from foods to shopping, friendship, effects of tourism, and development politics. The most interesting was the mind set of Kelantanese towards Malaysian Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional which I think should be taken seriously if Barisan Nasional were to take over Kelantan. Secondly was a layman's theory of development, including the destructive effects of tourism on indigenous culture and lifestyle.

Bringing home all the lessons from Kelantan and Besut, we will be leaving for Penang early tomorrow morning, InshaAllah. God willing, I will jot down the notes on the Kelantanese mind set and the layman's development in subsequent postings, InshaAllah.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah SWT, two writings of mine have been recently appeared in The Brunei Times (Brunei Darussalam) and The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society (USA).

The one in The Brunei Times entitled "6 Challenges of Islamic Economics", appeared in two series on the 5th and 6th February 2013 ( It is the revised version of my speech at the International Conference on Islamic Economics and Economies of the OIC Countries held in Kuala Lumpur recently. It stretches out the challenges faced by contemporary mainstream Islamic economics related to its framework, concepts and methodology used, system and society established, and scholars of Islamic economics themselves.

The other one in the The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society entitled "Spirituality and the New Form of Poverty Management", appeared in Volume 2, Issue 2, 2013 ( It is the revised version of my paper presented at  the Second International Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society, organized by The Religion and Spirituality in Society Community, at Robson Square, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada from 20-22 February 2012. It expresses the idea that when spirituality is included in the management of poverty, the target group becomes selective as not all could be rich as well as not all could be poor. The determinant factor is the soul. Those with rich soul (high faith, iman) have the choice to either becoming rich or poor while those with poor soul could not be rich but need the most help to overcome their poor soul and their poverty. The meaning of the rich and poor soul is deliberated in this paper.

Monday, February 04, 2013


Alhamdulillah, what a relief. After 4 days concentrating fully on the writing of a paper for a conference in Istanbul, Turkey end of this month, I eventually completed and safely sent it to the organiser today. It was quite a tough task indeed because prior to this, my work schedules were very tight and not much time was available to really concentrate on the writing. I could only fully concentrate on it after coming back from the Islamic Economics Conference in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday.

The writing reminds me of some of the stories told to me at the Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur last week. A participant told me how a lecturer at his former university easily put his (the lecturer) name as the first author on works done by his (the lecturer) students, although his (the lecturer) contribution is almost nil. The other told me that he puts the names of his three supervisors as co-authors of his paper as one of them finances his participation in the conference through a research project, although the field of one of them is not economics.

Such a free-riderism too, I believe, happens to many in contemporary academic world elsewhere. Many papers, including in the Kuala Lumpurs' Conference last week, contains more than one author. The possibility of the involvement of free-riderism could not be ruled out. This is what I always remind ISDEV fraternity to avoid of. I know how hard writing a paper is. Putting name without contributing to the writing is unfair and sinful indeed.

One may argue that he puts his name as a supervisor that gives the writer his idea, and edits the writing. But is it not the task of a supervisor to do so? Authorship comes not only with ideas and editing, but also with the writing part itself.

However, such a case sounds a little better than many cases whereby names are put as authors of a writing without having to contribute not even ideas or editing. The name is included just because of power. A participant of a conference in Indonesia about two years ago told me that he was given leave for the conference by his superior with a request that he includes his (the superior) name as one of the authors of the paper. I also know about such a  case after delivering a lecture at a workshop on academic writing at a University in Malaysia last year.

I am worrying indeed, how could a learning-teaching institution produce well-mannered people for the  benefit of the ummah and human beings if the integrity of the members of the community inside it is at stake. Excelling the institution with fake accomplishment such as the publications suffering from free-riderism for the sake of merely fulfilling KPI is actually bamboozling the public.

Oo authorities at all levels, please look into this syndrome of free-riderism prevailing in the circle of yours!

Friday, February 01, 2013


In my speech at the 2nd International Conference on Islamic Economics and Economies of the OIC Countries the day before yesterday, I highlighted six challenges that have been faced and are still facing by contemporary Islamic economics.

They relate firstly to the Islamic economics framework (worldview); secondly to the unredefined western ethno-centric concepts used in Islamic economics; thirdly to the research methodology adopted in Islamic economics studies; fourthly to the extent of Islamic system established out of the execution of Islamic economics policies; fifthly to the ability to establish a real Islamic society from the implementation of Islamic economics programmes; and sixthly to the knowledge-practice dichotomy of the Islamic economics scholars themselves.

The gist of my speech is as follows.


Muhammad Syukri Salleh
Centre for Islamic Development Management Studies (ISDEV)
Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang
Tel: +6 04 6532656       +6 017400 2866


First of all, let me confess that my field of specialization is not in pure Islamic economics. Mine is in Islamic-based development, while my research interest is in Islamic political economy. My apologies if what I am going to say is not right according to the field of Islamic economics.

As all of us may agree, after decades of its introduction, Islamic economics has undoubtedly grown rapidly. But the growth is not a challenge-zero growth. Definitely Islamic economics has faced, and is facing, and likely to persistently face, challenges.

In this presentation, I would like to point out 6 challenges that I have observed, which I think, simultaneously, need further research. They may appear very basic and simplistic, but I think they are important.

The challenges are firstly pertaining to the philosophical framework of the Islamic economics itself; secondly, to the undefined western ethno-centric concepts used in Islamic economics; thirdly to the conventional research methodology that has been adopted in Islamic economic research; fourthly, to the development of the strength of Islamic system that could have been accomplished out of the realization of Islamic economics; fifthly, to the construction of Islamic society entailing from the execution of Islamic economics; and sixthly to the knowledge-practice dichotomy of the Islamic economic scholars themselves.

In a nutshell, the challenges relate to the framework, concept, research methodology, system, society, and the scholars of Islamic economics. The deliberations on these six challenges are as follows.

1.             Framework

In the first challenge that relates to the framework, we witnessed the growth of the accommodative-modification and methodologic eclecticism approach that eventually shapes the current mainstream Islamic economics as a fiqh-based neo-classical economics. We have compromised on the usage of the western ethno-centric framework and elements embedded in it, based on a stance that it is alright to be so as long as it does not contradict Islamic shari`ah and aqidah. So far this issue seems to be quite settled.

But in contemplation, it is still worth revisiting, for is it true that the western ethno-centric framework and elements which were adopted into Islamic economics do not really contradict Islamic shari`ah and aqidah? The answer could be positive if it is considered merely at operational level, as many do. But if epistemological and philosophical levels are taken into account, the answer might be different. This proof may lie in the deeds of Rasulullah SAW himself. Rasulullah SAW used to adopt some of the practices inherited from jahiliyah such as tawaf (circumbulation), marriage, zihar, qisas, inheritance, buying and selling, karam concept, war, social relationship, slavery and ‘aqilah. However, as found by Mohd Shukri Hanapi (2012) through his historiography study, they evolved only around their names and terms, while the structures and its roots have been reconstructed by Rasulullah SAW based on Islamic aqidah, ibadah and akhlaq.

In other words, the practices may look similar at operational level, but the whole worldview (tasawur) of the practices is different when they are based on Islamic epistemological and philosophical underpinnings, forming a new kind and meaning of the practices.

So is the case of Islamic economics. The stance that is in favor of the adoption of the western ethno-centric framework and elements into Islamic economics has to be revisited and re-contemplated. Could the western ethno-centric elements embedded in the western ethno-centric framework be called Islamic when their epistemological and philosophical underpinnings are different? The answer is definitely not. The other pivotal question is why could not an Islamic economics be constructed from within Islamic epistemological and philosophical underpinnings based on Islamic tasawwur (worldview) itself? The answer could only be given after a systematic and serious research.

2.             Concepts

In the second challenge, we observed a widespread use of western ethno-centric concepts in Islamic economics. The concepts have been used arbitrarily without redefining them according to Islamic teaching. Poverty for instance has been accepted in its original conventional form, despite the usage of Islamic institutions such as zakat and awqaf to alleviate poverty. So are the other concepts such as justice, growth, development, consumer behavior, civil society, quality of life, wealth management, asset management, corporate social responsibility, et cetera. The indicators used to measure their accomplishment are still the conventional indicators, not Islamic indicators. In consequence, the output or the end products of the so-called Islamic endeavor are judged according to the conventional definition, not to the Islamic definition.

The redefinition of all concepts in Islamic economics according to Islamic teachings therefore, to my opinion, should become one of the major projects for research. It is definitely unfair for us to highlight the importance and effectiveness of Islamic economic instruments, but basing the arguments on the concepts according to the exogenous western ethno-centric definitions.

3.             Research Methodology

The third challenge Islamic economics is facing relates to the research methodology that has been used in Islamic economics. In almost all cases, we have been using conventional research methodology, not an Islamic research methodology. In so doing, the scholars of Islamic economics are trapped within anti-dogmatic, value-free, and merely scientific modes of enquiries of the conventional research methodology.

It is definitely illogical to study about Islam and Muslims using such an exogenous research methodology. Moreover, the conventional research methodology also suffers from a lack of tools of analysis. Its tools of analysis are meant only for the tangibles, not the intangibles, hence the emphasis on the “scientificity” of the findings per se. Efforts in understanding Islam and Muslims to the best therefore confines only to the efforts in “tangiblizing” the intangibles through a process of all sorts of quantification available in the conventional models and formulas, or through proxies that are considered able to reflect the so-called real socio-economic and political realities.

Worst still, the conventional research methodology that is born out of the western social sciences is actually endangering the aqidah of the Muslim researchers. The anti-dogmatic nature of the conventional research methodology questions all the dogmas of Islam; the value-free stance of the conventional research methodology direct or indirectly insists us to detach ourselves from our Islamic values in the name of objectivity; and the scientific nature of the conventional research methodology locks us up with observable matters while direct or indirectly denying us from the mechanisms prevailing in the unseen world.

In such a situation, it is high time for scholars of Islamic economics to construct an Islamic research methodology for the purpose of studying Islam and the Muslims. Such an effort has yet to become a serious endeavor in the real sense. Undoubtedly, there are already dispersed writings on the critiques of conventional research methodology and on the deliberations on the philosophy of Islamic research methodology, but a concrete construction of systematic Islamic research methods and techniques is much to be desired. This is another area that I think needs an urgent further research.

4.             System

The fourth challenge relates to the question on how far the realization of Islamic economics has actually strengthened the Islamic economic system. In fact, the earlier espousal of the Islamic framework, redefinition of concepts, and adoption of Islamic research methodology actually aims to ensure a strengthening of the Islamic system. This is based on the observation that the execution of Islamic economic theories and policies seem to have not been adequately strengthened the Islamic system.

In contrary, the endeavors of Islamic economists in actuality have been directly or indirectly strengthening the western ethno-centric system because of their western ethno-centric framework and undefined concepts, as well as because of the adoption of the conventional research methodology. For instance, zakat and awqaf have been said to be able to alleviate poverty, but the concept and theoretical framework of poverty themselves have not been deconstructed. Entrenched in them are still those of the western-ethno centric concepts and theoretical framework. In consequence, the alleviation of poverty through zakat and awqaf are confined to profit-oriented capitalistic commercialization, hence strengthening capitalism instead of the Islamic system.

It is therefore probably not unfair to conclude that Islamic economics so far has not been able to establish a strong economic system, let alone in prescribing solutions to economic problems such has been raised by western economists themselves. Perkins (2006) for instance has exposed the problems of the maneuvering of the first world’s economic hit men. There is also the issue of `false economy’ as has been exposed by Beattie (2010), that leads certain countries to decide their path to be found later on that it is wrong. Also there is a challenge of a rather more open and tactical economy as put forward by Harford (2011) which suggests that in order to build up a rich and rapidly growing country, one has to fight scarcity power and corruption, correct externalities, maximize information, get the incentives right, engage with other countries, and most of all, embrace markets. The Islamic economics so far has not been seen addressing such an issue as yet.

In short, a revisit to the impact of Islamic economics on the establishment of an Islamic economic system vis-à-vis the dominant liberal capitalist system is necessary. There is a huge room for research in this area.

5.             Society

Another challenge, the fifth one, pertains to the establishment of Islamic society out of the realization of Islamic economics. How far the target groups of the Islamic economics become more Islamic than before?

Observations have shown that the society that is developed out of the execution of the so-called Islamic economics system does not differ much from the exogenously cultured society, characterized by merely consumer and producer-oriented behavior. So was the society that has been developed by contemporary utilization of zakat and awqaf and halal institutions, for instance. These institutions as well as the institutions relating to Islamic finance and banking, in reality have not so far contributed much to the development of a real Islamic society that is characterized by Islamic lifestyle. Instead, some members of the society related to these institutions could be said to have been characterized more by capitalistic and profit-seeking attitude rather than the Islamic attitude.

Research on how could an execution of Islamic economics entails with an establishment of a more Islamic society therefore is pertinent.

6.             Islamic Economic Scholars

The sixth challenge, lastly, is the challenge posed by the scholars of Islamic economics themselves. Undoubtedly, some scholars have successfully come up with in-depth and high quality knowledge of Islamic economics. But to what extent the knowledge is being practiced by them?

The possibility of seeing an Islamic economic scholar suffering from a knowledge-practice dichotomy is not difficult. One who writes on Islamic consumer behavior for instance is not necessarily the one who consumes on the principle of wasatiyyah  (moderation). So is the one who writes on Islamic economic ethics is not necessarily unethical-free; the one who writes on tazkiyah an-nafs (self-purification) is not necessarily free of evil attributes; et cetera.

So far, some researchers have studied the thinking of some Islamic economic scholars, but rarely a study has been undertaken on the behavior of these Islamic economic scholars. It is high time, I think, to balance the study by relating the thinking of the Islamic scholars with their behavior, so as to allow a fair analysis that could really contribute to the sacredness of Islamic economics.


Those are the six challenges to contemporary Islamic economics that to my opinion necessitates attention, hence further research. If these challenges could be faced successfully, the Islamic economics that we endeavor to uphold to its peak would become a reality, InshaAllah.