Islamicity Indices useful tool for both Muslims, non-Muslims

TEHRAN, Apr. 12 (MNA) – Stating that Islamicity Indices are truly a useful instrument, Prof. Askari believes Islam has said all that modern economics recommends but much more for a flourishing society, economic system, and institutions.

"Islamicity Indices are truly a useful instrument. They can encourage reform in Muslim countries. They also provide a simple instrument to explain Islamic teachings to both Muslims and non-Muslims. What Islam besides its mechanical demands. And in the process, they provide a ray of hope for illuminating the real meaning of Islam to non-Muslims and unifying our divided world," said Professor Hossein Askari, a scholar of economic development in the Middle East and in Islam and the founder of Islamicity Indices in an interview with Mehr News Agency. 

Following is the full text of the interview with him:

How would you summarize the general state of Muslim countries around the world?

Sad. Most of the world has prospered and moved on over the last 50 years but the Muslim world has lagged in almost every way—in economic prosperity, education, healthcare, social justice, freedom, political participation and plagued by corruption. There are internal conflicts in many Muslim countries as well as Muslim countries squaring off against one another in regional conflicts. Many Muslim countries are still in the grips of invisible colonialism and subservience to others, while most leaders dare not stand up when Muslims are mistreated in powerful countries in fear of repercussions. In sum, Muslim countries are in the grips of a crisis from which there is little hope of escape if they continue as they have been doing. They are in dire need of transformative reforms. 

What you have said paints a dismal picture. So what foundational reforms are needed in Muslim countries to enhance their economic and social progress?

Countries prosper when they establish effective institutions. Effective institutions promote trust, moral behavior, cooperation, hard work and self-improvementCountries prosper when they establish effective institutions. Effective institutions promote trust, moral behavior, cooperation, hard work and self-improvement. These in turn support prosperity and progress. The most important institution is the rule of law—everyone equal in front of the law, treated equally and without bias. The rule of law goes a long way in promoting better human behavior. Hope conquers resentment and promotes trust and cooperation. The rule of law creates an environment where an individual feels anything is possible with dedication and hard work, not for a privileged few but for all. It is the magical potion for positive change.

Next, establishing the proper framework for what is allowed and what is prohibited, monitoring it and enforcing it. That is the rules of the game. What can individuals and companies do and what they cannot. Establishing the needed guardrails to protect society and all its members from harm and exploitation. A responsible government would also set out forward-looking and economic programs, such as availability of quality education for all, first-class infrastructure, and consistent monetary and fiscal policies.

Invariably, there is a need for institutions that protect the vulnerable. That is a social safety net. Everyone should have the minimum for a dignified life. This does not discourage hard work but protects those who cannot care for themselves.

Finally, I must add the absolute need for freedom for everyone to pursue their dreams. None of this would lead to much unless there is individual freedom to pursue one’s calling in life.

If all of this is done, a country would bloom and blossom. Such a foundation is what modern economics advises. Effective institutions plus freedom are the magical potions for success. Within 20 years you would not recognize a country that adopted such a vision. Unfortunately, most countries are too timid and will not stick it out for the few years needed.

Can these reforms be done on a piecemeal basis or are they best adopted in combination and as a whole?

Reforms have a synergy. You should not adopt them one at a time with long lags in between. If you do, then you will not get the hoped-for results. So yes, you want to adopt reforms simultaneously. Islamic teachings provide a roadmap for such a journey and for its success.

How can Islamic teachings help in this quest?

Islam has a lot to say about the ideal economic system and its institutions. Islam says all that modern economics recommendsIt may surprise some of your readers but Islam has a lot to say about the ideal economic system and its institutions. In fact, I would add that Islam says all that modern economics and its experts like Adam Smith recommend but much more for a flourishing society, economic system and its institutions and all of this with morality and justice as scaffolding. I will not repeat what is readily available. Professor Abbas Mirakhor, from whom I have learned much about Islam, and I wrote a book—Ideal Islamic Economy—that says a great deal about this subject. Later, I tried to capture these teachings in numbers in what I have called Islamicity Indices in another book co-authored with Hossein Mohammadkhan and Liza Mydin—Reformation and Development in the Muslim World: Islamicity Indices as Benchmark—that explains Islamicity Indices as the instrument for assessing how closely a country follows Islamic teachings and monitoring the country’s successes and failures. These indices can help in much-needed reforms.

What are Islamicity Indices?

The goal of these indices is to paint a panorama of how a country would look if the people and government adopted the institutions and practices recommended in IslamThese are four basic indices that are based on teachings from the holy Qur’an—Economy, Legal and Governance, Human and Political Rights, International Relations—and these are combined to form a fifth Overall Islamicity Index. The goal of these indices is to paint a panorama of how a country would look if the people and government adopted the institutions and practices recommended in Islam. These indices tell us what a Muslim community that follows Islamic teachings would look to an observer. The indices are constructed in this way so that Muslim and non-Muslim countries can be compared. In this way, we can see which countries have knowingly or unknowingly followed this principle and what has been the result or outcome.

How can Islamic Indices help?

Recall what we are asking is what reforms does a country need. These are reforms that would be in line with what Islam preaches. So in each of these four indices, we can see where a country is succeeding and where it is failing. In each index, while we may focus on one number, the index has many components or teachings and thus there is much more detail available. So a country can see what it needs to do in order to do better. Then this can be monitored from year to year to assess its progress and where policies have succeeded and where they have failed. Broadly speaking, in a rule-abiding Muslim community there must be freedom, no poverty alongside wealth, accountability of rulers and governments and socio-economic justice. It is crucial to note that in most Muslim countries sustained and meaningful change will come in an Islamic context. It is for this reason that prevailing conditions and progress should be assessed in an Islamic context. 

What do your Indices show? Which countries appear to follow these teachings?

Islamicity Indices are truly a useful instrument. They provide a simple instrument to explain Islamic teachings to both Muslims and non-MuslimsWe have estimated these indices beginning in the year 2000. The results are pretty consistent over time. For the latest year, 2019, the top ten countries, that is countries that have adopted the institutions recommended in Islam are: New Zealand, Sweden, Iceland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Luxembourg and Australia. These are generally regarded as successful and peaceful countries. Sadly, Muslim countries are way down the list. You can see the details and much more by going onto our website: IslamicityIndices.Org.

Are you hopeful that positive change can be achieved and what is the role of individual Muslims in this?

All I can do is hope and pray. Muslims must learn more about their religion. Debate its meaning for their lives and their country. And demand their governments to adopt the needed reforms. And see each year how they have performed and try to do better in following years.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Yes. Islamicity Indices are truly a useful instrument. They can encourage reform in Muslim countries. They also provide a simple instrument to explain Islamic teachings to both Muslims and non-Muslims. What Islam besides its mechanical demands. And in the process, they provide a ray of hope for illuminating the real meaning of Islam to non-Muslims and unifying our divided world. Thank you for this opportunity and for your questions.

Interview by Zahra Mirzafarjouyan

News Code 171988

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