Re-Thinking Economics Part 5

Historical Figures

Of course it will be inappropriate for us to discuss Islam and economy without mentioning Prophet Yusuf (Joseph). He have a whole chapter describing his life from childhood to adulthood. More importantly, the Quran explicitly mentioned that he is in charge of a nation’s treasury. In other words, his role is similar to a finance minister.
Illuminated fragments of the Quran from the collection of Walters Art Museum

So, what kind of person is fit to be a finance minister? Abandoned by his half-brothers in a dry well, he was later sold into slavery by a passing caravan. He grew up to be a handsome man in the ruler’s household. But later he was sent to jail after refusing the ruler’s wife sexual advances.

In jail, he befriended two inmates. Both conveyed their respective dreams and Yusuf interpreted them. One will be executed while the other will be set free and serve the ruler. Both interpertation turns out to be true.

However, Yusuf languished for few more years in the prison. One day the ruler wake up troubled with his dream. However, none in the court are able to interpret it. So Yusuf’s former jailmate went to prison to ask him and later conveyed the meaning to the ruler.

Yusuf interpreted the dream that there will be seven years business as usual followed by seven years of hard time. Only after that there will be one year of abundance. Thus the nation have to stockpile accordingly.

Impressed with the interpertation, the ruler summoned Yusuf to court. He was subsequently cleared of the false charges and declared to be trustworthy. Yusuf then asserted that he should be in charge of the nation’s treasury as he is a skilled guardian.

In a different era, there’s Qarun — his story told among other stories in the chapter of al-Qasas. He is from the people of Moses. He didn’t jsut transform from rags to riches — he actually became mega rich. Simply transporting the keys to his warehouses requires several strong men to lift it.

However, Qarun becomes arrogant and claims that he attains his wealth through his knowledge alone. People admire him for his wealth and he went about in finery. God chided him saying that there are many richer people before him. In the end, Qarun and his wealth was swallowed whole into the earth.

We can see the contrast between these two figures. Yusuf manages a nation with divine guidance from God and the country becomes prosperous. Qarun hoarded riches using his knowledge and end up swallowed by the earth.

In the next article we’ll examine social safety mechanisms provided by Shariah-based economy system