Resource Scarcity : Islamic Economics

The Qur’an informs us that God has stocked the Earth (and heavens) with his inexhaustible treasures to provide sustenance for all His creatures. But to draw from this, as Akram and others do, the inference that scarcity becomes non-existent for economics, secular or Islamic, is rather eristic, to put it mildly. The catch is in the failure to realize that the fact of existence of ample resources for human beings and others at all points in time and space is one thing, while their availability to individuals or groups at a given hour and location is quite another. It is not the existence per se, but the state of their availability that lends meaning to the idea of scarcity as a cornerstone stone of economics. The availability of resources is an increasing function of knowledge – knowledge of their existence, of the ways to extract or obtain them, of their uses and of their costs. The history of the march of human civilization is the history of human conquest of nature. It is the history, in essence, of pushing outward relentlessly the frontiers of scarcity through unceasing inventions and innovations in science, technology, and societal management.

 Scarcity, as explained above, is a part of divine scheme to spur humanity into action and to test people thereby; for the Qur’an not only talks of God’s bountiful resources but also informs us that He alone is the source of knowledge and that He gives it to those who seek only bit by bit, lest they become proud and arrogant. The proposition that scarcity of resources is just a human made phenomenon must be taken with a grain of salt. To regard scarcity as a mere disturbance factor in the ‘natural state of adequacy ….is neither correct nor necessary….Thus, resources remain limited because of the inadequacy of human knowledge despite God’s benevolence. Presumably, one can visualize Islamic economics as a study of human behavior concerning the use of scarce resources for satisfying multifarious wants in such a way as would maximize falah.

Hasan (1996) quoted in “Methodology of Economics – Secular vs Islamic” by Waleed J Addas

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