Contending with Capitalism: Fatwas and Neoliberal Ideology

Omer Awass


Neoliberal economic theorists posit that the economic sphere is to be differentiated from the social world and governed by its own rationality that is distinct from religious, ethical, social, or political considerations. My article explores how the issuance of fatwas in the contemporary Muslim world discursively compete with neoliberal capitalist ideology by embedding religious ethics in economic discourse.  First, I contextualize this analysis with a historical discussion on how the Muslim world was incorporated into the capitalist world-system, a process that peripheralized their established economic and cultural practices. Then, I examine the contemporary fatwas on commercial transactions that are issued by an international Muslim organization. My overall argument is that the Islamic moral economy proposes financial arrangements that represent alternatives to capitalist financial practices, which are the standard modes of operation in global financial institutions. Such practices pose a challenge to Muslim economic ethics and law, a challenge that Muslims are trying to negotiate using traditional legal practices such as the fatwa.


Capitalism; Colonialism; Embeddedness; Ethics; Finance; Law; Political Economy; World-Systems Theory

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