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Hussain, Rizwan . "Socialism and Islam." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 20, 2022. <>.


Hussain, Rizwan . "Socialism and Islam." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 20, 2022).

Socialism and Islam

The debate about the compatibility of Islamic principles with those of socialism—that is, the system of social organization that calls for public ownership and control of wealth distribution and property—reaches back to the nineteenth century. The twentieth-century interest in reconciling socialist philosophy with Islamic injunctions regarding social equity and the redistribution of wealth was in part a reflection of political trends and in part a reflection of the strength of socialist and communist (Marxist) parties in Western Europe, the global influence of the now-defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and the Maoist socialist experiment in China (1949–1978), all of which served as socialist models that many in the Islamic world imitated in an attempt to redress gross social and economic disparities. Although Islamic and socialist principles have often been seen as reinforcing one another, they have also been viewed as conflicting. In either case, both schools of thought have individually and collectively exerted major influences on the political and spiritual direction of the Islamic world.

Islam and socialist philosophy have certain commonalities. Both are universalist and, in principle, appeal to all mankind. Both oppose racism and the supposition of any inherent inequality between human groups. Islam, like socialism, emphasises the objectives of social justice and the eradication of gross economic disparities. Justice and fairness play a key role in Islamic theology, and charity (zakāt), the obligation to spend a fixed proportion of wealth on the poor, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Islamic sharīʿah explicitly prohibits ribā (interest), an inherent feature of the capitalist accumulation process.

Some Islamic scholars trace the socialist elements in Islam to the Prophet Muḥammad and his immediate companions. Muḥammad is seen as symbol of austerity, truthfulness, generosity, and simplicity in living. He condemned excessive wealth, especially for its tendency to inspire men to pride and turn them away from God. He embodied the principles of social justice in his life and implemented them in practice in Medina. Nonetheless, Islam does recognize the right to private property and the legitimacy of markets and in fact extols the virtues of trade and commerce. Muḥammad himself was a caravan trader before the announcement of his prophethood. Thus, many Islamic economists perceive Islam as being more aligned with capitalism than socialism. However, many modern Muslim writers see a lack of balance and moderation in capitalism. They perceive capitalism as extreme and believe that its emphasis on the rights of individual ownership and freedom of enterprise have caused suffering and privation for those who own little, and that is emphasis on self-interest and the profit motive have resulted in a society devoid of human character, brotherhood, sympathy, and cooperation. Nevertheless, most contemporary Islamists have rejected Marxist-oriented socialism as extreme and contrary to human nature. They tend to tilt toward a mixed economy with an emphasis on redressing social and economic disparities.

Socialist Philosophy in Islamic Thought.

Socialist philosophy and practice, though generally considered to be of European origin, have roots in the Arab Middle East. One of the earliest references to socialism can be found in the writings of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī (1838–1897), one of the most celebrated Islamic reformers of the late nineteenth century. Al-Afghānī located the concept of ishtirākīyah (socialism) in pre-Islamic Arabian Bedouin traditions. The framers of the initial Islamic state in the seventh century, according to al-Afghānī, adopted these traditions as the structural basis from which to organize and regulate society. Al-Afghānī contended that socialism was an indigenous Arab doctrine, which explained the Muslim community's historic commitment to the welfare of all its inhabitants.

In the twentieth century, the 1917 October Revolution in Russia also initially gave impetus to the concept of Islamic socialism. The Bolsheviks (the majority faction of the Russian Communist Party) went to great lengths to try to develop indigenous national leaderships of the Soviets (workers’ committees) in the newly formed autonomous states of Muslim Central Asia and Caucasus. Their policies included establishing the Muslim Commissariat (Muskom), the leadership of which was largely made up of non-Bolshevik Muslims. There was serious discussion amongst Russian Muslims of the similarity of Islamic values to socialist principles in the immediate aftermath of the 1917 revolution. Popular slogans of the time included “Long live Soviet Power, long live the sharīʿah!” and “Religion, freedom, and national independence!” The Bolshevik supporters of “Islamic socialism” appealed to Muslims to set up Soviets. However, the coming to power of Josef Stalin in the mid-1920s led to an increasingly repressive policy against Islam in the Soviet Union.

In the wider Middle East, among the first and most prominent socialist thinkers was the Egyptian Salāmah Mūsā (1887–1958), whose long career as an advocate for social justice began while he was a student in England in the early 1900s. In 1913, on his return to Egypt, he published his groundbreaking essay Al-ishtirākīyah (Socialism), a work that introduced the socialist theme to a generation of Arab intellectuals and activists interested in reformist strategies for modernization and development. Deeply influenced by British Fabian socialist thought, Mūsā published some fifty books on social, economic, and philosophical subjects, which were widely read and profoundly respected.

Mūsā also engaged in political organization, and in 1920, he participated in the formation of the short-lived Egyptian Socialist Party, which was recast as the Egyptian Communist Party in 1923 and guided by Marxist ideology. Objecting to the radical ideas of the recast party, Mūsā and others of his reformist philosophical inclination dropped out of organized oppositional activity. The Communist Party had marginalized Fabian socialists, who no longer had an organization in which to operate.

In Egypt, secular socialists had organized both legally and clandestinely since World War I, but Islamic reformers did not begin articulating religiously based ideas of social justice until the 1930s and 1940s. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, founded in 1928, did not adhere to socialist ideology, but throughout its existence, it has interacted, often in a confrontational manner, with both secular and religious socialists. Philosophically, the Brotherhood embraced the vision of the nineteenth century Islamic revivalist movement, which supported the establishment of an Islamic system of government based on the Qurʿān and the sunnah of the Prophet. The organization opposed the Western penetration of the Islamic world, including socialist thought, which it understood as another form of colonial ideology imposed on Muslim society.

Islam and Socialist Reform.

Ḥasan al-Bannā (1906–1949), supreme guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and others represented a new generation of nationalists who had lost faith in the prevailing liberal, economic, and Western model of development. Calling for national independence, socioeconomic modernization, and Islamic social justice, they advocated society's rebirth through the affirmation of religiously inspired concepts. Asserting Islam's universality and its commitment to comprehensive human and economic justice, Islamic reformers went back to the Qurʿān itself for confirmation of the faith's spiritual and material compatibility with social progress. Identifying relevant passages from the Holy Book and examples from the Prophet Muḥammad's life, Islamic thinkers maintained that religious doctrine not only contained prescriptions for the relationship between a believer and the Lord, but also mandated how a society should organize itself and how its people should be ministered to. The Muslim Brotherhood's ideologues went back to the time of the Prophet and his immediate successors in order to produce an appropriate paradigm.


In the post–World War II period, Islamic socialism (a phrase sometimes used interchangeably with Arab socialism) took root in the Middle East and North Africa. Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, and South Yemen separately and at different times have subscribed to variations of Islamic socialism, anticolonialism, and nationalism. However, it was Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970) who first capitalized on the intersection between Islam and socialism and used it to consolidate and then to protect his regime. Nasser's socialist revolution, carried out by junior-level military officers in 1952, paid tribute to the writings of progressive Islamic intellectuals in Egypt. In particular, Shaykh Khālid Muḥammad Khālid (b. 1920), in his book Min hunā nabdaʿ (From Here We Start), argued that socialism was sanctioned by Islam and was necessary as an alternative to capitalist economic development in the country. Although Khālid's ideas were derived from the European social democratic movement, his interpretation of modern Egypt was firmly grounded in the conditions of the time: British colonial control, economic backwardness, and moral bankruptcy. Egypt, he contended, would not develop spiritually or economically until it improved the lives of its people and provided them with the decent treatment and justice stipulated by the Qurʿān. Khālid believed that the revolution of 1952 could be the beginning of meaningful societal development and Islamic spiritual growth.

A critic of mainstream Islam as taught and practiced at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Khālid argued that the religion of the priesthood was a religion of reaction that strengthened the position of the wealthy and excused the poverty of the majority. For him, true Islam was compassionate, fair, and grounded in a commitment to economic justice.

One of the most influential theorists of the Nasser period was Muṣṭafā al-Sibāʿī (1915–1964), dean of the Faculty of Islamic Jurisprudence and the School of Law at the University of Damascus and head of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (known as the Islamic Socialist Front) between 1945 and 1961. An ally of Nasser, al-Sibāʿī dissolved the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1958 when all Syrian political parties and organizations were abolished in preparation for the establishment of the United Arab Republic comprising Egypt and Syria.

In 1959, al-Sibāʿī published Ishtirākīyat al-Islām (The Socialism of Islam), in which he argued that socialism and Islam were not only compatible, but that the adoption of socialism must be society's goal. According to al-Sibāʿī, socialism was more important than the nationalization of property, more significant than progressive taxation, and more meaningful than setting a limit on personal ownership; socialism as a developmental tool was a means by which society could prosper and mature. Moreover, it was a guarantor against human exploitation and an instrument to be used by the state to supervise economic development. Socialism was al-Sibāʿī's formula for eliminating poverty and for allowing individuals to achieve their potential. Asserting that it protected the right of ownership, al-Sibāʿī defined Islam as less rigid than communism. In fact, Islamic socialism is different from so-called scientific socialism or communism in that it allows for the private ownership of the means of production and appropriates property only when its advocates deem property-owners to be exploitative. Islamic socialism allows the public sector to exist side by side with the private sector and advocates harmonious relations between social groups, not class warfare. Different occupational groupings are allowed to exist and to constitute a division of labor in society, but these groups are envisioned as cooperative and not adversarial.

The basis of social solidarity in the Islamic socialist model was, according to al-Sibāʿī, al-takāful al-ijtimāʿī, or a combination of equality, justice, mutuality, and responsibility. When socialist society achieves its goals, he maintained, it will be free of conflict, basing itself on moral principles and collectivism.

Al-Sibāʿī asserted that Islamic socialism rested on five pillars: the right to live protected and healthy; the right to liberty; the right to knowledge; the right to dignity; and the qualified right to property. He stressed that Islam recognized a person's desire to create and amass wealth and to own property. Although al-Sibāʿī believed in the social obligations connected to affluence, such as zakāt (giving alms), he also argued that these obligations did not constitute socialism. He was emphatic in his belief that the only way to eliminate hunger, disease, and injustice was through national legislation backed up by the authority of the state. Economic and social development would not be accomplished by means of charity alone. Al-Sibāʿī's ideas were embraced by Nasser and used to defend the Egyptian regime. The National Charter of 1962 was Nasser's attempt to merge nationalism, socialism, and Islam.

Although al-Sibāʿī played a vital role in providing the intellectual justification for Islamic socialism, not all Islamic thinkers or activists agreed with his approach. Sayyid Quṭb (1906–1966), for example, the major ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt in the Nasser period, denounced the term “Islamic socialism,” believing that Islam alone provided for human and economic justice, moral and spiritual values, and equality. Quṭb held that Islam provided the only solution to the social, economic, national, and moral problems created both by capitalism and communism.

For Quṭb, there were only two ideological paths a society could follow: the Islamic route, or the one he called jāhilīyah (pre-Islamic ignorance). Quṭb contended that capitalism, socialism, and communism were similarly part of jāhilīyah and could never be reconciled with Islam. Islam, on the contrary, was just and would satisfy all human needs. Quṭb's opposition to Nasser's socialism and his militant writings made him an enemy of the regime. He was imprisoned for many years and finally executed in 1966.

The creation of an Islamic state based on sharīʿah (the divine law) was an imperative for Quṭb; any other type of society was illegitimate. In the many books he wrote on Islam, Quṭb argued that all Muslims should give of themselves completely in the effort to achieve the true Islamic society.

Syria and Iraq.

Outside Egypt, Baʿthists in both Syria and Iraq adopted the broad features of Islamic socialism. Baʿthist ideology has been consistently anticolonialist, pan-Arabist, and interventionist in social legislation in the areas of health, education, and workers’ rights. It has supported the nationalization of basic industries, banks, and foreign trade and boasted a planned economy. According to Michel Aflaq (1910–1989) and Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn al-Bayṭār (1912–1980), Syrian political thinkers and philosophers, Baʿthist ideology celebrates Arab culture and the historical experiences of the prophet Muḥammad. In principle, Baʿthism rejects religious intolerance and promises the greatest human and societal freedom. However, there were differences between the Syrian and Iraqi Baʿthist regimes. The Syrian Baʿth government under PresidentHafez al-Assad (1970–2000) and later his successor Bashar al-Assad (2000–) was less authoritarian and its program more socialistic. In contrast, Iraq, under the regime of President Saddam Hussein (1937–2006) represented more despotic and authoritarian tendencies with a less pronounced application of socialism in the economy. Nevertheless, application of socialist principles both in Iraq (1963–2003) and Syria (1970–present) lifted literacy levels, improved health care, and reduced absolute poverty levels.


Consistent with the major revolutionary changes in the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s, Libya, too, witnessed dramatic upheaval. In 1969, Colonel Muʿammar al-Qadhdhāfī (b. 1942) and a group of young army officers overthrew the monarchy of King Idrīs and established a radically new society based on pan-Arabism, socialism, and Islam.

Qadhdhāfī followed the revolutionary and ideological model set by his mentor, Nasser, and embraced the latter's commitment to Arab unity, economic equality, and anti-imperialism. However, Qadhdhāfī went beyond Nasser and placed his idiosyncratic stamp on Libya by the Islamization of social life. In particular, Qadhdhāfī prohibited gambling, nightclubs, and the use of alcohol in an effort to improve public morality. He also introduced Islamic punishments for such crimes as theft, adultery, and usury.

Qadhdhāfī codified his ideas in a three-volume work entitled The Green Book. In the first volume, The Solution to the Problem of Democracy, published in 1975, Qadhdhāfī outlined his Third International Theory (also known as The Third Way), which he conceived as an alternative to both capitalism and communism. In The Green Book, Qadhdhāfī excoriated both Western colonialism and Soviet domination, arguing that foreign influences have contaminated Muslim societies and led the believers astray morally and theologically.

As a means to resist imperialist forces, Qadhdhāfī produced a doctrine whose inspiration was the Qurʿān and whose natural constituency was to be Muslims and anticolonialists throughout the Middle East and the Third World. In the teachings of the Qurʿān, he suggested, solutions could be found to all problems of humanity—ranging from personal matters to international relations. For Qadhdhāfī, the application of the Islamic socialist and democratic model would prevent both foreign and domestic exploitation and would lead to the creation of a just society.

The Green Book was written not as a religious text but as a provocative and inspirational pamphlet, accessible to a wide audience. Its influence spread far beyond the borders of Libya into the rest of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Third World.

North Africa.

Islam also informed national liberation movements in other parts of the Maghrib (known as the Arab West or North Africa), and after the triumph of nationalism, the new regimes tried to implement socialist- oriented economic development. A proliferation of independence movements grew up in reaction to the harsh colonial policies of the French, who had gained control over most of the area in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. North African Arabs and Berbers resented France's sustained attempts to eradicate local political traditions and to undermine indigenous leaders. Like other colonized peoples at this time, they suffered humiliation in the face of France's prejudicial attitudes, its contempt for local religious customs, and its rejection of indigenous culture. For North Africans, a particularly sore spot was the requirement that French be used as the official language.

In the post–World War I period, Islamic reformers in the Maghrib were few. They exerted influence, however, when they merged with nationalists who commanded large popular followings. Despite an orientation fundamentally different from secular nationalists, they maintained their focus on the Arab-Islamic heritage, which proved able to unite otherwise disparate political and tribal forces. Islam, in fact, contributed to the identity of the nationalist movement and helped it to triumph over the colonial power. The longest and bloodiest battle for national liberation was waged in Algeria, where colonization lasted from 1847 to 1962. The French strove to impose their culture on the Algerians, and in this crusade hoped to destroy Islam through the systematic closing of Qurʿānic schools and madrasahs (high schools) and by converting mosques into churches. A young generation of educated reformers and nationalists emerged in self-defense, appropriating Islam and using it as a unifying force in society. The reformers argued that Islam was compatible with the modern world and that Algerians would be best served by adapting Islam to their political and social struggles. Islam became an especially important component of the liberation struggle waged by Algerian nationalists. The Algerian Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), the principle Algerian party fighting against French colonial rule, also imbibed socialist philosophy and stressed its compatibility with Islam. The FLN introduced a semi-socialist program after achieving its goal of ousting the French from Algeria in 1962.

In Tunisia, where the French had been the colonial masters from 1881 until formal independence in 1956, recognition of an Arab-Islamic heritage grew in the post-independence period. Tunisia tried to recast its national identity and image under Habib Bourguiba (1903–2000), leader of the Neo-Destour Party (renamed in 1959 as the Socialist Destour Party) and head of the one-party state until his removal in 1987.

Influenced by the writings of al-Afghānī and Muḥammad ʿAbduh (1849–1905), leaders of the Arab East's Salafīyah movement, Maghrib reformers emphasized the importance of their Islamic heritage. In analyzing their society, they were not only critical of the French, but also denounced local Ṣūfī leaders who were seen as reactionary and complicit with the foreign occupation. Reformers also stressed the importance of understanding the modern world from a religious as well as scientific perspective and appealed for a renaissance in Islamic learning.

Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan.

Inspired by the socialist experiment of the Soviet Union, many lower-middle-class and middle-class segments of populations in extremely underdeveloped Muslim states such as Afghanistan and Yemen formed Marxist-oriented parties in the 1960s. In South Asia, Afghanistan's tiny group of Marxists seized power in 1978 and proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) under Soviet tutelage. The leaders of the DRA emphasized the similarity between Islam and socialism and retained Islam as the state religion. The DRA disintegrated in the late 1980s with the impending collapse of the U.S.S.R. In the Arabian peninsula, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) or South Yemen, formed in the early 1970s, remained the only Arab state with a pro-Marxist regime aligned with the U.S.S.R. in the Cold War. However, in 1990, the PDRY was dissolved, and South Yemen reunited with North Yemen to form the united Yemen Arab Republic.

In the Indian subcontinent, Islamic intellectuals like Muhammad Iqbal (1876–1938) tried to find a modus vivendi between the precepts of Islamic sharīʿah and socialism. Iqbal perceived Islam as compatible with socialism. In his well-known Urdu poem Karl Marx key Awaz (the voice of Karl Marx), he has Marx assailing European economists who intentionally conceal the predatory structure of capitalism and imperialism. The issue of the compatibility of Islam with socialism gained prominence in Pakistan in the late 1960s with the rising popularity of Zulfiqar ʿAli Bhutto's (1929–1977) Pakistan People's Party (PPP). The PPP challenged the U.S.-sponsored military dictatorship of General Muhammed Ayub Khan and denounced the Ayub regime's capitalist economic development model, which had created huge disparities in wealth in Pakistani society. The PPP's “leftist” ideology was not committed to any radical interpretation of Marxism, but it emphasized Islamic egalitarianism. The Interim Constitution of the Party spelt out its four-fold motto: Islam is our faith; democracy is our polity; socialism is our economy; all power to the people. After assuming power in 1971, the Bhutto regime implemented its policy of Islamic socialism in a very selective manner. The implementation of “Islamic socialism” in the Pakistani context implied land reforms, labor reforms, and the nationalization of industries, financial institutions, and the education and health sectors.

Even before the 1970s, a decade that had seen the rise of radical Shīʿī Islam in the Middle East, prominent Shīʿī scholars and intellectuals had reacted to the growing influence of Marxist thought on Islamic intellectuals. The Iraqi scholar Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ṣadr, in his 1950s work Iqtisādunā (Our Economics), had provided the most important Islamic critique of Marxist thinking. Writing in an environment in which communist parties in the Arab world were gaining ground, al-Ṣadr tried to demonstrate the incompatibility of both Marxism and capitalism with Islam. Al-Ṣadr, although rejecting the basic assumptions of Marxist analysis, notably the materialistic interpretation of history and social relations, denounced capitalism. He saw the exploitation involved in capital accumulation as socially unjust.


Socialist tendencies were also reflected in the movement that challenged the Iranian monarchy in the late 1970s. A section of the Iranian oppositional movement in the 1960s and 1970s, whose goal was to oust Muhammad Reza Shah from power, also linked Islam with change. Jalāl Āl Ahmad (Jalal Al-e Ahmad), who had been a secular intellectual with connections to the Iranian Communist (Tudeh) Party, called for reshaping the nation's purpose, identity, and destiny. In his highly acclaimed work Gharb-zadegī (Westoxification), published in 1962, he decried the westernization of Iranian society, with its destructive glorification of foreign culture and its resulting surrender of true national identity. Jalāl Āl Ahmad came to believe that Islam could inspire the mass of Iranian society to rise up against the shah's rule. His theme of Islam and socialism motivated many to reflect on their society and take action against the status quo. In the Iranian Revolution of 1978, the working class played an important role in the movement, which overthrew the U.S.-backed monarchy. However, the Tudeh Party and other socialist groups failed to garner sufficient support within the working class to counter the right-wing political Islamist groups that had consolidated their hold on power after the fall of the monarchy in 1979. The Tudeh Party was the largest left-wing force in Iran, but it did not pursue an independent working-class policy. Instead, its leading theoreticians, such as Ehsan Tabari, consistently tried at great length to stress the essential compatibility of Islam and the principles of socialism. Tabari observed that the Prophet Muḥammad had struggled against the wealthy classes and usurers and that Islam reflected the voice of the oppressed and the poor against the “exploiters.” Nevertheless, the clergy-dominated regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah al-Musavi Khomeini ruthlessly suppressed the Tudeh party in the 1980s.

Among the intellectuals and activists who shared an Islamic vision of change in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s were Mehdi Bazargan (1907–1995), who became the provisional prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, ʿAlī Sharīʿatī (1933–1977), and Khomeini (1902–1989).

ʿAlī Sharīʿatī's influence on Iranian society in the 1970s, particularly among the students and young people who read his work, took his classes, and listened to the provocative lectures he delivered, was profound. His followers were galvanized by his stirring calls for social justice and Islamic revivalism. He popularized the ascetic companion of the Prophet Muḥammad, Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, as the ideal Muslim. Abū Dharr is considered an early “Islamic socialist” and is known for his simple lifestyle and his honesty and virtuosity.

Sharīʿatī was influenced not only by original religious texts but also by the interpretive works of al-Afghānī and the Indian Islamic poet and intellectual Muhammad Iqbal. He drew also from the corpus of revolutionary theory articulated by such Third World activists as Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara. Calling for a renaissance in the Islamic community, Sharīʿatī advocated modernization and scientific change informed by Iranian culture and Muslim religious tradition. Sharīʿatī's teachings were anathema to the shah, who imprisoned him. Sharīʿatī was eventually allowed to travel to England, where he died under suspicious circumstances. Mehdi Bazargan, in contrast, appealed to a different audience consisting mainly of merchants, civil servants, and other members of the middle class. He popularized a modernized view of Islam that incorporated the themes of justice, science, and faith. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini capitalized on the prevailing revolutionary spirit that had been produced by intellectuals like Jalāl Āl Ahmad, Mehdi Bazargan, and ʿAlī Sharīʿatī and established the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Ayatollah's initial pronouncements indicated that the new Islamic regime would address the glaring social and economic inequities of Iranian society.

Decline of Islamic Socialist Movements.

The synthesis of socialist thought with Islamic theology has been complex and irregular. Although often in conflict, the schools of thought have sometimes mutually informed one another. Politically, Islamic thinking has vitalized nationalist movements, although the independent governments produced by such movements have regularly relied on socialist principles for the structuring of society. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the subsequent decline of the socialist alternative have undermined socialist-oriented movements throughout the Islamic world. Baʿthist socialism survived in Syria and until 2003 in Iraq, but any ideological fervor linked with the socialist ideology has disappeared in the wake of the pragmatic realities of globalization and the ascendency of the liberal neoclassical economic model in the developing world. Moreover, in the Islamic world, Islamic parties and groups have become more interested in implementing orthodox sharīʿah without much reference to ijtihād (independent reasoning), as exemplified in the earlier Muslim intellectual tradition of the mid-twentieth century.

In addition, the post–9/11 western interventions in the Muslim world—especially the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan—have led Islamic scholars to concentrate more on challenging western interference in Muslim societies than on developing a sound Islamic socioeconomic model as a counter to the dominant free market paradigm. Even states claiming to be “Islamic,” such as Iran, have gradually deemphasised Islamic egalitarianism while uncritically introducing privatization and neoliberal economic concepts under the guise of “Islamic economics.” Nonetheless, the growing economic and social inequalities within the Muslim world will likely continue to foster debate about the compatibility of Islam and socialism.



Primary Sources

  • Al-e Ahmad, Jalal. Gharbzadegi: Weststruckness. Translated from the Persian by John Green and Ahmad Alizadeh. Lexington, Ky., 1982. Harsh critique of Western influences on Iranian civilization.
  • Al-e Ahmad, Jamal. Iranian Society. Edited by Michael C. Hillman. Lexington, 1982. Anthology of Al-e Ahmad's writings.
  • Mūsā, Salāmah. Al-ishtirākīyah (Socialism). Cairo, 1913. Famed work on socialist thought and practice.
  • Qadhdhāfī, Muammar al-. The Green Book. London, 1976.
  • Shariʿati, Ali. Marxism and Other Western Fallacies. Translated from the Persian by R. Campbell. Berkeley, 1980. Stirring discussion of Islamic accomplishments in twentieth century Iran, with a critique of leftist dogma.
  • Shariʿati, Ali. On the Sociology of Islam. Translated from the Persian by Hamid Algar. Berkeley, Calif., 1979.
  • Sibāʿī, Muṣṭafā al-. “Islamic Socialism.” In Political and Social Thought in the Contemporary Middle East, edited by Kemal Karpat, pp. 123–126. London, 1968.
  • Ṭaleqani, Mahmood. Islam and Ownership. Translated by Ahmad Jabari and Farhang Rajaee. Lexington, Ky., 1983.

Interpretive Works

  • Binder, Leonard. Islamic Liberalism. Chicago, 1988. Wide-ranging discussion of major “development ideologies” in the modern Islamic world.
  • Donohue, John J., and John L. Esposito, eds.Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives. New York, 1982. Translations of the works of selected Muslim thinkers and their responses to the challenges of modernity.
  • Esposito, John L.Islam and Politics. 4th ed. Syracuse, N.Y., 1998. Concise overview of Islamic thinkers and practitioners in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.
  • Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. “Sayyid Quṭb: Ideologue of Islamic Revival.” In Voices of Resurgent Islam, edited by John L. Esposito, pp. 67–98. New York and Oxford, 1983.
  • Keddie, Nikki R.Sayyid Famāl al-Dīn “al-Afghānī”: A Political Biography. Berkeley, 1972.
  • Rodney, Wilson. Economics, Ethics, and Religion: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Economic Though. New York, 1997. A comparative study of economic thought in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
  • Rodinson, Maxime. Islam and Capitalism. Translated by Brian Pearce. Austin, 1977. A detailed examination of Islam's compatibility with capitalism by a Marxist scholar.
  • Rodinson, Maxime. Marxism and the Muslim World. London, 1979. Provides an introduction to the impact of Marxist ideas on the Islamic world.
  • Said, Abdel Moghny. Arab Socialism. New York, 1972. Good description of the major socialist movements from a sympathetic perspective.
  • Tripp, Charles. Islam and the Moral Economy: The Challenge of Capitalism. New York, 2006. Provides a sound analysis of the challenges facing Islam in a globalized capitalist economy.

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