[Marxism] Is Islam Compatible with Capitalism?

Adam Turl adamcturl at gmail.com
Thu Aug 4 14:28:34 MDT 2011

It really depends which interpretation of Islam you are talking about as
well and at what point in history. It is important to remember there are as
many theological points of view in Islam as there are in Christianity, and
like all religions these points of view are highly adaptable to both the
ruling strata's material interests and pressure from below. They therefore
evolve over time.

For example, early Islamic law provided a series of legal mechanisms to deal
with a booming trade and mercantilism in Arabia, laws that were not provided
for under the pre-Islamic tribal codes that undoubtedly frustrated Arab
merchants. However, early Islamic law also provided a code for providing for
the welfare of orphans, widows, etc. who were (if they were not taken care
of by their tribe) not provided for in pre-Islamic Arabia. Therefore Islam
could reflect (at least at that moment) the interests of both the wealthy
and the poor, helping to explain its rapid early expansion (before the wars
with Persia and Byzantium).

Many of the moral precepts of all religions--and Islam is no exception--are
"incompatible" with capitalism, but because religions operate in this world
and not the hereafter, they must as institutions become compatible (and
sometimes complicit) with this system--that is true of Christianity and
Islam, vestigial (and not infrequently ignored) rules on interest and so on

Rating one religion or another in terms of compatibility--at least
contemporary religion in contemporary capitalism--seems to discount the
complexity of religions within themselves over centuries and the
longstanding adaptation of all major world religions to the domination of
capitalism, in practice if not in theology.

In the wrong hands this kind of philosophical idealism can be used to
nefarious ends--as in the selection from the original neocon article that
was posted. In that article (or at least the selected bit), it is inferred
that the Western "invention" of capitalism arrises from Western culture (and
presumably Christianity) while Islam held capitalism back (and therefore
doomed the Middle East to relative backwardness).

Certainly ideological restraints on banking and so on play a role in this
history, but the key to understanding (imo) the rise of capitalism in Europe
(as opposed the the far far more advanced Ottoman and Chinese states) was
probably Europe's material backwardness and fractured political system which
created space for rise of increasingly unfettered mercantilism (which in the
Italian city-states was based on trade largely with the Ottoman Empire).

If religious precepts are the main thing, then we must suspect that from the
time of the Prophet until around the 15th century, Islam was superior to
Christianity--because the Arab world and the Middle East far surpassed
Europe in arts, science, wealth, philosophy, cosmopolitanism and often the
rule of law--only to be overtaken sometime in the 17th century when
Christianity took its place at the feet of the neocon's mysterious god.

Of course neocons are not interested in a rational discussion of the history
of Islam (or Christianity or any religion) they are interested in demonizing
Muslims as cover for far more "worldly" concerns.

On Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM, Tristan Sloughter <kungfooguru at gmail.com>wrote:

> ======================================================================
> Rule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
> ======================================================================
> I'd argue Islam is "less" compatible. Christianity for a while was
> incompatible with the move to capitalism as Christians were not allowed to
> loan to other Christians with any interest. Thus Christians relied on
> getting loans from Jews -- leading to obvious tensions between debtors and
> creditors...
> Islam also forbids interest but from people I know only some Muslims I've
> met (never Christians) still abide by this.
> As I started writing this I realized there is way to much to understand
> about the development of Islamic banking and economics... And as is usual
> with a religion's developments and splits in relation to the economics of
> the time everything changes and adapts. Islam has forms of capitalism and
> socialism. Just like Christians do. Catholic priests can vary from far
> right
> capitalists to far Left communists. Its very intriguing, but also expected.
> "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why are
> they
> poor, they call me a communist." - Archbishop Helder Camara
> Tristan
> ________________________________________________
> Send list submissions to: Marxism at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
> Set your options at:
> http://greenhouse.economics.utah.edu/mailman/options/marxism/adamcturl%40gmail.com

More information about the Marxism mailing list