Ethics in Business – A Conversation With Professor Tariq Ramadan

Reading Time: 12 minutes
Firoz1
By Firoz Abdul Hamid

Socrates was known for his quest for genuine knowledge and careful reasoning. He cared very little for mere victory over an opponent. This could not have been better demonstrated by his piercing and insightful exchange with the supercilious Euthyphro on the subject of piety.  When the young Euthyphro was prosecuting his own father in the courts based on his own conviction of ethical rectitude, Socrates confronts Euthyphro on the whole definition of piety.

In what is now a well documented exchange, Socrates would pose to Euthyphro this, “Is the pious by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” The exchange between Euthyphro and Socrates brought forth the whole theological and philosophical reasoning of, “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it merely morally good because it is commanded by God?”

Is the show of piety a culmination of a list of actions or do the actions in and of themselves exude piety? The depth of this questioning not only brings forth the full force of Socrates’ critical thinking, but more forcibly rummages our souls, the souls of our companies and institutions not least that of our nations on what is ethical and what is morally right in all that we claim to do in the name of business, in the name of politics and in the name of the people and of existence itself.

Are we here for a purpose? If so what is that purpose, and who should that purpose serve, and to what end?  Who sets the standards to this purpose(s)? Who does of its benchmarks and who is the ultimate judge of this purpose?

In the face of such challenges like should Malaysia sign into the Trans Pan Pacific Agreement with the USA, the alleged public information surveillance by the National Security Agency in the USA, the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh which cost scores of innocent lives of the poor and not to mention the collapse of the poultry farm in China which killed some 100 people, one cant but ask – have we stopped searching our souls on what really is ethical and by whose standards are those ethics being applied? Is this planet so hungry to fulfil a definition of PROGRESS at the expense of lives and this planet? Do we even know what progress is anymore?

Even as the UK makes strides towards capturing the issues in the financial industry by announcing the banking bill, we see dissatisfaction on the streets of Istanbul and Brazil. Surely we cannot have peaked the Maslow pyramid of self actualisation as a civilisation, when in a developed country like France a pregnant woman can be attacked causing the loss of her child just because of her belief?. This at a time when there is continued heart wrenching human tragedies in places like Syria, Palestine and amongst the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Alas, everyone is fighting for something. Most, when asked, would confess that we are all fighting to be free of some kind of enslavement – be that material or emotional or physical or all of the above. Professor Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University once quoted, “Freedom is to do what is right, not what everyone else is doing”.

Against this backdrop, the conversation with Professor Ramadan touched on the whole notion of ethics across the many facets that affect us as humanity – what it really means to business and policy making, to media  and legislation. In addition to his many social work, Professor Ramadan is also actively working to inculcate ethics through his new Project, Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics in Doha (www.cilecenter.org). Perhaps his work can be best summarised in this statement, “No one must ever let power or social, economic, or political interest turn him or her away from other human beings, from the attention they deserve and the respect they are entitled to. Nothing must ever lead a person to compromise this principle or faith in favour of a political strategy aimed at saving or protecting a community from some peril. The freely offered, sincere heart of a poor, powerless individual is worth a thousand times more in the sight of God than the assiduously courted, self-interested heart of a rich one.”

When the lights of temptation, suspicion, competition, money, status, greed and many such malice shine upon us all, one can’t but fall back on what Aristotle said about his teacher Plato when he differed with his point of view, “Plato is my friend, but truth is a better friend”. In the final analysis, our very existence will be obituarised by how true we were to pursuing real truth in spite of ourselves!

 

Tariq Rahman3Professor Tariq Ramadan

“Understanding your own ignorance is the start of Knowledge and Humility.”

1. Ethics and competitiveness – In a world where countries are fighting to remain competitive and businesses are racing to meet shareholders’ expectations, ROE and ROI, what is your understanding of instituting ethics in business – from an Islamic and Universal perspective

From an Islamic perspective to start with – What is ethics and what is applied ethics? Applied ethics is to question the goals of what we are doing. So, in business as in any other types of activities, we always have to question what are the goals and the ends of our activities.

And in Islam, the first main goal is just to please God and to respect the principles and respect the rules but also respect the objectives. This is what we have to do. And it means not to control the substance of business by ethics but to direct the goals of our way of dealing with business in the light of Islamic Ethics.

And in fact what we have now which is the Global Ethics – which we are talking about here – is that the world is coming back to this for two reasons – first because we are facing in business, and in commerce or trade or even in the world today,   limits that if we dot respect some principles we are going to destroy the world and even act against our own interest as human beings. So you have a way to come back to ethics because of the way we are treating the world, the universe and even our fellow human beings. In the world of business now we are losing dignity, we are losing justice, we are treating people as ends not as means which is also something which is essential here. The second once again which is not specifically Islamic but is in the global ethics is –  we are dealing with ethics because of principles which is coming from different traditions, moral, secular or religious ethics and we find that we have things in common. So universal (global) ethics can be based on principles or based on facing challenges of our times.

2. How to implement ethics – How can business and policy makers (in Muslim and non-Muslim countries) institute global ethics? How can universal ethics be instituted across creeds, traditions, cultures and religions and who is driving this globally?

I think there are two ways of doing this. The first of course is to deal with the creeds, traditions and sources that people are relying on. For example you can’t come to a global culture or global business or global commerce or global trade without understanding that at the end of the day we are dealing with human beings, in a specific region, in a specific country. We should not only rely on GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to assess success but also on well being, on happiness, on something that we know in the Islamic tradition which is maslahah (the public and common interest) We need to rely on this. This is essential.

The Japanese know this well. When the people feel good they are more efficient. Feeling and efficiency are important. Feeling in cultural terms are based on feeling good about your beliefs, feeling good with your principles, feeling good with your cultural traditions. So this is one side.

The other side is, another way to convince them is – just look at the world today and you need to deal with nature, the environment, global warming, poverty and all these. One way to deal with it is through the sources,  deal with it is the challenges and the catastrophes that we are facing. We can convince the powerful people, or the executive side of the political spectrum or the financial spectrum or the economic powers that at the end of the day this is going to help you. Not to think of it from the perspective of ethics OR profits, but think of it from perspective of dignifying your profit.

mosques3. Has the Islamic economy met its purpose- Why hasn’t Islamic based businesses, such as Islamic finance (IF) and the halal industries, been able to convince the world and global economies to adopt their principles of businesses and transaction if indeed as claimed by IF that they were spared from the global crises due to their principles of business.

First, I am not sure that the claims by some economists and Muslims that the Islamic Finance businesses were spared by the crises are true. We have to compare the like with the like. This is a big crisis on credit. The fact is what is called the Islamic finance and the Islamic economy was not dealing in the same sector – so you can say we were not affected in the same way. But of course because you have not been in the same sector. So it doesn’t mean it was more efficient. It means you were working in another field.

In fact you were not affected by it yet. Islamic finance is not dealing with small capital and small projects that have to deal individuals projects. Islamic finance is dealing with big institutions. Because it is dealing with big institutions, you are not dealing with speculation on the credit side of the whole spectrum which is what happened with people who were giving credit to people who were not able to reimburse what they were taking.

In fact the very problem with Islamic finance and economy today was what was in fact protecting  it because it was not dealing with individuals, it was dealing with institutions. And what we want if there is to be some efficiency in Islamic finance is to deal with the people, the poor people, not with the big institutions. In fact it (Islamic Finance) doesn’t show that it was protected. In fact, it (Islamic finance) was protected because it was not doing what we expected of it to do.  The real alternative was not shown here. It was just that it was absent from that market.  It was not that it (Islamic finance) was present (in the same sector) and was doing something in different terms.

I would say that I am very cautious with these assessments that – oh Islamic finance, Islamic economy is working better. I think that no. It is a market where Islamic economy was not. It is a problem that it was not and the contribution was not made   and it’s not made so far.  So this is where I would say that it is difficult to convince the people that we have a better system when we were absent from the very critical sectors from the global economic system.

4. Islamic economy and the masses – Why hasn’t the Islamic economy such as Islamic finance and the halal industry able to reach the masses? Why hasn’t it been able to convince ALL Muslims of its viability and benefits? Are these industries self glorifying their achievements on behalf of the Muslims? Why haven’t ALL Muslims subscribed to it holistically?

I think this is a very important point. This is where there are two things. There is this discourse on theory that we have an alternative. Very often what we have, coming from the economists or from the people who are promoting Islamic finance, which has not been convincing because they just want to change the means and they want to achieve the same objectives. We are “Islamising” some of the means, we are not really coming up with an alternative system. There is no Islamic economic alternative system today. There is no alternative Islamic finance system. There is nothing like this. We are working on structure. We are not working on the global system as such.

In the book that I wrote, “The Radical Reform – Islamic Ethics and Liberation”, what I am saying is –  if we are true with our ethics and the Islamic applied ethics, we need to come up with something not only with a stricter reform but also through fundamental questioning. It is not only Muslims asking this, the world is in need of something which is different when it comes to economy and finance.

Just to use the means and say in Islam we are against riba (usury) and  in Islam we are for zakat (obligatory payment made annually under Islamic law on certain kinds of property and used for charitable and religious purposes.). This is fine. But means doesn’t give you a Vision. Means can be part of Vision. Means cannot be substituted for the Vision. This is what is happening today.

And the people are not seeing anything happening in their personal lives out of these projects (Islamic finance and economy). These are all very nice words and with big institutions where they are far from the scrutiny of international offices. It is not working now.

Morning prayer5. Shariah scholars – Is it ethical to have Shariah scholars to sit on several boards?  Is this Islamic?

There are many things. Of course the Shariah Board with people being the judge and also being involved in the whole process makes it difficult for them to be independent in their judgement. They are paid by the people they are judging. So that is not working.  That’s not right. So I would say that we need much more clarity on the ethical side of these things. You cannot pay the people who are telling you if this is right or wrong. You can’t do this. This has to be independent. This is one thing.

The other thing is to make halal (allowed in Islam) what is in essence haram (prohibited) in Islam. There are many things  you know, just to change the wording to make halal what is in essence haram in Islam. Just try to change wordings and words. There are many things. I quoted these in the book (The Radical Reform) by saying that we have to deal with this in an in-depth and thorough way.

6, Incentive to change the industry– Why isn’t this being dealt with in the Industry given how huge this industry is – approximately US 1 trillion?

Exactly. The answer is in your question. Its huge money and people they want to convince themselves that it is an alternative. They are making money by just changing the means. I would say that this is why we have to be consistent and self critical. They are not happy with me saying things like this. But still. I was told that even my Book, “The Western Muslim and the Future of Islam” was banned from Malaysia for years. In fact what I was saying on the economy was quite critical.

7. Legislating ethics – What is the role of ethics in addressing wealth distribution and wealth inequity across the world today? Can you regulate and legislate ethics? Can you legislate character? Where does one begin?

This is a very difficult discussion. This is exactly the essence of the Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), I set up in Qatar.

Sometimes we have legal things that are not very ethical. For example the way we treat halal meat, is legal in Islamic term but it is not ethical in Islamic terms. So how do we reconcile the two?

We had a Seminar last week about Ethics in Politics. Shall we have a legal framework that is Islamic?  Shall we have a bill of ethical values that are directing the political activities? This is what the Muslims should be doing. It is not enough to say – civil state with Islamic reference. Are we talking about Islamic reference in the legal term, in the spiritual term or in the ethical term?  What are we talking about here? So in every field we need to clarify the relationship between the ethical and the legal. On the legal some norms should be there. But not everything that is ethical should be normative. But at least we should try to ensure everything that is normative is not unethical.

8. People and ethics – One of the greatest challenges in institution is “people and character”. How can you regulate character? No matter the Vision, it is the people you recruit and retain that will ensure its success or failure. This is often the argument in cases of fraud and corruption. You don’t really know the belief system of the people you are recruiting until an outcome.

Yes you don’t know and you will never know but at least within your job and this has to do with business you have to have code of ethics for every single thing you are doing. I think that the code of ethics is the reference. Now you cannot judge people on their CV. You judge them by their practice and their behaviour.  And if you have a code of ethics that would help you and you tell people that you have to abide by the code of ethics. If you want to act against corruption you need to make it clear to the people that not only will you be judged on your competence and your skills but there is also a code of ethics. This is also part of your commitment and it is part of the job description.

9. Media and ethics – What should the role of government and media be in instituting ethics in public and private sectors?

Media is difficult. We need to have codes of ethics for journalists, which is also important. But, you know, specific things which is respect privacy of the people. Anything to do with public which that has to do with your job, with the common interests we have to expose. We should avoid exposing privacy and personal dealing of the people. This is their business. But anything that has to do with money and the public involvement of people – we should say we are not going to let you do that because you are playing with the interest of the society as a whole. And on the other side (government) there is the code of ethics and there is a part of informal things where you are giving the outlines and framework and you are judging on action.

 

Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University (Oriental Institute, St Antony’s College) and also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology.  He is Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, (Qatar) and the University of Malaysia Perlis; Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan) and Director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) (Doha, Qatar). He holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva.  In Cairo, Egypt he received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars (ijazat in seven disciplines).   Through his writings and lectures Tariq has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world.  He is active at academic and grassroots levels lecturing extensively throughout the world on theology, ethics, social justice, ecology and interfaith as well intercultural dialogue.  He is President of the European think tank: European Muslim Network (EMN) in Brussels. Latest books: “Islam and the Arab Awakening” OUP (September 2012); “The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East” Penguin (April 2012); “The Quest for Meaning, Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism” Penguin (2010); “What I believe” OUP USA (2009); “Radical Reform, Islamic Ethics and Liberation” OUP USA (2008). Website : http://www.tariqramadan.com

 

See other posts from our articles series on Ethics in Business:

Ethics in Business: Perception of sleepwalking

Ethics in Business: Facing medical ethics head on in Malaysia

Ethics in Business: A take on business ethics in the US

Ethics in Business: Moving Islamic finance from conference rooms to humanity

Ethics in Business: Walking the ethical track in Malaysia a perspective

Ethics in Business: Soul of ethics in the new Dubai

Ethics in Business: Where is the education for narcissistic leaders

Ethics in Business. With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 1

Ethics in Business: With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 2

Ethics in Business: Are we aware of the Iagos in our midst?

Ethics in Business: Fair trade or fair game, who benefits really

Ethics in business: What moves the conscience when mortality is at stake

Please: CSR is not Ethics in Business

Panel discussion: Medical ethics (plus video)

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

 

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[caption id="attachment_8222" align="alignleft" width="163"] By Firoz Abdul Hamid[/caption] Socrates was known for his quest for genuine knowledge and careful reasoning. He cared very little for mere victory over an opponent. This could not have been better demonstrated by his piercing and insightful exchange with the supercilious Euthyphro on the subject of piety.  When the young Euthyphro was prosecuting his own father in the courts based on his own conviction of ethical rectitude, Socrates confronts Euthyphro on the whole definition of piety. In what is now a well documented exchange, Socrates would pose to Euthyphro this, "Is the pious by the gods because it is...

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Firoz1
By Firoz Abdul Hamid

Socrates was known for his quest for genuine knowledge and careful reasoning. He cared very little for mere victory over an opponent. This could not have been better demonstrated by his piercing and insightful exchange with the supercilious Euthyphro on the subject of piety.  When the young Euthyphro was prosecuting his own father in the courts based on his own conviction of ethical rectitude, Socrates confronts Euthyphro on the whole definition of piety.

In what is now a well documented exchange, Socrates would pose to Euthyphro this, “Is the pious by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” The exchange between Euthyphro and Socrates brought forth the whole theological and philosophical reasoning of, “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it merely morally good because it is commanded by God?”

Is the show of piety a culmination of a list of actions or do the actions in and of themselves exude piety? The depth of this questioning not only brings forth the full force of Socrates’ critical thinking, but more forcibly rummages our souls, the souls of our companies and institutions not least that of our nations on what is ethical and what is morally right in all that we claim to do in the name of business, in the name of politics and in the name of the people and of existence itself.

Are we here for a purpose? If so what is that purpose, and who should that purpose serve, and to what end?  Who sets the standards to this purpose(s)? Who does of its benchmarks and who is the ultimate judge of this purpose?

In the face of such challenges like should Malaysia sign into the Trans Pan Pacific Agreement with the USA, the alleged public information surveillance by the National Security Agency in the USA, the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh which cost scores of innocent lives of the poor and not to mention the collapse of the poultry farm in China which killed some 100 people, one cant but ask – have we stopped searching our souls on what really is ethical and by whose standards are those ethics being applied? Is this planet so hungry to fulfil a definition of PROGRESS at the expense of lives and this planet? Do we even know what progress is anymore?

Even as the UK makes strides towards capturing the issues in the financial industry by announcing the banking bill, we see dissatisfaction on the streets of Istanbul and Brazil. Surely we cannot have peaked the Maslow pyramid of self actualisation as a civilisation, when in a developed country like France a pregnant woman can be attacked causing the loss of her child just because of her belief?. This at a time when there is continued heart wrenching human tragedies in places like Syria, Palestine and amongst the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Alas, everyone is fighting for something. Most, when asked, would confess that we are all fighting to be free of some kind of enslavement – be that material or emotional or physical or all of the above. Professor Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University once quoted, “Freedom is to do what is right, not what everyone else is doing”.

Against this backdrop, the conversation with Professor Ramadan touched on the whole notion of ethics across the many facets that affect us as humanity – what it really means to business and policy making, to media  and legislation. In addition to his many social work, Professor Ramadan is also actively working to inculcate ethics through his new Project, Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics in Doha (www.cilecenter.org). Perhaps his work can be best summarised in this statement, “No one must ever let power or social, economic, or political interest turn him or her away from other human beings, from the attention they deserve and the respect they are entitled to. Nothing must ever lead a person to compromise this principle or faith in favour of a political strategy aimed at saving or protecting a community from some peril. The freely offered, sincere heart of a poor, powerless individual is worth a thousand times more in the sight of God than the assiduously courted, self-interested heart of a rich one.”

When the lights of temptation, suspicion, competition, money, status, greed and many such malice shine upon us all, one can’t but fall back on what Aristotle said about his teacher Plato when he differed with his point of view, “Plato is my friend, but truth is a better friend”. In the final analysis, our very existence will be obituarised by how true we were to pursuing real truth in spite of ourselves!

 

Tariq Rahman3Professor Tariq Ramadan

“Understanding your own ignorance is the start of Knowledge and Humility.”

1. Ethics and competitiveness – In a world where countries are fighting to remain competitive and businesses are racing to meet shareholders’ expectations, ROE and ROI, what is your understanding of instituting ethics in business – from an Islamic and Universal perspective

From an Islamic perspective to start with – What is ethics and what is applied ethics? Applied ethics is to question the goals of what we are doing. So, in business as in any other types of activities, we always have to question what are the goals and the ends of our activities.

And in Islam, the first main goal is just to please God and to respect the principles and respect the rules but also respect the objectives. This is what we have to do. And it means not to control the substance of business by ethics but to direct the goals of our way of dealing with business in the light of Islamic Ethics.

And in fact what we have now which is the Global Ethics – which we are talking about here – is that the world is coming back to this for two reasons – first because we are facing in business, and in commerce or trade or even in the world today,   limits that if we dot respect some principles we are going to destroy the world and even act against our own interest as human beings. So you have a way to come back to ethics because of the way we are treating the world, the universe and even our fellow human beings. In the world of business now we are losing dignity, we are losing justice, we are treating people as ends not as means which is also something which is essential here. The second once again which is not specifically Islamic but is in the global ethics is –  we are dealing with ethics because of principles which is coming from different traditions, moral, secular or religious ethics and we find that we have things in common. So universal (global) ethics can be based on principles or based on facing challenges of our times.

2. How to implement ethics – How can business and policy makers (in Muslim and non-Muslim countries) institute global ethics? How can universal ethics be instituted across creeds, traditions, cultures and religions and who is driving this globally?

I think there are two ways of doing this. The first of course is to deal with the creeds, traditions and sources that people are relying on. For example you can’t come to a global culture or global business or global commerce or global trade without understanding that at the end of the day we are dealing with human beings, in a specific region, in a specific country. We should not only rely on GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to assess success but also on well being, on happiness, on something that we know in the Islamic tradition which is maslahah (the public and common interest) We need to rely on this. This is essential.

The Japanese know this well. When the people feel good they are more efficient. Feeling and efficiency are important. Feeling in cultural terms are based on feeling good about your beliefs, feeling good with your principles, feeling good with your cultural traditions. So this is one side.

The other side is, another way to convince them is – just look at the world today and you need to deal with nature, the environment, global warming, poverty and all these. One way to deal with it is through the sources,  deal with it is the challenges and the catastrophes that we are facing. We can convince the powerful people, or the executive side of the political spectrum or the financial spectrum or the economic powers that at the end of the day this is going to help you. Not to think of it from the perspective of ethics OR profits, but think of it from perspective of dignifying your profit.

mosques3. Has the Islamic economy met its purpose- Why hasn’t Islamic based businesses, such as Islamic finance (IF) and the halal industries, been able to convince the world and global economies to adopt their principles of businesses and transaction if indeed as claimed by IF that they were spared from the global crises due to their principles of business.

First, I am not sure that the claims by some economists and Muslims that the Islamic Finance businesses were spared by the crises are true. We have to compare the like with the like. This is a big crisis on credit. The fact is what is called the Islamic finance and the Islamic economy was not dealing in the same sector – so you can say we were not affected in the same way. But of course because you have not been in the same sector. So it doesn’t mean it was more efficient. It means you were working in another field.

In fact you were not affected by it yet. Islamic finance is not dealing with small capital and small projects that have to deal individuals projects. Islamic finance is dealing with big institutions. Because it is dealing with big institutions, you are not dealing with speculation on the credit side of the whole spectrum which is what happened with people who were giving credit to people who were not able to reimburse what they were taking.

In fact the very problem with Islamic finance and economy today was what was in fact protecting  it because it was not dealing with individuals, it was dealing with institutions. And what we want if there is to be some efficiency in Islamic finance is to deal with the people, the poor people, not with the big institutions. In fact it (Islamic Finance) doesn’t show that it was protected. In fact, it (Islamic finance) was protected because it was not doing what we expected of it to do.  The real alternative was not shown here. It was just that it was absent from that market.  It was not that it (Islamic finance) was present (in the same sector) and was doing something in different terms.

I would say that I am very cautious with these assessments that – oh Islamic finance, Islamic economy is working better. I think that no. It is a market where Islamic economy was not. It is a problem that it was not and the contribution was not made   and it’s not made so far.  So this is where I would say that it is difficult to convince the people that we have a better system when we were absent from the very critical sectors from the global economic system.

4. Islamic economy and the masses – Why hasn’t the Islamic economy such as Islamic finance and the halal industry able to reach the masses? Why hasn’t it been able to convince ALL Muslims of its viability and benefits? Are these industries self glorifying their achievements on behalf of the Muslims? Why haven’t ALL Muslims subscribed to it holistically?

I think this is a very important point. This is where there are two things. There is this discourse on theory that we have an alternative. Very often what we have, coming from the economists or from the people who are promoting Islamic finance, which has not been convincing because they just want to change the means and they want to achieve the same objectives. We are “Islamising” some of the means, we are not really coming up with an alternative system. There is no Islamic economic alternative system today. There is no alternative Islamic finance system. There is nothing like this. We are working on structure. We are not working on the global system as such.

In the book that I wrote, “The Radical Reform – Islamic Ethics and Liberation”, what I am saying is –  if we are true with our ethics and the Islamic applied ethics, we need to come up with something not only with a stricter reform but also through fundamental questioning. It is not only Muslims asking this, the world is in need of something which is different when it comes to economy and finance.

Just to use the means and say in Islam we are against riba (usury) and  in Islam we are for zakat (obligatory payment made annually under Islamic law on certain kinds of property and used for charitable and religious purposes.). This is fine. But means doesn’t give you a Vision. Means can be part of Vision. Means cannot be substituted for the Vision. This is what is happening today.

And the people are not seeing anything happening in their personal lives out of these projects (Islamic finance and economy). These are all very nice words and with big institutions where they are far from the scrutiny of international offices. It is not working now.

Morning prayer5. Shariah scholars – Is it ethical to have Shariah scholars to sit on several boards?  Is this Islamic?

There are many things. Of course the Shariah Board with people being the judge and also being involved in the whole process makes it difficult for them to be independent in their judgement. They are paid by the people they are judging. So that is not working.  That’s not right. So I would say that we need much more clarity on the ethical side of these things. You cannot pay the people who are telling you if this is right or wrong. You can’t do this. This has to be independent. This is one thing.

The other thing is to make halal (allowed in Islam) what is in essence haram (prohibited) in Islam. There are many things  you know, just to change the wording to make halal what is in essence haram in Islam. Just try to change wordings and words. There are many things. I quoted these in the book (The Radical Reform) by saying that we have to deal with this in an in-depth and thorough way.

6, Incentive to change the industry– Why isn’t this being dealt with in the Industry given how huge this industry is – approximately US 1 trillion?

Exactly. The answer is in your question. Its huge money and people they want to convince themselves that it is an alternative. They are making money by just changing the means. I would say that this is why we have to be consistent and self critical. They are not happy with me saying things like this. But still. I was told that even my Book, “The Western Muslim and the Future of Islam” was banned from Malaysia for years. In fact what I was saying on the economy was quite critical.

7. Legislating ethics – What is the role of ethics in addressing wealth distribution and wealth inequity across the world today? Can you regulate and legislate ethics? Can you legislate character? Where does one begin?

This is a very difficult discussion. This is exactly the essence of the Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), I set up in Qatar.

Sometimes we have legal things that are not very ethical. For example the way we treat halal meat, is legal in Islamic term but it is not ethical in Islamic terms. So how do we reconcile the two?

We had a Seminar last week about Ethics in Politics. Shall we have a legal framework that is Islamic?  Shall we have a bill of ethical values that are directing the political activities? This is what the Muslims should be doing. It is not enough to say – civil state with Islamic reference. Are we talking about Islamic reference in the legal term, in the spiritual term or in the ethical term?  What are we talking about here? So in every field we need to clarify the relationship between the ethical and the legal. On the legal some norms should be there. But not everything that is ethical should be normative. But at least we should try to ensure everything that is normative is not unethical.

8. People and ethics – One of the greatest challenges in institution is “people and character”. How can you regulate character? No matter the Vision, it is the people you recruit and retain that will ensure its success or failure. This is often the argument in cases of fraud and corruption. You don’t really know the belief system of the people you are recruiting until an outcome.

Yes you don’t know and you will never know but at least within your job and this has to do with business you have to have code of ethics for every single thing you are doing. I think that the code of ethics is the reference. Now you cannot judge people on their CV. You judge them by their practice and their behaviour.  And if you have a code of ethics that would help you and you tell people that you have to abide by the code of ethics. If you want to act against corruption you need to make it clear to the people that not only will you be judged on your competence and your skills but there is also a code of ethics. This is also part of your commitment and it is part of the job description.

9. Media and ethics – What should the role of government and media be in instituting ethics in public and private sectors?

Media is difficult. We need to have codes of ethics for journalists, which is also important. But, you know, specific things which is respect privacy of the people. Anything to do with public which that has to do with your job, with the common interests we have to expose. We should avoid exposing privacy and personal dealing of the people. This is their business. But anything that has to do with money and the public involvement of people – we should say we are not going to let you do that because you are playing with the interest of the society as a whole. And on the other side (government) there is the code of ethics and there is a part of informal things where you are giving the outlines and framework and you are judging on action.

 

Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University (Oriental Institute, St Antony’s College) and also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology.  He is Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, (Qatar) and the University of Malaysia Perlis; Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan) and Director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) (Doha, Qatar). He holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva.  In Cairo, Egypt he received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars (ijazat in seven disciplines).   Through his writings and lectures Tariq has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world.  He is active at academic and grassroots levels lecturing extensively throughout the world on theology, ethics, social justice, ecology and interfaith as well intercultural dialogue.  He is President of the European think tank: European Muslim Network (EMN) in Brussels. Latest books: “Islam and the Arab Awakening” OUP (September 2012); “The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East” Penguin (April 2012); “The Quest for Meaning, Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism” Penguin (2010); “What I believe” OUP USA (2009); “Radical Reform, Islamic Ethics and Liberation” OUP USA (2008). Website : http://www.tariqramadan.com

 

See other posts from our articles series on Ethics in Business:

Ethics in Business: Perception of sleepwalking

Ethics in Business: Facing medical ethics head on in Malaysia

Ethics in Business: A take on business ethics in the US

Ethics in Business: Moving Islamic finance from conference rooms to humanity

Ethics in Business: Walking the ethical track in Malaysia a perspective

Ethics in Business: Soul of ethics in the new Dubai

Ethics in Business: Where is the education for narcissistic leaders

Ethics in Business. With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 1

Ethics in Business: With whom does the heartbeat of a nation lie, Part 2

Ethics in Business: Are we aware of the Iagos in our midst?

Ethics in Business: Fair trade or fair game, who benefits really

Ethics in business: What moves the conscience when mortality is at stake

Please: CSR is not Ethics in Business

Panel discussion: Medical ethics (plus video)

(Firoz Abdul Hamid is an Investvine contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)

 

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