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What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam What is This? A guide to a wide variety of general questions asked by those looking to learn more about Muslim culture and the Islamic world.

Society, Politics, and Economy >
Does Islam reject Western capitalism?

Islam has no problem with many of the essentials of capitalism. It is important to remember that Muhammad, the preeminent model for all Muslims, was a prosperous businessman who engaged in financial and commercial transactions to make a living and that his earliest followers included successful merchants. The Quran as well as Muslim historical experience confirms the right to private property, trade, and commerce.

Mosques throughout the world, like the Umayyad mosque in Damascus and the grand mosques in old Cairo and Tehran, are often adjoined by magnificent bazaars. Traders and businessmen constituted one of the most successful sectors in Muslim society and were often responsible for the spread of their faith.

Capitalism exists both in its homegrown forms in the Muslim world and in Western-inspired versions. However, many in the Muslim world, like many in other parts of the world, are concerned about the dark side of capitalism and the possible abuses of a free market economy, including the seeming lack of concern for the poor and weaker sectors of society. More specifically, they fear that forces of globalization will lead to greater Western economic penetration in Muslim countries. The result, they fear, will be continued Muslim dependence on the West and a free market economy that is geared only toward maximizing profits, which may increase the growing gap between rich and poor. Finally, they fear a contagious Western culture whose retail stores, advertising, music, media, and dress can erode traditional Muslim religious ideals and threaten the identity and values of Muslim youth.

However, given an even playing field, perhaps the best response to those who ask whether Islam and capitalism are compatible is to look at the lives of the millions of Muslims who live and work in our midst in America and Europe. Many have come here to enjoy the freedoms and the opportunities offered by our economic as well as our political systems. Like other religious and ethnic minorities before them, they too struggle with issues of identity and assimilation but not with their desire to enjoy the best that we represent.

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