For Kazakh economist and former Soviet lawmaker Uraz Baimuratov, any hope for global harmony in the 21st century rests on the adoption of Islamic financial principles in evolving market economies—East and West. His idea calls for interest-free banking and risk-sharing, while rejecting both the Euro-style welfare state and the American obsession with profit. He also proposes including a spiritual element to financial proceedings.
The stated Muslim ideal of combining the spiritual and material has gained broad appeal: Islamic finance is now a $1 trillion industry. Scores of major banks around the world field teams in this specialty. In the stilted English that often obscures his message, Baimuratov puts it this way: “Interest of population to Islamic banking, stocks, leasing, and insurance is growing not by accident.”
Baimuratov has impressive credentials. A framer of Kazakhstan’s new constitution after it gained independence from the former U.S.S.R. in 1991, he was an architect of the predominantly-Muslim nation’s free-market transition. Bottom line: Kazakhstan now boasts the strongest economy in central Asia, thanks to rich oil and gas deposits, uranium mining and robust agriculture.
Baimuratov credits this progress, in part, to the ideals of Shariah law as they apply to economic stability, and he fervently believes they can contribute to the harmony of all nations, irrespective of religion. In a nutshell: “Economy should solve problems, connected with reasonable satisfaction of all material needs of individuals and society in general as well as moral improvement of people’s economic behavior in all phases of reproductive process (production, distribution and consumption of goods and services).”
The author’s lack of facility with English can impede readability in spots, and another new book, Harris Irfan’s Heaven’s Bankers, examines the 1300-year history and growing influence of Islamic finance more coherently. But for the open-minded layman with an eye on global strife — and a tolerance for navigating the sometimes-murky prose — the book provides a provocative read.
Also available in hardcover.