Monday, October 17, 2005

Early Muslim sociology

Early Muslim sociology responded to the challenges of social organization of diverse peoples all under common religious organization in the (Click link for more info and facts about Islamic caliphate) Islamic caliphate, the (Click link for more info and facts about Abbasid) Abbasid and later (Click link for more info and facts about Mamluk) Mamluk period in Egypt. It was rooted in methods from (Click link for more info and facts about early Muslim philosophy) early Muslim philosophy and it reflected the strong concern of (The monotheistic religion of Muslims founded in Arabia in the 7th century and based on the teachings of Muhammad as laid down in the Koran) Islam with social cohesion.

Social responsibility in commerce

The development of (Click link for more info and facts about Islamic bank) Islamic banks and (Click link for more info and facts about Islamic economics) Islamic economics was a side effect of this (The study and classification of human societies) sociology: (The act of lending money at an exorbitant rate of interest) usury was rather severely restrained, no (The percentage of a sum of money charged for its use) interest rate was allowed, and investors were not permitted to escape the consequences of any failed venture - all financing was equity financing (Musharaka). In not letting borrowers bear all the risk/cost of a failure, an extreme disparity of outcomes between "partners" is thus avoided. Ultimately this serves a social harmony purpose.

Muslims also could not and cannot (in (The code of law derived from the Koran and from the teachings and example of Mohammed) shariah) finance any dealings in forbidden goods or activities e.g. alcohols, pork, gambling etc. Thus (Click link for more info and facts about ethical investing) ethical investing is the only acceptable investing, and (Click link for more info and facts about moral purchasing) moral purchasing is encouraged.

Ecological responsibility

Perhaps due to resource scarcity in most Islamic nations, there was an emphasis on limited (and some claim also sustainable) use of (Click link for more info and facts about natural capital) natural capital, i.e. producing land. Traditions of (Click link for more info and facts about haram) haram and (Click link for more info and facts about hima) hima and early (The branch of architecture dealing with the design and organization of urban space and activities) urban planning were expressions of strong social obligations to stay within (Click link for more info and facts about carrying capacity) carrying capacity and to preserve the natural environment as an obligation of (Click link for more info and facts about khalifa) khalifa or "stewardship".

Khaldun's conflict theory

Without doubt the most important figure in early Muslim sociology was (Click link for more info and facts about Ibn Khaldun) Ibn Khaldun, who conceived both a central social conflict ("town" versus "desert") as well as a theory (using the concept of a "generation") of the necessary loss of power of city conquerors coming from the desert.

Sati' al-Husri suggested that his (Click link for more info and facts about Muqaddimah) Muqaddimah is essentially a sociological work, sketching over its six books a general sociology; a sociology of politics; a sociology of urban life; a sociology of economics; and a sociology of knowledge.

Asibiyah

Khaldun's central concept of asabiyah, or "social cohesion," seems to anticipate modern conceptions of (Click link for more info and facts about social capital) social capital arising in (Click link for more info and facts about social network) social networks:

This cohesion arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups; and it can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology. Khaldun's analysis looks at how this cohesion carries groups to power but contains within itself the seeds - psychological, sociological, economic, political - of the group's downfall, to be replaced by a new group, dynasty or empire bound by a stronger (or at least younger and more vigorous) cohesion.

Interestingly, Khaldun's concept is instinctive and does not involve any (An implicit agreement among people that results in the organization of society; individual surrenders liberty in return for protection) social contract or explicit forms of (The act of forming something) constitution or other (Click link for more info and facts about instructional capital) instructional capital that would provide a basis for appeals, in law or otherwise.

Khaldun's economics

A similar (Any formal system of reasoning that arrives at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments) dialectic approach was taken to describe the sociological implications of tax choices, which is now of course part of (The branch of social science that deals with the production and distribution and consumption of goods and services and their management) economics:

"In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue...As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favor of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow...owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects...[and] sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield...But the effects on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes...Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation."

This analysis anticipates the modern economic concept known as the (A graph purporting to show the relation between tax rates and government income; income increases as tax rates increase up to an optimum beyond which income declines) Laffer Curve.

Khaldun's history

The (Click link for more info and facts about Muqaddimah) Muqaddimah further emphasized the role of (Click link for more info and facts about systemic bias) systemic bias in affecting the standard of evidence. Khaldun was quite concerned with the effect of raising standard of evidence when confronted with uncomfortable claims, and relaxing it when given claims that seemed reasonable or comfortable. He was a jurist, and sometimes participated reluctantly in rulings that he felt were coerced, based on arguments he didn't respect.

Unfortunately, there are few successors to Khaldun in his thinking about history until (English historian who studied the rise and fall of civilizations looking for cyclical patterns (1889-1975)) Arnold Toynbee, a 20th century British historian.

Similarity to modern sociology

Early Muslim sociology is more like that of (German philosopher whose three stage process of dialectical reasoning was adopted by Karl Marx (1770-1831)) Hegel or (Founder of modern communism; wrote the Communist Manifesto with Engels in 1848; wrote Das Kapital in 1867 (1818-1883)) Marx in emphasizing (Any formal system of reasoning that arrives at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments) dialectic or (A circuit that feeds back some of the output to the input of a system) feedback loops, or like (Click link for more info and facts about systems theory) systems theory as applied in such fields as (Click link for more info and facts about corporate social responsibility) corporate social responsibility, than it is like that of (German conductor and composer of Romantic operas (1786-1826)) Weber and others who emphasize structures. There is a remarkable similarity between modern economic ideas and the sociology and economics especially of Khaldun, who lived a remarkably eventful life.

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