Who is Homo Islamicus?
anic perspective on
the economic agent in
Faculty of Islamic Economics and Business, Universitas Islam Negeri Ar-Raniry,
Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and
Department of Finance, Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates
Purpose –This paper aims to explain the nature of the economic agent in Islamic economics. He is commonly
referred to as Homo Islamicus.
Design/methodology/approach –This is done by deriving the concept from the Qurʾ
an as the primary
epistemological source in Islamic economics. The paper, thus, attempts to explore the message of the Qurʾ
and internalize its concepts and values in their totality into the conception of the economic agent from an
Findings –The paper brings an insight regarding the nature of the economic agent in Islamic perspective. The
concept of the economic agent that is developed from the Qurʾ
anic teachings will be useful in developing
assumptions and theories in Islamic economics.
Research limitations/implications –This paper explores the normative behavioral framework of man
from the Qurʾ
anic perspective (i.e. what is expected of man) in order to serve as the basis on which assumptions,
concepts and theories could be produced and applied in real life. Further studies could extend the discussion by
examining the application of the concepts in practice.
Practical implications –This paper promotes a normative behavioral framework that could be the basis in
developing the body of knowledge of Islamic economics.
Originality/value –This paper promotes a concept of the economic agent in Islamic perspective, termed as
Homo Islamicus, who is going to portray Islamic ethical teachings in economic actions. The paper brought
insights from the Qurʾ
anic teachings and principles in developing the concept of Homo Islamicus who will be
the representative agent in theorizing Islamic economics.
Keywords Economic agent, Homo Islamicus, Islamic economics, Qurʾ
Paper type Conceptual paper
Moral philosophy has always revolved around exploring the nature of the human being.
Moral philosophers often begin their discourse with propositions about the nature of human
beings, their purpose, destination, aims and other factors on the basis of which they base
ethical premises. Philosophers have brought to light presuppositions about human nature in
The nature of
© Hafas Furqani and Abdelghani Echchabi. Published in ISRA International Journal of Islamic Finance.
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Received 1 June 2021
Revised 24 June 2021
11 January 2022
30 April 2022
8 May 2022
1 June 2022
Accepted 2 June 2022
ISRA International Journal of
Emerald Publishing Limited
various dimensions including moral, practical, social and spiritual aspects (Fromm, 1990;
Economics is a discipline that adopts certain ethical positions in conceiving the nature of
the economic agent who will demonstrate these conceptions in actual economic behavior.
Economics is not a value-neutral discipline. It has been infused with certain ethical positions
that are manifested in assumptions, theories and concepts. Mitchell (2002) recognizes that
economic theory takes certain cultural background and is shaped by Western historical
experiences. Pojman (2006, p. xi) also notes that morality is often “constructed to serve human
needs and desires”rather than to provide guidance as to how the human being should be.
Therefore, Hasan (2002) observed that the debate is not whether economics is value free, but
which ethics have been infused into economics.
In this regard, a comprehensive ethical concept of the economic man that would convey
proper ethics in accord with human nature is needed ―not a concept that reduces the nature of
man nor exaggerates him into other entities which do not represent him. Fromm (1990,p.7)
expects that the concept of human nature should be “based upon man’s inherent qualities,
and ... their violation results in mental and emotional disintegration”.
Endeavors to develop normative guidelines and conceptual foundations of Islamic
economics will fall short of their goals if there is no sound conceptualization of the purpose of
existence, the nature of human being and human behavior, and man’s objectives (Al-Najjar,
2000). Islamic economics as a social science is also expected to provide a comprehensive
insight into human behavior at the personal and societal levels (Rafikov and
an as the primary source of knowledge in Islamic epistemology encourages man
to reflect upon himself, his creation, his essence and the purpose of his creation (Qurʾ
41:53; 51:20–21; 86:5–7). It is argued that no one knows more about the nature of man than
God who created him (Qurʾ
an, 67:14). Articulating this could be conducive to realizing the
objectives of developing Islamic economics as a discipline and practical system.
Finding the most plausible version of the theory of human nature is very important for
Islamic economics as a value-based science. The objective is not only to gain validity of
concepts and theories, but also to gain legitimacy from the scientific community (Mahyudi
and Abdul Aziz, 2017).
So far, there has been an extensive discussion on the economic agent, referred to as Homo
Islamicus, in Islamic economics. The discussion in the literature can be classified into two
types: general discussion on the nature of human beings in the Islamic perspective and
specific discussion clarifying the nature of human beings, and their tendencies and behavior
in the economic realm from an Islamic perspective.
The first type of studies attempting to clarify the nature of human beings in the Islamic
perspective include the work of Al-Faruqi (1963),Nasr (1968),Shariati (1981),Mutahhari
(1983),Eaton (1991),Abd. Rauf (1991),Rahman (1999),Al-Najjar (2000) and Izutsu (2002).
These studies discussed the conception and normative framework of a prototype of the
human being either as an individual being or a social being in an Islamic perspective. They set
the foundation for the second type of studies which try to investigate the nature of human
beings in the realm of Islamic economics.
The second type of studies can be found in the work of contemporary Islamic economics
scholars, classified into three categories, namely the critics of Homo Islamicus, the
commodification of the economic man in an Islamic perspective and new approaches in
discussing Homo Islamicus.
The critics of Homo Islamicus describe the concept as an imaginary being who does not
exist in reality and lacks any empirical support for its far-reaching theoretical claims (Kuran,
1983,1995). Homo Islamicus is said to have been developed based on faulty presumptions by
focusing on the positive aspect of the individual person’s innate being and ignoring the
interplay of social dynamics in influencing actual expressed preferences (Mahyudi, 2016). It is
described as representing a mere utopian concept since it is not reflected in contemporary
business settings, thus “creating a formidable gap between the rhetoric and reality”(Farooq,
2011, p. 58).
The second group can be found in the work of Mannan (1983),Arif (1985),Hosseini (1992),
Chapra (2000) and Zarqa (2003). These studies attempt to clarify the nature of the economic
agent in the Islamic perspective vis-
a-vis Homo economicus, a prototype of the economic man
in conventional economics. The discussion is very much influenced by the logic and flow of
discussion in conventional economics and hence ends up by Islamizing the economic man’s
behavior, tendencies and characteristics. This is done through modification of the concept of
self-interest, utility maximization goals and rationality to become Islamic self-interest,
Islamic utility and Islamic rationality.
The third group can be found in the work of Asutay (2007),Furqani (2015a,b),Mahyudi
(2015),Mahyudi and Abdul Aziz (2017), and Aydin and Khan (2021), who attempt to provide a
new approach and perspective in discussing the nature of the economic agent in Islamic
economics. Even though having successfully provided a new perspective in the discourse,
their works still need to be followed up by further studies that put serious effort into
developing the foundational concepts of the economic agent in Islamic economics. Such
discussion will assist the development of Islamic economics as a scientific discipline. For
Islamic economics, this becomes necessary since its conception of the nature of the economic
agent, which stems from its worldview and epistemological sources, and will be the basis in
constructing the microfoundations of Islamic economics (Arif, 1985;Mahomedy, 2013;
Wahbalbari et al., 2015;Furqani, 2021).
Therefore, this paper attempts to extend the discussion by clarifying the nature of the
economic agent in an Islamic perspective based on the Qurʾ
an as the primary source of
knowledge in Islamic epistemological tradition. It argues that an Islamic ethical position is
very much prevalent in its conception of the economic agent (Homo Islamicus) who is going to
portray Islamic ethical teachings in economic actions. By using the Qurʾ
anic approach, this
paper will explore a comprehensive concept that would properly capture all dimensions of the
human self, his nature, wellbeing and his relationship with other beings in the
To do so, this paper first starts by exploring the nature of human beings in the Qurʾ
compiling various related verses on the topics discussed. Then, it investigates the process of
how human beings are created and for what purpose; i.e. what is the raison d’
etre of man’s
creation, how human beings should interact with other beings, man’s true self and what
constitutes his wellbeing.
Human nature in the Qurʾ
an constantly addresses human beings (al-ins
an), the people (al-n
as) or the
descendants of Adam (ban
Adam) in various verses. This shows that the human being is a
permanent object of God’s attention, more so than any other creation, notably angels, jinn, the
universe or Satan (Arkoun and Lee, 1994).
an addresses human nature, how they have been created and what is the purpose
of their creation (Izutsu, 2002). Those Qurʾ
anic teachings are the sources of ethics that are the
basis for freeing human nature of the cardinal deficiencies discussed in modern ethical
discourses (Rahman, 1999). Philosophers discuss human nature in different perspectives
depending on the philosophical foundation and worldview they hold. Different conceptions of
human nature create confusion regarding proper ethics to be attached to humans.
An explanation is required that not only explains it correctly but can also guide to achieve
the perfection of life as individuals and social beings. An explanation from the Qurʾ
The nature of
perspective is, thus, deemed important. The explanation of human nature from the
perspective of the Qurʾ
an will comprehensively reveal various dimensions of the human
being and also determine the ethics that must be adhered to in order to reach perfection. This
is possible since, according to Al-Faruqi (1963, p. 196), “the infinity or divine character of the
an was assigned the meaning of giving us values rather than real-existents, the ethico-
religious rather than the other realms of values, and the principles of the hierarchization of the
ethico-religious values rather than a complete listing of them”. The Qurʾ
an describes human
nature in a comprehensive perspective as follows:
(1) The process of creation of human beings and elements of his creation (Qurʾ
15:26, 17:61, 23:12, 55:14, 76:2);
(2) The reason of his creation, duties and responsibilities and the ways he should follow
in order to achieve success (Qurʾ
an, 23:115, 51:56);
(3) The relationship of human beings with their Creator (Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala
(SWT)) and other beings (Qurʾ
an, 2:30, 61:10–14);
(4) The nature, characteristics, tendencies and potentials of human beings (Qurʾ
7:179, 17:19, 78:39); and
(5) The values and qualities to be achieved to attain a higher self-realization (Qurʾ
Islamic economists, in attempting to develop assumptions and appraise theories on the
behavior of individuals are guided by these Qurʾ
anic foundations. This paper attempts to
grasp the message of the Qurʾ
an and internalize its concepts and values in their totality into
the conception of an economic agent in the Islamic perspective.
The creation of human beings
To understand the nature of Homo Islamicus, it is important to look at the Qurʾ
description of how human beings were created, why they were created and what are the
elements of their creation. Human beings are described in the Qurʾ
an as having a unique
status ―they were created in a perfect state (Qurʾ
an, 95:4). Human beings have been created
with the combination of two different elements, namely the material/body (jasad) and the
_). The Qurʾ
an describes the material dimensions, stating that man was
made of sounding clay like the clay of pottery, from mud and from a drop of mingled sperm
an, 6:2, 15:26, 17:61, 23:12, 55:14, 76:2). God has fashioned him in due proportion and
subsequently has perfected human creation by endowing him with an immaterial element,
which is a “soul”from the “breath of God”(Qurʾ
an, 15:29, 32:9, 38:72).
Human beings are, therefore, two dimensional beings, which differentiates them from all
other beings, who are one-dimensional. Man in this regard is “a synthesis from which no
element, from the highest to the lowest, is excluded, and it is a mirror in which are reflected the
Names and Attributes of God before Whom he stands upright, now and forever”(Eaton, 1991,
This implicates that human tendencies and needs are also complex and consist of
physical, psychological, moral and spiritual needs. A balanced approach is, thus, required to
fulfill each of the self’s respective needs.
It should be noted that contradictory desires and tendencies in human beings can disturb
the balance. The biological base of human beings makes them share with other animals many
common material aspects of the physical senses that give humans awareness of the world.
The spirit of God (r
_), which is the most sacred, exalting and noblest “part”of his being,
however brings him into a higher place.
The earthly pole (body and matter) tends to lower him to the group of animals, showing
love for the material and love for himself (selfishness), and makes him forget others, society or
even God. Once dominated by this earthly/material perspective, human morality as well as
spirituality suffer and decline. Individuals in this regard get caught up with consumerism and
hedonism and tend toward selfishness, corruption and injustice. The heavenly pole, on the
other hand, leads human beings to a higher level, to goodness, ideals and the realm of the
spirit where human beings prefer justice, sympathy, love, sacrifice and altruism
In this respect, human beings have inclinations and are free to choose between good or evil
an, 3:152, 7:179, 17:19, 78:39). Individuals have to struggle to avoid a descent to their
lower potentiality and achieve instead a higher level of being. The struggle will perpetually
rage within them, and their lives will be valued based on their choices and conscious actions
made (Shariati, 1981).
In this struggle, he has been endowed with the internal capacity of intellect (
aql), free will
ar), capabilities (qudrah) and desires (ahw
). However, these facilities are not sufficient
to win the battle. Therefore, God has also revealed religion (d
ın) in order to foster
an) in the human self so that one is able to manage those facilities for self-
realization and transformation to achieve success and happiness. Religion is functionally
regarded to induce the believer to transcend his animal nature to a higher spiritual aspect in a
balanced way that will separate him from the animal species unto what the Qurʾ
an calls khayr
a(better and eternal).
The self of Homo Islamicus
As mentioned above, the human being has dual dimensions: body and soul, and matter and
an, 15:28–29). This implies that the human self is complex, with potentials and
tendencies to realize values in a positive or negative way. The self is described as capable of
moving to the lowest level of wickedness (fuj
an, 12:53) or toward virtue (taqw
which is the pull of the higher self (Qurʾ
Therefore, the Qurʾ
an employs duality of values that human beings have the potential to
choose and realize; for example
(1) good (s
at) and bad (sayyiʾ
(2) right (khayr) and wrong (sharr) (Qurʾ
(3) righteousness (birr) and sin (ithm) (Qurʾ
(4) good deed (h
_asanah) and evil deed (sayyiʾah) (Qurʾ
(5) righteous (ma
uf) and evil (munkar) (Qurʾ
(6) lawful (h
al) and unlawful (h
an, 10: 59)
(7) wholesome (t
_ayyib) and malicious (khab
Homo Islamicus is able to manifest the values when he makes choices since he is endowed
with free will, intelligence, understanding, as well as potency and capability that enable him
to act and choose either good or evil (Qurʾ
an, 53:39–40; 76:3; 90:10).
However, unlike Homo economicus, Homo Islamicus has clear objectives in all his actions,
namely “to maximize moral energy, to control and harness his desire and to make it obedient
to his intellect and thus arrive at spiritual freedom”(Mutahhari, 1983, p. 33). The choice of
good is in fact the true growth or self-realization to protect the self from degradation and to
attain the higher levels of spiritual attainment. In fact, humans have more potencies to choose
good values since the basic premise of human nature in the Qurʾ
an is originally good and pure
The nature of
an, 95:4–5). Man’s inherent nature (fit
_rah) is good and free from any spiritual and
morality flaws as long as it is not corrupted during one’s life (Qurʾ
Therefore, the actions of Homo Islamicus, and his motives and decisions, should be made
within the matrix of a consciousness oriented to choose the higher level of spirituality and the
straight path (al-s
an, 90:5–20). However, his striving to realize values
is inseparable from the inner struggle (jih
ad al-nafs). There is a real possibility of moral evil,
which comes internally from his selfish desires (haw
and shahwah) and his inclination to the
earthly dimension of his self, or externally from others and from his everlasting enemy ―
an (the Devil) ―who is perpetually trying to seduce him away from his natural straight
path into deviant behavior (Qurʾ
For this reason, the human being is also provided divine guidance (the Qurʾ
Sunnah) to the right path that would assist him in making the “right”decision and not
violating the balance, and that would inspire him to act in a rightful manner. In this regard,
Abd. Rauf (1991, p. 92) insightfully elaborates that “Islam does not confine man to a single
course with no choice, nor does it leave him a victim of uncontrolled greed, human vagaries
and stubbornness. It grants man a wide range of choices and creativity, motivates him to
satisfy his physical and psychological needs in progressive processes, but seeks to protect
him from evil.”
In addition, Allah (SWT) declares that He is always with human beings in this struggle
provided they make the necessary effort (Qurʾ
an, 15:42, 16:99, 17:65). Such effort requires
human beings to direct themselves, using all their positive potential, to eliminate the negative
aspects in themselves, control the earthly desires, commit themselves to higher ideals, bring
the positive aspects of their selves to the stage of action and develop themselves into a perfect
ethical being. Most importantly, man’s conscious self-alignment with God (
an) seeks to
strengthen and develop the good tendencies that he carries in himself by nature (Qurʾ
Homo Islamicus’actions should be directed to achieving unity in all dimensions of his
personality ―the physical, the moral, the rational, the esthetic and the spiritual (Ansari, 2001).
This could be achieved by realizing moral values, which is actually an ontological reason of
his existence (Qurʾ
an, 11:7, 67:2). This commitment to the moral ideals as envisaged in the
an is actually a primordial covenant that man agreed to before entering the realm of
Homo Islamicus will strive not to gravitate toward the earth but, rather, to transcend to a
higher order of being, to the heights of purity, to the spiritual and to the divine where his
origin is (Rahman, 1999). This is reflected in Quadrant IV of Figure 1 whereby the material/
psychological dimension is pursued in line with the moral/spiritual achievement. In
Quadrants I and II, a Homo Islamicus is unable to gain moral/spiritual achievement as
desired. His behavior, as a result, will become erratic and undesirable as it is not based on
ethics or spiritual foundations.
Source(s): Authors’ own
The moral tension of
Islamic economics as an ethics-based economics attempts to envisage this ethical position
in its conception of the nature of the economic agent. This is done by introducing moral values
as part of one’s preference functions, internalizing moral norms or rules as motives as well as
constraints in actions, and incorporating those values and moral positions in policy
prescriptions (Furqani, 2017).
The human being and his raison d’^
Understanding the raison d’
etre of human creation would give us the basis in understanding
the tasks and roles that will be performed by human beings. It will also explicate the concept
of ethics that will support a human’s existence on earth as well as to complete the purpose of
an asserts that human being is created not by coincidence or for baseless reasons.
The human being is a chosen creature for a serious task (Qurʾ
an, 23:115). To support this task,
an (95:4) says that “We have indeed created man in the best mold”.
In the first place, the Qurʾ
an clarifies that the purpose of human creation is to serve God
adah): “I (Allah) have not created jinns and humans but that they should worship (serve)
an, 51:56). This is done by consciously acknowledging God’s magnificence
and supremacy, and obeying His call for human progress and righteousness by complying to
God’s patterns pertaining to ritual and nonritual activities (Abd. Rauf, 1991). It is through
adah that human integrity and perfection can be achieved (Al-Najjar, 2000).
Proper human action arises from this complete commitment to God by obeying the
prescribed frameworks (Qurʾ
an, 61:10–14). Human prosperity in this earthly life and in the
hereafter is also valued based on the level of commitment to God (Qurʾ
an, 30:38–9, 63:9, 87:14).
Secondly, the Qurʾ
an clarifies that humans, unlike other creations, also have another
special purpose, namely, to be God’s vicegerent on earth (khal
_). The Qurʾ
“He it is who created for you all that is on earth ...”(Qurʾ
an, 2:30). The vicegerent has a
mission to make earthly life flourish by fulfilling the divine patterns on earth, implementing
Allah’s intent for life here, abiding by His rules (Qurʾ
an, 11:61) and maximizing moral energy
as much as possible during his life in the world (Qurʾ
an, 6:165, 7:129).
Being a khal
ıfah, he is the only creature capable of pursuing the totality of values by
establishing justice, prosperity and solving all economic problems as he has the
(intelligence) and vision requisite for such pursuits. Al-Faruqi (1992, p. 66), in this regard,
asserts that khal
ıfah is “a sort of cosmic bridge through which the divine will, in its totality,
can enter space-time and become actual.”Eaton (1991, p. 69, 359) also articulates that the
human being alone of all created beings is “situated directly beneath the divine axis where the
divine Will may operate through him without impediment.”Al-Attas (1993, p. 68) likewise
describes that “while Islam is the epitome of the divine cosmic order, the man of Islam who is
conscious of his destiny realizes that he is himself, as physical being, also an epitome of the
cosmos, a microcosmic representation (
ır) of the macro-cosmos (
in the manner that Islam is like a kingdom, a social order, so the man of Islam knows that he is
a kingdom in miniature, for in him, as in all mankind, is manifested the Attributes of the
Creator.”Every action of individuals is, therefore, capable of adding, however little, to the
total value of the cosmos, as an act of worship, of service to God.
To support this mission as khal
ıfah, human beings are endowed with the spiritual capacity
to receive divine injunctions and with the intellectual capacity to be able to implement those
injunctions on earth. The Qurʾ
an (2:31–33) informs that once Adam was created, God taught
him the names (al-asm
) which represent knowledge. By knowledge, intellectual ability to
think and physical capacity, human beings are able to discover natural laws and utilize
natural resources for their purposes (Qurʾ
The role of khal
ıfah is essentially a task (takl
ıf) and a trust (am
anah) that establish
responsibility to manage the earth and make it flourish by means of bounties endowed by
The nature of
God, human initiative, effort and creativity (Qurʾ
an, 33:72). A Homo Islamicus is expected to
play the role of khal
ıfah by creating a moral social order on earth. However, this action is
voluntarily applied as he is free to choose either to fulfill it or not (Qurʾ
The task of khil
afah (vicegerency) entails fulfillment of a trust, which implies
responsibility ―responsibility for his own wellbeing, responsibility for the wellbeing of his
society and environment and responsibility before His Lord, the Creator of all things. The
Homo Islamicus’action is his attempt to fulfill all responsibilities. This action is expected not
to be mechanically, blindly or instinctively done, but consciously, deliberately and
voluntarily emerging from one’s inner moral consciousness (Abd. Rauf, 1991). Without
being moral, this responsibility could not be achieved successfully. In fact, fulfillment of
God’s command, the divine trust, is identical with moral felicity (Al-Faruqi, 1963). Life on
earth is about implementing the ethical ideals outlined by God through His revelation into
real practices. In this perspective, “the human being’s will is perfected only when he reflects
the Divine Will”(Eaton, 1991, p. 362). The Divine pattern is required to be fulfilled by man by
his conscious ethical actions as a khal
The nature of Homo Islamicus in this regard has been perfectly designed to be able to
complete the mission (raison d’
etre of human creation) for which no other creature has the
requisite ability. In fact, human beings have a natural inclination to carry out these moral
adah (worship of God) and khil
afah (vicegerency of God to make the earth prosper)
(Al-Attas, 1993). This is because a human being is both a physical and spiritual being, a
perfect combination of body and soul which makes him qualified to be a cosmic bridge
between the micro- and macro-cosmos. The virtues with which he is endowed in order to be
able to properly accomplish the mission of servitude and vicegerency of God are the positive
aspects of the human being that also mark his superiority compared to other creations.
The quadrant in Figure 2 explains four possibilities of the Homo Islamicus in performing
the role of servitude and vicegerency and hence the moral duties of
adah and khil
Quadrant 1, Homo Islamicus does not carry out the role of
abd or khal
ıfah’or performs a very
minimal role. In Quadrant II, Homo Islamicus plays the role of khal
ıfah more but is less
involved in his role of
adah. On the other hand, in Quadrant III, Homo Islamicus performs
adah duties and less duties of khil
afah. What is desired is Quadrant IV, where Homo
Islamicus balances action and perfectly carries out the duties of
adah and khil
afah. He fully
understands that the task of khil
afah is essentially a form of
adah, and vice versa.
means serving God by implementing what God enjoins and refraining from what He forbids,
afah means implementing God’s intent on earth and His patterns and injunctions in
economic activities (Al-Najjar, 2000).
Source(s): Authors’ own
The moral duties of
Homo Islamicus and other beings
Homo Islamicus in the Islamic worldview is not viewed in isolation from other beings. In fact,
an has also explained the expected relationship and attitude of man to himself, his
fellow man, nature and God, and the h
uq (rights and obligations) that emerge in these
relationships (Furqani, 2015a).
Central in this relationship is the difference between the real, absolute and ultimate reality,
on the one hand, and the relative reality on the other. God, in the Islamic worldview, is the
aliq (creator). He is the Real the Absolute and the Ultimate while human beings and the
universe are the creation (makhl
uq); they are manifestations of reality and thereby relative
and not ultimate. Therefore, in explaining being and realities, the Qurʾ
anic weltanschauung is
most evidently theocentric, whereby God stands in the very center of the world of being. All
other things are His creatures; they are inferior to Him in the hierarchy of being and submit
(willingly or unwillingly, in the case of humans) to Him (Izutsu, 2002). Ansari (2001, p. 102)
insightfully puts God as “the fountain-head of the highest values and ideals that reveals itself
in the Cosmic Order, He is the basis of all Existence, the Source of all Excellence”.
The task of khal
ıfah to be performed by Homo Islamicus is addressed by the Qurʾ
an as an
individual as well as collective task (Qurʾ
an, 6:165).This means that it can only be done
perfectly through the synergy of individuals and society. Islamic economics in this
perspective has both an individual as well as a social agenda and attempts to harmoniously
blend individuals as well as the society in the spirit of brotherhood (ukhuwwah) in its concepts
as well as theories.
Therefore, the perspectives of individual self-interest and public interest and ideas such as
“sacrifice for others/society”are not viewed as conflicting goals. Likewise, the concept of
altruism in Islamic economics is not built on individual sacrifice for the sake of collective
interest. Hence, individuals do not have to suffer loss of individuality and personality, nor the
society has to suffer loss of its polity and authority.
How is it possible? According to Al-Attas (1993), this is possible since in the Islamic
system of life, the individual and society are bonded with morality. The Islamic man and
Islamic society are characterized by their commitment to Islamic ethics which means the
“individual is at once himself and his community, and his community is also he, since every
other single member strives like him to realize the same purpose in life and to achieve the
same goal”(Al-Attas, 1993, p. 66).
In other words, the individual and society are both bound in a firm spiritual foundation of
being God’s servant. This unity comes from the primordial covenant to God that should be
fulfilled by human beings collectively as a society (ummah) as well as individually. The
principle of tawh
ıdconveys the message that all mankind are the creations of God.
Furthermore, the concept of ukhuwwah (brotherhood of mankind) would further strengthen
the individual consciousness of others (Azzam, 1993).
Obedience to His commands and His favors is the primary principle that constitutes the
foundation of morality in Islam. The objective would be to achieve greater spiritual
refinement and moral goodness (Al-Attas, 1993).
Therefore, self-interest and self-sacrifice (to the society) are never in conflict. Both, in fact,
could be linked directly with spiritual ascension. The society is in fact the place where the
individual could gain self-realization and spiritual achievement. An individual’s self-sacrifice
in a social action is highly appreciated by God. Such actions will purify an individual’s soul,
earning rewards from God, and at the same time, contribute to social harmony (Qurʾ
267, 274, 277).
It should be noted that human earthly life has been designed by God in such a way that
recognizes differences whereby human beings consist of the rich and the poor, the light-
skinned and the dark, the strong and the sickly, the haves and the have-nots. The Qurʾ
reveals that the purpose of this inequality is to set the ground of moral struggle by
The nature of
individuals, in whatever degree they may have received the different divine gifts. This
inequality embeds humans in circumstances of mutual dependency among individuals
an, 4:37; 8:74). People are expected to cooperate among themselves to help the needy and
the poor (Qurʾ
an, 9:71, 24:22) rather than take opportunities to exploit others (Qurʾ
While competition among society members is appreciated, cooperation that results from the
spirit of brotherhood is more appreciated (Qurʾ
an, 2:277; 6:165; 16:71). Such social
commitment is praised in the Qurʾ
an as such actions remind human beings that they have
come from God (Qurʾ
an, 4:80–81). The individual success which is marked by spiritual ascent
and God’s love is found in this spirit of sacrifice to benefit others and to create a just society. In
this perspective, it is out of individual self-interest that man sacrifices for society (Qurʾ
4:114, 12:88); he does it to purify himself (Qurʾ
an, 9:103), as God will bless him (Qurʾ
and for wellbeing in the eternal life of the hereafter (Qurʾ
Likewise, Homo Islamicus’relationship with nature is viewed in an integrated perspective
of mutual coexistence. It is recognized that nature is one of the facilities endowed to human
beings to support the role of khil
afah. Nature has been created subservient to humans’needs
ır). Nature, with its beauty, well-planned, well-structured, sufficient resources and its
discovered and undiscovered mysteries, is for man’s service, and he can utilize it for his
an, 2:29, 14:32, 16:12, 22:65, 29:61, 31:20, 35:13, 39:5, 43:12, 45:12).
This principle embarks from the perspective that nature belongs to God alone (Qurʾ
and it is bestowed to mankind as a trust with the condition of responsibility to preserve and not
to corrupt (fas
an, 11:85). Moreover, humanity must ensure that its utilization
brings benefit (mas
_ah) to all creatures and realizes the mission of khil
Central to this task is the individual awareness and relationship with God (tawh
through the attitude of taqw
a(God-consciousness) in all economic activities. The
disequilibrium or disharmony between man and nature is due to the destruction of the
harmony between man and God (Nasr, 1968). Nature in this regard is not viewed as an
anah from God. Instead, individuals think of themselves as the “master”of nature who can
do anything they like (Furqani, 2015b).
Therefore, the Qurʾ
an repeatedly reminds man that nature is not created only to satisfy
man’s need (or greed) (Qurʾ
an, 30:34) but also to attain spiritual goals (Qurʾ
an, 23:51–52). In
their role as khal
an, 2:30), individuals are endowed with capabilities and facilities to
perfectly implement God’s authority in managing the earth and allocating resources (Qurʾ
7:32, 18:7) to realize all potentials and moral energy to achieve spiritual attainment of higher
levels of being (Qurʾ
In Figure 3, Homo Islamicus is expected to be in Quadrant IV where he has consciousness
of pursuing a balanced orientation of social goals and self-interest by understanding
uq (rights and obligations), synergy of individuals and society in the spirit of
brotherhood (ukhuwwah) and cooperation (ta
awun)(Furqani, 2015a). This state of affairs is
called by Al-Attas (1993) a state of justice (
adl), which means a harmonious condition
whereby everything is in the right and proper place.
Source(s): Authors’ own
Homo Islamicus and
This is possible through spiritual consciousness (taqw
a). Internalizing Islamic ethics in
economics aims at establishing this kind of behavior where Homo Islamicus will have
consciousness of the central role of God in his relationship with other beings and in all of his
an, 9:67, 59:19, 89:20–28). Morality is actually the effort to comply with the
patterns of behavior within the divine guidance. Vice versa, it is immoral if individuals act
contrarily by pursuing only self-interest and neglecting social goals as in Quadrant II, or
pursuing only social interest while neglecting self-interest as in Quadrant III, or even worse
by neglecting both self-interest and social orientation as in Quadrant I.
The dual dimension of the human self in terms of body and soul, material and spirit, and
mundane and profane, reflects that Homo Islamicus is a complex creature and consequently
his needs are also complex. His wellbeing depends on the fulfillment of all his needs and
therefore, should be viewed in a comprehensive manner. The nature of Homo Islamicus, as
Eaton (1991, p. 358) puts it, is “a synthesis that reflects totality and can be satisfied with
nothing less than the total”. His bodily aspect has its particular needs and requirements to be
fulfilled so that man can live happily. His spiritual side also has particular needs and
requirements to be taken care of so that his life will be good.
Human beings are endowed with motives which is the driving force that evokes activity.
Motives trigger behavior and lead human beings to certain goals. Human beings are endowed
with an inner motive by God that drives them to work and struggle to fulfill their physical,
psychological, social, intellectual, recreational and spiritual needs. Self-preservation,
therefore, is not only to preserve one’s natural urge of having more wealth, profit or
utility, but also to gain comprehensive wellbeing of mental, spiritual and moral gain that will
encompass this life and the hereafter (Roy, 1994). Chapra (2008) also argues that real
wellbeing cannot be realized and sustained by merely increasing income, wealth and
satisfying material needs at the cost of the spiritual.
an, however, teaches Homo Islamicus to have a proper orientation; although
physical satisfaction is necessary for his wellbeing, it is not the ultimate end that would
provide ultimate wellbeing (Qurʾ
an, 53:30). It is not an end in itself because the body and this
physical world are not eternal and will be diminished (Qurʾ
an, 27:36); they are in fact
intermediate ends that should be pursued to achieve the ultimate end, which is spiritual
wellbeing. In this perspective, the pleasures of earthly life are not themselves condemned as
they are natural and necessary. However, they should be put in a holistic perspective by not
separating worldly satisfaction from spiritual pleasure. Asad (2010, p. 13) in this regard
rightly asserts that “of all religions, Islam alone makes it possible for man to enjoy the full
range of his earthly life without for a moment losing its spiritual orientation”.
Therefore, the Qurʾ
an repeatedly warns of the negative tendency of human beings to focus
more on intermediate wellbeing and, hence, forget the ultimate goal. For example, the Qurʾ
describes human beings as having a natural inclination to selfishness, although it can be
detrimental to their interests (Qurʾ
an, 17:102, 89:15–25, 100:8). The Qurʾ
an advises that
cupidity destroys the human self (Qurʾ
an, 100:9–11); it makes one neglect others (Qurʾ
92:8–10), and therefore should be overcome by giving charity (zakat) that would purify one’s
soul from excess love of material gain and selfishness.
In other verses, the Qurʾ
an illuminates the real wellbeing: when individuals are willing to
share their wealth through charity or good works (Qurʾ
an, 9:88–89) instead of accumulating
material goods for personal interest or for the future, thinking that their treasures will give
them eternal life (Qurʾ
an, 104:1–3). Such misperception of the ultimate goal is actually the
source of all social evils (Qurʾ
an, 100:8–11) because an individual loses his God-consciousness
and unconsciously makes his lust his god (Qurʾ
an, 28:63, 45:22, 54:3, 89:17–20).
The nature of
This dimension, according to Zaman (2012), impels another goal of Islamic economics,
namely transforming human beings. Islamic economics at the theoretical level as well as its
practical system attempts to realize economic justice, to urge the feeding of the poor, and to
implement the orders of Allah (SWT) which are relevant to the economic realm. Islamic
economics is, therefore, neither positive (seeking to merely study the world as it is), nor
normative (seeking to merely describe an ideal state of affairs), but it is transformative
(attempting to transform realities into desirable objectives). In other words, Islamic
economics contains both normative and positive dimensions with the purpose of
transforming the phenomena, behavior and activities into Islamic goals.
The above characteristics and guidelines of Homo Islamicus as derived from the Qurʾ
which is the primary source of knowledge in Islamic epistemology, will be the guidelines in
developing the assumptions and hypothesis of analysis. Abalkhail (2020) in this regard has
provided evidence that religion plays an important role in shaping beliefs, knowledge,
attitude, decisions and behavior at both the individual and societal levels.
an not only provides insights into the nature of man but also offers a systematic and
penetrating analysis of human beings in the bigger picture of their relationship with other
realities including the ultimate reality. This paper has elaborated the concept of Homo
Islamicus, his nature, characteristics, tendencies, goals and wellbeing developed in
accordance with the Qurʾ
anic insights of how man should deal with himself, society,
nature and God. This conception can be the foundation in developing theories of Islamic
economics and the basis for analyzing the behavior of the economic agent in Islamic
Based on the above explanation, the nature of the economic agent in Islamic economics
(Homo Islamicus) can be characterized as follows:
(1) Homo Islamicus has been created in a perfect state synthesizing two elements, namely
the material/body (jasad) and immaterial/soul (r
_). As a result, his tendencies,
potentials and needs consist of physical, psychological, moral and spiritual needs.
Endowed with guidance from the Qurʾ
an and Sunnah and internal capacity of
aql), free-will (ikhtiy
ar), capabilities (qudrah) and desires (ahw
Islamicus is expected to pursue a balanced attitude in satisfying these various
tendencies and needs.
(2) Homo Islamicus plays an important role and undertakes the task of
serving God by carrying out all that he is charged with (takl
ıf) in the form of orders
and prohibitions as well as that of khal
ıfah (God’s vicegerent on earth) by
implementing God’s intents, patterns and injunctions in economic activities (
(3) Homo Islamicus is an individual and social being as well as a spiritual and material
being. He attempts to maintain the relationship by preserving the h
uq (rights and
obligations) of respective realities (God, nature, individual and society) and to gain
harmony through the attitude of taqw
a(God-consciousness in all actions).
(4) Homo Islamicus’wellbeing (mas
_ah) lies in satisfying the material, psychological,
moral, social and spiritual needs in a balanced and holistic perspective. This is
possible if he is aware of his own nature (ma
rifat al-nafs), his role as an
ıfah’who has been assigned a task (takl
ıf) and is endowed with a trust (am
to make the earth prosper (ta
ır), establish justice (
adl), and have God-
a) in preserving the rights and obligations (h
uq) of others.
Homo Islamicus’actions, as illustrated in the above quadrants, will have various possibilities
with low and high commitment. In other words, this paper is keenly aware of the criticism by
Mahyudi (2016), who says that the discussion of Homo Islamicus focuses on one type of
behavior, namely the positive dimension. This study recognizes that the various types of
Homo Islamicus’tendencies and behavior depend on his level of commitment toward ethics
and spirituality. However, the paper explicates the desired output as envisaged in the Qurʾ
which can be achieved if Homo Islamicus has conscious and clear spiritual orientation.
Islamic economics as a discipline will explicitly set a guide of proper ethics for individual
choices and actions, and hence harmony and equilibrium could be achieved as propagated by
Choudhury (2018, p. 265):
Islamic economics in its present state does not have a theory and foundation that can be called truly
Islamic in terms of systematizing economic and social learning in a holistic way. The methods and
models of Islamic economics today ignore the need to model Islamic morals and ethics in an
endogenous way with materiality.
Therefore, this study is an initiative to clarify the nature of the economic agent in Islamic
economics. Further research to examine the reliability of the proposed concepts as well as
their practical implementation is, therefore, needed.
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About the authors
Hafas Furqani, PhD, is an associate professor at the Faculty of Islamic Economics and
Business, Universitas Islam Negeri Ar-Raniry, Banda Aceh, Indonesia. He holds a PhD in economics
(2012) and a Masters of Economics (2006) from the Department of Economics, International Islamic
University Malaysia. His bachelor degree was in Shari’ah Mu’amalah from the State Islamic University
(UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta (2002). Hafas Furqani is the corresponding author and can be
contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abdelghani Echchabi, PhD, is an assistant professor of finance at the Higher Colleges of Technology,
in the United Arab Emirates. He had served in similar positions in South Korea, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
His areas of research and teaching interest cover a wide range of finance and Islamic finance topics, as
well as social entrepreneurship.
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The nature of