The study of the economic principles and practices of Islam in any disciplined and sustained fashion is a relatively modem phenomenon. Although there had been some discussion of the economic principles ofIslam at an earlier stage, the real beginnings came in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century, with a substantial increase in publications in the next two decades. This latter period also saw 'efforts at system formulations and discussions on specific issues relevant to modem life' , but analytical studies of the economic injunctions ofIslam and analytical critiques of modem institutions are even more recent. 1 A recent bibliography lists some 700 items, of which only twenty-seven are dated before 1945 (some fifty items are undated).2 This is not to suggest that economic issues and principles were not addressed in the classical literature: they were, but in a piecemeal fashion and with the primary aim of setting out ground rules for economic activity, elucidating and elaborating the precepts of the QurJan and the Sunna, and so on. 3 There are, of course, some uncharacteristically clear passages in the QurJan which prompted the comment (albeit in a discussion of the compatibility ofIslam and capitalism) that

there are religions whose sacred texts discourage economic activity in general, counselling their followers to rely on God to provide them with their daily bread or, more particularly, looking askance at any striving for profit. This is certainly not the case with the Koran, which looks with favour upon commercial activity, confining itself to condemning fraudulent practices and requiring abstention from trade during certain religious festivals. 4

However, the concept of Muslim economics is certainly confused, causing one undergraduate to open a discussion paper entitled 'An Islamic economic system - fact or fantasy' with the comment: 'If we identify the term fact with theory and the term fantasy with actual practice, it might be a little easier to proceed with the discussion. '5 It is, nevertheless, clear than many devout Muslims who are also economists believe firmly in the existence of a distinctive Islamic economic system both in theory and in practice, and in one which differs markedly from both the capitalist and the socialist (or communist) systems. In their discussions of the theory and theoretical principles, however, they use standard economic terms: production, distribution, and consumption; capital investment and return on investment; choice and opportunity cost; and so on. As a result, the existence of a distinctive 'Islamic' economic system has been questioned. Since, however, Muslim economists - and, it may be added, some Muslim politicians - believe fervently in its existence and have striven to prove that existence by putting into practice the economic principles enunciated in the theoretical model, it is more pertinent to ask: 'In what way does the economic system of Islam differ, either in theory or in practice, from more familiar systems, if at all?'