The third Shah Waliullah Award was conferred on Prof. Nijatullah Siddiqi, a pioneering expert on Islamic economics, in a befitting ceremony held on 19.5.2003 at Hamdard Convention Centre, Hamdard University, New Delhi. The award is given annually to a scholarly person who has made outstanding contribution to knowledge. The first and second awards were conferred on Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi and Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasmi respectively.
The programme started with recitation from the Holy Quran by Maulana Abdullah Tariq. Dr. Sayyid Abdul Bari, who conducted the programme, threw some light on the outstanding personality of Shah Waliullah. Maulana Abdullah Mughisi, Secretary General, All India Milli Council, also highlighted the scholarly contribution of Shah Waliullah. He said that the great 18th century scholar has influenced almost all the organizations and individuals working for the Islamic cause in the subcontinent.
Dr. M. Manzoor Alam, chairman, IOS, gave a brief introduction of the Institute and highlighted some of the projects it has carried out till now. He also spoke about the projects being pursued at the moment. He specially mentioned the project on Asma-e-Husna, the 99 names of Allah (SWT) and Empowerment of Muslim series. He said that the IOS has till now published some 150 titles, both big and small. He appealed to the audience to come forward with pragmatic and concrete suggestions and advises that might help in improving the performance of the IOS.
Prof. Z.A. Nizami gave a detailed introduction of Prof. Nijatullah Siddiqi, throwing light on his life, family background and intellectual contribution in a very literary Urdu. The Citation, presented to Prof. Siddiqi in recognition of the services he has rendered, also spoke about his life and personality. Prof. Siddiqi’s ancestors came to india from the Arabian peninsula and served the Sharqi Sultanate in several capacities including the coveted position of Qazi al-Quzat (chief Justice). His ancestors later on settled in Azamgarh; his father, Hakeem Abdul Quddus, then, migrated to Gorakhpur and settled over there. Prof. Siddiqi was born in this city on 21st August 1931. He was 13 year old when his father passed away; his mother, then, took care of him and gave him the best possible education. He passed his inter-mediate examination in 1949 and, then, pursued religious and Quranic studies at Rampur and Sarai Mir, Azamgarh. He did his masters from AMU, Aligarh and wrote his Ph.D. thesis on “A Critical Examination of the Recent Theories of Profit”. He served his Alma Matar, AMU, as lecturer, Reader and Professor. He was appointed professor of Islamic Studies in 1977. He also served as Director, Institute of Islamic Studies at Aligarh. He joined Department of Economics, King Abul Aziz University, and Jeddah in 1978. He was Fellow at Centre for Eastern Studies at California University in 2001. Since November 2002 he is Visiting Scholar at Islamic Research and Training Institute of Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah.
Prof. Siddiqi became greatly influenced by the writings of Maulana Abul Aala Maududi in his student's days and joined Jamat-e-Islami Hind. He was imprisoned during the emergency period in mid 1970s and remained in Jail for several months as a prisoner of conscience.
Prof. Siddiqi has been honoured with several awards; he was given the Shah Faisal Award for Islamic Studies in 1982; American Finance Award and Takaful Forum New York Award in 1993.
Prof. Siddiqi is the pioneer scholar of Islamic economics. From an early age he realized the economics influences human life more than any other social science. His studies also revealed on him that bank interest, which the Quran has prohibited, is the bane of man’s economic life. He, therefore, concentrated on researches that ultimately led to the concept of Interest Free Banking in Islamic perspective. This is no longer a concept now; it is operational in most parts of the world.
Prof. Siddiqi has written extensively on Islamic economics and other aspects of Islam. He has written in English, Urdu and Arabic. He edited the islamic Thought for several years and has been on the editorial board several international journals including the Journal of Objective Studies. Prof. Siddiqi was member of the Governing council of the IOS for many years. Infact, he has always been associated with the Institute as a patron and well wisher.
Prof. Siddiqi’s greatest contribution is his successful attempt to introduce Islamic economics, specially interest free banking as a viable alternative to the traditional banking. It is because of his efforts along with those of a few others that Islamic economics is taught as a respected subject in the universities both in the East and West.
Prof. Siddiqi also spoke on the occasion after Justice A.M. Ahmadi presented him the memento and Mr. Mahmood Ali gave him a cheque of Rs. 100,000/-. Thanking the Institute for honouring him he enunciated some of his ideas on Islamic economics. He said the Islamic and economic thoughts have been serving human life for centuries but the two have come as close in the 20th century as never before. The books being written on the history of economic thoughts now acknowledge the contribution of Ibn Khaldun who lived some 400 years before Adam Smith. The Ulama, toom have been writing on the prohibition of Riba and other economic issues like agriculture, market demand and pricing etc. But it was Adam Smith’s contemporary, Shah Waliullah who presented an analytical study of the economic evolution of human society through his famous discussion on Irtifaqat in his magnum opus, Hujjatullahil Baligha. Some two hundred years after Shah Waliulalh there developed the idea in the Indian subcontinent, which is known as “Islamic economic in the world today, said Prof. Siddiqi. Islamic economics, unlike the traditional economics, has the advantage of benefiting from the divine guidance. It deals with those areas of human life, which are affected the most by ever-developing technologies. That is why Ijtihad, intellectual reasoning, is always needed here, said Prof. Siddiqi.
In the beginning of the 20th century Allama Iqbal wrote a book on economics in which he dealt with the problems of farmers in Punjab. AT more or less the same time Mufti Muhammad Abduh was thinking about Shirkat wa Mudharabat in view of the interest accuring from the money deposited in post office. After a few decades when the conflict between Capitalism and Marxism intensified in the Muslim world and India the ulama and Muslim intellectuals started thinking about the economic teachings of Islam and authors like Anwar Iqbal Quraishi, Manazi Ahsan Geelani, HifzurRahman Seharvi, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi and Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr produced their valuable works which may be regarded as the beginning of the Islamic economics. However, formally the subject was initiated on international level when the first international conference on Islamic economics was held in Makkah in 1976. And now when the new century has just started its journey, this subject is respectfully taught everywhere.
Prof. Siddiqi said that some two hundred years ago a project was taunched to “free” economics from moral values and social objectives and make it a subject like Physics. However, the project, being unnatural, failed miserably. The project was initially adopted because it presented the hypothesis of maximizing individual wealth with the help of mathematics. However, what was not realized was that often hypotheses become started scales and thus affect human life. This new economics thus gave approval and sanctity to capitalism, intensified colonial expansion and ultimately the conflict of interests led to the outbreak of two World Wars. After a great deal of damage and destruction, it was decided to put brakes on market forces, which gave birth to the idea of welfare state. However, this, too, would die its natural death under the weight of its own weaknesses, said Prof. Siddiqi. He also said that apparently the world has achieved tremendous economic development but inequitable distribution of wealth has also increased both at national and international.
This is the reason that the hypotheses of economics and its methodologies are being reviewed today. The return to moral values is also a reflection of this “review mentality”. Nobel Laureate Amratya Sen’s ideas on drought and starvation are also being viewed in this very perspective. However, still a puritanical traditionalist economist finds it difficult to accept that his science of economics should have any business with morality and religion, said Prof. Siddiqi.
Prof. Siddiqi also said that Islamic economics is not against the search for efficiency and development; it only wants to tie it with social justice and the satisfaction of heart. It believes in maximization of wealth but it also wants the equitable adjust distribution of wealth both between individuals and nations, said Prof. Siddiqi. He also threw light on globalization and its bad effects on the Muslim world. He said globalization is a by-product of communication revolution and because of this the world is changing. However, America’s hegemonistic mentality has hijacked the agenda of globalization because of which it has become harmful to the Islamic and third world. Prof. Siddiqi, however expressed the hope that that this situation would not last for long. Because the communication revolution the world has become like a global village where only a system that ensures justice, equality and democracy would survive and not the one that seeks to establish the hegemonic domination of any particular nation, said Prof. Siddiqi.