The Libertarian Character of the Islamic Economy


  • He acknowledges comments from Dr Muhammad Khalid Masud, Dr Ayub Mehar and anonymous referees. This article is a result of a research project ‘State Intervention in Commodity Markets: Discord between Economic Freedom and Social Justice in Islam’ originally supported by Economic Freedom Network Pakistan and Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit. The complete study is available at
  • This article was motivated by a proposal made by Nigel Ashford of The Institute of Humane Studies, during a meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Istanbul in October 2011, that evidence of a libertarian tradition be sought within the history of Islamic thought.


This article reviews the shari'a approach to markets and examines its treatment by certain twentieth-century Islamic economists such as Nejatullah Siddiqui, Nawab Haider Naqvi, Umer Chapra and M.A. Mannan. It characterises the arguments of these economists as largely statist, redistributive and socialist, possibly reflecting post-colonial intellectual experiences. Yet shari'a endorses negative freedom by proscribing price controls and guaranteeing consumer protection from coercion. Islamic law, this article argues, as evinced in both revealed knowledge and human exegesis, has endorsed a market-friendly, libertarian and limited-government philosophy.