30 Days of Prayer Int'l
Colorado Springs, CO
Importance of Trade and Business
Muslims actually have a lot to say about money in general. Historically, Muslims have been very successful as merchants. Many think that Islam has essentially grown as a world religion through holy wars, but in reality trade and business contacts have been a very significant means of spreading Islam. This continues to be true even today. During the past 150 years, many tribes in Africa have been converted to Islam through relationships developed as a result of commercial contacts. Many Arabs in the Middle East consider their oil wealth to be God’s means of financing the furtherance of Islam around the world. They are making significant use of that wealth to promote Islam through the distribution of the Qur’an and other literature, as well as through the construction of mosques and aid programmes in various countries.
An important principle of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by humans in trust. Christians should be in general agreement with Muslims on this point. Another positive teaching of Islam about money is an emphasis against usury in lending. This principle is not always followed in reality, but it is positive that Muslims are encouraged to restrain the negative power of high interest rates.
Recently, Muslims have made significant contributions to economic development in many poorer nations through micro-enterprise loans, an idea that started in Bangladesh. The world-famous Grameen Bank and other initiatives of a similar nature have helped millions of people around world to become relatively prosperous through small business loans of often only US$50-200. The Grameen Bank was founded by Muslims – not to further the cause of Islam but rather to help the poor. Many Christian organisations have copied this model in their efforts to encourage economic development. (www.grameen-info.org ).
Grameen Bank Concept:
Groups of five individuals are loaned money creating economic incentives for the group to act responsibly.
Muslims are not immune to the negative power of the love of money. Jealousy, hatred, strife, bitterness and even murder concerning money and resources have plagued every Muslim nation and family. Islamic cultures tend to be family- and group-orientated, which can complicate financial matters. Sometimes the financial dependence and tangled debt and repayment situations lead to disastrous relationships. On a positive note, the Muslim sense of financial solidarity is often very strong.
To become disciples of Christ Muslims need to learn a real fear of God in their relationship with money. The “fear of God” means to hate evil: including pride, arrogance, and the evil way (Prov 8:13). The book of Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is interesting to note that the Grameen Bank could be an example of God’s wisdom. The principles of acting to help the poor and refusing to seek profits first actually reflect some of God’s own values.
One of the five pillars of Islam is called “Zakat”, which concerns the giving of one’s money and or goods. The word “Zakat” means both “purification” and “growth”. Some Muslims have pointed out that pruning plants removes branches which do not produce fruit and encourages new growth. In a similar way Muslims often believe that giving through the Zakat will purify them of sin and that God uses it as a test of true Islamic belief. The Zakat consists of giving 2.5 per cent of one’s annual increase in goods or funds (or both). Muslims generally associate the Zakat with specifically giving to the poor. The Zakat can be distributed among eight categories of people, including those who do not have material possessions or a means of livelihood, those who convert to Islam, those who borrow, those who are fighting for the cause of Allah, or one who is stranded on a journey.
Christians coming from a Muslim background have to become accustomed to other ways of and viewpoints about giving. In Islam, Muslim “clergy” (the “imams”) are generally not paid (though there are many exceptions in larger mosques that have significant responsibilities). In Islam, there has never been a Levite priesthood that lives off tithes and offerings. While not all aspects of the levitical laws hold true today, the principle of giving is very much part of Christian teaching. Christians have historically been called to give much more money than Muslims (often 10 per cent or more of their earnings rather than 2.5 per cent). This may also be a challenge for some Muslims who are drawing near to Christ.