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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 20, Issue 8, November 2009, Pages 921–932
Much of the theoretical, normative and prescriptive research in Islamic economics, finance and accounting emphasizes the social and moral character of these disciplines. Considering such emphases, this paper critically explores the potential of aspects of contemporary Islamic accounting research and practice to contribute to the critical accounting project in the latter's efforts to achieve more emancipatory and enabling forms of accounting. The paper concludes that minimal critical theorizing, as well as the narrow instrumental and mechanical emphasis of the majority of Islamic accounting research, are indications that Islamic accounting research is diverting from its primarily proclaimed social and moral roles. This is further exacerbated by the uncritical emulation and embracing of conventional accounting operations and standards by so-called Islamic ones. The paper also attempts to identify ways forward for Islamic banking and accounting research to realize more emancipatory praxis.
A most defining aspect of this era is the return to the religious in all its different pretexts (Žižek, 2000 and Pollack, 2008), a resurgence leading some to warn against the repressive nature of religion vis-à-vis modernity and the enlightenment (see, e.g., Grayling, 2006 and Hichens, 2007). In critical theorization, religion has more often than not been negatively portrayed as a threat to social justice and emancipation. Critical thinkers such as Adorno and Horkheimer have perceived religion and faith as a ‘swindle’ (Hind, 2007, p. 74). They argued that religion is often employed and exploited by the elite to achieve their goals and maximize their wealth. It is often used to protect the elite from public scrutiny and inquiry (Hind, 2007; see also Derrida, 2008). A number of thinkers, however, have argued that some core religious values, divorced from fundamentalism and corruption, constitute emancipatory aspects that if employed may contribute positively to social justice (see Žižek, 2000). Žižek (2000, p. 2), for instance, maintains that the ‘substantive core’ of Christianity has a significant lineage with Marxism and that both should join forces to fight against capitalism, repression and injustice. Islam, in particular, has been largely accused in the West of fostering fundamentalism and repression (Said, 1978, Said, 1993 and Said, 1997; cf. Tinker, 2004 and Kamla et al., 2006). It is often attacked in the Western political and cultural spheres on the grounds that its ideology constitutes threats to modernity and the enlightenment (Hind, 2007). Nonetheless, Islamic revival in the Islamic world (where Muslims constitute a majority) may be appreciated from a political economy perspective, as a concern about social well-being and Islam's ways forward (Wardi, 2005). For many Muslims, both Western capitalism and socialism failed to address their poverty and social misery, enhancing wealth concentration amongst small social elites (Gambling and Karim, 1991, Wilson, 1997 and Kuran, 2004).1 Events are convincing many Muslims that an alternative to Western imperial capitalism is necessary and a key form of resistance. For many Muslims, modern interactions with the West have constituted imperialism, colonialism and entailed use of the military to defend Western privileges and ideology (Patel, 2004).2 Equally, the spread and predominance of liberal capitalism is seen as on the back of violence (Patel, 2004). For many Muslims, the operations of multinationals, whose search for profits has entailed mobilization of Western governments using soft and/or hard force to serve mutual interests in, e.g., Iraq, reflects this (Patel, 2004; see also Hind, 2007). Such views add to calls for adoption of a comprehensive Islamic social, political and economic system (or such systems). Here, many Muslims perceive Islam to go beyond the spiritual dimension and bring society great blessings, promising a mobilization for justice and fairness, kindness, fulfilment and enlightenment (Soroush, 2002). The contemporary phenomenon with the ‘banner of Islamic finance’ (El-Gamal, 2006a, p xi) developed capitalizing on the desire of many Muslims for an Islamic socio-economic and political way (see Choudhury, 1986, Wilson, 1997 and El-Gamal, 2006a). Yet several scholars here suspect this phenomenon as it has manifested (see Kuran, 2004, Patel, 2004, El-Gamal, 2006a, El-Gamal, 2006b and El-Gamal, 2007). Contemporary Islamic finance, banking and accounting practices and institutions have indeed been described as ‘ideologically driven by liberalism and the common opposition to socialism that Saudi Arabia and the US shared’ (Wardi, 2005, p. 43). Many ostensibly Islamic financial institutions and the research driving them are funded by oil-rich Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia (Choudhury, 1986).3 Consequently, cooperation between Muslim businessmen and experts in Western business environments to promote and operate financial institutions under the banner of Islam manifested. The UK and US, rather than the Middle East or the Islamic world, became the centres for Islamic financial organizations and research, not denying the significant role played by large Muslim states such as Malaysia and Indonesia in promoting Islamic finance globally (Wardi, 2005). Islamic finance, especially banking, has today become one of the fastest growing financial sectors globally (Rad, 2006). Thus, research has explored the most suitable accounting methods for the operations of Islamic financial institutions. Further, accounting and auditing standards have been developed to help legitimize and standardize these methods. On behalf of these Islamic banking and accounting manifestations, basic conceptual adherence to Islam's moral and social code is substantively claimed. This paper's objective is to critically appraise contemporary research and practices of Islamic banking and accounting against these social and moral claims. It explores the potential of these contemporary manifestations to address Muslims’ calls for a more just and equitable society inspired by Islam. Here, the paper offers critique of the limited scope of Islamic banking and accounting practices and research. It pinpoints their obsession with technical and instrumental matters related to the interest ban and Zakah calculations. The paper discusses how these instrumental emphases are displacing more enabling and emancipatory potentials of Islamic banking and accounting informed by broader and more enabling dimensions of Islam's teachings: Islam's holistic approach to life; its concentration on social justice and the central message of the importance of seeking knowledge. The analysis builds on the critical school's use of ‘immanent criticism’ and the importance of interdisciplinary dimensions and theorization (see Held, 1980).4 The paper, furthermore, goes beyond highlighting contradictions and negativity in Islamic finance and accounting practices and research. It engages with praxis through identifying practices that would better achieve emancipation, inspired by aspects of Islam's teachings and the broader Islamic social agenda. According to Kuran (2004), critical writings in Islamic economics literature are rare. And it is rare to find substantial critique of Islamic accounting in the literature and an aligning of Islamic accounting with critical accounting theorizing and research. This paper attempts to help fill gaps in the literature and encourage research bringing the Islamic accounting agenda closer to the critical accounting project. The paper's objectives and themes are developed in the following sections. Section two elaborates the emancipatory potential of religion, with a specific focus on Islam, to contribute to an enabling accounting project. It relates Islam's emancipatory potential for the critical accounting school agenda and highlights the obstacles imposed by narrow capitalist ideology to Islamic or other faith-based approaches to accounting and business. Section three critically discusses the nature, work and role of Islamic banking and the AAOIFI (Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions). It addresses contradictions between what these institutions claim to encompass in respect to Islamic values and what they actually achieve. Section four critically assesses Islamic accounting research papers. It offers critique of the failure of the research to address relevant social issues, such as poverty, in Islamic societies and beyond or to develop a significant critique of capitalistic ideology and contemporary Islamic accounting and banking practice. Section five concludes, reflecting on ways forward for Islamic banking and accounting research and practice. It develops a vision for a critical Islamic accounting where broader social issues constitute a primary concern.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This study has critically explored the potential of contemporary manifestations of Islamic accounting and research to join the critical accounting agenda. The analysis indicates that these manifestations fall significantly short of realizing the enabling praxis of a more emancipatory accounting and constitute little departure from conventional accounting and finance. Discussion also highlighted contradictions between the ethical claims of these manifestations and their actualities. A serious reflection on the current role of Islamic banking and accounting opens up the urgency for a radical change. Building on Islamic teachings discussed in this study such as holism, social justice and knowledge development constitutes a platform for Islamic banking and accounting to go beyond emphasis on interest prohibition and ethical rhetoric that in practice bears little resemblance to operations. These teachings may shift Islamic banking and accounting practice to emphasize social justice, working with local communities, provision of business opportunities for the cash-poor, decision-making beyond merely financial criteria, the environment, accountability and transparency, which should all be central to the operations of Islamic banks and their accounting practices. Inspiration to realize these radical changes and shift in emphasis in Islamic banking can also draw upon and emulate other non-religious initiatives that to a certain extent succeeded in bringing benefits to local communities and to the poor. Microcredit schemes, famously manifest in the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, have brought significant benefits to rural, poor communities, especially women (see Rahman, 1999). Providing small loans exclusively to the poor to promote self-employment and income generation has transformed many lives in rural Bangladesh (Rahman, 1999; see also Islam, 2007, for discussion of the good, the bad and the required improvements for microcredits). Islamic banks can learn from the successful experience of the Grameen Bank and similar initiatives in poorer communities. Islamic principles such as social justice discussed here are more in line with local initiatives to empower the poor and the community than with global business expansion. Islamic teachings can contribute to expanding the microcredits phenomenon further to the extremely poor in Muslim societies. Islam (2007) holds that the extremely poor in rural Bangladesh are sometimes refraining from engagement with the Grameen Bank and other similar initiatives because of interest bearing transactions. Islamic banks, in this context, may reach more Muslims in need of finance by genuinely introducing PLS techniques to microcredits (see Islam, 2007). To be successful though, Islamic banking, as with the Grameen Bank, needs to monitor and train and engage closely with its customers (see Islam, 2007). Further, in line with the holistic approach to life and knowledge development in Islam, Islamic banking needs to open up and cooperate with other religious and secular social institutions and programs that aim to achieve social justice solutions. For instance, Kuran (2004) maintains that Islamic (local) institutions like clinics, schools and centres that serve the underprivileged in society have had significant success in a number of communities in the Islamic world. Similarly, vast numbers of religious institutions (such as of Liberation Theology in Christianity and the Jubilee Debt Campaign in Judaism) have been active and committed to the betterment of society and the realization of social justice (see Pepinster, 2008). Islamic banking needs to join forces and cooperate with these community initiatives. A social framework aimed at achieving social justice can only be established through the exchange and cooperation of a multitude of social and financial organizations in the community or society (see also Islam, 2007). Accounting, inspired by Islamic teachings, can play a role in the realization of this radical change in the nature of Islamic banking and finance. The holistic message of Islam is central here. It requires that a separation between the sacred and the secular be abandoned. The accounting system, therefore, on macro and micro levels, should create and provide information that reflects deeper social and ethical dimensions (see Kamla et al., 2006). Knowledge development, social justice and community principles require honest and full disclosures to empower society and the community and not just capital expansion and growth. In this sense, accounting should enable the regulator, the auditor and society to establish whether the organization has contributed positively to social justice and whether its money and profits come from fair and honest practices. For example, accounting should help the community to establish whether institutions, such as Islamic banks, are practicing the values they espouse. Accounting, including quantitative and qualitative information, should enable different constituents in society to establish whether the bank has contributed to elevating its customers from poverty conditions or not. Further, financial and risk assessment techniques in conventional accounting and banks should be changed and developed to allow for more loans and investment opportunities for customers from poorer backgrounds. After all, the experience of the Grameen Bank has shown that the poor, with adequate support, training and mentoring, are very good in paying back their debts (see Rahman, 1999 and Islam, 2007). Internal accounts going beyond financial growth and efficiency could also provide the institution or the Islamic bank's management with information on whether they have met their religious as well as financial commitments. External and internal accounting should be related to wider social accountability concepts including details of the types of projects the bank is financing and their social and environmental impacts and assessment. Accounting that enhances the organization's as well as society's appreciation of organizational impact on the overall socio-economic systems is more in line with the knowledge principle in Islam. As Kamla et al. (2006, p. 258) maintain, it contributes to enhancing the type of ‘social knowledge’ necessary for development in Islamic society. The role of accounting regulatory bodies and of accountants can also be changed to embrace a more holistic approach. Section two demonstrates how the Hisba and the Muhtasib historically incorporated both spiritual and secular dimensions and went beyond narrowly conceived financial considerations. They sought as duty significant accountability to society and the environment (see Kamla et al., 2006 for further discussion of the role of accountants in Islam). Islamic accounting regulatory bodies such as the AAOIFI should play the role of regulating business organizations in the interest of the public, equality, sustainability and social justice. Only then may the AAOIFI properly claim to operate and develop accounting standards according to Sharia. Islamic accounting research, for its part, needs to play a role in making these changes in the role of Islamic banking and accounting possible. Developing and researching ways in which accounting can change in line with Islamic teachings to include rather than exclude the disadvantaged and the poor is one dimension. Bringing the financial and social needs of the poor to the centre of Islamic research is important here. The critical evaluation of Islamic accounting research indicated a significant lack of studies that focus on Muslim's voices or insights into the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in society. Islamic accounting research, in line with seeking knowledge and the truth, should also embark on interrogating the limitations and flaws of contemporary practices of Islamic banking and finance. It is clear that so far Islamic accounting research is reluctant to openly criticize and expose the nature of Islamic banking activities and institutions. Engagement with praxis that builds on Islamic teachings, other religious initiatives and the work and theorization of the critical school can provide Islamic accounting research with the tools to live up to their own ethical claims about the role of Islamic banking and accounting. The critical accounting school itself can begin to engage and open up more to Islam (and other religions) and make use of the ability of faith to change people's lives to the better. It can move beyond a simple negative suspicion of religion and its role in society (Gallhofer and Haslam, 2004) and begin working with religion to open up new possibilities for emancipation. For instance, the significance of the spiritual in Islamic accounting thought can provide a boost to the critical school's calls for an accounting that goes beyond efficiency and profits and concentrates on issues such as how we are affecting the livelihood of each other and our environment (see Kamla et al., 2006). Accounting inspired by Islam and the spiritual can shift emphasis from the measurable to the non-measurable. Concerns about the spiritual can bring in voices from different ranges of people and help in making the marginalized and the distressed heard and their wishes acted upon. Furthermore, as discussed in section two, Islamic teachings constitute significant dimensions that contradict and stand aside from capitalism. Consequently, Islamic accounting and the critical school project can join forces in their interrogation of Western capitalism and fight against conditions of labour, capital, commodity and other resource exploitation. The Western system's aggressive position against all, but specifically against Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and even those living in the West can be exposed. Engagement, dialogue and cooperation between Islam, the critical school and other religions can create a platform for resisting the hostilities of classical and neoclassical schools of thought to Muslims and beyond. In Summary Islamic banking and accounting need to build more on Islamic teachings of holism, justice and importance of knowledge in order to broaden their social agenda and realize their ethical claims. They also need to engage, cooperate and communicate with other religious and non-religious initiatives and critical theorization seeking social justice and community empowerment. The Islamic accounting and banking project must respond to the masses of Muslims who supported it initially on the grounds of advancing social justice, eradication of poverty and freedom from forms of subjection, imperialism and colonialism. Unless it does so, it will most certainly begin to lose Muslims’ support and diminish as it will be exposed as a superficial phenomenon that does not constitute the substance and spirit of Islam.