By Yakub Aliyu
Prof Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi who passed at the ripe age of 91 was a quintessential economists and Islamic scholar; he was a great teacher and thinker. Above all, a visionary, who deployed his intellect towards the achievement of the greater objectives of the Shari’a: making the world a better place for all.
Professor Siddiqi was unique in many ways. He first went the regular modern education, and after graduating tops among his class in Economics and Business Studies enrolled into a madrassa system to study Islamic studies in the traditional format under the feet of scholars. Thereafter, he went back to the university to complete his Ph.D.
He later joined Aligarh Muslim University and taught Islamic Studies and Economics there for a few years. Later, in the 1970s he moved over to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where he joined King Abdul Aziz University as a Professor of Economics. It was the time when the Kingdom had established a Research Centre related to Islamic Economics.
Islamic Economics was an emerging subject that attracted many intellectuals to Economics from the viewpoint of Islam as several of the Muslim-Arab nations had begun to feel the impact of the world economy on their States.
The Islamic banking phenomenon we witness today was the result of his consistent intellectual exertion beginning with his classic book: Banking without Interest, which he wrote in 1973, but which underwent 27 editions and translated in several languages.
He didn’t rest on his ores. He followed up with further elaboration and explication of concepts he broached in Banking without Interest. These include: the widely received and reviewed Issues in Islamic banking: Selected papers (1983); Partnership and Profit-sharing in Islamic law (1985); Insurance in an Islamic Economy (1985); Riba, Bank Interest and the Rationale of its Prohibition (2004); among several others some written in Urdu. In effect, he pioneered the concept of Islamic banking and laid the foundations of what is now a thriving three trillion dollar (and counting) industry.
His contributions to the field of Islamic Economics was equally unparalleled. Besides teaching the subject in various universities in India (Aligrch university), Saudi Arabia (King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah) and the USA (University of California), he was engaged in research and supervision of PhD candidates. He taught course ranging from: Price Theory, Distribution Theory, Money and Banking, and Public Finance, to Development Economics, History of Economic Thought, Mathematical Economics, Statistical Inference, etc.
He wrote equally well regarded classics that have remained the foundation of the discipline till date. These include: Islam’s View on Property (1969); Recent Theories of Profit: A Critical Examination (1971); Some Aspects of the Islamic Economy (1972); Economic Enterprise in Islam (1972); Muslim Economic Thinking (1981); Teaching Economics in Islamic Perspective (1996); Role of State in Islamic Economy (1996); Islamic Public Economics (2001); Dialogue in Islamic Economics (2002), among others.
Prof. Siddiqi has 64 publications in high quality/impact academic journals and research reports on various aspect of Islamic economics, banking and finance.
His numerous teaching and research experience include: Distinguished University Professor at the International Islamic University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August-September 2006; Consultant to a private firm, American Islamic Finance, based in Los Angeles, June 2004 to December 2005; Visiting Scholar, Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, November 2002-April 2003; Fellow, Center for Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, Fall 2001; Professor of Economics, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 1978-2000; Professor of Islamic Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, India. 1977-1983; Reader (Associate Professor) in Economics, Aligarh Muslim University, India. 1975-1976; Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Economics, Aligarh Muslim University, India. 1961 – 1974.
Prof. Siddiqi was at various times President, International Association for Islamic Economics- 2001-2003; Member, Board of Trusties, AAOIFI (Accounting and Auditing Organization for
Islamic Financial Institutions, Bahrain) 1999-2001; Member, Editorial Board, Journal of King Abdulaziz University: Islamic Economics, Jeddah 1983-2000; Member International Board, Review of Islamic Economics, International Association of Islamic Economics, Leicester, U.K. 1991; Member, Advisory Board, Islamic Economic Studies, Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah; Member, Editorial Board, IQTISAD Journal of Islamic Economics, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 1999- date; Member, Advisory Editorial Board, The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, AMSS & IIIT, U.S.A. 1985-1999; Member, Advisory Board of the Journal, Humonomics, Toronto, Canada 1985-date; Member, Advisory Board, MASS, Journal of Islamic Sciences, Aligarh, India. 1985 – 1997; Editor, Islamic Thought, Aligarh. 1954 – 1959.
Besides acting as referee to several scholarly Journals including the Economic Journal (U.K.), he had participated in drawing up syllabuses for Economics/Islamic economics at Aligarh Muslim University, King Abdulaziz University, International Islamic University, (Islamabad), International Islamic University, (Kuala Lumpur), Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto (Nigeria), Imam Saud University, (Riyadh) and Ummul Qura University, (Makkah).
Prof. Sidiqi’s academic honors include: Professor Emeritus, Aligarh Muslim University, Department of Business Administration, 2010; Awarded King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies, 1982; Shah Waliullah Award for 2001, Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi, May 2003; American Finance House Award, 1993; Award for Life-long Contributions to Islamic Insurance and Banking, Takaful Forum, New York, 2000;
Professor Siddiqi has left for his final abode, but he has left an enduring legacy that fits well with his Islamic worldview, which sees the worldly life as a stepping stone to the hereafter. He has left the world better than he found it. Millions of people around the world today benefit from interest-free banking. Interest-free finance has assumed a life of its own even in non-Muslim jurisdictions. It is providing a credible alternative financing and investment platforms and raising awareness about ethics and responsibility in how individuals make investment choices and decisions.
He has answered his name: Nejat means salvation, and his works have proved to be salvation to the world through the new financial system he engineered in his study.
May Allah grant him Aljanna.
° Aliyu is a public affairs analyst