Riba, Usury and Keynes

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Yasushi Suzuki

Abstract

This paper proposes TWO benchmarks to ascertain whether a particular financial transaction is acceptable or not in the context of Islamic finance: the ‘shari’ah-compliant’ benchmark and the shari’ah-based 'raf' al-haraj' (the Removal of Hardship) benchmark. As a cardinal objective (maqasid) of the shariah, the principle of 'raf' al-haraj' prohibits ‘usurious’ trade. Simultaneously, this paper suggests the necessity of having ‘a wise government’, or at least a strong government, in order to sustain the elimination of riba (‘usurious’ profit)—by means of creating and maintaining the marginal efficiency of capital (MEC) à la Keynes at an optimal level. As an alternative to riba, the Muslim community has to pursue an economy where a certain level of MEC is created and maintained for investors and investees. At the moment, these points are understated in existing debates on riba.

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