Thirty years ago today, one of Iraq’s most prominent thinkers, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, was martyred, along with his sister, Amina Bint al-Huda. I will not chronicle the events surrounding his death at the hands of Saddam Hussain’s regime, but will concentrate on one of his main works, Iqtisaduna (Our Economics).
Completed in 1961, Iqtisaduna aims at presenting an Islamic alternative to both capitalism and communism. Al-Shaheed al-Sadr’s thesis is compelling and enlightened. In it, he tackles the most pertinent topics in economic discourse; the role of the state and the private sector in the economy and in social welfare, and provides a critique of classical economics and communism.
The state, according to Sadr, plays an important role in setting out the benchmarks and regulations in an Islamic economy. It also sets the economic strategies and acts as an agent to redistribute wealth across all segments of society. In a way, the Islamic economy envisioned by Sadr has a socialist flavour; but it is in his views on the imperative of the private sector that we see a divergence. Al-Shaheed al-Sadr proposes what is now widely known as public-private partnership model that marries the strengths of the two sectors in a way that maintains and protects the ever important incentivising capacities of the latter, with the strategic, long-term imperatives of the former.
Iqtisaduna stresses time and again the need to align the interests of the privately enterprise with those of society (something Capitalism and Communism both fail to do). Only by aligning these interests, Sadr argues, can lead to the true wellbeing of both.
In murdering Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Saddam extinguished one of our brightest minds, and with it, our best hope of a scholar who could intellectually and convincingly provide a way of interpreting modern convention through an Islamic prism.