Islam and the implementation of Malaysia Madani

Looking at the theological basis of Madani economics

Murray Hunter

It was very surprising when prime minister Anwar Ibrahim launched Malaysia Madani, earlier this year, a comprehensive theology/philosophy had not been developed. Consultants and PR firms are now encapsulating the philosophy of Madani into strategies and action points for eventual implementation. From that format, Malaysia Madani can be applied to both economic and social policies.

Consultancies are producing the same old same old. Headings are new and body is a cut and paste job.

Madani is deep enough to become a separate and stand-alone economic paradigm. As such, Malaysia Madani would radically change the nature of the economy in a way it would be Islamic and ‘Reformasi’ at the same time. It would unify the paradox of Islam and reform.

Malaysia Madani would radically change the nature of the economy in a way it would be Islamic and ‘Reformasi’ at the same time

Malaysia Madani is based upon six major themes; sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust, and compassion. All of these principles are prominent within the Tawhid, the belief in oneness with God. Tawhid implies both the mission and morality of humankind in both social and spiritual contexts.

Al-iman is deepened by al-ilm[i], which is the responsibility of all Muslims to seek[ii] in order to fulfill and perform al-amal. Knowledge (spiritual, wisdom and scientific) is the foundation of all acts of al-amal which would be futile and unproductive without the search for further knowledge[iii] to enhance the wellbeing of society[iv]. Thus Madani should place great importance on scientific discovery, knowledge and wisdom to develop civilization[v]. Al-iman and al-ilm manifested through al-amal are the basis of the advancement of civilization for the benefit of humankind. This is undertaken under the principle of ad-din, mentioned above, which is referred to as ibadah.

The rest of this article will examine the Islamic basis of Madani and the relevance to economic and social policy.

The foundations of Madani

To understand Madani, we must deconstruct the concept, to see the individual elements, so we can apply it to economic and social policy making.

There are three basic assumptions behind the philosophy of Madani. This indicates the Madani mission, and type of society envisaged under Madani.

1. The nature of humankind: Humankind has both the potential to rise to great spiritual heights and also disintegrate into total immorality. Humankind’s ability to act rightly or wrongly is a matter of moral choice. Under the Islamic viewpoint, humankind’s purpose on earth to carry out ibadah (relates man to Allah through spiritual acts)[vi][vii] and follow God’s will with total devotion, according to his natural disposition (fitrah); where everything fits into the divine pattern under the laws of Allah[viii]. Submission to the laws of Allah brings harmony to people, however, humans were created with many weaknesses[ix], forgetfulness[x], greed for material comforts and power[xi], are capable of oppressiveness and ignorance[xii], are rash and impatient[xiii], stringy and miserably[xiv], ungrateful[xv], quarrelsome[xvi], ruthless[xvii][xviii], and full of self-interest[xix], which can easily lead people astray.

2. The amoral society: General society has become amoral and lapsed in faith, believing that truth and reality is based on what can be touched, smelled, seen, heard and tasted. This has led to a society that has become materialistic and ritualistic, while less spiritual. This absence of spirituality is leading business into immoral activities such as stealing, lying, fraud and deceit, making people believe that they cannot succeed without pursuing the same practices[xx].

The above is where respect, trust, and compassion comes into the Madani equation

3. Malaysia’s economic malaise: Malaysia is currently undergoing a number of economic woes. Public debt is now RM 1.08 trillion, or 60.4 percent of GDP. RM 45.94 billion is required to service public debt every-year, and this is rising as budgets will continue to carry deficits. Much budget spending is lost in mis-directed spending, leakage, and corruption. The Ringgit is in a freefall, and putting pressure on Bank Negara Malaysia to raise interest rates once again. Youth unemployment stands at 11.76 percent. Income inequality keeps rising, while poverty is on the increase. In addition, Malaysia faces a bloated public service, lower productivity improvements than its neighbors, where government linked companies dominate the econ-scape. The education sector is failing to general society’s knowledge, useful research, and foster creativity and innovation on society.