Based on a reading of Ibn Taimiyya’s Al-Ḥisba fī l-Islām, Jörn Thielmann argues for some structural similarities between Ibn Taimiyya’s understanding of market economy and the ideas of some proponents of Germany’s social market economy, like Walter Eucken, Alfred Müller-Armack or Ludwig Erhard, which made their way into the German constitution, the Grundgesetz. Besides more conventional presentations of the moral nature of ḥisba, Ibn Taimiyya develops a short concept of human society based on reflections on the human nature by Aristotle in his Politeia. Here, he shares the same assumption as hundred years later Ibn Khaldūn. He also shows very deep insights into the functioning of markets and thus fills the so-called Schumpeterian gap that assumes that between antiquity and Thomas Aquinas nothing important has been written on economics. Thielmann demonstrates that this treaty is an original contribution to economic thought. These reflections emerge out of the particular historical circumstances of Ibn Taimiyya’s time: the Mongol threat and grain riots. Securing food supply in the big cities has been the main prerogative of the Mamluk rulers. To counter the Mongols, stability in society was needed.
This fresh look at a controversial figure of the Islamic history of thought provides proof of the complexity, richness and originality of his thinking beyond the usual stereotypes.
Jörn Thielmann (Ph.D., Islamic Studies, Ruhr-University Bochum) is since January 2009 Managing Director of the Erlanger Zentrum für Islam und Recht in Europe EZIRE at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg. From 2003 until 2008, he headed the Kompetenzzentrum Orient-Okzident Mainz (KOOM). Having worked on legal pluralism and Islamic law in Egypt at the CEDEJ in Cairo and on the political economy in Algeria at the London School of Economics and Political Science, he is currently doing ethnographic fieldwork on Islamic fields in Germany. www.ezire.uni-erlangen.de