Our politics today is that of “prison”- what I mean by that is we do not dare to dream. Like a prisoner who is content to live his or her life in the cells, our politics today is more about what we can to make our life comfortable within the confines of our prison, whatever that may be.
The Islamic prohibition on charging interest on loans, and the distinction it makes between trade, which is encouraged, and usury, which is forbidden, is an inspiration to those who dare to dream outside of the box. Imagine if you did not have to pay interest on the mortgage on your home, and developing nations within Africa and other continents did not have to pay interest on their loans? They would flourish. They would not be working to pay interest, rather they would be working to pay the principal and investing in themselves: food, clothing, shelter and health care. In discussion with a friend he asked the obvious question: Why would anyone lend anyone money for nothing? In other words, why would someone invest in making humanity better off for its own sake instead of profit? This is where the Islamic economic system has the most to offer: it challenges the very assumptions of economic activity; it dares to dream beyond the politics of prison to a different approach to human relations and trade. A whole new way of looking at ourselves. We invest in ourselves for our improvement as humanity.
The distinction between trade and usury in Islamic thought has the potential of fundamentally alleviating the economic and human conditions of millions of individuals by investing in human beings for their intrinsic worth. It is worth serious consideration regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with other aspects of the religion of Islam. The idea was ahead of its time then as it is now: there are no takers from any Muslim or non-Muslim countries even though the world economy is in a questionable state today.
Note: I am not endorsing Islam. I am simply suggesting that the idea of an interest free society in Islam is worth serious consideration.