In This Review
Islam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism
Princeton University Press, 2004, 232 pp.
The Politics of Islamic Finance
Edinburgh University Press, 2004, 384 pp.
What is Islamic banking? What is Islamic economics? These two books provide the answers. Islam and Mammon, in six fine essays that appeared earlier in different scholarly publications, sets out the genesis of these ideas and criticizes, severely but still sympathetically, both the performance and the underlying logic of this Islamic approach to economic activity. The Politics of Islamic Finance offers both thematic essays (three comparing Islamic banks to conventional banks) and studies of Islamic banking in five Arab countries plus Turkey. The two books complement each other: Kuran offers a more theoretical approach, whereas The Politics of Islamic Finance plunges into more specific topics with more detail. The very idea of Islamic banking-indeed, the notion of a distinctive Islamic economics-grows out of and is sustained by the largely fundamentalist impulse to defend Muslim identity and construct the ideal Islamic community. It is thus best evaluated in political as well as economic terms, and these two books do just that.