Maqasid al-Shari`ah, Maslahah, and Corporate Social Responsibility (2007)*

Main Article Content

Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki
Nurdianawati Irwani Abdullah



The doctrine of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which has
emerged and developed rapidly as a field of study, is a framework
for the role of business in society. It sets standards of behavior to
which a company must subscribe in order to impact society in
a positive and productive manner while abiding by values that
exclude seeking profit at any cost. Despite the many attempts to
construe CSR initiatives, it remains open to wide criticism for its
inherent problems via-à-vis justification, conceptual clarity, and
possible inconsistency. These problems are more acute when it
comes to implementing and operationalizing CSR on the ground,
especially in a situation that involves trade-offs.
This paper offers an instructive understanding of CSR from
an Islamic perspective. In particular, the implication of maqasid
al-Shari`ah (the Shari`ah’s objectives) and the application
of maslahah (the public good) to CSR are discussed in detail to
shed light on how Islam’s holistic and dynamic perception of CSR
take into consideration reality and ever-changing circumstances.
These principles also provide a better framework that managers
can use when faced with potential conflicts arising from the
diverse expectations and interests of a corporation’s stakeholders.

*This article was first published in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 24, no. 1 (2007):

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1 See, for example, J. Snider, R. P. Hill, and D. Martin, “Corporate Social Responsibility
in the 21st Century: A View from the World’s Most Successful Firms,” Journal of
Business Ethics, no. 48 (2003): 175-87.
2 Earlier authors, among them A. B. Obe, J. A. Mohamed, and J. Zinkin and G. A.
Williams, agree that the idea of CSR is deeply inscribed in the Shari`ah and thus not
alien to Islam. See, for example, Amir Bhatia Obe, “Corporate Social Responsibility
in the Context of Islam,” in Workbook on Corporate Social Responsibility, (2004):
57-68. Available at,0.pdf; and
Javed Akhtar Mohamed, “An Islamic Perspective of Corporate Social Responsibility”
(paper presented at the Islamic Studies Postgraduate Conference, University of
Melbourne, 21-22 Nov. 2005). Zinkin and Williams also posit that CSR seems to
conform closely to Islamic principles and can build bridges between civilizations,
especially in our increasingly difficult and turbulent world. For details, refer to their
“Islam and CSR: A Study of the Compatibility between the Tenets of Islam and the
UN Global Compact” (Feb. 2006). Available at
3 CSR Europe, European Postal Services and Social Responsibilities (Brussels: Corporate
Citizenship Company and CSR Europe, 2001), 48.
4 Robert Davies, “The Business Community: Social Responsibility and Corporate
Values,” in Making Globalization Good: The Moral Challenge of Global Capitalism
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
5 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,
6 R. Edward Freeman, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach (London:
Pitman, 1984).
7 George P. Lantos, “The Boundaries of Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility,”
Journal of Consumer Marketing 18, no. 7 (2001): 597-99.
8 Ibid., 602-04.
9 See, for example, Thomas Donaldson and Thomas W. Dunfee, “Toward a Unified
Conception of Business Ethics: Integrative Social Contracts Theory,” Academy of
Management Review 19, no. 2 (1994): 252-84.
10 Davies, “Business,” 167.
11 James M. Humber, “Beyond Stockholders and Stakeholders: A Plea for Corporate
Moral Autonomy,” Journal of Business Ethics 36, no. 3 (2002): 215.
12 Khaliq Ahmad, “Islamic Ethics in a Changing Environment for Managers,” in Ethics
in Business and Management: Islamic and Mainstream Approaches (London: Asean
Academic Press, 2002). 97-109.
13 Cited in Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Islamic Jurispudence (Usul al-Fiqh) (Islamabad:
Islamic Research Institute Press, 2000).
14 Nyazee’s argument is supported by a number of Qur’anic verses, among them 23:71.
15 Muhammad Hashim Kamali, “Sources, Nature and Objectives of Shari`ah,” The
Islamic Quarterly (1989): 215-35.
16 Ziauddin Sardar, Islam, Postmodernism and Other Futures: A Ziauddin Sardar Reader
(London: Pluto Press, 2003).
17 Wael B. Hallaq, A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An Introduction to Sunni Usul
al-Fiqh (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
18 M. Umer Chapra, The Future of Economics: An Islamic Perspective (Leicester: The
Islamic Foundation, 2000), 118.
19 Nyazee, Islamic Jurispudence, 121.
20 These attributes correspond to Qur’an 21:107 and 10:57.
21 Many classical-era Islamic legal scholars advocated the principle of the public good
(maslahah) and the Shari`ah’s objectives (maqasid al-Shari`ah) in Islamic legal
thought (fiqh): e.g., al-Juwayni (d. 1085), al-Ghazzali (d. 1111), al-Razi (d. 1209),
al-Amidi (d. 1233), al-Salmi (d. 1261), al-Qarafi (d. 1285), Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1327),
al-Shatibi (d. 1388), Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyah (d. 1350), and al-Tufi (1316). Cited in
Deina AbdelKader, “Modernity, the Principles of Public Welfare (Maslahah), and the
End Goals of the Shari`ah (Maqasid) in Muslim Legal Thought,” Islam and Christian-
Muslim Relations 14, no. 2 (2003): 164-74.
22 Cited in Nyazee, Islamic Jurispudence, 161.
23 All jurists from the main Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that the
Shari`ah’s main sources are the Qur’an, the Sunnah, ijma` (the consensus of
Islamic jurists), and qiyas (analogical deductions). For a detailed discussion of each
source, refer to Abdul Karim Zaidan, Al-Madkhal li Dirasat al-Shari`ah al-Islamiyah
(Baghdad: Maktabah al-Quds, 1985), 190-215.
24 The formulation of a rule on the basis of al-masalih al-mursalah must take into account
the public good and conform to the Shari`ah’s objectives. According to the Maliki
school, this tool must fulfill three main conditions. First, it must deal only with transactions
(mu`amalat) in which reasoning through one’s rational faculty is deemed
necessary. This is unlike actions related to religious observance, such as an act of worship
(`ibadah), which is strictly subjected to the Shari`ah’s main sources. Second, the
interests should be in harmony with the Shari`ah’s spirit. Third, the interests should be
of the essential type, as opposed to the embellishment type. Here, “essential” implies
preserving the Shari`ah’s five main objectives. For details, see Sobhi R. Mahmassani,
The Philosophy of Jusrispudence in Islam (Kuala Lumpur: Open Press, 2000). 87-89.
25 Ibid., 88.
26 Ahmad al-Raysuni, Nazariyah al-Maqasid `inda al-Imam al-Shatibi (Riyadh: Dar
al-`Alamiyyah Kitab al-Islami, 1992), 41-45.
27 Hallaq, History, 168.
28 Ibid., 168-69.
29 According to Hallaq, the essentials are maintained by two means: on the one hand,
they are enhanced and strengthened, while on the other, all potential harm that
may arise to affect them is averted. For example, protecting life and intellect are
examples of important elements of the essentials that can be enhanced by providing
proper food, shelter, clothing, education, and so on. On the other hand, any potential
harm that might threaten these essentials may be averted by means of a penal law
or punishment that prohibits alcohol or dumping toxic waste that may cause harm
to one’s intellect and life, respectively. Cited in Hallaq, History, 168.
30 As a case in point, the validity of an Islamic leasing instrument (ijarah) that may
be initially of secondary (hajiyat) importance to an individual is elevated to an
essential (daruriyat) maslahah, as it is deemed essential for the society at large.
Refer to Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurispudence (Petaling
Jaya, Malaysia: Pelanduk Publications, 1989), 352-56.
31 Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, “The Worldview of Islam: An Outline,” in Islam
and The Challenge of Modernity (Kuala Lumpur: The International Institute of Islamic
Thought and Civilization [ISTAC], 1996).
32 Narratged by al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim.
33 Syed Nawab Haider Naqvi, Perspective of Morality and Well-Being: A Contribution
to Islamic Economics (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 2003), 99-110.
34 Saiyad Fareed Ahmad, “Does Morality Require God?” Intellectual Discourse 11, no.
1 (2003): 51-76.
35 Ibid., 65-66.
36 According to Islamic scholars, the existence of the complementary and the embellishments
depends upon the primary purposes underlying the essentials, in other
words, protecting and preserving one’s faith, life, intellect, posterity, and wealth. The
two categories are structurally subservient and substantively complementary to the
essentials, to the extent that violating the latter produces far-reaching consequences.
On the other hand, any damage affecting the complementary or the embelishments
will result in only a minor disturbance to the essentials. Hence, it is essential to preserve
the three categories in their order of importance. See the detailed discussion
in Michael Mumisa, Islamic Law: Theory and Interpretation (Beltsville, MD: amana
publications, 2002). Also refer to Kamali, Principles, and Hallaq, History.
37 Mohd Kamal Hasan, “Worldview Orientation and Ethics: A Muslim Perspective,”
in Ethics in Business and Management Islamic and Mainstream Approaches (London:
Asean Academic Press, 2002).
38 For a Qur’anic verse corresponding to these arguments, refer to Qur’an 9:105.
Al-Bayhaqi relates the following hadith: “Indeed Allah loves an individual who
does his [her] work in the best manner.” Cited in Yusof al-Qaradawi, Fiqh Awlawiyat
(Kuala Lumpur: ABIM, 1998), 87-88.
39 Mumisa, Islamic Law.
40 Ibid., 60-71.
41 The corresponding Qur’anic verse is 28:77.
42 Muhammad Abu Zuhrah, Usul al-Fiqh (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr al-`Arabi, 1958).
43 Kamali, Principles.
44 Mustafa al-Bugha and Muhyiddin Misto, A Discussion on An-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith
(Kuala Lumpur: Prospecta Printers Sdn. Bhd., 1998). 346-66
45 Ibid., 360-61.
46 Ibid., 362-63.
47 The Majallah was promulgated in 1876. This civil code compilation is based on
Shari`ah principles. Although comprehensive in delineating certain Islamic jurisprudential
principles, it does not contain all civil law provisions (e.g., one branch
of law pertaining to family law was left out). The purpose of compiling this code
was to prepare a book on juridicial transactions that would be correct, easy to
understand, free from contradictions, embody the selected opinion of the jurists, and
easy for everyone to read. Among the subjects covered are sale (bay` ), hire (ijarah),
guarantee (kafalah), transfer of debt (hiwalah), pledges (rahn), trust and trusteeship
(amanah), and gifts (hibah). Cited in The Mejelle: Being an English Translation of
Majallah al-Ahkam al-`Adliyyah and a Complete Code of Islamic Civil Law (Kuala
Lumpur: The Other Press, 1876).
48 Ibid., 1-2.