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Oxford DPhil Programme in Management Studies

Oxford DPhil Programme in Management Studies


New paper looks at entrepreneurship from an Islamic perspective

Business is traditionally regarded as one of the most secular of activities: conducted at the centre of the public sphere, it can be perceived to have little in common with the very private matter of religion. Only a small amount of academic research has been conducted in the area of business and religion.

But, as Saïd Business School DPhil Candidate Ali Aslan Gümüsay suggests in a new paper in the Journal of Business Ethics, management is a social science and thus predominantly about people. “As some of those people are religious, entrepreneurship specifically and management research and practice more generally need to integrate the metaphysical,” he says.

Gümüsay argues that Islam in particular might be regarded as an “entrepreneurial religion”, and believes that more attention should be paid to entrepreneurship from an Islamic perspective. Not only does the Qu’ran encourage opportunity pursuit, risk-taking, and innovation, but it also prohibits making money by charging interest, thus implicitly encouraging wealthy people to become entrepreneurial investors. Institutions in Islamic states that appear to impede entrepreneurial activity are more likely to be products of culture, geography, or politics than religion, he says.

Gümüsay explains: "Entrepreneurship from this perspective is then based on three interconnected pillars: value creation, values enactment, and pleasing God. Value creation implies an economic impact. Values enactment means that work is guided by a set of norms and recommendations derived from scriptures shaping our behaviour towards animals, the environment, fellow human beings and ourselves. Pleasing God is the metaphysical pursuit of satisfying and approaching a divine being with one's deeds."

“A critical engagement with the sociology of religion literature and the integration of an Islamic perspective may offer new insights,” says Gümüsay. “The … concept of ‘workship,’ for example, illustrates that the relationship between the sacred and profane is not a simple dichotomy, but may be rather much more complex and intertwined.”

Ali Aslan Gümüsay is a DPhil Candidate at the Saïd Business School and Lecturer at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. He is the founder and head of the Advisory Board of the Social Incubator Zahnräder Network. He is also non-executive director in various (social) entrepreneurship start-ups and member of the Think Tank 30, Club of Rome. Previously, he was a strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group.

Gümüsay, Ali Aslan: “Entrepreneurship from an Islamic perspective” in the Journal of Business Ethics is available for download now