Max Weber advanced the claim that Protestantism and particular forms of Protestantism such as Calvinism were especially inclined to capitalism, to the extent that they emphasized a world-view which was above all based on individualism. For example, the Protestant tradition broke with previous tradition and stressed the concept of sola scriptura. This concept meant that it was only interpretation of the Holy Scriptures that was relevant to the Christian tradition. Accordingly, traditional interpretations from the patristics and religious authorities were de-emphasized. This meant in a fundamental way that anyone could interpret the Bible, but, more importantly, it meant that any individual could interpret the Bible in any way he or she chose, because there was no longer a religious authority that governed interpretation. These are the seeds of individualism that is consistent with capitalism. Islam, however, has never emphasized such individualism, but rather a collective and communal way of life. While the Qu’ran is the key to the Islamic faith, the question of interpretation of the Qu’ran is not as prevalent in Islam.
Arguably, this is because there are clear and explicit obligations to the Muslim that are set forth, such as the five pillars of Islam. The concept of zakat, for example, has no correlate in capitalist or individual idea. This is because the very concept of zakat places an obligation of the Muslim to care for others. There is no pillar of Islam that states that the individual must accumulate wealth, but rather that if the individual has something, he must give it others and share. Islam has a strong concept of social justice and equality which is lacking in capitalism and makes it irreconcilable with capitalism. Other parts of Islam may also be cited to advance this argument, such as the prohibition of riba or lending for interest. A foundational stone of the capitalist system is interest, but in Islam, this is forbidden. This makes capitalist ideology from the perspective of Islam an ideology of greed and exploitation.
This anti-capitalist basis of Islam is also found in the low instances of social inequality that are found in the Muslim world. Namely, there is no drive towards the accumulation of wealth at the expense of others, because of tenets such as zakat and the prohibition of riba. For this reason, Fish’s conclusions can be traced to a basic inclination of Islam towards social justice and social equality. Capitalism is a system that places no value on social equality or social justice, but instead encourages a form of social competition. In capitalism, the stronger and the successful have the advantage. There is no empathy in capitalism. But in Islam, empathy towards others is the norm, as stipulated by zakat and other tenets of the faith. Certainly, there have been attempts, as the readings demonstrate, to reconcile Islam with capitalism in the form of, for example, Islamic banking. However, Islamic banking has to make many compromises, such as attempting to justify riba and interest in new terms, such as loans, which still resemble interest, but use different terms to get around this clear obstacle to capitalist practice.
In other words, Islamic financing must twist the concepts of Islam so as to fit capitalism and be a part of the dominant Western capitalist economy. This is clear in the United Arab Emirates, which claim to be Islamic, but use methods which are consistent with capitalism and therefore are non-Islamic. This can explain many of the current geopolitical tensions between the West and Islam: for the above mentioned reasons, and as the readings also point out in different forms, the fundamental concepts of Islam are against exploitation and support social justice. Since capitalism has no such similar concepts, the dominance of the capitalist Western world sees an enemy in Islam.