Exploring the “social failures” of Islamic banks: a historical dialectics analysis

Zayyad Abdul-Baki*, Ahmad Bukola Uthman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to argue that the current environment in which the Islamic banking system is situated is not ideal for the system’s pursuance of its socioeconomic ideals, thus necessitating the system’s shift from pursuing falah to maximizing profits. Design/methodology/approach: The paper theorizes and conceptualizes this shift from falah to profit maximization using two complementary theories – systems theory and institutional theory – to prove that such a shift is not unexpected. The paper further adopts a dialectical analysis that is somewhat historical to analyse the shift. Findings: The measure of the Islamic banks’ performance in terms of their social ideals is misplaced, as the environment in which they currently operate does not support such goals. Thus, stemming from the theoretical base, the Islamic banks’ pursuance of profit maximization instead of falah should not be unexpected. The paper concludes that despite the unfavorable environment, the social ideals of the Islamic banking system may still be met, to an extent, through investment in microfinance and awqaf. Research limitations/implications: The paper adopts document analysis for sourcing data majorly from prior studies. Hence, the authors do not conclude that the analysis herein is applicable to all Islamic banks. Secondly, as the authors could not get a complete historical account of the Islamic banking system’s development, some aspects of the dialectical analysis – contradiction and change – have been discussed in a general fashion. Practical implications: The need for Islamic banks in the current environment, especially for the Muslim population, cannot be over emphasized; however, the achievement of falah given this current environment may be daunting. Originality/value: The current analyses of the shift of Islamic banks from pursuing falah to pursuing profit maximization are not well-defined, as they lack a proper theorization of the challenges faced by Islamic banks. This paper fills this gap.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-271
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2017


  • Capitalism
  • Dialectical analysis
  • Falah
  • Islam
  • Islamic banking
  • Isomorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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