Islam and Business: Islam’s compatibility with capitalism illustrated by an investigation of the impact of religion in selected Arab companies dealing with the international business community

Jacob Bentsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Executive summary: This paper offers an investigation and analysis of the impact of Islam on business operations in the Middle East. On the same token, it provides an analysis on how Islam effects the business decisions in the Middle East and if these are to be taken into consideration when doing business in the region as a foreign company. The thesis investigates the waters that modern businesses navigate within and illuminates the pitfalls (if any) that Western companies should observe when doing business in the Middle East. The theoretical point of departure is Max Weber and Maxime Rodinson, due to their respective positions with regards to Islam and capitalism. The perspective of the thesis is Middle Eastern and Arab business operations and how they are affected by Islam, pointing towards how they interact with and relate to international business partners. A survey was conducted through which a number of Arab Muslim business professionals were given the opportunity to provide their input with regards to their values, religious habits as well as the individual positions towards their international business partners’ religions. A total number of 201 managers were approached of which 56 responded, leading to a response rate of 27.9%. The research found that while the Middle East on a range of parameters is lagging behind Europe and USA, especially socioeconomically, then the business operations appear to operate within the same frameworks as their European and American counterparts. Islam does play a role for the individual business manager but the influence of Islam is not present to a significant extend in the daily business operations and to an extend affecting their business decisions. Profit is profit - from a financial point of view - and a business must be sustainable and profitable, also in the Middle East. That said, the thesis concludes that much remains to be done in the Arab World, if the intentions are to bring the various Arab economies to a comparable level with Europe and USA. It is suggested that further research is conducted with regards to wider comparative studies introducing a number of religions and a broader pool of respondents.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages164