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Other cultures, other accountings? Islamic accounting from past to present Christopher Napier

Correspondence address:

School of Management Royal Holloway, University of London Egham Surrey TW20 0EX UK +44 (0) 1784 276121 Christopher.Napier@rhul.ac.uk

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Paper presented at the 5th Accounting History International Conference, Banff, Canada, 9-11August 2007

DRAFT – NOT FOR QUOTATION WITHOUT CONSENT OF AUTHOR

Other cultures, other accountings? Islamic accounting from past to present ABSTRACT Islam has represented one of the most significant manifestations of ‘the Other’ for those in the Western world for many centuries. Suggestions that accounting methods in Islamic societies were influences on the emergence and development of double-entry bookkeeping have been resisted, and accounting in Islamic societies remains a largely closed book to those in the West. Recently, a literature of Islamic accounting has begun to establish itself, and this provides an opportunity to study the factors that lead to the emergence of ideas and investigations within the study of accounting. Modern accounting in Islamic societies must face the challenge of reconciling a desire to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards with a need to preserve core Islamic values.

Other cultures, other accountings? Islamic accounting from past to present 1 Introduction

The theme of this conference is “Accounting in other places, accounting by other peoples”. The implication of the word “other” is that there has until now been a relatively small set of privileged “places” and “peoples” that have been the predominant focus of attention for historical accounting researchers. The privileged places are likely to include the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and to a lesser extent continental European countries such as France, Spain and Italy. The privileged peoples are the inhabitants of these countries, but excluding the “first nations” who lived there before the coming of European settlers. It total, the privileged places and peoples may account for about 20% of the world’s population. What about the rest of the world? There has been a long-standing interest in Japanese accounting history, and Chinese accounting is beginning to be studied. Recently, Sy & Tinker (2006) have called for study of African accounting, asking whether “Western accountants [can] learn from African accountants’ role in securing (distributional) fairness within African society (with the concomitant social stability that it engenders)?” (p. 122). In this paper, I am going to consider what might be regarded as the West’s “great other”, Islam, and discuss both the emerging historical literature about accounting in Islamic settings and the more recent literature of Islamic accounting. My aim is to highlight some of the issues that arise when accounting historians, and accounting researchers more generally, examine other places and other peoples. Nearly 30 years ago, the literary critic Edward Said published his seminal work Orientalism (Said, 2003). Said’s aim was to expose the extent to which Western views of the Islamic world were formed by the abstraction of “Orientalism”, to such an extent that the very concept of “the West” was formed in opposition to the concept of “the Orient”: [B]ecause of Orientalism, the Orient was not (and is not) a free subject of thought or action. This is not to say that Orientalism unilaterally determines what can be said about the Orient, but that it is the whole network of interests inevitably brought to bear on (and therefore always involved in) any occasion when that peculiar entity “the Orient” is in question. (Said, 2003, p. 3) Said notes how Orientalism originally developed in Britain and France as these countries began their imperial expansion into areas such as India, North and Central Africa and the Middle East, and how it both incorporated the coloniser’s partial view of the colonised and provided a...
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