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Islamic Finance and the New Financial System: An Ethical Approach to Preventing Future Financial Crises by Tariq Alrifai

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Chapter 1A Brief History of Financial Systems and the Birth of Money

Most of us know very little about our financial system and its history. Even though I had worked in the banking and finance industry for close to two decades, I knew very little about the financial system's history until I started doing my research. I was surprised to learn that our current financial system is only about 43 years old. I knew that the world had been using paper currencies for hundreds of years and that, before this, coins were used, mainly gold and silver. However, the circumstances for the shift from coin to paper as well as the shift to fiat currency were all new to me.

What I came to realize was that our financial system moves in cycles much like an economy does. It goes through periods of growth and expansion and then decline. There have always been crises in financial systems. No financial system has ever been perfect and free of flaws. Crises can be sparked by many factors—wars, speculation (bubbles), runaway government borrowing and spending, and government mismanagement of the economy or its currency.

To understand where we are and where we are heading, we must first understand where we have been, beginning with the history of money and financial systems. Literally hundreds of books have been written on early currencies and financial systems. This topic alone deserves time to explain in detail. However, to keep focused on the topic of this book, I will attempt to summarize the evolution ...

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