A senior and known conservative figure, he has been long-standing party worker of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the far-right political party, where he successfully ran for Senate in the general elections held in 2002 on a platform of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). He played his role as a policy adviser in Zia administration when he chaired the Planning Commission, focusing on the role of Islamising the country's national economy in the 1980s.
Ahmad is cited as the father of modern Islamic economics and Islamic capitalism, and is considered one of the influential thinkers in the field of Islamic economics.
Ahmad was born into a religiously-firmed Urdu-speaking family in Delhi, British India, on 23 March 1932. His elder brother, Zamir Ahmad, was a war hero who served in the Navy. His family was a practicing Muslims who were known as ultraconservative and strictly followed the Islamic teachings and practices. He and his brother were homeschooled at first by their father but both took different path when Zamir went to Delhi Technological College and later Navy, while Khurshid entered in the Anglo-Arabic College in Delhi where he excelled in his academic studies and was noted for his intellect. After the partition of India in 1947, the family moved to Pakistan and were settled in Lahore, Punjab, after which, he enrolled at the Government College University to study business and economic in 1949.
In 1949, Ahmad published his first English article on Muslim Economist, where he commentated and proposed ideas which were adopted by Ghulam Muhammad, the Finance Minister, in his First Five-Year Plans for the national economy of Pakistan.
He secured his graduation in BA in first-class honours in Economics 1952, excelling and placing in the first position in his university examination, and it was during this time, he had developed interest in Capitalism and Islam, the twin passions of much of his lifework. He began reading the philosophical work of Abul A'la Maududi and was a worker of his party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). In 1952, he took the Bar exam and entered in law program of the GCU with strong emphasis on Islamic law and jurisprudence. At his university, he remained student worker for the JeI while offering tutoring in Islamic studies. As an aftermath of violent riots in Lahore, Ahmad left the GCU to avoid the massive arrest and detainment of the JeI workers by the Punjab Police Department, and moved to Karachi permanently. Ahmad enrolled in the Karachi University and graduated with MSc with Hons in Economics after successfully defending his thesis that contained the fundamental work of Adam Smith on Invisible hand and the Capitalism in 1958.
In 1962, Ahmad graduated with an MA with Hons in Islamic studies from the Karachi University and won the scholarship to pursue his doctoral degree from the United Kingdom in 1965. Ahmad enrolled at the University of Leicester and joined the faculty of economic for his doctoral studies, which he successfully defended his doctoral thesis for his PhD in Economics in 1967–68. His doctoral thesis contained the thorough work on the Islamic economic jurisprudence principle which he successfully defended after submitting briefed and discussed thesis to the university. In 1970, his services to promote literacy was recognized and the Leicester University honored him with honorary doctorate in Education. In 1970, he moved to England and joined the department of philosophy to teach instructions on the Contemporary philosophy at the Leicester University.
He was a contemporary of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Maulana Naeem Siddiqui, Dr. Israr Ahmad and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Khurshid Ahmad also worked closely with Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maududi (alternative spelling Syed Maudoodi; often referred to as Maulana Maududi) (1903–1979).
He is the founder chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad. He has written/edited/translated more than 70 books in English and Urdu, many of which have been translated in other European and oriental languages. He has also contributed profoundly through numerous articles, seminar papers and lectures. His in-depth comparative study of the oriental as well as occidental philosophies in religion, academics, economics, constitutional matters and his commitment to the cause of humanity has led him to be entrusted with key positions in the national as well as international organizations on these socioeconomic and other multidimensional disciplines. He has also been awarded with three honorary degrees of PhD in education, literature and Islamic economics by universities of Malaysia and Loughborough, UK. He has formerly held the portfolio of Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Statistics in the Government of Pakistan and has also served as Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission. He was also thrice elected as member of the Senate of Pakistan in 1985, 1997 and 2002 and remained Chairman of the Standing Committee for Economic Development and Planning.
In view of his pioneering work and contributions towards the development of Islamic Economics as an academic discipline, he was awarded the First Islamic Development Bank Award for Economics in 1988. He was awarded King Faisal Prize for service to Islam in 1990. It was in 1998 that he was awarded the prestigious La-Riba Prize in Islamic Finance by American Finance House. Thus, he is the first and only Muslim who has been awarded with the three most prestigious international Islamic prizes.
In 1949, after publishing first article on economics, Ahmad began studying the teachings of Abul Ala Maududi. He came to know Maududi as a frequent visitor in his father's house; it was only in 1949 that he encountered Maududi as the religious scholar for the first time. In particular, he was impressed with Maududi's discussion of both Islamic and Western thought and the conflict between Western civilisation and Islam.
Ahmad is the leader of JeI and has been behind the right-wing conservative politics in Pakistan. In 1977, he campaigned in 1977 general elections for a technocratic seat, and secured the appointment of deputy chairman of Planning Commission where he would play a drafting role in the nation's Islamization in 1978. In 1979, Ahmad founded the institute Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and has been its chairman since 1979.
Ahmad became a member of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) in 1949 and was elected as the Nazim-e-A'la (President) of the same organisation in 1953. He formally joined Jama'at-e-Islami Pakistan in 1956 and is at present Naib Ameer (Vice-President) of the organisation. Besides several other responsibilities, he is presently also the editor of the seminal Tarjuman al-Quran, a monthly publication launched by Sayyid Maududi in May 1933.
His comparative study of the oriental as well as occidental philosophies in religion, academics, economics, constitutional matters and commitment for Islam has led him to be entrusted with key positions in the national as well as international organisations on these socio-economic and other multi-dimensional disciplines. Throughout his life, he has held the following positions:Member of Senate of Pakistan (2003 to 2012).
Vice-President Jama'at e islami Pakistan.
Federal Minister of Planning and Development and has been Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Govt of Pakistan (1978–79).
Professor at the Karachi University (1955–68).
Research scholar at the University of Leicester, UK.
Chairman, International Institute of Islamic Economics, International Islamic University, Islamabad (1983–87).
President, International Association of Islamic Economics, Leicester, UK (1984–92).
Member, Supreme Advisory Council, International Center for Research and Islamic Economics, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah (1979–83).
Vice-President, Standing Conference on Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe, Berlin and London (1974–78).
Member, Advisory Council, Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, UK (1976–78).
Member, National Hijra Committee, Govt of Pakistan (1978–83).
Member, Committee of Jurists to Evaluate Islamic Laws in Sudan (1986–87).
Member, International Review Committee, Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah(1988–89).
Member of Senate of Pakistan for two terms (1985–1997) and Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Economic Affairs and Planning.
Founder and Chairman of both the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad and The Islamic Foundation, Leicester.
Member, Boards of Trustees of Islamic Centre, Zaria (Nigeria); International Islamic University, Islamabad; Foundation Council, Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization, Amman (Jordan).
Vice-President of Islamic Research Academy, Karachi and Lahore.
In recognition of his contribution during the process of formulation of 18th and 19th constitutional amendments of the constitution of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Prof Khurshid Ahmad was awarded the highest civil award, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz on 23 March 2011.
In recognition of his services in Islamic Economics & Finance, he was given 5th Annual Prize of American Finance House, La Riba Prize, US in July 1998.
His contributions to the Islamic cause were also recognised in the form of King Faisal International Prize in 1990, which is the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the Muslim World. Professor Khurshid Ahmad, who was the then Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology attended the dialogue meeting with the Prime Minister along with other Pakistani senators at that time.
In view of his contributions towards the development of Islamic Economics as an academic discipline, he was awarded the First Islamic Development Bank Award for Economics in 1988.
In 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Pakistan and spoke on 'Contemporary Issues in Islam' at the International Islamic University in Islamabad where he stressed the need for tolerance and sharing values. "The British prime minister rejected the theory of clash of civilizations and said people belonging to all faiths must work together for a peaceful world." Professor Khurshid Ahmad, who was the then Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan, also attended the dialogue meeting with the Prime Minister along with other Pakistani senators at that time.