Sunday, May 07, 2006

Muslim financial professionals

A bright ex-student at my university asked before accepting a job in investment banking: An acquaintance had told her that his father was an investment banker who knew a lot about Shari`a, and had declared that this profession is extremely sinful (I pointed out the inconsistency that questions that person's knowledge and/or credibility). The ex-student emailed, half jokingly, asking my opinion: After all, she said, she didn't want to work in a profession that is only slightly better (or worse) than running a casino or brewing beer.

Hers is hardly the exception. Muslim finacial professionals around the world are getting the message that they are engaged in a sinful (haram, un-Islamic) industry, and that they need to get out of it as soon as possible. Some merely resent that those who don't understand what they are talking about (religiously or professioally) can pass judgement on them and make others pass similar judgements. Many decide to try their hand at so-called "Islamic finance", only to discover quickly the nature of that racket. For some of those, it may be too late to return to legitimate financial industry, and they feel trapped in a lie. All are left worse off, along with the rest of Muslims who are victimized by misperceptions and abuse both from within the Muslim community as well as from without.

My message to the ex-student was simple: I am not qualified to give fatwas, and she should look elsewhere for a fatwa. My second advice is that as an intelligent and well-educated professional, she should not seek a fatwa (opinion) from an unqualified, lesser educated and significantly less intelligent usurper of sacred authority. As an economist, I argued, I can see how you can behave Islamically or un-Islamically regardless of the contracts used, or the name and certification of the institution within which you work.

For Muslim financial professionals who conduct their craft Islamically, wherever they work -- who are observing justice, fairness and morality, and seek to use their craft for the betterment of humanity -- I wish that next time someone accosts them with uneducated and uninformed charges of un-Islamicity, ... I wish that they will turn the tables and tell that person: "How dare you! Fiqh means understanding of the Shari`a, and from what I see, hear and read from your quarters, you do not understand very much!"


Blogger Mahmoud El-Gamal said...

Why should they? This is nothing but fearmongering based on some people's belief that interest is the same as riba. Each Muslim should decide for themselves based on authentic evidence, and act accordingly. They should not listen to others and desert one of the most important industries in today's economy because of what may be a monumental misunderstanding.

11:17 PM  
Blogger ney_reed said...

i dont find muslims entering the conventional banking industry as unislamic. however their tendency to over time gradually grow indifferent to the industry's exploitative and unjust practices is unislamic. their tendency to over time even end up promoting or justifying the industry's exploitative and unjust practices is unislamic. i also notice the industry is trying to lure them to the growing and infant "islamic finance" sub-industry. again it reviles me when these muslim financial professionals turn oblivious and indifferent when they notice questionable practices and worse still again promote or justify them. this is unislamic. i am an economist myself but in the healthcare industry which has its fair share of abuses, injustice and when i come across i never fail to resist it , question it even when it puts my job at the disadvantage. but i rarely see muslim bankers having the courage to stand up when they see their bank's practises being less than just and fair.

9:29 PM  

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