News Column

So long, and thanks for all the Fiqh

June 14, 2014

As I come to the end of my four-year reign over Islamic Business & Finance, I find myself grateful for all the experiences no other financial sector could have given me.

This is the last blog I will write as the Editor of Islamic Business & Finance. Tomorrow, I journey back to Kuala Lumpur, home to the world's most developed Islamic finance industry, to bid farewell to a sector which has given me some pretty exceptional memories.

In no other sector of finance could I have witnessed such impassioned debates, got such memorable sound bites or travelled to such random locations.

From being stranded in Djibouti to being told to buy a Takaful policy if I wanted to go Heaven, being the Editor of Islamic Business & Finance has given me some truly great stories. I've been locked in a hotel suite with the then Central Bank Governor of Sudan, banished to and escaped from a dark corner (a.k.a. the woman's section) in Oman, held up at the Bahrain border while officials tried to fathom why my journalist's visa stated I was male, conducted interviews at the top of the Petronas Towers and turned down more long weekends in Saudi Arabia than I'd care to count.

I wonder if I will ever again be greeted at a press conference with "Welcome European woman, they said you would come."

When I collect my best and brightest memories, I find myself going against the grain of what most experts say about the industry that it must standardise. Actually, the Islamic finance industry's diversity is one of its greatest strengths. I was once told by one of the most knowledgeable people I've met in Islamic finance that 95 per cent of the industry is already agreed upon and scholars will be forever arguing over the last five per cent to stay in business.

Conventional finance isn't the same the world over, and conventional law will always be open to interpretation that's why we have lawyers. If anything, Islamic finance must diversify further if it wants to avoid the same fate as conventional finance, which is run at the whim of a few suited rich men and plagued by systematic risk.

My colourful memories of reporting on Islamic are reflective of an industry as rich and diverse as Islamic culture itself. The remaining five per cent that keeps the scholars locked in debate sparks creativity and passion, which is what sets the industry apart and will keep it evolving.

It seems fitting that my journey should end in Malaysia, a country I have come to hold much affection for and that has given me some of my favourite memories of the last four years on the job. Malaysia seems to have a different take on Islamic finance. There it is a demand-driven industry, rather than an extension of Islam. Malaysia seems to view Islamic finance as just another way of doing business, and given Islamic finance's ever-expanding market share in Malaysia, it seems its population regard it as a better way of doing business.

Malaysia's Central Bank Governor once told me there was much debate over whether to rebrand Islamic finance, so it could be seen as a different way of doing business, rather than a religious way. I hope Islamic finance stays different.

After four years, I have very little to say on Islamic finance that I have not said already; but, as I have been said all along, the publication was never about my voice it is the industry's. It has been a real privilege hearing what you all have to say thank you!

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Source: CPI Financial

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