Sunday, May 4, 2008

IFES: Streamline Shariah studies to improve sector

One of the most conspicuous anomalies of Islamic finance is that many of the members of Shariah boards do not have a PhD in Shariah, an Islamic finance expert from the Middle East told an Islamic finance education symposium recently.

Some of them have not had any academic training in Shariah at all, says Emirates Islamic Bank's head of training and financial expert at its Shariah department, Dr Mabid Ali Al-Jarhi.

"As an example, many of the Shariah boards of Islamic banks and financial institutions are dominated by two economists: one with a PhD in economics and the other with only a BA.

"This may be an evidence of Shariah arbitrage on the side of shareholders," he told the twoday International Islamic Finance Symposium (IFES 2008) held at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in Kuala Lumpur.

The event, held on April 28 and 29, was organised jointly by the IIUM Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance (IIiBF) together with the Islamic Research & Training Institute (IRTI) and its parent body, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

Dr Mabid, who is also president of the International Association for Islamic Economics, presented a paper in a panel session that explored human resources needs for the Islamic financial services industry over the next 10 years. He also expressed concern with some training companies involved in the field of Islamic finance.

"I am horrified to see some the notes of the training companies. But they charge very high," he said.

He added that Shariah scholars are supposed to have the capability of 'Ijtihad', which means to derive and deduce religious opinion about certain matters not mentioned in the sources of Islam, while keeping in view the spirit and overall framework of Islam.

"They have PhD's in Shariah with extensive studies in Fiqh. Shariah specialists may have only an MA in Shariah, and can assist in Shariah research as well as Shariah auditing. "Naturally, Shariah auditors must acquire sufficient knowledge in accounting," he said. Fiqh is Islamic jurisprudence or Islamic law, an important part of Shariah.

Touching on deficiencies in the curriculum, he said despite the fact that religious schools are still the best source of Shariah scholars, their curricula requires some modifications.

Among others, he said, it should account for sufficient studies in business and commercial law, English language, and banking and finance.

"Some religious schools have introduced one or more of the above elements. However, this has not been reflected on the current supply of scholars.

"It is necessary that religious universities must get together and discuss their curriculum with a view to add the above topics without reducing the Shariah and Fiqh content," he said.

(By Habhajan Singh, The Malaysian Reserve, May 5, 2008)

No comments: