Time for Shariah scholars to step up

Collaborate, respect and embrace each other’s views on various matters, no matter how far apart you are in your opinions, says BNM governor


Shariah scholars involved in Islamic finance should walk the talk by translating their ideas and proposed solutions into concrete actions.

The ringing challenge came from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim when addressing a group of scholars in Kuala Lumpur recently.

“We have enough of polemics and preaching. You will likely need to work with others to make this happen. We need to create a culture of greater collaboration and respect between the world of academia, regulators and industry players,” he said when addressing global scholars of the Malaysia-based International Shariah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA).

“My hope is that applied research and the development Islamic finance becomes mutually-reinforcing, a ‘virtuous circle’, where extensive research translates itself into great solutions which can then be used to propel Islamic finance to a new level of excellence. But it will require us to strengthen the linkages in transforming research insights into practice,” he told the holders of the ISRA Global Scholarship (IGS).

There has been a long standing battle between practitioners and the academia involved in the field of Islamic finance, with differences on various matters, similar to debates in many other fields, as well.

Since its inception in 2006, 86 recipients from 20 countries have been awarded the IGS. At the moment, the Shariah scholarship award has 40 recipients from 12 countries. Aside from Malaysia, the scholars over the years have hailed from Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Turkey, Syria and Afghanistan.

The IGS is badged as the world’s first and only scholarship dedicated to Shariah students pursuing studies in Islamic finance. It is open to all nationalities with a Bachelor’s degree in Shariah or equivalent.

It is meant to fill the gap of shortage of qualified Shariah scholars who understand the financial system, modern economics with the traditional Islamic theory combined to serve practical guide for contemporary practice.

ISRA, the central bank-backed research outfit set-up in 2008, took over the administration of the Shariah scholarship award and research grant under BNM’s Fund for Shariah Scholars in Islamic Finance in April 2009.

“The scholarship unites Shariah students from all over the world. Our Shariah scholars are from prominent Malaysian and international universities,” said ISRA ED Prof Dr Mohamad Akram Laldin.

The central bank governor noted that as Islamic finance progresses, it will encounter many new challenges.

“Many of these challenges will be unprecedented and will vary from one country to another. It is from this perspective that as a collective, we need to collaborate even more closely to resolve some of the problems and bring Islamic finance to become an inherent part of society.

“Collaborate, respect and embrace each other’s views on various matters, no matter how far apart you are in your opinions.

“Celebrate diversity of views. Avoid polemics that trivialise issues. Debate and discuss the more important matters that concerns the ummah. Think, dig deeper and be innovative in approaching problems and solutions. Look at substance rather than form. Let’s not be argumentative.

“Let’s not get trapped into matters of no significance. Let’s practice and live the norms and the values that led to the glory days of many civilisations,” said Muhammad.