The role of Islamic finance in healing the planet

Thought leadership, assessment of priorities and a call to action in a coordinated fashion would be a prime driver

By DAUD VICARY ABDULLAH / Pic By TMR

I am pleased to have a further opportunity to share some views on the future direction of Islamic finance and the potential role it can play in an increasingly demanding and ever-changing world.

Many of you will already be aware of the increasing strains that human action or inaction are having on our environment. Climate change, global warming, sustainable energy, food security, gender balance, ageing populations and healthcare, etc, are all being discussed, debated and researched in a much more meaningful way than ever before.

However, I would like to raise two questions (and I am sure that there are many more that you can think of) that are worthy of consideration at this point in time.

Firstly, how is all of this activity relating to “healing the planet” being coordinated to bring about sustainable action?

Secondly, what more of a role can Islamic finance and the Islamic economy play in bringing about effective action?

I would be foolish to attempt to answer both questions in a holistic and thorough fashion within the confines of this brief article. However, I would like to set the ball rolling with a few ideas, notions and attempts at answers.

Healing the Planet

In the context of the first question, a work colleague and I raised the “healing the planet” concept with an eminent person just a couple of weeks ago.

We discussed the need for creating greater awareness of the challenges that humanity faces in the light of all the matters that I have raised in the first paragraph above, and suggested that perhaps a way of starting to tackle the challenge would be to create an appropriate Council of Eminent Persons to address these issues at a country level.

Thought leadership, assessment of priorities and a call to action in a coordinated fashion would be a prime driver.

As a result, relevant projects that are interlinked would be developed and performance against key metrics such as carbon footprint, nutritional value of food, sustainable energy creation, life expectancy and quality of life, etc, could be established.

Successes and failures would be shared, case studies built and information shared across communities and indeed across borders. The thoughts and ideas we raised brought sufficient encouragement for us to go away and start thinking about a plan to organise and execute.

It may be starting small, but if you start to deliver effective results, people do tend to take notice and want to emulate, enhance and build on positive results.

Duty of Care

On the second question relating to the role that Islamic finance, Islamic social finance and the Islamic economy can play in enhancing the outcome? The answer is simple.

That is our job if we are truly following the objectives of the Maqasid Al Shariah. As stewards of the planet with a duty of care for all humanity and all life, it is our responsibility as Muslims to set the example and demonstrate our leadership in this area.

Collaboration will be a key component and there is no reason why the modus operandi that I have described in the previous paragraph could not be achieved by more effectively mobilising the assets that we have in the Islamic social economy — such as zakat, sadaqah and waqaf — to be used for relief of poverty, sustainable growth and healing the planet.

That would be a great start, which would demonstrate the real value of Islamic social finance to the whole community.

All in all, we need to be in a position to pass the world on in a better shape to the next generation. If we focus, organise, follow the path of the Maqasid and thereby help both create awareness and change mindsets, then all of this is achievable. Indeed, it has to be achieved as the burning platform is already there and urgent attention is required!

As ever, there is much to do and not a moment to lose. Just “boldly go” and make a real difference.

  • Daud Vicary Abdullah, the MD of DVA Consulting Sdn Bhd, is a former Islamic banker and immediate past president/CEO of Malaysian-based university INCEIF.