SHAIKHAH UMME ROOMAN SOOFIE reflects on some of the issues raised at the international Islamic finance conference held in Cape Town, recently.
SOUTH AFRICA is truly a remarkable country. After removing the shackles of a painful past, it has transformed into a land of immeasurable tolerance and acceptance. The recent Cape Town International Islamic Finance Conference 2022 (CPTIIFC 2022) hosted by iConsult Africa, is a prime example of this transformation.
In a country where Muslims make up a mere two per cent of the total population, it is heart-warming that a conference highlighting the Islamic value system as implemented in the Islamic financial system was welcomed in the beautiful Mother City, Cape Town. And what a grand event it was! For the first time on our soil, critical contributors including leading practitioners in the field of Islamic finance (IF), local and international shariah scholars, industry specialists, regulators and the public, all gathered for three days to discuss, share research and foster new bonds of professional relations with the shared aim of the growth and betterment of the IF industry in South Africa.
The primary goal of the conference was to seek sustainable solutions to global economic concerns. The core focus centred around the United Nations 2030 vision for the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), with a proposition that the principles and value system of Islamic finance could be a catalyst to fast track the achievement of these goals. It has been echoed through every session of the conference that the implementation of the shariah and its higher objectives (maqaasid) in all sectors – banking, Islamic insurance (takaful) and capital markets – enable the realisation of universal goals for the betterment of humankind.
Key value propositions were highlighted, such as the significant economic power of Muslim capital as well as the wealth of opportunity to harness this potential. It was brought to light that shariah compliance in environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and impact investing has thus far proven to be more efficient, even outperforming conventional funds. These opportunities need to be adequately harnessed and channelled as a coherent structure. Such conferences play an opportune role in fulfilling these objectives by highlighting the potential and also directing our efforts towards finding viable solutions.
The exceptional role and sustainable strength of Islamic social finance was demonstrated by key stakeholders, proving yet again that the maqaasid (of shariah) are not only in tune with all 17 SDGs but also predate them, are more refined and thus superior.
The importance of education and creating awareness were also pertinent recommendations reiterated by panellists in each segment. A greater effort needs to be made to create a strong awareness of the methodology and values of the Islamic financial system and the maqaasid, thus drawing attention to the existence of a credible, universal, ethical, shariah compliant alternative. The conference was a critical event in this regard and paved the way for future robustness and quality discussions – indeed, a stepping-stone for subsequent growth and credibility.
The discussions of local and international shariah scholars explored contemporary finance issues both globally and in the South African context. The discussions focused primarily on value based intermediation (VBI) and its applicative potential, digital assets and other social and Islamic jurisprudential issues, such as the concepts of ijtihad (independent reasoning) and ikhtilaf (differences of opinion) in the context of Islamic finance.
A segment dedicated to the development of women in IF showcased the importance of gender inclusivity. The session aimed at clarifying some common misconceptions over the treatment and role of women in Islam; it was a reminder of the true nature of the Sacred law and the teachings of the Noble Messenger of Allah, and the earlier generations of Islamic civilisation. At iConsult Africa, we hold the development of women in high regard and recognise women as strong individuals in leadership roles. We acknowledge the importance of integrating between the strengths of both – males and females – for the betterment of the society at large, and as a vital element of growth and sustainability. As the noble Messenger (SAW) has stated: ‘Verily, the believers are like a structure, each part strengthening the other.’ (and the Prophet clasped his fingers together). (al-Bukhari)
Industry, scholars and thought leaders in Islamic finance have all expressed their gratitude for an exceptional experience, and committed to support future events of this nature to ensure that the sustainability of these discussions are maintained through executive actions.
The value of such conferences and the exchanging of views are often overlooked. The Islamic world knows too well the importance of such gatherings, as the scholars of the past used to meet annually in Makkah during the Hajj season to collaborate and share their research with others or to simply learn from (the knowledge of) others. It is from these very gatherings that bright ideas, innovation and future growth is born.
Shaikhah Umme Rooman Soofie [MSc Islamic Finance (INCEIF) and certified shariah advisor and auditor (AAOIFI)] is a shariah researcher at iConsult Africa and a qualified Islamic finance expert. She currently heads the Islamic studies department at the HSBP institute of learning, serves on the fatwa advisory committee and is a known orator at Islamic events in South Africa.
- iConsult Africa is a bespoke Islamic Finance and Business Advisory Firm focused on alternative financial solutions based on Islamic principles. Their primary focus is to explore financial solutions with broader social economic impact and inclusiveness. https://iconsult.africa/Home