Professor M.A. Mannan, founder chairman of Social Investment Bank (SIB) in Bangladesh, yesterday urged Muslim countries and organizations to promote "cash waqf" (endowment in cash) as a new product to collect funds required for their educational, social and charitable projects.
"The main attraction of this product is that it enables every Muslim to participate in it by contributing any amount he or she can afford," Mannan told Arab News while attending the 7th International Conference on Islamic Economics at the King Abdul Aziz University.
Mannan, former chief economist at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, said contributions to cash waqf could be collected through banks. "We have introduced cash waqf at SIB and have received encouraging response from the public," he said. Bank Muamalat and other Islamic banks in Indonesia have also adopted the system. "We don’t use cash waqf funds directly to finance projects. The fund will be invested in viable ventures and the returns from projects will be used to finance projects. This will help organizations to maintain funds for their projects without resorting to contributions," he explained.
Mannan said SIB had made 300 percent growth during the past 10 years. "I hope SIB would pave the way for the establishment of a world social bank in order to finance social infrastructure projects for the Ummah."
The conference was officially opened on Tuesday by acting Higher Education Minister Dr. Matlab Al-Nafeesa. He said the economic problems facing the humanity today were the results of its distancing itself from Islamic teachings and values. He hoped that the conference would open a new chapter in Islamic economics research. The minister honored eminent economists who had contributed to the development of Islamic Economics Research Center at the university.
Dr. Osama Tayyeb, president of KAU, stressed the conference’s significance in exchanging expertise and making use of research works.
Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Najatullah Siddiqui, winner of King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies, called for more efforts to promote Islamic endowment and Zakah systems and fight poverty in Muslim countries. Siddiqui emphasized the need for narrowing the gap between the rich and poor and reminded the wealthy of their duty toward the less fortunate. He presented a paper on "Obstacles to Research in Islamic Economics."
Dr. Mehmet Asutay, lecturer in political economy at School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, was one of the nearly 1,000 delegates attending the conference. His school, which offers training in Islamic finance, has a pavilion at the conference along with other major players in the industry including Harvard Law School and the Islamic Development Bank.
"There is a lot of demand for our Ph.D and master degree programs in Islamic finance," Asutay told Arab News. He also disclosed the university’s plan to open a center for Islamic finance studies. "We provide short-term courses for employees of Islamic banks and other financial institutions. Last year we provided training to more than 40 people from different countries including Australia, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Half of them were non-Muslims." Asutay said Islamic economics was making "impressive" progress over the past years. However, he emphasized the importance of developing authentic Islamic finance products to meet the needs of different societies.
"Islamic banking has to move from commercial banking to social and retail banking. It should also get involved in social issues such as environment protection." He called for concrete efforts to establish transparency.
Professor Mohamed Aslam Haneef of International Islamic University in Malaysia was one of the speakers yesterday. He called for the establishment of an international fund for research in Islamic economics. "Students of Islamic universities should become agents of change, not changed agents," Haneef said. "We should also chart a clear agenda for the future," he told the delegates who came from all over the world including the US, UK, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.