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Standardisation has to wait

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Dr Ahmed Al Janahi, deptuy group CEO of Noor Islamic Group

Points of Essence:

  • Islamic bankers differed on a need to standardize in Islamic finance. Some doubted that there would be immediate standardization in Islamic finance as Islamic principles do not technically encourage a common treatment of views and others viewed that even though Islamic finance operates in different Shariah principles in various jurisdictions, it begins to get converged and there are serious initiatives in standardization. Case in point, the AAOFI’s standards.

By Karen Remo-Listana

Standardisation in Islamic finance will not materialise in the near future, a top official from Dubai Group said.

“I don’t think it [standardisation] is possible and I don’t think this will happen in the near future, that is for sure,” Dr Ahmed Al Janahi, deputy group CEO of Noor Islamic Group, told Emirates Business. “Technically, Islamic principles do not encourage a common treatment of views. It is not socialism. The principles are the same,” he added.

Abdulrazaq Aljassim, CEO of Dubai Insurance Group, a sister company of Noor Islamic Group, on the other hand expressed a different view, saying Islamic finance is “getting close” to standardisation.

“There are challenges,” Aljassim said. “Malaysia is operating in slightly different Shariah principles. But there is more and more convergence and there are serious initiatives in standardisation. Shariah scholars are already trying very hard to see eye to eye.”

Oliver Wyman, a global strategy consulting firm, estimates around $300 billion (Dh1 trillion) of assets are currently being managed under Islamic principles. The Financial Services Authority in the UK suggested it was, in fact, as big as $500bn.

According to Islamic finance analysts, while the Islamic business is growing by the day, it faces hurdles from lack of standardisation and homogeneity.

Because there is no single interpretation of Islamic law, each financial institution has a board of religious scholars who determine which products are Islamic – and what one bank considers Shariah-compliant may be unacceptable to another.

To further establish a common ground, the Dubai International Financial Centre will be launching a research project that will study the standardisation of Islamic finance by the end of this year, Nasser Al Shaali, of Dubai International Financial Centre, told this newspaper earlier.

The centre, together with its undisclosed partners, will study and formulate standards in different aspects of Islamic transactions, including accounting and banking.

But according to Mohammed Hussain, Co-CEO and member of The Board at Ithmaar Bank, there are already certain structures in Islamic finance.

“There is an Islamic accounting standard that has been recognised by the world’s multinational institutions, the World Bank and the IMF. It is called AAOIFI, which stands for Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions,” Hussain said in an interview.

“Islamic accounting standards and Shariah principles are the standards in the Islamic finance and they have been followed by all Islamic banks,” he said.

The interpretation issue, however, is not unique to Islam, according to Mohammad Faiz Azmi, Global Islamic Finance Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“We have [conventional] accounting standards since 1800s and we still don’t have one accounting standards,” Azmi said. “We only just had investment banking so it is not surprising we have different view points.”

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Written by Suapi Shaffaii

September 22, 2008 at 11:58 am

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