Saturday, October 22, 2005

(5) A Response to your response on FNB

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh

Respected Brother in Islam,

As an intro, I would like to inform you that we at the Daarul Iftaa in Camperdown receive literally hundreds of emails a day. It is not practical for us to read them all, let alone attending to them. Hence our auto responder clearly states that if you do not receive a reply, one should resend one’s email. I have not previously seen the emails sent by you, but thereafter a brother wrote to me indicating that you have been distributing your emails to a wide group. He requested me to look into the matter, and this is when I first saw your emails.

I have before me two emails sent by you. The first is entitled ‘FNB launches bank for Muslim?’ which was sent out to a long list of recipients. The second is one entitled ‘response from FNB!’

At the outset, may I say that you are most welcome to query issues, but one should be careful not to unduly cast insinuations without thorough investigation. The tone of your emails certainly suggests so.

I can confirm that we at the Daarul Iftaa have approved the vehicle finance product. Should you have a specific concern, you are most welcome to raise your concerns. This can be via email, or during Ramadhaan telephonically between 10 and 12 AM weekdays.

I cannot speak for other bodies, but only reflect the views of the Daarul Iftaa. I can explain the basic concepts involved. However, I am not in a position to share documents with the public. Anyone requiring documents may contact ‘Islamic Finance’ directly.

Many of the points raised by you have been duly considered before approving the product. Your comments suggest that we have been complacent in approving this product. In which way?

You subtly suggest that the rules of Shari’ah have been bent to accommodate for this product. On what do you base this?

You talk of the ills of an interest based system, thereby subtly implying that we are approving an interest based transaction. This is not true. You should have investigated the matter before loosely resorting to innuendos. Your last comment of finding loopholes in the Shari’ah is out of place. One should not ‘shoot first and ask later’. Rather, get the facts, and thereafter if you have any constructive criticisms to make, it would be welcome.

We share your concern that there are many products springing up, all claiming to be “Shari’ah Compliant”. While there can be no absolute solution to this scourge, the Muslim public have a fundamental role to play. Such schemes can only prosper on a gullible and undiscerning client base. The simple and reasonably effective solution would be for the Muslim public to check with the reliable Ulama upon whom they have confidence. If there is no Ulama approval and supervision for these products, as a rule of thumb, abstain!

You wrote:
(These have not been verified independently by me (I still find it extremely difficult to believe) as these schools are now on holiday- but our respected brother, Ebi Patel at FNB, has confirmed this.)

This is one of your uncalled for ingratiations. We have been working on this product for two years. It is not that on the spur of the moment we hurriedly approved something, and then fled the scene. Our integrity demands that if we put our name to a product, we stand by it. We have nothing to hide, nor does Ebrahim Patel have any special access to us that the general public does not have. What then is so difficult to believe? Are you suggesting that because you did not get an immediate response, Ebrahim Patel could be making up a story? I think Islamic decorum demands that you should be more careful with your words.

You wrote:
All should come to the table- professionals who are MufT’s in the field of economics and commerce as well as Mufti’s who are professionals in the field of recorded Shariah- together both groups can grasp a full and proper understanding of where we need to be in the long term and take these steps so that we are not forced to accept half-baked, Islamically inferior products and services as the Real McCoy…

This is the first time I have heard of MufT’s of the field of economics and commerce, side by side to having Muftis of Shari’ah. Again you sadly insinuate that the product in question is “half-baked”, compromising of the Shariah, and a McCoy. One has to ask: Did you study the product? If not, and I am reasonably sure you did not, then a little patience would have been expected of you.

To the other readers, I would like to assure you that we welcome any constructive input. We are in no way bound by the bank, and bank knows that fully well. Our independence is to the extent that if we are convinced that we have erred in any way in approving the product, we will have no hesitation of withdrawing our support. Our support has no strings attached whatsoever. However, I must stress that any criticism offered should be constructive and value based, not mere shots in the dark.

Lastly, I would like challenge to any person who has some knowledge of the field of Islamic Finance to show me a product offered by any western based financial institution that is more “conservative” or strict on Shari’ah principles that the product approved by us. I think this challenge speaks for itself.

Once again, feel free to contact me for any assistance.

Jazakallah and Was Salaam

E. Vawda
For Daarul Iftaa


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