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Finding a way to train future professionals

The tendency of the modern-day Islamic finance (IF) industry has been to retrain personnel recruited from the mainstream financial sector, but increasingly this approach is being questioned by industry professionals.

“An integrated and comprehensive programme of education is required, one that connects traditional Islamic principles with the challenges of modernity,” says Tarek El-Diwany at Zest Advisory. “Without this, the Islamic financial services industry will not achieve the paradigm shift that it often claims for itself.”

Shaban Siddik, from EdUK8 Trust, a charity dedicated to helping graduates into IF and other professional careers, explains that currently Islamic finance professionals can pursue two main career tracks.

“Individuals aiming to specialise in Sharia compliance must obtain training in Islamic law. This can either take place at universities or independent seminaries,” says Dr Mehmet Asutay, of Durham University.

“The industry also requires a self-regulating professional authorisation body for Sharia scholars to recommend best practices and conduct codes similar to those for other professionals,” says Sheikh Faizal Manjoo, of the Hannover Re Sharia Supervisory Board.

An integrated and comprehensive programme of education is required, one that connects traditional Islamic principles with the challenges of modernity

The second track is that of an IF practitioner who must obtain a rudimentary grounding in Islamic commercial law and jurisprudence. Major London-based professional services firms, such as Linklaters, are investing heavily in recruiting both Sharia scholars and practitioners.

Professional qualifications and extensive individual research will help practitioners and Sharia scholars develop their understanding of the IF sector, while those wishing to focus on academia will find postgraduate courses more appropriate.

Despite the blossoming numbers of academic IF courses, Dr Omneya Abdelsalam, of Aston Business School, points out that “those who obtain a Masters in Islamic finance need to look outside the banking sector for jobs”.

Umer Suleman, from the Islamic Finance Council UK, adds: “The UK IF space is great for developing your financial acumen, but there are a limited number of jobs due to the shortage of market participants.”

With growing international competition from dedicated IF institutions, such as INCEIF in Malaysia, many academic course developers in the UK may decide to rethink their strategy.

Of the professional qualifications currently available in the Western world, the internationally recognised CIMA Islamic Finance Diploma is widely respected by employers for its flexibility and focus on market practice. There are also numerous private training providers, such as DC Gardner and Ethica.

Meanwhile, a new approach to IF education is being pioneered by Dome Advisory, an IF social enterprise based in London. Here, an integrated programme for IF professionals and Sharia scholars combines a classical training in Arabic language and Islamic jurisprudence with modern professional qualifications.

The objective is to provide a holistic understanding of the various elements that make up the Islamic financial system. Saadat Khan, of Ethical Asset Management, concludes that what is needed for the industry to grow further is “an understanding of the ethos of Islamic finance, which ultimately revolves around socially responsible and sustainable ethical finance”.


Two career paths in Islamic finance
Practitioner Sharia scholar
1. Part-time Arabic language and Sharia courses such as the intensive online and on-site courses at Ibn Jabal Institute can be undertaken at any stage but, in general, the earlier the better.2. Undergraduate degree at a UK university.

3. Postgraduate professional qualification in accounting, finance, law and so on.4. Distance-learning diploma.5. Ongoing personal research, publishing and conference presentations.

1. Recognised Sharia scholar programme through traditional seminaries in the UK.2. Undergraduate degree at a UK university. Some Sharia graduates may prefer flexible distance-learning programmes such as the Open University.

3. Distance-learning diploma.4. Certified Sharia Adviser and Auditor (CSAA) qualification with the leading standard setting body, AAOIFI.5. Ongoing personal research, publishing and conference presentations.


Recommended conferences

International Islamic Fiqh Academy Council

AAOIFI Annual Sharia Conference

Al Baraka Symposium (Jeddah)

IDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance

IFSB Summit

Harvard University Forum

Recommended learning resources

Introduction to Islamic Finance by Sheikh Taqi Usmani

The Problem With Interest by Tarek El-Diwany

Financial Transactions in Islamic Jurisprudence (Volumes 1 and 2) by Dr Wahba al-Zuhayli

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