Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Insights on Islam and Debt from a Muslim Sister



Saiyyidah Zaidi-Stone, Development Director at 1st Ethical Charitable Trust shares some Islamic responses to the credit crisis. She can be contacted via email at Saiyyidah@1stethical.com

Aristotle considered the most hated and unnatural profession to be that of the banker. Likewise all the Abrahamic faiths historically considered the charging of interest to be an exploitative practice. Granted, most modern day Christians and Jews may not consider sharing interest to be an affront to God but a good number do, along with most Muslims, whose faith still considers sharing interest to be prohibited.

Whilst the misery of the credit crunch is still wreaking its destruction upon a huge number of innocent victims, the wisdom of avoiding debt and hence interest can appear obvious. Yet it is only a matter of time before the money-go-round gets going again, leading to, as the old saying goes, another bubble and of course, another needle. And when the two inevitably collide, as they surely must, some new fools will learn an old lesson.

The point is that the human condition is such that we are emotive, excitable and gullible. Some more than others. Shockingly, empirical data indicates about a fifth of the adult population struggle with basic budgeting skills, often unable to properly prioritise their scarce income for the rent, utility bills and food costs and instead squandering money on cigarettes and alcohol.

Combating the issue of money management and debt reduction is doubly important in the current harsh economic climate, not only because people are suffering more, but also because for the first time in a generation, many are actually seriously questioning whether the current financial model really does need profound changes. With human nature being what it is, it will not be long before the credit crunch recedes into the memory, with talk of serous reform being relegated to pious aspirations or naivety, until the next major crunch hits.

This is why the idea of collaborating on a co-operative basis with like minded individuals and organisations is such a great one. It allows people who share the underlying values of living within ones means, a dislike of debt, and an aversion to extreme concentrations of wealth, to come together, irrespective of doctrinal or political belief, and focus on action - the action of educating and empowering people at a grass roots level and thereby making a tangible measurable and immediate difference.

The 1st Ethical Charitable Trust currently holds weekly seminars and talks at mosques, churches and universities throughout Britain, primarily targeting members of Britain’s Muslim community. The last decennial census showed Muslims to be the poorest, least educated and least healthy faith community in Britain. I would imagine the issue of excessive debt to be an integral part of this toxic mix.

One of the areas we wish to strengthen our work in, is practical ways in which financial literacy can be taught to lower income groups. At the same time we want to act as a bridge to organisations specialising in bespoke advice to those afflicted with unmanageable levels of debt. Adopting a scriptural dimension to our shared message helps us better reach Britain’s faith communities who all instinctively support the concept of living within one’s means and avoiding unnecessary debt. This is why we are happy to support the work of Zero-credit and, as our tag line says, Empower through Partnership. For more information on our free financial and legal guides on charity giving (zakat) and Islamic wills please go to www.1stethical.com.




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