Indian classical scholars sign up for courses in finance

MUMBAI: Mufti Ishtiyaq Azmi, religious scholar, has recently
discovered that the market moves in mysterious ways. “One moment things
will be calm, even boring. But the next second everyone will be
shouting and tearing their hair,” says the young madarsa graduate.
“This is strange to us, since the Islamic model doesn’t have such
dramatic dips.”

Azmi has spent time poring over balance sheets and observing the
mood swings on the trading floor as part of a training programme with
Parsoli Corp Ltd, an Islamic brokerage. “As religious scholars, we
already know the theoretical principles governing halal (permitted)
trading. But to guide Muslims in the real world, we need to know the
modern market,” he says. “I am trying to fill this gap.”

Azmi is part of a growing breed of laptop-toting, Sensex-watching
scholars who are as likely to advise you on your market worth as your
spiritual stock. “Till a few years ago, the tendency was to avoid the
market as haram (prohibited),” says Ashraf Mohamedy of Idafa
Investments, a Mumbai based firm. The recent interest amongst Muslims
in halal investments, however, has prompted several classical scholars
to sign up for courses in finance, accounts and even law.  

Like Mufti Arshad Madani, who topped off his religious degree from
Saudi Arabia with an MBA from Hyderabad. “The present need is for
sharia (Islamic law) consultants who are experts in both fields —
religion and finance —and can work in tandem with corporates. This
needs broader training than most Indian madarsas can offer,” says the
scholar, who is soon leaving for London for further studies.

While they are an established phenomenon abroad, in India, the
increased possibilities for this role are a fallout of the global boom
in oil prices and the heightened interest in Islamic wealth.  “The
peaking of oil prices has created huge liquidity in the Gulf region,
which India needs for its growth, says Dr Shariq Nisar, Islamic finance