Does Islamic Finance neglect the women?

Islamic Finance and Women

By Lahem al Nasser Available at:

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Islam honors women, enhancing their standing [in society] and granting them their full unabridged rights, and in the process solidifying this view in the hearts of Muslim believers. This can be seen in the fact that one of the surras [chapters] of the Holy Quran is named “al Nissa” [the woman]. Al-Nissa is the fourth surra in the Quran, and one of the seven longest surras in the Quran. There are also a number of Sunnah which relates situations that honor women and their rights.

In one Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira, he said “A person came to the messenger of God and asked ‘Who among the people is most deserving of my fine treatment?’ He said ‘Your mother.’ He then said ‘who next?’ The Prophet replied ‘Your mother’ again. He asked ‘who next?’ The Prophet said ‘Your mother.’ He asked again ‘Then who?’ Thereupon the Prophet said ‘Then your father.’

The prophet’s life was a model of how to honor and do justice to women. In the Sahih al-Bukhari collection of Hadith, the Prophet’s wife Aisha said that the Prophet consulted women and sought their opinion on the most serious issues. The Sahih al-Bukhari quoted al-Miswar Bin Makhrama as saying that “When the writing of the [Hudaybiyyah] treaty was concluded, the messenger of God said to his companions ‘Get up and slaughter your sacrifice and get your heads shaved.’ By Allah, none of them got up, and the Prophet repeated his order thrice. When none of them got up, he left them and went to Umm Salamah and told her of the people’s attitude towards him. Umm Salamah said ‘Oh Messenger of God, do you want your order to be carried out? Go out and don’t say a word to anybody until you have slaughtered your [own] sacrifice and called your barber to shave your head.’ So the Prophet went out and did not talk to any one of them until he did that i.e. slaughter the sacrifice and called the barber to shave his head. Seeing this, the companions of the Prophet got up, slaughtered their own sacrifices, and started shaving each other’s heads, and there was such a rush [to do this] that there was a danger of killing each other.”

Commenting on this Hadith, Imam al-Hassan al-Basri said that the Prophet did not need to consult with Umm Salamah but rather he did this as he wanted to set an example to the people that they should not feel embarrassed about consulting with women.

Despite women’s considerable standing in Islam in general, the Islamic financial industry, which is based upon the principles of Islamic Shariaa law, has failed to give women priority. Therefore women do not occupy their natural position in this industry, even though they contribute financially to this industry’s assets. Experts at the International Islamic Finance Forum held in Dubai 2007 estimated the value that Gulf women contribute to the Islamic financial industry is in the region of $35 billion. Observers may notice this negligence in two major sectors, the employment and business sectors.

As for employment, this negligence is apparent in a variety of aspects, such as qualification and training, as Islamic financial institutions offer few training courses to female employees. Of the few courses that female employees have access to, these are primarily basic courses, not advanced ones. This prevents female employees from being able to qualify for senior positions, and therefore they are restricted to lower-level management and marketing positions. This has created a shortage of qualified female employees in the Islamic financial sector, which in turn has caused a lack of qualified trainers for female employees of Islamic financial institutes, thereby creating something of a vicious circle. There is also a lack of a suitable work environment in line with the provisions of Islamic Shariaa law, and this is something that would increase productivity. This lack of a suitable work environment places pressure on the female employees in the financial sector, causing professional employees to abandon their work as a result of this. This also prevents the Islamic financial sector from easing unemployment rates among women, especially in conservative societies.

The business sector in Islamic finance is lacking in financing and investment services aimed at women. It is also lacking in initiatives that enhance women’s contribution to the Islamic financial industry, such as the establishment of banks, and capital and investment companies that cater specifically for women. At this point I would like to pay tribute to the Kuwaiti Tejarati company, which was the first company to be established by women, targeting women as clients. We wish this company all the success, and hope that this encourages other types of initiatives.

In fact, the Islamic financial industry is not the only financial sector that neglects women, as this is something that is widely spreading to include the financial industry as a whole. This is why the International Finance Corporation in collaboration with a number of banks has sought to establish the Global Banking Alliance for Women. Their aim to take the necessary measures to ensure the speedy growth of the wealth of women by exchanging the best possible practices between financial institutions around the world.

“If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base.” Dave Barry

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  • Kyoto, Japan


    Islamic Finance Educational Hub in the UK

    Islamic finance hub opened at Aston Business School

    By Anna Blackaby: Available at:

    Birmingham’s hopes to position itself as a centre for Islamic finance have moved up a notch after Aston Business School launched a ground-breaking Islamic Finance and Business Centre – the first of its kind in Europe. The centre has been developed as a result of a £1.5 million grant from Dubai-based business Surgi-Tech, the largest gift on record for the university.

    It will be used to develop qualifications and advance research in the Islamic finance field. To be named after the director of Surgi-Tech, the El Shaarani Centre for Islamic Finance and Business will develop a suite of qualifications on Islamic finance for 2010, including undergraduate, postgraduate, PhD and executive programmes.

    It will also continue with research into Islamic Finance and Shariah-compliant business, developing Islamic finance solutions for companies and providing an advisory service to the government and the commercial sector. The university said the sponsorship came as a result of Aston Business School’s excellent global reputation and the prestige of associating a Middle Eastern company with a UK university.

    Dr El Shaarani, chief executive of Surgi-Tech Group, Dubai, said: “We are honoured to sponsor a UK business school as prestigious as Aston and help to fund research that will explore the role of Islamic finance in the future global financial system. “We believe that the creation of this centre will result in the development of new financial tools that will attract greater foreign investment to the West Midlands region. We look forward to continuing a prosperous relationship with Aston University.”

    Dr Omneya Abdelsalam, Director of the Islamic Finance and Business Centre, Aston University, added: “We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Surgi-Tech Group for their generous support. With their assistance, Aston has established this centre to meet the growing interest in Shariah-complaint finance across the world.

    “Through the centre we will educate the next generation of Islamic economists and business leaders – both nationally and internationally. “Our research will allow us to investigate how mainstream financial institutions can learn from Islamic finance practices in their recovery from and avoidance of the next global economic crisis.”

    The El Shaarani Centre for Islamic Finance and Business plans to exploit Birmingham’s large concentration of professional financial and legal services and culturally diverse business community to reposition the city as a centre for Islamic finance. A suite of executive education programmes in Islamic finance will be launched by Aston Business School in summer 2010, followed by a Masters qualification in the subject in October.

    “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” Tom Bodett

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  • With Sheikh Amen Fatih in Dubai.

    French Study on Islamic Finance

    French study on Islamic finance ready next month
    Available at:

    The French Institute for Islamic Finance (FIIF) announced here Monday that the team responsible for Islamic Finance affairs in France will submit a study on Islamic contracts next February. Head of FIIF Mohammad Nouri told KUNA that the team, formed by the advisor of Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry, and Employment Christine Lagarde, will submit their study on Murabaha (a kind of sale which is compliant with Islamic Sharia), Sokuk (Islamic bounds), and Ijara (Lease-to-Own).

    The study also covers Istisna’ (an agreement to sell to or buy a non-existent asset to be made or built based on specifications outlined by ultimate buyers at an agreed predetermined selling price and to be delivered on a specific future date).

    The team, which consists of Banque de France (bank of France), counseling offices, legal offices, and FIIF, meets every two weeks to study laws and legislation on Islamic financing, he pointed out. He stressed that Islamic finance attracts people around the world, especially following the world economic crisis, the decrease of liquidity, and the increase of international deficit, adding that France suffers a deficit of about 100 billion euros.

    French officials realized that the cause of the crisis was the big connection with virtual economy rather than “real” products, he said. In addition, economic banking proved it was special and efficient, technically and profit-wise, and was based on simple principles understood by the public, he noted.

    Nouri said the French government became aware of that last factor, especially after it noticed the big steps by the United Kingdom to attract substantial capital from the Islamic world. France is paving way for Paris to become a major western and European center that attracts Islamic banks, he emphasized.

    The start of this effort was with an expression of a political desire with the announcement of the president, finance minister, and central bank governor, he said. This was followed by media, political, legal, and legislative action, including research, seminars, lectures, and other academic input, he said.

    Saying he was opposed to changing the unique characteristics of Islamic finance, he noted the issue was one of credibility. He stressed that Islamic finance was an international system that many countries benefited from by now, including Japan, the United States, China, and Russia, noting that France will issue Sokouk this year.

    In 2009, real estate Murabaha operations of three billion euros were made, he said, adding that France aims to reach 100 billion euros in this category. Nouri pointed out FIIF was established in 2008 to sponsor Islamic finance in France. It includes a group of Muslim scholars, economists, bankers, and legal figures who have knowledge about French laws. The institute also interacts and cooperates with scholars from different Islamic countries who have expertise in Islamic finance.

    “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.” Albert Einstein

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  • Dubai International Financial Centre

    Tomorrow’s business leaders should focus more on business ethics and stakeholders instead of concentrating on profit and shareholders

    MBAs should focus more on business ethics
    Available at:

    Tomorrow’s business leaders should focus more on business ethics and stakeholders instead of concentrating on profit and shareholders, according to new research involving Durham University. During the economic downturn business schools were criticised for producing graduates obsessed with shareholder value and high risk growth strategies.

    However according to the findings of the Research & Consultancy Centre at the Association of MBAs, in partnership with Durham University’s Business School, it appears that the era of focusing solely on shareholder value above all else could well be over. When asked whether the MBA should adopt a stakeholder rather than a shareholder focus, almost eight out of 10 (79 per cent) of business schools agreed that to a large or very large extent that this should be the case.

    The majority of alumni also agree that the MBA should adopt a stakeholder rather than just a shareholder focus on the bottom-line (59 per cent). In the late 1980s and 1990s, when many of today’s corporate leaders were studying for their MBA, concerns about business ethics and sustainability played little part in the curriculum.

    Mirroring the shift for greater transparency and accountability in business today, eight out of 10 (83 per cent) of alumni surveyed agreed that ethics have become important or very important, whilst three-quarters (75 per cent) said that corporate governance is now important or very important. In turn, 80 per cent of business schools agreed to a large or very large extent that corporate social responsibility should underpin the actions of organisations.

    When asked how the MBA could better prepare students post-downturn, almost half (46 per cent) of the respondents raised issues relating to sustainability or ethics. However, it appears that schools have taken this point on board as when asked to rate the importance of various topics in today’s economic climate business ethics came top (4.59, where 5 is rated as “very important.”). The research included a total of 100 business schools as well as 544 alumni from 57 countries across the world. In terms of their roles and responsibilities, half of the alumni were senior managers or above, with almost a tenth at CEO/president level.

    Commenting on the findings, Professor Rob Dixon, Dean of Durham University’s Business School said: “The economic crisis has shown that we can’t simply expect things to go on as they were. “It’s not just all about profit. Business schools are helping to build a new way of doing business, one that doesn’t put the interests of shareholders above all other stakeholders. “Business needs well rounded executives with strong leadership skills and the ability to integrate ethical, sustainable and stakeholder thinking into their management decisions.”

    Other key findings of the research include:

    Risk management: Business schools acknowledge that both risk management and strategic risk are two of the top three topics where there is the widest disconnect between what they offer in the current curriculum and what they ought to be offering in the post-downturn world.

    A qualification for challenging times: Seven out of 10 (70 per cent) of MBAs agree or strongly agree that their business education helps them to manage change, while six out of 10 (59 per cent) said it prepared them to deal with uncertainty.

    Maintaining edge: Business schools appear committed to maintaining the relevance of their MBA programmes. More than nine out of 10 (94 per cent) had undergone a full re-design of their curriculum within the previous five years.

    Adds Accreditation Project Manager, Mark Stoddard of the Association of MBAs: “The report provides a clear consensus on the direction the MBA needs to take and will encourage important debate amongst the business school community.

    “Schools have been working hard to adapt the MBA to the changing demands of modern business, particularly in terms of developing a greater stakeholder focus for their programmes. “But the economic crisis highlights the need for further change, including a broader, skills-focused and integrated curriculum with more extensive coverage of ethics, risk management and sustainable business practices.“

    “Ethics is not definable, is not implementable, because it is not conscious; it involves not only our thinking, but also our feeling.” Valdemar W. Setzer

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  • The Louvre Museum, Paris

    GCC remains dominant in Islamic finance

    GCC remains dominant in Islamic finance
    Abdul Jalil Mustafa | Arab News Available at:

    AMMAN: The Islamic financial system gained additional popularity in 2009, thanks to the relative immunity it enjoyed from the fallout of the financial crisis. The widely perceived viewpoint that Shariah-compliant financial institutions had passed the global credit crisis nearly unscathed is presenting the Islamic financial industry to many non-Muslim investors in the world as a safe haven from speculative excesses.

    “We have reports that countries such as France, Australia and Japan are now mulling the introduction of Islamic banking into their financial systems,” Musa Shehadeh, general manager of the Jordan Islamic Bank said. Investors traumatized by the credit crisis apparently found comfort from the stricter rules imposed on lending by Islamic law, which considers the payment of interest as usury, thus banning the structures and financing methods that quickly unraveled during the US mortgage crisis at the end of 2008, Shehadeh said.

    According to a study published in November by the Banker Magazine in association with HSBC Amanah, Islamic finance continued double digit growth despite global crisis in 2009. The survey, that covered top 500 Islamic financial institutions, showed that assets held by fully Shariah-compliant banks or Islamic banking windows of conventional banks rose by 28.6 percent to $822 billion from $639 billion in 2008.

    This result contrasted sharply with a Banker study released in July which showed that the world’s top 1,000 conventional banks achieved an annual asset growth of just 6.8 percent. “The Islamic finance industry continues to build a solid track record: The compound annual growth rate for 2006-2009 is 27.86 percent, with assets forecast to hit $1.033 trillion in 2010,” the study said.

    The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states remained the dominant segment of Islamic finance, with $353.2 billion or 42.9 percent of he total global aggregate, according to the study. Iran remains the largest single market for Shariah-compliant assets, accounting for 35.6 percent of the global aggregate.

    Outside the Middle East, Malaysia is by far the largest player, accounting for 10.5 percent of the global aggregate, but other markets are expanding rapidly. The United Kingdom now accounts for just under 2.5 percent of the world’s Shariah-compliant assets. “Apparently, Islamic finance sectors are attracting larger amounts of investment funds against the backdrop of being the least affected as a result of the global financial crisis,” Salah Shalhoub, professor of Islamic financing at the Dhahran-based King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals, told the Dubai-based Arabic version of the CNBC television.

    “Demand has also substantially increased for Islamic tools and bonds, known as sukuk, due to the shortage of liquidity that can be obtained from conventional banks,” he added. However, the image of the booming Islamic finance seemed to have been marred at the end of November with the declaration by the state-run Dubai World conglomerate that it was asking creditors of two of its flagship real estate firms-Nakheel World and Limitless World – for a standstill on debt worth of tens of billions of dollars.

    The two subsidiaries are run according to Islamic law through the issuance of billions of dollars worth of sukuk. Some analysts expected Islamic finance to be at risk as a result of the Dubai World debt crisis, but Hanaa Hunaiti, professor of Islamic Economics at the Amman Arab University for Higher Studies, believes the problem has nothing to do with Islamic finance. “Nobody said that the problem was because of sukuk, which as a matter of fact can lead either to profit or loss according to Islamic law,” Hunaiti said.

    “I believe it is a short-lived ordeal that certainly will be dealt with in a satisfactory manner, given the assurances made by UAE officials that the emirate will be able to repay all its debts,” she added. However, other analysts suggested the focus of Islamic finance could be shifted from Dubai to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain in 2010 pending the settlement of the Dubai World debt crisis. This vision was supported by a report issued recently by the Saudi chambers of commerce which expected investment funds to change their direction from Dubai to Saudi Arabia. “An opportunity now exists for Saudi Arabia to lead the forthcoming wave of the Islamic finance industry in the Gulf as the kingdom possesses all qualifications of this leadership, including the necessary infrastructure and guidelines,” the report said.

    “You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration”, James Allen

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  • Milan, Italy

    Another hurdle to Islamic Finance in India

    Court stays Kerala’s Islamic banking plans
    Available at:

    KOCHI | NEW DELHI: A division bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday stayed all further move by the state-owned Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) to set up an Islamic bank in the state. The division bench gave its orders on a petition filed by former central minister Subramanian Swamy, who maintained that the proposed bank was against India’s secular credentials and its banking norms. The court accepted the petition and issued notices to the Union government and KSIDC.

    The Kerala government gave the green signal to the project after a feasibility study found that an Islamic bank was a viable proposition in Kerala, following which a company was registered to take the process forward. Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Issac had recently told the state assembly that the share capital of the bank had been fixed at Rs 1,000 crore.

    According to the proposal, the bank will not pay any interest to customers, while a Sharia board would decide what sort of investments it would make. The proposed bank would have Sharia-compliant banking products and profits made out of the investments would be distributed to the shareholders. Muslims comprise 24% of the state’s 3.2-crore population.

    In his PIL, Mr Swamy had contended that public money was being appropriated for favouring a particular religion in a secular country, as KSIDC has 11% stake in the multi-crore bank. “The government’s participation is clear instance of state favouring a particular religion. This is violative of Article 14 and 25 of Constitution which promises equality before law and right to freedom of religion. Besides, Islamic Bank is violative of Banking Regulation Act of 1949. A 7-judge bench of the SC had ordered that no public money should be used for promoting institutions of a particular religion,” the PIL contended.

    “The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that, when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong.” Winston Churchill

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  • University of Glasgow, Scotland.

    Regulatory hurdles for facilitation of Islamic financial products in South Korea

    Regulatory hurdles for facilitation of Islamic financial products in S. Korea
    Mushtak Parker. Available at:

    DESPITE the postponement by South Korea’s National Assembly’s Strategy and Finance Committee of pushing through a vote to approve a bill aimed at facilitating tax neutrality for the issuance of sukuk at end December 2009, local supporters of the introduction of Islamic finance products are confident that the delay is a minor setback.

    They stress that the postponement was more due to the timing of the vote which comes amid increasing political squabbling between the Grand National Party and Democratic Party, especially over controversial policy issues relating to the introduction of tough new income and corporation taxes which have been opposed by trade union leaders. Bankers in Korea stress that the vote stands a better chance of taking place in February 2010 when Parliament reconvenes.

    The bill is a prerequisite to the launch of Islamic finance products such as sukuk, Ijara (leasing) and other products in Korea. According to Lee Do Heon, managing director, Global Business Department, Korea Investment & Securities Co. Ltd., the current regulatory hurdles which prevent the facilitation of Islamic financial products in Korea are typical of those in conventional financial markets. “The main hurdles,” he explained, “are taxation issues relating to double stamp duty, value added tax (VAT) and capital gains; and the definition of what constitutes a security. From a conventional point of view, sukuk for instance, may look like asset-backed securities or like investment certificates. There must be a standard guideline that sukuk is considered as securities. There are also other challenges on the commercial banking side. In a conventional mortgage, for instance, it is like lending with collateral. But in the Islamic mortgage of Diminishing Musharaka the bank must purchase the property and co-owns the asset or property with the mortgagee. The bank then rents out its share of the equity to the mortgagee. Under Korean legislation, commercial banks are not allowed to buy properties for purposes other than headquarters and branches etc. Fortunately, these issues have been recognized by the Financial Supervisory Service of Korea and the central bank.”

    Korea is a relatively latecomer to Islamic finance in East Asia. But following the stated ambitions of neighboring countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore that are trying to establish themselves as international Islamic capital markets hubs, Seoul is similarly trying to promote Korea as a future Islamic finance hub. Kim Jong Chang, governor of the Financial Supervisory Service of Korea, the financial services regulator, believes that Islamic finance is a good innovation in the global financial market and has stressed that the Korean government is committed to facilitating it in Korea. Korea believes that the global financial crisis has shown that financial services cannot be divorced from the real economy and sees an ideal fit between its vast industrial base and Islamic finance.

    Indeed, in late November 2009 the Korea Exchange (KRX) and Bursa Malaysia hosted the inaugural KRX-Bursa Malaysia Islamic Capital Market Conference in Seoul which was widely attended by local investment bankers, advisers, issuers and institutional investors and by visiting delegates of the MIFC initiative, which comprised senior management of Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank; Securities Commission Malaysia and Bursa Malaysia.

    The conference indeed was co-organized in support of the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) initiative, which aims to share Malaysia’s Islamic finance experience and to promote the opportunities in the Malaysian Islamic capital market landscape.

    Malaysia acknowledges Korea as a potential Islamic financial market and welcomes Korea’s participation in shaping the Islamic finance landscape together, via leveraging on Malaysia’s more than 30 years of experience in developing the world’s most comprehensive Islamic financial system.

    Dato’ Yusli Mohamed Yusoff, chief executive officer of Bursa Malaysia Berhad, is confident that “the conference will stimulate interest in the Shariah-compliant products which are currently in demand from investors who are seeking returns from alternative and ethical investments. In addition, this visit by the delegates from the MIFC will pave the way for more opportunities to exchange ideas in Islamic finance and forge greater working relations between Korea and Malaysia for the interest of growing this important industry. We are confident that the Malaysian and Korean authorities as well as KRX and Bursa Malaysia would be able to leverage on our respective strengths in the establishment of an Islamic capital market in Korea.”

    Discussion centered around the liberalization of Islamic financial markets, investment and business opportunities in Islamic capital market, the Islamic finance landscape and framework as well as the growth of Islamic finance products in Asia and globally.

    “The Korean sovereign wants to issue a sukuk and the country’s corporates are already preparing. What we offer is a platform for Korean issuers to issue non-ringgit sukuk in Malaysia. But we want those issuers to be able to issue in Malaysia and Korea,” said Raja Teh Maimunah, global head of Islamic markets at Bursa Malaysia.

    One of the most important challenges, according to Lee Do Heon, is awareness and trying to help Korean customers understand what the principles of Islamic finance are. For example, in the case of sukuk of which most of the standard structures is an Ijara, the initial paper should be a solid one backed by underlying core assets. From a Korean issuers’ point of view it looks as if it is an accumulation because they are selling core assets. “We are trying to convince them that it is not. Also for Shariah equity funds we try to explain to them that it is more like a socially responsible investment with lower leveraging. So what we are trying to do is to explain the Shariah financial principles but in terms of a Korean and conventional financial nomenclature. We are also promoting real transactions which are acceptable to both Islamic investors and Korean customers. There are still some regulatory hurdles in Korea, so it will take a little bit more time to close Shariah-compliant transactions,” he added.

    While the complexity of the issues may have been cited as a potential cause of a drag in passing the legislation, local bankers stress that they are far less complex than the conventional derivatives and bubbles that have bedeviled the global financial system over the last two years.

    On the other hand, potential Korean issuers like some others in East Asia may be waiting for the sukuk market to recover in terms of pricing and yields before they decide to take the plunge. There is evidence that this is already happening both in the Asian sukuk and GCC sukuk markets. The recent $850 million IDB sukuk and the $1.5 billion Petronas EMAS sukuk were both competitively priced and were much in demand by Asian investors, and were not surprisingly well oversubscribed.

    It will be interesting to see what the tax implications are in the proposed Korean sukuk bill. It is likely that the government will opt for sukuk to be sold through SPVs (special purpose vehicles) but it will have to plug a potential tax loophole or abuse of the proposed law in the case of companies with no intention of selling sukuk setting up SPVs to take advantage of the low or non-existent capital gains tax. It is likely that the bill will only allow sukuk Al-Ijarah and Mudarabah structures.

    Several Korean companies including GS Caltex, Korean Air, Hyundai, Samsung and others are reportedly exploring the possibility of raising funds from the sukuk market. South Korean Chaebols including Lucky Goldstar, Samsung, Korea Shipping and several others have in the past accessed Islamic commodity Murabaha facilities structured through London.

    “I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country”. Thomas Jefferson

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  • Milan, Italy