AAOIFI concluded first global Islamic Finance Virtual Forum on COVID-19

Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) successfully organized its first Islamic Finance Virtual Forum on “Covid-19 Economic Implications, Islamic Finance and the Way Forward” in collaboration with Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), College of Banking and Financial Studies (CBFS) and Minhaj Univeristy. The half-day virtual Forum was organized over three sessions with two keynote speakers and was attended by  more than 1,200 people while thousands more joined by live streaming on multiple online channels from no less than 40 countries from around the world. The forum received institutional support from more than 15 globally well-established and well-known institutions. In addition, the Forum was graced by more than 20 distinguished speakers and leaders from different parts of the globe.

Shaikh Mufti Taqi Usmani, Chairman of the AAOIFI Shari’ah Board delivered his keynote speech which highlighted the importance of riba-free system and urged Islamic financial institutions to benefit from this golden opportunity and carve a niche for themselves away from the competition from their conventional counterparts in these challenging times of the pandemic.

The Chairman of AAOIFI Board of Trustees, H.E. Shaikh Ebrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa in his keynote speech addressed the sense of opportunity of Islamic finance industry to take advantage of the current global situation to reiterate the relevance of Islamic finance principles to overcome the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He advised Islamic financial institutions to be empathetic in these difficult times and work out optimum solutions with their clients and stakeholders in line with Shari’ah guidelines, in addition to form a joint fund to tackle this pandemic.

Mr. Omar Mustafa Ansari, Secretary General, AAOIFI reiterated that in these times of distress Islamic finance must demonstrate its values and ethics to strengthen its faith to its stakeholders and updated the attendees on AAOIFI’s work plan. Over the course of the forum, AAOIFI signed an MoU with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to initiate new ideas for the sustainability and rehabiltiliation of  refugees in the Islamic communities. UNHCR was represented by Mr. Khaled Khalifa, Senior advisor and representative to the GCC countries.

Distinguished session panelists emphasized that the power of ideas has a more impact compared to the power of size, which implies that the idea of Islamic finance is what needs to be look after for the outcome to be fruitful. The speakers agreed that Islamic finance industry must tangibly and aggressively demonstrate its value addition in terms of resilience and stability, financial inclusion, and social finance to the world. It was also suggested that a long term socially-driven Waqf sukuk would be a good idea for a sukuk issuance and called for a collectively effort to work out a revenue generation aspect of it.

Islamic bankers at the forum affirmed that they are responding to Covid-19 by taking a balanced approach of looking after the interests of all the stakeholders, and not just their shareholders. The need to protect the interests of the most vulnerable stakeholders and poor was also stressed which forms one of the most important roles of Islamic banks during these challenging times. The speakers called for rejuvenation of the true essence of Islamic finance via risk sharing which can be achieved through financial technology.

Dr. Hussain Qadri Dr. Hussain Mohiuddin Qadri, Deputy Chairman, Board of Governors, Minhaj University Lahore, Pakistan, delivered a comprehensive presentation on Qard-based microfinance and further discussed how ethics must play a central governing role especially in these globally extraordinary times.

The head of Islamic finance at CBFS Mr. Mughess Shaukat, emphasised that “the virtual forum was an ideal event addressing Islamic finance via its risk sharing essence, social finance and technology modes.”

The forum also reiterated the possibility of using Zakat for overall social finance activities with certain restrictions, and that poverty cannot be eliminated through business but rather through compassion, solidarity, and brotherhood. It highlighted the parts of the Islamic history as to how social Waqfs have always been at the forefront in establishing public services and utilities and the role and contribution of Islamic finance stakeholders in reviving that part of the history.

The role of social finance via technology was reemphasized, in response to the idea that economic shocks accelerate innovation and when fintech curve flattens, the role of Islamic finance will become more evident.

The Secretary General thanked the attendees for their participation in this virtual forum in such a large number, and its partners, collaborators and supporters for their cooperation support. He stated, “AAOIFI’s mandate reaches beyond standards setting for Islamic financial institutions, I am glad that under our awareness and advocacy programs, this virtual forum provided an opportunity to the Islamic finance industry stakeholders to explore ways and means to generate ideas and solutions to withstand the effects of crises such as Covid-19.”