Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- This time last year, after I attended the thirtieth Dallah al-Baraka Seminar on Islamic Finance, I wrote an article suggesting that Sheikh Saleh Kamel should establish an Islamic endowment [waqf] for this seminar in order to ensure it continues after his passing (may God prolong his life) because this forum no longer belongs just to Dallah al-Baraka or Sheikh Saleh Kamel but rather to the Muslim ummah as a whole. This seminar has become, through its research, decisions and fatwas, the primary reference for the Islamic ummah, with regards to the jurisprudence of Islamic financial transactions which the Muslim ummah suffers a lack of, whether this is with regards to experts in jurisprudence, scholarly references, or research centers.
I am not exaggerating by saying that it would be impossible today for a researcher in the field of Islamic finance to overlook the results of the Dallah al-Baraka seminar in his research. In fact, these results are practically the essential foundation upon which every Islamic financial researchers base their work upon. The Dallah al-Baraka seminar is also essential for the decisions made by juristic councils and Islamic Sharia bodies (although these are few in number, as many lack scientific methodology in their reasoning and explanation).
Today, after attending the 31st Dallah al-Baraka seminar where I met with Sheikh Saleh Kamel, I am delighted to inform you that the Sheikh has established an endowment for the seminar from his own financial resources in order to ensure the continuance of the seminar’s work and support services. Furthermore, this seminar will publish its decisions and research, translated into other languages, in order to benefit all Muslims, as well as non-Muslims interested in the Islamic financial industry. The Dallah al-Baraka seminar is also launching a website, in different languages, where all previous and forthcoming research and decisions will be displayed. The website will also contain visual material documenting the seminar, as well as a live feed of the seminar itself, accompanied by a simultaneous translation into English.
This endowment would be a milestone for the Muslim ummah in the 21st century, serving as a reminder of the glory of the past and our great ancestors, when scholarly endowments spread the length and breadth of the Islamic world. These endowments contributed to the Islamic renaissance and the sovereignty of Islamic civilization for a long period of time, as it allowed scholars to operate in complete independence away from the influence of the rulers. This is also what guaranteed freedom of speech and the independence of fatwas and decisions which were taken free of the influence or authority of any rulers except for God. We hope that this endowment will allow juristic decisions to be taken independently away from the influence of financial institutions.
On this occasion, I would like to propose that the Sheikh’s [personal] works are added to the seminar activities so that these will also be included and guaranteed by the endowment. This would include the development of a postgraduate scholarship program for students in the field of the Islamic finance called “the al-Baraka Seminar Study Grant.” I would also like to propose that the seminar launch an annual prize for Islamic Shariaa quality to be granted to one Islamic financial institute and one Islamic Window at a conventional financial institute, especially since this subject is a concern that troubles those who are loyal to the Islamic financial industry, and none more so than Sheikh Saleh Kamel himself. Therefore the presence of such a prize would undoubtedly urge financial institutions to follow Islamic Shariaa in terms of fatwas and application. This award would also increase customer awareness of the importance of Shariaa quality in financial institutions, as a result of the accompanying media coverage, and thus it will serve as a guide to help customers choose the financial institution that they wish to deal with.
In order to ensure that this award serves the purpose for which it was designed, standards must be clear, transparent, and available to the public. The members of the award committee must also be made up of a combination of scholars and independent professionals known for their integrity, as well as consulting firms and financial advisors.