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Islamic Economics and Finance Education (IEFE)

Muhammad Arif : Chairman Centre of Advisory Services for Islamic Banking and Finance (CAIF), Former Head of FSCD SBP, Former Head of Research ArifHabib Investments and Member IFSB Task Force for development of Islamic Money Market, Former Member of Access to Justice Fund Supreme Court of Pakistan

Islamic Economics and Finance Education (IEFE) has shown recent growth due to a resurgent interest in the development of an Islamic economic system in Muslim countries and consequent proliferation of Islamic banks, as well as a significant global consumer base interested in Islamic banking products that, attract the notice of conventional banks looking to capitalize on the market.

Although the beginning of Islamic banking and finance can be traced to the early years of Islamic civilization, as Islam through the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBU) should be aimed to regulate and shape economic and financial activity according to the moral norms and values of Islam, significant interest in interest free products features in literature from around the world.

Muslim scholars who pioneered Islamic finance innovations were motivated by the desire to offer alternative financing based on principles of Islamic economics including economic justice, social justice, prohibition of interest (riba), financing based on real economy, and the intents of Islamic law (maqasid sharia).

To this end, Islamic economists have sought to present the Islamic ethos as an ideal through which social and economic policies can be assessed

 The Islamic economic system has been proven to be more successful than conventional economics in resource allocation, distribution, justice, and stability .The perception of many observers however, is that Islamic banking today is driven by the desire to access the Muslim market through offering the same financial services of conventional banks but in a nominally sharia-compliant form .

 It is cautioned that in order for society to reap true social benefit from this Islamic finance industry, the path of growth chosen must not be strictly capitalistic or it risks seriously undermining the industry. It is only within the system of Islamic economics that Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions are considered viable in terms of raising and pooling the necessary funds and financing for economic activity, progress and development. On the market side, the potential of Islamic finance products is exponential and the sector has attracted investment by non-Muslim countries and institutions seeking to capitalize on this market. The interest is expressed not only in the field of business but in education as well.

Responding to the needs for greater understanding of the field, and to respond to the increasingly diversified needs of the market, both Western and Muslim institutions of higher education have to develop Islamic economic and finance (IEF) programs. However, while the theory and practice of IEF has been wide spread among Muslim countries since the 1980s, discussions and debates on IEF education (IEFE) have been scarce. As a result the field Journal of Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance, is still struggling under the burden of self-definition, ideological dissonance and consumer discontent. To combat these issues, there have been a number of conferences aimed at gathering top academics, sharia scholars and banking professionals in the field of IEF to discuss issues, understand the status of education today, and ensure minimum standards in the field.

The importance of IEFE cannot be emphasized enough as despite the expansion of IEF the field is poorly understood across the Muslim world and remains a mystery to much of the west. Educational institutions remain the most important sectors of this knowledge and they must rely on the collective wisdom of experts in the field to get the educational formula right.

This aims to provide a vision for Islamic Economics and Finance Education IEFE development based on the combined efforts of experts in the field by summarizing the findings from significant conferences on IEFE in light of scholarship in the field. Conferences are important venues for intellectual exchange and development of the field but their findings can be lost or misinterpreted and further conferences can be repetitive. This aims to reduce repetition and highlight the major findings.

Overall the field has shown major growth and global adoption and is moving beyond the strictly engineering phase of its development and is moving toward public accountability. Scholars generally agree that that there is a continued need to clarify and develop the underlying methodology of IEFE as well as its paradigm based on the intents of Islamic law that serve to help people as well as provide financial structure for economic growth. A further problem identified is that IEFE institutions suffer from a general lack of coordination and information sharing. Solving this problem requires academics to decide on the nomenclature of several key terms in Islamic Finance so as to create a systematic body of knowledge.

The implementation of education around IEFE must draw from different fields and meet the needs of diverse industries. To do this, scholars must be developed by enabling them to attend a variety of schools such as those specializing in conventional finance, sharia, and Islamic economics to help diversify the knowledge base. More competent researchers and professors in turn will lead to more in depth research to develop the field.

Research development recommendations focused on supporting collaboration between young academics, professors and students in both Western and Muslim countries to write review articles, books of readings, critical readers and anthologies to organize scholarship in field from Islamic perspective; develop anthologies integrating truth and modern disciplines; and institutionalize local and global curriculum collaboration.

One recurring recommendation is to standardize the IEF curriculum, and steps were made toward that goal through the establishment and support of ICIFE as a global body for professional certification and Accreditation for Islamic Finance Education support out of Malaysia.

Research shows however that what to standardize and how to monitor this standardization requires careful consideration in order to maintain focus on teaching and learning innovation and development. It is suggested that implementing these recommendations will help that IEFE address the gap between Islamic economics and finance theory and practice. This is particularly important as the aim of Islamic economics is unique because of its emphasis on social justice and well-being. As social conflicts between religious, racial, and economic groups, continue to be on the forefront of news across the globe, IEFE should have a central role to play in helping this and the next generation deal with the issues of the time. It is hoped that targets in the areas should need improvement, prevents duplicative discussions and encourage students and professors to take IEFE to the next level of development.



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