Confined not only to countries where Islam is the state religion, the reach of Shariah-compliant banking is starting to make an impact around the world. This has been personified by the US$14m extension of Sukuk investments to South Africa, as reported by the Independent South Africa. With this huge investment in global Shariah-compliant banking, the breadth and quality of products available naturally diversifies. In the process, women are becoming empowered, and empowering others through their personal finance.
Making waves in the banking sector
The idea of banking being empowering for Muslim women is not a new one. As early as 2012, the Pakistan Tribune reported how banks were becoming women-run enterprises, giving a sense of strength and public pride to those women involved. This is a result of businesses realizing the power of women in driving and growing the industry and the wider economy; the Salaam Gateway estimate there are 7000 members of the influential Women in Islamic & Ethical Finance Forum. As a result, women have become a driving force in the sector, especially as conventional banking takes a back seat. The knock-on effect is empowering women to have more agency over their day-to-day lives. The digitisation of everyday banking products has created Shariah-compliant products like credit cards and loans that women are able to access at home on the internet, or while out and about. This is providing a greater level of freedom to women, especially in countries with more restrictive laws.
Finding positions of power
As banking and personal finance grows, so do the opportunities for women. This has been put into sharp focus in Bahrain, where The Malaysian Reserve reports that Eman Ali Abdulla Ebrahim has been selected as operations manager for the nation’s flagship Islamic bank. In announcing Ebrahim to the position, the bank CEO noted that she was chosen for a challenging time in which the bank would transition to a digitally active one. Therein is the quality women have brought to the personal finance and banking world that is so treasured by increasing numbers of institutions. Like the products being spread to disadvantaged corners of the world to help enfranchise women, the continued input of female professionals into digital progress will be crucial to empowerment.
Looking to the future
One of the key challenges the world will face over the next few decades is climate change. This is another key area of international policy that Shariah-compliant banking is helping to find solutions. The growth of the Islamic green bond has been notable; it is perfectly placed to help environmental causes, given the small amount of areas in which conflict between Shariah and non-Islamic investment will be risked, there are few better markets to find investment from than Muslims. Once again, inspiring women have led the charge here; fund manager and analyst Sharifah Bakar Ali, in particular, has provided expert analysis to help funds grow. As a result, Islamic green finance is expected to rise to US$2tn by 2020.
Through the empowering words and actions of some of Islam’s women, personal and international finance is growing with compliance to Shariah and with empowerment of women along the way. The market is expected to grow massively over the next few years, with women brought along for the ride. Empowerment, growth and environmental change – what’s not to like?