Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Regulating Shari'ah scholars

The Director of Supervision of the Dubai Financial Services Authority David Gray questioned why there was not regulation for Shari'ah scholars in line with regulation of other areas of Islamic finance.  He contrasts the lack of regulation of Shari'ah scholars with lawyers and accountants, who also provide advice to Islamic financial institutions.

I think he has an excellent point.  It is not enough to just work on the faith that Shari'ah scholars will always act as objective parties, because they are human just like the rest of us.  There have been few times when Shari'ah scholars have been directly implicated in a financial scandal, but that doesn't mean it cannot happen, and further that no regulation should be put in place to police potential violations of basic ethical guidelines about conflict of interest and confidentiality.

The guidelines need not lead to a central Shari'ah body like Malaysia has.  They can focus on conflicts of interest caused by serving on many boards simultaneously, as well as providing an enforcement mechanism to discipline scholars, for example, if they disclose confidential information.  These ideas are not meant to suggest there is a current problem, although there has long been concern that Shari'ah scholars may in some cases be faced with a conflict of interest, but why wait until there is a scandal that could damage the image of the industry.  Much better to try and avoid an incident ahead of time.

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