What Ahmed Did With Ethica's CIFE

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A few years ago, I had somewhat of an internal crisis. Life was going well, I was earning a good salary, had a stable family life, and was in good health. However, having spent some time with the scholars of Islam, I started to question the ethics of the banking industry I was working in. My predicament was further fuelled by the ensuing credit crisis and the unraveling of the financial markets, previously understood to be sound and stable. It was at this time that I started to look into Islamic finance and reading about its aims and objectives.

One of my good friends had told me about Ethica so I started to look through its website but hadn't quite taken the plunge to enroll in a course. Serendipitously, another close friend of mine, who holds a senior position in a well known charitable organization, resolved to open a new charity whose aim was to help young entrepreneurs in under-developed regions.

Ken, a convert to Islam, was acutely aware that there were plenty of conventional microfinance initiatives, but he felt that the Islamic microfinance market was thus far under-represented. He challenged me to develop a Shariah-compliant microfinance model for his fledgling charity, Youthschool, knowing I worked in the finance industry. It was the weightiness of this challenge, coupled with my limited understanding of Islamic finance, which sprung me into action and I immediately enrolled into Ethica's Certified Islamic Finance Executive (CIFE) course.

The four month online course was phenomenal and I was immediately hooked. Clearly, someone had gone through a great deal of effort to ensure that the material taught was logical, structured, and easy to take in. A fringe benefit, for me, was that I discovered that the multimedia method of learning works best for me. Being able to rewind the lecture when I missed a key point was invaluable.

Four months later, with the course concluded and two notebooks filled, I felt in a much stronger position to define the finance model for Youthschool. The three products I most favored were Mudarabah, Musharakah, and Ijarah. Ethica also helped me, as an alumni, by offering me advice on some of the products I was contemplating. By the grace of God, I completed the model and it was put into action immediately in a Gaza based project.

Networking in the Islamic finance industry also saw me deliver an annual lecture at a local university to final year finance students on Islamic finance and the Youthchool project. I have found this to be a rewarding experience: meeting the next generation of financiers and entrepreneurs whom I hope I can inspire to take up the challenge of spreading the message of standards-based Islamic finance.

Ethica has also helped immensely by connecting us to one of their partners in Bangalore where we are now launching a project with a local school. Saif, our contact in Bangalore with Infinity Consultants, has been a great help and really knows the local landscape and I am hopeful that some successful projects can be incepted.

By the grace of God, having completed the Ethica course, I have become quite the evangelist for standards-based Islamic finance. In the current economic climate in the UK where the whole concept of quantitative easing would have passed over my head, I can clearly see now that this is not the correct approach as it goes against all long-term logic. I believe that interest and the disproportionate allocation of finance is a driver behind much of the unrest in the world today. If we do not pour our efforts into redressing this imbalance soon, we risk falling into greater disparity and ensuing chaos.

Ahmed Ali Khan

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