'A superb introduction to a fascinating subject' – Financial Times
'A major primary source for historians and financiers in researching and understanding this fascinating area' – Huffington Post
The first book for a general audience to tell the story of the development of the Islamic finance industry from the perspective of an insider.
Islamic finance today is a trillion-dollar industry. It is fast becoming the main way in which large projects get funded globally (such as buildings, aircraft, shipping) and many financial analysts expect Islamic banking assets worldwide to double within five years. This is because the system is seen as equitable to all parties and has built-in transparency – so it’s much in demand despite today’s gloomy global economic climate.
Harris Irfan has been at the centre of this world for around 15 years. In Heaven's Bankers, he provides an authoritative yet entertaining account of how a system of finance invented in the seventh-century Middle East is fast taking over the world of modern banking. The book draws on his firsthand relationships with some of the world’s leading bankers, scholars and lawyers, many of whom attend a single mosque in Dubai, the Masjid Al-Samad, the epicentre of today’s Islamic finance revolution. An ‘Al-Samadi’ himself, he provides a warts-and-all description of the industry; debunks some myths about Islamic finance – such as its perceived relationship with the financing of terrorist activity or its incompatibility with Western values; and asks whether today’s Islamic finance industry is true to the fundamental principles of a faith committed to social justice.
Was for example the recent Islamic bond issued by Goldman Sachs to fund its conventional trading activities a legitimate use of Islamic investors’ funds or a cynical exercise in preying on people’s religious insecurities by offering a conventional, interest-bearing bond by another name? In issuing fatwas, or edicts, on Sharia-compliant financial products, were the religious scholars complicit in this alleged subterfuge or were they duped by the bankers of Goldman Sachs? Has the industry forgotten its basic premise of ethical finance and learnt instead how to replicate the excesses of the conventional banking industry?
As the managing partner of a leading Islamic finance advisory firm and the former global desk head of one of the world’s leading financial institutions, Irfan is in an ideal position to explain to the non-expert reader the mechanics of the most complex and innovative financial products. With his strong yet informed opinions about the ethical practices and direction of the industry, this is a book that should appeal not only to people who normally buy business and finance books but also to those with a more general interest in moral philosophy, politics and religion.