Facing up to diverse opinions


Diversity of opinion can be both a boon and bane. While pluralistic thought is seen as a blessing in the Islamic intellectual tradition, many observers of Islamic Finance see the multiplicity of views in the field as a hindrance to the industry’s development. When encountering such diversity, how should takaful operators proceed in a way that makes business sense yet does not run afoul of the processes of Shariah?
This is the question posed to a panel of scholars in our bi-monthly series – Shariah Speak.


When there are several opposing Shariah scholarly views on an issue, are takaful operators free to follow the course that serves the business and shareholders best?


We need to understand that the nature of Islamic law, including those related to Islamic finance, are not ready made. It has to go through a process of deductions from either the Quran, Sunnah (prophetic sayings) or other sources of Islamic law. When the scholars exercise ijtihad (deducing the rulings from its sources), there are bound to be different views and interpretations as they will understand the Quranic injunctions as well as Sunnah and other sources of Islamic law based on their own knowledge and exposure.
Therefore, there could be differing views and interpretations in the process. In Islamic law, including that for Islamic finance, the same process was undertaken particularly by the Shariah scholars sitting on the Shariah board. When an issue of Islamic finance, including takaful, are brought to them, they will exercise ijtihad in order to arrive at the best decision. At times, this has resulted in different views in matters relating to Islamic finance.
Now, how would the market practitioners deal with this situation? As a matter of fact, almost every takaful operator will have their Shariah boards or Shariah advisor advising them on fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) matters relating to takaful. The approach that should be taken is to present the various views to the Shariah board or advisor and discuss with them which are the best views to be followed, so long as these are not considered as isolated views which are against the opinion of the majority of the scholars. The Shariah board shall then take into account the current situation and circumstances and decide on the best view to be followed.”

 
     
“When there are several opposing Shariah scholarly views on an issue, we would firstly evaluate and provide an opinion on each one of them. Normally, we would in fact end up agreeing with one or more of these views. Once we have given scholarly opinions on all of the views, we would then list those deemed as acceptable and choose one that makes the best business sense.”

 


“When there are several opposing Shariah scholarly views on an issue, the qualified Shariah committee members have the right to prefer one opinion over another
as long as they have exhaustively scrutinised the various arguments. However, their preferences should not be made by a selection process that ignores or distorts the evidence in order to arrive at the conclusion one favours. Deciding what serves the business and shareholders best should be a collective responsibility that involves Shariah members, participants and shareholders. This is to ensure a solution that best serves the society as a whole.”