INTERVIEW WITH MR HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR, HEAD OF ADVISORY & TRAINING ALHUDA-CIBE
Sep 10 - 16, 2012
PAGE: TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF, PLEASE ?
HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR: I am an Accountant by profession and have been teaching and training for over two decades. Islamic finance and 'Riba' free economic system have always been of my special interest since my college days, for that sake I studied a lot in Economics and Financial systems. It was this fact that I diverted my career from Banking to Accountancy in order to avoid 'Riba' in the late 1980s. I was working with a public sector organization when I was given the assignment to issue the first "Sukuk" of Pakistan's economy which led to my formal professional adoption to Islamic Finance, and since then (in 2004) I adopted Islamic Finance as my first choice in Learning and Training and I volunteered myself for Islamic Finance. I am now Associated with an organization named as AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics (AlHuda-CIBE) and have so far organized and conducted well over 200 trainings in this field from Khyber to Karachi. I also have the privilege to be the co-founder of a specialized Magazine "TRUE Banking" on Islamic Banking in Pakistan.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON PROGRESS OF ISLAMIC BANKING IN PAKISTAN?
HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR: I believe Islamic Banking industry grew considerably in the early years but after that the process slowed down but after that because of two main factors; Firstly because of the International financial meltdown which affected Pakistan's economy seriously and secondly because of political change in Pakistan economic instability came with the continued political diversion of attention to other issues. But still it has gained depth over the last few years passing through some difficult period thereby gaining maturity. Now is the time for real business and the honeymoon period is over.
PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON SERVICES/PRODUCTS BEING OFFERED BY ISLAMIC BANKING IN PAKISTAN?
HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR: As far as services or products offered by the Islamic finance industry are concerned, we may feel proud that by the grace of Allah there is a state of unanimity among the Shariah Scholars which is a healthy sign for further growth. Most of the criticism comes from only the conventional banking industry upon which they need to show maturity and first try to understand the products and services instead of criticizing then as they look apparently. A large number of conventional bankers have switched to Islamic Banking after our trainings and it happened through clearer and conceptual learning on the Shariah "hikmat" in these products.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISLAMIC BANKING AND CONVENTIONAL BANKING IN PAKISTAN?
HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR: In short I present only three points: Firstly that it is not only Islam but every religion of the world has condemned "RIBA" so interest free economy has always been desirable for over 3000 years of human history; Secondly Islamic Finance is based on economic activity which is the backbone of every economy while conventional finance earns only from money lending in whatever shape so their concept of 'time value of money' applies only to riba based transactions; Thirdly, Conventional Financial system exploits both money lenders and money borrowers while under the business deals in Islamic finance as both the parties have to rely upon the transactions and their economic outcome there is hardly any exploitation rather in some instances it brings the concept of "Ehsan" and "Co-operation" in the economic system. I found these points effective and straight to clarify the concept and this simple vision has been very effective as well.
PAGE: YOUR COMMENTS ON GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR ISLAMIC BANKING IN PAKISTAN?
HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR: The support from Government has been vital in this sector especially in the early years when Islamic Banking Department was setup by SBP in Nov 2003, although most part of this progress gained had been in the private sector entities, I will give its credit to Dr Salman Shah as well as his leadership which was vital in it. A few banks in public sector took the initiative earlier on but now for last 4 to 5 years, they have remained stagnant with no further progress that shows the will of the Government in this sector. Further on, public sector commercial entities have shown no specific plan so far to opt Islamic Banking in their business dealings; neither any political move has shown any interest in it. We need the sincere willingness of the political forces in this sector for quicker growth.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON FUTURE OF ISLAMIC BANKING IN THE WORLD AND IN PAKISTAN?
HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR: I have great hopes for Islamic Finance as many of the GCC region countries have declared that Islamic Banking will be their first choice banking. It is gaining boost, even after the Global Financial Meltdown. Some American and European financial experts have admitted this fact that had they been able to follow the Islamic Banking principles in their economies. By a careful estimate over 50,000 Islamic Banking workforce will be needed in few years all over the world, while hundreds of thousands of people are already employed. So the future is bright and clear, problem with the people is that they do not believe anything unless they see something happening, so now it is happening for them.
PAGE: BEING A TRAINER IN ISLAMIC FINANCE, WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE TO THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN ISLAMIC FINANCE?
HAMAD RASOOL BHULLAR: As a matter of fact, it is very important for us to learn more about it, as it applies to every human being in this world considering their daily life. Even the first lesson by Allaah Subhana Wataala to Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) and Muslims was to learn. Now this learning must bring humility in us and instead of having arguments about right or wrong of Islamic or Conventional Financial system, we must focus upon three points mentioned by me earlier, and follow them in the light of Basic teachings of Islam. Islam was spread through noble acts not by arguments. A consistent behavior is required to learn the concepts.