I recently picked up the habit of filtering in snippets about Islamic finance into conversations with my sisters, you know just right in between our regular chit-chat here and there. I must add that this was a fairly simple habit to develop and sustain because I was soon captivated by their faces when I mentioned the most basic and mundane of Islamic finance principles. I might have simply said, "You know, in Islamic finance, we advocate the principle of profit and loss sharing," and as I unravel the 'mystery' behind this sentence, I watch as their eyes sparkle with surprise and their mouths round in small gasps.

Spring Girls
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My simple explanation appeared to have piqued their interest. It quickly dawned on me that so many things that seem basic to us are still very complicated to others that are not in the field. In that, there is a brick wall demarcating people in the Islamic finance industry and every other person. These little conversations with my sisters have exposed my thinking about the importance of breaking that wall. Although I began with my sisters because it is commonly claimed that "charity begins at home," I am soon understanding that the world is my home, and hence there is much work to be done.

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It is of course the reality that everybody outside a disciple struggles to understand the intricacies of that discipline but that shouldn't mean total obscurity from what the discipline stands for and wants to accomplish. I came from a secular country, so trust me, having conversations within my circle about Islamic finance gets so exhausting sometimes.  For example in Nigeria, it is not unheard of to hear someone utter "You these Muslims, trying to pursue your shariah agenda" in discussions about Islamic finance, trying to hint at the notion that Islamic finance is on a secret agenda to spread Islam and convert the populace. While it might sound funny because of how divorced from reality it is. It points to a critical issue, which is the misunderstanding of the concept of Islamic finance. An obvious deterrent to its growth.

Port Harcourt, Nigeria - October 20, 2020: Protesters walking around the city of Port Harcourt with placards and sign for the #Endsars protests in Nigeria, and the country's flag.
Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu / Unsplash

To be precise this is not about diluting the language or inherent qualities of Islamic finance. Far from it!! This is about simplifying Islamic finance and taking the layman along on this ride. As it is today, the average Islamic finance paraphernalia is clustered with technicalities from the field. It ends up that, we are just talking within ourselves. It is often joked about how clueless the average person is when it comes to financing. I believe this situation is more critical when it comes to Islamic finance.

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I must be fair in my viewpoint and judgment by stating that this is based on my personal experience as a citizen of a secular society. I find that conversations around Islamic finance are not easy to be had with people outside Islamic finance and are even more difficult when they are from a secular country. As much as it is easier to resign myself to that reality, I believe that shouldn't be the case. It is possible that this isn't an issue shared by several people and maybe it is, and a solution exists. As the saying goes, a problem shared is half solved, so if that is the case, I trust you, dear reader, to share it with me so that we can all learn and improve.

But if my judgement is correct then I must conclude by saying Islamic finance is a resplendent mansion, and while we invest in trying to improve its operationality and functions through various innovations and advancements, we must not forget that there are people outside the door who may or may not be knocking, and I believe it is our responsibility to figure out how to open the door and welcome them in.

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