Hitches of Islamic economies in Ghana

Money 696x430 File photo: Ghana's currency, the cedi

Sun, 20 Sep 2020 Source: Abdul Rahman Odoi

Islam is engrossed with injunctions that define how life ought to be lived. Its adherents thus cringe wholeheartedly without flinching from the teachings of Allah. That said, practicing Islam in our part of the world appears troubling, relative to other countries. Following several observations, it would be quite unfair to say that Islam is easily practiced in Ghana.

The truth is any misdeed that Islam has prohibited, it has alternatively shown a way by which its followers would not fall afoul of that objection. For example, Islam says do not fornicate. Men and women have been ordered to dress modestly, and lower their gazes. Furthermore, Islam says do not rob, it has provided annual charity to make it possible for people not to rob. When Islam directed us not to take or give monies out with interest, it proffered a solution to that effect. Apparently, this is missing among Muslims of Ghana. Our Islamic economies are in shambles. Thereby making the practice of Islam somewhat uncomfortable here. The below are some few concerns for your perusal.

Accessing Capital: Islam believes in a decent business —- profit and loss. Has it ever occurred to you the storms that our young entrepreneurs, and old men and women face whenever they want to start a business or expand their trade with an interest free loan? It is not easy. When you take a stroll to some of the markets and businesses in town, if not for the huge population our brothers in faith (Christians) has, the margin between the number of Muslim business owners at Medina, Katamanto, Agbogbloshi market etc., will never be that wide. How do most of them access capital? It is dreadful.

The least of severity of contracting a loan with interest is analogous to having sex with one’s own parent. Therefore, Muslims are in anathema of securing loans with interest. Lo, it is aught a sweet religious irony, because we have loan giving institutions manned by Muslims who give out loans and request for a return. God has prohibited contracting loans even at a 0.1% interest rate. Ensuring that loans are dole out to startups or existing marketers at 0.0% interest rate has been provided by the kind courtesy of the Islamic Banking System. So places like Egypt, Algeria, and many more where Islamic Banks exist are in a comfortable lead when it comes to securing clean funds for a business. In contrast, where would this type of banking system be found in Ghana? We are just lost and weary in the wilderness, consequently, securing loans with interest is now the new “halal”. No eyebrow is raised when the issue of accessing loans come to bare. This is the lowest ebb we have come, as Muslims who seek not for the collective development of all.

What would you say to Abdullah who, upon completing his sixth month probation, perhaps earning 1500 cedi as salary — lesser than 300$, eagerly wants to own a car to traverse from home to work and/or partly engage himself in the transportation business — Uber, Bolt or Yango, as another source of income, not to contract a loan with interest and pay within a three years period? Because, it could take him five and some few months to save towards this project. This would even be possible if he is not married and, have no dependents.

Investing in the economic wellbeing of our people is a huge constrain, unlike how positive energies are exerted into criticizing to shame those who have veered from the way of Allah. We are passionately not chagrined, as often as it is said, “each one for himself, God is for us all.” So whether Hajia contracts a loan of (500 cedi) with interest, it is between her and Allah. Whereas this same amount could even be loaned to her by the nearby Masjid at a free interest rate. Until we have seen how our grannies are humiliated by loan recovery officers when they come to collect the monies owned, then we would appreciate the gravity of the issue at hand. It is very difficult amortizing loans with interest.

Insurance Policies: Almost all insurance packages (including car, life, hospital and all) that come your way (as a Muslim) may not be ideal in the sight of Allah. Please, it is not the rationale behind some of them that is fiendish but how and where those monies collected from us end up —- that could be murkier. Imagining an insurance company has deducted a worker one hundred cedi monthly for over fifteen years. This is good on the face of it but one would stop smiling when he gets inoculated that the money is reinvested in another ventures that flout Allah’s rules i.e. loan doling institutions, alcoholic industries and the rest. You could be practicing Islam devoid of all the known “haramic” activities, however, you may be unknowingly engaged in giving and taking monies with interest for almost fifteen years. Since our constitution has stipulated that these insurance packages must be upheld to, should we sit down and wait without checking the facts and making sure that it is safe for Muslims? This is what we are talking about because if your car, home, old age and whatchamacallit are not insured you would be faced with hot pursuits. The only option available should not be flowing with everything and anything; there should be an alternative, and we have it.

Investment: This may not be of a much concern because some of us would say there are several decent ways we could invest our monies, and I would agree with them to some extent, only if they would also agree that the reality differs. There are a myriad of Muslims who still have chunk of monies lying dormant in their bank accounts. They are those who are not risk enthusiasts, they would therefore wish not to venture into any business. Rather, they would engage the bank to do so on their behalf. Ignorance could play a role in this, say fifteen years ago but not today. How many Muslims can beat their chest and say they are bereft of Fixed Deposits and Treasure Bills? Only a few.

Many of us have subscribed to the aforementioned investment models to reap a safe profit. Even if you are not interested, the number of messages you are likely to get beguiling you to invest into this modules are infinite and enticing. More so, since it does not require a lot of funds and energy, any ‘swot’ or ‘pestle’ analysis to embark on these investments, you would be well appreciated whenever you are told the amount you stand to reap at the end of that contract. It is haven to invest in it, isn’t it?

Ranting shrilly would not solve the problem. Shaming people who take loans and are reluctant about the carnage on interest and bad economies will not salvage the situation too. What we need to do is to make available better alternatives to eradicate this canker in our midst. Just like how we roared at the interest splashed our “momo” accounts to be removed. I hope we are aware that some of our people do convert from Islam to other faith just because of a mere 100 cedi loan? Yes, it is apropos in our communities. With hindsight, these are some few proposed solutions.

The Fear of Allah: Let us fear Allah out of love. And be steadfast. These instincts would see to it that we do the right things. Most often than not, the more we get engaged in the affronts of Allah, the more our businesses flourish so some of us we are clouded by the trade embellishments; profit hikes and expansion thus we think sheepishly — that if Allah is annoyed why would He bless us bountifully? Let me culled this verse from Quran 3:178. “And let not who disbelieve ever think that because We extend their time of enjoyment it is better for them. We only extend it for them so that they may increase in sin, and for them is a humiliating punishment.” It is time to vacate from the fool’s paradise.

The establishment of Islamic Bank: This should be brought to fruition expediently; it is one of the safest ways to counter-evade the difficulties of practicing a sound Islamic economies in Ghana. I have heard on radio and television that it is in the pipe line. Okay. That is joyous news. Well, it has been like almost five years now. I want to ask if the pipelines are as spindly as the train line from Zabzugu to Katamanto. The inception has kept too long. Hopefully, ‘we have the men’ in authority to kick start this project. Therefore, why the wait or it is not relevant?

Coalition of Rich men: The wealth you have acquired comes through your hard work and Allah’s blessings. It would be very unjust to say that it is only by Allah’s Grace...you really worked for it. As Muslims, we have been told that the community also has a share of that acquired money — and you would so agree with me. Now, I wish you would all come together under one umbrella and help push this bad economic hurdle obstructing us. You can form a mini bank, where people who have genuine business map and those with sincere concerns would come to be given an interest free loans. I know some of you may be doing this on individual level...please continue doing or even expand it, Allah would never let your pocket dry.

Creation of Islamic ‘Susu’: This approach too could go a long way to help solve the problem. I felt nostalgic mentioning this. During our Senior and Junior high days at school, friends would always give you money with the mindset that one cedi for two cedi. Sometimes you would settle the principal amount (one cedi) that you took but it is only requiring a fisticuff before the interest would be settled. That said, when it comes to Susu, everyone stays faithful to it. We can establish this and make it a way to solve the problem. It could be done in a few groups. Those with ‘what’s app’ groups, do not limit it to only hangout and all the other things. Start a daily Susu, even if it is 30 cedi monthly, do it vehemently. A day would come that a contributor would be in need, then it would use to help. The market women do it but some of the monies contributed are, if not rarely used in buying fixed deposit and treasure bills, only God knows. When you contribute it individually, loaning a part to a friend will not be a big deal.

These are the few ones I know. I believe that we would do our best to expand this talk, in order to reach those in authority for the immediate actions to be taken. Thank you.

Columnist: Abdul Rahman Odoi