February 2, 2013 Oman’s new Islamic banking rules could encourage the development of a larger pool of sharia scholars and ultimately help to raise operating standards for them around the world, according to bankers and scholars. Last month, the sultanate’s central bank released an extensive Islamic banking rulebook which included provisions for sharia scholars, such as fit-and-proper criteria and term limits on scholars’ appointment to sharia boards, which decide whether products and activities obey Islamic principles. Oman is the last country in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to introduce Islamic banking, but the level of detail in the rules could help set it apart from the others, and even give it some influence over global trends in the industry. ‘I admire the positive spirit behind many articles in the law, which aims to achieve a higher level of good governance and avoidance of conflicts,’ said Washington-based scholar Muddassir Siddiqui, president and chief executive of ShariahPath Consultants LLC. ‘Oman came from behind but it is now among the very few jurisdictions to introduce such a comprehensive set of rules. I am sure it will inspire others to follow.’ The objectives behind the rules include enlarging the pool of qualified scholars as well as addressing issues of scholar capacity and conflict of interest, Siddiqui added.
The report goes on to say:
‘The scarcity of scholars as well as the demand for a few prominent names have taken the SSB cost to a very high level. In contrast, the restriction by the regulator as well as the opportunity of grooming more scholars will surely pin down the cost to a more reasonable level.’ In Oman, there will initially be demand for scholars from eight institutions: two new, full-fledged Islamic banks, Bank Nizwa and Al Izz International Bank, and the Islamic windows of six conventional banks. Each bank will need a sharia board comprising at least three scholars, who will not be allowed to serve in two competing Islamic financial institutions within the country. Oman will also need a sharia board at the central bank level to manage implementation and monitor adherence to rules, similar to the set-up in Malaysia, Siddiqui added. He serves on the sharia board of Oman’s Bank Sohar and the Fiqh Council of North America. The absence of a central board could cause delays in the issuance of rulings, duplicate efforts and add to costs for Islamic financial institutions, he said. A central board could also facilitate issuance of sovereign sukuk (Islamic bonds), currently being discussed by the central bank.”
An online CV details Mr. Siddiqui’s background which includes extensive ties to Saudi Arabia:
Mr. Siddiqui is one of very few licensed Shari’a jurists who have also studied and practiced law in America. Mr. Siddiqui has combined his Shari’a knowledge with the study of law in England and in America. He earned the Degree of Higher License from the College of Shari’a at the Islamic University of Medina, Saudi Arabia, following a seven-year course in the study of Islamic law and jurisprudence. He received his Degree of Juris Doctor from Chicago-Kent College of Law and Masters in Law from Temple Law Center and Harvard Law School. In addition, he studied comparative Islamic and English law at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Mr. Siddiqui is licensed to practice law in New York. For 20 years he served as the legal advisor in various ministries of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., where he served as legal advisor from 1990 to 2002. Mr. Siddiqui advised the Embassy in areas of international law, diplomatic immunity, sovereign immunity and commercial transactions between the Kingdom, Saudi nationals and U.S. companies. While in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Siddiqui administered all legal aspects of design, supervision, construction and maintenance contracts for multi-billion dollar construction projects to build King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh. In 1981, he assisted in drafting legislation for the first patent law for the Kingdom with due regard to Shari’a requirements.
FCNA is an organization comprised of Islamic scholars, most if not all of whom are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood global network, including Jamal Badawi who has been identified in a recent post as probably associated with the Shura Council of the North American Brotherhood. As FCNA itself acknowledges, the organization grew out of the activities of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and later became affiliated with ISNA, itself an outgrowth of MSA. FCNA maintains a relationship with other similar bodies in the global Muslim Brotherhood including, as noted above, the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) as well as the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia. The ECFR, headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, is a component of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), the Muslim Brotherhood umbrella group in Europe and its membership is also comprised of many individuals associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Two individuals known to be ECFR members, Jamal Badawi and Solah Soltan, are also known to have been associated with the FCNA.
A post from October 2011 reported that FCNA had adopted a resolution asserting that secular legal systems in the West are compatible with Islamic Law (Shariah).