Gujarat is known for its trading abilities. A Gujarati is capable of selling
anything to anyone. In a society primarily driven by commerce, Money is the
axis on which the society revolves and virtually everything gets defined in
monetary terms – perhaps even religion.
I am going to give just two small examples of how I saw religion being
interpreted in monetary terms. I was surprised and I could not help
appreciating the abilities of the society to turn everything into monetary
prospects. I had seen the high level of awareness amongst ordinary people
when it came to stocks markets, real estate etc. But even God won’t mind
showering currency on a society which is so dedicated to commerce.
It so happened that on a rare evening when it had rained during the month of
August in 2003, a friend of mine who had come over from Rajkot asked me to
accompany him for an ice cream. The ice cream parlour happened to be bang
opposite a temple ( I won’t name the temple for the obvious reason of
avoiding controversy), but it surely was a prominent temple. There was a
discourse on Gita in progress. Being a person having a slant towards
atheism, I was not interested in what came from the loud speakers. But
something caught my fancy and I cannot forget what I heard.
Gita is a sacred Hindu book which, as I see it, talks about sacrifice and
renunciation amongst other things. One thing that I cannot forget from the
Holy book is that one should continue with his work (Karma) without worrying
aout the fruits of labour.
All of a sudden I heard the speaker at the temple relate this very
practically to the modern life. I could hear him say that even if there is a
hike in the prices of petrol (it was almost 55 dollars per barrel in
international market) and even if the cars become dearer one should not
worry about the hike but keep tapping business opportunities. So what if one
one has to shell out more for petrol but making new contacts in the business
world will surely provide fruits in the long run!!! Made a lot of sense to
Let’s go to the other side. I came across a group of Muslims almost one year
later who were interpreting Islam for al practical purposes to help their
community reap benefits of capital market. A businessman named Zafar
Sareshwala had conceived the idea of Islamic trading in the capital market.
The purpose was to rea thee benefits of a liberalised economy by remaining
within the limits of Shariat. For this purpose he had taken the help of
The explanation went that while a Muslim cannot invest in an industry
manufacturing or trading in alcohol, an institution involved in borrowing
and lending, he can surely invest in a company manufacturing motorcycles.
A Qazi from the Shariat court, Mufti Abdul Qayyum said that Muslims can
invest in television channels showing news or other productive programmes
but not in entertainment channels and those showing fashion shows.
He was quick to explain that all the Muslims need to understand is the
difference between Sud (interest) and Nafa (Profit). ‘’Sud is something one
gets even if money is kept stationery in a bank but Nafa is result of money
getting into the process of business and changing hands. Besides while
investing in business there are equal chances of profit and loss but in case
of interest there is a remote chance of losses.’’
Sareshwala was in the process of launching an Islamic Equity Fund from
United Kingdom. His concern was doing the job of a broker, suggesting people
to invest in ‘’Islamic companies’’ and also to manage Zakat (annual donation
by Muslims for charity).
‘’After the Shariat screening we also have a purification process for
companies. For example a company may be an ‘’Islamic company’’ and its owner
maybe from any religion, yet at the end of the year some of its earnings
might turn out to be unislamic. We calculate the portion of profits that are
unislamic and then ask the investors to donate it,’’ explained Zafarwala.
More than fivee hundred Muslims had gone in for Islamic trading when I met
This too made a lot of sense!!!