When I read UNDP’s first Human Development Report in 1990, I promised to myself to create something similar for Islamic banking and finance – and I did it in 2010, with the establishment of Global Islamic Finance Report (GIFR), which is the first and the only such publication in the world, with 6 annual editions. Following the Human Development Index approach, we created Islamic Finance Country Index (IFCI) in 2011, which has since then been copied by even the likes of Thomson Reuters.

When I read Harvard Business Review in the early 1990s, I dreamt of creating something similar for Islamic banking and finance – and in 2011, I started Islamic Finance Review (or ISFIRE). With the high quality contributions in this issue of ISFIRE, I am confident that ISFIRE will soon be like HBR for Islamic banking and finance. Being the only print magazine in Islamic banking and finance, being published from London, ISFIRE is popular amongst industry practitioners and the academia alike.

This issue contains thought provoking and controversial pieces, like that of Nik Norishky Thani and his fellows at PNB, inspirational pieces, like Dr. Zubir Harun’s interview, and comprehensive reports, like ISFIRE Report written by Rizwan Malik. There are other contributions from Dr. Muhammad Hanif and Dr. Zulkifli Hasan, which should be of particular interest to our readers. Noor Odeh has contributed an interesting piece on the challenges IBF faces in the European continent.

The article by Nik Norishky Thani et al is provocative, as it challenges a commonly held view by advocates of IBF that Shari’a compliance should be achieved on an institutional level as well as on a governmental level. This is, however, not the socio-economic and political reality in most of the Muslim-majority countries. While the arguments presented in the article may be challenged on a theoretical level, it is, however, a legitimate question to ask why even the governments like Malaysia and the regulators like Bank Negara Malaysia (which seem to be the most sincere promoters of IBF) have yet to implement full Shari’a compliance in their own operations and businesses. It will also be interesting to scrutinize the business of even Islamic Development Bank (IDB) – the largest Islamic financial institution in the world – to assess Shari’a compliance of its business and operations.

The issue starts with a preview of some of the products based on profit loss sharing (PLS), popularly used in IBF. Our ISFIRE Report further focuses on some of the leading products in the global Islamic financial services industry. Dr. Zulkifli Hasan has contributed an excellent piece of Islamic Finance Services Act (IFSA) in Malaysia.

Our Personality of the issue is Amman Mohammad who has played an instrumental role in development of Islamic banking in South Africa and the wider African continent. He joins an illustrious club of ISFIRE Personalities that include Hasan Bilgrami (CEO of Bank Islami Pakistan), Dr Nurosofiza Azmi (Director of Strategy, Policy Development & Research at Asian Institute of Finance), Raja Teh Maimunah (CEO of Hong Leong Islamic Bank), Moinuddin Malim (Managing Partner of Alternative International Management Services), Roslina Abdul Rahman (Managing Director of Amundi Malaysia), Issam Al-Tawari (Chairman of Rasameel), Stefano Padovani (Partner at NCTM), Dr. Yaqub Mirza (President and CEO of Sterling Management Group), Sohail Jaffer (Deputy CEO of FWU Global Takaful Solutions), Azhar Aslam (Head of Islamic Banking at Standard Chartered Bank, Pakistan), and Nasir Ali Khan (Risk Auditor at NBAD).

A short, yet interesting, write-up is on the Women in Islamic & Ethical Finance Forum (WIEFF), which highlights the roles of some of the distinguished women in the Islamic history, in business, charity and scholarship.

There are some other articles included in this issue of ISFIRE, which I am sure our readers will find of interest and relevance.