Wednesday, October 22, 2014

IIAM Shariah Audit Masterclass

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh

Thanks Dr. Rizwan Bakar (IIUM Accounting Alumni) for commenting on previous posting. We should discuss further the issues through email soon.

Last week on the 14th of October, I was invited to share my thought on Shariah Audit at the National Internal Audit Conference. This event was organised by the Institute of Internal Auditors Malaysia (IIAM) and was held at the KL Convention Centre. It was well attended by internal auditors from many different types of industries.

The interest on Shariah Audit is emerging very fast but many are not sure how to go about. Those internal auditors working in Islamic Banks, Takaful firms and other Islamic institutions have conducted some forms of Shariah Audit. They faced many challenges from the planning stage to properly develop Shariah Audit Programs to how to effectively handle Shariah non-compliance risks.

I shared my views on the issues facing Islamic financial industry especially on properly offering and managing Islamic financial services. The challenges such as linking Shariah risk management, Shariah internal control, and Shariah compliance review with Shariah Audit. I can't share the issues fully here. I also deliberated on the role of Shariah Committee, the Board and the Management to properly facilitate the development of Shariah audit. Otherwise, many Shariah non-compliance issues will not be properly addressed. Ultimately, it may affect the integrity and the credibility of the Islamic institutions.

I also provoked the participants of the fact that IIA's Code of Ethics and COSO's Framework are insufficient to address the ethical issues and internal control issues in Islamic institutions. I also shared the AAOIFI's Code of Ethics that to a certain extent contribute towards a different paradigm of Islamic value system in shaping the internal auditors.

As usual, moving forward, I hope more of the emerging issues of Shariah Audit will be addressed by the regulatory authority such as BNM. However, from the academic view point, there is a lot of potential to close the knowledge gap on Shariah Audit.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Islamic Accounting Symposium (Jakarta, 27-28 August, 2014)

On 28th August, 2 weeks ago, I was invited as a speaker in Islamic Accounting Symposium organised by Universiti Islam Negeri (UIN) Shariff Hidayatullah, Jakarta, Indonesia. The topic given to me was Development of Islamic Accounting Theory. It is an interesting topic considering the emerging interest in the development of Islamic accounting especially in Islamic financial industry.

I started my presentation by explaining the movement of Islamization of knowledge. I defined the term "Islamization" from the perspective of Syed Muhamad Naquib Al-Attas. I also explained the systematic process of undertaking the Islamization from the well structured suggestion made by Almarhum Al-Faruqi. I argued that the challenges now is how to interact with the Islamic sources of knowledge and the ability of our Muslim scholars to be able to articulate the modern disciplines. Our Islamic accounting scholars have no choice but they must be able to deal with the Qur'an and the Sunnah. They also have to dig the Islamic heritage especially on the Islamic history of accounting.

I presented a table on the development of Islamic accounting from 1980s to now. I started with the overview of literature by Abdel Magid (1981). At this early stage, Abdel Magid presented the accounting implications of Islamic banking theory and practice. I also provided an overview of Gambling and Karem (1986) when they examined the theory of social accounting from the Islamic cultural and societal perspective. It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the Islamic accounting literature were mostly normative and theoretical. It is well understood as at the beginning, we have to contend with developing the skeletal theoretical framework.

By 2000s, I presented the list of emerging literature published in international refereed journals. I summarized the development in terms of methodology and I argued that more dynamic and pragmatic studies that used empirical quantitative and qualitative methods in developing their research framework. In terms of theory, there were many studies that adopted variety of theoretical stands such as Islamic accountability, Muslim culture and traditions, Islamic banking theory etc to frame their research.

Going forward, let us hope Islamic accounting theory will emerge as a new discipline that are sound theoretically and grounded in practice. With the emerging Islamic financial industry, the relevance of Islamic accounting practice is more obvious. Let us hope that there are more able Muslim scholars to come forward to further develop Islamic accounting theory.....  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Presentations

Last week, I made 2 presentations. On Tuesday at USIM, I presented a topic on "Islamization of Accounting Knowledge: Challenges and Hopes". It was attended by academic staff of the Faculty of Economics and Muamalat. On Thursday, I presented at my previous university, IIUM, on the topic "Emerging Issues on Zakat Management and Accounting". It was attended by academic staff and postgraduate students of the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences. Both topics are inter-related and reflect my academic concerns for many years.

As I am settling down at USIM, it is important for the next generation of academics to be aware of the development of Islamic accounting. Islamization of accounting is a challenging task as we need to master conventional accounting theory and practice before we can embark on Islamizing accounting. Our ability to deal with our heritage i.e. the Qur'an and the Sunnah together with critical understanding of past literature will determine how far we can move forward.

On the topic of Zakat, I have presented 4 emerging issues. First, on the need to measure performance of Zakat institutions by focusing on the outcome of Zakat collection and distribution rather than focusing only on inputs and outputs of activities. Secondly, I also shared my views and past research on the efficiency of Zakat institutions in Malaysia. Past research findings indicated that `decentralization' of decision making process and providing good facilities in terms of Zakat payment systems influenced efficiency. Thirdly, I shared my concerns on the shortcomings of the present measurement method for Zakat on business wealth and the present accounting valuation method of fair value in assessing Zakat. Fourthly, the conventional accounting system, I argued, is not `friendly' for Zakat accounting and reporting purposes.

Finally, as I reflect on the new field of Islamic accounting, there is a need for more intensive and high quality research. May Allah SWT provides us strength and patience in exploring and contributing towards Islamic accounting knowledge. As we are at the end of the month of Ramadhan, I pray for the blessings from Allah (Barakah and Rahmah) and, Eid Mubarak to all Muslim readers and friends.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Now, I am with USIM


Ramadhan Kareem. May Allah SWT bless us and hopefully Ramadhan this year will make us a better person insha Allah.

From 1st July, I will be working with the Islamic Science University of Malaysia (USIM) based in Nilai, Malaysia. I have been appointed as a Professor and attached with the Faculty of Economics and Muamalat. This journey is part of my Hijrah towards the betterment of myself and possibly the Ummah as well. I hope I can contribute to USIM especially when they will be offering new postgraduate programmes in Islamic banking and finance, and Islamic accounting soon.

Beside full-time at USIM, I am also attached with the International Shari'ah Research Academy in Islamic Finance (ISRA) based in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, as a Research Fellow. This position is on a part-time basis and I will spend at least 1 day per week at ISRA. I will mainly to contribute in conducting research and enhancing their research activities.

Wassallam. Thank you.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Potential of Qualitative Social Research in Islamic FInance

Last Thursday, I conducted a Research Workshop on Qualitative Research for the researchers of ISRA. If we examine the past literature on Islamic finance, there are many quantitative theoretical and empirical research such as on performance and efficiency, consumer behaviour, managerial aspects of Islamic financial institutions etc. have been undertaken and published. There are also many `Qualitative Textual Research' in Islamic finance especially on Shariah and legal issues. However, there are very few research that have been done using `Qualitative Social Research' in Islamic finance.

The nature of Qualitative Social Research' can be summed up as follows:

“Data consist of descriptions and accounts provided by participants in the research site, together with the researcher’s observations on activities and interactions and the context in which they take place. Data must be collected over an extended period of time so that processes can be recorded…The researcher, in general, does not seek to test prior hypothesis. Rather he, or she seeks to theorize through the data in an inductive manner. Analysis of the data is itself an emergent process. The researcher seeks gradually to develop empathy with the data, to understand what they tell of participants’ realities and the process through which they unfold. The researcher must constantly construct alternative interpretations until he or she is satisfied that the representation is a faithful account. Interpretations must be grounded  in context and consistent with the chronological ordering of events and interactions. Finally, the results must be represented in such a way that the reader can independently judge their credibility." (Dent, J, 1991. “Accounting and Organizational Culture”, Journal of Accounting Organizations and Society)

The usefulness of Qualitative Social Research is normally to assist researchers in discovering personal experiences and values such as religious conviction, behavior, culture etc. It is also useful to uncover and understand what lies behind the complex human, organizational or societal phenomenon. Qualitative data can give intricate details of the phenomenon and help to develop new research hypotheses/propositions. Another strength of this type of research is the richness and in-depth research findings.

The Qualitative Social Research can be utilised in Islamic finance in a variety of ways such as:
  • Understanding the Shari’ah, the managerial, marketing or/and accounting issues and practices in IFIs
  • Corporate and organizational culture in IFIs
  • Culture of Shari’ah compliance in different types of IFIs
  • Shari’ah compliance from the different views of stakeholders
  • Corporate and Shari’ah governance in IFIs

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

ISRA Research Fellow & New Research Initiative

From 15th May 2014, I have been appointed as Research Fellow by the International Shari'ah Research Academy on Islamic Finance (ISRA). The position is on a part-time basis and I will spend at least 1 working day in ISRA. I will be involved as principal researcher in at least 1 research project and I will also be involved in other activities to enhance research function including conducting research workshops in relevant areas.

Here, I provide a synopsis of the research project that I will be heading at ISRA:

Research Title: "The Application of Intangible Assets in Islamic Financial Industry: An Islamic Accounting Perspective"

 Recent study by ISRA (i.e. Bouheraoua et. al., 2013) on the “Shariah Issues in Intangible Assets and their Application in Islamic Finance Institutions” has raised a number of pertinent issues. The study has critically discussed the emerging issues on intangible assets especially recognition and measurement; financing and trading; and zakat. The study has found that (i) there is an issue of gharar in the identification and determination of intangible assets; (ii) it is generally permissible to finance and trade intangible assets except in the trading and exchange of receivables, options and futures; (iii) zakat is obligatory on intangible assets if the intention is to trade them. However, the study has not really delved into accounting issues on intangible assets from an Islamic perspective. The study has reviewed only briefly the issues of accounting recognition. However, there are many other pertinent issues such as accounting measurement and financial reporting which have not been properly dealt with. As the Islamic financial industry is evolving with many related issues on intangible assets, there is an urgent need to extend the above study. This proposed study will examine the accounting issues of intangible assets from the Islamic (Shari’ah) perspective. Three pertinent accounting areas of concern to be examined are namely accounting recognition; accounting measurement; and financial reporting. This study aims to contribute towards a better understanding of accounting for intangible assets from an Islamic perspective. The study will also enhance the application of intangible assets in the Islamic financial industry and ensure that all the requirements are properly governed by the Shari’ah precepts.       

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Article Published in the Edge


From 2012, all Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) in Malaysia are required by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to observe and comply with the Shari’ah Governance Framework (SGF). The SGF is a set of organisational arrangements through which IFIs ensure effective oversight, responsibility and accountability of the board of directors, the management and the Shari’ah Committee. Ultimately, the SGF serves as a guide towards ensuring an operating environment that is compliant with Shari’ah principles.

The SGF, to a certain extent, has successfully reinforced the Shari’ah compliance functions, internal Shari’ah review and audit requirements, supported by an appropriate risk management process and research capability. The implementation of the SGF so far has contributed towards Shari’ah compliance process. However, currently, the Islamic financial industry lacks a robust Shari’ah assurance process.

Shari’ah audit is essentially an assurance process as it should be conducted by independent auditors. Shari’ah audit is needed to fill the gap of Shari'ah compliant activities and services of the IFIs. The stakeholders need to be assured that the institutions that offer Islamic financial services have sufficient levels of Shari’ah assurance processes and controls. Today, mere claims by the IFIs that they are fully Shari’ah compliant may no longer be sufficient. Independent assurance through Shari’ah audit is essential to enhance the integrity and the accountability of the IFIs.

Pitfalls of the SGF

The SGF requires all IFIs to establish Shari’ah audit function that performs annual audits in order to provide an independent assessment of the adequacy and compliance with established policies and procedures, and the adequacy of the Shari'ah governance process. Closer scrutiny of the SGF indicates that the Framework did not sufficiently explain the requirements and the functions of Shari’ah audit. The best example would be the crucial relationship between the Shari’ah audit and the Shari’ah risk management which was not clearly spelled out.

There is also a lack of guidance as to the level of appropriateness of Shari’ah risk management framework. Instead the SGF expects the IFIs to develop their own risk management framework. Realising the uniqueness and complexities of Shari’ah non-compliance risks, Shari’ah risk management function should be properly developed before the IFIs can effectively undertake Shari’ah audit. Shari’ah non-compliance risk indicators and measurement should be clearly identified. In addition, the line of reporting and responsibility on Shari’ah risk management should also be clearly expounded.

On another note, the SGF specifies that the Shari’ah audit shall be performed by the internal auditors, whom are trained and have adequate knowledge of Shari’ah. However, the SGF did not specify the level of Shari’ah knowledge and the specific areas of Shari’ah that they need to equip themselves. The nature of their work requires specialised knowledge of Shari’ah essential for them to carry out their work effectively. The IFIs should also be required to create special positions of Shari’ah auditors within their internal audit division.

The SGF has also purposely excluded the function of external Shari’ah audit. External audit, in contrast to internal audit, represents the third party role to provide check and balance of the Shari’ah assurance requirements. Similar to external financial audit, the absence of external and independent audit reports by qualified Shari’ah auditors will certainly affect the credibility of IFIs in the eyes of stakeholders.

One important governance concern is on the line of authority of Shari’ah audit function. As per the SGF, Shari’ah audit is directly answerable to the audit committee. Unfortunately, the audit committee’s present scope of work is already very demanding. To expect them to plan and to scrutinise the Shari’ah audit would be an additional burden and responsibility that may affect the overall efficiency of audit committee.

Another taken for granted issue is on the role of Shari’ah committee with regards to Shari’ah audit function. There is a dire need for a comprehensive guideline in the case where there is a dispute or different of opinion between the management and the Shari’ah auditors on matters relating to Shari’ah interpretation. By right, all disputes or differences shall be referred to the Shari’ah committee of the IFIs.

In theory, the Shari’ah committee and the Shari’ah auditors should be responsible to jointly plan the Shari’ah audit. Once the Shari’ah audit function is performed by the auditors then it must be reported directly to the Shari’ah committee and the audit committee for deliberations and remedial actions. The final report must then be tabled to the board of directors for their attention and further action.  

The Urgent Need for Shari’ah Audit Framework

The above arguments indicate an urgent need for the Shari’ah Audit Framework that should complement the SGF. The primary objective of this elusive Framework is to provide guidelines for the management to properly discharge their responsibilities according to Shari’ah rules and principles. In addition, the purpose of the Framework is to ensure that the system of internal control for Shari’ah compliance is conceptually sound and effective in its implementation.

The Shari’ah Audit Framework is needed to clearly specify the roles and functions of both the internal and the external Shari’ah auditors. Shari’ah auditors should have direct and regular communications with all levels of management and the Shari’ah committee. Knowing the sensitivity of some Shari’ah issues, there should not be any scope limitation and restriction of access to evidences, documents, reports etc. in order for the Shari’ah auditors to undertake their work. This is to ensure the efficiency and the effectiveness of Shari’ah audit function.

The need for a more robust Shari’ah assurance function – not just Shari’ah compliance - should be considered seriously by BNM. The need for a comprehensive Shari’ah Audit Framework to guide the industry is long overdue. The issues raised above are only `tips on the iceberg’ and certainly there are many other outstanding issues facing the Islamic financial industry. The imperative next step is the need for a comprehensive guideline on Shari’ah audit to ensure that all activities and operations of the IFIs truly in compliance with Shari’ah.

Shariah Audit Conference 2014

This article has argued for the need of a more robust Shari’ah audit function and guidelines. Realising the increasing demand for greater integrity and transparency of IFIs, the Institute of Internal Auditors Malaysia (IIAM) will organise a Shariah Audit Conference 2014 after a successful inaugural event organised by the industry’s association in 2011. IIAM in collaboration with the Islamic Banking and Finance Institute Malaysia (IBFIM) will organise this important event on 20th and 21st May 2014 at Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur. This event will hopefully be able to discuss the pertinent issues of Shari’ah audit and to explore future direction of this nascent industry. The shift of focus from Shari’ah compliance to Shari’ah assurance is indeed crucial to enhance the public confidence of the IFis which in turn contributes toward sustainable growth of the Islamic financial industry.