Amanah KiwiSaver success can promote other Islamic products

Brian Henry and Arifa Fiqria

Of New Zealand’s population of 4.79 million people, 1.1% are Muslims, according to the World Population Review 2019 website.

New Zealand is working hard to accommodate the needs of its Muslim community, ranging from places of worship to Halal food.

It currently has 57 Islamic Centers, 17 Halal bakeries/cafes, 58 Halal meat/grocery stores, and 241 Halal restaurants, according to NZ Halal Food Guide 2017-2018 Edition.

The Teachings

Islam itself is not only about worshiping (Fiqh Ibadat) or eating (Shariah) but also about dealings (Fiqh Muamalat).

The distinctions are in Ibadat – all matters involved in the law, are not susceptible to innovations or change (Ittiba) in practice. While for Muamalat, there is still some room to develop or change to facilitate human interaction and promote justice, according to Dr John L Esposito in The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (2003).

Then, we may ask, “How developed are Islamic dealings in terms of finance in New Zealand?’

Until March 2014, there were no Islamic financial institutions at all in New Zealand.

The main reason for this was likely the relatively low demand for Islamic financial products – aligning with the Muslim population at that time, which was less than 50,000 people. Arguably, this population size was considered significant enough to support a Shariah-based institution.

Launch of Amanah Ethical

In 2014, Amanah Ethical Managing Director Brian Henry decided that the Muslim community needed someone to provide some Shariah-based financial products.

Amanah Ethical was launched, providing two funds – Amanah KiwiSaver Plan (a savings scheme for retirement that meets the New Zealand Government’s KiwiSaver proposal) and AmanahNZ (a separate unit trust investment fund).

These funds are strictly Shariah-compliant to accommodate the needs of Muslims for retirement and investment products.

Why did Amanah Ethical start with these two products?

The fundamental needs for the Muslim community are Halal retirement funds and first home financing. If Muslims want Islamic funding to finance their first home purchase, then the quickest way to fund it is by supporting the Amanah KiwiSaver Plan. Savings can be withdrawn to assist purchase a first home.

In terms of ‘mortgage-type products,’ there are currently no institutions in New Zealand  providing any Shariah-compliant options.

If Amanah Ethical continues to grow and demonstrate success in the New Zealand market, then it is hopeful that in time, it will be able to partner with another entity to launch an Islamic Home Financing product such as Ijara, Musharaka and Murabaha.

Amanah KiwiSaver for all

Interestingly, investment in Amanah KiwiSaver Plan and AmanahNZ is not only intended for Muslims but also non-Muslims in New Zealand who value Amanah’s strong ethical mandate: it puts people before profit, all equity investments must be in companies with strong balance sheets (low debt and high asset ratios), and have assets that are producing or protecting the goodness of humankind and the environment.

Why do this?

Regulated Life

Because Islam is Rahmatan Lil Alamin – it is a mercy to all creations.

In Islam, every aspect of life is regulated, such as the manner of eating, entering the bathroom, interacting with neighbours, and how we manage our finances. As Muslims, we cannot pick and choose, taken, or not taken in our life. And also, from the word itself, Islam means ‘submit’ or ‘surrender.’ It means that we submit fully to the Creator of life. Insha Allah (if God is willing), Allah knows best in every command.

He has given to us in the Holy Quran:

“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.”  (Qur’an An-Nisa [4] verse 59.)

Prophet Mohammed said:

“A dirham of riba (interest) consumed knowingly by a man is worse before Allah than committing zina (adultery) thirty-six times.” (Narrated by Ahmad & Tabaraani, classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in ‘Saheeh al-Jaami’ No. 3375.)

Muslims in New Zealand are grateful for the creation of Amanah Ethical, the very first Islamic financial institution in New Zealand, and recognise the need to support them to keep Muslims safe in conducting Islam in a non-Muslim country.

Not every non-Muslim country can provide that.

Wallahu Alam Bissawab (only Allah knows the truest intention).

Brian Henry is Managing Director of Amanah Trust Management (NZ) Limited and Amanah KiwiSaver Plan Arifa Fiqria is Regional Director (Asia) of Amanah Trust Management (Asia) Limited based in Auckland.

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