2016-06-30
MALAYSIA, New Straits Times-Management Times (AP)--Kedah-born Dr. Hasnita Hashim has worked tirelessly the past six years developing and implementing Islamic financial products and solutions.

A pioneer in Islamic investment banking, the 38-year-old daughter of former Kedah education director Datuk Hashim Maidin has explored areas such as asset management, structured finance, and asset securitization.

She was instrumental in the setting up of the First Islamic Investment Bank of Bahrain in 1994 and was involved in establishing the Islamic Equity Fund in Kuwait.

Today, six years after all the toil in putting the Islamic financial system on the right footing, Hasnita and business partner Peter Farid Faisal have pooled their expertise to set up the world's first Islamic finance and investment Internet website--www.IslamiQ.com.

Peter Farid, whom she met in Malaysia in 1998, has 22 years experience in the media sector and is co-founder of the Articulate Group of Companies, which is primarily involved in television programming, telecommunication services, and software development and programming.

He is also the founder of Teleworld Holding BV, a leader in the European premium-rate telephone-line market.

"We met through friends and decided to utilize our expertise to come to this stage," said Hasnita, who has a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Oxford University. IslamiQ.com is the world's first website to offer a range of banking, finance, and insurance products and services to meet the significant online demand for investment products from Muslims.

"Until now, the global Muslim community has had to use general financial websites to conduct their financial affairs.

"These fail to appreciate the Islamic values that the Muslim investor requires if he or she is to feel comfortable accessing information and trading online," said Hasnita, the CEO of IslamiQ.com.

The Islamic capital market, currently worth US$150 billion (RM570 billion), has a growth forecast of 30% per annum and an estimated 94 million Muslim Internet users by 2002.

"There is a very real demand for IslamiQStocks.com and IslamiQMoney.com," said Hasnita of the two vertical financial portals that IslamiQ.com offers to retail and professional investors.

IslamiQ.com has raised US$6 million (RM22.8 million) to launch the portals and has major backing from leading institutions, including The International Investor of Kuwait and Jeddah-based Dallah Al Barakah Group.

The company is preparing a second round of funding for approximately US$50 million (RM190 million) and aiming to list a major international stock market next year.

IslamiQMoney.com is a site for Islamic financial products and services, and Hasnita expects it to be a leading gateway to Islamic personal finance on the Internet.

It offers Muslims of all ages and nationalities access to a wider choice of banking, finance, and insurance products and services.

It includes real-time international financial news and securities quotes, real-estate and home-finance rates, investment funds and saving rates, insurance (takaful) products, taxation advice and planning, zakat (tithe) and sadaqah (donation) centers, online financial tools, and e-commerce.

IslamiQ.com also offers an online newspaper--IslamiQ Financial Daily (www.IslamiQDaily
.com), the first global Islamic financial news service.

Born in Derga, Alor Star, Hasnita set her sights on economics during her stint with Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte, London, immediately after obtaining her doctorate.

Four years later, she joined Rashid Hussain Asset Management in Kuala Lumpur and became CEO and director of Commerce MGI, the Malaysian affiliate of First Islamic Invesment Bank, Bahrain.

Recounting her experience, the key issue in the development of an Islamic financial system and instrument then was actually a communication gap with the syariah (Malaysian for Shariah--Islamic religious law) scholars.

"We discovered that the syariah scholars were forward looking and well-versed in Islamic economics.

"That made our job easier, and all we needed was to explain how the system worked and get them involved in its development...actually they were very practical," she said.

At IslamiQ.com, Hasnita said they constantly interacted with its syariah scholars to ensure that its services did not contravene Islamic guidelines. They are guided by an international syariah board which includes three prominent syariah scholars.

Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani, member of the Shariah Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court in Karachi, a syariah board member of Dow Jones Islamic Fund Indices, vice president of Darul Uloom University in Karachi, and a member of the Shariah control council of the Organisation of Islamic Countries' (OIC) Islamic Fiqh Academy.

Dr. Abdul Sattar Abdul Kareem Abu Guddah of Syria, a member of the Shariah board of Dow Jones Islamic Fund indices.

Dr. Mohd Daud Bakar of Malaysia, a member of the Shariah board of Bank Negara Malaysia, a member of the Shariah board of Securities Commission and a lecturer on the Faculty of Laws at the International Islamic University.

Hasnita and Peter Farid own 30% of IslamiQ.com. The rest is held by individuals in the United Kingdom.

Asked why she chose the U.K. as the base, Hasnita said: "London is a place that provides easy access to our targets. Most of the Internet-savvy Muslims are in the U.K. Secondly, it provided easy access to the U.S. and Middle East. Hasnita sees bright prospects. By 2002, 94 million Muslims are expected to be Internet users, which means one in 10 Muslims will be online by that year. The Internet explosion is expected in Asia, where 90% per cent of its population is Muslim. "Our vision is to be the biggest portal for Muslims."

Since its launch early this month, IslamiQ.com has received an excellent response. "We have been approached by parties in the U.S., Japan, Germany, South Africa, and Australia on whether we can help them set up Islamic banking systems. We have also been approached by bankers and fund managers interested in strategic alliances.

"It is going to take more than a lifetime to implement all these works!" Asked whether she expected rivals to IslamiQ.com, Hasnita expected the main players of conventional sites to be her rivals.

But as far as Hasnita is concerned, IslamiQ.com will be the largest portal for Muslims globally within five years.

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