Muslims in Singapore

Muslims make up 14.3% of Singapore’s 6 million population. Islam’s presence is clearly felt in this bustling city-state, and Muslims are generally free to practice their religion, as are other ‘major religions’.

In Ramadhan when I feel like having iftar (the meal to end a day of fasting) at the mosque, I can head over to any of the 4 mosques close to my apartment. There is a mosque in almost every neighbourhood, and these mosques serve many roles as the centre of activity and education for the Muslim community.

Just recently, Singapore’s first woman president, HE Madam Halimah Yacob came to office. I love it that we have a Hijabi President! Here’s Her Excellency looking cool and dignified in professional-style Muslim headgear:

halal investments halimah
Credit: TODAY newspaper

Islam in Singapore

Islam is overseen and some aspects regulated by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, or MUIS (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura). Also, the administration and redistribution of Islamic Social Finance (Zakat, Waqf), and Halal certification of food and other items are very effectively managed by MUIS.

A little-known fact is that Singapore has one of the most developed and productive Waqf assets (religious endowment) in the world, with Waqf assets in 2015 valued at S$711million! This is huge for our small Muslim population. Our Waqf assets are managed by Warees Investment Holdings, a subsidiary of MUIS, with both asset value and income growing strongly since Warees was incepted 15 years ago.

In addition, Islamic principles are even enshrined in Singapore’s legal system, with the Administration of Muslim Law Act of 1968 (AMLA 1968) providing clarity on specific matters related to Muslim Law such as estate management (Faraidh) and marriage (Nikah) within the Singapore Legal System.

Sadly, Muslims in Singapore have struggled for a long time when it comes to Halal Investments. There has been a distinct lack of Shariah-compliant investments or ‘Islamic investments’, especially for the retail investor or ordinary Muslim Singaporean. Wealthy Muslims may have several options, with fund managers and investment advisors chasing their capital to invest in global Shariah-compliant stocks and funds.

In today’s world, savvy working professionals and or small entrepreneurs are just as aware and keen to engage in investment activity, albeit in smaller denominations.

Where it all began

Back in 2012, my college buddy Abdul Rahman had just set up his own law firm, and was starting to develop an infectious passion for Islamic finance. We decided that we had to take matters into our own hands. Amanah Asset Management was born, with two objectives:

a) to create and increase the demand for Islamic investment among Muslims and ethical investors in Singapore, and

b) to approach and bring in Islamic investment products and providers into Singapore.

We worked on this for 2 years, and although we managed to provide many Singaporeans with Islamic estate management services (Abdul Rahman still focuses on this service as an Islamic finance legal expert. See www.arlc.com.sg), we failed to bring in any new Islamic investment products into Singapore.

Every opportunity we chased ended in rejection. The reason was that Singapore was too small a market for Islamic finance at the mass-market level since there was no mass-Muslim market!

We kept pushing, being undeterred and gave regular free seminars to grow our community of Singaporean Islamic finance enthusiasts. Little did I know at that time that we were setting the foundation of something magical…

Investment Crowdfunding suddenly arrived in the West

We had discovered an incredible and unprecedented opportunity to create an investment platform that breaks all barriers, enabled by technology. Initially, we set up ‘Club Ethis’ as a private halal investments club for Islamic investors, due to the lack of regulatory clarity at that time.

We eventually became a bona fide investment crowdfunding platform – EthisCrowd.com! Here we are published in 2 articles in the National Malay papers Berita Harian when we first launched 3.5 years ago:

halal investments berita
Feb 2014: New Club to help source for Investment Opportunities
halal investments berita1
Feb 2015: Crowdfunding service based on Shariah launched

Since then we have evolved, expanded, revamped and inshaAllah (god-willing) improved tremendously. From an idea among friends on a mission to help Singapore Muslims invest, we gained rapid traction in the region to become the early leader in Islamic Investment Crowdfunding.

Today, we are an award-winning Real Estate Islamic Crowdfunding platform started by Singapore Muslims for Singapore Muslims! We even won 2 prestigious awards last year for our breakthrough efforts.

halal investments award
Islamic Economy Award 2016

These awards help to validate our firm belief in what we do. EthisCrowd.com has attracted significant attention early on mainly because we were such a novelty, as one of the few Islamic Crowdfunding platforms in the world.

This led to proper recognition for our efforts, especially in the strong social impact of the campaigns we were featured which focused on Social Housing development projects in emerging Indonesia.

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GIFA award for Best Islamic Crowdfunding Platform 2016

Moving forward providing Halal Investments

I seek all your sincere prayers and support as we continue to push and build Islamic Crowdfunding platforms. EthisCrowd.com is growing from strength to strength bringing the world to invest in Indonesia, and especially provide Muslims with halal investments.

We need to be especially steadfast and firm in our vision and mission to bring the best Ethical and Islamic investments for Muslims, and for Humanity.

InshaAllah.

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Author: Umar Munshi

| Founder, Ethis Ventures Islamic Crowdfunding, Islamic Fintech Alliance |
| CEO of EthisCrowd.com, the world’s first Real Estate Islamic Crowdfunding Platform | National University of Singapore |

2 Replies to “Halal Investments for Singapore Muslims? It’s time for a shake-up in the Islamic Investments scene.

  1. Great news and very informative. The way I see, it is time for us to build a team regionally to combine effort not only benefits from power of waqf but also to look at moslem in this region as one ummah despite of the boundaries or policy objectives. As a non government, foundation or not-for-profit institution, there are flexibility that we can develop together as a team. Indonesia fintech sector in crowdfunding is growing, but regulations on this sector still in the process of maturing; the same in ethical or green investment and especially in syaria compliant investment where implementation is blurred with other market instruments and conventional banking / financial institutions and markets regulations. For example, there is a demand for building construction for Islamic business center but sharia bank in Indonesia does not allow to have asset inventory, so funding from sharia banking is not possible for productive waqf projects from regulatory perspective, while idle waqf land is available everywhere. Therefore it requires an innovation and forward looking in Islamic finance for the sake of ummah. If some fund are idle in Singapore or Brunei could be used productively in badly needed area like Indonesia to improve socio-economic welfare of moslem community currently trapped in ‘riba’ financing or banking cycle. This needs to be liberated and provide alternative by empowering the unbankable moslem rural communities with financial inclusion program using emoney agent and branchless banking networks.
    Currently the only institution that close to Islamic practice is venture capital (VC). I am therefore developing a concept for productive waqf investment, using cash waqf through crowdfunding platform to finance ‘moslem’ projects as well as in asset management for idle waqf land using VC company lisence. Singapore is clearly very good example in waqf management but limited areas to put the recycle fund back into the ‘ummah’. Since Malaysia has started Islamic crowdfunding can share the platform; Brunei is another potential to bring in this collaboration to tap the Islamic project/business in the region. Indonesia has market potential for investment using the waqf fund productively not only in the agriculture and housing sectors, but also in building construction for Islamic centers, schools and hospitals sectors; and most importantly in supply chain, logistic and distribution, trading regionally using emoney/crypto. Southern Thailand and South Philippines are also the region that have potential. So lets think this region as one halal product market, establish a VC and form an investment committee, and work for ‘one’ ummah using fintech approach to grow waqf investment that allow flexible crossborder operations especially in project/business financing with clear social mission. I am happy to discuss on how we can collaborate in this area, especially in developing waqf ventures with crowdfunding platform and having SPV. By law, a company requires 25 Billion Rupiah capital to get a VC license; once the VC is established, we can have special purpose vehicle (SPV) investing in prospective project and via cash waqf crowdfunding and grow business in partnership with those looking for ROI of their equity participation and combine with those with productive waqf reinvestment plan in mind for the benefit of wider ummah.
    Hanafi

  2. I’mnot certain the plsce you are getting your information, hhowever great topic.

    I needs to sprnd a while finding out more or figuring out more.
    Thannk you for great information I used to be looking for this info for my mission.
    mata kuliah perbankan syariah

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