Gatekeepers' of Islamic financial circuits : analyzing urban geographies of the global Shari'a elite
Faculty of Applied Economics
Faculty of Law
Entrepreneurship and regional development. - London
, p. 337-355
This paper analyses the importance of Sharia scholars in the Islamic Financial Services (IFS) sector, which has been a growing global practice since the 1970s. Based on Sharia Law, IFS firms provide banking, finance and insurance respecting faith-based prohibitions on interest, speculation and risk taking. Although IFS firms operate across a variety of scales and involve a range of actors, this paper focuses on the transnational capacities of Sharia experts employed by IFS firms. These scholars use their extensive knowledge of Sharia Law to assess the Islamic character of a firm's operations, and assist the development of Sharia-compliant products. As they embody necessary entry-points into Islamic circuits of knowledge and authority, members of what we dub the global Sharia elite can be regarded as gatekeepers of Islamic financial circuits. Drawing on a comprehensive data source we present a geographical analysis of Sharia board membership, nationality and educational background of 253 Sharia scholars. The results show that the global Sharia elite connects a limited number of IFS hubs (e.g. Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait City, Manama, and London) to knowledge and authority networks falling outside mainstream business and service spheres.