Monday, February 18, 2013

Please everyone watch this, and everyone share

Changing the Discourse on Islamic Personal Finance

There is no discourse in our communities about Islamic personal finance. None.
When we discuss Islamic finance at conferences, classes, dinner parties, and gatherings with friends, it's always the same. Which company did you use to buy your house? Is buying a car on 0% halal or not?
The problem with those discussions is that they ignore the stark reality of personal finance faced by many families and individuals. Before I get to the point of even buying a house, how much should I have saved? What percentage of my monthly income is reasonable for a house payment?
Before even that step, there should be consideration for things like how to make a budget for your household. How do you get out of debt?
As I've personally delved into reading about personal finance, I've come to realize this aspect of education is missing from our communities. We're content to discuss terms like “musharakah” and “murabahah” and “ijaara” but we have yet to figure out a way to make higher education without student loans a reality for the majority of our ummah.
What is the point of a husband and wife buying a house through a halal mortgage, if they're going to fight every month about how to spend the money they make?
While we educate ourselves on the fiqh of things such as a woman's right to her own wealth, the responsibility of a husband to provide, and so on – we overlook the nuts and bolts that are required to run a household. How do a husband and wife figure out where their money is going? How do they resolve disagreements about what to spend money on? How do they prioritize their spending? How do they make sure they have a realistic plan to save for things like hajj?
How does an individual plan ahead for expenses such as buying a car, or dealing with home repairs without having to rely on a credit card as their emergency fund?
The reality is, while we are an educated ummah – both secularly and religiously – we tend to have a false sense of confidence when it comes to finances. Many households are struggling with debts – student loans, car payments, credit card payments, furniture purchases, computer purchases, and sometimes even a mattress payment of $10 a month stretched out over a few years.
It's time we reassess our attitudes toward finance and gain control of our wealth. Changing the discourse on finance allows us to learn how to budget – which tells us both how we earn our money, and where we spend our money. We cannot account for this in the Hereafter if we have no idea where our money goes now.
Our community also needs to change the discourse when it comes to debt. We've let society make us think that debt is a tool, something we leverage. If the recession and collapse of the banking industry haven't taught us that this is playing with fire, at the least we should heed the warnings in our own sacred texts about staying away from debt. Our communities need proper financial counseling and help to get individuals and families out of debt.
Please also check out a series from our archives on debt and money management: Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
As we work to change this discourse, we'd like to hear your stories.
Have you ever been in debt? How much debt?
What did it feel like to be in debt?
Have you been in debt and gotten out of it? How much debt did you have, and how did you pay it off? 

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