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Oil prices edge higher following death of Iran’s president

Oil prices rose slightly on Monday after a helicopter carrying the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi crashed Sunday afternoon. 

All passengers onboard the helicopter, including the 63-year-old president, the country’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and six others, were killed when the helicopter crashed in the northwestern mountainous forests. 

Brent crude rose 46 cents to $84.43 at 8.01am BST on Monday, the highest in May. Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate crude climbed 28 cents to $80.36 a barrel at 8.31am BST. Iran exported $35.87 billion worth of crude oil in the 12 months ending March 2024, the Iranian Labour News Agency reported last month, quoting the head of customs administration Mohammad Rezvanifar.

The helicopter, carrying Raisi, crashed in the Varzaqan region of East Azerbaijan province on Sunday. 

The aircraft was returning from a ceremony where Raisi had inaugurated the joint Qiz-Qalasi dam project on Iran's border with Azerbaijan earlier that day. 

The wreckage of the helicopter was discovered early Monday morning after a search and rescue operation that lasted several hours.  

In the wake of the president's death, the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei appointed vice president Mohammad Mokhber as acting president. The country’s deputy foreign minister Ali Baqeri Kani was appointed new foreign policy chief. 

Muslim leaders from across the globe offered their condolences over the president’s death. 

Raisi was elected as Iran’s eighth president in the country's 13th presidential election in 2021. He will be laid to rest in his hometown of Mashhad.

Salaam Gateway
Shariah-compliant crypto market makes headway amid growing acceptance

The increasing awareness of halal cryptocurrency is ushering in a wider acceptance of Shariah-compliant decentralized solutions, driving greater mainstream adoption. 

Companies such as Switzerland-based cryptocurrency developer Islamic Coin (ISLM), Malaysian fund manager Halogen Capital, and Bosnia and Herzegovina-headquartered crypto exchange platform Biokript have been at the forefront of this movement, fueled by the steady growth of Islamic finance assets.

“The global Islamic finance industry is projected to experience significant growth in the coming years with sukuk issuance projected to grow substantially. This surge will naturally drive demand for halal digital assets,” Mohammed Al Kaff AlHashmi, co-founder of HAQQ and Islamic Coin tells Salaam Gateway.

Gateway to Web3

As the native digital currency of the HAQQ blockchain, a platform dedicated to fostering a Shariah-compliant financial ecosystem, ISLM has created a community of Muslim investors comprising more than 1.5 million members. HAQQ has also gained significant traction with 2.8 million accounts created.

ISLM enables Muslim investors to participate in Web3 and by extension decentralized finance, knowing their investments are free from Riba (interest) and other prohibited activities. The cryptocurrency can also be used to purchase non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – blockchain-based tokens - on Bazaar.Art, HAQQ's NFT marketplace.

Blockchain is a decentralised, immutable ledger that facilitates secured transactions across a peer-to-peer network. Blockchain and cryptocurrency have given rise to decentralised finance (DeFi), an emerging financial model that leverages distributed ledger technologies to offer services, such as lending, trading, and investing. 

“The HAQQ blockchain and ISLM offer a transparent and traceable technology solution designed to support Shariah-compliant finance and the halal ecosystem. Even traditional halal and Shariah finance entities lack this level of transparency and traceability,” says AlHashmi.

“Many useful use cases and products are being built on top of our technology: Shariah-compliant lending, trade finance, halal certification, crypto exchange, tokenization of real-world assets, and many more.”

Since launching in 2021, ISLM has secured listings on centralized exchanges like Kucoin, making it available to a wider audience. It has also integrated with decentralized exchanges like Sushiswap and Uniswap, facilitating participation within the decentralized finance ecosystem.

A variety of projects are set to expand investment horizons for Muslim investors and traders, with other tokens being released through community projects on the HAQQ chain. These include solutions like microfinance, Zakat, donations, and an upcoming gold-backed stablecoin. 

“Blockchain technology offers exciting possibilities for developing innovative Shariah-compliant financial products. We expect to see new use cases emerge, such as tokenized Sukuk tokens representing ownership of real-world halal assets or decentralized finance products based on profit-sharing models,” says AlHashmi.

Halal crypto trading

Biokript, a cryptocurrency exchange platform which claims to be Shariah-compliant, is also working on making digital assets accessible to Muslim investors.

“Many Muslims are interested in participating in the crypto market but face challenges due to the lack of Shariah-compliant platforms. Biokript fills this gap by providing a secure and compliant environment for halal digital asset trading,” Adnan Alisic, CEO of Biokript tells Salaam Gateway.

Incorporated in the US in 2023 and headquartered in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the hybrid trading platform combines the best features of centralized and decentralized exchanges to address existing inefficiencies.

Traditional centralized exchanges lack trust due to their custodial nature where users entrust their funds to a single entity, potentially risking loss or mismanagement of funds. Conversely, decentralized exchanges lack a central authority to vet projects, leading to potential risks of scams.

“Biokript's hybrid model aims to mitigate these issues by integrating the trust and security features of centralized exchanges with the transparency and autonomy of decentralized exchanges. This approach seeks to enhance user trust and security while maintaining transparency and accessibility in the trading process,” says Alisic.

Following its incubation with global accelerator Faster Capital in late 2023, Biokript plans to soon launch on different blockchain platforms to expand its reach, including the Solana network.

Receiving the 'Shariah' nod

Given that concerns still linger regarding the alignment of cryptocurrency with Islamic finance principles, ISLM has validated its Shariah compliance by securing a Fatwa, which has classified ISLM as a digital asset within the blockchain and crypto landscape. It formed a Shariah board, too, to ensure that its ecosystem adheres to Shariah guidelines.

 The board is also part of the company’s Shariah Oracle, an on-chain registry of halal certificates. This registry provides smart contract developers and Web2 businesses a way to prove their ethical relevance for Muslim users by listing their products and services on the Haqq Wallet.

“Due to the permissionless nature of blockchain, anyone can run a project on HAQQ, whether it's Shariah-compliant or not. But, to receive a Shariah compliance mark, it should come through Shariah Oracle procedures, including community and Shariah Board review stages. Once a project passes these checks, it becomes whitelisted as a Shariah-compliant project,” explains AlHashmi.

Meanwhile, all cryptocurrencies listed on Biokript are carefully vetted to ensure Shariah compliance, and the platform strictly avoids listing tokens associated with activities prohibited by Islamic law, according to Alisic. 

“There is no margin or leverage trading, and the platform strictly avoids activities prohibited by Islam, such as interest-based transactions or gambling.”

The exchange platform has not undergone formal certification for Shariah compliance itself, but Alisic emphasizes that as a certified Islamic scholar, he ensures adherence to halal principles in the cryptocurrency space.

Bumpy road

For all the progress across the Shariah-compliant crypto landscape, it’s not all smooth sailing ahead as the debate surrounding crypto compatibility with Islamic principles is ongoing.

“The crypto space, in general, grapples with evolving regulations. For Shariah-compliant crypto and decentralized finance, the landscape is even less defined. We constantly engage with regulators and industry leaders to promote clear and well-informed regulations that enable innovation while upholding Islamic principles,” says AlHashmi.

With many concepts in the crypto space still relatively new to users, and Islamic decentralized finance even less familiar, educating the global Muslim community about cryptocurrency and its compatibility with Islamic finance is crucial. The novelty of this space also makes it difficult to find skilled developers who understand both decentralized finance and Islamic finance to help build out a Shariah-complaint blockchain ecosystem. 

What lies ahead?

Overall crypto uptake has been accelerating in several Muslim-majority countries, indicating a certain level of consumer readiness. Cryptocurrency ownership, as a percentage of the total population, reached 30.4% in the UAE, 11.37% in Saudi Arabia, and 2.95% in Malaysia, according to Singapore-headquartered digital currency payment firm Triple-A. 

Kuala Lumpur-based Halogen Capital hopes to take a slice of this growing market with its newly launched Shariah-compliant bitcoin fund, regulated by the Securities Commission Malaysia and endorsed by Islamic finance consultancy firm Amanie Advisors. The minimum initial investment stands at 10,000 Malaysian ringgits. 

Looking ahead, Biokript’s Alisic expects more Muslims to enter the Shariah-compliant crypto space as awareness of the benefits of blockchain technology increases. 

“The Islamic finance sector represents a massive market with significant growth potential. If even a small portion of this market embraces cryptocurrency, it could have a substantial positive impact on the industry. Continued education and dialogue within the Islamic community are essential for the broader acceptance and integration of halal digital assets into mainstream finance.”

Islamic Finance
Islamic finance wrap: Sohar Islamic introduces new Shariah-compliant credit cards

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic finance ecosystem during the first week of May

Editor's note: Oman's Sohar Islamic has unveiled three new Shariah-compliant credit cards, while AlHuda CIBE partners with an Islamic fintech to propel the sector. 

Company News


Oman

Sohar Islamic introduces new Shariah-compliant credit cards

Sohar Islamic, the Islamic window of Sohar International, has introduced three new Sharia-compliant credit cards. 

 

These cards offer a range of benefits in travel, wellness, and lifestyle, meeting the increasing demand for premium services and unique experiences.  (Zawya)

 

UAE

MYTM and AlHuda CIBE partner to drive global expansion of Islamic fintech
MYTM, an Islamic fintech firm, and AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics (CIBE) have inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

 

The collaboration underscores their shared commitment to driving innovation and accessibility in Islamic finance. (Zawya)

 

 

Trade Developments


Azerbaijan / Türkiye

Azerbaijan participates in training on "Islamic banking, finance" in Turkiye

The Small and Medium Business Development Agency (SMBDA) and the Participation Banks Association of Turkey collaborated on a training initiative titled "Islamic Banking and Finance" in Istanbul, aimed at enhancing expertise within financial sectors, according to Azernews.

 

Representatives from various Azerbaijani institutions attended, including the ministry of economy, Central Bank, and Entrepreneurship Development Fund, and banks. (Azernews)

 

Malaysia

GFIEF to help Malaysia become top innovator in Islamic finance

The upcoming Global Forum of Islamic Economics and Finance (GFIEF) in Kuala Lumpur, slated for the end of May, presents an opportunity for Malaysia to reclaim its status as a leading innovator in Islamic finance, according to Treasury secretary-general Datuk Johan Mahmood Merican.

 

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim believes Malaysia's Islamic finance industry has matured enough to develop its own products and collaborate with other Islamic countries. (Pakistan Observer)

Halal Industry
Halal industry wrap: Brunei aims to import halal food from Bangladesh

Here's a roundup of key developments across the halal industry ecosystem during the first week of May

Editor's note: Brunei has revealed its interest in importing Bangladeshi halal food, a welcome note for the South Asian country. Meanwhile, Indonesia is keen to up its 'halal' game, by enforcing mandatory halal certifications on local products. 

Company News


Qatar

Lulu launches Thai halal food promotion in Qatar

Lulu Hypermarket Qatar has launched the Thai Halal Food Promotion, a culinary extravaganza showcasing Thailand's diverse flavors and cultural heritage.

 

The inauguration was held at the D-ring branch of Lulu Hypermarket. (The Peninsula)

 

 

Regulatory


Indonesia

Halal certification of products mandatory from October

The Ministry of Trade in Indonesia is set to enforce mandatory halal certification for products manufactured by the country's micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) from October 2024 onwards.

 

Minister of Trade Zulkifli Hasan emphasized the necessity of this measure during an announcement in Tangerang, highlighting its role in enhancing consumer and producer confidence and bolstering product competitiveness in the global market. (Antara News)

 

 

Trade Developments


Malaysia / Japan

Malaysia discusses bilateral trade cooperation, role as halal hub with Japan

Deputy agriculture and food security minister Arthur Joseph Kurup and Japanese parliamentary vice-minister for agriculture, forestry and fisheries Mitsuo Takahashi met to explore avenues of collaboration between Malaysia and Japan.

 

The discussions encompassed bilateral trade cooperation, the agricultural sector, and Malaysia's burgeoning role as a halal hub, presenting opportunities for mutual benefit. (The Star)

 

Brunei / Bangladesh

Brunei keen to import halal food from Bangladesh

Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud revealed Brunei's interest in importing halal food items from Bangladesh, signaling potential economic cooperation between the two nations.

 

The official emphasized Bangladesh's stance in enhancing trade ties and fostering investment, particularly evident during recent diplomatic engagements across Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. (TBS News)

 

Saudi Arabia / Malaysia

IsDB, HPDC and HDC's collaboration to spearhead innovation for global halal industry

The Halal Economy Leadership Forum 2024 was held in Riyadh, bringing together industry leaders, policymakers, and experts to deliberate on the role of the halal economy in global commerce.

 

Jointly hosted by the Halal Development Corporation (HDC), Halal Products Development Company (HPDC), and Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the forum underscored the importance of collaboration and innovation within the halal industry for sustained growth and development. (Zawya)

 


 

UPCOMING EVENTS :

Halal Industry
Americana's profit drops as Gaza crisis hurt sales 

American Restaurants International’s profit tumbled in the first quarter of 2024, as MENA-based customers continue to reject Western brands in response to the Gaza conflict. 

The quick service restaurant operator reported a 16.3% dip in revenues year-on-year, to $493.5 million. 

Net profit dipped more steeply, from $58.1 million in the first quarter of 2023 to $28 million in Q1 this year – a drop of 51.8%.  

Americana, which runs 2,456 restaurants across the region, attributed the decline in sales to “ongoing geopolitical tensions in the region, as well as the seasonal effect of Ramadan period”.

The company, which operates brands such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardee’s and Krispy Kreme across the MENA region, opened 37 new outlets in the first three months of this year, with a similar count of stores under construction. The operator slashed almost 100 jobs amid internal restructuring and consumer disengagement, following the Gaza crisis. 

Americana’s shareholders approved a total dividend of $179.4 million – equivalent to $0.0213 per share - at its annual general meeting held on April 24. The company, which is listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and Tadawul, expects to open 200-225 new stores this year. 

Several US brands perceived as pro-Israel have been hard-hit in the wake of the Palestinian conflict. Kuwait-based Alshaya Group confirmed in March that it planned to furlough employees across its Starbucks MENA stores. It was also in talks to sell a minority stake in the coffee chain's regional business. 

 

OIC Economies
OIC wrap: IsDB leads group of banks to expand lending capacity

Here's a roundup of key developments across the OIC network during the month of April

Editor's note: It's Islamic Development Bank's 50th anniversary this month, so it is only right to kickstart this wrap with lender-relevant news. The group leads a consortium of development banks in broadening lending capacity over the next decade to address global challenges. It has also agreed to finance water projects in Kazakhstan. 

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy production in Azerbaijan.

Trade Developments


Organization of Islamic Cooperation

Arab League, OIC Islamic Broadcasting Union sign protocol

The Arab League announced plans to sign a media cooperation protocol between its secretariat’s media and communication sector and the OIC Islamic Broadcasting Union.

 

This initiative aims to strengthen ties between the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Radio and Television Union.

 

It underscores the commitment of the General Secretariat to enhance relations with regional and international organizations. (Arab News)

 

Oman / Uzbekistan

Oman, Uzbekistan sign agreement to strengthen cooperation

Oman's foreign minister met with his Uzbek counterpart in Tashkent to bolster ties between the two nations.

 

The discussions centered on enhancing cooperation in trade, investment, education, and cultureAn agreement was signed to fortify future collaboration strategies.

 

Both ministers explored avenues to boost trade, focusing on energy, transportation, agriculture, and industry, while also encouraging business ventures between Omani and Uzbek companies. (Zawya)

 

UAE / ASEAN

UAE, ASEAN discuss economic cooperation and halal industries

UAE Minister of Economy, Abdulla bin Touq, engaged in talks with ASEAN Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn in Riyadh, covering various economic aspects. The dialogue encompassed bilateral trade and investment, finance, and the halal industry.

 

Both parties explored avenues to bolster economic collaboration, particularly emphasizing small and medium enterprises, halal industries, and finance, highlighting potential areas for mutual growth. (The Print)

 

 

Investment


Pakistan
IsDB celebrates finalizing Pakistan’s Mohmand Dam Hydropower project

The completion of the Mohmand Dam Hydropower Project in Pakistan was celebrated at the Islamic Development Bank's headquarters in Jeddah. This project underscores the bank's dedication to member countries and its vision for sustainability.

 

With an estimated annual generation of 2,862 gigawatts of renewable energy, the dam reduces reliance on fossil fuels while supporting agricultural development over 6,773 hectares, bolstering food security and livelihoods for farmers. (Zawya)

 

Saudi Arabia
Islamic Development Bank leads group of banks to widen lending target

A coalition of financial institutions, spearheaded by the Islamic Development Bank, plans to boost its lending capacity by $300-$400 billion over the next decade to address global disparities.

 

The initiative follows a meeting of presidents from ten multilateral development banks in Washington, D.C., aimed at enhancing their collective impact on development challenges and coordinating efforts for 2024 and beyond. (Arab News)

 

Kazakhstan
Islamic Development Bank to finance water projects in Kazakhstan

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has agreed to extend grants and financing for water projects in Kazakhstan, following discussions between Kazakh deputy prime minister Nurlan Baibazarov and IsDB group chair Muhammad Al Jasser in Saudi Arabia on April 29.

 

The funding will support initiatives including the construction and renovation of reservoirs, hydraulic structures, and irrigation systems, alongside investments in digitalization and water-saving technologies. (The Astana Times)

 

Türkiye
Islamic Development bank approves $418m fund for new development projects 

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has allocated a $418 million fund for new development endeavors spanning Tajikistan, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Türkiye, as revealed in a statement during its annual meeting and golden jubilee in Riyadh.

 

The bank's board, convening for its 355th meeting, greenlit these projects, emphasizing socio-economic development and sustainability. (Daily Sabah)

 

 

ESG Developments


Azerbaijan / Saudi Arabia
ACWA Power inks deal to drive renewable energy development in Azerbaijan

Saudi energy major ACWA Power is forging ahead with renewable energy projects in Azerbaijan through a new agreement with its state oil company SOCAR.

 

This collaboration centers on evaluating the 'Low-Carbon/Green Fertilizer' project.

 

It aims to produce green hydrogen to aid in the decarbonization of SOCAR's downstream assets, advancing sustainable energy development in the region. (Arab News)

Islamic Lifestyle
Islamic lifestyle wrap: Iranians head to Saudi for first Umrah in nine years

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the month of April

Editor's note: In the run-up to the annual Hajj pilgrimage, countries are stepping up to ensure a smooth journey for their residents. Nigeria's hajj commission has inked agreements with local carriers to facilitate travel, Pakistan has commenced Hajj training, while Indonesia is securing banknotes to offer allowance to this year's pilgrims. 

Meanwhile, a group of Iranian nationals made their way to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah after a nine-year hiatus, following an agreement between the two countries. Iran is also keen to step up cultural and tourism collaboration with neighbour Oman. 

 

 

Company News


Sri Lanka

Kirsche Capital unveils modest collection

Colombo's fashion landscape welcomes Kirsche Capital, a valuable addition introducing its latest collection, blending affordability, trendiness, and modesty in contemporary fashion.

 

Kirsche Capital is the brainchild of CEO and co-founder Dr. Sarah Fazy, a fashion enthusiast committed to merging fashion with pioneering designs. (Newswire)

 

United Kingdom

Bradford Bulls become first UK rugby club to sign up as Muslim Friendly Employers

Bradford Bulls has become the first rugby league in the UK to sign up as Muslim Friendly Employers.

 

In a statement on April 3, the club affirmed its commitment to fostering an environment of inclusivity, where everyone feels valued and respected.

 

Humayun Islam BEM BCAc, CEO of Muslim Friendly Employers, praised the Bulls' initiative, emphasizing genuine inclusion over mere tolerance. (Telegraph & Argus)

 

Singapore

Qalbox to enrich Islamic learning for children

Qalbox, an initiative by the creators of Muslim Pro, has collaborated with NoorKids and Durioo+ to enrich educational resources for Muslim children globally.

 

This partnership integrates education and entertainment, catering to the unique needs of young Muslim audiences.

 

NoorKids, recognized for its captivating Islamic educational content, and Durioo+, acclaimed for its Islamic cartoons and animations, have joined Qalbox to enhance the quality and availability of Islamic educational materials. (Global Newswire)

 

 

Trade Developments


Nigeria

Hajj 2024: NAHCON signs contract with air carriers

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has inked agreements with Nigerian carriers Max Air and Air Peace to transport Hajj pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia this year.

 

NAHCON chairman, Malama Jalal Arabi urged the airlines to deliver excellent services to Nigerian Muslim pilgrims. (Leadership)

 

Russia

Russia seeks to attract medical tourists from Islamic nations

The 15th International Economic Summit, themed "Russia-Islamic World: Kazan Forum," is set to commence on May 25 in Kazan, with a significant focus on health tourism.

 

Russia aims to attract tourists from Islamic nations for medical purposes, marking a strategic move. Halal medical tourism, previously launched in Russia, is now under development. (Nour News)

 

Oman / Iran

Tehran, Muscat to step up cultural, tourism collaboration

Iran’s minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts met with Oman’s Minister of Social Development, emphasizing the need to enhance tourism and cultural ties between the nations.

 

Ezzatollah Zarghami highlighted the importance of strengthening bilateral relations, especially in tourism, given the shared maritime boundary, which offers opportunities for social cohesion. (Tehran Times)

 

 

Regulatory


Saudi Arabia / Iran

Iranians head to Saudi for first Umrah pilgrimage in nine years

Iranian pilgrims embarked on their first Umrah pilgrimage in nine years, traveling from Iran to Saudi Arabia through Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport.

 

The journey follows a recent agreement between Tehran and Riyadh to restore diplomatic ties brokered by China.

 

While Iranians were permitted to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage last year, Umrah had been inaccessible until now. (Al Arabiya News)

 

 

Education


Pakistan

Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony in Pakistan has initiated the second phase of Hajj trainings nationwide in preparation for the annual pilgrimage, scheduled for June this year.

 

Saudi Arabia reinstated Pakistan's pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims last year, lifting the age limit of 65 years. (Arab News)

 

 

Investment


Indonesia

Govt procures $41m banknotes for Hajj pilgrims' allowance

The Indonesian Hajj Fund Management Agency (BPKH) has allocated more than 159 million Saudi riyals (US$40.96 million) in Saudi riyal banknotes to support the living expenses of more than 200,000 Hajj pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia this year.

 

Each pilgrim under the regular program will receive 750 riyals ($199) in cash at their final embarkation or transit point before departure.

 

BPKH official Sulistyowati expressed hope that this support would enhance the comfort and safety of the pilgrims' Hajj journey. (Antara News)


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