The Eleventh Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance, organized by the Harvard University Islamic Finance Project, was held from April 25 to 27, 2014, in Austin Hall at Harvard Law School, Harvard University, under the theme “Takaful and Alternative Cooperative Finance.” The Eleventh Forum sought to reassess and critically engage with issues of risk sharing, mutuality, solidarity, and socioeconomic welfare in the context of a discussion about Takaful and other types of cooperative financial solutions. The Centre was represented at the Eleventh Forum by Prof. Savaş Alpay, Director-General, and Mr. Nadi Serhan Aydin, Senior Researcher.
The Eleventh Forum attracted some 70 speakers from a diverse geography. The two-day conference was structured around three plenary sessions and eight parallel academic sessions.
Prof. Savaş Alpay addressed the Eleventh Forum on its second day at the plenary session titled “Takaful and Cooperation: Socio-economic Impact.” During the session, Prof. Alpay presented his comments and perspectives on the two discussion papers: namely, “Solidarity, Cooperation, and Mutuality in Takaful” by Prof. Volker Nienhaus, Reading University & INCEIF, and “Reimagining Takaful: A New Model for Social Banking” by Hussam Sultan, HSBC Amanah, and Abdur-Rahman Syed, Fajir Capital. His speech covered some critical issues pertaining to the current practice of Takaful such as its value-proposal, major differences between Takaful and conventional insurance, main sources of discussion in the contemporary practice of Takaful, and the challenges and prospects for Takaful moving forward. Prof. Alpay reminded the audience that the losses absorbed by the conventional insurance industry during the financial crisis might have been in the excess of US$ 250 billion, indicating an opportunity for Takaful industry to offer a more resilient alternative. He also noted that as long as the spiritual and conscientious benefits of Takaful were not pronounced enough and it remained to be understood as a purely commercial concept, then, there was the risk that the monetary objectives resulting from the competition in the commercial arena would override supra-monetary objectives.
During the first day of the Forum, Prof. Alpay also chaired an academic session which was held under the theme “Takaful: The New Paradigm for Financial Protection” and included a number of high-quality research papers by renowned scholars.
The Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance was introduced in 1997 to engage scholars, practitioners and regulators in productive dialogue about the then-nascent field. Previous forums have focused on recent economic and political developments in Muslim majority societies, innovation and authenticity, the global recession, and points of contact between Islamic finance and other types of ethical finance.
For further information on the Eleventh Forum, please visit http://ifp.law.harvard.edu/.