Abdul Bari Masoud talks to Dr. Rahmatullah, who, taking a cue from Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi’s economic concepts and ideas, launched a cooperative credit society to uplift the downtrodden people from the morass of poverty.

Eminent Islamic economist Prof. Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqui was an epitome of modesty, uprightness and, most of all, kindness. He was a captivating and admiring personality for academics.

Dr. Siddiqi inspired a generation. Dr Rahmatullah belongs to that generation; he taught economics in a college affiliated to the University of Mumbai. Taking a cue from Dr. Siddiqi’s economic concepts and ideas, he launched a cooperative credit society to uplift the downtrodden people from the morass of poverty.  

Dr Rahmatullah is Chief Promoter and Chairman of the Janseva Cooperative Credit Society Ltd., which has presence in many parts of the country.

In a tête-à-tête with Radiance, Dr. Rahmatullah paid rich tributes to King Faisal International Prize-winning economist Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi, saying his death is a personal loss to him.

In response to a question, he said, “Let me first pray to Almighty Allah to award all past Islamic scholars, particularly late Dr. M. Nejatullah Siddiqi, who expired as a globally acknowledged and accredited Islamic scholar, His pleasure and high place in Jannatul Firdaus and also Sabr and Sukoon to all the members of his family, relatives and friends.”

The universe and everything therein are created by the Creator and the Sustainer, Who has destined expiry and death to all His creations and creatures. It implies that all including human beings belong to Him and therefore finally has to go back to Him. Hence birth and death are normal and natural phenomena. While death of every ordinary creature does cause sadness and sorrow, but the death of an individual placed at a very high echelon of knowledge, wideness, intellect and wisdom causes more sadness, sorrow and agony, he added.

Continuing his tributes, Dr. Rahmatullah said winning the King Faisal International Prize for his contributions in the academic and global Islamic Movement is a sufficient proof of holding a very high status in the global community. And it is here we are reminded about the common understanding that the death of such a scholar amounts to the death of life and the living world.  It is here that we, one and all, should feel concerned with heavy hearts about the death of late Prof. Dr. Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi. To me his death is a personal loss for a number of reasons.   

Excerpts:

Was Dr. Nejatullah a source of inspiration for your ideas and activities?

I joined AMU in 1971 for my PG and PhD in Economics. As a student I came in contact with many professors, especially Dr. M. Nejatullah Siddiqi and Dr. F.R. Faridi. Both of these professors, who had been associated with the Islamic Movement of India, greatly influenced my learning and priorities. Truly speaking, they were not only teachers but my Mentors and like Guardians who largely affected my thought and action. More specifically, Dr. Siddiqi, whose writings on Islamic economics and interest-free banking positively tuned my thought process as I was specialising at PG in Banking theory and practice.

You’re trying to put some of Dr. Nejatullah’s alternative economics approach into practice. Explain it?

Since I completed my postgraduation in economics, I started my journey in the monetary sector. Initially with charity organisation in 1982 and thereafter a small cooperative credit society in 1984 with limited area and scope. Within available legal provisions and 20 years field experience motivated me to seek support from friends who succeeded in registering Janseva Cooperative Credit Society Ltd. in March 2010 with permission to operate in 12 major states of India. Alhamdulillah the journey continues with the push and pull of motivation I regularly got from Dr. Siddiqi.

How do you see the future of the interest-free finance sector in India?

Janseva, which was registered with mere 700 basic members and a paid-up share of `1,79,000/- in March 2010, with Mumbai as headquarters, now has 32 branches, 49,000+ members, `53Cr as working capital providing interest-free finance to the tune of `3.5Cr every month to around 500 members p.m. It includes rehabilitation cost free loan/ grant to destabilised micro businessmen, non-commercial personal service charge-based loans/ finance and commercial/ business purpose finance/ loans. It has evolved a practicable successful model hence becoming visible as an ethical based multistate society in India next to none. It is gaining ground slowly but steadily.  However, the present status may be treated as less than satisfactory or may even be called decimal performance, keeping in view its conceptual superiority over most money and capital market plans and players in the country. Many known and unknown factors may be reasons for the current status.

What kinds of difficulties and legal obstacles did you face during this long journey?

The greatest challenge that Islamic eco-financial system in India faces today is almost irreparable damage done in terms of colossal monetary loss of the community resources touching trillions of rupees in the name of Islamic finance in the immediate past three decades. This has turned the table totally against Islamic finance and the financial system at the mass scale. Those who listen and give positive responses give meagre deposits and want assurance that they will not be bitten again. And that no betrayal and fraud will be repeated in the name of Islamic finance and banking. Truly speaking, there is a grain of truth in their fear and focus. Unscrupulous people and dubious players in this field may be alleged to be grossly responsible for destroying an otherwise positive environment for Islamic finance and the financial system.

However, a few other roadblocks and/or speed breakers may be enumerated as non-conducive legal hurdles, conflict and confusion about the nature of Riba/interest, perverted corrupt mindset and hypocritic attitude and approach of the community, non-availability of qualified staff added with relatively higher operational cost recovery from the members are some of the apparent reasons responsible for slow pace of acceptance and growth of zero-interest-based operative cooperative institutions across the country. Although uncomfortable yet a field player is not disappointed.

Did you take some advice from Dr. Siddiqi in running this venture?

Dr. Siddiqi’s two personal pieces of advice – first to wait and not jump to judgement on every outcome and stick to your teaching profession and avoid putting on or being a burden to social service and social business – were a kind of Nasīhat which I still follow and hold tightly to till day. It reduced enmity, enlarged the friend circle and removed frustration to a large extent.  Success at the micro level is silver lining providing a Ray of Hope which is the last thing to lose. Let us wait for grand success in days to come provided untiring players’ play and people’s participation at a wide scale continue. I am convinced with conviction that our success in terms of a sound Islamic finance institution and its social business will be a True Tribute to the late Dr. Mohammed Nejatullah Siddiqi, my teacher so Special and so Respected.

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