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Cryptocurrency Comes To Islam




Two recent developments see blockchain technology expand into Islamic spaces.

Mosque Receives Cryptocurrency Donations

In May, it was announced that Shacklewell Lane Mosque in London would accept cryptocurrency donations. On July 13, the house of worship revealed it had collected 13,983 pounds (about $18,250 at time of press) in crypto donations during Ramadan, as opposed to only 3,460 pounds (about $4,500) in cash donations. In total, there were 24 crypto donations, one being worth more than 5,200 pounds.

The amount raised came as a pleasant surprise to the congregation. The mosque's chairman, Erkin Guney, commented on the effort's success:

"Many people at the mosque were initially skeptical about us accepting this new money, but the fact we received four times more in cryptocurrency donations shows how important it is to be open to these new digital currencies."

Guney added that the mosque is "still receiving cryptocurrency Sadaqah [donations]. It is amazing!" The mosque's website shows that it is accepting contributions in the form of bitcoin or Ether. The money will be used for mosque repairs, helping poor Muslim families pay for funerals, and food and shelter for underprivileged individuals within the surrounding area.

The mosque announced it was accepting crypto donations about a month after an Indonesian Islamic scholar, Muhammad Abu-Bakar, declared bitcoin halal (acceptable under Sharia).

Stellar Clinches Islamic Certification

According to Reuters, blockchain platform Stellar recently received financial certification from the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB), an Islamic advisory firm licensed by Bahrain's central bank. The certification states that the Stellar blockchain and its native cryptocurrency, lumens, are compliant with Sharia.

However, while the SRB has significant influence, it is not the end-all-be-all authority on Sharia, and there is some debate among Islamic scholars as to whether cryptocurrencies are halal. There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding Sharia. To clarify, as Asifa Quraishi-Landes said in The Washington Post:

"Sharia is not a book of statutes or judicial precedent imposed by a government, and it's not a set of regulations adjudicated in court. Rather, it is a body of Koran-based guidance that points Muslims toward living an Islamic life. It doesn't come from the state, and it doesn't even come in one book or a single collection of rules."

Stellar has been on a quest to explore partnerships with financial firms throughout the Persian Gulf. Lisa Nestor, Stellar's director of partnership, said that seeking certification of Sharia compliance has helped with this endeavor. "We have been looking to work with companies that facilitate remittances, including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain," she said. "It's a huge market."

Stellar boasts that its partnership with IBM allows it to offer fast, cheap cross-border payments to international banks, which is something Gulf countries have demonstrated an interest in. For example, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, signed a cooperation agreement in June with Hong Kong to encourage financial innovation across borders.

Still, the ambivalence about whether or not crypto is halal can leave Islamic investors unsure about dealing in crypto. However, the perspectives of authorities like the SRB seem to be respected by various organizations – both the Shacklewell Lane Mosque and Stellar have begun their foray into the Islamic cryptospace.

Dani Putney

Dani is a full-time writer for ETHNews. He received his bachelor's degree in English writing from the University of Nevada, Reno, where he also studied journalism and queer theory. In his free time, he writes poetry, plays the piano, and fangirls over fictional characters. He lives with his partner, three dogs, and two cats in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.

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