A Tribute to Dr M Nejatullah Siddiqi
I am a proud and privileged student of Dr Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqi. Most people who know him talk about his pioneering works in the field of Islamic economics and about the many awards and accolades that followed his seminal books “Banking without Interest” and “Insurance in an Islamic Economy”. He was the recepient of the King Faisal International Prize for Contribution to Islamic Studies in the year 1982. Many called him the Father of Islamic Economics. He was a full Professor at the International Centre of Research in Islamic Economics and credited with dozens of original research studies and publications in the emerging field.
However, I remember him for very different reasons. I remember him as a kind and humble man filled with empathy and concern for the young, and with enormous amount of tolerance for disagreement as befits a true academic.
It was the year 1997. I came across a series of research papers on Currency Exchange in Islam published as a collection by the Islamic Fiqh Academy (India). I was then serving a reputed B-School in India as an Assistant Professor of Finance and was yet to be fully introduced to the idea of an Islamic economy. I was browsing through the research papers, when one of them on the subject of bai-salam in currencies caught my attention. It was by Dr Nejatullah Siddqi. It contained an illustration, which to my mind, had certain inaccuracies. As I started to understand the points presented in those paragraphs, I wrote a counter to the same. When I combined all the ideas and thoughts, I had one more research paper in my hands. Since there was hardly any other research journal in the field, I sent the paper to the Journal published by Islamic Economics Institute of the King Abdulaziz University, then known as the International Centre of Research for Islamic Economics, albeit with some scepticism about its publishability. I was pleasantly surprised when the paper was published backed by very strong recommendations by Dr Siddiqi as a distinguished member of the Editorial Board. The paper won his recommendation even if its arguments ran contrary to his own.
And soon Dr Siddiqi sent a message to me exhorting me to undertake further research in Islamic economics and finance. I was so excited that I planned an immediate visit to the Kingdom to present another paper of mine on Islamic Options. Yes, I remember Dr Siddiqi rushing out of his office when I managed to reach the doors of the Institute and informing me that a seminar was scheduled the same day where economists from KAAU as well as the Islamic Development Bank were invited. During my presentation, I learnt far more than any of the participants perhaps and realized that this was the place I would love to be and these were the people I would love to work with. This was my break, my move away from conventional finance and economics, toward Islamic finance and economics.
I can go on an on with stories about his wisdom, his vision, logical approach and clarity of thoughts, and ability to read the future. He was among the few Islamic economists who saw a lot of merit in my proposal to build knowledge-portals under IBF Net: The Islamic Business and Finance Network dedicated to specific scholars in the sunrise field and their works. The portal Islamic-Economics.Com was among the first few dedicated portals that contained his pioneering works. IBF Net continues to host them today at
I woke up today with the news that Dr Siddiqi is no more. He played a huge role in building my knowledge of Islamic economics and finance, and in the making of what IBF Net is today. Please join me and team IBF Net in our prayer. May Allah swt forgive all his sins and grant him Jannatul Firdaus, Aameen.
by Mohammed Obaidullah, Founder, IBF Net