A few weeks ago, I wrote about using social media – specifically Twitter – as a venue for religious expression. Twitter continues to be in the headlines, this time because of their recent debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Why is this today’s subject on Everyday Religion?
Because Twitter has joined the ranks of companies that have been approved for Muslim investors.
Among Muslims across the world, investments must follow the strict Shari’ah laws regarding finances. The Shari’ah is based on the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred text, and “governs all aspects of personal and collective life of Muslims” (HSBC, Introduction to Islamic Investing). This means when Muslim companies or individuals participate in the buying, selling, and trading of stocks, the companies they choose to invest in must meet the Shari’ah laws. There are two big categories all potential investments fall into: Halal or Haram.
Companies and corporations that do not manufacture or sell goods forbidden to Muslims, such as pork and pork products, are considered halal. Common industries for Muslims to invest in include chemical manufacturing, computers and computer software, energy, telecommunications, and textiles (source: Islamic Principles, Halal vs. Haram).
On the other side of things, businesses are considered haram when they make money in unacceptable ways or deal with products forbidden to Muslims. Industries that are considered haram – that Muslims should in no way support or deal with financially – include alcohol, gambling, pork and pork products, and pornography. Shari’ah scholars also advise against investments in tobacco and weapon companies (source: Islamic Principles, Halal vs. Haram). It’s not just the industry that puts a company into the realm of haram. A distinctive and key aspect “of Islamic finance is the prohibition of interest, whether nominal or excessive, simple or compound, fixed or floating”(HSBC, Introduction to Islamic Investing). Citigroup, for example, is non-compliant with Shari’ah law because of its heavy handed use of interest.
Going back to social media, Muslims can freely invest in Google, Apple, Linkedin, and now Twitter (complete list of Shari’ah compliant companies at IdeaRatings). While I don’t dabble in stocks, I can see more of the general public interested in investing in Twitter, a service millions upon millions of people use every day. However, do Muslims have more of a tie to the social media site because of its presence during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings? Andrew Torchia of the Huffington Post thinks so, saying that “Twitter has political significance for many people in the Muslim world because it was used to coordinate mass protests against the autocratic governments toppled by the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.” I think this statement brings up an interesting question: now that Twitter shares can be bought, sold, and traded, will the relationship between Twitter and the Arab Spring have an impact on the number of Islamic financial institutions and Muslim individuals who invest in the company?
Shari’ah laws regarding investments and finances brings religion and money sharply together, and makes us think about how our faith influences – or should influence – our spending. Do you remember your religion when you reach for your wallet?
- Religious People Give Money, But Is That Enough? (another look at the intersection of money and faith)