Almir Colan is a Director at the Australian Centre for Islamic Finance (AUSCIF) and CEO at Olive Investments. Almir is also an advisor to a number of institutions that provide Islamic finance services.
In this episode, we discussed a bit about his childhood and Bosnia where he grew up. We also discussed a bit of history, Islamic Finance, and cryptocurrencies as well.
Maruf: Assalamualaikum! This is your host, Maruf. Welcome to the show Muslims On Fire. Today, I have my friend and he’s from Australia. He is an expert when it comes to Islamic Finance. And actually, he is the first person who also produced a podcast. He’s a fellow podcaster. Welcome brother and welcome to the show.
Almir: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Maruf: So, brother Almir, we are gonna deep dive about your life story, where you were born, your family, what you do and spell that. Please, tell us about your childhood memories. If you look back today, what do you think that shaped you who you are today?
Almir: Well, I was born in Bosnia Herzegovina. And if you ever went to Bosnia, it’s a beautiful city located on mountains and built by ottoman style. And there are a lot of different cultures which actually contribute that. But I used to live in this old part.
Maruf: That helps the Oriental.
Almir: Yeah, Old Town like, built by Ottoman Turkish sort of architecture. You feel like you are in Istanbul and my early memory is going to school. I always remember that I was walking through the pasture which is like town.
It’s a square or some middle of the business part of the old town and just walking is the kid to the school morning going through next to the bakeries and stopping to get some food and you know that.
Maruf: These are the most nstagic moments.
Almur: Yeah. These are nostalgic moments when I was a kid.
Maruf: What kind of kid were you? A good kid or you were one of those kids to give trouble to the teachers.
Almir: I think early on maybe I was a really big troublemaker. But later on, I actually enjoyed school learning. Although I didn’t like to do the homework and stuff like that and I just like that and I also did like to read in the beginning, you know.
So I guess somehow I would get good grades. I would figure out what’s happening, but I didn’t have a structured learning. You know, no one told you how to learn when you were writing essays that there is a structure. So I was at first maybe my primary school totally lost or any kind of organized to learn.
Maruf: Let me ask you, when you were going to school, it seems you anyway, so what specific subject you were really passionate or just like everything that you’re taught about?
Almir: I really enjoyed history. I had a teacher she would teach history in a way of telling us stories. I never opened a book of history. But until today, I remembered the story. She used to tell us.
And actually just the other day, I was talking with one of my friends how even when I think about history what I learned is the kid I somehow brought this do those information because the way she would teach us was really to tell it in a way that you can picture it, you can imagine it.
Maruf: It’s a story.
Almir: Yeah. It’s a story. And for us, where my school was a primary school. There is a lot of history in that place, you know, maybe three, four hundred meters from my school, the first world war started.
Almir: You know, when the prince Ferdinand shot argues that’s part of the first World War you know. You have just maybe a couple hundred meters, you have places where our first president Eliezer bigger, which was imprisoned with my grandfather after the Second World War.
Literally just a stone threw away within the last Bosnian War. We had major conflicts and the defense of our city was happening. So we have a lot of history in this small place. So when you learn history in our context, you’ll learn a lot of different things, always East and West used to colied in Bosnia in that environment.
Maruf: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was trying to see. So, it would be a small city, like I don’t contact but if you look at the sub context, even if you just mentioned that the first out of the First World War, right? It’s not a constant coincidence, right?
There was something going on behind it. And then this teacher will tell you guys at a time like this story is not just a sister is like, number. In fact, it’s just making a sense to it. That’s why you liked history.
Almir: Yeah. She was a great teacher. Although that time, Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia. So it was Communist country and what used to happen. She was actually communist. She was served and she was little bit not live to choose quite anti-islamic, you know anti-muslim.
But at that, we didn’t understand that. So, I remember, one day she asked us like we like to because she would tell us these stories and then if we were good five minutes at the end of the class you tell us the stories from Greek mythology, you know again, very interesting story for the kids, you know to listen.
Anyway, one day, she wanted to teach us a little bit about different religions, different things. And I remember she asked us to know who is Muslim, who is at Greek Orthodox know we have different religions in Bosnia because of European, Jeruzalem.
You know anyway, she then asked us, you know, in Communists, in communist countries. You are not allowed to practice the religions. You can call yourself whatever you want, but no way of practicing.
So she didn’t ask us and this was maybe I don’t know, how many years before would let’s say five years old or more before the war. She asked them how many of you actually went to the mosque.
And at that time before the war, you know, when we were kids and we all brought up without much religion and one of my friends Amir, he was the only one who raised his hand. He says I am going to the mosque.
And then she said him and I remember until today. She said to him. I’m very disappointed in you, Amir and we were like, shocked. Why would she be disappointed, he was going to the mosque. It never occurred to us, you know.
Anyway, maybe a few years after that, maybe half the class, going to the mosque, you know, and Yeah,so it’s interesting. We were very naive although we were learning history and she was a very good teacher in the historic sense of telling great stories.
Maruf: That’s cool. So I mean if you like today I think I can imagine, like we will discuss in a bit. I think the Islamic Finance one of your passion areas is that this what you talk about is what podcast about but if you look back to your childhood, does any of these relate to any of these?
Right now, you are discussing history. I’m just trying to connect that. How did the history end up being connected to finance? So like okay, so I thought that maybe we will connect the correction later. So you did this call. When was it?
Right now your base in Australia was like, when did you and your family like going to Australia? Was it soon after those memories or would take a couple of years?
Almir: And then in 92, we had a war in Bosnia and it was the longest war in modern warfare in the way that the city was under siege for over thousand days. So after that experience in the war in 96 I decided to go.
Actually I was injured within the war and wanted to go to Australia where I had some relatives to study and also get a huge, you know, try to get myself fixed enough and for whatever reason.
Maruf: Can I ask you some questions? For some of us may not know the context. Can you just I know, word is this pretty bad thing. It went a long time. But how would you describe the war that happened in Bosnia in a shortened?
Briefly, for those of us who had never heard of it.
Almir: Yeah, so before the 19’s, Bosnia was part of a bigger country called Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had six parts republicans. Most of you know, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenian, Macedonia and Bosnia. So, Serbs, they were Croat. They are Catholics and that was a different kind of similar sort of split. Mostly in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, there’s all of Muslims Serbs in Christ sort of mixed.
Maruf: When you see Muslims as Serbs. But Muslim is not nationality and service a nationality, isn’t it?
Almir: Yeah. We almost connect serbs almost with Orthodox like almost interchangeably.
Maruf: So what you mean, is that our Orthdox Christian and Muslim?
Almir: Okay, so Orthodox Catholics and Muslims they were mostly mixed in Bosnia a little bit less in Serbia and a little bit less in Croatia. So the 90’s communism is collapsing around the world Berlin Wall all of that Russia, you know getting instant. That’s right.
Maruf: We’re a part of the society in Uzbekistan, we know that. But you guys were part of it. But maybe some kind of attach to influence, right?
Almir: So, they were kind of independent, but it was still communism one-party system. So that one party system is collapsing and then we are starting this Democratic process with suddenly Muslims got their own party, Orthodox their own party to everybody’s getting their own party. Now, they’re getting their own party.
If the republic wants its own independence. Slovenians getting out, Croatia getting out. They want their own State. They don’t want to be with Serbs and then Bosnians are looking and they see Slovenians are going, Macedonians gonna go, Croatians gonna go.
Well, we don’t stay just us and in the greater Serbia. So we vote for independence. We have elections, we select President Alliez vecca. It was his fifty percent Muslims, but for whatever reason serves are controlling the military and they want to kind of unite pockets wherever the Serb people are.And they don’t want to let go. So, they attacked Slovenia and the reserve would attack Croatia.
Maruf: Is that the massive work? Because I guess they were the stronger one in the community.
Almir: Yes. They were very strong. They had their military, they had upper hand in many ways. So they wanted to unite Serbia with the part north of these countries that wants to have one. Let’s see half of Yugoslavia would be under them in a sense.
So then it all comes down to Bosnia because they had about 30 percent Serbs, 15 percent Catholics and 50 percent Muslims bosnians and most Muslims they were not represented in the military. They didn’t have any strategic positions to equip themselves and figure out what’s going on.
And then everything collapses on them. Serbs and Croats figure out it lets we have a differences but we unite and taking Bosnia into the pieces and each state taking
it and pieces of it. Muslims were basically a lift in the middle between these two forces.
We unfortunately didn’t have a chance to get any weapons, United Nations put the embargo on us. We couldn’t harm ourselves. We are located surrounded from every corner and then we started a very long process to defend ourselves to take that weapons to fight and that was about four years.
We suffered a lot of genocide, lot of you have maybe 500 much graves in Bosnia, hundreds of thousands of killed rape injured. I’ve seen many people die in front of me and you know Sarajevo we had maybe six seven million shells that they shot at us, sniper bullets, whatever you can think of David, they were throwing it, as they tried to finish us. But what a brave people student port and eventually we prevailed. We got some kind of peace.
Maruf: What’s the interesting thing in Bosnia is like you mentioned those countries.Mostly ice for the oldest National , including having like so you guys belong to Slovenian family like coming is that correct or not? Ethnically?
Almir: It is a time that we at the yeah, it’s like a Slavic people but there is also mixed up some other people there, you know, they’ll because.
Maruf: Most of the Slavic people, they tend to follow Christianity in one way of form and Bosnia is one of the few as far as I know they cannot break this law in Islam. Since you are into this, just didn’t industry as well. Is it something to do with the Ottoman Empire or Muslims earlier that they came and converted Bosnia or how did it happen that you know the history?
Almir: Yes. So what happened is that when the Roman Empire split between East and West Roman Empire as you know, East became most the dogs with the capital and became what we now call Istanbul Constantinople before that is the Room of the church. Even today, the pope of the Orthodox world is in this Istanbul.
Just like the pope of the Catholics is in the Room inventor. So when that split actually was going directly to Bosnia, there was kind of independent. There was the pope. They’re in Europe, was like a rebel and he was hiding in Bosnia.
So Bosnia was not in the East or the West they had their own unique Christian, Christian beliefs, which was much closer to Islam. It was not that deviated. That’s it. So, when Islam came it was much more natural for them because it was so close to what they already believe. Yeah.
Maruf: So, it was that there was no like what was that you just did you said that’s interesting, you know, it’s because it’s what we believe. Let’s go for that.
Almir: So, obviously, Muslim Army Turkish. Let’s say they went and they conquered these places, but they didn’t force anybody. That’s why you have creation. There be a people are still practiseing their religion and Muslims by large they accepted Islam.
I mean that those who we call Muslims today in Bosnia, they accepted but there was no force, in fact in the city of point. It’s Saturday. There is one of the church when they came from, Sulton came, he wrote a very famous this probably first in the world letter where he grants the freedom of religion to everybody in Bosnia and the surrounding.And it’s until today, I think first document in the world where the leader grants everybody freedom to practice their religion enough.
Maruf: So, thank you very much for the history, the previous reader. So tell us more about you. How you migrated to Australia? And what did you study and most importantly you want to understand a guess. How did you end up today, you know to be in love, I would say in Islamic Finance.
Almir: So, in 96, after the war I came to Australia, I was thinking temporarily just to come and do a few things but I started studying actually computer science. I wanted to do something with computer science and engineering.
I also like psychology, you know different kinds of things, after a while, I realized that somehow in the world of finance a lot of things that I hear, justices, you know advancement of people’s conditions and things like that.
It comes in here, area of finance and economy and more are the learning and reading about it, going to the classes. Somehow, it fascinated me, just the logic and reasons and I started thinking about different rules and that’s how basically I started getting into all of that.
Maruf: So, what you’re saying is that you started even maybe you were interested in IT and psychology I guess but then you see there’s a lot of discrepancy in the world that’s a lot of power at the end you want. Somehow it goes all the way back to finance.
Almir: Absolutely. I often tell a story. You know, I was traveling in Bosnia with my brother. I tried to go Bosnia and we were joking, you know, like if you inherited from somebody 500 million, what would you do? You know and one of my best say I do this business or some fun. Another one says I do other business so then I thought like if I help why not be in every business somehow.
Which’s to start Islamic banks for facilities, for something like that because it’s coming Bank was some Finance organization. They were the engines behind the economy. They drive the growth economy. And I think that very closely.
Because my brother used to work in one of the conventional Banks and I remembered whenever we would travel around Bosnia, no matter where we go. He would have a client. So you go to some Village. There are five people he would have clients and they are financing and doing things.
For me that was very fascinating. You know that I learned the bankes, you know, they had clients everywhere and they knew the best restaurants, but just the two things I learn about thinking they know the best in all the best restaurants.
Maruf: Oh, yeah best places to eat.
Almir: Yeah, because wherever we go, no matter what happens, they are taking clients some ways, you know for these appointments. So, they are the best builders of the best restaurants, you know, so what became apparents, is how banks integrated in finance?
So you are talking about the banker, about developers, about manufacturers, about somebody producing food. They all deal with money and banks. So it became clear that’s something interesting.
Maruf: So, I mean, I want two things, I would like to hear it. Why can’t I do anything to keep fact on many things on many levels, right? That’s when one of those who are looking back, interesting. So let me ask you a very blunt question like that.
I’m not from the finance sector, so maybe my question but most of the banks as far as I understand what they do is they lend money, right, for interest. It could be depending on some places from 5 to percentage. And I hear today that some crazy numbers in Uzbekistan started living for up to thirty percent. So, I think that’s how they do.
And but as far as I know it that’s prohibited in Islam. You cannot lend money and just burn a percentage on this which we call riba. I think you know more about this than I do, but I think my question is, that’s how these general banking works, isn’t it?
Almir: That’s right. So, conventional banking gets money like a commodity and the money is then pulled all the profit.
Maruf: Yeah, so my question was to do that in Islam we’re not allow to do that but some of you just mentioned, some of the good qualities that good things the bank can do by don’t get actually bmpower like give me, like differentiate. My question is this, how could we do that the right way but in Islam it’s not allowed. So, what could be the solution?
Maruf: So, Islam obviously has a solution and and the difference is how these nanks create relationships with their clients. So what we say for money to be useful, money must become something else, and then you see the selling the money you sell something else.
So the conventional bank basically, when you enter into the contract, it’s a money for money contract. So I give you a loan which is money on one end and then I get more money. So it’s a money for money and Islam prohibited that kind of transaction.
Loan in Islam is something that is benevolent charitable deed. So it should not be connected with the Prophet. So Islam basically want to separate transactions that are charitable in nature from transactions from which Prophet is allowed.
So when we look at the interest it is the profit from transaction money on money where Islam does not want to see problems. So it’s a type of profit or Reba is the profit that is illegitimate. So what is the legitimate profit, is that for me to benefit from money. I must convert money into something else.
So for example, maybe I’ll buy a house or a car or a partner with you in span of the business in that case money now became something different now when I sell this or invest this into something and then it gives some kind of the fruit or a profit then where my profit is coming from and that has some economic benefit.
So, the idea here is that you should profit by creating some kind of a benefit in society.
Maruf: I see. Yeah, it’s almost like I can start up entrepreneurship areas. It’s almost like an investor, right? Because this is what investors give them money and you have to do whatever you do. And when you make a profit so they comment and share that benefit with you.
Almir: Absolutely, if you look today, for example, how most of the businesses finance it’s through equity. So if you are going for a start-up for example, no one will give you alone, isn’t it?
Maruf: They look too risky.
Almir: You don’t have a collector. And also what is the benefit for them, okay, when I returned five percent, they 1000%,you know the story when the guy who was designing logos for Facebook. They say that a Facebook Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t pay him. So he gave him a few shares and then those shares became maybe value was the hundred bucks is logo, you know, for Facebook.
Then they issue IPO shares that guy became a millionaire. So we’ve been investing that’s different appetites. So, you know, like I’m investing in ten companies ,maybe three will succeed, maybe seven will fail. So, there is the risk, you have skin in the game. So what you are looking, is more incentive. Why should I don’t want to just make 5 percent or 10, you know, I wanna make more.
And you want to show it, you want to link your product like moments of this business and yeah, so this is where even today, is the most common way of finance, especially the startup and business.
Maruf: Yes. So I think my question is how can we enhance visits understandable like, you know, usually let me ask you another question. That’s like you see, buying a house for example, maybe the subway comes that it’s not that kind of business transaction.
I would say, like the start of is different. So when it comes to buying a house, how would it work out for example is let’s say, there’s a Islamic bank. I want to get my house in Islamic way. Is it possible or not?
Almir: It is possible, obviously to structure these transactions, obviously, depending on which country would sort of legal framework you have, there are maybe some obstacles on your way which you need to figure out how to solve for example, if we go back to the idea that you have to own something money must be something and then you sell it something rather than selling the money for money.
Then what it means is timing Banks must buy the house and then sell you the house. So, immediately you have the property of some to bring business. In most of the countries, just to buy and sell money. So you go to the regulator to taxation this department and so on and you say well we need to do it, push areas requirements tiny to buy this.
Then you can’t get the asset on your name as the organization, then even if we put there is a double taxation, which is you know, you have a sale text because you stamp duty or something like that in different countries and then when you sell it, what is the profit that you are getting.
You know, is it the interest? How do we classify that? We had the same deduction and so on. So a lot of the countries around the world, they implemented certain laws to create a parrot your treatment towards the profit from this transaction and other banking production.
And for example here in Victorian Melbourne where we have exemption from taxation double taxation. So that it’s not more expensive. So then legally we create some kind of entity. For example, you have certain trust or some other ways many many different ways.
We accept ownership of something or you have some documentation to accept ownership and then you sell it to the customer. There are different ways, depending on what sort of risk and risk Profile Bank is going. So, you can structure it as a sale which is more sort of traditional video edit course and profit you know.
It’s the least some sort of combination of the partnership. So depending what is most suitable in Australia you to the low and familiarity. Mostly it’s true, the leasing structure that we do.
Maruf: So, I mean some people say, all this what you call, selling back to just repackaging of this, but what you’re trying to say to me is that it’s depending on the context but some of the things what they, you know, it is actually doable.
Almir: It is doable some obviously, you will have certain issues. You will come across certain issues and things that depending on what you have available in terms, is the money coming from you, is the money coming from another organization, who are you dealing with even if you do not feel that. In Australia, there are different laws.
So we try always in my work advice because some of this organization, I can’t take these things into consideration and work with the lawyers to come to some sort of solution. So it is possible. It’s sometimes in certain places everything that we want.
It’s not all the time, contractual issues can be sometimes difficult to get through. We have a lot of different issues with the contact, you know, so it’s not just easy to read about riba or there’s a lot of contractual issues. You know how to get your ownership. How you transfer it, how you price things and so on.
Maruf: Since we’re talking about finance you know, there are new terms like times coming up that’s kind of like, you already know block chain, cryptocurrencies, all of them, since I come from tech. I just looked into, not necessarily, the bitcoins, but more into blockchain technology.
I really like this. How it transforms the trust issue from this, like banks are into almost to the system, right by the third part, automatically. So my question is, I guess like, as an expert in Islamic Finance how would you see the future to grow, like if someone comes up with a cryptocurrency, I don’t know. How to use and what is the ruling? What is the how to how to assess Islam look at it? What’s your knowledge if you can share of course.
Almir: So, because I have some interest in computer science, as I said in the beginning, I was actually learning some of these computer languages like C and so on maybe four or five of them, so I actually understood some of the basic ideas. I read the satoshi paper that talks about Bitcoin, very early on, I started reading and looking at it.
And in the blockchain talking with the people with these technologies and so on. I even bought some, just to see, it is going different. So I tested a lot of different things, my conclusion of bitcoin cryptocurrency and blockchain two different issues.
My conclusion is that actually most of our thoughts on this area are metter as some of the scholars said before. These are the areas where I try to avoid issues like Halal and Haram, you know, because it’s something that depends on, how’s your character, you’re thinking about you know, how you explain, what is going on here?
So I use the languages of the scholars that I see you use, is that should we do this push, should we stay away or should we engage and should be encouraged or discouraged because it’s a very hot issue. So I have a whole course, I give four hours on this bitcoin and look at all different things, all of the studies than experts.
My conclusion is that starting from the blockchain, actually has a major problem with the cryptocurrency. I think it’s one of those things that are not simply Bitcoin cannot for example deliver what people think. It can, which is to become a Global Currency. So, you have simple technology with problems.
So the blockchain is decentralized. Technology is way too inferior. One of the things that Satoshe talked about is the finality of payment. So because you need a consensus and more blogs you build you bring bigger consensus and so on ,you never have a concern, you never have a finality of payment.
So what that means is that there are ways that your transaction can go into the blog but that there can be undone. You see, if you have a minor plot very pleased with this idea, is very compact. But if I have a mind once the rig the system and he discovered the key, you know.
And he doesn’t advertise that he discovered his key. Then he can start building another on that blog and so on. By the time the network catches up his network, he’s behind in discovery. So, the network is processing on one branch transaction that will be later cancelled.
Because this note, this minor did not publish that they already discovered the keys. So, they will be transactioning that would be cancelled. Some transactions will be processed. So because you don’t have tonality of payment, you know in the normal centralized system, once you pay once the money, it’s your account.
You know, it’s there in blockchain because it’s consensus even if it shows that left and all of that. It’s not certain. It’s just because it’s registered. So because of this and many other things we see nobody really wants to get fundamental questions, is that nobody really needs bitcoin or early transduction.
So mostly people hoard it, speculatively or people engaging in illegal transactions to nobody’s buying. It’s for everyday, commercially which makes it very difficult to become and you see until today, but even you have people who ask people in the last two months, did you purchase anything with Bitcoin?
Almir: And why because I never went and I was in a situation where I could, you know, I’m looking to buy a cake or a book or a flight ticket and I thought to myself. I mean I want to buy this. But there is no way to buy it with the debit card or any other way.
I wish I had bitcoin because that’s the only way to do it. No one has that problem. And similarly it’s very much concentrated, the blockchain and this the network. Network is concentrating around you, you know, who are usually registered in like Amen island or few of these jurisdictions.
And you have maybe three or four that controls something like 60% of hash power. So it’s very concentrated. It’s unknown entities and also the major problem for this quantum computing which we choose which easily breaks this code.
Maruf: It’s coming up very soon, I guess.
Almir: So, there are a lot of issues again. I did four hours on this. What I said to the people, is that also Islamic private money is not good. Most of the scholars say it is why we fury differents, when he talked to the Sultan at this time.
He said don’t make money as the commercial activities because once you make it commercial activities, you are going to do something that would make you a profit which will be done by debasing the currency.
So instead when you menting the money coins make it so that it’s a paste from the public treasury day to month. So that it is actually done in a way that is service for the people and it’s preserving the value. So for this purpose, even if we just look at this private money and that you don’t know what’s happening.
You have so many issues. It’s happening but also from the beginning I said blockchain again, it’s a really database which is spread on few other places. I mean I can see it, limited use in certain capacity. If you just but it’s not up to the hype that the people think.
Maruf: Thank you for your advice. Recently, I read this. So one of the questions was that this is a fortune to the people, say that’s today Muslims. They care more about Hala food and then the Halal income. Would you agree to that? And how can we do, what is the root cause of this?
Almir: I think that’s correct. If you see in almost every country, even people who don’t practice they’re related to Halal, but they will have interest-based loans or riba based mortgage annoying things like that. So I think that’s come down to simply in last 30 years, we are coming back to Islam, you know.
Most of the people were brought up. They never thought about these things. It’s very foreign to this new awareness. They don’t understand and you know, scholars make it easy, everything they push this aside. It was a priority to deal with so I think it’s just come as a result that Islam is really in last couple of decades only starting in a big way to be practiced.
And that we have these Islamkc banks and alternatives. So I think it was not something that people really thought too much about.
Maruf: So, I mean, I’d really like the way you put what you’re saying is hey, this is the reality but we have to also look at the context. That’s where we came from. We are not perfect and we will be there and there’s a lot of catch-up with what we need to do and that’s where we are, Isn’t it?
Almir: Like if you look at most of Muslim countries, they were communists in some way, you know, like Bosnia, for example, yes, they will not act of Russia, but they had their own communities. And so people are just writing the book, they went to jail and so on.
Their priority list was, you know, just like you see now in China. One million people in prison now what’s their priority, you think? Interest based learning how to survive, the head and the plane of like that.
Maruf: We see with people you mentioned more than one plan because China is a big country 1.5.
Almir: Yeah. So some say millions. I mean, you know these days, the bigger problem in ovens reverence that genocide happened in people who think how many died in this particular Janessa? 7000, 8000, 10000 so one share said he said you know what the problem is with these numbers were the numbers, you know, 10,000.
The problem, we don’t even know the scale of the aggression against us. So when I use IRC million two or three like it’s that what I am talking about. I can talk about potatoes, so the human beings, you understand.? So we even don’t know how much actually we have casualties in these things. But what I want to say is that you see, we in Bosnia lived through something like that.
Very similar experience because you see our president who went in a jail similar to tell tahy my wife, you know, her father is to run one of the jails and at that time she was not allowed to go to learn about Islam they had to do it secretly and if anybody knew that she was learning.
So, you can understand these people are trying to preserve the name Islamic name. They maybe do a little bit of this Isalam. Maybe they are fasting, bit reading the Quran, the other sort of knowledge you know, this. You know, that’s how I think it happened.
Maruf: I think what I would like to ask is that thank you. I really thank you for being here today. You also mentioned how you came up with something. Today, you do yours advising a lot of companies. How do you balance with Deen and Dunya?
Almir: So, I often actually impart some of my courses. I actually take part, of course usually to answer that question because when you think about Dean, the word in means the way you live your life. Okay, where do we live that life in Dunya. When you think about it, what is the dean is the way you leave the Dunya, so therefore your addiction.
So this idea of cigarettes segregating. This is my Islamic spirituality, whatever and this is my something else is not Islamic. In fact, when you read the story of the Shoayb, he went to the people of madyan. They came up with this. They said to Shoayb because he used to tell them you know how to cheat people, do that with your money, you know, he was teaching them this transaction.
So, they would complain, they didn’t want to listen and they used to tell him what your salah has to do with the way we make us spend our money. So this was their way of like secularism, you know, to bring this idea that Islam shouldn’t be messing, you know, telling us what to do.
So reality, in Islam is that you need to balance your life. The money is something like a lamp, like a light that helps you a lack of money as they say somebody was asking money will not get me to paradise. But what about lack of money, will get you money or no money. It’s not tacky. The issue here is that money brings more of who you are into the outside world.
Maruf: Understand whatever your heart, the Money Magazine. If you want to be like show off you want to do something. It was nice.
Almir: Try whoever you want. You become more with the money. So if you are a generous person with money, you become generous, if you ask stingy, you’ll become the same stingy, you know, you’ll get your money. The money just makes whoever you are.
Maruf: More of, you know, where they come from. Look, we look at the Sahabas. Look at this and they never go after money or didn’t want to get money, they wanted to tell the viewers as pure as possible. And I think one of the issues they also has that. We have seen the world. The people, the money enreach the people, it corrupts them, it does this and I think that’s where they came from.But I agree with you about what you said.
Almir: Look at this and think about it, but we are saying here in one of the narration companions came to the Prophet(S) and they say all messengers of Allah these rich people they overcome us and processor tell you how did they do that? He said well they play like we pray they do these things whatever we do and then they have money with which they do all of these other extra goodies, which we cannot do.
So the Prophet (S) was advising, you probably know the Hadiya to After this. So he said do these things and you will catch up to them, you know, no one will be better than you. So after a while they came and said Prophet of Allah, you know, you won’t believe what’s happening. It was all these rich people, they learnt how secret, you know, they started doing it, now.
What do we do now to the Prophet and said, this is the blessing that Allah gives to certain people. So what’s the point of this is, you see first of all how to deal, look at these rich people do the process and say to them that don’t worry. And with these people, you know, probably they got his money by, you know, cooked way or something.
You know, you are the best, you see they are doing nothing and you are the best. They are gonna overcome us. They are becoming better. They’re better than us. Why because their output is more it’s leveraged. Okay, and so he is confirming this idea and he says at the end, you know, this is the blessing of Allah which gives to some people.
So, when we look at the companions, you know, I was just reading a writing the article now about conference next week in Istanbul about Islamic economic model, you know, and I was discussing how if you look at Usman, for example, he comes to Radiallahuanhu, he comes to Medina and one of the first things he buys developed rumor which is water system of the Medina and he give it to the charity food.
Then he brings what we would today considere billion-dollar Caravan, you know the video trucks and everything, all shopping centers he gives all free, then the call or Army. He donates the horses, the camels, the goal up to the level where the Prophet(S) is saying after this day. Nothing will harm Usman now, okay.
What the question is asked, how does Usman make this money? I mean we are talking about Medina, where people I became Abodor Rahman, now these people they are refugees. Basically the Prophet (S) had to pair them up, share the food and everything with them.
So these refugees are coming to me. They are playing make of areas socially and economically boycotted the going to this new place the Prophet(S) of establishing the market after the mosque is the first thing, it does not want to be in the situation like we were in Mecca and these people in that market they generate the business because that’s not what we are not asking.
How did Usman generate much profit in the cycle from some kind of the business. He didn’t just, you know, we can have one more hint.
Maruf: From his father or something else.
Almir: Even if he did, I mean you give how much costly the army could be, think about it today. Australia recently equipped the army with submarines, costs fifty billion dollars, Turkey, now buying S400 and this airplane.
Look at Saudis ,they get, trunk now hundred billion chak, so to equip the Army whatever it’s coming from is billions. So even if he had money, how much money you have, so we’re who is making this money. So when we look at the whole life, we need to recognize these people and that’s why Imam Bukhari when he starts his book of business transactions after the chapter on the fasting.
He brings the story of a few Hadith and one of the first Hadith is actually a story of Abo Horis saying, during the average day in Medina people are busy in their properties in the market. That’s what they’re doing. They’re not sitting. Even Omar used to work one day and study with the Prophet (S).
So when these people are in the market, making money, which allows them to reach the upper hand. The Prophet (S) said the upper end is the better one, you know, even if you don’t have anything good, chop some wood and sell the wood but don’t beg, don’t ask. So when we think of companions, these are the people who were independent in their means.
So, the economics system, our everything revolves about entrepreneurship in reality, about people who are producing things and benefit Society. So this is what is not one independent strength and that you are producing. This is what Islam, this what companions did and this is why they were able then to take care of their needs.
Maruf: Absolutely. I mean what you’re saying is that Islam is a Deen a way of life, there’s no way you do you go to 95 you do whatever you want and you come to home say no I’m going to practice Islam, right? It’s all the way. There’s a Dunya. Actually Dunya is wrapped inside the Deen. So that’s the thing is wavelength. That’s beautifully put.
Almir: Absolutely, you need to plate your food. You need to create your Everything entertainment, anything in life, everything you need to produce. So, you need to get a piece if you want to live life style of Islam. What kind of lifestyle, I’m just looking at some numbers.
And I realized that according to some statistics by 2013 next couple years. Muslims are now 1.8 billion. Okay between ages of 15 to 29 Muslims will be 540 million. Think about that number in next couple year 500 million, Muslim youthEvening wearing who is going to be example, what career, who will be employed, whoever is doing these things, is giving them a lifestyle.
So if we don’t create this lifestyle, are given to our people or somebody else. So don’t say his name is the last challenge as somebody provides everything in your life to live that style. You understand. You need to be the one to do that. So the problem is not what we have today.
And that’s why I’m going to be talking a little bit, maybe criticizing this point, is that even when we say Islamic economy is blooming this sector, the sector mainly as a consumer even in Islamic Finance, it’s mainly transactional. It’s not is no production. You look at the Halal. You don’t number one and two countries in Halal meat production in Brazil and Australia.
Maruf: That’s crazy, right?
Almir: So very consumer-oriented economists. So that’s why when you look at you, now in Lebanon, what’s happening 37% of unemployment used to, if you don’t employ and grow our economy get the job and solve your livelihood problem.
And then drive your economy and solution which become an upper hand producing stuff these 500 million people most of us develop. Where is this Islami, you know, all of these people, we are watching this series because you mean there’s that word, but where is Islam here? It’s a big serious issue.
Maruf: Absolutely. I mean, so what you’re saying is, we are coming back to that issue again, whatever we put in our stomach is as important. Like I was in difficulty, whatever we put good in our mind is as important as what you put in my stomach.
Today is the day, even more important. And unfortunately we tend to forget that. Yeah, I think I recently, I was checking out a little bit about yourself and I really forget it. It seems that we both enjoy all series. So tell us more what would you like about that?
Almir: We’ll see about that. Well, look, you know, this is one of these solutions in entertainment where you have in Turkey, for example, statistically over 90% of people watch five hours of TV a day. Tac is producing 150 TV shows, a year for about 300 million.
It’s a major export. So now when this started making air to rule which is the father of Osman, you know who founded the entire, what they call ottoman. So then, you have Abdulhamid last in front. You look at these things that became number one shows in Turkey and around the world.
Here the number of people I have told about the show, hundreds who watched every episode. So why are usually said people watch this? Why, because you learn what it is to be real men, real women, how a father should behave to his son, daughter to the mother, how a leader should stand for justice and fight for justice, you know.
You see the whole mannerism between them. You know, when the sun is the hand, you know, so you see the entire life in the character and the mannerism between them which is much different than when you watch this sanity western-based movies and stuff line and series which is driven by action.
Oh he did. Something I don’t think somebody and even okay inaccurate, there is in this business values, all you have to engage in there are values. There are principles. There is so much more that you can learn. So for me is that it was something that Muslims mostly wanted to see.
They want to see dignity and honor and why, so popular, because they are missing this kind of justice in their own society and I think shows that craving. So it’s a huge I think we need even more Netflix type of these services to find out much of these. I think there’s a massive appetite for these kinds of programs and entertainment platforms.
Maruf: I’m glad that you mentioned it. I don’t know if I mentioned that. We started something smaller. We started it two years ago. It’s called Ali Huda. It’s a platform for Muslim kids that’s exactly what you said. I mean to be honest like we know how big investment goes behind, after Netflix, similar like this.
But we want to start small. That’s why we have started subjects and we’ve been going well, but I can tell you, it’s preneur there so much, a lot of like, how to say if we asked our Ummah like invest in the big buildings today, you find people lined up giving millions and billions of dollars.
But when you ask people to invest in Media like, similar to what we do, that intends to ask you really crazy questions. What is profitable in this, which is right, but look at the long picture as well. Because if you’re creating like the energy, we try to create that was not something of Walt Disney for Muslim kids.
What will be the impact of the next? Unfortunately, I have to tell you because as I said, I know I come from the star of seen we have to as Muslim Investors. We have to be mature a little bit and That’s okay. We just as I said instead of giving, assuming bad about Umma, but I’m just saying, may Allah make us those who would be patient enough.
And you know, he understands the impact as you said, that’s huge. Because yes, you can make money. That’s nothing wrong with it. But imagine impacting half a billion human beings. It’s this case Muslims, they go and impact the rest of the world. That’s what it’ll take, isn’t it sort of the day?
Almir: Look, I remember that maybe a year or two ago that one of the founder of networks, he was here so I had opportunity to privately meet with in one of these offenses and whatever and he was telling us the story when they were giving selling the wanted to sell networks to Blockbuster and somebody asked him like how was that.
And so he described, it is selling for 50 million dollars to Blockbuster and then Blockbuster was laughing and so on and then they transitioned to streaming so they asked him. How did you transition to steaming what Blockbusters got stuck in the DVD Market. I just need, we understood something that Blockbuster didn’t understand.
And that is what business we are in. We understood very early on that. We are in the business of telling stories because the human always will have a need to gather around the fire and tell each other stories regardless of the medium whether you stream DVD or in your brain something that is, you know injected we don’t care about that, but we care about these stories.
So we see now if you look at Netflix now, they have a hundred twenty-five million customers, you know and the subscription is something like 15, but depending which plan your day. But that’s close to two billion in revenue every month, those two billion dollars in revenue. They are in hundred and I don’t know, hundred and something they earned hundred.
And fifty valued more than Disney, hundred fifty billion dollars more than Disney. They are making 2 billion a month when Jerry Seinfeld, you know, I watch with my son comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, you know.
Maruf: Yeah, the show.
Almir: it’s very hard to find these normal TV programs. So we will find that when he liked the car, watched cars and Tim was, like at top gear what’s called a new one and Amazon Prime like a Top Gear type of program grand total. So we watched that and I asked my son I said, you know how much Netflix paid Jerry, hundred million to make that for the whole show to get it.
A hundred million and he said oh that’s a big number here. It’s a big number, but think about it Netflix is just a website. This is the website. They are making two billion dollars a month. Of course, they can then export to make these things. Now you have a Disney, Amazons out here. I must have all of these other ones.
So there is that appetite I think amongst the Muslims if we hit the right target audience, if we hit the right herb, if you look now after you have hundreds of groups on Facebook which has between 5, 10, 20, 30, 50 hundred thousand members. Who are watching, I mean, I know, at least five.
Tonight, I think Postman is starting in the UK by tomorrow in the next 12 hours and they can be at least five different translations of postponing it which is the next sequel to aircrew on different groups, different things. You know why I always think okay. How can we don’t have something that immediately released it there, before anything else, released it in every language.
So we will have in Urdu, In Turkish, in Arabic, in English, all of these massive demands for postal merchandise for everything. So for these things you also need a lot of other things to kick in from financing is one that distribution.
Then you know other bits and pieces and so I think for us this shows great potential but we’ve the same time, have a lot of work to do. Let’s go.
Maruf: Okay, we gonna end, I guess the show on this high-end and tell us the listener is where they can find more about the work you do and how they can continue.
Almir: So if you just Google my name. You can find my YouTube channel where I have a lot of different videos on different kinds of topics. Facebook usual media, just if you Google my name, I produce a lot of content and we started this recently a podcast for Islamic Finance.
We reduced beautiful things and I’m planning to focus now even more on producing for YouTube as well.
Maruf: Having said that I say thank you very much. May Allah bless for coming here. Thank you for being here and for sharing those stories. Assalamu alaikum.