Kuala Lumpur, 9 April – Dr. Yahia Abdul-Rahman, acknowledged as the founder of riba-free banking in North America, wants Islamic banking to be promoted as ‘riba-free’ banking to ensure that it appeals to a broader market.
“We should promote riba-free banking as a lifestyle choice as opposed to a religious choice. It is that actually, by choosing riba or interest free, you are making a conscious decision to choose a better lifestyle. Though I must say interest free is not only propagated by Islam as Judaism and Christianity also prohibits interest in trade and finance. Lariba (no riba in Arabic) is a movement for us,” Dr Yahia said in his presentation `The RF Lifestyle : Challenges facing RF banking in 21st century’ on campus today. His presentation was part of INCEIF’s series of regular industry talks where industry experts ad academicians, local and international, share their knowledge with INCEIF students and staff.
Founder, Chairman and CEO of LARIBA Bank of Whittier, Dr Yahia, who has succeeded in two previous careers as a chemical engineer and financial planner, set up LARIBA in 1987 to develop a network of financial institutions in the US that operates according to Shariah principles.
“Institutions or banks that care about the local communities, ready to serve people of all faiths and to produce competitive returns on invested capital, compared with the conventional banks. Our goal is to make RF bankers the preferred bankers in any community. Regardless of their background, the bankers should behave or conduct their business as if they are the closest family member to their respective clients therefore giving the best advice or service. Time and time again, we get this feedback from our clients including the non-Muslims, saying `We have never heard bankers speak to us like this before,’” he said.
However, he added that the lariba movement was not without challenges. “After 50 years, RF banking is still not popular. We need to finance an aggressive RF branding campaign. The challenge also lies in producing qualified RF banker than can project or promote the RF lifestyle. Malaysia is the only country in the world that is doing all the right things in terms of having the political will, government support, infrastructure and talent pool institutions such as INCEIF. I see a number of international faces here. Hopefully, you will go back to your respective countries and be the game changer in your country,” Dr Yahia said.
According to Dr Yahia, LARIBA was established to help people in the community invest their savings back in projects of the community. This way the community could create an intermediate prudent and fiduciary entity that evaluates risk of the investor and the quality of the project. As he put it, “We wanted to introduce the community to the real meaning of Islam. It is not only about rituals, it is a social responsibility to all-Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
The name of the company consists of two parts: La, which means “No” in Arabic and the second part is Riba which means the conventional banking and finance process of buying money with money and pricing it using interest. Therefore, Lariba means “No Riba”. The word also stands for : LA = Los Angeles, R = Reliable, I = Investment, B = Bankers, and A = Associates.