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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program

The Islamic Finance Project (IFP) is the continuation of the Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program (HIFIP), which was established by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in 1995. IFP is now part of the Islamic Legal Studies Program (ILSP) at Harvard Law School. It aims to study the field of Islamic finance from the legal and shari'a points of view by analyzing contemporary scholarship, inducing collaboration among scholars within and outside the Muslim world, and increasing the interaction between theory and practice in Islamic finance.

Drawing on resources in the fields of law, economics, business, and Islamic studies, IFP compiles specialized bibliographies with the primary goal of acting as a point of convergence for information about Islamic finance and economics for academics, researchers, and industry professionals, not only to serve researchers but also to promote dialogue for better understanding of the field. IFP DataBank is a premier source of information for researchers and practitioners.

Over the last ten years, the subject of Islamic finance has attracted growing interest among academics, students and professionals around the globe. The Islamic Investment Study, conducted by Professor Frank E. Vogel at the Law School and Professor Samuel Hayes, III, at the Business School culminated in the 1998 publication of Vogel and Hayes' Islamic Law and Finance: Religion, Risk, and Return. This landmark study, which has been well received by scholars and students alike, underscores Harvard's leadership role in the field.

IFP, through its wide array of activities, seeks to build upon these contributions. Since its transfer to the law school, IFP has conducted research on the effects of 9/11 on the Islamic finance industry, has hosted a seminar featuring the world renown economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs on the long-term economic perspectives of the Middle East, and it is already in the final stages of preparation for what is perhaps the first seminar that brings together the key players of Islamic financial institutions and regulatory agencies in the United States government. And this is just part of the many activities that IFP has undertaken in its quest to study the growing field of Islamic finance. As these activities demonstrate, IFP at the law school is poised to offer the field of Islamic finance a much needed academic thrust.

IFP seeks to develop an increased awareness and understanding of Islamic finance both within the Muslim world and in the West. To this end, the Project sponsors seminars, workshops, lectures, and forums on topics relevant to Islamic finance. Most noteworthy is the Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance, organized and hosted by HIFIP since 1997. IFP publishes the proceedings of the conference and seminars, an original contribution to the growing scholarship in this field.

Research: IFP conduct original research as well as participate within Harvard for projects relating to Islamic finance. This includes theses/dissertations, case studies, as well as term papers. The Project also assists students and other researchers outside Harvard with advice and direction to the best resources. The ILSP Visiting Research Scholars Program also encourages scholars to study Islamic finance topics from legal standpoint. Interested candidates are encouraged to contact ILSP directly (see the above web link).

Research Assistance: IFP allows researchers in Islamic finance and economics access to its vast store of information through its DataBank. Researchers throughout the world are encouraged to login to IFP DataBank to obtain information needed to facilitate their work. Researchers and professionals are encouraged to submit online their publications both published and un-published for consideration to be included in the DataBank.

Present Researchers: IFP employs several students, drawn mainly from Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, Harvard College, but also from the Harvard graduate schools. It is these students who carry out the enormous task of research topics, compiling and updating the DataBank as well as organizing the Forum.

Career Opportunities: In the years since its inception, HIFIP has helped create career opportunities for the students it has employed. IFP continues this service to Harvard graduates. Having graduated, many of the associates of the Project are now employed in prominent institutions, including several leading financial and consulting firms, both within and outside the Islamic financial industry.
Information Sessions: IFP organizes information sessions (formal and informal) throughout the year for members of the Harvard community interested in Islamic banking and finance. At its offices, IFP has held informal discussions with students from Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, Harvard College, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The Project plans to continue offering session and colloquium in future forums.

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