Muslims in Singapore
Muslims make up 14% of Singapore’s 6 million population (Source). Islam’s presence is clearly felt in this bustling city-state, and Muslims are generally free to practice their religion, as are other ‘major religions’.
In Ramadhan (the famous fasting month) when I feel like having iftar (the meal to break the day-long fast) at the mosque, I can head over to any of the 4 mosques close to my family home. There is a mosque in almost every neighbourhood, and these mosques serve many roles as the centre of activity and education for the Muslim community.
Just recently, Singapore’s first woman president, HE Madam Halimah Yacob came to office. I love it that we have a Hijabi President! Here’s Her Excellency looking cool and dignified in professional-style Muslim headgear:
Credit: TODAY newspaper
Islam in Singapore
Islam is overseen and some aspects regulated by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, or MUIS (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura). The administration and redistribution of Islamic Social Finance (Zakat, Waqf), and Halal certification of food and other items are managed by MUIS.
Here’s a little known fact about Singapore – it has one of the most productive Waqf assets (religious endowment) in the world, valued at S$769million! This is huge for our small Muslim population. Our Waqf assets are managed by Warees Investment Holdings, a subsidiary of MUIS, with both asset value and income growing healthily since Warees was incepted in 2002. Its founding CEO was Zahid Yacob, a property project management expert. He worked closely with Dr Shamsiah, the head of Waqf and Zakat at MUIS to lead Warees on a highly successful Waqf asset rejuvenation program (we are thrilled that both of them have joined Ethis as our advisors today). The very first project in 2004, Wakaf Bencoolen was a commercial success – increasing in value by 87 times in under 10 years. Warees effectively utilised sukuk (similar to a bond), ijarah (rental) and various innovative corporate and financing structures to develop the majority of the available Waqf assets in Singapore. Singapore’s new and redeveloped Waqf buildings won numerous architectural awards and we even had the first Green mark certified Mosque back in 2010.
Islamic principles are even enshrined in Singapore’s legal system, with the Administration of Muslim Law Act of 1968 (AMLA 1968) providing clarity on specific matters related to Muslim Law such as estate management (Faraidh) and marriage (Nikah) within the Singapore Legal System.
Sadly, Muslims in Singapore have struggled for a long time when it comes to Halal Investments. There has been a distinct lack of Shariah-compliant investments or ‘Islamic investments’, especially for the retail investor or ordinary Muslim Singaporean. Wealthy Muslims may have more options, and the ordinary Muslim could always invest in Shariah-compliant stocks if you have the appetite for it.
In today’s world, savvy working professionals and or small entrepreneurs are just as aware and keen to engage in investment activity, albeit in smaller denominations.
Where it all began
Back in 2012, together with a few friends, we developed an interest in Islamic finance. Frustrated by the lack of options, we took matters into our own hands. Amanah Asset Management was born, with two objectives:
- increase the demand for Islamic investment among Muslims and ethical investors in Singapore, and
- bring in Islamic investment products and providers into Singapore.
We worked on this for 2 years. We did gain some traction in terms of creating awareness about Islamic finance. We held small events and workshops on the fundamentals of Islamic finance and Shariah-compliant investment together with local religious scholars. These sessions were well attended and well received and we also managed to provide many Singaporeans with Islamic estate management services. Unfortunately, we failed to bring in any Islamic finance or investment products or services into Singapore.
Numerous opportunity were chased but ended in rejection – we were told that Singapore’s Muslim population, our ‘natural’ market was just too small.
We kept pushing and started to build a community of Islamic finance enthusiasts in Singapore. Little did I know at that time that we were setting the foundation of something special
Investment Crowdfunding suddenly arrived in the West and China
We had discovered an incredible and unprecedented opportunity to create an investment platform, enabled by technology. The new world of crowdfunding had arrived in the West and China. In 2014, we set up ‘Club Ethis’ as a private investments club for Islamic investors.
By 2016 we went full-online and the Ethis.co/id P2P crowdfunding platform was born!
Feb 2014: New Club to help source for Investment Opportunities
Feb 2015: Crowdfunding service based on Shariah launched
Since then we have evolved, expanded, revamped and inshaAllah (god-willing) improved tremendously. From an idea among friends on a mission to help Singapore Muslims invest, we gained rapid traction in the region to become the early leader in Islamic Investment Crowdfunding.
Today, Ethis Indonesia is an award-winning Islamic Crowdfunding platform that started to serve Singapore Muslims and has now spread globally, with investors of all faiths joining in our Ethical and Islamic crowdfunding community. Our community of investors come from 50 countries. Most have never been to Indonesia, yet are attracted by Indonesia’s stable and growing economy, and of course to the abundance of exciting projects. Ethis specialises in social housing development projects, crowd-investing to fund property developers.
Our early start helped us win a few awards along the way. These were really exciting moments that helped give us the confidence and encouragement to continue providing smart investment options for Muslims in Singapore (and everywhere else!)
Islamic Economy Award 2016
These awards validate our firm belief in what we do. Ethis.co has attracted significant attention early on, as one of the few Islamic Crowdfunding platforms in the world.
This led to the recognition of our efforts, especially for the strong social impact of our campaigns. Building homes can give healthy profits while providing affordable homes to families striving for a better life. Some of the projects funded by our community sell houses as low as $10,000, with a government subsidy program providing easy purchase with a downpayment of only 1%. More than 1million houses are built a year, yet there is still a shortage of 10million houses – so many more houses to build!
GIFA Award for Best Islamic Crowdfunding Platform 2016
Moving forward providing Halal Investments
I seek all your sincere prayers and support as we continue to push and grow our Islamic Crowdfunding platform and our services. Ethis is growing from strength to strength bringing the world to invest in Indonesia, and especially provide Muslims with halal investments.
In late 2019, we obtained a registration approval from the Financial Services Authority Indonesia as a P2P crowdfunding platform. This allows us to raise funds from any source, to provide financing to any company or business operating in any sector in Indonesia. This has opened up a lot of new options for Ethis. Recently, a group of sophisticated Ethis members formed a private investment club to explore new opportunities in Indonesia. While that is indeed exciting, we continue to focus mainly on property projects on our platform. While no investment is risk-free, the beauty of property is that it’s backed by solid ground.
Ethis has a mission to help circulate funds large and small investors to ethical and Islamic real-world projects with a social impact. We will keep striving to provide the best investments for Muslims and impact investors. We believe that should we succeed together, we will fulfil the Ethis vision of uplifting humanity with financial technology… God-willing!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for relevancy and comprehensiveness.