Masjid Ramadan or Shacklewell Lane Mosque in London is taking a forward-thinking approach to the Islamic practice of Zakat and Sadaqah, alms-giving. Based in Dalston (Hackney), East London, Shackwell Lane Mosque is the UK’s first Turkish-owned mosque, managed by the registered charity UK Turkish Islamic Trust.
CCN spoke with the mosque chairman Erkin Guney, the mosque's Islamic advisor Zayd al Khair, and Gurmit Singh, the founder of tech company Combo Innovations who will be handling the process. Singh suggested to Guney that the mosque could benefit from accepting cryptocurrencies as Zakat is mandatory and many Muslims use cryptocurrencies, although few charities accept them. Guney told CCN:
"So that’s when the conversation at the mosque started. We soon realized this was relatively uncharted water."
Guney found a handful of UK charities accepting crypto as donations, one of which was Muslim.
"There were a couple of mosques abroad that also announced they were going to accept cryptocurrency. It looks like we may be the first in Britain to do so."
Local banks weren't in a position to advise the mosque on the situation, but Gurmit Singh, who has been involved in the cryptocurrency space for years, stepped in as an advisor free of charge. He pointed out that the issue of what does and does not constitute money in the Muslim faith is a contentious one, with Bitcoin and other cryptos currently a hot topic of debate among Islamic scholars. Usury (lending at high rates of interest) is haram, forbidden, as are currencies not backed by commodities unless widely accepted by society.
Singh made the following points to CCN:
"Would we have had the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007-08, Black Wednesday in 1992, Black Monday in 1987, and the granddaddy of them all, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, if speculation was not standard practice in our conventional, Western banking system?
From a financial prospective, the ethical aspects of an Islamic blockchain-enabled economy can help bring it into the 21st Century. The technology can enable global penetration, reaching people that currently have limited access to traditional financing, yet have a smartphone. We believe the model will appeal to non-Muslims too."
The mosque's religious advisers concluded that cryptocurrencies can be accepted as donations, and the mosque has added Bitcoin and Ethereum addresses to their website to accept Zakat and Sadaqah. Guney told CCN:
"The zakat will be used to feed the poor in our local community and help others in need. We will also put a portion aside to help with the urgent renovations needed at the mosque. Inshallah (God willing) the cryptocurrency campaign is a success and we do receive donations. If it works, I’m sure many other mosques and Islamic charities, not just in Britain but worldwide, will start doing the same."
The mosque's main Islamic advisor is Zayd al Khair, who has a Masters in History and Religious studies and is pursuing a PhD after traveling throughout Africa and Saudi Arabia studying the Islamic faith. CCN interviewed Mr al Khair about the issue of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Mr al Khair told CCN:
"With the growing usage of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, there has been an upsurge in discussions among Islamic scholars about their permissibility. Initially, several voiced negative views due to the lack of regulation, and the speculation around their value and origin.
However, many scholars adopted a neutral stance, believing these digital currencies are too new to form a clear view on whether they violate fundamental Islamic principles or not. More recently, a few scholars have also started advocating the use of cryptocurrencies."
Masjid Ramadan, the Shackwell Lane Mosque, is hosting a talk on Monday 21 May at 11:00 am GMT to discuss cryptocurrencies and inform attendants of their potential use.
Featured image from Geograph/ Dr Neil Clifton.