A state-owned bank in the United Arab Emirates found a creative way to comply with Islamic law — by not only banning loans with interest, but also embedding a compass pointing the way to Mecca in its credit cards.
The bank, Al Hillaj, introduced the card this week to comply with the tenet of Islamic law, or Shariah, which forbids “riba” — charging interest on loans, a practice regarded as potentially encouraging exploitation.
“We continue to see a growing demand, especially in the Middle East, for Islamic banking in general, and more specifically in our case, for cards that are Shariah-compliant in accordance with the tenets of the Islamic faith,” NBC quoted MasterCard spokesman James Issokson as saying.
He reportedly added that a portion of the money spent with the card would be donated to charity — fulfilling another Islamic commandment, the obligation to give charity, or zakat.
But the card comes with an added bonus: an electronic compass that points the way to Mecca, the direction in which the faithful must pray. In addition, possession of the card makes users eligible for travel vouchers to help pay their way to Mecca for hajj, or an obligratory pilgrimage — one of the five basic pillars (arkan) of Islam.
The market for shariah-compliant products has grown in recent years, with millions of Muslims all over the world marked as potential clients.