Bankers quit jobs amid rising ‘hijrah’ movement

Bankers quit jobs amid rising ‘hijrah’ movement
Jakarta, NU Online
It has been more than a year since Zainur Rusdi, 38, left his job as deputy head of a state-owned bank's branch office in North Sumatra over the fear of the danger of riba (interest) that he learned from preachers on the internet.

He put an end to his 13-year banking career in April 2018, when he was leading an office worth Rp 400 billion (US$28.3 million) in assets and had 10,000 customers.

Zainur now works from home, running an online business and helping his wife operate a beauty salon for Muslim women.

“It started when I watched a video on the danger of riba from Erwandi Tarmizi,” Zainur was quoted by The Jakarta Post as saying, referring to a Muslim preacher on YouTube.

It was early 2017 and Zainur found himself delving more and more into anti-riba campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, especially through the sermons of social media-savvy preachers Abdul Somad and Buya Yahya.

“When I was working at the bank, my wife kept going in and out of the hospital, but they couldn’t identify her illness. It was one the signs mentioned in the sermons, so I was even more inclined to quit,” he said, arguing that he had been “cursed” by God given the nature of his work.

His colleagues, regretting the end to his promising career, suggested that he move to the sharia division of the bank. Zainur refused, arguing that the sharia division was no different from the conventional bank. If anything, it was thanks to the help of the conventional bank that it could thrive.

However, he still has an account at a sharia bank. He had used up all his severance pay to pay off his debts, completely cutting ties with conventional banks.

Zainur also joined the XBank community, which actively campaigns against riba and motivates bank employees to switch jobs or become entrepreneurs through social media.

XBank spokesperson Nopan Nopiardi said the community was established in July 2017 in Yogyakarta and now had 22,216 members spread across 97 WhatsApp groups and 41 branches in Indonesia, although not all of them are bank employees who had quit their jobs. The community’s Instagram account also has more than 400,000 followers.

Nopan himself had worked for four private lenders over a span of 11 years before deciding to quit in 2015. His last position before resigning was business cluster head, which earned him at least Rp 20 million a month.

He now sells clothes in Magelang, Central Java, to put food on the table for his wife and three children.

“My earnings now are far from what I got back then, maybe one-seventh of my last salary. However, thank God, God willing, it can meet our main needs,” Nopan told The Jakarta Post.

Another Xbank member, Irma Sari, said she was in the process of resigning from her job at a private bank in in Medan, North Sumatra.

She quoted a hadith (Prophetic words and deeds) being spread on social media that equated the sin of riba to that of committing sexual relations with one’s own biological mother 36 times.

“The message scares me, especially because I keep reading it on social media,” she said.

Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) secretary-general Anwar Abbas, however, said he had not heard of such a hadith.

The mentioned hadith was also different from that quoted in MUI’s 2004 edict declaring bank interest haram or forbidden under Islamic law, which equates riba to 70 sins—with the lightest being equal to committing sex with one’s own mother.

 “[Resigning] is a good thing to do as Muslims because getting involved in riba practices is a very sinful act. Avoiding sins is important for Muslims,” Anwar said, expressing hope that the sharia economy could benefit from Muslims’ shift to Islamic ways of living.

Indonesian Banks Association deputy secretary-general Taswin Zakaria, who is also the president director of lender Maybank Indonesia, said such a shift would not affect conventional banks.

Taswin pointed out that the hijrah trend had not significantly boosted sharia banking in the country.

Data from the Financial Services Authority (OJK) shows that as of June last year, the market share of Islamic banking was 5.7 percent, lagging behind neighboring Malaysia’s double digit penetration.

Islamic finance expert Irfan Syauqi Beik said the low market share was due to, among other things, Indonesians’ very low sharia banking literacy, citing an OJK survey in 2016 that put it at below 10 percent.

He said sharia banks were lacking innovation and creativity as they tended to promote their products that bear similarities to those of conventional banks, while not emphasizing the sharia principles they were adopting. (Masdar)
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