There's a new MasterCard being marketed at Muslims, complete with a compass pointing the way towards Mecca. Al Hillal Bank, an Islamic financial company owned by the United Arab Emirates government, recently launched the credit card. Rather than merely serving as an instrument with which one can purchase goods and services, the card is also compliant with Islamic laws.
In addition to including a compass that allows Islamic adherents to comply with "salah" (praying five times per day, while facing Mecca -- one of the Five Pillars of the Muslim faith), the bank's MasterCard bans interest on loans. As Daily Mail notes, "riba," or the charging of interest on loans, is forbidden in Islamic law. NBC News has more:
Shariah forbids “riba” or the charging of interest on loans because it could enable the rich to exploit the poor, encourages risk, and creates social and economic disharmony, according to Abed Awad, an expert on Islamic law who teaches at Rutgers and Pace universities.
To get around issues surrounding interest, MasterCard will charge user fees instead of interest rates, making the cards profitable for the company. An additional benefit beyond this is travel benefits, as cardholders will be able to obtain vouchers to pay for the "hajj," the trip to Mecca every Muslim, pending good health, is intended to take. And a portion of the monies spent using the cards is donated to charity, as the act of giving is explicitly laid out in the Koran.
The purpose for the card's creation is clear: To reach out to the world's 1.6 billion Muslims in an effort to spawn business and to create a cultural connection that makes the first ideal possible.
“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,” James Issokson, a spokesperson for MasterCard, told NBC News.
NBC also notes that this isn't the only example of shariah-compliant banking. Even in the U.S., the Islamic financial industry is in full swing. University Bank in Michigan offers home financing, deposit products -- even commercial options -- that are complaint with Islamic law. And, in Virginia, Guidance Residential offers home mortgages.
(H/T: Daily Mail)