The students of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Business School (JSBS) Nairobi recently organised an educational exhibition titled ‘Daurat al-Tijārat al-Islāmiyyah’ (Islamic Commerce Exhibition). This exhibition showcased how contemporary business practices can integrate Fāṭimi economic and commercial principles. It did so using case studies and data-driven insights from the corporate world, ultimately emphasising the enduring relevance of these principles in today’s dynamic business world.
The foundation of this exhibition was drawn from the analogies presented by His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS during his Ashara Mubaraka sermons in Dubai. He elaborated on six common traits between date palms and horses, derived from Rasul Allah’s SAW hadīth sharīf. These traits serve as guiding principles for the Dawoodi Bohra community’s commercial conduct. The principles include; trendsetting, unwavering integrity, resilience, bold risk-taking, balancing reason and passion and pursuing strategic growth. Each principle was given a dedicated section within the exhibition.
The exhibition was unique in its approach, combining historical and contemporary case studies with digitally crafted exhibits and data-driven insights to provide an immersive experience for visitors, simulating a corporate office environment. The principles were organised into segments mirroring departments found in a corporate office, including research and development, marketing, human resources and accounting.
Segment 1: Trendsetting (Marketing Department)
In this segment, the concept of trendsetting was introduced by drawing parallels between the unique qualities of date palms and horses and the trendsetting outlook that a Mumin should adopt. Just as date palms and horses stand out within their respective species, a Mumin’s enterprise should strive to distinguish itself from others in the same industry. Visitors gained an understanding that trendsetting entails offering products and services that not only set them apart but also align with Fāṭimi values. A case study on organic farming and avocado cultivation in Kenya provided a real-world example of how trendsetting strategies can be applied.
Segment 2: Integrity & Righteousness (Admin Department)
In this section, students delved into the crucial values of integrity and righteousness, firmly grounded in Sharia Mohammediyyah. The paramount importance of honesty and ethical conduct in business was exemplified through a historical case study, illustrating an occasion where Syedi Luqmanji Saheb QA steadfastly rejected unethical business practices. A skit was performed to emphasise the consequences of dishonesty and a lack of integrity, underscoring that unethical behaviour not only goes against moral principles but can also result in losing customers. Moreover, students presented a case study on Corning Inc., illustrating the significance of transparency in product communication to drive home the importance of integrity.
Segment 3: Perseverance & Resilience (H.R Department)
This segment delved into the attributes of perseverance and resilience, drawing parallels between a date palm’s ability to bear fruit even in unfavourable conditions and a horse’s ability to withstand attacks and persevere in battle. Visitors learned about the determination and resilience exhibited by the Mumineen of Kuwait, even in challenging economic and political circumstances. Additionally, international and African case studies illustrated how faith and unwavering resolve lead to success.
Segment 4: Faith & Risk-Taking (Research and Development Department)
This segment explored the link between faith and risk-taking as well as reliance on faith in Allah Ta ‘ala’s provision when making business decisions, particularly when venturing into calculated risks. The remarkable courage and audacity of Syedi Hasan bin Nuh QA, the renowned 10th-century businessman who selflessly used his wealth for the betterment of his community, served as a prime example of this principle. The practical application of faith and risk-taking was explored through case studies and interactive exercises, which included the use of analysis tools like PESTEL and SWOT.
Segment 5: Balance between Reason and Passion (Accounting Department)
This segment emphasised the delicate balance between reason and passion in business pursuits. This principle is derived from the fact that date trees require pollination to produce dates just as both a mare and stallion are required to produce offspring. For a Mumin, this translates into the marriage between reason and emotion, sense (hosh) and passion (josh) that begets a successful business. To demonstrate this, pragmatic approaches like lean start-ups, which require a balance between reason and passion, were presented. International and African case studies showcased businesses that maintained this delicate equilibrium.
Segment 6: Strategic Growth & Diversification (The Logistics Department)
The final segment highlighted the importance of strategic growth and diversification beyond geographical boundaries. Historical examples, such as Syedna Taher Saifuddin’s RA counsel to Mumineen in Africa, demonstrated the effectiveness of various forms of integration and diversification, both vertical and horizontal.
In conclusion, the exhibition provided a blueprint for conducting ethical and principled business in an ever-changing world. These enduring principles serve as a guiding light, inspiring individuals and enterprises to thrive while upholding moral and ethical values. The exhibition’s unique blend of historical wisdom, modern insights and interactive design makes it a valuable resource for the entire business community and emphasises the timeless relevance of these principles.