Wednesday 20, September 2017 by William Mullally

Bahrain issues landmark regulations on Shari'ah governance

In an attempt to establish industry leading Shari'ah governance principles and practises in Bahrain the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has released a new Shari’ah Governance (SG) module.

The landmark module, issued after extensive consultation with the industry and with the CBB’s centralised Shari'ah Supervisory Board (CSSB), is likely to result in a paradigm shift in improving the Shari'ah compliance and governance standards among Islamic banks in Bahrain and shall set proper benchmarks for global Shari'ah governance practises. It is expected to serve as an example for the region and the global Islamic banking market.

The new regulations will be applicable from 30th June 2018 on all Islamic retail and wholesale banks in Bahrain. For the first time an Independent External Shari'ah Compliance Audit (IESCA) has been made mandatory. The first IESCA report is to be issued in 2020 based on the transactions, structures and activities of 2019. It marks a significant new step in independent confirmation of whether Shari'ah governance is embedded in the day to day functioning of an Islamic bank. 

“The Shari'ah Governance module sets higher standards of transparency, governance and competence for Islamic banks in Bahrain. It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the management and the Board of Directors towards Shari'ah compliance. Adhering to high standards of Shari'ah governance also provides added protection to investors and other stakeholders”, stated Mr Khalid Hamad, Executive Director of Banking Supervision at the CBB.

The following are some of the most important provisions of the SG module:

  • The Shari'ah governance structure of an Islamic bank must consist of four important components or elements – the Shari'ah Supervisory Board (SSB), Shari'ah Coordination and Implementation function, Internal Shari'ah Audit function and External Independent Shari'ah Compliance Audit.
  • The module discusses the authority vested in the SSB and ensures their independence through various measures. It also discusses their eligibility criteria, roles and responsibilities and calls for more interaction with the board of directors.
  • SSB’s rulings of standard products and the jurisprudential or other bases of such rulings must be made available for the customers and the general public by publishing it online and in the annual report.
  • The module requires both Shari'ah Coordination and Implementation function and Internal Shari'ah Audit function to independently report to the SSB.

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