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Newswrap: OIC

The UAE introduces agricultural reform to boost local production, while Saudi Arabia establishes four special economic zones to attract international investors; Tunisia secures $18 million in funding for infrastructure and medical equipment from AFESD; NEOM awards a $2 billion contract for railway construction; UAE and Morocco aim to double trade and investment, and Egypt allocates $980.3 million to support exports; Iran's non-crude oil trade with OIC countries grows by 15%.


Regulatory - UAE
UAE announces major agriculture and farming reform and tourism opportunities (April 27th, 2023)

The UAE has announced a major agricultural and farming reform aimed at increasing local production and reducing imports. The plan includes providing incentives for farmers and reducing water and electricity costs for agricultural activities. (Arabian Business)

Investment - Saudi Arabia
Four new special economic zones to be established in Saudi Arabia (April 14th, 2023)

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced the creation of four special economic zones in Riyadh, Jazan, Ras Al-Khair and King Abdullah Economic City to attract international investors. The zones will offer competitive tax rates, exemption from customs duties on imports, and 100% foreign ownership of companies, among other benefits. (Arab News)

Investment - Tunisia
Tunisia, AFESD (Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development) sign funding agreement (May 1st, 2023)

Tunisia has signed an agreement with the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) for $18 million in funding. The funds will be used for building and upgrading classified roads in four regions of the country, and to acquire medical equipment for the Tunisian health ministry. (Zawya)

Investment - Saudi Arabia
NEOM awards $2bn contract to join OXAGON with The Line (May 3rd, 2023)

NEOM has awarded a $2bn contract to Webuild and Shibh Al-Jazira Contracting for building a railway line between OXAGON and The Line development. The infrastructure will include 14 viaducts, seven roads, and nine rail underpasses. (Arab News)

Trade Developments - UAE/Morocco
UAE, Morocco to double trade & investment in seven years (May 1st, 2023)

UAE and Morocco aim to double trade and investment exchanges in the next seven years, as part of strengthening cooperation in priority sectors, such as finance, technology, and infrastructure. The agreement was reached during the first-ever UAE-Morocco Joint Economic Committee (JEC) session in Rabat. (Zawya)

Trade Developments - Egypt
Egypt allocates $980.3m to support exports in coming fiscal year: Egyptian PM (April 30th, 2023)

Egypt will increase its support for exports to almost $1 billion in the next fiscal year, up from $262 million, as part of a three-year program. In addition, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced the issuance of golden permits to investors to expedite projects and increase investment. (Arab News)

Trade Developments - Iran
Iran's Trade with OIC Grows by 15 Percent to $54 Billion during 11 Months (April 10th, 2023)

Iran's non-crude oil trade with members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was worth $54.32 billion, a 15.53% increase in value from the previous year. Trade volume declined by 4.05%, with the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Iraq as Iran's top trade partners among OIC members. While weight decreased, Iran's exports to OIC increased in value. (Financial Tribune)

Islamic Lifestyle
Newswrap: Islamic Lifestyle

GCC mulls unified ‘Schengen-like’ visa to ease regional travel; Saudi   Arabia   announces   major   change   to passports and visas; Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is in discussions to acquire a stake in Flynas, a budget airline, as part of efforts to boost the country's tourism industry.


Regulatory - Qatar
GCC mulls unified ‘Schengen-like’ visa to ease regional travel (May 3rd, 2023)

GCC visitors flocked to Qatar during the Eid Al Fitr holiday. Talks are reportedly underway to introduce a single visa that would allow for easier travel across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. According to Bahrain's Minister of Tourism, Fatima Al Sairafi, a unified visa would add value to the region and lead to more spending by travelers. (Doha News)

Regulatory - Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia announces major change to passports and visas (May 4th, 2023)

Saudi Arabia will switch from issuing paper visas to electronic visas to improve the visa application process and make it easier for foreigners to enter the country. The Saudi Cabinet approved the move on Tuesday to encourage tourism and foreign investment. The change is expected to make the process faster and more convenient. (Arabian Business)

Company News - UK
Muslim Dating App MuzMatch Forced To Change Name By Match.com In Court Ruling (May 2nd, 2023)

Muzmatch, a Muslim dating app, was ordered to change its name in June 2022 as it was considered too similar to Match.com. The Court of Appeal recently upheld the decision, claiming that consumers would think Muzmatch was associated with Tinder's owner, Match Group. (Tech Round)

Company News - Canada
New therapy platform aims to bridge gap between faith and mental health support for Muslim community (April 28th, 2023)

Toronto-based group Ruh has launched an app called Ruh that provides mental health resources for the Muslim community. The platform, which combines psychology with Islamic values, offers a directory of over 500 Muslim therapists worldwide, aiming to remove the barriers faced by Muslims in accessing mental health care. (CityNews Toronto)

Investment - Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s Wealth Fund Eyes Flynas Stake to Bolster Tourism (April 27th, 2023)

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is reportedly in talks to acquire a stake in Flynas, a budget airline that plays a key role in the kingdom's efforts to boost its tourism sector. Goldman Sachs Group is advising shareholders on the potential sale, and the airline has also been considering an IPO since 2008. (Bloomberg)


Islamic Finance
Newswrap: Islamic Finance

IMF to Separate Islamic Finance in SNA/BPM; Alberta invites   halal   finance   to   its   sandbox;   Islamic   Coin,   a Sharia-compliant cryptocurrency, is set to launch in May; Saudi Arabia's CMA cancels its share in sukuk and bonds trading   commission   to   reduce   costs   and   enhance liquidity; IsDB approves financing projects worth $403 million   for   sustainable   development;   Nexxo   Ventures sells its investment in Fintech QPAY to Qatar Islamic Bank.


Regulatory - Global
IMF to Separate Islamic Finance in SNA/BPM; No Headline Impact Expected (April 4th, 2023)

Fitch Ratings reports that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is planning to include separate categories for Islamic finance in its System of National Accounts and Balance of Payments Manual. This move will enhance data quality, comparability, and transparency by giving more precise measurement of economic activities and flows related to Islamic finance and allowing cross-country comparisons. (Fitch Ratings)

Regulatory - Canada
Alberta invites halal finance to its sandbox (April 12th, 2023)

Alberta is considering using its regulatory sandbox to test financial products that adhere to Islamic law, with the goal of enabling halal mortgages. The government will then consider developing legislative amendments to allow provincially regulated financial institutions to offer forms of halal financing. (Investment Executive)

Company News - Qatar
Dukhan Bank named ‘World’s Best Islamic Private Bank’ by Global Finance for second year (May 1st, 2023)

Dukhan Bank wins the 'World's Best Islamic Private Bank' award for the second year at the Global Finance World’s Best Islamic Financial Institutions Awards 2023. The bank's private banking offering for high-net-worth individuals leads the Islamic banking sector. (Zawya)

Company News - UAE
Islamic Coin: A new Sharia compliant cryptocurrency to launch in May, co-founder reveals (April 18th, 2023)

A new Sharia-compliant cryptocurrency, called Islamic Coin, is set to launch in May. It will be based on blockchain technology and designed to be compliant with Islamic law, which prohibits gambling, usury, and speculation. The cryptocurrency is being developed by a team of experts in Islamic finance, blockchain, and cryptocurrency. (Arabian Business)

Investment - Saudi Arabia
Saudi's CMA cancels its share in sukuk and bonds trading commission (May 1st, 2023)

Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority (CMA) will cancel its share in Sukuk and bonds trading commission from May 2023 to reduce costs and enhance liquidity. The move supports Vision 2030's aim to create an advanced capital market to boost the economy and diversify the financial sector. (Zawya)

Investment - Saudi Arabia
IsDB Board Approves Financing of Projects Worth US$ 403 Million for Sustainable Development and Economic Transformation (April 1st, 2023)

IsDB approves projects worth US$ 403 million to support socio-economic development in member countries. The approved projects will improve transportation, education, and energy, promote regional economic integration, and address emergency situations. (IsDB)

Investment - Malaysia
Press Release: The IILM successfully reissues USD 820 million short-term Ṣukūk (May 2nd, 2023)

The International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILM) has successfully reissued USD 820 million short-term Shari’ah-compliant financial instruments in three different tenors of one, three, and six months. The issuance marks the IILM's fifth auction this year and garnered a strong demand from both Primary Dealers and investors. (Salaam Gateway – Press Release)

Investment - Saudi Arabia
IsDB, ICIEC, and UNCTAD Join Forces to Spur Sustainable Investment (April 30th, 2023)

IsDB, ICIEC, and UNCTAD have jointly released Non-Binding Guiding Principles for Investment Policymaking to promote inclusive economic growth and sustainable development in the IsDB Group member countries. (IsDB)

Investment - Qatar
Nexxo Ventures completes the successful sale of its investment in Fintech QPAY to Qatar Islamic Bank (May 4th, 2023)

Nexxo Ventures has sold QPAY's acquiring business to Qatar Islamic Bank for an undisclosed amount. CIGP advised on the transaction, with its representative expressing pleasure in advising on a deal that demonstrates the firm's commitment to both the Middle East and the fintech space. (Street Insider)


Halal Industry
Newswrap: Halal Industry

The Indian government has issued guidelines for halal meat certification to streamline the export process; Saudi Arabia's SFDA is testing a blockchain-based system for transparent food tracking; Malaysia plans to build its first lab-grown meat facility to reduce the carbon footprint; Japan is now certified to export halal Kobe beef to Saudi Arabia


Regulatory - India
Indian Commerce ministry notifies guidelines for certification of halal meat products. (April 6th, 2023)

The Indian government has tightened regulations for the export of halal meat and its products. Meat and its products can now only be exported as 'halal certified' if they are produced, processed, and packaged in facilities with a valid certificate issued by an accredited body. The new rules aim to streamline the halal certification process for Indian meat exporters. (The Economic Times)

Regulatory - Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia: SFDA enables consumers to track sources of food and beverages via blockchain. (April 13th, 2023)

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has partnered with the Digital Government Authority (DGA) to test a blockchain-based system that enables consumers to track food and beverage sources in a transparent way. The experiment aims to enhance digital transformation and upgrade the digital economy in Saudi Arabia, while ensuring food safety. (Halal Focus)

Company News - Malaysia
Halal is the new clean: Luxury halal Swiss brand targets clean beauty market in Southeast Asia. (April 5th, 2023)

Singapore-based cosmetics brand, Nume-Lab, is expanding its business into the clean beauty market in Southeast Asia. The brand, which offers halal-certified skincare and haircare products made with natural and organic ingredients, aims to capitalize on the growing demand for clean beauty products in the region. (Cosmetics Design)

Company News - Malaysia
Malaysia is launching its first lab-grown meat facility. (April 25th, 2023)

Malaysian company Cell AgriTech plans to build the country's first lab-grown meat production facility in Penang by 2024. Lab-grown meat requires less land and can be done closer to consumers, reducing the carbon footprint from land clearing and logistics needed to deliver the product, which could potentially help in the fight against climate change. (Halal Focus)

Company News - Kyrgyzstan/Russia
Pork in halal sausages sparks scandal in Central Asia (April 28th, 2023)

Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselhoznadzor has claimed to have found pork DNA in a batch of halal sausages imported from Kyrgyzstan, raising concerns about the halal industry in Central Asia. The director of the National halal industry development centre in Kyrgyzstan, Abdul-Khamid Shamshidin Uulu, said that pork DNA could make its way into halal products due to contact or insufficient treatment of meat processing equipment. (Pig Progress)

Company News - USA
Labeling oversight leads to recall of 30 tons of halal meat and poultry sausages. (April 24th, 2023)

Alef Sausage Inc. is recalling 61,574 pounds of ready-to-eat halal meat and poultry sausage products due to misbranding and possible temperature abuse. The meat products were not labeled with a handling statement indicating that they should be kept refrigerated, and some items may be on retailers' shelves or in consumers' pantries. (Food Safety News)

Company News - USA
New York's The Halal Guys restaurant brings gyros, falafel, hummus and more to Iowa (March 30th, 2023)

The Halal Guys restaurant chain, which specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine, plans to open five locations in Iowa, including Des Moines, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids. The fast-casual restaurant has over 100 locations worldwide and another 400 in development. (Des Moines Register)

Investment - UAE
Al Ghurair Foods to invest Dh1b on 3 food processing plants in Abu Dhabi (April 29th, 2023)

Kezad group has signed a 50-year land-lease deal with Al Ghurair Foods to invest over Dh1 billion in three mega food processing projects in Abu Dhabi's food security program. The projects include a starch processing plant and one of the top broiler producers in the UAE, while the third project is yet to be announced. (IOFS)

Investment - Indonesia
Upgrades and opportunities: Kraft Heinz pumps investment into Indonesia, eyes meat replacement innovation (May 2nd, 2023)

Kraft Heinz invests $84m in upgrading its production facility in Indonesia, demonstrating its commitment to the market and its sustainability pledges. The facility is the firm's largest production site in Asia and primarily focuses on the ABC brand, which has the largest market share in Indonesia. (Food Navigator)

Trade Developments - Nigeria
Halal Market to Contribute $1.6bn Annually to Nigeria’s Economy — Nigeria Halal Economy Report (April 28th, 2023)

Report says Nigeria's Halal market could bring $1.6bn annually to the country's economy in four years, as the country's huge domestic market for halal products and services is worth $1.7bn. The report was produced by consultancy firm Dar-Al-Halal Nigeria and DinarStandard and launched in Abuja. (Daily Trust)

Trade Developments - Saudi Arabia
Japan certified to export halal Kobe beef to Saudi Arabia. (May 1st, 2023)

Japan is now certified to export beef to Saudi Arabia's halal market. The certification ceremony was attended by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud and Tomoshige Kanzawa, president of the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. 145 head of halal Kobe beef are scheduled to be shipped to Saudi Arabia this year. (Arab News)

Trade Developments - Indonesia/Saudi Arabia
Meat-ing the minds: Indonesia pushes for export collaboration with Saudi government with eye on hajj pilgrims. (May 3rd, 2023)

Indonesia plans to expand its meat exports to Saudi Arabia, where it hopes to leverage its halal certifications to cater to Muslim consumers on pilgrimage. With the world's largest Muslim consumer market, Indonesia aims to tap into the potential for halal food items, especially meat for consumption and sacrificial purposes. (Food Navigator)

Trade Developments - Singapore
Warees Halal and IHATEC Paves Way for Singapore Businesses for Export to Indonesia (May 5th, 2023)

Warees Halal Limited (WHL) has partnered with PT Insan Halal Terpercaya (IHATEC) to offer a 4-day training program to Singapore-based businesses that wish to produce or sell Halal products in Indonesia. Introduced in 2014, the Indonesian Law No. 33 Year 2014 on Halal Product Assurance requires products circulating in Indonesia to be Halal certified. (News Wires)

Trade Developments - Malaysia
Foodpanda Malaysia looks to Middle East, South Asia as appetite for halal delivery surges. (April 18th, 2023)

Foodpanda Malaysia is discussing with Delivery Hero, its parent company, the possibility of expanding its halal delivery services to the Middle East and South Asia. The move follows the successful launch of the company’s specialized halal offering in Malaysia. Foodpanda Malaysia has already begun talks to export its Bekal service to sister companies in these regions. (South China Morning Post)


Penang International Halal Expo & Conference 2023 – Malaysia – June 23-25, 2023
Malaysia International Food and Beverage Trade Show – Malaysia – July 11-13, 2023
Food Manufactuing Indonesia – Indonesia – Aug 23-25, 2023
Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) 2023 – Malaysia – Sep 12-15, 2023
Bahrain Halal Expo 2023 – Bahrain – Oct 5-7, 2023
Saudi International Halal Expo & Summit 2023 – Riyadh, KSA – Nov 19-21, 2023
World Halal Summit 2023 – Istanbul, Turkiye – Nov 23-25, 2023
Halal Expo London 2023 – London, UK – Dec 1-2, 2023
Halal Indonesia Expo 2023 – Indonesia – Dec 8-10, 2023




Islamic Lifestyle
The evolving sophistication and elegance of modest clothing

Diversity of interpretation and trends as influencers offer alternatives adding another dimension to modest clothing fashion.


Selangor, Malaysia; Dhaka; Tunis; Dubai and Lagos: There was a time when modest Muslim fashion was about being unseen – practising piety without giving as much as a nod to style or fashion – but today, Muslim women globally are increasingly combining their desire to proclaim modesty and religious identity without discarding elegance and sophistication in their clothing choices.


Malaysian fashion model and social media influencer Ike Diana argued there is no real conflict between mixing modest clothing choices and attractiveness and she willingly mixes modern pieces with traditional wear.

“Modesty is about finding the right balance of guarding your skin and wearing clothes that cover, yet are comfortable and fashionable. It is all about proportion because you can pair straight-cut jeans with a looser top or a fitted top with a flowy skirt,” she said, explaining that in southeast Asia, modest fashion was about dressing comfortably, not showing too much and clothes that fit the climate.

She said successful brands paid attention to Malaysia’s tropical climate with consumers increasingly conscious of the fabrics they choose, targeting breathability and comfort.

“We can’t wear anything leather or wool or at least wear them for long periods because it doesn’t suit the weather,” she explained.

Noting current modesty trends as being minimal yet trendy, Ike said there has been increasing interest in streetwear or basic pieces with an elevated look. This season vibrant colours, such as hot pink, have made a comeback. With more media influencers playing their roles through social media, consumer inspiration was being drawn from a variety of sources.

For Malaysian mother of one Amirah Najla Saidin, 29, choosing her modest wear demands comfort first. She observed that Malaysians lean towards more experimental choices when picking modest wear.

“Some say modest wear is loose clothes and some interpret it as long as your skin is covered, even with sheer or tight clothes,” she noted.

There certainly is plenty of choice. In Malaysia, brands such as UMMA, Imaan and Petit Moi sell an array of fashionable modest wear.


Malaysia’s influencer and model Ike Diana says modesty was about finding the right balance (Ike Diana).


Bangladeshi style

In Bangladesh the rise of ecommerce and related social media sites, including influencer webpages, has generated more creativity and choice in modest fashion ranges. Previously total coverage through burqas was common for women, but especially since 2014/15 as ecommerce took hold, retailers have been selling more abayas, khimar (traditional skirts and tops) and jilbab (another skirt and tops combination).

With ecommerce and social media opening Bangladesh to international fashion influences, these styles have been promoted by consumers seeing how women dress in Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and other diverse Muslim countries, said Tasnuva Rahman, co-owner of Reflections of Haya, an online modest clothing retailer

These influences are driving change in Bangladesh’s modest clothing market.

“One reason is women can try different fashions and trends. The burqa fully covers one and has mostly loose fittings, but the abaya, khimar, jilbab or a simple shrug can be fitted and worn in style,” noted Rahman.


Bangladeshi Muslim women wearing khimar (Reflections of Haya).


She added that teens and young girls preferred bat-wing abaya or shrugs over long tops, while middle-aged women prefer khimar and jilbab. Khimars are now also produced on a large scale by Bangladesh’s strong clothing industry:

“One can easily get a khimar for $5 when custom-tailor-made items cost $45 to $50. So, women buy khimar from any market,” said Rahman.

Fabric choices have also diversified. One e-retailer noted where previously women for burqas, women preferred BMW fabric, a variant of georgette from China, for their burqas, they now choose lightweight cherry georgette, silk, polyester cotton and pure synthetic fabric.

Old women like free-shaped, batwing cut, light-weighted fabric to carry with any dress, especially during summer and for winter, when temperatures fall to 11-14°C, they wear a coat or shrug over long tops.

Rural women still prefer heavy-work long burqas, while urban women prefer abaya shrugs to wear over any dress, noted Rahman.



Colour blocking is one of Gulf influencer Nada Nader’s favourite styles that she often promotes on her social media (Nada Nader).


The Gulf gets colourful

In the wealthier Gulf region, modest fashion is becoming increasingly inclusive and diverse with streetwear, activewear and fast fashion now trending among Muslim women.

“Modest fashion is no longer about wearing long-flowing gowns and loose-fitting black abayas. We now see colourful outfits and abayas, as well as modest streetwear, innovative hijabs and turbans with patterns,” Sarah Bradshaw, a modest fashion designer and founder of United Arab Emirates-based (UAE) Sarah Bradshaw Couture, told Salaam Gateway.

She said as the region’s often-fierce summer heat kicks in, women are opting for eye-catching colours such as light green, orange, mustard, beige and light pink – and for fabrics like silk and linen that are appreciated for their softness, elegance and comfort.

Born in Paris and based in Dubai, the 31-year-old social media influencer who has more than 22,000 followers on Instagram, said while high-end brands are becoming aware of the market’s potential and launching modest-wear collections, so are fast-fashion brands.


Colours such as orange, mustard, and beige are trending this summer in the Gulf (Sarah Bradshaw).


Mainstream retailers eye up modest fashion

For instance, PrettyLittleThing, a UK-based fast-fashion retailer, has gained popularity since launching a Middle East-dedicated ecommerce platform in 2020. The brand, known for its affordable prices, offers a collection of modest outfits.

Bradshaw said many modest-fashion influencers are also promoting low-cost outfits from Shein, the Chinese online fast fashion retailer, and Modanisa, a Turkish modest fashion ecommerce platform.

“Although I think the modest-fashion industry is becoming more sustainable thanks to educated and conscious consumers,” she said.

One example is The Giving Movement, a Dubai-based sustainable athleisure label that offers modest activewear, streetwear and loungewear. With its emphasis on ethical manufacturing and recyclable fabrics and its promise to donate $4 to charities for every item sold, the brand has gained numerous fans since its 2020 launch and recently raised $15 million from investors.

Bradshaw has also observed modest fashion becoming more inclusive, embracing different age groups, styles and body shapes.

“We have to keep in mind that the success of the market lies in understanding everyone defines modest fashion in their own way,” she said.

However, one challenge for all modest fashion brands in the region is the summer heat and humidity that does not encourage people to dress up.

Tunisia’s Sabrine Sbei, an influencer and retailer, wearing a modest fashion design (Sabrine Sbei).


Keeping it cool

“During the UAE’s summer, some people find it difficult to stay stylish and fresh outside. They might think it’s a waste of money and time to wear nice clothes as they won’t be able to enjoy them outdoors. This can negatively impact the modest fashion market,” said Bradshaw.

Modest fashion also reflects the diversity of consumers in a society. Tunisia, with its strong secular and religious traditions, has a mosaic of tastes when it comes to fashion and style. This has fed into modest fashion that is often more stylish in North Africa than in some more conservative Muslim cultures.

Sabrine Sbei, an Instagrammer, stylist and model and owner of ecommerce line Spity Shop told Salaam Gateway modest fashion trends incorporate both loose and tight outfits. For more modest consumers, a tight dress will be worn with an upper robe, such as an abaya, but for more secular women, these dresses could be worn alone.

As for colours, trending hues for modest and regular clothing are the same.

“Fashion focuses on bright colours, such as pistachio, bright orange, bright pink and similar funky colours,” said Sbei.


Modest fashion influencers are promoting soft, cool fabrics like silk and linen this summer (Sarah Bradshaw).


Arabic calligraphy

Tunisian fashion manufacturers can make variants of the same style to suit consumers’ modesty.

“The same clothing style is made for both women with and without hijab; the only difference is the length of the outfit, and what it covers,” she added.

When it comes to fabric, she said trendy fabrics like crumpled crepe fabric that achieve the perfect shape for loose trousers are common. The increase in local digital textile printing and its ability to deliver elaborate designs was also having an impact.

“Arabic writing is trendy on modest clothing this year, along with flowery vests and robes that are elegant and beautiful,” said Sbei.

Ultimately, in Tunisia, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, modest fashion is about wearing long clothes, made to cover the whole body, except for the hands and face.

Sbei said: “I love modest religious outfits myself, but it depends on everyone’s tastes and beliefs. There are Muslim women who would prefer a turban; others who cover their chest with an extra layer of their hijab and others just throw the hijab extra layer on their shoulders. It remains a personal choice based on how they apply their religious beliefs.”


Tunisian influencer and retailer Sabrine Sbei wearing her own ‘Spity’ modest design (Sabrine Sbei).


The Nigerian khimar

If more evidence was needed to reflect modest dressing is becoming a matter of style, consider Nigeria where the khimar, the long hijab-style robe that can be worn from head-to-toe, is becoming a symbol of trending modesty fashion.

“For Muslims it’s a good sign of faith, but it’s becoming more fashionable and people are really interested in wearing it, making it and selling it,” Amuda Faridah, a Lagos-based retailer of modesty fashion wears, told Salaam Gateway.

Faridah, a Muslim with an online store on Instagram, said social media has been instrumental in making the khimar popular across Nigeria.

“It’s becoming more stylish because it’s coming out in different colours with modesty fashion influencers portraying different styles on social media.”

For less formal modesty wear, two-piece outfits are also popular.


Nigerian Muslim modest fashion has real flair (Amuda Faridah).


“It’s either a shirt and a palazzo (trousers) or a shirt and skirt, but it’s a two piece. Most times it can be same the fabric with the same or different colours … it can be plain or patterned,” Faridah noted.

She added that Nigerian Muslim women sometimes paired these two piece outfits with a kimono for a three-piece look. These combination outfits are popular with Nigerian designers who often sell them online as ready-to-wear packages.

However, Faridah said dresses and abayas bought in Nigeria were often imported from the UAE, Malaysia and Turkey. The one currently trending was embroidery abayas with theses dresses fitting into what modesty fashion means for Faridah and countless other Muslim Nigerian women.

“They cover 80% of your body. Your arms are covered, your sleeves are covered and the pants are long. That’s what I understand as modesty. For instance, abayas are fashionable. They carry embroidery, are colourful and make modesty look fashionable,” she said.

When it comes to how these clothes fit, Faridah said consumers should have a choice. However, modesty wear should not tight fitting.

Not all modesty consumers would agree, rather stressing the need for skin coverage – and it is this diversity of views that is feeding energy and choice into the global Muslim fashion world.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Lifestyle
The architectural evolution of mosques

The whole earth is a mosque, but the physical mosque itself has played an important spiritual and educational role throughout Islamic history.


Beirut: With every step you walk you purify yourself of earthly sins. With every breath you take you purify your soul. You are walking towards the “house of Allah”, the mosque. In the mosque your body and sole are unified to be between the hands of God.

Mosques give the feeling of being safe and secure. Worshiping God in the mosque opens the multi-dimensions of the world so in it you worship God and the wonders of the world.

Ahmad Hajj, a Lebanese interior designer, sees mosques as “the best schools for education. They teach Muslims brotherhood and equality, so they gather in one place and stand in one row and pray behind the imam. Mosques teach people to live in solidarity”.

Reading the history of Islamic civilisation will tell you that most of the great Islamic scientists had their places in mosques to teach people not only the science of religion (theology), but also the natural sciences and all other branches of science. Today mosques have added another dimension to their functions, the dimension of being touristic sites.

History of mosques

The Prophet Mohammad said “the earth is a mosque for you, so pray wherever you happen to be when prayer time comes”. This great saying makes the whole earth one large mosque (or masjid), but building a special place to practice the worshiping of God, to socialise with others and produce science makes the mosque a microcosm of the world.

With the spread of Islam all over the world mosques spread too. It is not possible to cover the history of mosques and their present role in one or even three articles. To cover it we are in need of countless volumes of books because every mosque has its own history and present day reality. Even the modern iconic mosques in the world have their own contemporary history. So the selection of mosques in this article is taken randomly just to give an insight about the greatness of the mosques and their role in all fields of life.

For example, the most three important symbolic mosques for Muslims are Al Medina mosque, and the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and Al Aqsa mosque in Al Quds (Jerusalem), Occupied Palestine. Every one of them has its own spiritual symbolic meaning. It is said every Muslim that visits Al Medina mosque will win the Prophet’s intercession on the Day of Judgment, a visit to the Grand Mosque of Mecca is a visit to the earthly representation of God’s throne in heaven, and Al-Aqsa mosque represents the site of the Prophet’s famous Night Journey.

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

The Prophet built the first mosque in the courtyard of his house in Medina in 622 BCE. It was the first materialistic sign of establishing Islam and Muslims as a community.

Adding to this is that when the Prophet made his hijra from Mecca to Medina in 622 BCE, he stayed at Quba from Monday to Thursday. He prayed at the site of the mosque of Quba which thus takes the honor of being the first site at which the Prophet prayed after his hijra from Mecca.

At that time Al Medina mosque served as a place of public worship, a seat of government, a place for education and a refuge for any destitute emigre.


Islam has made a unique contribution to architecture and the architectural arts: calligraphy, geometry and garden designs. In its early days, like any other civilisation before it, it borrowed features from buildings associated with local religious and cultures before establishing its own specific architectural identity.

The Prophet’s mosque at Medina was originally a simple orthogonal walled space with an open courtyard having two or three doors and a shaded prayer enclosure (mousalla) with one end facing Mecca. The mousalla was supported by columns, which were spaced at regular intervals to hold up the roof structure. Now it is one of the biggest mosques in the world.

At the beginning, through the Ummayad period, the architecture of the mosque was based on the Prophet’s mosque, in Medina, but with time reforms took place. Throughout history certain elements of mosques were developed such as the minarat, the mihrab, the courtyard, al mousalla, all now became common to the aesthetic vocabulary of the mosque.

Only one aspect has remained constant which is the sign to show al qibla direction (towards Mecca) symbolised by a prayer mihrab.

The most famous mosques of the Ummayad period unfortunately do not exist anymore, with one built in Basra, Iraq in 670 BCE, and one at Kufa. They were rebuilt by Ziad Ibn Abihi. It is said that at that time the mosque of Kufa which was was the greatest mosque in the world. In 673 BCE the Ummayad governor of Egypt, Maslama, enlarged the mosque of Amr at Fustat and added to its design minarets. That was the first appearance of minarets in mosques.

The Great Mosque of Damascus, according to al-Fakih, cost seven years of khiraj (tax) to build, taking place under Caliph Al Walid, who also enlarged the mosque of Al Medina in 707 – 709 BCE.

The minaret of the Ummayad mosque in Damascus, Syria (Paul Cochrane).

During the Abassid period under Al Masour the circular city of Baghdad, with its palace and Great Mosque at the center, was built and was symbolic of the idea of world domination. Next to Al Mansour’s Qasr Al Dahab, crowned by a green dome, stood the Great Mosque. Unfortunately, nothing has survived of this architectural jewel. The mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo and the great Mosque of Qairawan represent the two most prestigious monuments of the 9th century.

Taking into consideration the development of sciences at every period, as long as we talk about buildings, it is related directly to geometry. Because “any architectural design is inherently an exercise in geometry,” according to Martin Frishman, author of ‘The Mosque: History, Architectural Development & Regional Diversity’. That is why we can notice some radical changes in the design of mosques from the Umayyad to the Abassid period, and from the Ottoman period to the present.

From an architectural perspective mosques have fixed structural elements whatever the size or place or time of building the mosque. These fixed structural elements are:

  1. A demarcated space – partly roofed and partly open to the sky – to provide accommodation: Haram is the covered area; sahn is the opened one, and the pray hall is usually rectangular or square in plan.

  2. The qibla wall and the mihrab: The prayer hall must have one wall facing Mecca. At the mid-point of this wall, known as the qibla wall, is placed the mihrab which is the central and most decorated spot of any mosque.

  3. The minbar (pulpit) is always positioned to the right of the mihrab and consists of a staircase of varying height, with or without handrails leading to a small platform which is often crowned by a cupola-type of roof, usually in some attractive shape.

  4. The dikka: a wooden platform or tribune of single-story height and positioned in line with the mihrab. The dekka can be reached by its own stairs.

  5. The kursi: this is usually a well decorated wooden piece on which the Qu’ran is placed and kusri usually placed next to the dikka.

  6. The maqsura: the place set apart to safeguard the life of imam.

  7. The pool: this element may be with or without a fountain and may be intended for ablutions, or may be purely decorative.

  8. The minaret: the original purpose of this tower-like element, apart from serving as a local landmark, was to ensure that the muezzin could be heard far and wide.

  9. The portal: the mosque is nearly surrounded by walls.

These are the main elements of the mosque but also there is a major part which exists in every mosque, the decoration that goes with the functions of the mosque and its spiritual role. Here comes in Arabic calligraphy as a main element for decorative purposes and religious ones too.

According to Ahmad Hajj, “Arabic calligraphy has its importance because it expresses the Arabic and Islamic identity. It is used in decorating mosques, museums, tombs, shrines, and archaeological sites. We also see that each style of calligraphy has its own character, features and identity, and this is what the designer chooses in the decoration or internal and external adornment of the mosque to reflect the identity of the architectural and aesthetic design.”

From the earliest times the written word was used as the major and sometimes the sole type of mosque ornamentation. In general, Qur’anic texts are selected for inscriptions in mosques but quotations from the hadith can also be found in some mosques.

The treatment of writing as decoration have varied from as simple as possible to extraordinarily complex. The simplicity can be seen in the great mosque at Sousse, Tunisia (850 BCE) which has a single unornamented band of Qu’ran in kufic script. The high level of calligraphy as ornament can be seen on the interior walls of the Ulu Cami in Bursa, Turkey (completed in 1400 BCE).


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Functions of the mosque

With the spread of Islam two types of mosques appeared, in the early period, big city mosques and small ones. The mosques in the cities were usually one of two types. Large state buildings were used for Friday prayers and assemblies. Caliphs and their appointed governors often established their residences close to these mosques, while the small ones were built in neighbourhoods.

Mosques serve a variety of functions. In addition to praying, they hold great social, political and educational importance. Mosques are places for spiritual and public affairs. Some are built to satisfy both functions, the spiritual and the public, like Suleymaniye Kulliye of Istanbul, built in the 1500s, which consists of a congregational mosque, two schools, a hospital, a public bath, a public kitchen, fountains, housing, and shops, while others are built just for worshiping.



The mosque of Saladin at the Cairo Citadel, Egypt (Paul Cochrane).



From the early days of the mosques, they have functioned as a centre of religious and non-religious education. At an early age, children learned to memorise passages from the Qur’an and Hadith. There was also higher educational learning, according to Hajj: “Senior scholars and leaders who carried the banner of Islam graduated from mosques. Also there were seminars and lessons in mosques in all Islamic countries. Scholars chose a place in the mosque and taught lessons, and the history of the mosques of Baghdad, Cairo, Basra, Cordoba, Damascus and Mosul”.

Mosques represent an educational place which attracted students from a wide range of economic backgrounds. Also their education provided an opportunity for upward mobility, and sometimes they provided a way for students to achieve high governmental positions.

In cities it was common to have a university-mosque complex. For example, Al Azhar in Cairo, established in 971 BCE, is widely acknowledged as the world’s oldest university, and still serves as an educational institution. Another example, in West Africa, is the Sankore University mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, which was built in 989 BCE on the orders of the city’s judge Qadi Aqib.

Today in America and Europe most mosques have part-time or full-time schools to provide an Islamic education.

Between 1850 and 1950, mosque education underwent radical changes. The Arab countries started to emerge and gain their independence, and started to build schools and universities in their modern meaning. As a result, mosque education started to vanish.


The Qatar Foundation mosque in Doha, Qatar (Shutterstock).


Touristic sites

With the advent of modern travel, moving from one place to another became relatively easy regardless of the distance. That pushed the tourism sector to improve and be a main part of the country’s economy. Also religious tourism became increasingly important.

With these developments mosques have opened a new dimension to their existence, as an economic contributor. For example, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul represents a major touristic site in Turkey. Hajj sees the Education City Mosque in Qatar as “an architectural masterpiece. The design idea is based on the concept of science and enlightenment, and through the architect’s idea the use of blocks in the form of two interconnected strips, at the end of them are two minarets that rise to the sky in the direction of the qiblah at a height of 90 metres, and the heart of the building was decorated with Arabic calligraphy.”

The other mosque which represent an attractive religious and touristic site, according to Hajj, is the “Great Mosque of Algiers, the largest mosque in Africa.”

“It was opened in 2020 at a cost of $1.5 billion, and it can accommodate about 120,000 people. The height of the minaret is 267 metres, the dome is 70 meters high and 50 metres in diameter with decorations inside from Islamic architecture. The style of the mosque is architecturally Andalusian Islamic with a mixture of modern architecture. It includes 12 separate buildings, and the interior of the mosque is decorated with the Andalusian character.”

With Saudi Arabia opening its doors to tourism, it is promoting some of the most spiritual mosques in the world, for Muslims, and the most historical.

The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Project for the Development of Historical Mosques was announced in 2018 and has been tasked with preserving and restoring 130 mosques situated throughout the kingdom. The first phase restored 30 mosques in 10 regions.

The oldest mosque dates to 1432 BCE. It was restored during the first phase at a cost of more than 50 million Saudi Riyal ($13.3 million). The second phase of the historic mosques development project includes 30 historical mosques distributed across the 13 regions of the kingdom.

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Halal Industry
Africa’s battle to stay cool to reduce post-harvest losses and increase food security

In Africa, over 20% of the population faced hunger in 2021, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, post-harvest food losses are estimated at $4 billion annually, enough to feed at least 48 million people, according to the UN Environment Programme.


Addressing the 2.1 billion tonnes of global food loss and waste is a planetary problem but one that requires local solutions. In Africa, one of the key measures to reduce post-harvest food losses is the expansion of sustainable cold chains, suggests the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Cold chains are climate-controlled infrastructures helping to preserve edible products by maintaining a consistent ambient temperature.

“With Africa’s economy, driven by population growth, urbanisation and food security is expected to grow tenfold to $29 trillion by 2050; this presents a challenge and an opportunity” in accelerating the uptake of sustainable cold chain solutions in the agricultural sector, said Ziad Al Bawaliz to Salaam Gateway. Cold chains are climate-controlled infrastructures that help preserve edible products by maintaining a consistent ambient temperature.

Al Bawaliz is Danfoss’s regional president for Turkey, the Middle East and Africa. With over 40,000 employees worldwide, the Danish multinational company engineers energy-efficient technologies and delivers cold chain solutions through commercial and industrial refrigeration.

Danfoss is a founding industry partner at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-Chain (ACES), located at the University of Rwanda. Through its office on the ACES campus, Danfoss supports students and technicians in their training needs.

“Refrigeration has been around for more than 100 years, and it’s an evolving industry,” Al Bawaliz said. “We can leapfrog the challenges developed nations face with CFCs and HCFCs.”

Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants are ozone-depleting. The use of these chemicals has been banned and is currently being phased out, following the Montreal Protocol of 1987.

ACES is a UNEP-led initiative established in 2020 by the governments of Rwanda and the United Kingdom. Its mission is to develop and accelerate the uptake of sustainable cold chain solutions in Africa's agriculture and health sectors.

“Besides dealing with a large number of small farmers, a lack of policies, investments, awareness and technical capabilities are the main challenges,” said Al Bawaliz about the difficulties of expanding refrigeration networks to prevent post-harvest losses.

According to Al Bawaliz, most small farmers cannot afford a cold chain infrastructure. What makes matters worse is that according to the World Investment Report 2022, foreign direct investments (FDI) in various sectors relevant to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially in food, agriculture, health and education, continued to fall in 2021. However, flows to Africa increased from $39 billion in 2020 to $83 billion in 2021.

“We need to have the right financial models to ensure the development of cold chain; the return on investment is viable,” he said, suggesting service-based models to avoid the upfront investment.

“The banks need to be part of the picture,” Al Bawaliz added.


Ziad Al Bawaliz (Regional President at Danfoss Turkey, Middle East & Africa), Andrea Voigt (Head of Public Affairs at Danfoss Climate Solutions), and students from Danfoss’ internship project Eyes and Ears in Africa: Yves Nezerwa, Parfait Niyonshuti and Natasha Mutangana (Courtesy: Danfoss).


The World Resource Institute also names insufficient energy access to power cold storage and poor road and railway networks as an issue to be tackled, in addition to Africa’s low adoption rates for innovations in managing post-harvest losses.

To shift these low adoption rates, the Nigerian entrepreneur and founder of the Smallholders Foundation, which informs on sustainable farming through a radio station, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, travelled across the country to speak to farmers to co-design such innovations and help scale up businesses.

The result is a ColdHub, a “plug and play” modular, solar-powered walk-in cold room for 24/7 off-grid storage and preservation of perishable foods.

“When you travel along Nigerian roads, it’s a typical picture of citrus and other high-quality fresh produce dumped on the roadside due to lack of storage,” Ikegwuonu said at an event organised by The Oxford Martin School, a research and policy unit based in the Social Sciences Division of the University of Oxford.

“I discovered that more than 45% of food is lost due to lack of cold storage at key points along the food supply chain,” Ikegwuonu added.

According to him, with just 10,000 metre cubed, Nigeria has one of the lowest cold storage capacities in Africa, mainly catering to the needs of the health sector and fish imports from Europe and Asia. Refrigeration, which he describes as critical infrastructure, doesn't exist in Nigeria's food aggregation centres.



“The power grids can’t deliver energy reliably, and the average farmers and wholesalers can’t afford most of the refrigeration equipment needed to provide large-scale cooling,” he said, confirming the challenges mentioned by the World Resources Institute and Danfoss’s Al Bawaliz.

Ikegwuonu founded ColdHubs in 2015, and besides designing and building 100% solar-powered cold rooms, the company also operates and maintains them.

Over 5,000 farmers, retailers and wholesalers are using Coldhub’s services, nearly doubling their income from about $60 per month to $100 to $120 by selling the food that usually was thrown away.

“The goal is to extend the shelf life of food from two days to more than 21 days by bringing refrigeration closer to farmers at farm gates, where they need it the most,” Ikegwuonu said about the 54 cold rooms the company is running at the moment.

For 2022, Ikegwuonu projects to grow to 100 such rooms.

“Moreover, we've saved more than 1 million kilogrammes of CO2 by using renewable energy exclusively in all our systems, with no need for diesel generators at all,” he said.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Finance
UK’s Al Rayan closes last retail banking branch

The UK’s largest and oldest fully-fledged Islamic bank recently closed its last retail banking branch and now maintains a single branch only for high and ultra-high net worth customers.


London: Al Rayan closed its Edgware Road branch in the capital on 3 August. The branch’s shuttering follows a gradual closure of other retail bank branches over the past few years. The bank closed its London Whitechapel and Birmingham Small Heath branches in 2021. This came after it closed its Manchester and Leicester branches in September 2020.

An Al Rayan Bank spokesperson told Salaam Gateway that existing customers can continue to bank with Al Rayan Bank through their Digital Banking App and Telephone Banking service. Personal and business customers can also continue to deposit cash and cheques at nearby Lloyds Bank branch counters.

“Like many banks in the UK, Al Rayan Bank is finding that more and more customers are choosing to access their banking services digitally, rather than through a branch,” said the spokesperson. “As demand for branch services and customer footfall reduces, some commercial decisions have to be made.”

Al Rayan now only maintains its Knightsbridge branch which is only open to “premier” banking customers. Premier banking is for those who require home finance of £500,000 ($589,000) or more, are GCC clients or ultra-high net worth individuals. 

Mohammed Amin, an Islamic finance consultant and former tax partner at PwC in the UK, said that the closure of Al Rayan’s Edgware Road branch, while keeping a Knightsbridge branch for premier customers, is not surprising.

“I have long considered branches to be a way for retail banks to waste money,” he said. “That is why the major UK conventional banks have been reducing their branch footprint for many years. When Islamic Bank of Britain (as it then was) embarked on its branch strategy, I always felt that was a bad strategy and that they would be better off being internet only.”

Zahir Nayani, partner at Bristol-based law firm Foot Anstey, added that Al Rayan's shift to reduce its branch footprint has been driven principally by the increasing digitisation of retail banking and decrease in high street footfall.  

“Arguably, bolstering their online offering is a useful long-term play given increasing competition from values-based fintech offerings such as Algbra and Nester,” he said. 

New incoming charges

In addition to branch closures, Al Rayan is also set to introduce fees for its current accounts from January 2023, according to customers who spoke to Salaam Gateway.

One Al Rayan customer expressed dismay over the incoming fees in addition to branch closures.

“The current account fee is a ruse to encourage retail customers to walk away,” he said. “Branch closures have been framed under the pretext that digital banking is the future but they still require manual processes to do important tasks. It is just another reason for retail customers to get frustrated and switch to a conventional high street bank.”

In response, the Al Rayan spokesperson said they regularly review their products and strive to offer customers a range of services that meet their needs.

“In our recent review we found that most of our current account customers do not use Al Rayan Bank as their primary current account. When a current account is not used regularly, it can become inactive which could pose a greater security risk for customers,” said the spokesperson. 

“For our customers that wish to use their current account and subsequently maintain a set balance in their current account, the charges will not apply, thus allowing us to offer our services to our target market who actually use the product,” the spokesperson added.

Commitment to UK sector

There are five Islamic banks in the UK, although each are serving different areas of the market like retail, corporate, private and real estate financing.

Established in 2004, then as Islamic Bank of Britain, Al Rayan provides Sharia-compliant savings, finance and current account services to over 90,000 personal, business and premier customers.

In 2014, Al Rayan became the UK subsidiary of Masraf Al Rayan (MAR), a Qatar-based Islamic bank. Last year, MAR merged with Al Khaliji Commercial Bank, which created one of the largest Sharia-compliant banks in the region with over QAR182 billion ($50 billion) in total assets. As part of the merger, Al Rayan Bank said it would leverage the opportunities from the MAR merger and focus on commercial property and premier banking, according to the bank’s 2021 annual report.

However, branch closures and a pivot towards high-net worth customers has led to some stakeholders suggesting that Al Rayan is slowly withdrawing from the retail market. 

Ibrahim Khan, co-founder and CEO of IFG, a UK-based Islamic finance platform, believes that Al Rayan’s gradual exit from branch banking is part of a steady withdrawal of the bank from serving UK Sharia-sensitive retail customers and focusing more on commercial and corporate lending activity as well as serving more high-net worth clients from overseas. 

“For Muslims in the UK this is an unfortunate development as it reduces the sources for Islamic home finance - Al Rayan was the biggest player for many years,” he said. “There is still hope with multiple well-funded new entrants to the market in recent years such as Strideup, Wayhome and others, however it'll be a while before we get the number of Islamic mortgages issued every year back to the heyday of when Al Rayan was at its peak.”

The Al Rayan spokesperson reiterated the bank’s commitment to the retail banking market.

“Earlier this year, Al Rayan Bank announced that it would continue its transition to become a financial institution which is focused on premier banking and property, mainly residential investments, to deliver a viable, resilient, Sharia-compliant business,” said the Al Rayan spokesperson. “As part of our commitment, we continue to offer the very competitive loyalty rates for all of our retail, assets and liabilities customers.”

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

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