A week or so ago, I literally stumbled across some complaints that have apparently been made by workers at an Indianapolis-based real estate group against their employer. The employer is poised to act as the manager of an aspiring shari`a-compliant real estate fund (see below for use of the term "aspiring"). Since I am a member of the fund's shari`a consultant committee, I am very interested in these claims. I have not verfied the claims and therefore can not comment on them or their consequence, should they be verified, for the shari`a compliance of the fund once it comes up for review. In sha'Allah, I will update this space as more information becomes available to me. I have contacted an individual, mentioned in several press reports and blogs, who is apparently familiar with the details of the complaints. I am waiting for more information from this individual.
For now, I would like to make a few quick remarks:
* In traditional Islamic ethics (fiqh), treating one's workers fairly is an obligation (wajib). This obligation is indicated by the general signification of multiple passages (ayat) of the Qur'an and multiple, explicit Prophetic traditions (ahadith). As such, this obligation has been transmitted--and related issues discussed--in detail by master ethicist-jurists across centuries of Islamic intellectual history.
* The fund has not yet been launched. Therefore, of course, the fund has not been reviewed by the committee for shari`a compliance. To repeat: the committee has not opined as to the whether the fund is shari`a-compliant. (Hence the use of the phrase "aspiring shari`a compliant fund.")
* The committees known in the shari`a compliant finance sector (aka the "Islamic finance" sector) as "shari`a supervisory boards" are, in essence, ethical compliance review boards. I therefore strongly encourage any party that is aware of possible ethical violations to bring these issues to the attention of the ethical boards of the shari`a compliant financial entities in question. This is why such boards exist. This tactic has been effective on numerous occassions in the past.