A mosque in East London has become the first in the UK to declare cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, halal and said it would accept donations in such a form. The news has sent a ripple across the Muslim world with figures including the Mufti of Egypt suggesting it is haram, or forbidden, as cryptocurrencies are inherently speculative making it similar to gambling.
The mosque, also known as Shacklewell Lane Mosque, will accept donations in two different cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, after advice from a London-based start-up Combo Innovation, a blockchain company which focuses on Islamic finance. The money would be used to carry out repairs at the mosque, offer help to families who are struggling to pay funeral costs and shelter and feed the poor.
This move was an attempt by the mosque to attract a wider set of an audience as during the month of Ramadan Muslims are meant to give away 2.5% of their wealth. It is an annual donation which is compulsory for all but the poorest Muslims. Zayd al Khair, a religious adviser at the mosque said:
“Any money or currency is neither halal – permissible – nor haram – impermissible. Guidance is about the value which it represents. If money is transacted in a lawful manner then it is halal.” He went on to say, “We do not always know the source of cash donations, but we take these in good faith too.”
Money is closely regulated and managed under Sharia law, and it had to be officially declared that cryptocurrencies can fall under its scheme. Last month, Muhammad Abu-Bakar of Blossom Finance in Indonesia explored the functionality of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to determine whether they fit with Islam’s strict definitions of money. Mathew Martin, the CEO of Blossom Finance said:
“Several recent fatawa issued by prominent Muslim scholars offered incomplete or contradictory opinions on the topic.”