Heaven's Bankers: Inside the Hidden World of Islamic Finance by Harris Irfan. Published by Constable.
Business books can be terribly boring. Islamic finance books can be even more so, particularly if they are poorly written and badly edited. Thankfully Heaven's Bankers: Inside the Hidden World of Islamic Finance by Harris Irfan is neither of these.
Published by Constable, better known for its handling of fading rock star memoirs like The Living Years by Genesis’ Mike Rutherford, Irfan’s book is nothing short of a national treasure. I should come clean and confess that I have known Irfan for some years but I had no idea that he could write so well: Raymond Chandler isn't in it. His prose style is engaging and inclusive and thankfully lacks the traditional pomposity that often sullies the pages of tomes of a financially revelatory mien.
I cadged a lift from Irfan a few years ago between Abu Dhabi to Dubai, where we had both been speaking at an Islamic finance conference. He told me about this mysterious mosque in Dubai that all the big guns attended, including Dr Omar bin Sulaiman, who at that time had recently fallen from grace. Thankfully this book takes up the tale of the mosque, Masjid Al-Samad, where our conversation left off.
Irfan manages to give a warts-and-all account of the Islamic finance industry, without giving up hope altogether, and should be required reading for all students who think they want to enter an industry that is often not what it seems to be. If you only read one Islamic finance book this year, make sure it is one of mine. But if you have some spare change after that then you would do well to invest in this tome. You will feel better having read it.