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Meet the editors of... Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research

An interview with: Professor Roszaini Haniffa and Dr Mohammad Hudaib
Interview by: Margaret Adolophus

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Photo: Professor Roszaini Haniffa.Professor Roszaini Haniffa is the head of the accounting and finance group at Bradford University School of Management. Prior to joining Bradford, she taught at Exeter University, where she received her PhD. She also taught professional and academic courses in accounting and finance at several higher education institutions in Malaysia.

Her research interests focus on corporate governance, voluntary disclosure, corporate social and environmental reporting, auditing, business ethics, international accounting and the Islamic perspective of accounting. She sits on several committees at the Management School and supervises doctoral students in the areas of corporate governance, auditing and accounting, including the Islamic perspective and business ethics. She has acted as external examiner for PhD candidates and is the moderator and examiner for the Association of International Accountants (AIA) and the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) Islamic professional accounting papers 15 and 6 respectively. Ros has published widely in mainstream accounting journals and has been invited as guest speaker to deliver lectures on various aspects of Islamic accounting. She also acted as a reviewer and is a member of the editorial board of several journals. Ros is included in the Muslim Women Power List 2009 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, UK.

Photo: Dr Mohammad Hudaib.Associate Professor Mohammad Hudaib is currently at Nottingham University Business School. He received his PhD at Essex Business School, and has taught at Bradford University School of Management and Exeter University. Prior to his teaching career, he was an auditor in Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad's research interests include auditing, corporate governance, Islamic perspective of accounting, accounting theory and ethics. He has published papers in mainstream accounting journals, acted as a reviewer for a number of journals and has been invited to lecture on business ethics and Islamic accounting.

About the journal

Islamic finance is growing at a phenomenal rate – some estimates have put the global value of assets at US$1 trillion. Sharia principles of risk sharing (banks sharing in the profits and losses of their clients), prohibition on speculative share selling (the seller must own a share, and cannot "bet" on its future value), regulations concerning the law of trust, and distaste for interest-based financial transactions – all these have much to offer a world reeling from the credit crunch.

The Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research (JIABR) will fill the gap created by lack of research outlets for Islamic accounting and business, as opposed to finance and banking, and complements Emerald's International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management. JIABR will provide a forum for discussion of issues related to Islamic accountancy, and will cover both theory and practice of Islamic accounting, auditing and business practices, including reporting, corporate governance, performance management, and accounting disclosure, as well as socio-political and historical perspectives.

In addition, a "research notes" section will publish shorter articles by practitioners on less established research issues intended to trigger debates. The journal will thus appeal not only to academics in the area, but also to practising accountants, lawyers and business managers, as well as to students on courses in Islamic accounting and business.

Islamic accounting

Sharia prohibitions on interest, usury and speculative share dealing are well known. What key principles underlie sharia accounting and auditing?

The basic principles of sharia are the same whatever the area, and are drawn from the five basic principles of Islam, particularly belief in God. It is how you manifest those beliefs and principles in your everyday life that makes a difference. You may approach a particular activity in the conventional way, but there are additional things you need to be concerned about.

In accounting, you carry out the same basic activities of recording, reporting, measuring and, subsequently, auditing. But the difference with sharia accounting is that you need to take special care over how you record things. And, if there is a transaction between parties, you need to have a proper contract that makes it very clear what is going on, how much you are paying for something, and how much profit each side stands to make. Take house purchase, for example: you need to know the exact price and the profit to the other party. And all must be properly recorded and documented.

You also need to measure it properly because with creative accounting you can always manipulate the figures. So from the Islamic perspective, you have to be very careful when you're buying the assets.

Our source for these principles is firstly the Koran and then the Hadith [a supplement to the Koran and a basis for Islamic jurisprudence]. The Koran is the final revelation from God and the Hadith is based on the words and deeds of the prophet Mohammad and both are sources for Muslims to follow, including business activities. A third source is use of analogy and past experience from which you can make a judgement about how to apply the principles to contemporary issues.

Journal mission and editorial objectives

Can you describe the core mission, and editorial objectives, of JIABR?

The core mission is to provide a platform for, and cater for the needs of, academics, students, researchers and professionals – both Muslims and non-Muslims – who are interested in a different perspective, or an alternative way of conducting business, and this has implications on accounting and finance.

Islamic accounting is a very new area; previously the focus has been on Islamic banking, but you can't have banking or conduct business without the involvement of accountants!

Many universities are now offering courses in Islamic accounting and auditing, and there is a demand for resources both for teaching and researching. However, most materials related to this subject area are either published in local/in-house journals that are not easily accessible, have ceased or are only available on the Internet, and very often have not gone through rigorous academic review. Furthermore, most resources are in languages other than English, thus limiting the sharing of knowledge.

When I wrote my first paper, back in 2000, I found it very difficult to publish in a mainstream accounting journal because people would say, "What's so special?". But now people realize that it's quite an interesting area because it raises many issues related to governance, auditing, contracts, etc.

Although papers have now started to appear in mainstream journals, given the growing interest in the area we felt it was important to launch a specialist journal and Emerald has been very supportive in helping us achieve this goal.

How do you see the journal developing over the next couple of years?

Our first issue is due out in April 2010 with four to five papers. We will have the second issue in October, after that we will be publishing two issues a year.

Emerald has offered us more issues per year, but we are just starting and we care about quality rather than quantity. We want very good pieces of work, but many of the pieces that have come in over this past year are not really of the sort of quality suitable for an international journal. Many of the authors don't speak English as their first language, and their understanding of Islam is related to culture rather than religion: interpretation varies slightly across different cultures. There is nothing wrong with writing from a cultural perspective – in Islam there are different schools of thought. But when you are writing for an international audience, you can't take it for granted that people will understand your assumptions: you have to make them explicit.

The other problem for most authors is that there isn't much information available, it's not a very developed area yet. It's difficult to find sources and most of these are in Arabic, which is not the main language for most authors. Authors are not used to writing at an international level – they don't mind putting things on the Internet or publishing in a low key journal. But we want the journal to be well regarded and the first issue is important in setting the standard.

So what we as editors and editorial board members need to do is to write up certain topics to start the ball rolling. We need to challenge authors to tackle issues using approaches other than just empirical testing. We are also attending conferences and encouraging people to write and submit to JIABR.

We are very concerned to set the standard with the first two issues. Emerald will make these available to everyone so we need to set expectations of quality. Our ultimate objective is to be included in journal ranking lists such as ABS, Scopus and Business Source Premier.

Can you describe the key research areas you will seek to cover?

We are looking particularly at how Islam affects some fundamental accounting concepts. Take for example that of accountability: in conventional accounting, it is to the various stakeholders involved. But from the Islamic perspective you are ultimately accountable to God and that will constrain your behaviour in everything you do.

Trust is also different because from an Islamic perspective, human beings are here as a trust from God to be His guardian on earth. So, if you are entrusted with someone's wealth, ultimately the wealth doesn't belong to that person but to God. These are the concepts we want to explore further.

Most of the papers we receive currently are from an empirical or positivist perspective. I would like to encourage people to write from an interpretive standpoint because that is a good way of looking at what is going on in an Islamic organization, for example the internal control or governing structure. So I'd like to see topics on all areas of accounting from an Islamic perspective: not just financial reporting, but also management accounting, auditing and corporate governance.

A fairy godmother grants you three wishes, and you use them on articles you would like to see appear in your inbox. What would these articles be about?

We would like to see a paper about the ethical reasoning of people involved in Islamic organizations. Most of those now working in Islamic banks or other Islamic organizations are actually from a "conventional" background. So do they reason differently in their current environment?

Another ideal paper would look at how the Sharia Board makes its decisions about products. Before an Islamic bank offers any product it has to go before the Sharia Board, and similarly with products offered by other Islamic organizations. But it is very difficult to find a product which is going to the international market that does not have an element of non-permissible activity. How could this problem be resolved?

Are there any specifically Islamic research methodologies which you will draw on, and encourage, in the journal?

Authors will always need to refer to the Koran and the Hadith as the main sources, and these will be the main ontological framework when discussing accounting theories and concepts. So the approach could be eclectic, borrowing from Islamic as well as conventional theories.

You will complement the International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management (IJIMEFM) in that you will cover accountancy research as opposed to that on finance and business, however, is there a potential overlap in terms of business research and management, treatment of ethical issues, etc.? If so, how will you deal with this?

That journal covers a geographical area (Middle East) as well as religion, whereas JIABR would consider papers from anywhere in the world providing they dealt with Islamic issues and concepts related to Islamic accounting and business research: the Islamic perspective is more important than the country context. We would also consider papers on Islamic banking, but only with accounting or auditing implications rather than purely finance because that is a very technical area.

You are clearly seeking to address a practitioner audience almost as much as an academic one. However, practitioners don't tend to read academic journals. How do you intend to draw practitioners in?

We have some practitioners on the editorial board and we also approach them at conferences: they do write, but from a practitioner rather than an academic perspective which means the research is less in-depth. They know a lot about what's going on in practice, although they may not know much about the theories.

We also intend to have a blog, where people can ask questions, as a way of engaging practitioners and other potential authors. Sometimes we editors could even answer the questions!

How will you ensure rigorous peer review and quality control?

The editors will do the first screening; we are being quite lenient at the moment, and as long as a paper falls within the scope of the journal, we will send it out to reviewers. Obviously some papers come back with poor reviews and have to be rejected. We do understand how frustrating it is to authors, but they need to understand the level we are looking for.

There is a problem getting reviewers because it is a very specialist area with only a limited pool of possibilities. So sometimes I will take someone with a conventional background and complement that with someone who understands the Islamic perspective. It's also good for the author to get two different views. If there is a clash of opinion, we will send it out to a third reviewer.

We have a structured form for reviewers asking them to rank on the structure, the depth of the literature review, the empirical work, and so on. We also ask for detailed feedback to authors and to editors (if any).

Dare one ask what your acceptance rate is?

Out of a total of 30 papers so far, I've only accepted five. But there are about another ten in the pipeline which are currently under first and second revisions.

So we are OK with the first issue which I have to deliver to Emerald by January: we have got the four papers, and we are waiting for another one from a practitioner.

And finally ...

Emerald looks for its research to have a social impact. Sharia principles have clear benefits to business ethics. How will your research advance social justice and the welfare of the community?

We believe sharia principles can offer an alternative view of the link between society and business. People can learn from reading about how product decisions from an Islamic perspective are made, about whether Islamic organizations live up to their high ideals in JIABR.

These business issues are not purely religious matters; it's a basic human instinct to have a good and just society, and a world that is sustainable. And Islam is not just about prayer and religious observance: it's about how you live your life in every respect and touches upon everything you do, the way you conduct your business, how you deal with employees, the environment, etc. If we get articles on these topics, then hopefully we can learn from one another.

Interestingly, the Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal had a special issue on theological perspectives a few years ago (Volume 17 Issue 3).

One of the plans we have in mind is to have a conference which would be a dialogue between the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam: selected papers would be published in a special issue.

Publisher's note

Professor Roszaini Haniffa and Dr Mohammad Hudaib were interviewed in November 2009.

Visit the information page for: Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research