Business Maverick


Discovery Health brings sharia-compliant financial management to medical schemes market

Discovery Health brings sharia-compliant financial management to medical schemes market
The Discovery offices in Sandton. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

Two years after first announcing a sharia-compliant medical scheme arrangement, Discovery Health Medical Scheme has finally made it to the market.

While medical scheme options will remain the same, members who opt for the sharia-compliant plan will have their pooled funds managed in accordance with sharia principles.

Sharia is the religious law of Islam. Sharia-compliant financial arrangements are governed by the requirements of sharia law and the principles of religion.

Some of the requirements of sharia law in financial transactions are:

  • No interest: Both parties need to take risk when profit is earned.
  • No ambiguity: Contracts should be clear and transparent.
  • Ethical investments: No investment or financing of certain economic sectors that are deemed to be non-permissible, such as non-Halaal meat products, gambling companies, weapon production, etc.
  • Profit and loss sharing: Both parties to the financial transaction must share in the risks and rewards.

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To ensure sharia compliance, an external sharia board is usually contracted to review and audit contracts and operations to ensure that the arrangement remains compliant. Discovery has three advisers on its sharia compliance committee – Mufti Zaid Haspatel, Mufti Ahmed Suliman and Mufti Yusuf Suliman.

Farzana Baba, head of health product development at Discovery Health, says that when the product was first announced in 2020, there was widespread interest from thousands of Muslims across the country. However, ironing out the details of how the Takaful principles are employed while complying with the Medical Schemes Act resulted in a year’s delay in bringing the product to market.

The sharia-compliant arrangement is available to existing and new members of Discovery Health Medical Scheme on all 23 medical aid plans, and while they cater specifically for members of the Muslim community, anyone is welcome to make this selection for a plan arrangement designed with the sharia principles.

Mufti Ahmed Suliman explains that the “process involved creating a Takaful scheme in a manner acceptable to local and international Islamic scholars, and further ensures that no interest is earned or paid at any stage and there is no ambiguity in the contracts that are entered into by members, protecting their interests and assuring them that investments will indeed be managed in a sharia-compliant manner. BM/DM


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