Bitcoin in Malaysia with Suraya Zainudin

Bitcoin in Malaysia with Suraya Zainudin

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Please join me today as I have a conversation with Suraya Zainudin to discuss Bitcoin in Malaysia and the following:

Suraya’s websites and contact information:
Suraya’s blog – Ringgit Oh Ringgit
Check out her excellent articles on Bitcoin at CoinGecko
Please contact Suraya for business inquires at: surayazainudin@gmail.com
Twitter: ​@surayaror

Video Transcript

Suraya’s Background and How She Learned About Bitcoin

Andre Rishi: Today on the Islam and Bitcoin Podcast, we have a special young lady from Malaysia joining us on the show, her name is Suraya Zainudin.

Suraya Zainudin: Suraya, yes, yes.

Andre Rishi: Did I say it correct?

Suraya Zainudin: Suraya Zainudin, in local accent.

Andre Rishi: Oh, OK. Masha Allah, I like that, I like that. I want to make sure I say your name right, like brother that is not my name. OK great [Laughter]. Well like I said Suraya, Suraya is joining us from Malaysia and she’s– what we’re going to do today is just have a, just a conversation with her.

She’s actually involved in the Bitcoin space, Bitcoin community out there in Malaysia. We’re just going to learn a little bit about her, and also see how Bitcoin came into her life and how she is involved with Bitcoin and particularly, Bitcoin and Islam. So Suraya, again, welcome to the show.

Suraya Zainudin: Thank you, Andre for having me and hello listeners of Bitcoin and Islam Podcast. I’m very happy to be here. What, your question is about how I got involved in the space and I– I’m very new. I’ve just been in the Bitcoin space since Christmas last year.

I just remembered reading about it from Reddit and just thinking to myself, “Oh bitcoin sounds like a pretty good investment”, and my interest has always been in personal finance and I hold gold before, and I’ve hold some other currencies before. I’m just thinking to myself, this is what I’m reading into and I did, and somehow I fell in love with it.

If you’re going to spend that much, you might as well purchase Bitcoin outright. I have had more success, I have And yeah, there’s not much information about Bitcoin and Islam so I started reading more about it and looking up studies about it and I thought, “OK, so it’s fairly compatible so I’m going to try and hold some”. And here I am.

Andre Rishi: Ok, Masha’Allah, alhumdulilah, very nice. So, let me, I’m going to back up a little bit. I know you said that you, you know found out about Bitcoin last year on Reddit. So, just so the audience can know a little bit about you. You said something about your background is in finance. Now what were you doing, what type of work do you do?

Suraya Zainudin: Before this I was actually very much involved, very active in the activism space. I worked in a few NGOs. I’ve experience in women’s rights organizations. I’ve done work for International Labor Organization. And my background is actually, I’m a major in communications. I have a Master’s in Corporate Communications.

So all of this while finance is just something like a side hobby of mine. And I’ve always been interested in it and it’s just something that I read up on and the finance space in Malaysia is pretty small. Not many people like to talk about it on finances so I just started to talk about it. And based on that, I started writing on my blog about finance. And that’s how I started writing about bitcoin as my choice of investment and somehow people started to contact me to know more about what I thought about it.

So, I was just thinking to myself, “Hey, so Malaysians don’t know much about Bitcoin so let’s, you know, talk a little bit more about it.” And that’s how pretty much my background in how I got into it. But my first and original love has always been, my work has always been, in activism.

Andre Rishi: Ok, Ok, Ok that’s really good. Wow, that’s really, really good. So, like you’re saying finance and activism as well, and looks like you were saying standing up for like women’s rights and then getting involved in Bitcoin

Muslims in Malaysia are Curious About Investing in Bitcoin

And one thing you said that really amazed me, and maybe I shouldn’t be amazed by it but you’re saying that you found like a lot of people in Malaysia didn’t really know about Bitcoin. And you know a lot of us here in the west, we definitely see Malaysia as a very progressive and innovative, forward-thinking society so you would, I guess, to me myself personally, I thought maybe even more people from Malaysia would be into Bitcoin but I have to remember that Bitcoin is still relatively new, relatively new.

Suraya Zainudin: You know, you’re right, let me rephrase that a little bit. Malaysians, in general, we have a friend is telling on what Bitcoin is but unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, a lot of Malaysians got into Bitcoin from a very you know, high-yield investment program referral. So they get into it from a very dodgy, from a very dodgy network.

So it’s just more of, hey you guys, like be careful. It’s a good investment yes, but if it promises you like too much, too fast, it’s pretty much a scam. And it’s you know it’s pretty much what you, you just hope that you can warn more people against scams so that they’re financially better.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm. And is this– is this what made you say to yourself, “You know what? Maybe I should start writing about this.” Is that one of the reasons that made you decide to blog about Bitcoin, to just make people aware because you saw all of this going around?

Suraya Zainudin: At first when I blog about it, it’s really for me. It’s a personal blog after all, but I’ve been contacted by people, who are just asking me, “Oh, hey sister, is this halal mode of investment? Is this a scam, so and so? Is this a scam, is this…”

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: “…a valid– is this like suitable under Islam?” So obviously that’s something that I am interested in as well. So I’ve written a couple of articles about it that you have seen, and that’s how you contacted me. Thank you but I…

Andre Rishi: I was just going to say I was one of those people who reached out and contacted you. [Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: Yeah, and I mean, it’s the– what I’ve known so far is that yes it’s a good investment under Islam provided that people know the risks about it.

Andre Rishi: Right.

Suraya Zainudin: And yes, and as long as Muslims get into Bitcoin with a correct mindset you know, not into any lending high-interest schemes or any dodgy referrals, just in order to make, just have some profit at the expense of others then you are Ok to hold it under Islam.

But if you’re one of those people who want to cheat others of their bitcoins or wanted to steal from others then bitcoin is just like fiat money, it’s just like USD just like Ringgit in Malaysia. It’s just ultimately what your intention with it that makes you a good or bad holder of bitcoin.

Andre Rishi: Ok, all right. And when you’re saying again it’s more like fiat currency, I know bitcoin, I know I guess the technicalities, the difference between say, fiat and bitcoin is more like bitcoin is already, it’s a set amount that insha’Allah won’t increase and I guess the US dollar– the Ringgit I’m not sure how– I’m assuming it’s very similar to the US Dollar where it’s fiat that the government can just print as much of it as they like.

Suraya Zainudin: Correct, yes.

Muslim Malaysians Want to Know if Bitcoin is Halal in Islam

Andre Rishi: Now, with you doing research with Bitcoin, especially within the Muslim community, I have read a couple of your articles on Bitcoin as it relates to Islam and, Alhamdulillah, I have to say you’ve done a very, very good job. Insha’Allah…

Suraya Zainudin: Thank you.

Andre Rishi:  You’re so welcome. At some point during this conversation of the show, I will go ahead and, you know, make sure to put links to your articles and to your blog in the show notes of this podcast so our audience, they can go and check you out and who knows, you just might get some more calls from some people.

[Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin:  Well, I appreciate that, thank you.

Andre Rishi: No, you’re welcome. You’re welcome. Now when you got into Bitcoin back last year in December, did you have to or did you try to reach out to any Islamic scholars?

Suraya Zainudin:  I looked. I did a quick Google search. I found your website, actually.

Andre Rishi: Oh wow. [Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: And then in fact I was going on– I’m less interested in fatwas and more interested in scholarly articles because I know the fatwas are Islamic opinions and they can differ very, very much. So I start looking to scholarly articles which led me to interview an emeritus professor in Islamic Finance.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: So, my sources are really academic-based. I will love to have more opinions from Muslim imams for example, but I’m having a, I’m having trouble to identify Muslims, imams who have also, have good financial background, if that make sense.

Andre Rishi: It does, it does. And yeah, and Malaysia definitely strikes me as a place that would have, I would assume, a good bit of scholars there since the population of Muslims there are so dense. There are so many Muslims there.

Suraya Zainudin: Yes, we’re one of the biggest Islamic financial hubs in the world. We have the world’s biggest or at least one of the biggest schools of Islamic finance. It’s quite– Islamic Finance is very, very progressive here and there’s a lot of demand for it especially from regions from Indonesia which is our neighbor, from all over the world basically.

Andre Rishi: Ok, and I guess like you said you know, your approach to finding out more about Bitcoin as it relates to Islam has been more on the academic end, speaking to professors and you haven’t also seen any articles by any, I guess any Muslim scholars.

I know you said you haven’t contacted any directly, but have you read any online from any of the Malaysian scholars at all, or is it just something that they’re not really talking about right now, it’s just very new?

Suraya Zainudin: There is a Malaysian fatwa about bitcoin, and they say that because of the element of speculation in bitcoin it is not suitable and there’s a lack of authoritative body. It’s not suitable to be used as currency simply for the, on the basis of user protection, there’s very much lack of protection. Let’s say for example somebody got scammed out of bitcoin, then there’s not much that they can do, so it’s mostly about that angle. But no fatwas that I’ve seen so far that at least says that bitcoin is impermissible.

Andre Rishi: Haram.

Suraya Zainudin:  Nothing yet.

Andre Rishi: Ok, so nothing…

Suraya Zainudin: And at the same time, they don’t call it haram yet so a lot of people, a lot of fatwas actually, I think if I recall correctly, there are two, they basically sit along the lines of, there’s lack of regulations, be careful. There can be element of extreme speculation, just be careful when you use it.

Andre Rishi: Ok. Ok. All right and again I know you said you got interested in Bitcoin because of looking at it as an investment tool.

Suraya Zainudin: Mm-hmm.

What I Like About Bitcoin as an Investment

Andre Rishi: And I guess you’re background being in finance, you’ve always been interested in investing. What about Bitcoin you know really peaked your interest?

Suraya Zainudin:  I like that fact that it’s digital. I like the fact that I can access it anywhere in the world and there’s less chance of it being, if I maintain a good digital security then there’s less chances that people will steal me out of my bitcoins.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: I like the fact that it has intrinsic value and which is one of the elements of what makes a currency valuable in the first place and what that is, one of the elements that is considered as currency under Islam itself. So, that elements I really like.

But aside from it, I just really like the community, the Malaysian Bitcoin community is great because they’re really helpful. They were you know, they’re really welcoming to newbies and make you know just basically, be careful. There are scammers around, they share contacts of people who scams and make that Bitcoin list that puts all of the Ponzi schemes in one place and like…

Andre Rishi: Oh wow, Ok.

Suraya Zainudin:  So actually, for these types of investments and focus on these instead. They gave me a lot of tips on like how to keep my bitcoin safe. And I got my password manager installed because of them, my digital security is now insha’Allah, top-notch. [Laughter] I hope so, I hope so.

Andre Rishi: [Laughter] Insha’Allah, insha’Allah.

Suraya Zainudin: So I like that I can control all of these things and like I mentioned before, I’ve hold gold before and I just, it just got me confused like, “Why do I hold, a physical gold is better but what if I lose it? And to try just hold it in bank? But like, that’s not, that’s not, like I don’t have proof. That’s not intrinsic value.” So even gold which is essentially halal makes me question about it. So that is why I was looking to other elements as well.

Andre Rishi: Ok and wow it sounds like the community there is really good. Is– how big is the Bitcoin community there in Malaysia?

Suraya Zainudin:  I don’t have a number, I don’t have a number but we do have a pretty big Telegram chat group and I would say, all in all, there’s roughly about at least a thousand of us.

Andre Rishi: Oh wow, that’s a good bit I think.

Suraya Zainudin: [Laughter]Multiple Facebook pages, we have some pages that’s like about 5,000. I admin in one of the Facebook pages as well and it has about a thousand plus people, just roughly a few thousand at least, I don’t have a number for you.

Andre Rishi: No, that’s very good. It’s so funny you say that because I was actually looking to reach out to one of those Bitcoin groups from Malaysia on Facebook to have you know, bring them on the show. I might have reached out to you again, right?

[Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: But yeah, they’re very friendly and some of us, some of them are miners, some of them are holders, some of them conduct business in bitcoin and started to accept bitcoin as payment, so there’s just many types of us.

The Malaysian Bitcoin Community

Andre Rishi: And do you know about the time when the Bitcoin community started to form in Malaysia?

Suraya Zainudin: I don’t know. I myself am pretty new.

Andre Rishi: Ok.

Suraya Zainudin: However, the main, there’s a page called, there’s a website called bitcoinmalaysia.com

Andre Rishi: Ok.

Suraya Zainudin: And that I believe is the longest running resource for Bitcoin in Malaysia. I think that was up since 2012, 2013, something about, somewhere around that time, I might be wrong on the actual year but it’s been around for a couple of years.

Andre Rishi: Ok and these communities, do they actually have like a meet-up times when people could actually, physically come together, face to face and they had meetings and discuss Bitcoin?

Suraya Zainudin: Sometimes they meet up, yes. I’ve seen pictures, I’ve seen evidence. I haven’t joined yet. I haven’t joined any of them yet. I will, I keep promising them that I will. So I will do that soon, but yes, they have posted pictures of them meeting up in various cities around Malaysia as one in Kuching, there was a couple in Kuala Lumpur. So there are some events going on.

Andre Rishi: Ok and you said that they’ve really helped you out a lot. So I’d take it that they’re very big on education. So what are the things, let’s say I was to contact, you know, one of these Bitcoin communities or groups in Malaysia, what would they be able to help the average person with who is new to Bitcoin?

Suraya Zainudin: Ok, I’ll just say, Ok, say for example if you’re new and you just joined the Telegram group and as soon as you join, you are welcomed by the group. You’re given a list of like house rules you know, like don’t promote referrals, and don’t sell to unverified members and stuff like that.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: You’re also given a guide to like to help you answer and to help them answer basic questions about Bitcoin. What is it? For Muslims, is it Halal? Which is something they always want to know. What are the credible exchanges that they can use in order to purchase bitcoin in Malaysia? Can they still mine? These are all basic like newbie questions.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: And we give them all of this information before they first get started and everything else, we just sort of like learn on the way. There’s a lot more things that I don’t know, I’m very stupid about mining, I have no idea what it is or how it works. I just know it is something that people in China do that’s it. I know that it’s hot and noisy pretty much.

Andre Rishi: Yes, yes.

[Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: I’ve heard. I haven’t seen. I don’t know how the machine looks like. I don’t know how much machine costs. But we look at each other as much as we can.

Andre Rishi: Yeah, I know, for me back when I started, when I found out about Bitcoin was in 2012 but I didn’t…

Suraya Zainudin: Wow

Andre Rishi: Yeah. But, but, but I didn’t really fully get it at that time so I didn’t revisit it again for like another two years so until 2014. And I think– and I have to go back and look but I think at that time, the price of bitcoin must have been, I think if it was more than $30 or $50 that would have been really, really high. And then when I really found out about Bitcoin it was like 300 [dollars] something so I was like, “Oh!” [Laughter] I was like I guess I should have like really looked at it closer back then you know. But you know like…

Suraya Zainudin:  Don’t look back, don’t look back.

Andre Rishi: I know, I know, just look forward. Look forward. [Laughter] I’m glad…

Suraya Zainudin: Look forward. [Laughter]

Andre Rishi: Exactly, glad that we’re here right now. But like you said, I looked into some things too like mining and things like that, and in 2012 I would say that, that was I thought about mining myself but exactly like you said, you know that you’re dealing with a lot of computers, you’re going to be sweating a lot in your home, you’re going to be running up your electric bill. If you’re married, your wife is going to be yelling at you to get rid of that. [Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: Something like that, something like that, yeah.

Andre Rishi: Yeah.

Suraya Zainudin: And Malaysia’s a tropical country you know and I’m just thinking like, “Wow! Your air-conditioning bill is going to be humongous.”

Andre Rishi: Yes. [Laughter] Yes, yes, yes. And where I’m at in California today is actually, we’re going through a heat wave. We do, we measure our temperature in Fahrenheit not in Celsius. But out here today, I think it’s 105 degrees. It’s really hot. So even trying to do mining in someone’s home, if you don’t have any A/C and right now I don’t have any A/C in my home, it makes it very, very, very hot.

And like I was saying, back in 2012 even to start mining right then, it was a little hard for I think the individual to mine because buying the products to mine, the hashing power I think, it needed to be so high that it became difficult for an individual to mine. Do you know if they have any mining groups in Malaysia?

Suraya Zainudin: I don’t know. I don’t know if they have their own groups, I don’t know about it. I think they have some sort of support system going on, but it’s outside of my knowledge.

Andre Rishi: Ok, all right. And when it comes to, let’s say I know you said you’re new to it, what about your friends? You have any friends that had been interested in Bitcoin?

Suraya Zainudin: None. Only based on personal conversations, I’ve made friends from Bitcoin but it just never cropped up before, before I start getting interested in it. Maybe it’s one of those things that you don’t notice until you do.

Andre Rishi: Right.

Suraya Zainudin:  Maybe I’ve had a conversation about it before, I just can’t remember but I’ve definitely made a lot more friends since I got into the Bitcoin community. And exactly for the reasons I’ve just described, they’re very friendly and very welcoming to newbies, and very much into safe investing with bitcoin rather than getting rich quick and like scamming people here and there.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm. And you know, you’re a very– you yourself are very open and positive and friendly person so I can see them being friendly to you would be very, very easy so Alhamdulillah for that, Alhamdulillah. Now, what about say family, have you, do you talk to your family at all about Bitcoin? Are they interested or are they like, I have no idea what she is doing with this digital stuff.

[Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: Something like that, I talk about Bitcoin to my dad.

Andre Rishi: Yeah

Suraya Zainudin: And he was like, “Is this some American conspiracy that I should know about?” And I’m like, “No dad.” But he- well during that time, like Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity was still not known, so he was like, “Who is this person who created it? Is he part of some- or is this like new world other group that’s aimed to collapse world economies?” And I’m like, “I don’t know dad, but good point, I’ll find out.” And we just kind of stopped talking about it. I think he prefers his cash. He’s traditional so I think he prefers less digital versions of money in the first place.

Andre Rishi: Yes.

Suraya Zainudin: But yeah, I’ll keep trying and try to convince him that it’s not as sinister as he thought. But pretty much, it’s interesting feedback so far from families. Some warned me about it, some just you know, got right head on into the whole conspiracy theory.

Andre Rishi: Right, right. My family, I know some of my family, they are skeptical about it. They don’t, some of them at all they’re not interested they think it’s a scam. They think it’s a scam. And you know, I even say to myself, I said, “You know, I don’t know if Bitcoin is here to stay or it will die off, Allahu Alam, Allah knows best.” But from what I do see right now, it does seem like it fits a lot of the rules of what Islam says money should be.

Like it doesn’t oppress people, it’s not based on fractional reserve, you can’t just counterfeit it and make a bunch more and flip the marketplace with it, it’s mined so you don’t have a rush of bitcoin hitting the marketplace, a bitcoin in Malaysia is a bit- the same as a bitcoin in the United States, which is the same as a bitcoin in Australia, which is the same as a bitcoin in Africa. It’s just the same. No one person controls it and I like that very, very much.

Suraya Zainudin: Likewise, good point, that’s exactly why I really, really like this currency.

The Malaysian Government and Bitcoin

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm. Now, have you seen anything on the government side of Malaysia in regards to how they are interacting with Bitcoin?

Suraya Zainudin:  They warn people, in the Malaysian government at least, they warn people based on the– again, based on the like you know, there are risks involved, there are no regulatory bodies, please be careful, but they don’t ban it at least in Malaysia.

Having said that, the Malaysian government is getting more and more into FinTech so we’re all you know, fingers-crossed, they will hopefully have something a little bit more positive about Bitcoin soon but nothing in, nothing complete yet.

Andre Rishi: Ok and speaking of FinTech, as a writer and you are like this Bitcoin journalist, you’re more than just a Bitcoin journalist; you’re an investigator out there. You’re a great writer by the way. Are you beginning to see a lot of FinTech, finance technology companies popping up that’s– are around Bitcoin in Malaysia?

Suraya Zainudin:  FinTech around Bitcoin in Malaysia. No, actually I don’t. FinTech in Malaysia is fairly very, very new.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: There’s not a lot. I am not so active in the FinTech community in Malaysia but as I understand it, it’s a lot more for, tech forums to, for people to sign on with insurance, to sign on with credit cards or loans. I believe there are a few people, smaller groups out there that are interested to make some sort of like investment platforms using mobile apps.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: But I have not heard any updates. Maybe they’re still developing I don’t know what’s the update on that. But none so far that specifically links Bitcoin FinTech in Malaysia. I think they are– there were at least some people who try to make bitcoin purchases more accessible.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: But that’s yeah, that’s pretty much my knowledge about the scene right now.

Andre Rishi: That’s Ok.

Suraya Zainudin: On this subject.

Andre Rishi: Ok yeah and again, it just seems like you know, Bitcoin is still in 2016, very new, very new.

Suraya Zainudin: It’s less than 10 years old.

Andre Rishi: Yeah, yeah, it is, it is. And I guess also you’re not, I guess you’re not finding a lot of bloggers or anyone who’s doing research like yourself and writing about Bitcoin. Are you pretty much the main person out of Malaysia right now who is writing about Bitcoin?

Suraya Zainudin: I wouldn’t say that, I’m sure there are other people like me. Maybe I just haven’t found them yet. I hope there’s other people like me so if you’re listening please contact me. [Laughter]

Andre Rishi: Definitely.

Where to Find Suraya Online

Suraya Zainudin: I’m using your platform for selfish means.

Andre Rishi: That, no please, it’s not, it’s not. So please, while we’re talking about your platform, what is your website and where can we find you online?

Suraya Zainudin:  My website is called ringgitohringgit.com, and it’s basically a personal blog where I write about my investments and my financial journey in Malaysia pretty much and it includes, beyond Bitcoin it also includes like how I save money, how I spend my money and stuff like that, my travels. So it’s a very personal blog. I write for a few online media platforms including CoinGecko which is one of the places the Bitcoin article, Bitcoin Islam article was posted.

Andre Rishi: That’s where I saw you.

Suraya Zainudin: So I write for them as well. Yes, I write for them as well and a bunch of other media platforms I can provide you a link, I’ll send link to some of my other writings I’m on Hongkiat as well, that’s H-O-N-G-K-I-A-T dot com and they are starting to want me to write more and more about digital currencies as well, so that’s good.

But otherwise, I’m on twitter, my username is @surayaror, that’s S-U-R-A-Y-A-R-O-R. I’m on Facebook but I don’t really– I try not to be active too much on Facebook because it sucks too much time and I can get carried away. [Laughter] I know that’s a big weakness of mine but I try, I try hard.

Andre Rishi: Ok and it sounds like you’re so busy every place else that, again your time is precious and yeah Facebook can definitely swallow up a lot of time, it really can, it really can.

Suraya Zainudin: It’s a lot of fun, I wouldn’t lie. It’s a lot of fun, Facebook, but it’s just you know, you have to do things. [Laughter]

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Now, what is it, I know you, again, you’ve mentioned that you write for a couple of different blogs and you, and again we will put those links in the show notes so the audience can find you and insha’Allah you know this, you know Islam and Bitcoin, this website and this Podcast can really help to spread more awareness of who you are.

I mean part of the goal of this website is to really help bring to light a lot of Muslims and non-Muslims who are involved in Bitcoin. Specifically, I would love if [there is] more [knowledge of] Bitcoin within the Muslim community but just to be able to make the world more aware of them. And I would love for more people to be aware of you and your work.

Suraya Zainudin: Thank you.

Suraya’s Passion for Activism and Financial Knowledge

Andre Rishi: You’re so welcome. And when it comes to your writing, what– I know you write about Bitcoin and finance, is that your main passion of what you write about?

Suraya Zainudin: My main passion is activism so I used to write a lot about– I used to produce a lot of content on women’s rights. And I see now financial knowledge is a branch of activism as well. There are a lot of scams happening in Malaysia. If I’m not mistaken, I don’t have the data right now on my fingertips but Malaysians have lost millions of Ringgit to Ponzi scams, and just pyramid scams and I see scams as being complete family-destroyers. You know stealing from people is just against everything that we stand for.

You want money to help you and not to– money is just a tool to help you achieve whatever that it is that you want to do in life, not something that should depress you and lead you astray so to speak.

So, I see this as part of my activism as well. I’ve gotten a couple of people who contacted me and said, “Hey because of your blog I didn’t invest in this feared scam, so thank you for that.” And honestly makes me so happy because that’s right. That’s one more family that’s going to have more money for the education, more money for their groceries and it just, that makes me really, really happy.

Andre Rishi: Alhamdulillah. And you know, any good deed that, we know as Muslims, any good deed that we do in dunya will show up for us in al akhirah [the afterlife] so may Allah only multiply those good deeds for you and only bless you with the ability to do more good work and put an abundance of baraka [blessings] in your life. Ameen, so…

Suraya Zainudin: So, barakAllahu feek [may Allah’s blessings be upon you]

Andre Rishi: Yeah. I mean, so Alhamdulillah that’s really great. So, now are you working on anything right now or what are some of the, what are you focusing on right now in regards to maybe any upcoming articles you have in regards to Bitcoin?

Projects Suraya is Working on Now

Suraya Zainudin: Well, I am employed with Wirex App which is another FinTech start-up. It’s a hybrid financial platform and I am the content manager so I write a lot about Bitcoin on their blogs and on social media.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: But aside from that, I just want to maybe have an open appeal. I’m always looking for more angles about Bitcoin in Islam. I would love to find out the actual zakat calculation for bitcoin for example, and that’s something that if anyone of your listeners are listening out there and you have any idea of how I can even get started on how to calculate zakat with bitcoin, it would be great if you can contact me.

Just basically how it can be used for Muslims communities around the world, if you can help with translations so that more people know about the risks, if often be considered, just don’t get in because they hear somebody say that it can be a good investment.

Andre Rishi: Right.

Suraya Zainudin:  It is, it is undoubtedly a very high-risk investment and people should know that instead of saying, “It’s good.” They should say, “Oh it’s good but there are these risks, I understand these risks.” So that’s pretty much what I would love to focus on right now.

Andre Rishi: And if again, if anyone, [clearing throat] excuse me, if anyone out there is listening, by all means do reach out to our dearest sister and maybe you can collaborate with her with that information. I know for me, I do have a lot of people who email me and they do want to know about whether it’s halal or haram, or zakat. And what I really love about your articles is that the article that you have in CoinGecko, CoinGecko,

Suraya Zainudin: CoinGecko, yes.

[Laughter]

Andre Rishi: All right

Suraya Zainudin: Yeah, CoinGecko.

Andre Rishi: What’s the name of that article?

Suraya Zainudin: The name, I have it in front of me, it’s called Is Bitcoin Halal? What Scholars Say and Where It Stands in Islamic Banking and Finance, that’s the title of the article.

Andre Rishi: Ok, I would definitely link the article as well to the show notes of this Podcast. And also, what I was going to say, in reading over your articles, what I really like is that you address the good and the bad of Bitcoin, right?

So you don’t just say, “Oh Bitcoin is good you know da da da da, or XYZ. It’s so great.” but you actually take the time in your articles to address the positive and the negative. And for any of the, anyone out there, any of our audience members who are listening, what I love about Suraya’s approach is that she’s very balanced. You’re very, very balanced in your writing.

Suraya Zainudin: Thank you, I try to.

Andre Rishi: Hamdullilah. Now, do you also work as a consultant and give somebody, let’s say somebody wanted to hire you for consulting when it came to learn more about Bitcoin or maybe they wanted to implement it in their company, is that something that you would do?

Suraya Zainudin: Well, I do provide work for bitcoin and fiat as well. [Laughter]

Andre Rishi: Oh.

Suraya Zainudin: Thank you for asking me that question.

Andre Rishi: Yeah.

Suraya Zainudin: I do a lot of freelance writing, I also offer content management and content creation services, so if anybody wants to consult me on these services, I’m more than happy to assist you further.

Andre Rishi: All right, and like you said, you accept pay in bitcoin and fiat, right?

Suraya Zainudin: Yes.

Andre Rishi: Ok.

Suraya Zainudin: I do.

Andre Rishi: OK, not bad at all. Not bad at all. So please do reach out to her and hire her for some writing. I think for me and we’ll talk about this probably later but, I may see about having you do something for the Islam and Bitcoin website, so you never know.

Suraya Zainudin: Let’s talk.

[Laughter]

Bitcoin Usage and Adoption in Malaysia

Andre Rishi: All right so what do you see for Bitcoin in Malaysia, is it steadily growing, you think?

Suraya Zainudin: I think it’s steadily growing. Since the six months, six or so months I’ve joined the Telegram group, it’s I think at first it was about 200 members and then it kind of ballooned to 800 now and…

Andre Rishi: Wow.

Suraya Zainudin: …increasingly growing. I think during the halving, there were a lot of new people joining up. And I think that, I mean if based on history from the past halving we see bitcoin price steadily went up and if insha’Allah, if it’s the same as this time around, if it’s going to steadily increase then we’ll probably going to see a lot more new people joining in as well. So we are expecting some more people, definitely.

Andre Rishi: Masha’Allah, that sounds really good. Now let me ask you, are you able to spend bitcoin at all in Malaysia, does any place accept it?

Suraya Zainudin: There are a couple of places. There are some restaurants, some services that allows you to pay your bills with bitcoin. I know the guy and I believe there are a couple of petrol stations that accept bitcoin transactions.

But it’s still very, very, very small and I think it’s about 10 or under 20, so it’s very small number. So what I do right now is use my bitcoin debit card, I have my Wirex card and that allows me to spend it anywhere I want. [Laughter]

Andre Rishi: Wow, you have a…

Suraya Zainudin: So that makes things a lot convenient.

Andre Rishi: Yeah, Ok so Masha’Allah this is really great, so you’re actually putting this to use. So not only are you holding bitcoin as an investment, but you’re actually using it yourself by spending it.

Suraya Zainudin: Yes.

Andre Rishi: SubhanAllah

Suraya Zainudin: I’ve heard some people was talking about like you know bitcoin is only as useful if you spend it and I was just thinking, Ok so I do want to make it more useful and well I get some of my pay in bitcoin so at some point I need to use those in my daily life and to pay for stuff, to pay for bills.

And one thing led to another and now I have a pretty good system going on where sometimes I sell my bitcoin, sometimes I pay for it directly, make transactions directly with bitcoin or use my bitcoin debit card. So it’s a good system so far.

Andre Rishi: And you find it relatively easy to do this, to pay bills, to buy services and products with the bitcoin?

Suraya Zainudin:  Whatever that I can’t but directly with bitcoin, I can use my bitcoin debit card so it’s quite convenient, yes.

Andre Rishi: Wow, Masha’Allah. So I guess you use the bitcoin debit card more than your wallet as we say in Bitcoin, digital wallet?

Suraya Zainudin:  I would– I use it about the same amount as I use my local bank account I would say.

Andre Rishi: Ok.

Suraya Zainudin: Which is quite a lot.

[Laughter]

Andre Rishi: Wow, that’s really good. And how popular would you say the use of a bitcoin debit card is within the Malaysian community?

Suraya Zainudin: I would say that it’s quite popular because I’m employed with Wirex so I have some information. Malaysia is actually one of the biggest customers of Wirex, I think it’s about fourth place or five, fifth place in terms of global usage of plastic cards. So a lot of Malaysians are looking for bitcoin plastic cards in Malaysia to spend their bitcoins.

Andre Rishi: Oh wow, this is really good.

Suraya Zainudin: I don’t have the numbers, but at least about 10,000 minimum I would say.

Andre Rishi: That is really good. You know that’s something that I think would really help in regards to getting people to spend bitcoin and to use it within the marketplace so that insha’Allah you know more vendors will take it.

And I guess the way that bitcoin card, debit card works is when the, so maybe you can educate me on this. So when a merchant accepts the bitcoin debit card, they’re getting paid in fiat not actually bitcoin, is that right or is it actually bitcoin?

Suraya Zainudin: Well, in the case of– I mean there are different bitcoin debit card providers so I’m just kind of share what I know based on what I personally use.

Andre Rishi: Ok.

Suraya Zainudin: In this particular account, my Wirex account it comes with a free bitcoin wallet, so I have bitcoin sitting there.

Andre Rishi: Mm-hmm.

Suraya Zainudin: And if I want to pay for anything in bitcoin, then it’s just a very simple direct transfer. For everything else, I have a card, in USD and I can convert some of my bitcoins into USD and then use it to pay for whatever products or services that I want to purchase.

So, you’re right, the merchant gets it directly in fiat not bitcoin. And I mean it’s convenient. It’s a little bit– it depends on who you are, it’s because I do know that some people really don’t like the idea of bitcoin debit cards because they’re very pro let’s-go-bitcoin-transactions-all-the-way.

Andre Rishi: Ah, I see, yeah…

Suraya Zainudin: But for me, yeah, yeah, and this is especially popular on Reddit. Some people get really you know, they have really big opinions about this. But in countries like Malaysia, where there’s very few places to spend it, I find it a necessity, a very necessary tool in order to spend my bitcoins and like, if it helps me to spend my bitcoins, then why not?

Andre Rishi: Right, and it sounds like you’re saying it can be a very easy starting point or platform to start getting in to spending bitcoins, and ultimately insha’Allah we can get to a point where the transactions we make is from bitcoin to bitcoin, and not bitcoin to fiat.

Suraya Zainudin: Yes, yes. That’s what I’m aiming for, too.

Andre Rishi: Yeah, yeah. And I know we’ve been talking for a little while now, I would love to ask just some, a question about like Blockchain technology. Have you been doing any research on not just bitcoin as a currency, but the technology behind bitcoin, the Blockchain?

Suraya Zainudin: I have a little bit but on a very shallow level. This is something that I need to learn more Insha’Allah, something that I need to brush up on. I’m definitely interested to see how it works, on a very technical skill but I am not a coder, I have never been a coder. I wish I’m a coder, they seem like they make a lot of money. [Laughter]

Andre Rishi: I think so.

[Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: But yes, I will learn more about it and then I can share more about it.

Conclusion and How to Contact Suraya

Andre Rishi: All right well, I will probably going to just wrap things up now. I know your time is precious, and you have work that you need to take care of for the day. But I definitely wanted to thank you for coming on the show and giving us a little insight into what is going on in the Bitcoin community in Malaysia.

We’re going to definitely put your websites in the show notes here. Are there any other websites that you would like us to know about that you’re active in or anything else that we should know about you before we wrap things up?

Suraya Zainudin: [Laughter] Well aside from my personal blog, I really like coingecko.com because it lists, well I write there [Laughter] and also it lists all of the other cryptocurrencies and we’re slowly, slowly getting into all these other interesting digital currencies and some of them are really amazing. I’m just slowly dabbling into that. Well, my company is Wirex, that’s W-I-R-E-X-A-P-P dot com and it’s a hybrid financial platform and it helps me to spend my bitcoins. And it’s, those two things pretty much.

Andre Rishi: Ok, all right. And what’s the best way to reach you?

Suraya Zainudin: The best way to reach me is via email. I prefer my emails, or tweet to me.

Andre Rishi: Well Ok, and what’s your email address?

Suraya Zainudin: surayazainudin@gmail.com. I’ll– you can put my email down in your links.

Andre Rishi: Ok very, very good. [Clears Throat] And again, excuse me, she’s an awesome writer so please do reach out to her and hire her and pay her in bitcoin, that’s the story, right? [Laughter] Pay her in bitcoin.

Suraya Zainudin: Thank you for that, Andre. I didn’t want to say that but thank you for saying it.

Andre Rishi: Yeah, we want bitcoin! [Laughter] That’s what we want. [Laughter] Well Ok, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show, insha’Allah sometime in the future I would love to have you back again as Bitcoin progresses in Malaysia and also as your writing progresses. I mean, I think again you’re doing some really good work and you’re reaching out to some good people and you have great information so I would love to have you back again on the show.

Suraya Zainudin: I would love to be here again. And thank you for having me, I really appreciate it. Thanks for contacting me.

Andre Rishi: Sure, you’re welcome. Well, that will wrap it up for today. So, again I just want to thank Ms. Suraya Zainudin, I hope I’m saying your name right.

[Laughter]

Suraya Zainudin: Close enough.

Andre Rishi: Ok, Ok. [Laughter] Ok and yes, so please do check out her websites, you can hire her for writing, pay her in bitcoin, she would love it tremendously. Please keep us here in your du’a [prayer], we will keep you, our dearest sister, we’ll keep you in our du’a. May Allah only give you success in this life and in the next As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh [may peace and blessings be upon you].

Suraya Zainudin: Waalaikumsalam [and may peace be upon you]. Thank you, Andre.

Andre Rishi: You’re welcome, Ma’salamah [goodbye].

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