Islamic Banking

Islamic banking (Arabic: المصرفية الإسلامية‎) is banking or banking activity that is consistent with the principles of sharia and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. As such, a more correct term for 'Islamic banking' is 'Sharia compliant finance'.[1] Sharia prohibits the fixed or floating payment or acceptance of specific interest or fees (known as riba, or usury) for loans of money. Investing in businesses that provide goods or services considered contrary to Islamic principles is also haraam ("sinful and prohibited"). Although these principles have been applied in varying degrees by historical Islamic economies due to lack of Islamic practice, only in the late 20th century were a number of Islamic banks formed to apply these principles to private or semi-private commercial institutions within the Muslim community.[2][3]

History of Islamic banking

Introduction

An early market economy and an early form of mercantilism, called "Islamic capitalism", were developed between the eighth and twelfth centuries.[4] The monetary economy of the period was based on the widely circulated currency the gold dinar, and it tied together regions that were previously economically independent.

A number of economic concepts and techniques were applied in early Islamic banking, including bills of exchange, partnership (mufawada, including limited partnerships, or mudaraba), and forms of capital (al-mal), capital accumulation (nama al-mal),[5] cheques, promissory notes,[6] trusts (see Waqf),[7] transactional accounts, loaning, ledgers and assignments.[8] Organizational enterprises independent from the state also existed in the medieval Islamic world, while the agency institution was also introduced during that time.[9][10] Many of these early capitalist concepts were adopted and further advanced in medieval Europe from the 13th century onwards.[5]

Riba

The word "riba" means interest, usury, excess, increase or addition, which according to Shariah terminology, implies any excess compensation without due consideration (consideration does not include time value of money). The definition of riba in classical Islamic jurisprudence was "surplus value without counterpart", or "to ensure equivalency in real value", and that "numerical value was immaterial."

Applying interest was acceptable under some circumstances. Currencies that were based on guarantees by a government to honor the stated value (i.e. fiat currency) or based on other materials such as paper or base metals were allowed to have interest applied to them.[11] When base metal currencies were first introduced in the Islamic world, the question of "paying a debt in a higher number of units of this fiat money being riba" was not relevant as the jurists only needed to be concerned with the real value of money (determined by weight only) rather than the numerical value. For example, it was acceptable for a loan of 1000 gold dinars to be paid back as 1050 dinars of equal aggregate weight (i.e., the value in terms of weight had to be same because all makes of coins did not carry exactly similar weight).

Modern Islamic banking

Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad was perhaps the first person to discuss Islamic economics in detail in his books Nizame Nau (1942) and Islam ka Nizaam Iqtisadi(1945). Later work included that of Naeem Siddiqi and Maulana Maududi. The writings of Muhammad Hamidullah (1944, 1955, 1957 and 1962) should be included in this category. Also the Iqtisaduna (Arabic: "Our Economics") is a major work on Islamic economics by a prominent Shia cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. Written between 1960 and 1961, it is al-Sadr's main work on economics, and still forms much of the basis for modern Islamic banking.

They have all recognised the need for commercial banks and their perceived "necessary evil," have proposed a banking system based on the concept of Mudarabha – profit and loss sharing.

In the next two decades interest-free banking attracted more attention, partly because of the political interest it created in Pakistan and partly because of the emergence of young Muslim economists. Works specifically devoted to this subject began to appear in this period. The first such work is that of Muhammad Uzair (1955). Another set of works emerged in the late sixties and early seventies. Abdullah al-Araby (1967), Nejatullah Siddiqi (1961, 1969), al-Najjar (1971) and Baqir al-Sadr (1961, 1974) were the main contributors.

The early 1970s saw greater institutional involvement. The Conference of the Finance Ministers of the Islamic Countries held in Karachi in 1970, the Egyptian study in 1972, the First International Conference on Islamic Economics in Mecca in 1976, and the International Economic Conference in London in 1977 were the instrumental as the involvement of institutions and governments led to the application of theory to practice and resulted in the establishment of the first interest-free banks. The Islamic Development Bank, an inter-governmental bank established in 1975, was born of this process.[12] Dr. Sami Hassan Homoud, a Jordanian (1976) who made his PhD in Islamic Banking, was the first one to write about Morabaha, and he established the Jordanian Islamic Bank in 1978.

The first modern experiment with Islamic banking was undertaken in Egypt undercover without projecting an Islamic image—for fear of being seen as a manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism that was anathema to the political regime. The pioneering effort, led by Ahmad Elnaggar, took the form of a savings bank based on profit-sharing in the Egyptian town of Mit Ghamr in 1963. This experiment lasted until 1967 (Ready 1981), by which time there were nine such banks in country.[13]

In 1972, the Mit Ghamr Savings project became part of Nasr Social Bank which, currently, is still in business in Egypt. In 1975, the Islamic Development Bank was set up with the mission to provide funding to projects in the member countries.[14] The first modern commercial Islamic bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, opened its doors in 1975. In the early years, the products offered were basic and strongly founded on conventional banking products, but in the last few years the industry is starting to see strong development in new products and services.

Islamic banking is growing at a rate of 10–15% per year and with signs of consistent future growth.[15] Islamic banks have more than 300 institutions spread over 51 countries, including the United States through companies such as the Michigan-based University Bank, as well as an additional 250 mutual funds that comply with Islamic principles. It is estimated that over US$822 billion worldwide sharia-compliant assets are managed according to The Economist.[16] This represents approximately 0.5% of total world estimated assets as of 2005.[17] According to CIMB Group Holdings, Islamic finance is the fastest-growing segment of the global financial system and sales of Islamic bonds may rise by 24 percent to $25 billion in 2010.[18]

Addressing the Oman Investment Forum in October 2011, all conventional banks in Oman can offer Sharia-based financial services upon approval from the Central Bank of Oman (CBO).[19]

The Vatican has put forward the idea that "the principles of Islamic finance may represent a possible cure for ailing markets."[20]

Largest Islamic banks

Shariah-compliant assets reached about $400 billion throughout the world in 2009, according to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, and the potential market is $4 trillion.[21][22] Iran, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have the biggest sharia-compliant assets.[23]

In 2009 Iranian banks accounted for about 40 percent of total assets of the world's top 100 Islamic banks. Bank Melli Iran, with assets of $45.5 billion came first, followed by Saudi Arabia's Al Rajhi Bank, Bank Mellat with $39.7 billion and Bank Saderat Iran with $39.3 billion.[24][25] Iran holds the world's largest level of Islamic finance assets valued at $235.3bn which is more than double the next country in the ranking with $92bn. Six out of ten top Islamic banks in the world are Iranian.[26][27][28] In November 2010, The Banker published its latest authoritative list of the Top 500 Islamic Finance Institutions with Iran topping the list. Seven out of ten top Islamic banks in the world are Iranian according to the list.[29]

Expansion into Islamic banking services

In May 2012, Trend News Agency reported that the chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, Jahangir Hajiyev, announced that his bank would expand into Islamic banking services. The expansion will take place in countries around Azerbaijan, such as Russia and Kazakhstan. Dr. Hajiyev told Trend News Agency, "For the first time in Azerbaijan's history, we are planning to establish a new office in the field (Islamic banking), enabling the country to become a regional center for Islamic financing."[30]

Principles

Islamic banking has the same purpose as conventional banking: to make money for the banking institute by lending out capital. But that is not the sole purpose either. Adherence to Islamic law and ensuring fair play is also at the core of Islamic banking. Because Islam forbids simply lending out money at interest (see riba), Islamic rules on transactions (known as Fiqh al-Muamalat) have been created to prevent it. The basic principle of Islamic banking is based on risk-sharing which is a component of trade rather than risk-transfer which is seen in conventional banking. Islamic banking introduces concepts such as profit sharing (Mudharabah), safekeeping (Wadiah), joint venture (Musharakah), cost plus (Murabahah), and leasing (Ijar).

In an Islamic mortgage transaction, instead of lending the buyer money to purchase the item, a bank might buy the item itself from the seller, and re-sell it to the buyer at a profit, while allowing the buyer to pay the bank in installments. However, the bank's profit cannot be made explicit and therefore there are no additional penalties for late payment. In order to protect itself against default, the bank asks for strict collateral. The goods or land is registered to the name of the buyer from the start of the transaction. This arrangement is called Murabahah.

Another approach is EIjara wa EIqtina, which is similar to real estate leasing. Islamic banks handle loans for vehicles in a similar way (selling the vehicle at a higher-than-market price to the debtor and then retaining ownership of the vehicle until the loan is paid).

An innovative approach applied by some banks for home loans, called Musharaka al-Mutanaqisa, allows for a floating rate in the form of rental. The bank and borrower form a partnership entity, both providing capital at an agreed percentage to purchase the property. The partnership entity then rents out the property to the borrower and charges rent. The bank and the borrower will then share the proceeds from this rent based on the current equity share of the partnership. At the same time, the borrower in the partnership entity also buys the bank's share of the property at agreed installments until the full equity is transferred to the borrower and the partnership is ended. If default occurs, both the bank and the borrower receive a proportion of the proceeds from the sale of the property based on each party's current equity. This method allows for floating rates according to the current market rate such as the BLR (base lending rate), especially in a dual-banking system like in Malaysia.

There are several other approaches used in business transactions. Islamic banks lend their money to companies by issuing floating rate interest loans. The floating rate of interest is pegged to the company's individual rate of return. Thus the bank's profit on the loan is equal to a certain percentage of the company's profits. Once the principal amount of the loan is repaid, the profit-sharing arrangement is concluded. This practice is called Musharaka. Further, Mudaraba is venture capital funding of an entrepreneur who provides labor while financing is provided by the bank so that both profit and risk are shared. Such participatory arrangements between capital and labor reflect the Islamic view that the borrower must not bear all the risk/cost of a failure, resulting in a balanced distribution of income and not allowing the lender to monopolize the economy.

Islamic banking is restricted to Islamically acceptable transactions, which exclude those involving alcohol, pork, gambling, etc. The aim of this is to engage in only ethical investing, and moral purchasing. The Islamic Banking and Finance Database provides more information on the subject.[31]

In theory, Islamic banking is an example of full-reserve banking, with banks achieving a 100% reserve ratio. However, in practice, this is not the case, and no examples of 100 per cent reserve banking are known to exist.[32]

Islamic banks have grown recently in the Muslim world but are a very small share of the global banking system. Micro-lending institutions founded by Muslims, notably Grameen Bank, use conventional lending practices and are popular in some Muslim nations, especially Bangladesh, but some do not consider them true Islamic banking. However, Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and microfinance banking, and other supporters of microfinance, argue that the lack of collateral and lack of excessive interest in micro-lending is consistent with the Islamic prohibition of usury (riba).[33][34]

Shariah Advisory Council/Consultant

Islamic banks and banking institutions that offer Islamic banking products and services (IBS banks) are required to establish a Shariah Supervisory Board (SSB) to advise them and to ensure that the operations and activities of the banking institutions comply with Shariah principles. On the other hand, there are also those who believe that no form of banking that involves interest payments can ever comply with the Shariah.[35]

In Malaysia, the National Shariah Advisory Council, which has been set up at Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), advises BNM on the Shariah aspects of the operations of these institutions and on their products and services. (see Islamic banking in Malaysia). In Indonesia, the Ulama Council serves a similar purpose.

A number of Shariah advisory firms have now emerged to offer Shariah advisory services to the institutions offering Islamic financial services. Issue of independence, impartiality and conflicts of interest have also been recently voiced. The World Database for Islamic Banking and Finance (WDIBF) has been developed to provide information about all the websites related to this type of banking.[31]

Islamic Financial Accounting Standards

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan issues Islamic Financial Accounting Standards (IFAS) for Islamic Mode of financing. IFAS 1 (issued in 2005) concerns Musharakah and Mudarabah. While, IFAS 2 (issued in 2007) relates to Ijarah.

Fundamentals of Islamic finance

The term “Islamic banking” refers to a system of banking or banking activity that is consistent with Islamic law (Shariah) principles and guided by Islamic economics. In particular, Islamic law prohibits usury, the collection and payment of interest, also commonly called riba in Islamic discourse. In addition, Islamic law prohibits investing in businesses that are considered unlawful, or haraam (such as businesses that sell alcohol or pork, or businesses that produce media such as gossip columns or pornography, which are contrary to Islamic values). Furthermore the Shariah prohibits what is called "Maysir" and "Gharar". Maysir is involved in contracts where the ownership of a good depends on the occurrence of a predetermined, uncertain event in the future whereas Gharar describes speculative transactions. Both concepts involve excessive risk and are supposed to foster uncertainty and fraudulent behaviour. Therefore the use of all conventional derivate instruments is impossible in Islamic banking.[36] In the late 20th century, a number of Islamic banks were created to cater to this particular banking market.

Usury in Islam

The criticism of usury in Islam was well established during the lifetime of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and reinforced by several verses in the Qur'an dating back to around 600 AD. The original word used for usury in this text was Riba, which literally means “excess or addition”. This was accepted to refer directly to interest on loans so that, according to Islamic economists Choudhury and Malik (1992), by the time of Caliph Umar, the prohibition of interest was a well-established working principle integrated into the Islamic economic system. This interpretation of usury has not been universally accepted or applied in the Islamic world. A school of Islamic thought which emerged in the 19th Century, led by Sir Sayyed, argues for an interpretative differentiation between usury, or consumptional lending, and interest, or lending for commercial investment (Ahmed, 1958). Nevertheless, Choudhury and Malik provide evidence for “a gradual evolution of the institutions of interest-free financial enterprises across the world” (1992: 104). They cite, for instance, the current existence of financial institutions in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Dar-al-Mal-al-Islami in Geneva and Islamic trust companies in North America.

Islamic financial transaction terminology

Bai' al 'inah (sale and buy-back agreement)

Bai' al inah is a financing facility with the underlying buy and sell transactions between the financier and the customer. The financier buys an asset from the customer on spot basis. The price paid by the financier constitutes the disbursement under the facility. Subsequently the asset is sold to the customer on a deferred-payment basis and the price is payable in installments. The second sale serves to create the obligation on the part of the customer under the facility. There are differences of opinion amongst the scholars on the permissibility of Bai' al 'inah, however this is practised in Malaysia and the like jurisdictions.[37][38]

Bai' bithaman ajil (deferred payment sale)

This concept refers to the sale of goods on a deferred payment basis at a price, which includes a profit margin agreed to by both parties. Like Bai' al 'inah, this concept is also used under an Islamic financing facility. Interest payment can be avoided as the customer is paying the sale price which is not the same as interest charged on a loan. The problem here is that this includes linking two transactions in one which is forbidden in Islam. The common perception is that this is simply straightforward charging of interest disguised as a sale.

Bai' muajjal (credit sale)

Literally bai' muajjal means a credit sale. Technically, it is a financing technique adopted by Islamic banks that takes the form of murabahah muajjal. It is a contract in which the bank earns a profit margin on the purchase price and allows the buyer to pay the price of the commodity at a future date in a lump sum or in installments. It has to expressly mention cost of the commodity and the margin of profit is mutually agreed. The price fixed for the commodity in such a transaction can be the same as the spot price or higher or lower than the spot price. Bai' muajjal is also called a deferred-payment sale. However, one of the essential descriptions of riba is an unjustified delay in payment or either increasing or decreasing the price if the payment is immediate or delayed.

Mudarabah

"Mudarabah" is a special kind of partnership where one partner gives money to another for investing it in a commercial enterprise. The capital investment comes from the first partner, who is called the "rabb-ul-mal", while the management and work is the exclusive responsibility of the other party, who is called the "mudarib".

The Mudarabah (Profit Sharing) is a contract, with one party providing 100 percent of the capital and the other party providing its specialized knowledge to invest the capital and manage the investment project. Profits generated are shared between the parties according to a pre-agreed ratio. If there is a loss, the first partner "rabb-ul-mal" will lose his capital, and the other party "mudarib" will lose the time and effort invested in the project

Murabahah

Main article: Murabahah

This concept refers to the sale of goods at a price. This includes a profit margin agreed to by both parties. The purchase and selling price, other costs, and the profit margin must be clearly stated at the time of the sale agreement. The bank is compensated for the time value of its money in the form of the profit margin. This is a fixed-income loan for the purchase of a real asset (such as real estate or a vehicle), with a fixed rate of profit determined by the profit margin. The bank is not compensated for the time value of money outside of the contracted term (i.e., the bank cannot charge additional profit on late payments); however, the asset remains as a mortgage with the bank until the default is settled.

This type of transaction is similar to rent-to-own arrangements for furniture or appliances that are common in North American stores.

Musawamah

Musawamah is the negotiation of a selling price between two parties without reference by the seller to either costs or asking price. While the seller may or may not have full knowledge of the cost of the item being negotiated, they are under no obligation to reveal these costs as part of the negotiation process. This difference in obligation by the seller is the key distinction between Murabahah and Musawamah with all other rules as described in Murabahah remaining the same. Musawamah is the most common type of trading negotiation seen in Islamic commerce.

Bai Salam

Bai salam means a contract in which advance payment is made for goods to be delivered later on. The seller undertakes to supply some specific goods to the buyer at a future date in exchange of an advance price fully paid at the time of contract. It is necessary that the quality of the commodity intended to be purchased is fully specified leaving no ambiguity leading to dispute. The objects of this sale are goods and cannot be gold, silver, or currencies based on these metals. Barring this, Bai Salam covers almost everything that is capable of being definitely described as to quantity, quality, and workmanship.

Basic features and conditions of Salam

  1. The transaction is considered Salam if the buyer has paid the purchase price to the seller in full at the time of sale. This is necessary so that the buyer can show that they are not entering into debt with a second party in order to eliminate the debt with the first party, an act prohibited under Sharia. The idea of Salam is normally different from the other either in its quality or in its size or weight and their exact specification is not generally possible.
  2. Salam cannot be effected on a particular commodity or on a product of a particular field or farm. For example, if the seller undertakes to supply the wheat of a particular field, or the fruit of a particular tree, the salam will not be valid, because there is a possibility that the crop of that particular field or the fruit of that tree is destroyed before delivery, and, given such possibility, the delivery remains uncertain. The same rule is applicable to every commodity the supply of which is not certain.
  3. It is necessary that the quality of the commodity (intended to be purchased through salam) is fully specified leaving no ambiguity which may lead to a dispute. All the possible details in this respect must be expressly mentioned.
  4. It is also necessary that the quantity of the commodity is agreed upon in unequivocal terms. If the commodity is quantified in weights according to the usage of its traders, its weight must be determined, and if it is quantified through measures, its exact measure should be known. What is normally weighed cannot be quantified in measures and vice versa.
  5. The exact date and place of delivery must be specified in the contract.
  6. Salam cannot be effected in respect of things which must be delivered at spot. For example, if gold is purchased in exchange of silver, it is necessary, according to Shari'ah, that the delivery of both be simultaneous. Here, salam cannot work. Similarly, if wheat is bartered for barley, the simultaneous delivery of both is necessary for the validity of sale. Therefore the contract of salam in this case is not allowed.
  7. This is the most preferred financing structure and carries higher order Shariah compliance.

Hibah (gift)

This is a token given voluntarily by a debtor to a debitor in return for a loan. Hibah usually arises in practice when Islamic banks voluntarily pay their customers a 'gift' on savings account balances, representing a portion of the profit made by using those savings account balances in other activities.

It is important to note that while it appears similar to interest, and may, in effect, have the same outcome, Hibah is a voluntary payment made (or not made) at the bank's discretion, and cannot be 'guaranteed'(akin to Dividends earned by Shares, however it is not time bound but is at the bank's discretion). However, the opportunity of receiving high Hibah will draw in customers' savings, providing the bank with capital necessary to create its profits; if the ventures are profitable, then some of those profits may be gifted back to its customers as Hibah. It is important to note that although this indeed again, no matter how many different ways we re-word this, does in fact, sound like interest, it is not, because it is Hibah.[39]

Istisna

Istisna (Manufacturing Finance) is a process where payments are made in stages to facilitate step wise progress in the Manufacturing / processing / construction works. Istisna enables any construction company get finance to construct slabs / sections of a building by availing finances in installments for each slab. Istisna also helps manufacturers to avail finance for manufacturing / processing cost for any large order for goods supposed to supply in stages. Istisna helps use of limited funds to develop higher value goods/assets in different stages / contracts.

Ijarah

Ijarah means lease, rent or wage. Generally, the Ijarah concept refers to selling the benefit of use or service for a fixed price or wage. Under this concept, the Bank makes available to the customer the use of service of assets / equipment such as plant, office automation, motor vehicle for a fixed period and price.

Ijarah thumma al bai' (hire purchase)

Parties enter into contracts that come into effect serially, to form a complete lease/ buyback transaction. The first contract is an Ijarah that outlines the terms for leasing or renting over a fixed period, and the second contract is a Bai that triggers a sale or purchase once the term of the Ijarah is complete. For example, in a car financing facility, a customer enters into the first contract and leases the car from the owner (bank) at an agreed amount over a specific period. When the lease period expires, the second contract comes into effect, which enables the customer to purchase the car at an agreed price.interest The bank generates a profit by determining in advance the cost of the item, its residual value at the end of the term and the time value or profit margin for the money being invested in purchasing the product to be leased for the intended term. The combining of these three figures becomes the basis for the contract between the Bank and the client for the initial lease contract. This type of transaction is similar to the contractum trinius, a legal maneuver used by European bankers and merchants during the Middle Ages to sidestep the Church's prohibition on interest bearing loans. In a contractum, two parties would enter into three concurrent and interrelated legal contracts, the net effect being the paying of a fee for the use of money for the term of the loan. The use of concurrent interrelated contracts is also prohibited under Shariah Law.

Ijarah-wal-iqtina

A contract under which an Islamic bank provides equipment, building, or other assets to the client against an agreed rental together with a unilateral undertaking by the bank or the client that at the end of the lease period, the ownership in the asset would be transferred to the lessee. The undertaking or the ome an integral part of the lease contract to make it conditional. The rentals as well as the purchase price are fixed in such manner that the bank gets back its principal sum along with profit over the period of lease.

Musharakah (joint venture)

Musharakah is a relationship between two parties or more that contribute capital to a business and divide the net profit and loss pro rata. This is often used in investment projects, letters of credit, and the purchase or real estate or property. In the case of real estate or property, the bank assess an imputed rent and will share it as agreed in advance.[40] All providers of capital are entitled to participate in management, but not necessarily required to do so. The profit is distributed among the partners in pre-agreed ratios, while the loss is borne by each partner strictly in proportion to respective capital contributions. This concept is distinct from fixed-income investing (i.e. issuance of loans).[41]

Qard hassan/ Qardul hassan (good loan/benevolent loan)

القرض الحسن This is a loan extended on a goodwill basis, and the debtor is only required to repay the amount borrowed. However, the debtor may, at his or her discretion, pay an extra amount beyond the principal amount of the loan (without promising it) as a token of appreciation to the creditor. In the case that the debtor does not pay an extra amount to the creditor, this transaction is a true interest-free loan. Some Muslims consider this to be the only type of loan that does not violate the prohibition on 'riba, for it alone is a loan that truly does not compensate the creditor for the time value of money.[42]

Sukuk (Islamic bonds)

Main article: Sukuk

Sukuk, plural of صك Sakk, is the Arabic name for financial certificates that are the Islamic equivalent of bonds. However, fixed-income, interest-bearing bonds are not permissible in Islam. Hence, Sukuk are securities that comply with the Islamic law (Shariah) and its investment principles, which prohibit the charging or paying of interest. Financial assets that comply with the Islamic law can be classified in accordance with their tradability and non-tradability in the secondary markets.

Takaful (Islamic insurance)

Main article: Takaful

Takaful is an alternative form of cover that a Muslim can avail himself against the risk of loss due to misfortunes. Takaful is based on the idea that what is uncertain with respect to an individual may cease to be uncertain with respect to a very large number of similar individuals. Insurance by combining the risks of many people enables each individual to enjoy the advantage provided by the law of large numbers.

Wadiah (safekeeping)

In Wadiah, a bank is deemed as a keeper and trustee of funds. A person deposits funds in the bank and the bank guarantees refund of the entire amount of the deposit, or any part of the outstanding amount, when the depositor demands it. The depositor, at the bank's discretion, may be rewarded with Hibah (see above) as a form of appreciation for the use of funds by the bank.

Wakalah (power of attorney)

This occurs when a person appoints a representative to undertake transactions on his/her behalf, similar to a power of attorney.

Islamic equity funds

Main article: Sharia investments

Islamic investment equity funds market is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the Islamic financial system. Currently, there are approximately 100 Islamic equity funds worldwide. The total assets managed through these funds currently exceed US$5 billion and is growing by 12–15% per annum. With the continuous interest in the Islamic financial system, there are positive signs that more funds will be launched. Some Western majors have just joined the fray or are thinking of launching similar Islamic equity products.

Despite these successes, this market has seen a record of poor marketing as emphasis is on products and not on addressing the needs of investors. Over the last few years, quite a number of funds have closed down. Most of the funds tend to target high net worth individuals and corporate institutions, with minimum investments ranging from US$50,000 to as high as US$1 million. Target markets for Islamic funds vary, some cater for their local markets, e.g., Malaysia and Gulf-based investment funds. Others clearly target the Middle East and Gulf regions, neglecting local markets and have been accused of failing to serve Muslim communities.

Since the launch of Islamic equity funds in the early 1990s, there has been the establishment of credible equity benchmarks by Dow Jones Islamic market index [43] (Dow Jones Indexes pioneered Islamic investment indexing in 1999) and the FTSE Global Islamic Index Series.[44]

Islamic derivatives

With help of Bahrain-based International Islamic Financial Market and New York-based

Islamic laws on trading

The Qur'an prohibits gambling (games of chance involving money). The hadith, in addition to prohibiting gambling (games of chance), also prohibits bayu al-gharar (trading in risk, where the Arabic word gharar is taken to mean "risk" or excessive uncertainty).

The Hanafi madhab (legal school) in Islam defines gharar as "that whose consequences are hidden." The Shafi legal school defined gharar as "that whose nature and consequences are hidden" or "that which admits two possibilities, with the less desirable one being more likely." The Hanbali school defined it as "that whose consequences are unknown" or "that which is undeliverable, whether it exists or not." Ibn Hazm of the Zahiri school wrote "Gharar is where the buyer does not know what he bought, or the seller does not know what he sold." The modern scholar of Islam, Professor Mustafa Al-Zarqa, wrote that "Gharar is the sale of probable items whose existence or characteristics are not certain, due to the risky nature that makes the trade similar to gambling." Other modern scholars, such as Dr. Sami al-Suwailem, have used Game Theory to try and reach a more measured definition of Gharar, defining it as "a zero-sum game with unequal payoffs".[45]

There are a number of hadith that forbid trading in gharar, often giving specific examples of gharhar transactions (e.g., selling the birds in the sky or the fish in the water, the catch of the diver, an unborn calf in its mother's womb etc.). Jurists have sought many complete definitions of the term. They also came up with the concept of yasir (minor risk); a financial transaction with a minor risk is deemed to be halal (permissible) while trading in non-minor risk (bayu al-ghasar) is deemed to be haram.[46]

What gharar is, exactly, was never fully decided upon by the Muslim jurists. This was mainly due to the complication of having to decide what is and is not a minor risk. Derivatives instruments (such as stock options) have only become common relatively recently. Some Islamic banks do provide brokerage services for stock trading.

Microfinance

Microfinance is a key concern for Muslims states and recently Islamic banks also. Microfinance is ideologically compatible with Islamic finance, capable of Shariah-compliancy, and possesses a sizeable potential market. Islamic microfinance tools can enhance security of tenure and contribute to transformation of lives of the poor.[47] The use of interest found in conventional microfinance products and services can easily be avoided by creating microfinance hybrids delivered on the basis of the Islamic contracts of mudaraba, musharaka, and murabahah. Already, several microfinance institutions (MFIs) such as FINCA Afghanistan have introduced Islamic-compliant financial instruments that accommodate sharia criteria.

Controversy

In Islamabad, Pakistan, on June 16, 2004: Members of leading Islamist political party in Pakistan, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) party, staged a protest walkout from the National Assembly of Pakistan against what they termed derogatory remarks by a minority member on interest banking:

Taking part in the budget debate, M.P. Bhindara, a minority MNA [Member of the National Assembly]...referred to a decree by an Al-Azhar University's scholar that bank interest was not un-Islamic. He said without interest the country could not get foreign loans and could not achieve the desired progress. A pandemonium broke out in the house over his remarks as a number of MMA members...rose from their seats in protest and tried to respond to Mr Bhindara's observations. However, they were not allowed to speak on a point of order that led to their walkout.... Later, the opposition members were persuaded by a team of ministers...to return to the house...the government team accepted the right of the MMA to respond to the minority member's remarks.... Sahibzada Fazal Karim said the Council of Islamic ideology had decreed that interest in all its forms was haram in an Islamic society. Hence, he said, no member had the right to negate this settled issue.[48]

Some Islamic banks charge for the time value of money, the common economic definition of interest (riba). These institutions are criticized in some quarters of the Muslim community for their lack of strict adherence to Sharia.

The concept of Ijarah is used by some Islamic Banks (the Islami Bank in Bangladesh, for example) to apply to the use of money instead of the more accepted application of supplying goods or services using money as a vehicle. A fixed fee is added to the amount of the loan that must be paid to the bank regardless if the loan generates a return on investment or not. The reasoning is that if the amount owed does not change over time, it is profit and not interest and therefore acceptable under Sharia.

Islamic banks are also criticized by some for not applying the principle of Mudarabah in an acceptable manner. Where Mudarabah stresses the sharing of risk, critics point out that these banks are eager to take part in profit-sharing but they have little tolerance for risk. To some in the Muslim community, these banks may be conforming to the strict legal interpretations of Sharia but avoid recognizing the intent that made the law necessary in the first place.

The majority of Islamic banking clients are found in the Gulf states and in developed countries. The majority of financial institutions that offer Islamic banking services are majority owned by Non-Muslims. With Muslims working within these organizations being employed in the marketing of these services and having little input into the actual day to day management, the veracity of these institutions and their services are viewed with suspicion. One Malaysian Bank offering Islamic based investment funds was found to have the majority of these funds invested in the gaming industry; the managers administering these funds were non Muslim.[48] These types of stories contribute to the general impression within the Muslim populace that Islamic banking is simply another means for banks to increase profits through growth of deposits and that only the rich derive benefits from implementation of Islamic Banking principles.

See also

Notes

Further reading

  • Partnership, Equity-Financing and Islamic Finance: Whither Profit-Loss Sharing? by Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
  • Historic Judgment on Interest Given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan
  • Islamic Banking references (GDRC)
  • Risk & Compliance Management in Islamic Banking
  • La Trobe University
  • Encyclopedia of Islamic Finance, by Dr Aly Khorshid, published by Euromoney PLC, July 2009
  • Islamic Finance as a Progenitor of Venture Capital, by Benedikt Koehler in: Economic Affairs, December 2009
  • “Outline of an Economic Sociology of Islamic Banking” by Reza Azarian International Journal of Business and Social Science 2: 17: 158–68 http://www.ijbssnet.com/journals/Vol_2_No_17/35.pdf
  • Zepeda, Rodrigo, Enhancing Islamic Finance through Risk Benchmarking (October 1, 2013). The Capco Institute Journal of Financial Transformation, No. 38 (October 2013), pp. 17–34 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2337493

External links

  • World Database for Islamic Banking and Finance
  • Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions Information
  • Islamic Financial Services Board
  • AIBIM – Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia
  • Islamic Finance at Deloitte
  • Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions
  • Reviewing Islamic Banking
  • Riba and Islamic Banking
  • AusCIF Islamic Finance Knowledge and Resources page
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