Islamic banking refers to a system of banking or banking activity that is consistent with Islamic law (Sharia) 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). In the late 20th century, a number of Islamic banks were made, to cater to this particular banking market.
History of Islamic banking
Classical Islamic banking
- Further information: Early reforms under Islam
During the Islamic Golden Age, early forms of proto-capitalism and free markets were present in the Caliphate, where an early market economy and early form of merchant capitalism was developed between the 8th-12th centuries, which some refer to as “Islamic capitalism”. A vigorous monetary economy was created on the basis of the expanding levels of circulation of a stable high-value currency (the dinar) and the integration of monetary areas that were previously independent.
A number of innovative concepts and techniques were introduced in early Islamic banking, including contracts, bills of exchange, long-distance international trade, the first forms of partnership (mufawada) such as limited partnerships (mudaraba), and the earliest forms of credit, debt, profit, loss, capital (al-mal), capital accumulation (nama al-mal), circulating capital, capital expenditure, revenue, cheques, promissory notes, trusts (see Waqf), startup companies, savings accounts, transactional accounts, pawning, loaning, exchange rates, bankers, money changers, ledgers, deposits, assignments, and lawsuits. Organizational enterprises similar to corporations independent from the state also existed in the medieval Islamic world, while the agency institution was also introduced. Many of these early capitalist concepts were adopted and further advanced in medieval Europe from the 13th century onwards.
The common view of riba (usury) among classical jurists of Islamic law and economics during the Islamic Golden Age was that it is only riba and therefore unlawful to apply interest to money exnatura sua—exclusively gold and silver currencies—but that it is not riba and is therefore acceptable to apply interest to fiat money—currencies made up of other materials such as paper or base metals—to an extent. The definition of riba in classical Islamic jurisprudence was “surplus value without counterpart.” When “currencies of base metal were first introduced in the Islamic world, no jurist ever thought that paying a debt in a higher number of units of this fiat money was riba” as they were 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). The rationale behind riba according to classical Islamic jurists was “to ensure equivalency in real value” and that the “numerical value was immaterial (or it was not of any concern at that time).”
Modern Islamic banking
The first modern experiment with Islamic banking was undertaken in Egypt under cover 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 El Najjar, 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 the country.
In 1972, the Mit Ghamr Savings project became part of Nasr Social Bank which, till date, 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. 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 has the same purpose as conventional banking except that it operates in accordance with the rules of Shariah, known as Fiqh al-Muamalat (Islamic rules on transactions). The basic principle of Islamic banking is the sharing of profit and loss and the prohibition of riba (usury). Amongst the common Islamic concepts used in Islamic banking are profit sharing (Mudharabah), safekeeping (Wadiah), joint venture (Musharakah), cost plus (Murabahah), and leasing (Ijarah).
In an Islamic mortgage transaction, instead of loaning 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 fact that it is 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 Murabaha. 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 are called Musyaraka al-Mutanaqisa that allows for a floating rate in the form of rental. The bank and borrower forms a partnership entity, both providing capital at an agreed percentage to purchase the property. The partnership entity then rent out the property to the borrower and charges rent. The bank and the borrower will then share the proceed 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 on 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 receives the proceeds from an auction based on the current equity. This method allows for floating rates according to 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 deals. 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 lender to monopolize the economy.
And finally, Islamic banking is restricted to Islamically acceptable deals, which exclude those involving alcohol, pork, gambling, etc. Thus ethical investing is the only acceptable form of investment, and moral purchasing is encouraged. Islamic banking is an example of full-reserve banking, with banks achieving a 100% reserve ratio. However, in practice, this is not always the case.
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).
Shariah Advisory Council/Consultant
Islamic banks and banking institutions that offer Islamic banking products and services (IBS banks) are required to establish Shariah advisory committees/consultants to advise them and to ensure that the operations and activities of the bank comply with Shariah principles.
In Malaysia, the National Shariah Advisory Council, which additionally 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)
Investments through principles
Bai’ al-Inah (Sale and Buy Back Agreement)
The financier sells an asset to the customer on a deferred-payment basis, and then the asset is immediately repurchased by the financier for cash at a discount. The buying back agreement allows the bank to assume ownership over the asset in order to protect against default without explicitly charging interest in the event of late payments or insolvency.
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. This is similar to Murabahah, except that the debtor makes only a single installment on the maturity date of the loan. By the application of a discount rate, an Islamic bank can collect the market rate of interest.
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 murabaha 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.
Mudarabah (Profit Sharing)
Mudarabah is an arrangement or agreement between the bank, or a capital provider, and an entrepreneur, whereby the entrepreneur can mobilize the funds of the former for its business activity. The entrepreneur provides expertise, labor and management. Profits made are shared between the bank and the entrepreneur according to predetermined ratio. In case of loss, the bank loses the capital, while the entrepreneur loses his provision of labor. It is this financial risk, according to the Shariah, that justifies the bank’s claim to part of the profit. The profit-sharing continues until the loan is repaid. The bank is compensated for the time value of its money in the form of a floating rate that is pegged to the debtor’s profits.
Murabahah (Cost Plus)
This concept refers to the sale of goods at a price, which 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 Murabaha is paid in full.
This type of transaction is similar to rent-to-own arrangements for furniture or appliances that are very common in North American stores.
Musawamah is a general and regular kind of sale in which price of the commodity to be traded is bargained between seller and the buyer without any reference to the price paid or cost incurred by the former. Thus, it is different from Murabaha in respect of pricing formula. Unlike Murabaha, however, the seller in Musawamah is not obliged to reveal his cost. Both the parties negotiate on the price. All other conditions relevant to Murabaha are valid for Musawamah as well. Musawamah can be used where the seller is not in a position to ascertain precisely the costs of commodities that he is offering to sell. musawah.
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. 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
- First of all, it is necessary for the validity of Salam that the buyer pays the price in full to the seller at the time of effecting the sale. It is necessary because in the absence of full payment by the buyer, it will be tantamount to sale of a debt against a debt, which is prohibited, as the basic wisdom behind the permissibility of salam is to fulfill the instant needs of the seller. If the price is not paid to him in full, the basic purpose of the transaction will be defeated. Therefore, all the Muslim jurists are unanimous on the point that full payment of the price is necessary in Salam. However, Imam Malik is of the view that the seller may give a concession of two or three days to the buyers, but this concession should not form part of the agreement.
- Salam can be effected in those commodities only the quality and quantity of which can be specified exactly. The things whose quality or quantity is not determined by specification cannot be sold through the contract of salam. For example, precious stones cannot be sold on the basis of salam, because every piece of precious stones is normally different from the other either in its quality or in its size or weight and their exact specification is not generally possible.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The exact date and place of delivery must be specified in the contract.
- 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.
This is a token given voluntarily by a creditor to a debtor in return for a loan. Hibah usually arises in practice when Islamic banks involuntarily pay their customers interest on savings account balances.
Ijarah means lease, rent or wage. Generally, Ijarah concept means selling benefit or 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 / equipments such as plant, office automation, motor vehicle for a fixed period and price.
Advantages of Ijarah
The following are the advantage of Ijarah to lessee:
Ijarah conserves capital as it may provide 100% financing.
Ijarah enables the Lessee to have the use of the equipment on payment of the first rental. This is important since it is the use (and not ownership) of the equipment that generates income.
Ijarah arrangements are flexible because the terms and rental provision may be tailored to suit the needs of the Lessee. Therefore, it aids corporate planning and budgeting
Ijarah is not borrowing and is therefore not required to be disclosed as a liability in the Balance Sheet of the Lessee. Being an “off-balance-sheet” financing, it is not included in the computation of gearing ratios imposed by bankers. The borrowing capacity of the Lessee is therefore not impaired when leasing is resorted to as a mean of financing.
All payments of rentals are treated as payment of operating expenses and are therefore, fully tax-deductible. Leasing therefore offers tax-advantages to profit making concerns.
There are many types of equipment, which become obsolete before the end of their actual economic life. This is particularly true in high technology equipment like computers. Thus the risk is passed onto the Lessor who will undoubtedly charge a premium into the lease rate to compensate for the risk. A Lessee may be willing to pay the said premium as an insurance against obsolescence.
If the equipment use is for a relatively short period of time, it may be more profitable to lease than to buy.
If the equipment is for short duration and the equipment has a very poor second hand value (resale value), leasing would be the best method for acquisition.
Ijarah Thumma Al Bai’ (Hire Purchase)
These are variations on a theme of purchase and lease back transactions. There are two contracts involved in this concept. The first contract, an Ijarah contract (leasing/renting), and the second contract, a Bai contract (purchase) are undertaken one after the other. 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 rental 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.
In effect, the bank sells the product to the debtor, at an above market-price profit margin, in return for agreeing to receive the payment over a period of time; the profit margin on the lease is equivalent to interest earned at a fixed rate of return.
This type of transaction is particularly reminiscent of contractum trinius, a complicated legal trick used by European bankers and merchants during the Middle Ages, which involved combining three individually legal contracts in order to produce a transaction of an interest bearing loan (something that the Church made illegal). The combiniation of different contracts is also prohibited according to Shariah.
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 promise does not become 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 is a relationship between two parties or more, of whom 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. 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).
Qard Hassan (Good Loan)
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, since it is the one type of loan that truly does not compensate the creditor for the time value of money .
Sukuk (Islamic Bonds)
Sukuk is the Arabic name for a financial certificate but can be seen as an Islamic equivalent of bond. However, fixed-income, interest-bearing bonds are not permissible in Islam. Hence, Sukuk are securities that comply with the Islamic law 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.
Conservative estimates suggest that over US$500 billion of assets are managed according to Islamic investment principles. Such principles form part of Shariah, which is often understood to be Islamic law, but it is actually broader than this in that it also encompasses the general body of spiritual and moral obligations and duties in Islam.
Takaful (Islamic Insurance)
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.
In modern business, one of the ways to reduce the risk of loss due to misfortunes is through insurance which spreads the risk among many people. The concept of insurance where resources are pooled to help the needy does not contradict Shariah. However, conventional insurance involves the elements of uncertainty (Al-gharar) in the contract of insurance, gambling (Al-maisir) as the consequences of the presence of uncertainty and interest (Al-riba) in the investment activities of the conventional insurance companies that contravene the rules of Shariah. It is generally accepted by Muslim jurists that the operation of conventional insurance does not conform to the rules and requirements of Shariah.
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 a hibah (gift) as a form of appreciation for the use of funds by the bank. In this case, the bank compensates depositors for the time-value of their money (i.e. pays interest) but refers to it as a gift because it does not officially guarantee payment of the gift.
This occurs when a person appoints a representative to undertake transactions on his/her behalf, similar to a power of attorney.
Islamic Equity Funds
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 and the FTSE Global Islamic Index Series. The Web site failaka.com monitors the performance of Islamic equity funds and provide a comprehensive list of the Islamic funds worldwide.
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”).
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.” There are a number of hadith who 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. 
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 and perhaps even for derivatives trading.
Microfinance is a key concern for Muslims states and recently Islamic banks also. Islamic microfinance tools can enhance security of tenure and contribute to transformation of lives of the poor.
Islamabad, Pakistan, 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.
Islamic banks do compensate and charge for the time value of money, thus paying and receiving what is known in economics as interest. Such people compare Islamic banking to contractum trinius—a legal trick devised by European bankers and merchants during the Middle Ages, designed to facilitate the borrowing of money at a fixed rate of interest (something that the Church fiercely opposed) through combining three different contractual agreements that in and of themselves were not prohibited by the Church. While Islamic law prohibits the collection of interest, it does allow a seller to resell an item at a higher price than it was bought for, as long as there are clearly two transactions.
Islamic Banks (such as Islami Bank) in Bangladesh have added their own variation to Islamic Banking. They charge a fixed fee, what they termed as a ‘markup’. This markup is a constant amount decided by the bank which is added to the loan but is not dependent on the success of the business. It serves as an acceptable loophole to collecting interest. Also these banks will take part in profit-sharing but will not take part in any losses. Their success have been in convincing people of their religious mandate but at the same time have exploited every nuance of the mandate.
These arguments and criticism are exactly the same as those used at the time of Muhammad. The Qur’an addresses this issue in simple terms, saying that usury (Riba) is forbidden by Allah, while trade has been permitted by him:
“Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury,” but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (The offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).” (Surah Baqarah 2:275) – http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/002.qmt.html
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- أغسطس 26, 2008 / 2:58 ص