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Fundamentals of the Islamic Finance
Leading Organizations of the Islamic Finance
Islamic Finance in the United States
Steps Forward-- Some Recommendations
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Islamic finance is the only example of a financial system directly based on the ethical precepts of a major religion, providing not only investment guidelines but also a set of unique investment and financing products.” Islamic finance is based on Shari’ah, the Islamic law that provides guidelines for multiple aspects of Muslim life, including religion, politics, economics, banking, business and aspects of the legal system What Shari'ah compliant financing (SCF) seeks to do is to shape financial practices and accompanying legal instruments that conform to Islamic law. Major financial principles of Shari'ah include a ban on interest, a ban on uncertainty, adherence to risk-sharing and profit-sharing, promotion of ethical investments that enhance society and do not violate practices banned in the Qur’an and tangible asset-backing.( Elasrag, 9. April 2011)
Money, according to Islamic teachings is a measure of value, not a commodity. Debt is a relationship in which risk and responsibility are shared by all parties to a contract. Money must be put to practical use in creating real value for the participants of the transaction. It must be used to create, and not be a commodity in on and of itself. It because of this that the perception of hoarding capital, and the earning of a passive return on capital keyed to the passage of time, -i.e. interest – is prohibited. In short, money must not be made from money.
The establishment of modern Islamic financial institutions started three decades ago. Currently, there are at least 70 countries that have some form of Islamic financial services; almost all major multinational banks are offering these services. The underlying financial principles in Islamic finance have remained unchanged historically since their development over 1,400 years ago. Financial products must be certified as Sharia compliant by an expert in Islamic law. Certification requires that the transaction adheres to a number of key principles that include:( Chapra, 2011)
● Backing by a tangible asset, usufruct or services, so as to avoid ‘speculation’ (gharar). Prohibition of interest payments (riba).
● Risk to be shared amongst participants.
● Limitations on sale of financial assets and their use as collateral.
● Prohibition of finance for activities deemed incompatible with sharia law (haram), such as alcohol, conventional financial services, gambling and tobacco.
Modern Islamic finance emerged in the mid-1970s with the founding of the first large Islamic banks. Development initially occurred through marketing of a steadily expanding supply of Sharia compliant financial instruments.
This supply-driven model contributed to relatively slow growth until the mid-1990s, since when demand has increasingly driven the development of Islamic financial instruments. Rising awareness and demand for Islamic products, along with supportive government policies and growing sophistication of financial institutions, have together raised the rate of growth.
Two developments have been critical to the expansion of Islamic financial markets. In 1998, the so-called “Dow Jones Islamic Indexes fatwa” played a transformative role because it opened the door to a limited degree of “permissible impurity” in financial transactions and institutionalized a notion of cleansing and purification whereby small amounts of impermissible interest income could be cleansed or purified by donation to charity. In turn, this led to a series of equity investment tests that could be used to evaluate potential investments for Shari'ah compliance. A second critical innovation was the introduction of sukuk – a Shari'ah compliant substitute for bonds – where capital protection is achieved not as a loan but as a binding agreement by the issuer to repurchase certain assets over a period of time.
Sukukhas now become one of the backbones of Islamic capital markets and has enabled the rapid growth of Islamic financial transactions.
While the Islamic finance industry represents a fraction of the global finance market, it has grown at double-digit rates in recent years. By some estimates, total assets held globally under Islamic finance reached $1 trillion in 2010. Islamic banks have appeared to be more resilient than conventional banks to the immediate effects of the international financial crisis and global economic downturn. Some analysts have attributed this to Islamic banks’ avoidance of speculative activities. However, the Islamic finance industry has not been completely immune to the general decline in demand and investor uncertainty.
TheCityUK estimates that the global market for Islamic financial services ,as measured by Sharia compliant assets, reached $1,460bn at the end of 2012, up a fifth on the previous year. This means that global assets of Islamic finance have doubled since the start of the economic slowdown. The industry is set to grow significantly in the years ahead. At the current rate of growth of around 20% per year, the market could top $2 trillion in assets by the end of 2014.( UK Islamic finance secretariat UKIFS, 2013)
Assets that can be allocated to individual countries from The Banker’s survey reveals that the leading countries for Sharia compliant assets are Iran which accounts for around 36% of the global market, Malaysia (17%) and Saudi Arabia (14%). These are followed by other Gulf states including UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, and then Turkey.The UK, in ninth place, is the leading Western country with $19bn of reported assets.There are over 700 institutions registered globally as sharia-compliant organisations in financial services. Of these, around 500 are fully compliant, and the remainder operate sharia-compliant products within a conventional institution. Countries with most of the 430 firms reporting to The Banker’s survey include Bahrain and Indonesia with 74 and 71 firms respectively. Malaysia, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were in a group of countries with more than 50 firms.( UK Islamic finance secretariat UKIFS, 2013)
The multiple reasons for the growth of the Islamic financial sector in recent years:( Alasrag, 2010)
(1) The flow of funds into Muslim oil-producing states;
(2) Growing political and social desire in the Muslim world for financial alternatives to banking and investment institutions that have been historically dominated by the West;
(3) The spreading credit crisis in global financial markets and the need to access new sources of investment capital;
(4) The growth of sovereign wealth funds and the desire to have Shari'ah compliant instruments through which to invest them; and,
(5) The rapidly accelerating number of cross-border multi- jurisdictional financial transactions that are possible and required in a globalized world economy Assets held by Muslim investors worldwide now exceed $1.6 trillion, and that amount is expected to grow to $2.7 trillion by 2010.
Shari’ah compliant finance has become an accepted and vibrant element in international financial transactions. It offers a fresh opportunity to emphasize the moral and ethical aspects of business and finance that reaches beyond the Arab and Islamic worlds to prompt a reexamination of the core values underlying all global financial transactions – making available the financial resources needed to develop the human capital that will sustain economic and social progress. The main principles of Islamic finance include:
(1)The prohibition of taking or receiving interest;
(2) Capital must have a social and ethical purpose beyond pure, unfettered return;
(3) Investments in businesses dealing with alcohol, gambling, drugs or anything else that the Shari'ah considers unlawful are deemed undesirable and prohibited;
(4)A prohibition on transactions involving maysir (speculation or gambling); and
(5)A prohibition on gharar, or uncertainty about the subject- matter and terms of contracts – this includes a prohibition on selling something that one does not own.
Because of the restriction on interest-earning investments, Islamic banks must obtain their earnings through profit-sharing investments or fee-based returns. When loans are given for business purposes, the lender, if he wants to make a legitimate gain under the Shari’ah, should take part in the risk. If a lender does not take part in the risk, his receipt of any gain over the amount loaned is classed as interest. Islamic financial institutions also have the flexibility to engage in leasing transactions, including leasing transactions with purchase options.
It may be asked why non-Muslims would agree to use Islamic finance structures. The principal answer is that Islamic finance provides an opportunity to tap into the significant funds of Islamic investors seeking Shari'ah compliant investments. In addition, Islamic finance can be combined with conventional funding sources and export credit agency (ECA) support.
As the Islamic finance industry develops further, there is a growing need for standardization and professionalism across the industry. Coupled with this is the importance of adopting robust corporate governance systems of internationally recognized standards incorporating transparent, fair and ethical working practices. Islamic financial institutions are well-placed in this context, since at the heart of Islamic law is a vision of social development which requires all individuals and businesses to conduct themselves ethically and in a socially responsible manner.
This Book tries to note the main Principal of Islamic finance. In addition to discuss the Improvement can be made in several areas to promote and enhance the providing Islamic financial services.