Saturday, December 19, 2009

Interest-free system: Comprehensive change needed in Indian banking laws

Comprehensive change is needed in the Indian banking laws in order to implement interest-free economic system, said famous Islamic banking scholar Mufti Abdul Qader Barkatullah. It is difficult to bring full-fledged Islamic banking in the present conditions in India.

Mufti said that majority of the countries followed economic systems that were about half a century old. But, living conditions and development ideas have moved a lot forward. Change is needed in economic matters also as per the change in the other fields.

India is following the laws of Britain in the banking field. Indian banks cannot invest capital in trade and others as in Britain. At the same time, interest is given to the investors and levied from those who take loans making rupee a good for trade.

Money is not a good for trade in the Islamic banking idea. Islamic banks distribute the profit from re-investing the money of the investors in business activities and the like. And so, investors are responsible to share chance of loss also along with profit. But, the chance of loss is not shared with investors in the traditional banking system.

The global economic downturn has not affected the Islamic banks in Britain much, said Mufti who is the Islamic financial adviser of several famous banks in Britain. The relevance of the Islamic banking system increased in the UK when a good percentage of investments turned to interest-free banking and a considerable share of investments came from the Gulf regions. As a result, the Islamic Bank of Britain was established in 2004. The bank has opened seven branches within five years.

The relevance of such banks is increased by the fact that about 20 percent account-holders are non-Muslims. Mufti added that investing in the real estate field and others, where scope of loss is comparatively less, would be better for those working on the field of Islamic banking in India.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Welcome To Sharia-Banking Blogspot

In here you can find fundamental concept of Islamic banking / Sharia Banking, that refers to a system of banking or banking activity which 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. Generally, Islamic law also prohibits trading in financial risk (which is seen as a form of gambling). In addition, Islamic law prohibits investing in businesses that are considered haram (such as businesses that sell alcohol or pork, or businesses that produce un-Islamic media).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Al - Murabaha

Murabaha is one of the most commonly used modes of financing by Islamic Banks and financial institutions.


Murabahah is a particular kind of sale where the seller expressly mentions the cost of the sold commodity he has incurred, and sells it to another person by adding some profit thereon. Thus, Murabahah is not a loan given on interest; it is a sale of a commodity for cash/deferred price.
The Bai' Murabahah involves purchase of a commodity by a bank on behalf of a client and its resale to the latter on cost-plus-profit basis. Under this arrangement the bank discloses its cost and profit margin to the client. In other words rather than advancing money to a borrower, which is how the system would work in a conventional banking agreement, the bank will buy the goods from a third party and sell those goods on to the customer for a pre-agreed price.
Murabahah is a mode of financing as old as Musharakah. Today in Islamic banks world-over 66% of all investment transactions are through Murabahah.

Difference between Murabahah and Sale

A simple sale in Arabic is called Musawamah - a bargaining sale without disclosing or referring to what the cost price is. However when the cost price is disclosed to the client it is called Murabahah. A simple Murabahah is one where there is cash payment and Murabahah Muajjal is one on deferred payment basis.

Arguments against Murabahah

An argument that arises in Murabahah is that profit or interest both are the same and Murabahah financing is the same as conventional banking. Islamic scholars however argue that in several respects a Murabahah financing structure is quite different to an overdraft organized along conventional lines and the former offers several benefits to the bank and its customers. Depositors are made to share in profits of the bank as a result of this financing. The basic difference is however the Aqd or the contract which covers the Islamic conditions. If the contract has interest element then it will be void.

Basic rules for Murabahah
Following are the rules governing a Murabahah transaction:

1. The subject of sale must exist at the time of the sale. Thus anything that may not exist at the time of sale cannot be sold and its non-existence makes the contract void.
2. The subject matter should be in the ownership of the seller at the time of sale. If he sells something that he has not acquired himself then the sale becomes void.
3. The subject of sale must be in physical or constructive possession of the seller when he sells it to another person. Constructive possession means a situation where the possessor has not taken physical delivery of the commodity yet it has come into his control and all rights and liabilities of the commodity are passed on to him including the risk of its destruction.
4. The sale must be instant and absolute. Thus a sale attributed to a future date or a sale contingent on a future event is void. For example, 'A' tells 'B' on 1st January that he will sell his car on 1st February to 'B', the sale is void because it is attributed to a future date.
5. The subject matter should be a property having value. Thus a good having no value cannot be sold or purchased.
6. The subject of sale should not be a thing used for an un-Islamic purpose.
7. The subject of sale must be specifically known and identified to the buyer. For Example, 'A' owner of an apartment building says to 'B' that he will sell an apartment to 'B'. Now the sale is void because the apartment to be sold is not specifically mentioned or pointed to the buyer.
8. The delivery of the sold commodity to the buyer must be certain and should not depend on a contingency or chance.
9. The certainty of price is a necessary condition for the validity of the sale. If the price is uncertain, the sale is void.
10. The sale must be unconditional. A conditional sale is invalid unless the condition is recognized as a part of the transaction according to the usage of the trade.

Step by step Murabahah Financing :
1. The client and the institution sign an overall agreement whereby the institution promises to sell and the client promises to buy the commodity from time to time on an agreed ratio of profit added to the cost. This agreement may specify the limit up-to which the facility may be availed.
2. An agency agreement is signed by both parties in which the institution appoints the client as his agent for purchasing the commodity on its behalf.
3. The client purchases the commodity on behalf of the institution and takes possession as the agent of the institution.
4. The client informs the institution that it has purchased the commodity and simultaneously makes an offer to purchase it from the institution.
5. The institution accepts the offer and the sale is concluded whereby ownership as well as risk is transferred to the client.

All the above conditions are necessary to effect a valid Murabahah. If the institution purchases the commodity directly from the supplier, it does not need any agency agreement.
The most essential element of the transaction is that the commodity must remain in the risk of the institution during the period between the third and the fifth stage.
The above is the only way by which this transaction is distinguished from an ordinary interest-based transaction.

Issues in Murabahah

Following are some of the issues in Murabahah financing:
1. Securities against Murabahah
Payments coming from the sale are receivables and for this, the client may be asked to furnish a security. It can be in the form of a mortgage or hypothecation or some kind of lien or charge.

2. Guaranteeing the Murabahah
The seller can ask the client to furnish a 3rd party guarantee. In case of default on payment the seller may have recourse to the guarantor who will be liable to pay the amount guaranteed to him.

There are two issues relating to this:
a) The guarantor cannot charge a fee from the original client. The reason being that a person charging a fee for advancing a loan comes under the definition of riba.
b) However the guarantor can charge for any documentation expenses.

3. Penalty of default
Another issue with Murabahah is that if the client defaults in payment of the price at the due date, the price cannot be changed nor can penalty fees be charged.
In order to deal with dishonest clients who default in payment deliberately, they should be made liable to pay compensation to the Islamic Bank for the loss suffered on account of default.

However these should be made subject to the following conditions:
a) The defaulter may be given a grace period of at-least one-month.
b) If it is proven beyond doubt that the client is defaulting without valid excuse then compensation can be demanded.

4. Rollover in Murabahah
Murabahah transaction cannot be rolled over for a further period as the old contract ends. It should be understood that Murabahah is not a loan rather the sale of a commodity, which is deferred to a specific date. Once this commodity is sold, its ownership transfers from the bank to the client and it is therefore no more a property of the seller. Now what the seller can claim is only the agreed price and therefore there is no question of effecting another sale on the same commodity between the same parties.

5. Rebate on earlier payments
Sometimes the debtors want to pay early to get discounts. However in Islam, majority of Muslim Scholars including the major schools of thought consider this to be un-Islamic. However if the Islamic bank or financial institution gives somebody a rebate on its own, it is not objectionable especially if the client is needy.

6. Calculation of cost in Murabahah
The Murabahah can only be effected when the seller can ascertain the exact cost he has incurred in acquiring the commodity he wants to sell. If the exact cost cannot be ascertained then Murabahah cannot take place. In this case the sale will take place as Musawamah i.e. sale without reference to cost.

7. Subject matter of the sale
All commodities cannot be the subject matter in Murabahah because certain requirements need to be fulfilled. The shares of a lawful company can be sold or purchased on Murabahah basis because according to the principles of Islam the shares represent ownership into assets of the company provided all other basic conditions of the transaction are fulfilled. A buy back arrangement or selling without taking their possession is not allowed at all.
Murabahah is not possible on things that cannot become the subject of sale. For example, Murabahah is not possible in exchange of currencies.

Basic mistakes in Murabahah Financing

Some basic mistakes that can be made in practical implications of the concept are as follows:

1. The most common mistake is to assume that Murabahah can be used for all types of transactions and financing. This mode can only be used when a commodity is to be purchased by the customer. If funds are required for some other purpose Murabahah cannot be used.

2. The document is signed for obtaining funds for a specific commodity and therefore it is important to study the subject matter of the Murabahah.

3. In some cases, the sale of commodity to the client is affected before the commodity is acquired from the supplier. This occurs when the various stages of the Murabahah are skipped and the documents are signed all together. It is to be remembered that Murabahah is a package of different contracts and they come into play one after another at their respective stages.

4. It is observed in some financial institutions that Murabahah is applied on already purchased commodities, which is not allowed in Shariah and can be effected on not yet purchased commodities.

Uses of Murabahah

Murabahah can be used in following conditions:
Short / Medium / Long Term Finance for:
· Raw material
· Inventory
· Equipment
· Asset financing
· Import financing
· Export financing (Pre-shipment)
· Consumer goods financing
· House financing
· Vehicle financing
· Land financing
· Shop financing
· PC financing
· Tour package financing
· Education package financing
· All other services that can be sold in the form of package (i.e. services like education, medical etc. as a package)·

Securitization of Murabahah agreement (certificate) is allowed at par value only. Other wise certain rules of Islamic Finance must be met.

Bai' Muajjal

Bai' Muajjal is the Arabic acronym for "sale on deferred payment basis". The deferred payment becomes a loan payable by the buyer in a lump sum or installment (as agreed between the two parties). In Bai' Muajjal all those items can be sold on deferred payment basis which come under the definition of capital where quality does not make a difference but the intrinsic value does. Those assets do not come under definition of capital where quality can be compensated for by the price and Shariah scholars have an 'ijmah' (consensus) that demanding a high price in deferred payment in such a case is permissible.

Conditions for Bai' Muajjal

1. The price to be paid must be agreed and fixed at the time of the deal. It may include any amount of profit without qualms about riba.

2. Complete/total possession of the object in question must be given to the buyer, while the deferred price is to be treated as debt against him.

3. Once the price is fixed, it cannot be decreased in case of earlier payment nor can it be increased in case of default.

4. In order to secure the payment of price, the seller may ask the buyer to furnish a security either in the form of mortgage or in the form of an item.

5. If the commodity is sold on installments, the seller may put a condition on the buyer that if he fails to pay any installment on its due date, the remaining installments will become due immediately.

Diminishing Musharakah

Another form of Musharakah, developed in the near past, is 'Diminishing Musharakah'. According to this concept, a financier and his client participate either in the joint ownership of a property or an equipment, or in a joint commercial enterprise. The share of the financier is further divided into a number of units and it is understood that the client will purchase the units of the share of the financier one by one periodically, thus increasing his own share until all the units of the financier are purchased by him so as to make him the sole owner of the property, or the commercial enterprise, as the case may be.

The Diminishing Murabahah based on the above concept has taken different shapes in different transactions. Some examples are given below:

1. It has been used mostly in house financing. The client wants to purchase a house for which he does not have adequate funds. He approaches the financier who agrees to participate with him in purchasing the required house. 20% of the price is paid by the client and 80% of the price by the financier. Thus, the financier owns 80% of the house while the client owns 20%. After purchasing the property jointly, the client uses the house for his residential requirement and pays rent to the financier for using his share in the property. At the same time, the share of financier is further divided in eight equal units, each unit representing 10% ownership of the house. The client promises to the financier that he will purchase one unit after three months. Accordingly, after the first term of three months he purchases one unit of the share of the financier by paying 1/10th of the price of the house. It reduces the share of the financier from 80% to 70%. Hence, the rent payable to the financier is also reduced to that extent. At the end of the second term, he purchases another unit increasing his share in the property to 40% and reducing the share of the financier to 60% and consequently reducing the rent to that proportion. This process goes on in the same fashion until after the end of two years, the client purchases the whole share of the financier reducing the share of the financier to 'zero' and increasing his own share to 100%.

This arrangement allows the financier to claim rent according to his proportion of ownership in the property and at the same time allows him periodical return of a part of his principal through purchases of the units of his share.

2. 'A' wants to purchase a taxi to use it for offering transport services to passengers and to earn income through fares recovered from them, but he is short of funds. 'B' agrees to participate in the purchase of the taxi, therefore, both of them purchase a taxi jointly. 80% of the price is paid by 'B' and 20% is paid by 'A'. After the taxi is purchased, it is employed to provide transport to the passengers whereby the net income of Rs. 1000/- is earned on daily basis. Since 'B' has 80% share in the taxi, it is agreed that 80% of the fare will be given to him and the rest of 20% will be retained by 'A' who has a 20% share in the taxi. It means that Rs. 800/- is earned by 'B' and Rs. 200/- by 'A' on daily basis. At the same time the share of 'B' is further divided into eight units. After three months 'A' purchases one unit from the share of 'B'. Consequently the share of 'B' is reduced to 70% and share of 'A' is increased to 30% meaning thereby that as from that date 'A' will be entitled to Rs. 300/- from the daily income of the taxi and 'B' will earn Rs. 700/-. This process will go on until after the expiry of two years, the whole taxi will be owned by 'A' and 'B' will take back his original investment along with income distributed to him as aforesaid.

3. 'A' wishes to start the business of ready-made garments but lacks the required funds for that business. 'B' agrees to participate with him for a specified period, say two years. 40% of the investment is contributed by 'A' and 60% by 'B'. Both start the business on the basis of Musharakah. The proportion of profit allocated for each one of them is expressly agreed upon. But at the same time 'B's share in the business is divided to six equal units and 'A' keeps purchasing these units on gradual basis until after the end of two years 'B' comes out of the business, leaving its exclusive ownership to 'A'. Apart from periodical profits earned by 'B', he gains the price of the units of his share which, in practical terms, tend to repay to him the original amount invested by him.

Analyzed from the Shariah point of view this arrangement is composed of different transactions, which come to play their role at different stages. Therefore, each one of the foregoing three forms of diminishing Musharakah is discussed below in the light of the Islamic principles:

House financing on the basis of diminishing Musharakah
The proposed arrangement is composed of the following transactions:

1. To create joint ownership in the property (Shirkat-ul-Milk).
2. Giving the share of the financier to the client on rent.
3. Promise from the client to purchase the units of share of the financier.
4. Actual purchase of the units at different stages.
5. Adjustment of the rental according to the remaining share of the financier in the property.

Steps in detail of the arrangement
i) The first step in the above arrangement is to create a joint ownership in the property. It has already been explained in the beginning of this chapter that 'Shirkat-ul-Milk' (joint ownership) can come into existence in different ways including joint purchase by the parties. All schools of Islamic jurisprudence have expressly allowed this. Therefore no objection can be raised against creating this joint ownership.

ii) The second part of the arrangement is that the financier leases his share in the house to his client and charges rent from him. This arrangement is also above board because there is no difference of opinion among the Muslim jurists in the permissibility of leasing one's undivided share in a property to his partner. If the undivided share is leased out to a third party its permissibility is a point of difference between the Muslim jurists. Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Zufar are of the view that the undivided share cannot be leased out to a third party, while Imam Malik and Imam Shafi'i, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Ibn Hasan hold that the undivided share can be leased out to any person. But so far as the property is leased to the partner himself, all of them are unanimous on the validity of 'Ijarah'.

iii) The third step in the aforesaid arrangement is that the client purchases different units of the undivided share of the financier. This transaction is also allowed. If the undivided share relates to both land and building, the sale of both is allowed according to all the Islamic schools. Similarly if the undivided share of the building is intended to be sold to the partner, it is also allowed unanimously by all the Muslim jurists. However, there is a difference of opinion if it is sold to the third party.

It is clear from the foregoing three points that each one of the transactions mentioned herein above is allowed, but the question is whether this transaction may be combined in a single arrangement. The answer is that if all these transactions have been combined by making each one of them a condition to the other, then this is not allowed in Shariah, because it is a well settled rule in the Islamic legal system that one transaction cannot be made a pre-condition for another.

However, the proposed scheme suggests that instead of making two transactions conditional to each other, there should be one sided promise from the client, firstly, to take share of the financier on lease and pay the agreed rent, and secondly, to purchase different units of the share of the financier of the house at different stages. This leads us to the fourth step, which is the enforceability of such a promise.

iv) It is generally believed that a promise to do something creates only a moral obligation on the promisor, which cannot be enforced through courts of law. However, there are a number of Muslim jurists who declare that promises are enforceable, and the court of law can compel the promisor to fulfill his promise, especially, in the context of commercial activities. Some Maliki and Hanafi jurists can be cited, in particular, who have declared that the promises can be enforced through courts of law in cases of need. The Hanafi jurists have adopted this view with regard to a particular sale called 'bai-bilwafa'. This bai-bilwafa is a special arrangement of sale of a house whereby the buyer promises to the seller that whenever the latter gives him back the price of the house, he will resell the house to him. This arrangement was in vogue in countries of central Asia, and the Hanafi jurists have declared that if the resale of the house to the original seller is made a condition for the initial sale, it is not allowed. However, if the first sale is effected without any condition, but after effecting the sale the buyer promises to resell the house whenever the seller offers to him the same price, this promise is acceptable and it creates not only a moral obligation, but also an enforceable right of the original seller. The Muslim jurists allowing this arrangement have based their view on the principle that "the promise can be made enforceable at the time of need".

Even if the promise has been made before effecting the first sale, after which the sale has been effected without a condition, it is also allowed by certain Hanafi jurists.

One may raise an objection that if the promise of resale has been taken before entering into an actual sale, it practically amounts to putting a condition on the sale itself, because the promise is understood to have been entered into between the parties at the time of sale, and therefore, even if the sale is without an express condition, it should be taken as conditional because a promise in an express term has preceded it.

This objection can be answered by saying that there is a big difference between putting a condition in the sale and making a separate promise without making it a condition. If the condition is expressly mentioned at the time of sale, it means that the sale will be valid only if the condition is fulfilled, meaning thereby that if the condition is not fulfilled in future, the present sale will become void. This makes the transaction of sale contingent on a future event, which may or may not occur. It leads to uncertainty (Gharar) in the transaction, which is totally prohibited in Shariah.

Conversely, if the sale is without any condition, but one of the two parties has promised to do something separately, then the sale cannot be held to be contingent or conditional with fulfilling of the promise. It will take effect irrespective of whether or not the promisor fulfills his promise. Even if the promisor backs out of his promise, the sale will remain effective. The most the promisee can do is to compel the promisor through court of law to fulfill his promise and if the promisor is unable to fulfill the promise, the promisee can claim actual damages he has suffered because of the default.

This makes it clear that a separate and independent promise to purchase does not render the original contract conditional or contingent. Therefore, it can be enforced.

On the basis of this analysis, diminishing Musharakah may be used for House Financing with following conditions:

a) The agreement of joint purchase, leasing and selling different units of the share of the financier should not be tied-up together in one single contract. However, the joint purchase and the contract of lease may be joined in one document whereby the financier agrees to lease his share, after joint purchase, to the client. This is allowed because, as explained in the relevant chapter, Ijarah can be affected for a future date. At the same time the client may sign one-sided promise to purchase different units of the share of the financier periodically and the financier may undertake that when the client will purchase a unit of his share, the rent of the remaining units will be reduced accordingly.

b) At the time of the purchase of each unit, sale must be affected by the exchange of offer and acceptance at that particular date.

c) It will be preferable that the purchase of different units by the client is affected on the basis of the market value of the house as prevalent on the date of purchase of that unit, but it is also permissible that a particular price is agreed in the promise of purchase signed by the client.

Diminishing Musharakah for carrying business of services:
The second example given above for diminishing Musharakah is the joint purchase of a taxi run for earning income by using it as a hired vehicle. This arrangement consists of the following ingredients:

a) Creating joint ownership in a taxi in the form of Shirkat ul-Milk. As already stated, this is allowed in Shariah.

b) Musharakah in the income generated through the services of the taxi. It is also allowed as mentioned earlier in this chapter.

c) Purchase of different units of the share of the financier by the client. This is again subject to the conditions already detailed in the case of House financing. However, there is a slight difference between House financing and the arrangement suggested in this second example. The taxi, when used as a hired vehicle, normally depreciates in value over time, therefore, depreciation in the value of the taxi must be kept in mind while determining the price of different units of the share of the financier.

Diminishing Musharakah in Trade
The third example of diminishing Musharakah as given above is that the financier contributes 60% of the capital for launching a business of ready-made garments, for example. This arrangement is composed of two ingredients only:

1) In the first place, the arrangement is simply a Musharakah whereby two partners invest different amounts of capital in a joint enterprise. This is obviously permissible subject to the conditions of Musharakah already spelled out earlier in this chapter.

2) Purchase of different units of the share of the financier by the client. This may be in the form of a separate and independent promise by the client. The requirements of Shariah regarding this promise are the same as explained in the case of House financing with one very important difference. Here the price of units of the financier cannot be fixed in the promise to purchase, because if the price is fixed before hand at the time of entering into Musharakah, it will practically mean that the client has ensured the principal invested by the financier with or without profit, which is strictly prohibited in the case of Musharakah. Therefore, there are two options for the financier about fixing the price of his units to be purchased by the client. One option is that he agrees to sell the units on the basis of valuation of the business at the time of the purchase of each unit. If the value of the business has increased, the price will be higher and if it has decreased the price will be less. Such valuation may be carried out in accordance with the recognized principles through the experts, whose identity may be agreed upon between the parties when the promise is signed. The second option is that the financier allows the client to sell these units to any body else at whatever price he can, but at the same time he offers a specific price to the client, meaning thereby that if he finds a purchaser of that unit at a higher price, he may sell it to him, but if he wants to sell it to the financier, the latter will be agreeable to purchase it at the price fixed by him before hand.

Although both these options are available according to the principles of Shariah, the second option does not seem to be feasible for the financier, because it would lead to injecting new partners in the Musharakah which will disturb the whole arrangement and defeat the purpose of Diminishing Musharakah in which the financier wants to get his money back within a specified period. Therefore, in order to implement the objective of Diminishing Musharakah, only the first option is practical.

  • All Purchase of Fixed Assets
  • House Financing
  • Plant & Factory Financing
  • Car / Transport Financing
  • Project Financing of fixed assets.