Shari'ah (Islamic) Banking?

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Islamic Banking
Shari'ah Compliant
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ISLAM NEWSROOM - "Islamic Banking" & "Shari'ah Finance" Conference!

SINGAPORE — A stream of major bank scandals has increased interest in “ethical finance,” which could benefit the Islamic banking sector.

Supporters argue the growing area of Islamic finance is more ethical because banks and businesses must undergo scrutiny to make sure they're sharia-compliant.

“We have a very sweet spot, when conventional banking at the moment is suffering from scandals,” Raja Mohamad, secretary of the Gulf Asia Sharia Compliant Investment Association, said at a conference on Islamic finance in Singapore.

‘We Are Selling Accountability' (not Islam)

“We’re not selling Islam here. We’re selling accountability -- transparent, real economic activity.”

The religious link is a double-edged sword, though.

On the one hand, the public has become more aware of Islamic finance and Islam in general since September 11, 2001 says Habib Ullah, a banking and finance partner in the Middle East for the law firm of Taylor Wessing.

But some people might get turned off from the whole idea of Islamic banking - simply because it has the word “Islamic” in it. Politics might override “Profits”.

Folks might fear evening saying “Islamic Banking” could label you as “pro-Islam” or “Muslim lover”.

Clement Henry, visiting research professor at National University of Singapore commented, “You know, it has unfortunate connotations.”

Mr. Henry said his research, however, has found that people working in the sector tend to be apolitical.

Just how do bankers ensure they're respecting sharia law? There’s no set standard.

Islamic finance hurdles

The most common hurdle for Islamic finance is the prohibition for investors to collect interest on loans. So Islamic banks devise alternative structures, such as financing a business or one of its projects, and then sharing in the profit -- or loss.

In theory this should improve financial ethics in two ways.

First, businesses have to open their books so Islamic banks can verify performance. Without such transparency, businesses could be tempted to downplay profits and give banks a smaller cut.

Second, investors are sharing the risk with the companies, as both profit when the venture succeeds. In traditional banking, companies would keep paying interest to lenders even if the venture failed.

“You can't make money without actual economic activity, something that you're going to do that creates that justification for profit,” Suhaimi Zainul-Abidin, founding member of the Gulf Asia Sharia Compliant Investments Association, said at the conference.

“That’s a really good safeguard for [the] financial industry because you’re not creating money out of thin air, right?" Zainul-Abidin asked. "You're not just going to rely on derivatives upon derivatives upon derivatives, right? There's always going to be a real link, and that really, really helps.”

Financial products

As financial products, traditional derivatives are supposed to have a real, underlying economic activity, too.

For example, investors buy mortgage-backed securities and enjoy a return based on the payments that homeowners make to their banks.

But those and other derivatives are now viewed as the villains of the 2008 financial crisis because they had become so complex that investors often didn't know what the securities contained and how risky they really were.

Islamic finance is perceived to have more realistic standards on how businesses can make money.

But observers warn that Islamic finance is heading in a dangerous direction, as bankers come up with increasingly complicated financial products.
 
“Really, most of these products are looking to mirror conventional finance,” Ullah said.

Similar risks

And if Islamic banks go too far in replicating conventional finance, they may just take the same risks as Wall Street and be Islamic in name only.

Other criticisms of Islamic banking include the higher costs that can eat into returns, such as fees to lawyers and sharia scholars to ensure compliance with Islamic rules.

Professor Henry also said some are uneasy about potentially exploiting religion for economic gain. He comments:

  • “For Islamic finance to be called Islamic, for some people it’s sort of using Islam,” he says. “Why do we need to market something which is really [just] good banking? Did Martin Luther make Christian shoes? You know, I mean - Why Islamic?”

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Comments   

#4 aisha 2015-11-09 01:30
I scare Riba I feel something will happen to me if I take Riba.may Allah guide and protect us from the haram things. Ameen
#3 aisha 2015-10-31 13:57
Ï don't really buy this so called Islamic banks . I just want to stay away from it. Interest is a hell ,it will destroy you .stay away from it .
#2 Editor IslamNewsroom 2015-10-26 17:43
Question: "I want to know what is rule for Islamic banking in USA? How to do?"
Editor: Good question. Please check out our website at www.JustAskIslam.com
#1 Editor IslamNewsroom 2015-10-26 17:37
Shari'ah compliant financing Or "Islamic Banking" are being debated right now in many places - and soon at the International Conference in Singapore.
What is your stance on this?
How do you think Muslims should react?
What duas do you like to recommend?

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