Islamic banking (or participant banking) (Arabic: المصرفية الإسلامية) is banking or banking activity that is consistent with the principles of Islamic law (Sharia) and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. 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 (forbidden). While these principles may have been applied to historical Islamic economies, it is only in the late 20th century that a number of Islamic banks were formed to apply these principles to private or semi-private commercial institutions within the Muslim community.
The word “Riba” means 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. 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).
Islamic banking has the same purpose as conventional banking: to make money for the banking institute by lending out capital. Because Islam forbids simply lending out money at interest (see riba), Islamic rules on transactions (known as Fiqh al-Muamalat) have been created to avoid this problem. The basic technique to avoid the prohibition is the sharing of profit and loss, via terms such as profit sharing (Mudharabah), safekeeping (Wadiah), joint venture (Musharakah), cost plus (Murabahah), and leasing (Ijar).
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 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.
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 observed.
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).