World turmoil may spur Islamic finance.Islamic finance is different from capitalism in two main ways. It bans interest-bearing loans, seen as usury, a practice forbidden by Islam, and also forbids speculation. Instead, it favours sharing risks and profits between a bank and a client.
World turmoil may spur Islamic finance
Afp, Doha – The Daily Star Dhaka – Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Kuwaiti traders follow fresh falls in stock prices at the Stock Exchange in Kuwait City on Monday. Traders on the Kuwait stock market walked out for a third trading session, after emergency financial measures by Kuwaiti authorities failed to prevent fresh falls in prices as stocks sank on all Gulf bourses. Photo: AFP
The fast growing Sharia financial system may receive a further boost as an alternative to capitalism amid the credit crunch and banking crisis, Islamic academics and clerics believe.
Already said to be worth 300 billion dollars and expanding at 15 percent a year, the Islamic system forbids the levying or payment of interest, preferring shared ownership and splitting of profits.
The global economic meltdown shows “the need for a radical and structural reform of the global financial system. The system based on the principles of Islam offers an alternative which could reduce risks,” Hatem al-Naqrashawi, head of theological studies at Doha University, told AFP.
“Islamic banks don’t buy credit but manage concrete assets… which shelters them from the difficulties that American and European banks are experiencing,” explained Abdel Bassat al-Shibi, managing director of Qatar International Islamic Bank.
Islamic finance is different from capitalism in two main ways. It bans interest-bearing loans, seen as usury, a practice forbidden by Islam, and also forbids speculation. Instead, it favours sharing risks and profits between a bank and a client.
Sharia compliant products include Ijara, a way of buying a house through a lease and subsequent ownership, rather than through a mortgage. Others are Musharaka, the sharing of profits and losses, and Murabaha, under which the seller declares the profit margin being made on the sale of a commodity.
Murabaha is seen as a way of enabling a buyer to avoid taking an interest-bearing loan, though some Islamic scholars say it is too similar to the charging of ‘riba’, or interest.
In the past three decades, the number of Islamic financial institutions has risen above 300, spread among 75 countries. Their total assets are more than 300 billion dollars and are growing an at average rate of 15 percent a year, according to studies.
“The collapse of capitalism based on usury and paper and not on the trading of goods on the market is proof that it is in crisis and shows the Islamic economic philosophy is holding up,” prominent Egyptian-born Qatar-based cleric Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi told a recent conference in Doha.
“We have all the wealth… the Islamic nation has all or nearly all the oil and we have an economic philosophy which no one else has,” he said, referring to the fact that Islamic countries, headed by Saudi Arabia, hold a large part of the world’s proven crude oil reserves.
Suleiman al-Audah, an influential Saudi cleric, called for an “international Islamic summit to define the framework and the stages of an Islamic economic alternative.”
Some Islamists admit, however, that this alternative is not yet operational.
“Theoretically, the Islamic economic system offers a complete and solid mechanism… but in practice, the Islamic banking experience is not yet mature, because it offers limited products like ‘Murabaha’,” Audah, a moderate Islamist, told AFP.
His caution is shared by Egyptian Islamist intellectual Fahmi Howaidi, for whom the Islamic system “could bring solutions to certain banking problems but cannot be a magic wand” to end the financial upheaval which is shaking the world.