Islamic and conventional banks

Islamic banking

Source; Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

The article below has been written by an experienced banker and academic whose picture and particulars are presented below. Many academics and researchers consider the article By Sohail Zubairi, Senior Vice President and Head of Sharia Coordination Dept, Dubai Islamic Bank as insightful and therefore very good. Though it has been posted since 2008 by Riyazi Farook for publication its contents have helped a lot of general readers and academics to understand the difference between conventional and Islamic banking Explanations in the book are in depth and very clear that a layman can also grasp the ideas and expressions of the writer. The article is meant to explain issues. As such readers are free to make up their minds or dig deeper into the subject discussed


The writer
The differences between Islamic and conventional banks have become all the more important since an increasing number of local and foreign banks in the region have started their own separate Islamic institutions or are testing the market through “Islamic windows”. Still others are looking at the idea of aligning with players that are already established in the field.

As various countries try to outdo each other and play greater roles in the development of Islamic banking, it was in Dubai that Islamic banking came to life in the true sense of the term. The concept, crystallized in Dubai, made concrete on a small scale in 1975 and has since taken the world by storm in less than 30 years. I feel we are witnessing a silent revolution across the globe in the world of finance.

What makes an Islamic bank different from a conventional one? How real is the divide? Why should one choose an Islamic bank over a conventional bank? How do Islamic banks manage to provide higher returns to their customers, compared with conventional banks? These and similar questions remain unanswered in the minds of many observers.

Let us start with a discussion about how an Islamic bank treats the deposits it receives from its customers, be they from an institution or individual, compared to the way a conventional bank treats deposits. A conventional bank borrows funds from its depositors at a predetermined rate of interest, and lends the same to its customers, again at a pre-fixed rate. The interest rate paid by the bank to depositors is considerably lower than the interest rate it charges to its borrowers. This difference becomes the bank’s profit.

Furthermore, while the conventional bank holds the sole authority to raise the interest rate on the funds lent by it to the borrowers at short or no notice, the depositors who lend their money to the bank are deprived of such discretion. They receive the rate fixed by the bank while accepting the deposit for an agreed period.

When it comes to Islamic banks, the first and foremost difference is that the Islamic banks do not borrow funds from the customers (depositors). Neither do they lend the funds to entrepreneurs.

An Islamic bank accepts funds from individuals and institutions in the capacity of a fund manager, under a fund management contract. The provider of the funds is called the Rab Al Mal, the Islamic bank is called the Mudareb and the transaction is referred to as a Mudaraba.

An Islamic bank receives funds from the customers through their current accounts, investment saving accounts and investment deposit accounts. The current account funds do not attract any return, and hence are excluded from the Mudaraba. The Islamic bank guarantees the safe return of these funds.
It is important to note that Sharia does not allow combining the guarantee with return. This is the reason that the Islamic banks are allowed to guarantee the current account funds since they do not provide any return on them. Furthermore, since the holders of investment savings account and the investment deposit accounts (fixed deposits) are paid return on their funds, the Islamic bank is not allowed to guarantee these funds.

The deposits received by an Islamic bank in investment savings and investment deposits accounts are part of the Mudaraba, and therefore receive a proportionate share of profit. These funds are put into a common pool that the bank draws on for its day-to-day fund deployments.

Withdrawals from the investment saving accounts are restricted to two times a month, and the lowest balance during the month is considered part of the common pool. The investment deposit accounts are placed for different fixed periods such as one, three, six, nine and twelve months and beyond.
How is a customer’s deposit channeled through an Islamic bank’s system en-route to deployment and the subsequent retrieval? What happens in a situation where an Islamic bank may incur a loss in deploying money as a Mudareb (fund manager) on behalf of the Rab Al Mal (fund providers)?

To shed light on these questions, we need to consider the Mudaraba concept in its historical context. As we already know, a Mudaraba is a marriage of convenience and provides benefits for both parties, i.e. the fund provider and the fund manager. The fund provider may not have the time or the expertise to efficiently utilize his capital and earn profits.

Similarly, an entrepreneur may have potentially profitable ideas and skills, but lack the needed capital. Mudaraba allows the fund provider to hand over funds to the fund manager under an arrangement which safeguards the interests of both parties and, at the same time, provide an adequate and Halal (Sharia-compliant) return.

The residents of Makah had practiced Mudaraba even before the advent of Islam, due to their location at the crossroads of ancient trade caravan routes. Credible Mudarebs carried goods and/or money for investors and had to be accountable to them.
When the caravan returned, the profit and loss account was prepared, allowing the Mudareb to claim his share of profit and then return the original capital, along with the profit, to the investor be it in cash or kind. In ancient Makah, almost every investor knew every Mudareb. Credibility in the community was key for anyone hoping to conduct Mudaraba transactions.

Islamic era

In the Islamic era, the Mudaraba was fine-tuned to eliminate certain elements which were not compliant with Islamic principles. These included making the Mudareb liable for any financial losses, even in the absence of misconduct. This meant Mudarebs became liable for losses due to theft or robbery while goods or capital were in transit.

Mudarebs also became liable to pay interest on the capital invested if they failed to produce the returns desired by the original fund provider. In today’s world, Islamic banks have found ways in a credible manner fulfill the roles of Mudareb and investor at the same time.
Islamic banks are ideally positioned to aggregate capital from small and large depositors alike, while researching and discovering lucrative investment opportunities where this capital can be profitability deployed.

The following adaptations allow an Islamic bank to practice a Mudaraba role today, while respecting Sharia:

a) There are many investors and scores of entrepreneurs, compared to the one-to-one equation prevailing in olden days;
b) The bank acts as an intermediary, enjoying investors’ confidence and receiving their funds a concept which did not exist before;
c) The intermediary acts as a Mudareb (agent) with a large number of Rab Al Mals (investors);
d) The projects/commercial transactions proposed by the entrepreneurs are financed by the intermediary rather by than the investors directly;
e) Investors and entrepreneurs do not have a direct relationship and therefore have no rights or obligation towards one another;
f) While investors deal with the bank purely on a Mudaraba basis, the bank is free to invest funds via any financing or investment option, such as Murabaha, Musharaka, Mudaraba, Istisna, Salam, Ijara, Sukuk, etc (see glossary);
g) As it is an unrestricted Mudaraba, there is no specified period or limit to the number of investment channels / projects for the bank, and it is an on-going investment process.

Readers will notice how, in the triangular association between the investor, intermediary and entrepreneur, the investor remains a passive participant, as in the olden times. Investors are not permitted to interfere in the Mudaraba’s transactions, and wait to share the profit or bear the loss (that is, if the loss is not caused by the negligence of the Mudareb).

The Islamic bank has come to play the roles of a Mudareb and a Rab Al Mal at the same time.

There are two questions we can now examine: how a customer’s funds are channeled through an Islamic bank, and how a loss is handled
When an investor hands over funds (i.e., makes a deposit) to the Islamic bank, the bank enters into a Mudaraba agreement with him.

The agreement appoints the bank as trustee (or agent) to manage the investor’s funds. This arrangement allows the bank to place the investor’s funds into a common pool.

The common pool may or may not include some of the bank’s own funds, such as paid up capital, reserves and provisions and retained earnings besides current account funds. Both practices are acceptable under Sharia, albeit with a different treatment to the two types of funds.

While the bank bears responsibility for the investment for its own funds through the common pool, the depositors too carry the risks on their investment as owners of the funds. The bank does not bear the investment risk for depositors neither the depositors bear the investment risk for the bank but jointly they bear the risk of the performance of the common pool prorate.

A conventional bank borrows funds from depositors, and hence “owns” such borrowed funds. This means the conventional bank bears all the risk when it lends these funds to a third party. Islamic banks do not “borrow” funds from depositors and therefore do not assume “ownership” of these funds.

The banks’ responsibility to their depositors instead follows from the fact the banks have merely assumed the role of a trustee or agent and “handle” the depositors’ funds, thus having fiduciary capacity and the responsibility related to such capacity.

Elaborating this point further, it is evident that in a purchase contract, the title to the subject matter of the contract gets passed to the purchaser who then assumes all ownership risks, including loss of or damage to the purchased object.

The conventional banks, upon entering into a deposit contracts with its customers, effectively “purchase” the funds from the depositors and therefore acquire “title” to those funds which then automatically exposes them to the ownership risks connected to those funds.

As such when they lend the same funds to their borrowers, it is at their own sole risk and responsibility and not of depositors’ who “sold” their funds to the bank and therefore have passed the title to those funds to the bank.

The deposit contract is deferred one, whereby the purchaser i.e. the bank settles the purchase price upon completion of the deferred period i.e. the deposit period when it pays the depositor the purchase price, which is comprised of the principle amount of the deposit plus the interest.

The scope of Islamic bank’s agency is to manage deposits by investing them within the Sharia parameters. The agent is free to manage the funds without day-to-day interference by the depositors. From the overall profit generated by the bank’s investment activities through the common pool, it shares a pre-agreed ratio of such profit. The rest of the profit, usually a greater chunk, is distributed among depositors.

If there is no profit, the agent is entitled to nothing. If there is a loss, it will be borne by the depositors, unless the loss was caused by the agent’s breach of trust, default or negligence. All of this is well documented under the Mudaraba agreement signed with the Islamic bank by a depositor at the time of opening the deposit account.

Once the Islamic bank receives funds from a customer under a Mudaraba, these funds become part of a common pool. The bank uses the pool to meet its daily requirements while entering into financing and investment activities with entrepreneurs and individuals.

The above arrangement entails that there is no direct obligation binding the depositors and the entrepreneurs. Both of them have rights and obligations connected to the intermediary – the Islamic bank. The bank is both the fund manager (Mudareb) and the investor (or Rab Al Mal).

There are tens of thousands of depositors who appoint the Islamic bank as their agent and trustee, and scores of entrepreneurs and individuals who invite the bank to invest in their projects or transactions. Once the funds are routed through the common pool and deployed, there is no way to identify whose specific funds are being used to fund which particular entrepreneurial venture.

In case of a genuine loss on the deployment of funds, the Islamic bank debits it to the common pool, where the profits generated by the bank are also credited. This means any loss gets spread out across the overall portfolio.

The portfolio of provision for bad and doubtful debts in an Islamic bank is traditionally low compared with conventional banks.

Why is this?

It is mainly because its transactions are carried out on asset/investment-backed basis. Each Islamic financing or investment structure, be it Mudaraba, Musharaka, Murabaha, Istisna, Ijara or Salam, either have an underlying asset, or there are transactions in which the goods or assets have moved. This is opposite to a conventional bank’s position whose lending is not necessarily linked to a transaction involving an asset.

As such, the value of a transaction carried out by an Islamic bank is automatically restricted to the value of underlying goods/assets or investment, thereby providing an automatic safety value, insulating the bank from chances that the customers may overstretch their position, leading to difficulty in payment or become insolvent.

To put it in other words, as per Sharia the Islamic bank’s primary consideration to invest is the merit or soundness of the project/transaction, which is its first way out. The person behind the project or transaction – though is also fairly important to gauge (as the bank is acting as trustee for its depositors), it takes the second position while assessing the investment risks in a transaction / project.

This is in contrast to the conventional banking system in which the lending by a bank is usually clean, luring a customer to borrow beyond its requirement.

Conventional lending products, especially the overdraft, bills discounting and working capital loans if not utilized judiciously, more often than not, may adversely impact a borrower’s debt serviceability. This is the reason an Islamic bank is barred by Sharia from indulging in activities leading to trading in debt.

Money defined

Can money be called a “commodity”? What do Islamic scholars say about this idea?

The old argument that money is a commodity and hence can be traded is strongly disputed by Sharia scholars who say that money is merely a medium of exchange, and hence cannot be regarded as a commodity.

According to Sharia, one can enter into a transaction where one exchanges money for some kind of goods, but it is forbidden to “buy or sell” the money i.e. to lend it at interest.

Such transactions are Sharia-compliant: one party gives money, the other gives some permitted asset, commodity / goods or services in return. When one party, however, gives money and expects to receive higher money in return, this is where the Sharia scholars become concerned.

What is a commodity? The economic definition of a commodity is a product that can be “sold” to make profit. A trader’s nightmare is to have his previously-sold goods returned to him. It is equally undesired by an accountant to record a “sales return entry”. In the light of this, we can understand how commodities are indeed intended to be sold at a profit, with no intention of having them returned.

This might remind one of the note that appears at the bottom of many shop bills “Goods once sold will not be taken back or exchanged”.

Let’s apply this logic to money. The trader of money (lender) parts with his “commodity” (money) with a clear intention to not only make a “profit”, but also to have the “commodity” returned to him after an “agreed period”.

In case of delay, the lender not only insists for the immediate return of his commodity, but may also threaten the borrower with legal action. He will also try to increase the amount of “profit” due to him, given the delay in returning the commodity.

Will someone who trades in a particular commodity resort to such measures in order to get his “sold” commodity returned to him? From the perspective of Sharia scholars, therefore, money cannot be classified. as commodity. As such “trading” in money, or the view that money is a “commodity”, leaves much to be desired from the perspective of Sharia.

Moving story

When we go to a conventional bank to arrange financing to purchase a car, we all have a good idea of how the process works.

The conventional bank provides a loan to the customer’s account for the customer to purchase the car, and charges a pre-agreed rate of interest on the loan. We also have a good idea about the penalties that follow in case of a delay in repayment of the loan. If the customer account misses a payment, the bank charges penalty.

When a customer defaults, he feels the bite of three layers of interest on his loan: there is the “normal” interest, the “penalty” interest and the compounding effect of both of these, when added to the loan. From a legal perspective this is all fine, as the customer agreed to the loan after the conventional bank disclosed all the various conditions attached to it.

In this hypothetical transaction, readers will note how money is involved at both ends. At the start of the transaction, the bank extends the loan to the customer to purchase the car. After receiving the loan, the customer starts repaying it in installments. The amount coming back to the bank from the customer is certainly greater than the amount the bank originally loaned to the customer.

We can now compare this process with the process of buying a car through an Islamic bank. When a customer goes to purchase a car through an Islamic bank, after he initially approaches the bank, he is asked to provide specifications of the car he wishes to buy. The customer visits a showroom and selects the car he wants the bank, in effect, to sell to him.

The Islamic bank receives the full specifications (including the purchase price) of the car selected by the customer. The specifications come in the shape of a pro forma invoice from the dealer addressed to the bank. The bank then obtains a “Promise to Purchase” from the customer, meaning the customer will purchase the car from the bank upon the bank purchasing it from the dealer.

Upon completion of all required formalities, the bank sends its representative to the dealer, along with a manager’s cheque favouring the dealer for the full payment. This is all according to the pro forma invoice issued by the dealer to the bank.

The bank’s representative makes the payment to the dealer and obtains the commercial invoice (which represents title) and keys (which denotes possession) to the car for the bank. Subsequently, he hands over the title and possession of the car to the customer, who is usually present in the showroom, or later at mutually convenient place and time if the customer is not available at that time.

All this activity is documented at the time of the transaction. This example provides us with critical insight into how an Islamic bank differs from a conventional one when it comes to structuring transactions. The Islamic bank is not parting with money in our hypothetical example. Rather, the bank is selling an asset to a customer, one it has purchased from a third party.

The car is sold by the Islamic bank to the customer under a Murabaha contract, at a sale price including the bank’s purchase costs and its profit, which has been agreed to by the bank and the customer. The Murabaha amount is then payable by the customer to the bank according to an installment schedule, usually spread over three to five years.

Due process

Working on the longstanding theory that the conventional bank does not deal in goods, but in documents, the bank shows the customer as the buyer in the letter of credit. Under the loan against trust receipt (LATR) facility, the bank allows the buyer to have access to the goods, without first settling the import bill.

The importer gets possession of the goods, sells them in the market and pays LATR amount, which includes interest, to the bank, in an agreed period of time. The bank does not part with title to the goods until the LATR is fully repaid by the customer – even though it claims to deal only in documents, and not in goods.

If the customer finds the goods to be spurious or not commensurate with the specifications mentioned in the letter of credit established by the bank, the bank disassociates itself from such undesirable situation, insisting it merely dealt with in the documents and has no responsibility towards the goods. . The bank then claims the full amount of LATR, along with penalty interest, in case of delay.

In case of delay in repaying the LATR, the bank levies penalty interest. In case of non-payment, the bank endeavors to exercise its right to the title in order to retrieve the goods, which by then may have been sold by the importer.

An Islamic bank also finances the import of goods – but in a different manner.

It is done by way of a Murabaha, whereby the customer approaches the bank with full specifications, prices and sources of the goods. The bank then establishes the letter of credit in its own name as buyer.

Once the goods have arrived at the port and the documents have been received by the bank, whereby the commercial invoice exhibits title and the bill of lading / airway bill representing the possession, the bank transfers both the possession and the title to the goods to the customer under the Murabaha sale contract.

This is because, under Sharia, the sale cannot take place unless the title and possession of the goods are held by the buyer. (See box for an hypothetical illustration of how Islamic banks differ from their conventional counterparts on this point.)

Default Penalty?

If Islamic banks do not charge delay penalties, might that not encourage some customers to default?

Unfortunately, some customers may indeed take undue advantage of an Islamic bank?s respecting the Sharia principles.

These customers are extra careful to meet with all their commitments when it comes to dealing with conventional banks, so as to avoid penalty interest charges, but sometimes they accomplish this feat at the cost of their obligations to Islamic banks.

Sharia scholars have noted how delay penalties act as an effective deterrent against this failure to pay. They have since agreed to allow Islamic banks to charge such penalties on their customers? past-due obligations.

This has been approved with the condition that the amount collected through these penalties will not be added to Islamic banks?s profit, but must be donated to charity in a transparent manner. This must be done in such a way so that the customer receives proof that the penalty charged has actually been given to a charity.

Alternatively, the customer may also be asked to pay the penalty not to the bank but to a charitable organization of his or her choice and submit the receipt to the Islamic bank. The receiving charity organization should be advised that the donation represents interest payment, so that it can refrain from utilizing the donation for purposes where the Zakat funds (Islamic charity) are utilized.

Islamic banks have therefore started to insert delay penalty provisions in their Murabaha, Ijara and Musharaka agreements. In some recently concluded high-profile transactions, a list of charitable organizations slated to receive funds as a result of any penalty interest charges has been appended to ensure clarity in this matter. Under such agreements, the lead bank, acting as the agent for the other participating banks, is pre-authorized to collect penalties from the customer and donate them to charity.

One more point in this regard: conventional banks can participate in Islamically-structured transactions. Islamic banks are barred from taking part in a conventional financing transaction. Conventional banks that participate in Islamically-structured transactions will not agree to the idea of donating penalty interest income to charity. They will instead request that they be paid any penalty amount owing in proportion to their participation in the overall transaction.

Sharia scholars have allowed this arrangement to proceed, so that each conventional bank participating in an Islamically-structured transaction can be paid in this fashion. All remaining penalty-derived money is donated to charity.

The above arrangement has started to see results. Permitting delay penalty charges has reduced some of the differences between the conventional and Islamic banks in terms of ensuring that customers meet their financial obligations.

We should not overlook the fact that accumulated penalty interest charges do not increase the Islamic bank?s overall profitability. These charges become profits for the conventional banks, however.

Lease of life

Leasing is a service commonly offered by conventional as well as Islamic financial institutions. An asset is given on lease to an interested party for a certain period of time, and an amount is charged as rent.

There are two kinds of leases: operating leases; and financial leases. In simple terms, under an operating lease, the leased asset goes back to the lessor upon completion of the period of time covered by the lease. Under a financial lease, the asset becomes property of the lessee upon successful completion of the lease term, since the rent paid by the lessee adequately covers the cost of the leased asset plus the lessor’s profit for the entire lease term.

In their ordinary course of business, conventional and Islamic financial institutions do not handle operating leases. A good example of an operating lease is the rent-a-car business, where the vehicle is returned by the lessee to the rental company upon completion of the period for which the car was hired. On the other hand, financial leasing is commonly used by these institutions for high-value assets such as aircraft, marine vessels, real estate, etc.

When an Islamic bank enters into a financial lease, it purchases the asset and gives it on lease to the interested customer. In addition to acquiring ownership rights over the asset, the Islamic bank also assumes full ownership obligations and the risks associated with it.

The ownership risks demand the bank should act like any normal owner in any given situation relating to the asset. As such, in the event the asset sustains damage, thereby reducing or completely eradicating its usefulness to the lessee, the Islamic bank reacts one way, while the conventional bank reacts in a completely different manner.

What do I mean by “different”? Does an Islamic bank stop charging rent to the lessee in such a situation? Yes, it does. This contrasts with the conventional bank which, when it acts as a lessor, would continue to charge rent irrespective of partial or total damage to the asset.

Staying afloat

Take the example of a marine vessel leased on Islamic lines. In terms of Sharia principles, it is prohibited to continue charging the lease rent if the vessel sinks, irrespective of whether or not the lessee was at fault.

Comparatively, a conventional bank, in the capacity of lessor, will continue to levy the “lease rent” despite non-existence of the asset, the very subject of the lease agreement.

Not only that, the bank will also impose a penalty interest on delay in payment of the rent, which is imminent in this type of situation where the lessee finds itself deprived of the commercial benefit of the usufruct connected to the asset.

Assume you were the one who entered into the lease agreement with the conventional bank for the vessel. You are using the vessel to carry cargo to different destinations and earn freight fees. Some of the money you earn is going towards servicing the lease rent owed to the bank and the remainder is being utilised to meet the expenses involved in running the business and the remainder is the profit, which is driving factor for you to enter into the transaction.

Unfortunately, one day, the vessel suddenly sinks. Your income stream comes to an abrupt end – yet you must continue to pay the lease rent to the conventional bank who had leased you the vessel. How would you feel?

The abrupt end of the valuable income stream flowing from the vessel’s operation to the unfortunate lessee, which he was using to service the lease rent, would not deter the conventional bank from continuing to demand the rent, plus compound and penalty interest.

Having been a conventional banker for a major part of my banking career, I know the ruthlessness of an interest-based banker when it comes to dealing with a “defaulter”. I can see how, despite having sympathy for a defaulting borrower due to his genuine helplessness, my colleagues from conventional banks are compelled – against their will I am sure – to take extreme action against him.

Let us see how differently and fairly an Islamic bank would deal with a situation where a leased asset gets damaged. First, let us look at the partial loss situation. Renowned Sharia scholars have set guidelines for such a situation, given that the leased asset is actually owned by the lessor Islamic bank.

In the case of partial damage to the leased asset not caused by the lessee, the lessor Islamic bank would be responsible for repairing the damage. The lease rent would pause during the repair period. There is flexibility in this situation. Instead of completely halting the rent during the repair period, it can be reduced in proportion to the reduction in the effective usage of the asset by the lessee.

The lessee’s consent, however, would be essential in determining the reduced amount of rent he would be required to pay during the repair period. If the lessee’s negligence led to partial damage to the leased asset, he will be fully responsible for repairing the damage in order to restore the asset to its normal effective use. At the same time, the lessee will continue to pay the lease rent in full, since the damage to the asset was caused by him. Here, the lessor’s consent would be necessary if the lessee would like to pay the reduced rent.

Sharia also covers situations where the leased asset is ruined beyond all use or repair. If the asset was wrecked through no fault of the lessee, the lease rent will stop from the date of the asset’s destruction.

The lessor Islamic bank will wait for the realization of the insurance claim. During the period between the occurrence of the total loss and the payment of the insurance claim, the lessor bank ? as the owner of the asset – will remain out of pocket.

Please note the lessee will not be required to pay any lease rent from the date of such total loss, since the underlying leased asset exists no more. If the lessor bank experiences any shortfall in the realization of the insurance claim, it will bear such losses itself and will not seek any compensation whatsoever from the lessee.

What if the lessee was responsible for the destruction of the asset? Will he continue to pay the lease rent to the Islamic bank? No. Sharia principles require that in a situation where the leased asset exists no more, irrespective of the lessor’s fault, the lessee’s negligence, an act of God, force majeure, etc, the lease rent must come to an immediate end.

Here, too, the lessor Islamic bank will wait until the realization of the insurance claim. The Islamic bank will ask the lessee for compensation only if the insurance proceeds were less than the claimed amount, since the lessee caused the damage to the asset.

This position, adopted by Islamic banks that enter into leases, is totally different from the leasing practices of conventional banks. It sets a high standard of fair play and equality for all parties concerned in leasing transactions.

Endless opportunities

My foray into Islamic banking has brought me face to face with some complicated transactions. I have learned a great deal, for example, from having to structure complex financial deals in ways that avoid interest and satisfy other requirements of Sharia.

At times, conventional banks taking part in a Sharia-compliant transaction in a co-financing environment made the task difficult by demanding the elimination of certain clauses in financing agreements based on core Sharia principles.

Sharia offers endless opportunities to create financing structures that can facilitate complex transactions and also ensure that the needs of all parties involved are satisfactorily met.

This is in contrast to conventional banking practices. There has been little in the way of true innovation where conventional banking practices are concerned since they took shape about 200 years ago. Each and every conventional banking product, no matter how it is labeled, centers on the underlying loan and interest paradigm.

Where is innovation if you simply replace the wrapper by retaining the underlying loan with interest model unchanged?

Islamic banking is barely 30 years old. We are just beginning to grasp its full potential as a way to help corporations, entrepreneurs and individuals attain their financial goals.

To understand this, we need to take a closer look at how Sharia shapes Islamic banking procedures and practices. We then need to compare this to the banking practices prevailing elsewhere. This comparison will demonstrate the Sharia principles are free from exploitative practices and work well for both individuals and businesses.

Any financing transaction conducted by a conventional bank invariably results in an interest-based debt. Under the Islamic modes of financing, there are two basic types of contracts that create a cost-free debt borne by the client, and the contracts where the bank invests its own equity through or with the client.

By Sohail Zubairi, Senior Vice President and Head of Sharia Coordination Dept, Dubai Islamic Bank.

Posted by Rizny Ismail, Product Manager of Dubai Islamic Bank.

Source: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai
0244 370345/ 0264370345/0208844791

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