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What is Islamic Banking?

What is Islamic Banking?

Islamic banking refers to a system of banking or banking activity that is consistent with the principles of the Shari’ah (Islamic rulings) and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. The principles which emphasise moral and ethical values in all dealings have wide universal appeal.

Shari’ah prohibits the payment or acceptance of interest charges (riba) for the lending and accepting of money, as well as carrying out trade and other activities that provide goods or services considered contrary to its principles.

While these principles were used as the basis for a flourishing economy in earlier times, it is only in the late 20th century that a number of Islamic banks were formed to provide an alternative basis to Muslims although Islamic banking is not restricted to Muslims.

Islamic banking has the same purpose as conventional banking except that it operates in accordance with the rules of Shari’ah, known as Fiqh al-Muamalat (Islamic rules on transactions). Islamic banking activities must be practiced consistent with the Shari’ah and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. Many of these principles upon which Islamic banking is based are commonly accepted all over the world, for centuries rather than decades.

These principles are not new but arguably, their original state has been altered over the centuries. The principle source of the Shari’ah is The Qur’an followed by the recorded sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) – the Hadith. Where solutions to problems cannot be found in these two sources, rulings are made based on the consensus of a community leaned scholars, independent reasoning of an Islamic scholar and custom, so long as such rulings do not deviate from the fundamental teachings in The Qur’an.

It is evident that Islamic finance was practiced predominantly in the Muslim world throughout the Middle Ages, fostering trade and business activities. In Spain and the Mediterranean and Baltic States, Islamic merchants became indispensable middlemen for trading activities. It is claimed that many concepts, techniques, and instruments of Islamic finance were later adopted by European financiers and businessmen. The revival of Islamic banking coincided with the world-wide celebration of the advent of the 15th Century of Islamic calendar (Hijra) in 1976.

At the same time financial resources of Muslims particularly those of the oil producing countries, received a boost due to rationalisation of the oil prices, which had hitherto been under the control of foreign oil Corporations. These events led Muslims’ to strive to model their lives in accordance with the ethics and principles of Islam.

Disenchantment with the value neutral capitalist and socialist financial systems led not only Muslims but also others to look for ethical values in their financial dealings and in the West some financial organisations have opted for ethical operations. Origin The origin of the modern Islamic bank can be traced back to the very birth of Islam when the Prophet himself acted as an agent for his wife’s trading operations.

Islamic partnerships (mudarabah) dominated the business world for centuries and the concept of interest found very little application in day-today transactions. Such partnerships performed an important economic function. They combined the three most important factors of production, namely: capital, labour and entrepreneurship, the latter two functions usually combined in one person.

The capital-owner contributed the money and the partner managed the business. Each shared in a pre-determined share of the profits. If there was a loss, the capital-provider lost his money and the manager lost his time and labour.

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