ISLAMIC BANKING: IS IT REALLY “ISLAMIC”?
By: Omar Mustafa Ansari & Faizan Ahmed Memon
Is it really Islamic? …. In this era of development and growth in Islamic finance and banking, this is a question being raised at every forum by various quarters. All those who raise this question, are undoubtedly well-wishers of Islam, Islamic economic system and Muslim Ummah. Accordingly, while we celebrate the achievements of Islamic banking on one hand, we should not be ignoring the issues and objections being raised by such quarters in order to ensure that we lay the foundations of this industry on strong, straight and acceptable-to-all footings.
Objectives Of Islamic Banking
Before discussing various objections raised on the present day Islamic banking, we should first try to understand the objectives of Islamic banking, which are as follows:
1. To provide Shariah compliant and prudent banking opportunities; hence providing an opportunity to Muslims to do their banking transactions – a Halal way: In other words, this is just an effort to avoid Riba and other prohibited elements from commercial and banking transactions, in order to ensure that we do “Nothing-Haram”; and
2. Achieving the goals and objectives of an Islamic economic system.
We all can agree that, given the circumstances, the Islamic banking industry is making all efforts to ensure the first objective, while the second objective, although no-less important, is not the prime objective of current-day Islamic banking.
History Of Islamic Banking
Modern banking system was introduced in Muslim countries at a time when they were politically and economically slave to the western world. The main banks of the western world established their branches and subsidiaries in the Muslim countries and territories to fulfill requirements of foreign business. The Muslim community generally avoided the foreign banks for religious reasons but with the passage of time, it became more and more difficult to engage in trade and other activities without making use of commercial banks. Even then, a large number of Muslims, confined their involvement to transaction activities such as current account or hundred percent cash margin letter of credits. Borrowings from commercial banks or placement the access funds and saving accounts were strictly avoided by practicing Muslims in order to keep away from dealing in interest which is prohibited by Islam.
With the passage of time, however, due to increase in cross-border transactions and other socio-economic forces demanding more involvement in national economic and financial activities, avoiding the interaction with the banks became impossible. Local banks were established in Muslim countries (including the names like Muslim Commercial Bank) on the same lines as the interest-based foreign banks and they began to expand within the country bringing the banking system to more and more people. Governments, businesses and individuals began to transact business with the banks, with or without liking it. This state of affairs drew the attention and concern of Muslim intellectuals which gave emergence to the contemporary Islamic banking. By the midst of the last century, many Muslim countries started their efforts to adopt the Islamic economic and banking systems. Many scholars, economist and experienced bankers came with different solutions to initiate the Islamic banking. Those experiences paved the route for modern Islamic banking.
Nowadays Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) are spread all over the world including European countries and the United States. In particular these have their significant presence in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, other GCC countries, Malaysia, Sudan and Iran.
Who Raise The Questions?
Islamic banking is a weak industry…. In respect of resources, in respect of knowledge-bases, in respect of...