The most distinguishing feature of the Islamic economic system is the prohibition of interest. Islamic economic principles have prominently been applied in financial industry especially in banking. Islamic Finance is growing in multiple dimensions and is now spreading in other financial sectors like insurance, structured finance, project finance, mutual funds, syndicated finance, investment banking etc. On the geographical level too, Islamic banking has grown from Middle East to Europe and now is well positioned in South Asian markets as well.
Shariah compliance also ensures Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ethical compliance. Islamic banks do not conduct business with companies producing tobacco, alcohol or engaged in business of gambling, casino, nightclubs, prostitution etc. This mechanism has given Islamic banking the name of ‘ethical banking’ in Europe.
The balance sheet of Islamic banks is capable of taking financial shocks. Islamic banks are not obliged to give fixed return to their depositors and general creditors. The creditors, shareholders and depositors share and participate in the bank’s business. Therefore, if incase, there is a shock on asset side (NPL increasing), Islamic banks will be able to share this loss with their depositors and shareholders.
Islamic banks cannot rollover loans. Therefore, the packaging and repackaging of loans and then issuing more and more debt securities on the back of these non performing loans cannot legally happen in Islamic Banks. Islamic banks are obliged to have backing of assets in all their investments. Therefore, Islamic banks losses even theoretically cannot go beyond the value of the real asset.
Financing Operations of Islamic Banks
For the provision of finance, following modes are used in Islamic banking.
In Diminishing Musharakah, the customer approaches the bank for joint purchase of an asset/property. It is referred to as ‘Diminishing Musharakah’ because the ownership stake of the tenant increases and that of the bank decreases or diminishes with the passage of time. The rent decreases as the ownership stake of tenant increases. The share of the bank in asset/property is divided into units. These units are purchased by the customer periodically until he has purchased all the units. After the customer has purchased all the units of the bank, he becomes the sole owner of the asset/property.
Murabaha is a deferred payment sale transaction. Murabaha is used in working capital financing, SME financing and trade financing. The Process flow of Murabaha is as follows:
Islamic bank and the client sign a Master Murabaha Finance Agreement and an agency agreement. According to the agency agreement, the customer purchases goods from the supplier on bank’s behalf. The customer undertakes to purchase the asset from the bank. It is a one-sided promise and undertaking. The bank pays the supplier and obtains title and physical/constructive possession of the asset. The customer signs a declaration that he has purchased the goods on bank’s behalf and now he is willing to purchase the asset. After offer and acceptance, sale is executed and the customer pays the agreed price to the bank.
Ijarah means to give something on rent. In Ijarah, right of use of a property is transferred to another person for a consideration. The process flow is as follows:
The customer approaches the bank for obtaining an asset on lease. The customer undertakes to make periodic lease payments for the lease period. Lease agreement and agency agreement is signed. The customer as an agent to the bank buys the asset. Bank receives the title of the asset and pays the vendor. The bank leases the asset and the customer starts using the asset and pays rent for each period. In the end, the customer can purchase the asset from the bank by way of a separate purchase agreement.
It is used in financing goods and services that are not ready for spot sale and will have to be delivered later. In Salam, payment is spot, but the delivery is deferred. It is used in special cases to facilitate transactions. In current practice, it is used in currency trade as an alternative for bill of exchange discounting and in agriculture financing.
It is used in financing goods that are not yet ready for sale and will have to be manufactured. Example includes tailoring services, architect services etc. It is an order to producer to manufacture a specific commodity for the purchaser. It is used in pre-shipment exports financing and usable in all other situations where goods have to be manufactured before sale.
Deposit Side Operations of Islamic Banks
The two main categories of deposits are checking accounts and non-checking accounts. Some accounts are remunerative and some are non-remunerative. For offering deposit products, following modes are used in Islamic banking.
Current Account is an example of a non-remunerative checking account. The money deposited in such account is considered ‘Qard’ (Non-interest bearing loan). The money is invested in the fund by the bank. Bank utilizes the money to invest in Ijarah, Murabaha, Diminishing Musharakah, Salam, Istisna etc. The money is payable on demand.
Remunerative accounts can be checking i.e. Savings Account or non-checking accounts i.e. Term Deposits. The money is invested in the fund. The bank acts as ‘Mudarib’ i.e. ‘Fund Manager’ and the customer acts as ‘Rabb-ul-maal’ i.e. ‘investor’.
The money is only invested in Shariah compliant assets. Bank utilizes the money to invest in Ijarah, Murabaha, Diminishing Musharakah, Salam, Istisna etc. The Weightage is assigned to each category of investment that is stated to the customer at the outset. Profit is declared at the start of the month for the previous month based on the weightage previously announced. Profit is paid out of the actual Gross Income.