How Islamic banking and finance is different and similar to its conventional counterpart

Manzar Naqvi

The size of Islamic finance market is estimated up to $2 trillion in 2017 and projected to grow to above $3 trillion by 2018. The Islamic finance assets represent 1 percent of the global financial market, while the Sukuk issuance is accelerating the Islamic capital markets at the annual growth of 21 per cent that has slowed down in 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s IPO drive and platforms provided through Dubai Islamic Financial center and NASDAQ Dubai are significantly promoting the Islamic capital market towards $10 trillion target. It is a fast growing industry that is presently having most of the identical products like conventional or western banking i.e. Islamic Private Equity Funds, Islamic leasing and ETFs, Islamic Fixed Income-sukuks and Islamic derivatives or structured products. In addition to the insurance based Takaful products and services the Islamic Capital markets are also growing towards Islamic Forward Forex, options and profit rate SWAPs.

Though the products are meeting the modern requirement of the industry yet the unique features of Islamic banking or sharia compliance are still retained. The interest (RIBA) is prohibited in all its forms, be it cash or kind. Gifts for prospective savings on Wadiah (safekeeping), Qard/Hassan (loan) are also deemed to be promising a form of interest in kind, are not permissible in Islamic finance.

A financial institution must have Sharia Board and Committee to be termed as Islamic Financial Institution. Furthermore, all banking business on sale or lease must have an underlying asset that is contrast to the conventional banking where the asset element is not necessary.

All transactions made by Islamic Financial Institutions must be free from elements of uncertainty (Gharar) and gambling (Maisir). “The concept of profit and loss sharing is peculiar to Islamic banking although, strictly speaking, Islamic banking is not an equity market, which is normally represented by the stock market. An Islamic bank is neither a lender nor a borrower, but can instead become a bona-fide trader licensed under banking law.

The history of Islamic commerce begins with the revelation of the Holy Qur’an and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that contains legal principals and injections dealing with subjects such as ritual, marriage, divorce, succession, commercial transactions and penal laws. In advocating the form of economic activities under Islam, trade is encouraged, usury is prohibited, and acquisition of wealth should be achieved through lawful means that promote mutual consent and Goodwill.