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Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Financing System for Prosperity, Growth and Social Justice

My dear friend Mohamed El Habashy sent me a link to an interview that he was part of on PBS. He was one of several experts interviewed on hot topic of Islamic financing. It seems that the World suddenly woke up to realize that a system that was revealed to mankind some 1430 years ago is now all the sudden a good choice.

The Islamic financing system is based on one of three main models:

- Mosharaka (joint ownership through stocks, capital partnerships)
- Qard Hasan (good lending, a loan with no interest (0%) regardless of amount and maturity date)
- Mudaraba (entrepreneurship or partnership with effort and experience)

Several key concepts in Islamic financing are

1. Joint sharing in risk and reward (property/asset price increase and decrease) - is part of the definition of ownership in Islam, and it provides responsibility and fairness to all parties.

2. The concept of selling money (lending with interest) is prohibited. In Islam lending money as a form of investment is prohibited and not in compliance with the Islamic Shariyah.

3. Sales are only acceptable on items owned. This means someone can not sell an item (product, service, shares, commodity, etc..) unless he has paid for it in full and has full control on it. In Islam a person selling stocks that he never paid for is prohibited and not in compliance with the Shariyah.

As of today there are no 100% Islamic compliant financing vehicles in the US, the efforts mentioned above in the PBS article are good and trying to strive to get close to the fair and just Islamic financing. However due to regulations and other factors there are some gaps, such as the joint risk sharing in a partnership model. Islamic financing has been around for 1430 years from the days of Prophet Mohamed and it is implemented in many parts of the World (UK Links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) we in the US are just behind. There is a US institution that has started offering some Islamic vehicles.

There is no question that Islamic financing is fair, just and solid, providing fair social rewards to all parties involved, unlike other means of financing. Islamic financing can be used by non-Muslims as well whether they decide to fund or use the system.

Usury/interest was prohibited not only in the Quran, but Jesus and Moses were ordered to tell the people to not engage in usury. (proverbs 28:8, Ezekiel 18:8, Exodus 22:25)

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