Interest-free Islamic economic system is partially followed and partially not followed in Muslim countries around the world. The only country, which has followed this system completely in every minute detail is Malaysia. So the application methods in this post are mostly those implemented in Malaysia following the Interest-free Islamic Economic system.
The main feature of the Islamic economic system is that it is Interest-Free. As the Qur’an says in Sura al-Baqara Chapter 2 Verses 278 & 279, “O ye who believe! fear Allah and give up what remains of your demand for usury if ye are indeed believers. If ye do it not take notice of war from Allah and his Apostle: but if ye turn back ye shall have your capital sums; do not deal unjustly and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly.”
Qur’an condemn all evil deeds, but never has the Qur’an warned of a war against God Almighty and His Messenger except in the case of taking Interest and Usury.
There are several evils of the interest based economy, the reason why Islam has prohibited it.
For example, if a person takes a loan from a bank and says the cost price of a certain article is 10 dollars and he wants to a profit of one dollar. So the selling price would include the 10 dollars cost price one dollar profit and one dollar interest and the selling price would be 12 dollars. The selling price would go up because of interest and when the selling price goes up the demand comes down and when the demand comes down the supply comes down and as supply comes down production comes down causing labour problem and unemployment.
There is Social Injustice.
For example, if a person takes a loan from the bank and no matter if he earns a profit or goes in loss he has to pay that fixed amount of interest. Even if some natural calamity befalls his family, such as flooding or earthquake, the person still has to pay the loan with the interest and a delay would only increase the amount of interest. It is social injustice.
There is no social consideration.
Suppose, if two businessmen come to ask for a loan from a modern bank and one businessman wants to start a social or hospital while the other businessman wants to start an alcohol factory or a gambling den. But natural the businessman, who wants to start an alcohol factory or a gambling den would have better returns and the loan given to him would be more secure and he would give a higher rate of interest as compared to the business, who wants to open a school or hospital. Modern banks are only interested in getting better and higher returns. That’s why they finance gambling dens rather than schools or hospitals. That is why in the 80s thousands of gambling dens were financed by modern banks worldwide. For name sake only a few social projects are financed by modern banks and the majority of their loans are based on better interest.
Modern banks encourage people to store money and keep the money idle for small fixed return on it every year. In the end, power is concentrated in a few hands, the bankers.
In the same way there are several benefits of Islamic banking.
As there is no interest involved, there is profit and loss sharing. So if a person wants to sell his goods, it would only have the cost price and profit in the selling price and instead of 12 dollars, his selling price would be only 11 dollars. If the selling price comes down, the demand increases and if the demand increases the supply increases and as supply increases the production increases resulting in more labour for the people and higher employment. As a result encourages people to work and earn their living.
There is Social Justice in Islamic banking.
If a business takes a loan and goes in loss, the loss is shared by the bank and if he earns a profit, the profit is shared by the bank. If in case any natural calamities befalls him, the Islamic bank gives him more time to repay, unlike the modern bank, where the more time you take to pay the more interest you would have to pay. Many a times if the Islamic bank finds the situation very bad, they even let go off that loan.
There is Social Consideration in Islamic banking.
Islamic bank can not give a loan to any businessman, who is doing any activity, which is causing harm to the society. For example, if a businessman wants to start an alcohol factory and approaches an Islamic bank for a loan, the Islamic bank will not lend him a single penny, not even if he promises to give 100% profit to the Islamic bank. In Islamic banking there is social consideration and they encourage projects beneficial for the society, such as building schools, hospitals and nurseries. In short, the Islamic bank encourages the society to improve.
In the Islamic bank, you are not encouraged to keep your money idle. You are encouraged to invest your money and be a partner in the business and in the end, power is not concentrated in the hands of a few individuals. Because in the Islamic banking the profit and loss are shared by the business, the banker as well as the depositor. The power is equally shared among all the people.
The great philosopher, Aristotle has beautifully defined Interest as “An earning based on the use of money and not on labour, and all such earnings(interests) are against nature.”
Lets quickly analyze the objectives of the Islamic economic order before we analyze the theory and practical application of the Islamic economic system.
The Objectives of the Islamic Economic Order
1- Economic well-being
Islam encourages a person to enjoy the bounties of God Almighty, to work for his living and refrain from begging.
2- Universal Brotherhood and Justice
Qur’an says in Sura al-Hujurat Chapter 49 Verse 13, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.”
From this we come to know the criteria that the criteria of judgement in the sight of God is not wealth, not sex, not color, not Caste, but it is “Taqwa” God consciousness, piety and righteousness.
Qur’an says in Sura an-Nisa Chapter 4 Verse 135, “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to Allah even as against yourselves or your parents or your kin and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protects all.”
According to this we have to stand for truth and justice be it against anybody even against our own selves and sacrifice your own interests.
3- Equitable Distribution of Wealth
Islam is against the philosophy that the wealth should be concentrated in a few hands. The difference between the rich and the poor should be reduced. Otherwise they would become enemies unto each other. For this, Islam has devised a system of “Zakat” that every Muslim, who has excess wealth exceeding the amount equal to or more than 85 grams of Gold. This amount is spent on the poor, orphans, needy and so on. If every individual in the world practices this system of “Zakat”, not a single person in the whole world would die of hunger. Islam teaches to find lawful employment for the unemployed and to pay him a good remuneration.
According to Islam if a person dies his wealth should be distributed among his heirs according to the guidelines laid down in Qur’an and Ahadith and it should not go to just one or two individuals in the society as it is done today.
4- Individual Freedom within the Context of Social Well-fare
According to Islam man is born free and nobody not even the state can abrogate his freedom nor subject his life to strict regimentation. Every individual is free as long as he does not harm the society because in Islam the larger welfare of the society takes precedence over the individual freedom.
Working and labour as well as the benefit in business are both important principles of Islam, but working and labour take precedence over the benefit in business. If you are doing business, a big loss can not be inflicted to relieve a small loss, nor can a big profit can be sacrificed for a small profit. In short, Islam believes in individual within the context of social welfare.
There are mainly four factors involved in production;
In both the Modern and Islamic theories, you pay rent on the land.
You pay wages on the labour in both the Modern and Islamic theories.
In the Modern theory, you pay Interest on capital, while in the Islamic theory there is profit and loss sharing.
In the fourth factor of production, Organization, there is profit and loss sharing in both theories.
So the major difference in the four factors of production is the third factor of Capital. The Modern Theory says that a fixed interest should be charged on the capital, while the Islamic theory says that there is profit and loss sharing on capital. Because Islamic theory does not differentiate between the third factor Capital and the fourth factor Organization because the money lent by the bank does not belong to the bank itself, it belongs to the depositor. The depositors are the part of Organization and the money deposited in the bank (the capital) should be included in the Organization. In the Islamic theory Capital and Organization are clove together and there is profit and loss sharing on the capital.
When you have to do business, there are naturally two types of units. One is the surplus unit, who have excess of wealth, but do not know how to spend it. Second is the deficit unit, the people who do not have money, but have good ideas for business. The best examples of a surplus and deficit unit in the Islamic history is Lady Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) had excess of wealth, but lacked avenues to spend in and being a female she couldn’t travel abroad too much to deal in business transactions. The deficit unit, in terms of wealth, was Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). He had good ideas and access to business avenues, but did not have wealth. So Lady Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) gave wealth, which Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) invested in business avenues on her behalf and the profit was shared on a fixed pre-determined ration.
The System of Islamic Banking and Modern Banking
Lets analyze the options open for individual depositors to deposit their money in an Islamic bank.
The money you deposit in an Islamic bank is utilized with your permission, but if the bank goes in loss, the loss is not shared by the depositor. If the bank goes in profit, neither is the profit shared by the depositor. The depositor is interested in only the safety of his money, not profit. The Islamic banks gives you a check book and a slip book with the functions as that of a modern bank.
Even here the depositor is mainly interested in the safety of his money. As the bank gets a profit from this money, the bank can gift a portion of that profit to the depositor, if the bank wants, but the depositor can not demand a fixed portion.
In Islamic banking, if a bank goes bankrupt then the depositors get their money first and then, the creditors. While in Modern Banking creditors get their money first and majority of the depositors lose their money. So even if you want your money safe, the Islamic banks are preferable and safer than Modern banks.
They are similar to the Fixed Accounts of Modern banks and are further divided into several types
Mudariba (Profit & Loss Sharing)
The depositor deposits a fixed amount of money in the bank for a fixed period of time, which maybe a multiple of three or a multiple of four. Here the surplus unit is the depositor and the deficit unit is the bank. The bank uses this money to do business with the businessmen and whatever profit the Islamic bank makes, it is divided on a pre-determined ratio, which can be negotiated. In the Islamic Banking of Malaysia, the ratio is 7 part to 3 part, meaning 70% goes to the depositor and 30% is kept by the bank. So there is sharing of profit, the greater the profit the greater the share of each.
Suppose, if there is a loss of a hundred dollars, then hundred would be deducted from the depositor’s money. So theoretically only the depositor bears the loss. Practically analyzing even the Islamic bank is going in loss because they are paying money for the rent, administration and salary, but the loss ratio of the bank is less than that of the depositor, as even the profit of the bank is less than that of the depositor.
Project Financing in the Mudariba System
If a businessman approaches an Islamic bank with a project idea and asks for a loan for a fixed period, the Islamic bank analyzes the project, then the businessman and the Islamic bank negotiate the profit ratio. In Modern banking interest is negotiated, in Islamic banking profit ratio is negotiated.
Suppose, the businessman takes a loan of $5000 from an Islamic bank for six months and the pre-determined profit ratio is 60% to the bank and 40% to the businessman. If the businessman is working for his business, even his salary would be included in that $5000 and suppose the salary of the businessman is $200 per month.
Suppose, if the businessman earns a profit of $5000, the business would get (his 40%) $2000 from the profit and the businessman would get paid $200 salary per month from the $5000 loan, amounting $1200 for 6 months. So the businessman gets his profit as well as the salary for his labour, if he is working for his business.
But in case of loss, the bank bears the complete loss and in turn passes the loss to the depositors. But technically even the business also goes in loss because he is only paid for labour, not for his thinking and ideas.
In Mudariba System, the bank can not interfere in the management of the business. The business can not tell the businessman to build a 12 story building instead of a 10 story building. The bank can not tell the business to produce a certain article instead of another article. The bank can not interfere in the administration of the business.
Mushariqa System (Partnership)
In Mushariqa system or Partnership the Islamic bank can interfere in the management of the business. The bank can tell the business to build a 12 story building rather than a 10 story building. The bank can tell the businessman to make a certain product instead of another product. In Mushariqa system the businessman has part of the capital and the other part he takes from the bank. The profit is shared on a pre-determined ratio. Suppose, if the businessman and bank give 50-50% capital, they would get 50-50% profit. But in case of loss, loss is shared on pre-determined ration and the Islamic bank bears more loss. The Islamic bank may have to bear 60% loss, while the businessman would only bear 40% loss.
Suppose, you want to purchase a particular machinery from abroad costing $10000, in the Modern Bank you open a LC (Letter of Credit) or a TR (Trust Receipt/Sales Slip) and you deposit the money in the Modern bank and the Modern bank charges you a fixed amount of interest on the time it takes for the transaction. If you deposit the money in an Islamic bank and ask the bank to buy the machinery on your behalf, the Islamic bank would charge you a service charge/commission.
If you do not have money to buy the machinery, you can combine Mudhaba System with Mudariba System or if you have the money you can combine the Mudhaba System with the Mushariqa System and share the profit on selling that machinery with the bank on a pre-determined ratio.
Ijara (Leasing or Higher Purchasing)
Suppose, you don’t to buy a car, you want to rent it. The Islamic bank charges you a certain profit and rents you the car. The price of the car and the profit are divided by the life span of that car to calculate the per month rent. The Islamic bank provides you Ijara ending with sale and also buying back facility. If you don’t the car, the Islamic bank buys back the car, a facility which Modern banks do not provide.
It is the loan the Islamic bank gives to the poor to do business without charging any Interest at all. There is nothing like Interest-free loan in Modern banking. In the Islamic system of banking in Malaysia 10% of profits are kept separately/ reserved for Interest-free loan for the poor. In Islamic terminology it is called “Karze Hasana” meaning “the good loan”.