Sharia finance and ChristianityUpdated 6:56AM, Wednesday August 15th, 2012 by Simon Cross, Christian.co.uk 2 comments
As Christians debate the ethics of finance and investment, should we be looking to the Sharia compliant Islamic banking sector for guidance?
We've learned a lot from Islamic art, architecture, literature and science, but what about the Islamic way with money?
There are now a number of Islamic financial institutions in the UK, catering for the needs of Muslims, who have strict controls over what they can and cannot do in terms of finance.
The basis for all Islamic finance lies in the principles of the Sharia, or Islamic Law, which is taken from the Qur'an and from the example of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
The principle and most obvious difference between Islamic and ‘conventional’ banking is the need for the absence of interest.
Samir Alamad, Senior Manager, Sharia Compliance and Product Development, Islamic Bank of Britain PLC explained that as interest is gained by the ‘effortless’ lending of money, it is not allowed under Islamic law.
He said: "Islamic banking operates without interest, which is not permitted in Islam, as money in itself is not considered to have intrinsic value.
“As interest is income generated from lending money, it is seen as effortless return. Instead money must be used in a productive way and wealth can only be generated through legitimate trade and investment, which involves an element of risk.”
But this in itself does not rule out the prospect of investment in businesses or ventures which are of dubious ethical quality. However, another key part of Islamic finance is that profit may not be made from businesses which are considered unlawful under Sharia. These include gambling, pornography, tobacco and so on.
Savers with Islamic banks are able to grow their money though, for example by means of an ‘agency agreement’ known as Wakala, which means the bank can invest money acting as an agent on behalf of their clients.
If the (Sharia compliant) business with which the money is invested is profitable, then the deposit holder as the investor is able to earn money on their investment.
The Islamic banks closely monitor the performance of their investments on a daily basis, in order to try and ensure that customers receive the projected target, or ‘expected’ profit rate.
Samir Alamad added: “ The whole premise of Islamic banking is to provide a way for society to conduct its finances in a way that is ethical and socially responsible. Trade, entrepreneurship and risk-sharing are encouraged and these are the financial principles that underpin Islamic finance and the products offered by IBB.”
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No you should be looking to Jesus! Your master
While I share your sentiments this article needs more than a glib reply. If Christians ran their finances on biblical bases then they would look very similar to a Sharia model. Usury (the charging of interest to brothers (and sisters) for the lending of money) is forbidden in the Bible and Jesus actively drove out people making profit on money changing.
So Michael, looking to Jesus and the Bible would be the perfect way to model our banking system but there is not currently a large-scale biblically based banking system to use as an example of tofollow.So if we were to look to a positive modern example which operates on a scale big enough to make a difference the Sharia system is probably the best one to look at.
I do however feel saddened that, due to historical fear of usury and an unwillingness to "get our hands dirty with money", Christians were never really a force within the banking sector like they were within anti-slavery, schooling and healthcare.
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