Two million Muslims in the UK face an ethical dilemma if they want a mortgage or a loan. Conventional mortgages and loans all require the payment of interest and “riba” as interest is called under Islamic law, is forbidden by the Koran.
British financial institutions are increasingly catering for Muslims’ specialist needs through a number of alternative arrangements that respects the teachings of the Koran. Here are just two of them:
Ijara with diminishing Musharaka – the mortgage alternative.
Ijara with diminishing Musharaka is an Islamic alternative to a conventional UK mortgage and has been adopted by several British banks and building societies.
In essence, Musharaka means partnership. Under this Islamic financial concept, the bank buys the house and legally becomes its owner. Then throughout the pre-agreed period, say 25 years, a monthly payment is made. Each monthly payment includes a charge for rent and a charge that buys a small proportion of the house itself. It’s form of variable shared equity plan with the proportion of the house being owned by the purchaser, steadily increasing as payments are made. Once the final payment has been made, the house is owned outright. Ijara
Here you tell the bank or financial institution what you want, for example a car, and they buy it. In return for a monthly payment that covers the cost of the bank’s capital, the bank then allows you to use the asset for an agreed period. In reality, it’s a form of leasing
Islamic finance is not widely available in the UK – so where can find it? Here are three suggestions:
Over the last few years Lloyds TSB has introduced Islamic products to 33 of its branches. Their spokesperson says, “It’s important for our customers to see that we are following the right procedures. We have a panel of four Islamic scholars who over-see the products. They offer guidance on Islamic law and audit the products”.
Another high street bank, HSBC, is developing a special range of Islamic products under the Amanah brand name. This range includes home finance plans, home insurance, commercial finance, and various current accounts and pensions. Hussam Sultan, the Amanah product manager says, ”As a bank, we are not here to moralise or tell our customers that Amanah finance is the way to please Allah. We’re just here to provide them with a choice”.
The Islamic Bank of Britain has three branches in London, two in Birmingham and one each in Leicester and Manchester. They’re the only British bank specifically providing for Muslim customers and claim to be halal throughout their operations. All their financial products are approved by their Sharia’a Supervisory Committee – all Muslim scholars who are experts in all aspects of Islamic finance.