Tag Archives: Taqi Usmani

Ethica Trains 100 American Imams in Islamic Finance

Ethica Trains 100 American Imams in Islamic Finance

Two Months of Rigorous, First Ever Islamic Finance Training Successfully Completed

 

 

What does it take to bring 7 million American Muslims Islamic finance? Maybe training only 100 prominent religious leaders as a small first step. That is what the founding members of the American Islamic Finance (AIF) Project have now successfully accomplished. Jointly founded by Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance, Guidance Financial, and the Islamic Society of North America, the AIF Project seeks to promote standards-based Islamic finance among Muslim communities in North America.

The training program began with an inaugural address by Mufti Taqi Usmani, chairman of AAOIFI (Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions), the world’s leading standard-setting body. Ethica’s spokesperson said, “Muslims in America rely on their imams for all kinds of information. By giving these community leaders direct training in the practical application of Islamic finance, Ethica now equips them with an understanding of global standards.”

Ethica’s two-month imam training program looks to become an annual event. The program was successfully completed this month after Ethica delivered a rigorous blend of e-learning, including case studies, exercises, and exams, in addition to intensive classroom instruction. With fewer banks and universities opting for face-to-face training, and more institutions adopting the increasingly popular e-learning option, Islamic finance is set to become more accessible to countries outside of the Gulf.

Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance

With over 20,000 paid users in more than 40 countries in 2011, Ethica (http://www.EthicaInstitute.com) is the world’s leading accredited Islamic finance training and certification institute, with more learners than any other Islamic finance organization in the world. Ethica remains the only institute in the world to deliver standardized certification based entirely on the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), the leading standard-setting body in the industry.

Guidance Residential

Guidance is the leading US provider of Sharia-compliant home financing with over $2 billion in home financings. It is a subsidiary of Guidance Financial Group, an international company dedicated to serving the market for Sharia-compliant financial products and services. Guidance Financial Group offers unique investment products to institutional investors and financial intermediaries worldwide, and provides financial services to its retail customer base in the United States.

Islamic Society of North America

ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.

For more information about this article, or to schedule an interview with Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance, please e-mailcontact@EthicaInstitute.com.

Push for asset-backed Sukuk framework lifting demand

Push for asset-backed Sukuk framework lifting demand

 

 

 

 

 

It’s good to see a move towards asset-backed Sukuk rather than asset-based Sukuk, which are obviously more close to the spirit of the Shariah. In asset-backed Sukuk, investors become owners of the underlying assets in case of default, whereas asset-based Sukuk give no such recourse.

DUBAI, Jan 10 – Investor worries over the impact of defaults in Islamic bonds is driving a push for a better structure for asset-backed instruments that should help alleviate concerns, bankers and lawyers said.

Islamic finance industry body IIFM is looking to develop a template in 12 to 18 months that will help reduce some of the legal and operational complexities surrounding asset-backed Islamic bonds, or sukuk, said its chief executive Ijlal Alvi.

The Nakheel property arm of Dubai’s state-owned conglomerate Dubai World [DBWLD.UL] staved off default on a $4.1 billion Islamic bond after a last-minute bailout from Abu Dhabi in 2009, after Dubai World announced plans for repayment on $26 billion in debt, spooking global markets.

Also still ongoing is Kuwait Investment Dar’s <TIDK.KW> discussions with creditors over a $100 million sukuk it defaulted on in 2009.

Asset-backed sukuk are seen closer to the spirit of Islamic law as they involve a transfer of tangible assets — investors become the legal owners of these in the case of default.

Investors were taken aback as they realised the majority of sukuk were asset-based and that these could not be accessed directly by sukuk holders following a default.

“People didn’t really talk about asset-backed sukuk until the stress tests were applied,” said Tim Ross, partner at Latham & Watkins in Dubai. “Some investors were caught off guard — they had an unsecured payment claim.”

As investors cried foul, market watchers hoped the industry would shift toward a securitised model, but that has yet to happen, as more than 90 percent of transactions are still structured as asset-based sukuk.

“While asset-backed transactions, both conventional and Islamic, have been done in the Gulf, they are more difficult and costly for companies to undertake,” said Gregory Man, senior associate at Clifford Chance in Dubai.

He added that such transactions also face tougher legal and analytical requirements imposed by rating agencies and many companies in the region lack sufficiently robust internal systems to service and report on the assets to investors and agencies.

A master agreement would aim to provide a standardised base from which issuers could structure the sukuk in line with their own jurisdictions and increase awareness about the product.

“In this credit environment, creditors would prefer direct recourse to the assets,” Alvi said. “Although asset-based is a valid structure as well, I think it is preferable to encourage increase in asset-backed sukuk over the medium to long-term.”

Despite the challenges, companies would look to issue more asset-backed sukuk if investors demanded it, bankers said.

“Among investors, there is still no real drive to do it,” said one Gulf-based Islamic banker. “Much of the corporate world comes from a conventional background so asset-based sukuk is closer to the debt model they are used to working with.

“Most investors simply don’t care enough, despite all the frenzy following defaults.”

Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/rtrs/20110110/tbs-assetbacked-sukuk-7318940.html

Controlling Fatwa would harm Islamic Finance (Reuters)

Controlling Fatwa would harm Islamic Finance (Reuters) — Straightway Ethical Advisory Blog

 

 

Recent developments in the Islamic finance market prompted the industry to rethink the role of Shariah scholars.

Most Islamic financial institutions appoint a supervisory board or committee of religious scholars who are tasked with reviewing their transactions in order to ensure that they comply with the principles of Islamic Shariah in their business and financial dealings.

A Shariah supervisory board or committee approves or rejects a transaction through the issuance of a fatwa (an opinion or proclamation about the Shariah compliance of such a transaction).

The question of the day in the Islamic finance industry is whether Shariah scholars should be subject to some sort of supervision themselves.
In our opinion, the answer to this question depends on what is meant by ‘supervision’.

Industry practitioners should oppose supervision if it means that Shariah scholars would have to adhere to strict criteria or methodology before issuing a fatwa. Such supervision would in our opinion curtail innovation and transform the industry, prematurely, to a commoditised industry, since Shariah scholars would in their attempt to check all the boxes and stay within the accepted norms, refrain from covering new ground and developing new structures that would allow new transactions and thus the development of the industry.

The industry should not lose sight of the fact that Shariah scholars are our current day mujtahid (jurist). Throughout the history of Islamic jurisprudence, the use of human reasoning (ra’y) has played an important part in the development of Islamic Shariah.

When issuing fatwa, Shariah scholars are practising ijtihad and they should enjoy complete freedom in their practice of ijtihad; their guidance and limitations should only come from the five sources of Islamic Shariah being: the Qur’an; Sunna (the practice and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); Qiyas (a comparison, used to make a judgement on issues which have no clear-cut ruling in the Qur’an or the Sunna, by consideration of similar issues which do have clear ruling); Ijtehad (the diligent judgement of the scholars through reasoning and logic); and Ijmaa (a consensus or agreement used for issues which require Ijtehad).

Therefore, in our opinion, Shariah scholars should not be restricted or limited in their practice of ijtihad by any regulator. Such regulation would neither benefit the Shariah -compliance of the industry nor its further development.

However, we would support supervision of Shariah scholars such as the new proposed rules of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) to reduce the risks of conflicts of interest or improper disclosure.

This type of supervision may lead to more transparency and benefit the authenticity and credibility of both the industry and the Shariah scholars. Organisations such as the AAOIFI should run training and continuing education programs for would-be Shariah scholars. Such programmes should aim to provide Shariah scholars with an understanding of various financial and business transactions and the legal framework in which such transactions are being consummated.

Most importantly, these training and continuing education courses should train Shariah scholars to be inquisitorial of the intention (niyya’) behind the transaction.

Islamic rate of return: the new IRR

Islamic rate of return: the new IRR

The issue is discussed by Joseph DiVanna, MD of Maris Strategies, a Cambridge-based strategy think tank for financial services specialising in economic, demographic and consumer intelligence in emerging markets.

Islamic finance is poised for a significant surge as world markets reorganise and Shari’ah-compliant banks reassess their position in local markets. As a global market, Islamic banking has grown at an impressive 27 per cent per annum over the past five years, and is estimated to reach $1 trillion in 2010. Growth in the Islamic finance industry will occur along three distinct fronts: organic growth, new market growth and product growth. Organic growth will continue as Shari’ah-compliant banks persist in engaging their clients with additional services (aiming to increase deposits). New market growth will consistently rise as more banks are engaging previously unbanked populations in Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia where the ratio of people banked is very low. It is however the third area of product growth which holds the most long-term benefits for Islamic finance.

Shari’ah-compliant institutions are emerging from 2009 with a renewed sense of confidence as the impact of the financial crisis is passing from a panicked search for guilty parties to a refocused approach to risk management. Islamic banks have been somewhat insulated from the global financial crisis because of their lack of access to what is now labelled as ‘toxic assets’. What Islamic banks have noticed during the crisis is a steady increase in assets as investors/depositors take conservative postures and a marked reduction in the generation of fee and investment income. Unlike their conventional counterparts, during 2008-09 Shari’ah-compliant institutions continued a deliberate plan of innovation, mainly in retail banking distribution, experimenting with technology. Now these banks are turning their attentions toward a longer-term growth agenda which includes product innovation that is more distinctly a representation of Islamic values and beliefs.

However, the rate at which this potential for growth is achieved is predicated on the establishment of additional national and international financial infrastructure. One key area of discussion is in the use of LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) as an industry benchmark for sukuk and other instruments. Today, the performance of Shari’ah-compliant products such as sukuk are measured (or linked) to LIBOR as a benchmark, not by design, simply as a matter of convenience in the early stage of market development. To compete with conventional banks, which many of their clients have been using for decades, Shari’ah-compliant institutions have adopted the use of LIBOR so customers have a readily recognised mechanism to assess the relative rate of return on their product offerings.

Shari’ah scholars have been divided on the use of LIBOR as it gives the appearance of an interest-like quality to Shari’ah-compliant financial instruments. Conversely, some Islamic scholars have argued that simply using an interest rate as a benchmark for determining the relative rate of return for a Shari’ah-compliant instrument does not render the instrument non-compliant.

‘In the final analysis, a benchmark is no more than a number, and therefore non-objectionable from a Shari’ah perspective. If it is used to determine the rate of repayment on a loan, then it is the interest-bearing loan that will be haram. LIBOR, as a mere benchmark, has nothing to do with the actual transaction or, more specifically, with the creation of revenues or returns,’ says Shaykh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo, chief Shari’ah officer and board member of Shariah Capital, a US-based Shari’ah advisory firm.

The key point of debate is the appearance of a Shari’ah-compliant financial instrument to generate a fixed rate return. Under Shari’ah principles, money cannot generate money, which in modern times is represented by interest. Numerous Shari’ah scholars have argued that instruments such as murabaha (debt) cannot be securitised, since sukuk-backed pools of murabaha are simply the sale of documents representing money, which can be interpreted as merely trading of monies. On the other hand, Malaysian scholars have argued that if the underlying receivable is associated with a true trade transaction or to a commercial transfer of a non-monetary interest, such a receivable can be traded freely for the purposes of Shari’ah.

Theoretically, a hybrid (debt/equity) sukuk could be structured to emulate a quasi-fixed return found in conventional bonds whereby the LIBOR benchmark would give investors an understanding of the instrument’s return relative to a conventional counterpart. Thus if structured properly the hybrid sukuk can generate a profit-based return that is comparable to a conventional LIBOR-based product. What this boils down to is the fundamental need for the industry to mature to a new level through a process of product/market innovation that increases the depth of market offerings. Market infrastructure such as a Shari’ah-compliant money market instrument, the establishment of a secondary market and secondary market pricing are but a few of challenges in the years to come, which will reach higher levels of discussion in 2010. Islamic rate of return (IRR)

Fundamentally, the industry, or more specifically central banks, must address the creation of a benchmark that represents the cost of capital in Shari’ah-compliant terms. Without a clear Islamic rate of return (IRR) LIBOR will continue to be used. The use of LIBOR and the development of an alternative has been discussed and debated during the past five years resulting in few alternatives. The central issue is the cost of capital and the establishment of an Islamic rate of return for procurement and placement of funds. Some scholars advocate the development of a mechanism similar to a rent index used when working with ijara instruments. Hence the industry will continue to use LIBOR as the only recognised benchmark. That said, the Islamic International Financial Market (IIFM), a Bahrain-based non-profit international infrastructure development institution, identifies several alternative theories:

  • Abbas Mirakhor approach: proposes that the cost of capital be measured without resort to a fixed and predetermined interest rate using equity financing as the source of financial capital (Tobin ‘q’ theory).
  • Sheikh Taqi Usamni approach: a benchmark can be achieved by creating a common pool which invests in asset-backed instruments (e.g. musharakah, ijara) where units can be sold and purchased on the basis of their net asset value determined on a periodic or daily basis.
  • Bank Negara Malaysia (Malaysia’s central bank) approach: proposed in ‘Framework of the Rate of Return’ sometimes referred to as mudarabah interbank investments (MII) – a standard methodology to calculate the distribution of profits and the derivation of the rates of return to depositors. A calculation table prescribes the income and expense items that need to be reported. It also sets out the standard calculation in deriving the net distributable income and a distribution table sets out the distribution of the net distributable income posted from the calculation table among demand, savings and general investment deposits according to their structures, maturities and the pre-agreed profit sharing ratios between the bank and the depositors.

Another alternative, which was introduced in 2004 by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Pakistan Banks’ Association (PBA), is the KIBOR (Karachi Interbank Offered Rate) a benchmark for corporate lending in local currency defined as ‘the Average rate, Ask Side, for the relevant tenor, as published on Reuters page KIBOR or as published by the Financial Markets Association of Pakistan in case the Reuters page is unavailable. The banks and the borrowers are free to decide the relevant tenor of KIBOR and the spread over KIBOR at their discretion. KIBOR will be set for the lending facility on the date of drawdown or on the mark-up reset date. The offer letters from the banks to their clients should clearly indicate the KIBOR’s tenor and the agreed spread, frequency of revision’. The six-month KIBOR is most widely used as a benchmark.

How will an Islamic interbank rate work?

One theoretical construct is the use of a mudarabah concept whereby Shari’ah-compliant institutions with excess reserves (surplus banks) can invest in the interbank money market which in turn provides funding to banks looking for funds (deficit banks). Surplus banks act as investors while the central bank acts as an entrepreneur. The parties agree on a profit sharing ratio between the surplus banks (70 per cent) and the central bank (30 per cent). The surplus bank receives 70 per cent profit while the central bank will receive 30 per cent. The profit rate is based on the benchmark calculation of the profit as: profit equals (principal x profit rate x time x profit sharing ratio) divided by 365. Although theoretically, profit rates are acting under a similar means as an interest rate there is a built-in risk associated with the performance of the underlying assets associated with all the transactions initiated by the banks. Clearly, these types of mechanisms are in their infancy and will require a great deal of discussion between Shari’ah scholars, central bankers, monetary policy makers and bankers.

Conclusion

The Islamic finance market will continue to grow and strengthen during 2010. The rate at which the growth will occur is dependent on two things: the development of supporting market infrastructure such as a replacement for LIBOR and the confidence in the bankers themselves to conduct business in challenging economic times. The development of alternative benchmarks demonstrates the rising independence of Islamic finance as a viable alternative to conventional financing. As new economic data slowly reveals the emergence of renewed growth, Islamic finance is poised to enter 2010 as the first year of a new generation of development.

Sukuk: Issues and the Way Forward

Sukuk: Issues and the Way Forward

sukuk

Sukuk represents a new development in global capital market. It is one of the
fastest growing sectors in Islamic finance and is considered by many as the most
innovative product of Islamic finance.

As a relatively young asset class in the global capital market, the sukuk market
inevitably faces problems typical of its early stage of development. In this relation, some Muslim scholars have questioned its level of compliance with the Shariah law, particularly on how they are structured. The main criticism was from Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani1, a prominent scholar who has taken the view that 85% of the current structures of Gulf sukuk do not comply with Islamic law2, in particular Sukuk Al Musharaka, Sukuk Al Mudaraba and Sukuk Al Istithmar.

Following that, the Shariah Board of Accounting and Auditing Organization for
Islamic Financial Institutions (“AAOIFI”) had studied the subject of the issuance of sukuk in three sessions between 2007 and 2008. After considering the deliberations in these meetings and reviewing of the papers and studies presented therein, the Shariah Board of AAOIFI issued its resolutions in February 2008 to highlight the various areas in sukuk which were found to be non-Shariah compliant. Accordingly, Islamic financial institutions had been advised to adhere to the principles set out in the relevant AAOIFI Standards in sukuk issuance.

This paper attempts to explore the controversies or issues surrounding sukuk, in particular the observations and resolutions issued by the Shariah Board of AAOIFI.

Read the rest here:

Sukuk: Issues and the Way Forward

An Introduction to Islamic Finance – Mufti Taqi Usmani

An Introduction to Islamic Finance – Mufti Taqi Usmani

untitled

An Introduction to Islamic Finance, by Mufti Taqi Usmani. Read online HERE. Topics covered:

  1. Musharakah.
  2. Mudarabah.
  3. Combination of Musharakah and Mudarabah.
  4. Some objection on Musharakah Financing.
  5. Diminishing Musharakah.
  6. Murabahah.
  7. Some Issues involved in Murabahah.
  8. Ijarah.
  9. Salam and Istina.
  10. Principles of Shari’ah, Governing Islamic Investment Funds.
  11. The principle of Limited Liability.

Principles of Shariah governing investment in shares and equity funds: Mufti Taqi Usmani

Principles of Shariah governing investment in shares and equity funds: Mufti Taqi Usmani

Dealing in equity shares can be acceptable in Shariah subject to the following conditions:

1. The main business of the company is not in violation of Shariah. Therefore, it is not permissible to acquire the shares of the companies providing financial services on interest, like conventional banks, insurance companies, or the companies involved in some other business not approved by the Shariah, such as the companies manufacturing, selling or offering liquors, pork, haram meat, or involved in gambling, night club activities, pornography etc.

2. If the main business of the companies is halal, like automobiles, textile, etc. but they deposit there surplus amounts in a interest-bearing account or borrow money on interest, the share holder must express his disapproval against such dealings, preferably by raising his voice against such activities in the annual general meeting of the company.

3. If some income from interest-bearing accounts is included in the income of the company, the proportion of such income in the dividend paid to the share-holder must be given charity, and must not be retained by him. For example, if 5% of the whole income of a company has come out of interest-bearing deposits, 5% of the dividend must be given in charity.

4. The shares of a company are negotiable only if the company owns some non-liquid assets. If all the assets of a company are in liquid form, i.e. in the form of money that cannot be purchased or sold, except on par value, because in this case the share represents money only and the money cannot be traded in except at par.

What should be the exact proportion of non-liquid assets of a company for the negotiability of its shares? The contemporary scholars have different views about this question. Some scholars are of the view that the ratio of non-liquid assets must be 51% at the least. They argue that if such assets are less than 50%, the most of the assets are in liquid form, therefore, all its assets should be treated as liquid on the basis of the juristic principle: The majority deserves to be treated as the whole of a thing. Some other scholars have opined that even if the non-liquid asset of a company or 33%, its shares can be treated as negotiable.

The third view is based on the Hanafi jurisprudence. The principle of the Hanafi school is that whenever an asset is a mixture of a liquid and non-liquid assets, it can be negotiable irrespective of the proportion of its liquid part. However, this principle is subject to two conditions:

First, the non-liquid part of the mixture must not be in a negligible quantity. It means that it should be in a considerable proportion. Second, the price of the mixture should be more than the price of the liquid amount contained therein. For example, if a share of 100 dollars represents 75 dollars, plus some fixed assets the price of the share must be more than 75 dollars. In this case, if the price of the share is fixed as 105, it will mean that 75 dollars are in exchange of 75 dollars owned by the share and the rest of 30 dollars are in exchange of the fixed asset. Conversely, if the price of that share fixed as 70 dollars, it will not be allowed, because the 75 dollars owned by the share are in this case against an amount which is less than 75. This kind of exchange falls within the definition of “riba” and is not allowed. Similarly, if the price of the share, in the above example, is fixed as 75 dollars, it will not be permissible, because if we presume that 75 dollars owned by the share, no part of the price can be attributed to the fixed assets owned by the share. Therefore, some part of the price (75 dollars) must be presumed to be in exchange of the fixed assets of the share. In this case, the remaining amount will not be adequate for the price of 75 dollars. For this reason the transaction will not be valid.

However, in practical terms, this is merely a theoretical possibility, because it is difficult to imagine a situation where a price of the share goes lower than its liquid assets.

Subject to these conditions, the purchase and sale of shares is permissible in Shariah. An Islamic Equity Fund can be established on this basis. The subscribers to the Fund will be treated in Shariah as partners “inter se.” All the subscription amounts will form a joint pool and will be invested in purchasing the shares of different companies. The profits can accrue either through dividends distributed by the relevant companies or through the appreciation in the prices of the shares. In the first case i.e. where the profits earned through dividends, a certain proportion of the dividend, which corresponds to the proportion of interest earned by the company, must be given in charity. The contemporary Islamic Funds have termed this process as “purification.”

The Shariah scholars have different views about whether the “purification” is necessary where the profits are made through capital gains (i.e. by purchasing the shares at a lower price and selling them at a higher price). Some scholars are of the view that even in the case of capital gains the process of “purification” is necessary, because the market price of the share may reflect an element of interest included in the assets of the company. The other view is that no purification is required if the share is sold, even if it results in a capital gain. The reason is that no specific amount of price can be allocated for the interest received by the company. It is obvious if all the above requirements of the halal shares are observed, the most of the assets of the company are halal, and a very small proportion of its assets may have been created by the income of interest. This small proportion is not only unknown, but also a negligible as compared to the bulk of the assets of the company. Therefore, the price of the share, in fact, is against the bulk of the assets, and not against such a small proportion. The whole price of the share therefore, may be taken as the price of the halal assets only.

Although this second view is not without force, yet the first view is more cautious and far from doubts. Particularly, it is more equitable in an open-ended equity fund because if the purification is not carried out on the appreciation and a person redeems his unit of the Fund at a time when no dividend is received by it, no amount of purification will be deducted from its price, even though the price of the unit may have increased due to the appreciation in the prices of the shares held by the fund. Conversely, when a person redeems his unit of the Fund at a time when no dividend is received by it, no amount of purification will be deducted from its price, even though the price of the unit may have increased due to the appreciation in the prices of the shares held by the fund. Conversely, when a person redeems his unit after some dividends have been received in the fund and the amount of purification has been deducted therefrom, reducing the net asset value per unit, he will get a lesser price compared to the first person.

On the contrary, if purification is carried out both on dividend and capital gains, all the unit-holders will be treated at par with the regard to the deduction of the amounts of purification. Therefore, it is not only free from doubts but also more equitable for all the unit-holders to carry out purification in the capital gains. This purification may be carried out on the basis of an average percentage of the interest earned by the companies included in the portfolio.

The management of the fund may be carried out in two alternative ways. The managers of the Fund may act as mudaribs for the subscriber. In this case a certain percentage of the annual profit accrued to the Fund may be determined as the reward of the management, meaning thereby that the management will get its share only if the fund has earned some profit. If there is no profit in the fund, the management will deserve nothing, but the share of the management will increase with the increase of profits.

The second option of the management is to act as an agent for the subscribers. In this case, the management may be given a pre agreed fee for its services. This fee may be fixed in lump sum or as a monthly or annual remuneration. According to the contemporary Shariah scholars, the fee can also be based on a percentage of the net asset value of the fund. For example, it may be agreed that the management will get 2% or 3% of the net asset value of the fund at the end of every financial year.

However, it is necessary in Shariah to determine any of the aforesaid methods before the launch of the fund. The practical way for this would be to disclose in the prospectus of the fund on what basis the fees of the management will be paid. It is generally presumed that whoever subscribes to the fund agrees with the terms mentioned in the prospectus. Therefore, the manner of paying the management will be taken as agreed upon on all the subscribers.