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  • On Islamic banking

    by Sunny
    14th June, 2006 at 8:09 pm    

    Lloyds TSB has joined the Islamic Banking market:

    Lloyds TSB is bidding for Britain’s 2 million Muslims by making sharia-compliant current accounts and mortgages available from any branch nationwide.

    Today’s announcement came the day after Gordon Brown addressed the Islamic finance and trade conference to promote Britain as a centre for Islamic finance.

    The chancellor said that British banks were “pioneering” Islamic banking. “London now has more banks supplying services under Islamic principles than any other Western financial centre,” Mr Brown said. [via Shuggy]

    I remember talking to a friend who had researched Islamic finance and said the way most modern financial institutions interpret it, including Muslim ones, went against the spirit. Surely the whole point of interest free banking is that you avoid giving rise to massive financial institutions that makes billions on profits every year (like HSBC and Lloyds, ironically)?

    Harry Hutton says it better:

    With an Islamic mortgage, for example, the bank buys the house then “rents” it to you. Some of this “rent” goes towards buying the bank’s share of the house, until eventually you own it. Just like a normal mortgage. But because the bank is technically the owner, you have not, technically, borrowed any money. On paper, you and the bank are both still eligible for heaven.

    You would need to have a pretty low opinion of our creator to think He could be taken in by this type of scheming. If God said no usury, presumably He meant it. If you think you can outwit Him with such a transparent piece of sophistry he will surely lightning you.

    So I’m stumped. Financial institutions in the Middle East do the same; devise financial instruments to avoid calling it “interest”, right? What is going on?

                  Post to

    Filed in: Economics,Religion

    56 Comments below   |  

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    1. David T — on 14th June, 2006 at 9:15 pm  

      “You would need to have a pretty low opinion of our creator to think He could be taken in by this type of scheming. If God said no usury, presumably He meant it. If you think you can outwit Him with such a transparent piece of sophistry he will surely lightning you.”

      I regard the absence of divine retribution as proof of God’s true and deep affection for ingenious lawyers.

    2. Kismet Hardy — on 14th June, 2006 at 9:49 pm  

      and what was it about the rothchilds that muslims take so much joy demonising jews over?

    3. Refresh — on 14th June, 2006 at 10:47 pm  

      Is this thread safe? Or is it going to go the same way was most of the others?

    4. seanb — on 14th June, 2006 at 10:56 pm  

      I believe that God purchased eternal rights to this universe under a similar scheme. Which is why you shouldn’t expect any improvements until he’s fully paid off the non-mortgage.

      Incidently what happens if the house is then bought by non-muslim purchasers? Does it then revert to non-sharia finance, or what? Or do the new vendors simultaneously purchase a “pardon” of the kind that used to be available in medieval christianity? Could have a benificial effect on property prices.

      This is the kitchen, this is the bedroom and here’s the real selling point, the paradise clause.

    5. inders — on 14th June, 2006 at 11:39 pm  

      The difference as far as I can see it, is thus:

      If you miss a payment on your mortgauge the bank kicks you out of your house. If you miss your ‘rent’ on this thing they kick you out of theirs.

    6. Katy Newton — on 15th June, 2006 at 12:24 am  

      I can just see myself at the Pearly Gates holding up the “rent” agreement. “But look at paragraph 14.5.1.a, it clearly says ‘rent’.”

    7. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 12:34 am  

      See this article-

    8. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 15th June, 2006 at 12:44 am  

      That’s what I love about about this site, there is such great humor from the contributors. I giggled my way down this entire page.

      Refresh, what on earth to you mean? Is this thread safe? Are you worried that Sunny didn’t use a mutex?

      (OK, so I’m geek …)

    9. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 12:47 am  

      What’s mutex?

    10. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:00 am  

      Just followed one of those paid for ad-links on this PP page:

      Very interesting reading. You find a house - say £250k - then ask the Bank to agree to be your landlord. The bank agrees, buys the house for the £250k, and then you move in - pay the rent and an element which goes towards now buying the house off the bank. Presumably the Rent will be at a reducing rate as more and more of the house becomes yours.

      So these elements are known and fixed. When the house is sold lets say where you now own 50% of the house; the equity is split equally.

      Removes the risk in cases of wild fluctuations in interest rates.

      However the question Sunny asks is why are these institutions acceptable since they don’t support the spirit of Islamic financing - these organisations are huge; and Gordon Brown’s wish to become the centre of global islamic finance is peculiar to say the least, since our Gordon is interested in drawing in more capital and profit to the economy. Nothing wrong with that, but…..

      Its a problem because the existing Banks see a big market and want a piece of the action. But if the Banks then take your money and then use it to earn interest lending it to someone else - then that’s not on.

      Another factor will be whether the Bank itself is ethical. And I suspect the Co-op Bank is in a better position to offer a solution, more so than the others.

    11. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:01 am  

      Its a computer programmer joke. Threading is a way of making a piece of software following multiple lines of logic. Think of you computer checking your spelling while you type, that’s a result of threading. To ask if something is “thread safe” is to say if two or more threads of logic try and work here will it go wrong? When the answer is, no it the threads of logic will clash and crash the program. So to fix the problem you use a mutex to ensure that only one thread can enter at a time.


    12. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:03 am  

      TFI - then yes Sunny should run Mutex. And often.

    13. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:12 am  

      Its all just a way to funel money from the Middle East into the UK, Mr Brown doesn’t give a damn about relgious values, he just wants to tax Oil money from the Middle East and to squeeze the blood from any stone that lies still for to long.


    14. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:17 am  

      Refresh, you run a thread, but implement a mutex.

      You know, even for PP thread this is a little off topic ;)


    15. Sunny — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:34 am  

      There are some interesting points in that thread.

      First, the background, as explained by Chaz1:

      The truth of the matter is that Islamic finance, in its present, increasingly formalised sense, is an incredibly recent phenomenon, first developed in Egypt in the 1960s, and slowly spreading through the Middle East over the next thirty years.

      It is only since the late 1990s, with the rise of political Islam amongst the upper-middle and upper classes in the Gulf, that Islamic finance began to transform from an exotic and untrusted product to a highly professionalized and profitable market sector.

      Another key to its development was the shift of Middle Eastern banking from Lebanon to Bahrain in the 1980s, following the civil war in the former. A further strand was the Malaysian’s development of formalised Islamic financial products with strong government support, later copied and developed by Bahrain. Dubai’s government has picked up the baton, as it attempts to become the leading financial hub in the Middle East.

      Competition between Dubai and Bahrain to lead Islamic finance in the Middle East, together with the - literally - hundreds of billions of dollars of excess oil revenues generated annually (USD200bn from Saudi this year alone) are pushing this market forward at a pace.

      But, if I can understand this right, the key difference seems to be that under Islamic banking the lender shares the risk of losses along with the borrower. And plus has to engage in profit sharing if there any?

      But that means more risks for banks, hence that means they’ll charge the “rent” at a higher price than if the borrower took on all the risk.


    16. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:38 am  

      TFI - got you.

      Some more interesting stuff on finance -

      Ann Pettifor was behind the Jubilee 2000 campaign to end the debt of poor nations.

      Jubilee in turn is a Christian concept of forgiving debt - clearing the decks every 50 years, a Christian friend tells - thus removing the danger of being permanently debt-ridden.

    17. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:47 am  

      Good point Sunny - but this is where competition will kick in. I would imagine monopoly situation should also be an anathema.

      There are either losses or profits. A ‘mutex’ situation (TFI: did I get that right?). And profit would be shared.

    18. Sunny — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:58 am  

      Sure, competition would kick in, but the higher risk has to be balanced with higher reward (for a bank). Hence the higher charge, with the result that the whole point (that money is not concentrated in a few hands) is voided right? I’m not trying to diss anything, just trying to understand this. I would also like an ideal where there is hardly any wealth inequality.

    19. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 2:07 am  

      There are two ways to look at it.

      1. The obscene levels of interest being charged (personal credit at 27% and up), through the usual channels; and worse for the poor with no collateral than their child milk tokens.

      2. The obscene profits that are being made by the Banks with very very little risk.

      So if the overall charges are brought down - the Banks don’t make so much. But they don’t lose.

      I think the question of risk v. return is overplayed in some sectors and we end up paying the price.

    20. sonia — on 15th June, 2006 at 10:41 am  

      Yes obviously. Ethical banking ( whether you view it within the islamic construct or not or just plain straight ethical) that involves the dodgy financial institutions aren’t going to be ‘ethical’ are they. in any case at the end of the day the fact that private institutions ‘create’ debt is a problem, and the monopoly these institutions have over what constitutes money, is the big picture that would need resolving. Since that would fundamentally alter the nature of our society and economy and is something that obviously ain’t gonna happen *just like that* it’s a given that any pretence at ethical banking in the meantime is just that - a pretence. A good way for banks to cash in - the same way big corporates usually jump on the CSR bandwagon. No suprise at all - if there are a bunch of muggins out there who think ‘ah it’s Islamic i’ll go for that’ well then someone’s going to make a buck out of it.

    21. Johnny — on 15th June, 2006 at 10:48 am  

      It’s all about money in the end. The large banks see that Islam is the culture of the future for Britain, and of course they feel obliged to tap into this emerging marking.

    22. Johnny — on 15th June, 2006 at 10:48 am  

      *market, I mean.

    23. Suzzy — on 15th June, 2006 at 11:02 am  

      Islam is the culture of the future for Britain? Whatever do you mean by that Johnny? That Britain is going to be an Islamic country? I don’t think so mate.


      I see it as part of the scheme by pressure groups to assert Islamic identity etc etc blah blah blah. Note the MCB has been instrumental in lobbying for all of this. Now you see, Britain is much more ‘Islamic Friendly’ and oppressed Muslims who have been persecuted for 50 years by having to take out western style mortgages have been liberated with sharia friendly banking. Hooray! Is there no end to Islamic heroics and liberation movements in England? I don’t think so. Wonder what is next on the agenda to promote to make sure Muslims are no longer oppressed by zionism in Slough and Birmingham.

    24. Uncleji Finance Guru — on 15th June, 2006 at 11:18 am  

      The real question for this rotound & money grubbing Uncleji is has anyone done a comparison to see whether the Halal deals are better then Non-Islamic ones. If so do I need to pass a Islam test to get one ?

      Refresh says that a Halal mortagage payment is given as rent “So these elements are known and fixed.”

      Can anyone explain how this differs from a infidel fixed rate mortagage ?

      If you have a Islamic current account at least it gives the banks a morale justification not to pay any interest to you :)

    25. Jai — on 15th June, 2006 at 11:49 am  

      I agree with my puts-us-all-to-shame-with-his-womanising-ways friend Uncleji. I’d be interested to hear the Islamic view on Vanilla/Basis Swaps, STIR Futures, Swaptions, Caps Floors & Collars, Forward-Rate Agreements, CDS (Credit Default Swaps), CDOs (Collateralised Debt Obligations) and so on.

      Would all of the above be regarded as “haraam” ?

    26. Suzzy — on 15th June, 2006 at 11:58 am  

      I detect a note of Islamophobia in your scepticisms and questions.

      Please don’t ask Islamophobic sceptic questions - don’t you understand that this is liberating oppressed Muslims from Rotherham to Rotherhide?

      How Muslims were able to live in Britain before these mortgages were introduced I don’t know. But it is good that the arrogant and persecuting country of Islamophbes called Britain has liberated Muslims and now they are able to live at least with some dignity.

      Stop oppressing Muslims with mortgages!

      Now the MCB can concentrate on the next batch of special laws and priveliges Muslims need in order to live un-oppressed in Britain.

    27. Johnny — on 15th June, 2006 at 12:02 pm  

      “Stop oppressing Muslims with mortgages! ”

      But the rest of us are still ‘oppressed’ with mortgages.

    28. Jai — on 15th June, 2006 at 12:06 pm  

      On a related note, strict Christians are technically not supposed to get involved in banking either, aren’t they. Isn’t there a relevant verse from the Bible: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be ?”

      Obviously applies to mortgages too.

    29. Suzzy — on 15th June, 2006 at 12:08 pm  

      On a serious note, I see this as part of a drift that does nothing to intergrate Muslims into mainstream British life - in fact it helps take them outside the mainstream of British life. Since th 1960′s when Muslims started coming to Britain they have been taking out mortgages no problemo - so what happened to make them realise they were all of a sudden dirtying themselves with infeeedel money? I wonder….

      This is the way things are going……ghettoisation, separation, manufactured grievances and oppressions.

      Maybe in the next suicide bombing video, Tariq from Small Heath Birmingham will say,

      ‘You filthy kaffirs, you oppressed us with your infidel interest rates, you must die!’

      (I keed, I keed, it was a joke, not Islamophobia, honestly, don’t outlaw jokes too as well as free speech, I keed, I keed, that was a joke too)

    30. Bopper — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:06 pm  

      It’s all sophistry, they’re still taking out mortgages, and there’s no bar on where they could live, so it makes no real difference. By the szame token you could argue that halal butchers take people out of the mainstream too. except they don’t in any meaningful way.

    31. Suzzy — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:21 pm  

      What next then? Everything Islamified so that they don’t have to engage in the tainted institutions and life of ‘orrible infidel Britain? I mean seriously, what is next for the campaign to free British Muslims from the persecution of not being allowed to have special priveliges and laws? Oh, the oppression!

      It is the creep of demand and grievance and separatism, comparing it to halal meat is fatuous.

      Let’s see what the next demand for special priveliges are from the MCB and the other warriors against intolerance.

    32. sonia — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:38 pm  

      right so suzzy, by your line of reasoning anyone who buys ‘organic’ is opting out of the ‘mainstream who buy non-organic’ -> therefore what - segregation? and in line with that anyone who sets out to be ‘ethical’ is distinguishing themselves from the rest of the ‘non-ethical’ bunch and are also thereby segregating themselves and refusing to join the wider community. and people campaigning against clone town britain and ‘supermarkets’ are airing their grievance after grievance.


    33. Suzzy — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:53 pm  

      No sonia that’s your strange logic being imputed to me by yourself, nothing to do with what I say.

      Given that Muslims have taken out mortgages without a problem and without going to Hell after dying forever, you wonder why there is a sudden need to have financial services outside the evil and tyrannical infidel system. You also wonder what is the next area of life in which Muslims will require special services and priveliges in order to live without oppression in Britain. You also wonder why other minorities like Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jews can get by in the wicked and evil zionist influenced usury system in Britain. You also wonder what’s next on the list of grievance and oppressive practises that shall have to be challenged in order to liberate Muslims by, ummmm, taking them outside of the British mainstream.

      The whole thing is a farce as demonstrated above - the whole thing is sophistry and bollocks! Rent or interest, what’s the difference? That’s not the same as buying organic food because it’s the same thing at the end of the day.

      But we must celebrate the liberation of British Muslims from the oppression of infidel mortgages! Hooray….another victory against tyranny.

    34. Suzzy — on 15th June, 2006 at 1:56 pm  


      Are you really saying that non Muslim Britain is unethical? That’s the upside of what you’re saying - that only Muslims are ethical because they take out super-ethical mortgages and are not oppressed any longer by horrible tyranny of British house buying. What a joke!

    35. Sunny — on 15th June, 2006 at 2:05 pm  

      that does nothing to intergrate Muslims into mainstream British life - in fact it helps take them outside the mainstream of British life.

      Suzzy that surely is just being downright silly. There are plenty of things people do that are different, it doesn’t mean they are “going out of the mainstream”. Slightly different financial products is all we’re talking about here. Please don’t go all Melanie Phillips on us.

      There seems to be such a paranoia about Muslims that if they do anything even slightly different its “going out of the mainstream”.

      “Given that Muslims have taken out mortgages without a problem”

      I’m sure most will continue to do so while some will opt in and try and easy their conscience. It really is that simple. I just want to know of the economics behind it.

    36. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 2:21 pm  

      Suzzy, that really is pathetic and sad.

      Sunny - well what can I say. I think a re-launch might be in order.

    37. Ravi Naik — on 15th June, 2006 at 2:34 pm  

      To be honest, I don’t see the big deal. It does not impose on our freedoms. If muslims believe that by changing words in a normal mortgage contract they please (or fool…) God - then by all means do it.

      Christians also - in exchange for money - had the Vatican write special decrees, where they could indulge in sin, get pardoned and have a special place in Heaven. Of course, Europe had reformists like Martin Luther who would have none of that, and the humanist and iluminist movements who brought some rationality to religious superstition.

      I am still waiting for muslim reformists to come along and bring Islam to this new brave millenium.

    38. mellow — on 15th June, 2006 at 2:41 pm  

      As an aside, I believe the Rothschilds are demonised because they were huge Jewish finaanciers of many of the western worlds expeditions for war, commerce and exploration.
      Whenever a King or Emperor or Pope needed some cash they went to these sort of financiers. The rules against Usury meant that they couldn’t borrow from other Christians and hence went to the Jews.
      Whether its because some of the financing went into expeditions in the Muslim world, finance Israel alot, or whether its simply that they are Jewish and very wealthy and influential, thus obviously being part of the ‘World domination by Jews’ conspiracies, I couldnt tell you.

    39. Sunny — on 15th June, 2006 at 2:42 pm  

      Refresh it would help if you actually pointed out the problem you have with Suzzy’s posts rather than call them sad or pathetic or her a racist etc etc. It won’t really work on here.
      And I don’t understand what you’d like me to relaunch?

    40. Refresh — on 15th June, 2006 at 3:05 pm  

      Well its hardly progressive when the subject in hand can’t be discussed for what it is.

      Don’t recall calling anyone racist - and of course it won’t work on here. I think you’ve tried it yourself.

      I can’t see the purpose in addressing Suzzy’s points - as they are the same as many others where its the muslims this and muslims that.

      It used to be nauseating, now just plain boring. And of course hinders real debate.

      As for Ravi, he makes the point that it is not an issue. Which it isn’t. But as for fooling God, then its the institutes that are doing the fooling. But bear in mind that those looking for Islamic banking are no fools either.

      Muslims oppressed by standard banking practises as a concept is pathetic. No one has claimed that. If on the other hand if someone was to claim that the standard banking practises are not in our interest as whole - then that worth discussing.

      Well a relaunch to shed what has become standard fare of ridicule. Nothing too progressive in that approach.

    41. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 15th June, 2006 at 3:09 pm  

      I just want to know of the economics behind it.

      I’m going to get all Melanie Philips on you all for a tick … please excuse me:

      What is driving the economics behind the demand for this sort of financial device? I read an Islamic banker in the FT say that pre 911 this was a financial curiousity not used more, post 911 there has become a huge demand for it.

      I think that Sonia has a valid, but not very well articulated, point: The demand for these finantual tools is directly correlated to increasing polarization and segregation of the Muslim community.



    42. Inders — on 15th June, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

      Scuzzy’s dragon says that all muslims are secret lollypop men.

      Not really, but what he/she does do it put stupid words into the mouths of generalized mythical oppenents who don’t really exist. Poltical correctness gone mad *yawn*. I remember when Britain was great. *yawn*. Forget about their human rights what about our human rights *yawn*.

      You know the worst thing about people like scuzzy, is thatthey think they’re saying something new and exciting and insightful and witty.

    43. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 15th June, 2006 at 3:12 pm  

      (and countries)

    44. Zack — on 15th June, 2006 at 11:57 pm  

      perhaps one man, more than any other, is responsible for this charade that passes in the name of islamic finance - taqi usmani. the false logic and sophistry he employs to justify the principles of islamic finance are at times comical. he and his son have managed to milk the banks with the high consultancy fees they charge. now every other ‘maulvi’ seems to want a slice of the cake.

    45. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 16th June, 2006 at 12:23 am  

      Interestingly on topic, these brothers had 35k in cash stashed under their bed. They are obviously in need of Islamic finance, or a clear explanation of what banks are for.

      Surely they could have put the money in a bank and any interest gained had given it to a charity? Surely this would fit the “spirit” of Islam more than using these odd financial tools that result in a profit via renamed interest?

      I wonder if this will need to an increasing amount of break ins as thieves will think that Islamic + long beard = large bundles of cash under the bed.

      MI5 might not have correctly identified terrorists, but they did find a pair of idiots.



    46. Don — on 16th June, 2006 at 12:27 am  

      Money has no religion. Sonia got it right with the comparison with ‘ethical’ or ‘green’ banking. As long as they are not significantly out of pocket, people with certain convictions will give their business to institutions who can present themselves as compatible with those convictions.

      The difference is that business banking from moslem businesses probably brings in more revenue than organic egg farming. And, most importantly, makes for a smoother flow of oil money. Less static from clerics.

      Of course, as the Blessed Harry Hutton pointed out, this is all just trying to slip the small print past god, but that’s religion for you. Theism + small print.

      Suzzy should step back and see if she can make a point without heavy sarcasm, it’s not easy, but it could be worthwhile. And Refresh is increasingly bringing to mind verse four of ‘Goalhanger’.

    47. Refresh — on 16th June, 2006 at 12:38 am  

      Don, that really did make me laugh.

      I am very close to it.

      I need an outlet, perhaps PP isn’t it.

    48. Don — on 16th June, 2006 at 12:43 am  


    49. Don — on 16th June, 2006 at 12:43 am  

      Damn, lousy punctuation.

    50. Sunny — on 16th June, 2006 at 1:09 am  

      I’m with Sonia on this too. Investing with companies such as HSBC and Lloyds, when they probably invest in other companies that invest in the arms trade/alcohol/tobacco etc, would be unethical. It would be better to go with the cooperative bank.

    51. David — on 16th June, 2006 at 10:23 am  

      Wikipedia has a decent entry on Islamic banking. I can’t see any fundamental difference from Western banking - the bank nearly always gets its money back plus more - except that IB uses an array of euphemisms to replace the word “interest”.

    52. Roger — on 16th June, 2006 at 12:50 pm  

      “Surely they could have put the money in a bank and any interest gained had given it to a charity?”
      If even that is too immoral I would think any bank would welcome customers who insist on not being paid interest.
      One possible regrettable side effect: will burglars make a point of breaking into houses belonging to devout muslims in case they keep all their money at home?

    53. mirax — on 16th June, 2006 at 3:53 pm  

      Call me a cynic. I believe that Islamic banking as it stands is little different from Mecca cola (Ne buvez plus idiot, buvez engagé!) ie do not drink/bank stupid; drink/bank with ideals. Same product, different packaging. Also, Meccacola has the advantage of having muslim ownership!

    54. mirax — on 16th June, 2006 at 4:00 pm  

      It finally dawned on me that what passes for islamic banking really could not pass the ‘ethical/social justice” test when I saw the headline on my local paper just a couple of days ago : the Singapore government plans to go into it bigtime and become a centre for it. Our fellas in “garment” have the instincts and kindliness of sharks.

    55. sonia — on 16th June, 2006 at 4:08 pm  

      nah mirax - i’d agree with you - in this case it’s right to be cynical!it’s just another form of product branding and market segmentation after all..

      “Call me a cynic. I believe that Islamic banking as it stands is little different from Mecca cola (Ne buvez plus idiot, buvez engagé!) ie do not drink/bank stupid; drink/bank with ideals. Same product, different packaging. Also, Meccacola has the advantage of having muslim ownership!”

    56. Vikrant — on 16th June, 2006 at 5:08 pm  

      Say you guys ever heard of Vice Fund? Its the very anti-thesis of Islamic banking.

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