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Glossary of Key Islamic Finance Terms

A

Ajr: commission or fee charged for services

Akar: instalment sale to invest in property
Financing to give customers an opportunity to invest in property with repayment to the Bank in the form of instalments over a period of time.

B

Bai al Arboon: down payment sale
A sale agreement in which a down payment is provided in advance as part payment towards the price of the commodity for reserving the commodity. The down payment is forfeited if the buyer does not return to take the commodity and the seller is entitled to sell the commodity.

Bai Al Ajel: deferred payment sale
A sale on a deferred payment basis. Equipment or goods are sold by the Bank to the client for an agreed lump sum price which includes the profit required by the Bank without disclosing the cost. The client may pay by instalments within a pre-agreed period, or in a lump sum.

Bai Inah: sale and buy-back
The sale and buy-back of an asset for a higher price than that for which the seller originally sold it. The seller immediately buys back the asset just sold on a deferred payment basis at a price higher than the original price. This can be seen as a loan in the form of a sale.

C

Eirad: credit facilities granted against assignment of an income stream for a specific period

F

Fiqh: Islamic jurisprudence

G

Gharar: uncertainty
One of three fundamental prohibitions in Islamic finance (the other two being Riba and Maysir). Gharar is a concept that covers certain types of haram uncertainty whereby one or more parties stand to be deceived through ignorance of an essential element in the contract. Gambling is a form of Gharar because the gambler is ignorant of the result of the gamble. The prohibition on Gharar is often used as the grounds for criticism of conventional financial practices such as short selling, speculation and derivatives.

H

Halal: lawful, permissible

Haram: unlawful, forbidden
Activities, professions, contracts and transactions that are explicitly prohibited by the Quran or the Sunnah.

Hawala: bill of exchange, remittance
A contract which allows a debtor to transfer his debt obligation to a third party who owes the former a debt. The mechanism of Hawala is used for settling international accounts by book transfers, thus obviating the need for a physical transfer of cash.

L

Ijara: leasing
A lease agreement whereby a bank or financier buys an item for a customer and then leases it to him over a specific period, thus earning profits for the Bank by charging rental. The duration of the lease and the fee are set in advance. During the period of the lease, the asset remains in the ownership of the lessor (the Bank), but the lessee has the right to use it. After the expiry of the lease agreement, this right reverts to the lessor.

Ijara Thumma Bai: leasing to purchase
The same principle governing an Ijara contract, but at the end of the lease period the lessee buys the asset for an agreed price through a purchase contract.

Ijarah wa Iqtina: buy-back leasing
Istisnaa: advance purchase of goods or buildings
A contract of acquisition of goods by specification or order, where the price is paid in advance, or progressively in accordance with the progress of a job. For example, to purchase a yet to be constructed house, payments would be made to the builder according to the stage of work completed. This type of financing, along with Salam, is used as a purchasing mechanism, and Murabaha and Bai Al Ajel are for financing sales.

K

Kafalah: guarantee
Shariah principle governing guarantees. It applies to a debt transaction in the event of a debtor failing to pay.

M

Maysir: gambling
One of three fundamental prohibitions in Islamic finance (the other two being Riba and Gharar). The prohibition on Maysir is often used as grounds for criticism of conventional financial practices such as speculation, conventional insurance and derivatives.

Mudaraba: trust financing, profit sharing
An investment partnership, whereby the investor (the Rab al mal) provides capital to the entrepreneur (the mudarib) in order to undertake a business or investment activity. While profits are shared on a pre-agreed ratio, losses are born by the investor alone. The mudarib loses only his share of the expected income.

The investor has no right to interfere in the management of the business, but he can specify conditions that would ensure better management of his money. In this way Mudaraba is sometimes referred to as a sleeping partnership.

A joint Mudaraba can exist between investors and a bank on a continuing basis. The investors keep their funds in a special fund and share the profits before the liquidation of those financing operations that have not yet reached the stage of final settlement. Many Islamic investment funds operate on the basis of joint Mudaraba.

Mudarib: entrepreneur in a Mudaraba contract
The entrepreneur or investment manager in a Mudaraba who puts the investor’s funds in a project or portfolio in exchange for a share of the profits. A Mudaraba is similar to a diversified pool of assets held in a discretionary asset management portfolio.

Murabaha: cost-plus financing
A form of credit in which the bank buys an item and sells it to the customer on a deferred basis. The price includes a profit margin agreed by both parties. Repayment, usually in instalments, is specified in the contract.

The legality of this financing technique has been questioned because of its similarity to Riba. However, the modern Murabaha has become a popular financing technique among Islamic banks, used widely for consumer finance, real estate and the purchase of machinery and for financing short-term trade.

Musharaka: joint venture, profit and loss sharing
An investment partnership in which all partners are entitled to a share in the profits of a project in a mutually agreed ratio. Losses are shared in proportion to the amount invested. All partners to a Musharaka contribute funds and have the right to exercise executive powers in that project, similar to a conventional partnership structure and the holding of voting shares in a limited company.

This equity financing arrangement is widely regarded as the purest form of Islamic financing. The two main forms of Musharaka are:

Permanent Musharaka: an Islamic bank participates in the equity of a project and receives a share of the profit on a pro rata basis. The length of contract is unspecified, making it suitable for financing projects where funds are committed over a long period.

Diminishing Musharaka: this allows equity participation and sharing of profits on a pro rata basis, and provides a method through which the bank keeps on reducing its equity in the project, ultimately transferring ownership of the asset to the participants. The contract provides for payment over and above the bank’s share in the profit for the equity held by the bank. Simultaneously the entrepreneur purchases some of the bank’s equity, progressively reducing it until the bank has no equity and thus ceases to be a partner.

Mutajara: an asset financing mechanism with deferred payment A financing agreement whereby the bank purchases a commodity or an asset and sells it to the client based on a purchase promise from the client with a deferred price higher than the cash price, thus making the client a debtor to the bank for the sale amount and for the period agreed in the contract.

Q

Qard Hasan: benevolent loan
A loan contract between two parties for social welfare or for short-term bridging finance. Repayment is for the same amount as the amount borrowed. The borrower can pay more than the amount borrowed so long as it is not stated by contract.

R

Riba: interest
An increase, addition, unjust return, or advantage obtained by the lender as a condition of a loan. Any risk-free or “guaranteed” rate of return on a loan or investment is Riba. Riba in all its forms is prohibited in Islam.

In conventional terms, Riba and “interest” are used interchangeably, although the legal notion extends beyond mere interest.

S

Shariah: Islamic jurisprudence

Sukuk: Islamic bond
An asset-backed bond which is structured in accordance with Shariah and may be traded in the market. A Sukuk represents proportionate beneficial ownership in the underlying asset, which will be leased to the client to yield the return on the Sukuk.

T

Takaful: Islamic insurance
Based on the principle of mutual assistance, Takaful provides mutual protection of assets and property and offers joint risk-sharing in the event of a loss by one of the participants. Takaful is similar to mutual insurance in that members are the insurers as well as the insured. Conventional insurance is prohibited in Islam because its dealings contain several haram elements, such as Gharar and Riba.

Tawarruq: reverse Murabaha
In personal financing, a client with a genuine need buys an item on credit from the bank on a deferred payment basis and then immediately resells it for cash to a third party. In this way, the client can obtain cash without taking out an interest-based loan.

U

Ujrah: fee
The financial charge for using services, or Manfaat (wages, allowance, commission, etc.).

W

Waqf: charitable trust

Z

Zakat: religious tax
An obligatory contribution which every wealthy Muslim is required to pay to the Islamic state, or to distribute amongst the poor. According to Islam, Zakat – the third pillar of Islam – purifies wealth and souls. Zakat is levied on cash, cattle, agricultural produce, minerals, capital invested in industry and business.

 

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