Concepts & Definitions

What is Sharia’a and which of its principles apply to Islamic Banking?

Sharia'a is the set of rules derived from the Holy Quran, the authentic traditions (Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and Scholarly opinions (Ijtihad) based on the Quran and the Sunnah. The principles of Sharia’a that govern Islamic Banking include:

  • Prohibition of interest (Riba) in all financial transactions
  • Prohibition of speculations (Gharar)
  • Avoidence of oppression (Zulm)
  • Obligations of trust (Amanah), covenants (Uqud), interdiction against unlawful earnings and expenditures (Haram)

What is the difference between Islamic and Conventional Banks?

Islamic Banks
  • The functions and operating modes of Islamic banks are based on the principles of Islamic Sharia'a.
  • Islamic banks promote risk sharing between provider of capital (Investor) and the user of funds (Entrepreneur).
  • Islamic banks have no provision to charge any extra money from the defaulters except for compensation (typically such proceeds are given to charity).
  • The status of an Islamic bank in relation to its customers is that of partners, investors and traders, buyers and sellers.
  • Islamic banks can only guarantee deposits for deposit accounts based on the principle of Al-Wadiah, thus the depositors are guaranteed repayment of their funds. However, if the account is based on Mudharabah, customers have to share in a loss position.
Conventional Banks
  • The functions and operating modes are based on fully man made principles (largely capitalism theory).
  • The Depositors/Lenders are guaranteed a predetermined interest rate.


  • Conventional banks charge additional money (penalty) in case of default.


  • Relationship is often defined as that of a Creditor / Debtor.


  • Conventional banks guarantee all its deposits.



Modes of Financing
The fact that Islamic laws prohibit paying and receiving interest does not imply that they frown on making money or encourage reverting to an all-cash or barter economy. They encourage all parties in a financial transaction to share the risk and profit or loss of the venture. Depositors in Islamic banks can be compared to investors or shareholders, who earn dividends when the Bank makes a profit or lose part of their savings if the Bank posts a loss. The rationale is to link the return in an Islamic contract to productivity and the quality of the project, thereby ensuring a more equitable distribution of wealth.  Islamic financial instruments take the form of contracts between providers and users of funds to manage risk.  As such, on the asset side Islamic banks engage in financing activities according to the various contracts available or what is known as modes of financing.

Murabaha is defined as a cost-plus sale, where the seller accurately mentions the cost he has incurred on the commodities to be sold and sells it to another person by adding some profit or mark-up thereon which is known to the buyer. As the requirement includes an 'honest declaration of cost', Murabaha takes three different forms; Bayu-Al-Amanah ('fiduciary' sale), Tawliyah (sale at cost) and Wadiah (sale at specified loss).
Istisna’ is a contract to purchase for a definite price something that may be manufactured or constructed according to certain specifications. In other word, it is a contract of sale of specified items to be manufactured or constructed with an obligation on the part of the manufacturer or contractor to deliver them to the customer upon completion. The contract of Istisna’ creates a moral obligation on the manufacturer to manufacture the goods.
An agreement between the Bank and the customer to contribute to a certain investment enterprise (existing or new), or to jointly own a certain property either permanently or according to a diminishing arrangement ending with the acquisition by the customer of the full ownership. The profit is shared as per the agreement set between parties while the loss is shared in proportion to the invested capital of both parties.
Bai' Salam means a contract in which advanced payment is made for goods to be delivered later on. The seller undertakes to supply some specific goods to the buyer at a future date in exchange of an advance price fully paid at the time of contract. It is necessary that the quality of the commodity intended to be purchased is fully specified leaving no ambiguity leading to dispute. The objects of this sale are goods and cannot be gold, silver or currencies based on these metals (these are “Ribawi” items). Barring this, Bai' Salam covers almost everything that is capable of being definitely described as to quantity, quality, and workmanship.
Mousawama is the negotiation of a selling price between two parties without reference by the seller to either costs or asking  for price. While the seller may or may not have full knowledge of the cost of the item being negotiated, they are under no obligation to reveal these costs as part of the negotiation process. This difference in obligation by the seller is the key distinction between Murabaha and Mousawama with all other rules as described in Murabaha remaining the same. Mousawama is the most common type of trading negotiation seen in Islamic commerce. This transaction is executed when a customer approaches the Bank for assistance in

purchasing a particular commodity. In such circumstances, the Bank buys the goods from a third party (supplier) at a price agreed between the Bank and the supplier without interference from the customer.  The Bank will then offer the goods to the customer at a price including profit. The customer then has the option to accept the goods or reject it within a specified period of time. If the customer accepts the goods, the Bank will sell the goods to the customer and he/she will then pay the sale price in installments to the Bank over an agreed period of time. A Mousawama sale transaction is usually confined to goods purchased from the local market.

An agreement between the Bank and an agent whereby the agent utilizes funds according to specific conditions in return for a certain fee (a lump sum of money or a percentage of the amount invested). The agent is obliged to return the invested amount in case of default, negligence or violation of any of the terms and conditions of the Wakala.


An agreement whereby the Bank (Lessor) purchases or constructs an asset for lease according to the customer’s request (Lessee), based on a promise to lease the asset for a specific period and against certain rent installments. Ijarah could end by transferring the ownership of the asset to the lessee. 

Sukuk is the Arabic name for a financial certificate which can be seen as an Islamic equivalent of bond. Sukuks are securities that comply with the Islamic law (Sharia’a) and its investment principles which prohibit the charging or paying of interest.
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