Riba - Relevance To Modern Times - Financial Intermediation

Financial Intermediation

Writers like Fazl al-Rahman say the interest rate is like price in the modern economy. It is used to regulate the demand of finance, and if the interest rate is taken to zero, the world will be faced with limited supply and infinite demand. How would credit be allocated?

The main answer to this question is that he believes that finance, for productive projects, can be provided through profit-share, cost-plus basis, or leasing.

Writers like Siddiqi suggest a two-tier mudarabah model as the basis of a riba-free banking system. This involves the bank acting as the capital partner in a back-to-back mudarabah contract with the depositor on one side and the entrepreneur on the other side. This model can be supplemented by a number of fixed-return models (like Ijara, Istisna, Murabaha etc.). In practice the murabaha model is the bank's favourite, as it bears results most similar to the interest-based finance models.

However, it has been criticised as not following the possession by bank/seller requirements and risks taken by the financier are non-existent (being insured or guarantees provided by the customer). Additionally, Khattab has criticised the whole two-tier mudarabah system as having no basis in Islamic law, as there are no instances where the mudharib passed funds onto another mudharib, and as such is questionable.

Banks have demand deposits in the nature of loans to the bank and investment deposits. Some offer guaranteed savings accounts with permission to use the funds and a discretionary reward to the depositor as in the case of the Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad. Initially, demand deposit accounts were more common, but over time, most accounts are now investment accounts, which reflects the confidence of depositors in the ability of banks to generate a return. Islamic banking operations are successfully operating in many Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Iran, Sudan, Turkey and Bahrain.

Insurance operations, starting in Sudan in 1977, have now been successfully implemented in a number of countries from Malaysia to Jordan. The takaful mudarabah model is used, compensating premium-paying subscribers in case they incur losses or damages without any interest-based activities.

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