For millions of Muslims, banks are institutions to be avoided. Islam is a religion which keeps Believers from the teller's window. Their Islamic beliefs prevent them from dealings that involve usury or interest (Riba). Yet Muslims need banking services as much as anyone and for many purposes: to finance new business ventures, to buy a house, to buy a car, to facilitate capital investment, to undertake trading activities, and to offer a safe place for savings. For Muslims are not averse to legitimate profit as Islam encourages people to use money in Islamically legitimate ventures, not just to keep their funds idle.
However, in this fast moving world, more than 1400 years after the Prophet (s.a.w.), can Muslims find room for the principles of their religion? The answer comes with the fact that a global network of Islamic banks, investment houses and other financial institutions has started to take shape based on the principles of Islamic finance laid down in the Qur'an and the Prophet's traditions 14 centuries ago. Islamic banking, based on the Qur'anic prohibition of charging interest, has moved from a theoretical concept to embrace more than 100 banks operating in 40 countries with multi-billion dollar deposits world-wide. Islamic banking is widely regarded as the fastest growing sector in the Middle Eastern financial services market. Exploding onto the financial scene barely thirty years ago, an estimated $US 70 billion worth of funds are now managed according to Shari'ah. Deposit assets held by Islamic banks were approximately $US5 billion in 1985 but grew over $60 billion in 1994.
The best known feature of Islamic banking is the prohibition on interest. The Qur'an forbids the charging of Riba on money lent. It is important to understand certain principles of Islam that underpin Islamic finance. The Shari'ah consists of the Qur'anic commands as laid down in the Holy Qur'an and the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). The Shari'ah disallows Riba and there is now a general consensus among Muslim economists that Riba is not restricted to usury but encompasses interest as well. The Qur'an is clear about the prohibition of Riba, which is sometimes defined as excessive interest. "O You who believe! Fear Allah Almighty and give up that remains of your demand for usury, if you are indeed believers." Muslim scholars have accepted the word Riba to mean any fixed or guaranteed interest payment on cash advances or on deposits. Several Qur'anic passages expressly admonish the faithful to shun interest.
The rules regarding Islamic finance are quite simple and can be summed up as follows:  

  • Islamic Banking - Any predetermined payment over and above the actual amount of principal is prohibited.
  • Islamic Banking - The lender must share in the profits or losses arising out of the enterprise for which the money was lent.

  • Islamic Banking -Making money from money is not Islamically


  • Islamic Banking -Gharar (Uncertainty, Risk or Speculation) is also prohibited.

  • Islamic Banking -Investments should only support practices or products that are not forbidden