Globally, Islamic finance is estimated to be worth about $300 billion, growing at 20% annually. With this growth, the need for Shariah compliant financial products has also increased. The product offerings are similar to normal banking products; however the main difference is that the funds collected are not for the purpose of accumulating/ paying interest or invested in any negative businesses that harm morality of the society. The basic principle of Islamic banking is the prohibition of interest.
India with a 13% Muslim population, the highest in a non-Islamic country, should have been in the forefront of Islamic banking initiatives, but it is yet to be permitted here. It will hugely benefit the Indian economy by attracting investments from the cash rich Middle Eastern economies on the lookout for new investment destinations. Five Indian companies, Reliance Industries, Infosys Technologies Wipro, Tata Motors and Satyam Computer Services figure in the Standard & Poor’s BRIC Shariah Index.
Under Islamic banking, the conditions for investing in shares are:
- It is not permissible to acquire the shares of the companies providing financial services on interest, like conventional banks, insurance companies, or the companies involved in some other business not approved by the Shariah, such as companies manufacturing, selling or offering liquors, pork haram (prohibited) meat, or involved in gambling, night club activities, pornography, gold trading, advertising and media (with the exception of newspapers).
- If the main business of the companies is halal (lawful), like automobiles, textiles etc, but they deposit their surplus amounts in an interest-bearing account or borrow money on interest, the shareholder disapprove such dealings.
- If income from interest-bearing accounts is included in the income of the company, the proportion of such income in the dividend paid to the shareholder must be given to charity, and must not be retained by investor.
- The shares of a company are negotiable only if the company owns some illiquid assets. If all the assets of a company are in liquid form, i.e. in the form of money, they cannot be purchased or sold except on par value, because in this case the share represents money only and the money cannot be traded in except at par.
- For companies whose main activity is not un-Islamic but a part of their income is not purely Islamic or a minor part of it comes from un-Islamic activities are prohibited, for example hotel, sugar, entertainment etc.
Once companies are chosen from the above criteria, further screening is done on the basis of following financial ratios:
- Exclude companies if Total Debt divided by Trailing 12-Month Average Market Capitalization is greater than or equal to 33%.
- Exclude companies if the sum of Cash and Interest Bearing Securities divided by Trailing 12-Month Average Market Capitalization is greater than or equal to 33%.
- Exclude companies if Accounts Receivables divided by Total Assets is greater than or equal to 45%.
For profits made through capital gains, the accepted rule is that if requirements of the ‘halal’ shares are observed, then most of the assets of the company are ‘halal’, and a very small proportion of its assets may have been created by the income of interest, so the whole price of the share therefore, may be taken as the price of the ‘halal’ assets only.
The real estate sector is attracting investment from Middle East, as fund raising has got difficult in this sector. Around 50% of Indian stocks are believed to be Shariah complaint, but very few companies realize the potential., which is primarily due to non-availability of data on Shariah based investment appetite among local Muslims.
Investors, local as well as global, will find Indian stock market a better place to invest, and sectors like IT, pharmaceuticals, automobile, energy, cement, steel and mining to choose from. Thus Islamic investment options available in India are wider and much better than the availability of the same in many Islamic countries.