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How to balance form and substance - the role of Sharia Scholars

Dear Reader,

Many times I read, and on all conferences we debate on the issue of form over substance - is their a simple solution?

Let's revisit:

Form over substance means that contemporary Islamic finance takes more emphasize on the form of the contracts (in their Arabic terminology like Murabaha, Musharaka etc.) as in their substance, especially their economic substance, which often looks the same after conducting a sequence of Arabic named contracts.

Scholars have to judge the appearance of the form, meaning the contracts in front of them. A judge shall not guess the intentions of the contractual parties but typically has to rely on the text itself to come a decision. Different schools of Islamic law have different degrees on reliance on the form and considering or rejecting to assume 'intentions' . The hesitance to guess about 'intentions' is based on the fear to commit injustice to the parties and a procedural cause to get evidence about them.

International Borrowers Take to Islamic Bond Market

Until recently the issuance of Islamic bonds, or sukuk, was confined to the Muslim world. But now a number of international borrowers are tapping the markets, including Nomura Holdings in Japan and Europe's first corporate borrower, International Innovative Technologies.
The ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s say they expect to see a rise in the number of sukuk issues by new players over the next 12 months, including issues by borrowers in Singapore, Australia, Luxembourg, Thailand, Hong Kong, France and Russia.
While the Islamic Financial Service Board and the accounting and auditing organization have defined standards for sukuk, defaults over the past year have shown that new guidelines must be set as problems arise, particularly as sukuk start to generate global attention.

Bahrain's Elaf applies for banking license to open in Malaysia

Elaf Bank, a closely held Islamic investment bank in Bahrain, has applied for a banking license in Malaysia.
The Southeast Asian nation plans to issue two more Islamic bank licenses, including one of a new lender that will be jointly established by institutions from Asia and the Middle East.
Bank Negara Malaysia already issued conventional licenses to five foreign banks in June, including National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Indonesia’s PT Bank Mandiri.
The bank would use Malaysia as regional hub, covering Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.
It would try to use this as an opportunity to converge differing interpretations of Islamic finance between Malaysia and the Middle East by getting Shariah boards to work closely.

Australia Planning Tax Changes to Promote Sales of Sukuk: Islamic Finance

Australia plans to change laws to ensure Islamic finance products are taxed fairly as the government seeks to attract investors from the Middle East and Asia, paving the way for sukuk sales.
The national taxation board will hold talks next month in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne on how to best ensure that Islamic finance transactions are treated the same as equivalent non-Islamic deals. The board noted this month that mortgages that comply with religious principles may lead to stamp duty being paid twice, as the financier buys the property and then sells it to his client. Under a conventional mortgage there is only one sale that attracts the duty.
Australia is looking to join countries from Egypt to South Korea in seeking to ease barriers to Shariah- compliant products and tap the industry’s $1 trillion in assets, which the Kuala Lumpur-based Islamic Financial Services Board predicts will reach $1.6 trillion by 2012.

Submissions open for Islamic finance tax paper

The Board of Taxation is calling for submissions to its discussion paper on the tax treatment of Islamic finance, banking and insurance products.
The Board undertook a review of Australia’s tax laws in April to ensure that the law does not inhibit the expansion of Islamic finance, banking and insurance products. This week the Board released a discussion paper considering Australian’s finance taxation framework, issues raised regarding Australia’s current approach to finance taxation and how the taxation of Islamic finance, banking and products was approached internationally.
The Board has welcomed submissions on issues raised in the discussion paper and the closing date is Friday, 17 December, 2010.

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Islamic Finance Group on ResearchGATE, the largest social network for scientists!

ResearchGATE is the largest social network for academic research globally. Dedicated social profiles of researchers allow to enter academic careers, published articles in journals and books, announce fields of research for international exchange just to name a few of the features.

IslamicFinance.de took another effort to create a dedicated group and invite researchers globally to use this platform and foster research in Islamic finance. The last academic initiative taken was to sponsor and start a full fledged platform for the Islamic Finance WIKI, the online encyclopedia.

Researchers are invited to participate in these initiatives.

Please visit:
http://www.researchgate.net/group/Islamic_Finance/

H.E. Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu Secretary General Of The OIC on Poverty Alleviation

Poverty is a complex issue and needs to be tackled on a range of fronts including, but not limited to, improving economic growth. Poverty remains one of the big challenges to socio-economic development of majority of developing countries, especially in Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia. Besides, this phenomenon has brought about problems such as illiteracy, malnutrition, disease and even crime. Global food crisis further worsened the already precarious conditions of poor people in these countries.

To cope with the bane of poverty, the OIC has to reinvigorate its machinery for economic growth and cooperation among member countries through comprehensive mobilization of the resources, within and outside the OIC community. A new approach to economic cooperation was, therefore fashioned out to ensure that all stakeholders are sensitized on the need for the accelerated transformation of the economies of OIC Member-States and the welfare of their peoples.

The journal of strategic thinking in Islamic finance - Issue 3 for free download

In the current issues the following questions are discussed:

How should we recognize excellence in the Islamic finance industry?
How do we identify greatness – of bankers and financiers, of lawyers, of consultants, of scholars?
How do we discourage a culture of „Islamic Awards for Cash??
How do we develop an „Islamic? methodology for rewarding achievement?

n/a

THE CONCEPT AND OPERATIONS OF SWAP AS A HEDGING MECHANISM FOR ISLAMIC FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

"THE CONCEPT AND OPERATIONS OF SWAP AS A HEDGING MECHANISM FOR ISLAMIC FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS"

The main objective of this paper is to give a clearer picture of the swap mechanism as offered by the international Islamic financial institutions and how its operations are structured in accordance with Shariah principles and contracts. In preparing this paper, ISRA has held a series of internal discussions as well as with outside parties, including Shariah experts and operating officers from international banks directly involved in the structuring of Shariah-compliant swap products. Documents related to the products and related academic materials were also referred to, giving a wider and thorough perspective on the issue.

by

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki
Head of Research Affairs Department
International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA)

Shabnam Mokhtar
Researcher
International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA)

Download: http://www.isra.my/media-centre/downloads/summary/29/216.html

S&P: European Finance House Offshore Sharia Fund Assigned 'AAf/S1+' Fund Credit Quality And Volatility Ratings

Press Release

European Finance House Offshore Sharia Fund Assigned 'AAf/S1+' Fund Credit Quality
And Volatility Ratings

LONDON, May 4, 2010--Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today that it assigned
its 'AAf' fund credit quality and its 'S1+' fund volatility ratings to EFH Funds SCA
SICAV-SIF - Liquidity Subfund (the "subfund"), a Luxembourg-domiciled U.S
dollar-denominated liquidity fund, managed by European Finance House (EFH). This is
the first Standard & Poor's fund credit quality and fund volatility rating assigned
to an offshore Islamic fund.

Fund credit quality ratings generally reflect our assessment of the level of
protection against losses from credit defaults and are based on an analysis of the
credit quality of the portfolio investments and the likelihood of counterparty
defaults.

Fund volatility ratings generally reflect Standard & Poor's view of the fund's
sensitivity to interest rate movements, credit risk, investment diversification or
concentration, liquidity, leverage, and other factors.

The ratings reflect Standard & Poor's analysis of the subfund's credit quality and

S&P: Islamic Investors' Risk Tolerance Will Determine Demand For Sharia Fund Ratings

Press Release

Islamic Investors' Risk Tolerance Will Determine Demand For Sharia Fund Ratings,
Report Says

LONDON, May 4, 2010--The economic boom in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region
has fueled the emergence of Islamic finance in the international market in the past
decade. Revenue growth in this region has particularly benefited the asset
management sector, as Standard & Poor's noted in a report published today (see "Using Fund Ratings To Assess Credit And Market Risks In Sharia Funds").

The Middle East is by far the largest market for Sharia-compliant funds, but
conventional players in Europe, South Africa, and the U.S. have also launched a
number of funds that comply with Sharia law during past years, enhancing their
product range to meet the specific requirements of Islamic investors seeking to
invest in this asset class.

The number of product types remains limited, which Standard & Poor's Ratings
Services believes is largely due to the nascent nature of Sharia funds. Funds also
have to be invested in ways that are permitted under Islamic law. Sharia funds,
unlike traditional bond funds, do not invest in conventional rated fixed-income

New observing members of IFSB incl. MunichRe, The German Reinsurance giant

The IFSB said the National Bank of Tajikistan, Prudential Hong Kong, along with Malaysia-based OCBC Al Amin Bank and the Islamic reinsurance unit of Germany's Munich Re will join as "observer" members,

New updated Sharia scholar network analysis by Funds at Work

The 4th executive summmary now focusses on over 220 Shariah scholars with exposure to the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC), including their international board memberships with 1050+ board positions in almost 300
institutions and 24 countries.

It is the single most detailed analysis on Sharia Boards and their scholars published.

CGAP, Deutsche Bank, Grameen-Jameel and IDB partner to launch ‘Islamic Microfinance Challenge 2010'

For Immediate Release

March 8, 2010–CGAP, Deutsche Bank, Grameen-Jameel and Islamic Development Bank have joined forces to challenge the Islamic microfinance industry to develop new ideas for business models in the Islamic Microfinance Challenge 2010: Innovating Sustainable, Scalable, and Market-Driven Models. Islamic microfinance has gained some traction over the past few years, with a swift rise in the number of institutions offering microfinance products in compliance with Islamic principles. But the fundamental challenge for the Islamic microfinance industry remains meeting client demand with affordable, authentic, profitable, and market-driven products.

Australia wants to be hub for Islamic banking

The Australian government has expressed an interest in creating a Islamic finance hub for the nearly one billion Muslims in Asia-Pacific region and expand the Islamic banking to help Australia become a dominant player in regional financing.

Cagamas, Lebanon, Waha Capital Plan Sales: Islamic Bond Alert

The following borrowers are expected to sell Islamic bonds, which use asset returns to pay investors to comply with the religion’s ban on paying interest:

CAGAMAS BHD
LEBANON
WAHA CAPITAL PJSC
KUVEYT TURK KATILIM BANKASI AS
SAUDI ARABIAN OIL CO
LAFARGE MALAYAN CEMENT BHD
QATAR ISLAMIC BANK SAQ
PAKISTAN
TAIBA HOLDING CO
THAILAND
DEVELOPMENT BANK OF KAZAKHSTAN
KHAZANAH NASIONAL BHD

Islamic Finance must turn to its roots, by Muhammad Ayub

The global economy is facing a deep downturn as a result of the crisis. It was due to excessive
ability to create money and credit for earning increasing profits without creating anything of
value for use by the mankind. The system needs radical change in the approach, principles and
the operation of economic and financial systems. Creation of money, and lending it on interest –
interest based debts and financial obligations leading to undue receivables for the lenders, is
the biggest and primary problem of the conventional system. Islamic principles of finance
provide checks for the factors that have distorted the system. Enhanced supply of risk-related
capital, restricted risk taking, balanced return rate structure based on the real sector economic
activities, and supply of money commensurate with prospects of growth in an economy, provide
a sound basis for sustainable development. Hence, Islamic financial institutions and markets
have better ability to sustain in the hard times. Islamic banking industry should not only have
escaped unharmed during the crisis, it should also have availed the opportunity of developing

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