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Islamic Banking and Its Potential Impact By Thomas A. Timberg (Nathan Associates, Inc.)

Islamic Banking and Its Potential Impact
By Thomas A. Timberg (Nathan Associates, Inc.)

This case study was made possible by support provided in part by the US Agency for International
Development (USAID) Agreement No. LAG-A-00-96-90016-00 through Broadening Access and
Strengthening Input Market Systems Collaborative Research Support Program (BASIS-CRSP) and the
World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU).
All views, interpretations, recommendations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are those of the
author (s) and not necessarily those of the supporting or collaborating institutions.

Islamic Banking and Its Potential Impact

This is a little different from other case studies being presented at this conference. Since
the representatives of the Shariah Bureau of Bank Indonesia responsible for the
supervision and development of Islamic finance will focus on the experience and
progress of Islamic banking in Indonesia, I will focus on some questions about the
impacts of that banking, particularly in rural areas, and aspects that the Bank Indonesia
representatives will not focus on.
Islamic banking is a worldwide phenomenon involving a variety of institutions and
instruments, not one “project” or institution. In the past few decades, Islamic institutions
and instruments have developed in many countries, including the United States. In certain
countries—Iran, Sudan, and Pakistan—all or most financial intermediation conforms to
Islamic shariah (religious law) as defined by local authorities. All three of these countries
also have banking authorities that govern the general level of charges and returns in the
system and these are not usually market-governed systems.
In most other countries, including Indonesia, Islamic transactions and institutions
make up a small part of the total and must compete with conventional financial
institutions. There is even considerable Islamic banking in the United States.1 If the terms
and conditions of Islamic transactions differ too much from those of conventional
institutions they become hard to sustain. The terms and conditions of Islamic institutions
therefore tend to converge with conventional ones.2
Islamic instruments are simply a narrow group of familiar financing instruments. Any
transaction, with any distribution of proceeds, can be conducted as a lease, a sale, a
partnership, a fee-generating transaction, or a loan. Islamic instruments generally avoid
loans. Though the scheduled distribution of proceeds may be the same as for a
conventional loan, the legal risk in case of default is often different in the different forms
of financing.
Those who promote Islamic finance often prefer partnership arrangements in which
profits or turnover is shared because this conforms more fully to the goals of Islamic
banking.3 One goal of Bank Indonesia in promoting Islamic banking is to increase the
1 See Financial Times, March 25, 2003, inter alia.
2 This fact sometimes disturbs observers who feel that they are being confronted simply with a
change of nomenclature. A very articulate answer to this complaint is contained in Mahmoud Amin
El-Gamal, A Basic Guide to Contemporary Islamic Banking and Finance, June 2000, at
3 Zamir Iqbal, “Islamic Financial Systems,” Finance and Development, June 1997, lists six basic
principles: Avoidance of interest, risk sharing, treating of money as potential capital, prohibition of
proportion of financing involving such sharing.4 Nonetheless, more than 80 percent of
Indonesian Islamic financing is in fixed-term forms, mirroring the pattern throughout the
Many involved in Islamic banking would like to minimize the differences between
Islamic and conventional banking and thus they welcome fixed-term forms. However,
because the instruments differ in some degree they typically require some adjustment
from their conventional counterparts.6 For example, in Islamic transactions, the bank
often holds the title of the property concerned. U.S. banking authorities have ruled this
unobjectionable provided that title holding is only a matter of form to accommodate
Islamic strictures.7
Although U.S. and other banking supervision authorities have accommodated Islamic
banking with few changes in procedures, some countries consider that this is not enough.
They have moved to develop national and international Islamic institutions—money
markets, bank regulators, deposit protection, bank accounting, and so on. Centers have
been developed for all these matters—for bank supervision in Malaysia, for accounting in
Bahrain, and several academic centers, including centers at Harvard and Oxford


Indonesia, with the world’s largest population of Muslims, has come to Islamic or shariah
banking fairly late. Many of Indonesia’s Muslim leaders do not believe that commercial
interest in its modern form is prohibited, although others do. After some false starts,
Islamic financial institutions are developing rapidly and have the enthusiastic support of
many young people and intellectuals. The work of the Shariah Bureau of Bank Indonesia
demonstrates that Indonesia, especially in particular parts of the country, has considerable
unmet demand for Islamic banking.9
speculation, sanctity of contracts, and avoidance of prohibited activities such as those connected with
alcohol and gambling. Others might disagree.
4 The word shariah rather than Islamic is usually used in Indonesia.
5 V. Sunderarajan and Luca Errico, Islamic Financial Institutions and Products in the Global
Financial System: Key Issues in Risk Management and Challenges Ahead, IMF Working Paper No.
WP/02/192, Washington, D.C.: IMF, 2002, at http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2002/
wp02192.pdf. See also Perbankan Shariah: Islamic Banking Statistics, Bank Indonesia, December
6 Bank Indonesia, Blueprint of Islamic Banking Development in Indonesia,
7 Comptroller of the Currency, Administrator National Banking, Office of the Counsel, NY.
Interpretative Letter #867, November 1999, 12 USC 34 (7), 12 USC 29; No. 806, December 1997,
12 USC (7), 12 USC 371. From bibliography at http:/www.failaka.com/Failaka/20Research.html.
8 Sunderarajan, op. cit., pp. 16–19.
9 Blueprint, p. 10.
Islamic banking in Indonesia has some unusual characteristics. Like most
microfinance institutions in Indonesia, Islamic institutions, micro or otherwise, are
generally private, for-profit institutions based on the intermediation of depositor funds
secured on a competitive market. In this they are different from microfinance institutions
in almost every other country in the world. They typically have no explicit social goal
other than profit maximization and conformity with Islam, though in some cases a social
element is present, as we will see. Social impacts are thus the result of the market impacts
of the Islamic institutions.
Many Islamic institutions in Indonesia, particularly the Bait Maal Wat Tamwil
(BMT)—Islamic savings and loan cooperatives—are located in rural areas and provide
agricultural financing. Nonetheless, the focus of Indonesian Islamic financial institutions
is typically urban and geared toward the financing of trading operations. There has been
some discussion of Islamic banking for microcredit, but most documented experience that
I know of is in Pakistan, where institutions charge a service fee to cover their costs—
something that is not permitted now in many Islamic banking systems.
In terms of agricultural finance, I have encountered only one institution, a BMT in
Solo, that provided crop loans. This transaction, which involved a fixed repayment in
kind, also might not meet the standards of many Islamic lenders. I am sure other crop
loans exist. A couple of Islamic financial instruments are particularly—and according to
one source, traditionally—designed for agriculture.
The lending of the various venture capital firms in Indonesia, the Modal Ventura, did
support a number of agribusiness ventures on an Islamic, profit-sharing basis. The
example is not necessarily an attractive one, however, because although repayment was
frequently high, the profit-sharing element, in which low profits were reported, and the
devaluation of the Indonesian rupiah led to the decapitalization of these venture capital
Islamic financial institutions in Indonesia include the Bank Muamalat Indonesia,
which has been functioning since 1992, several new Islamic branches of regular
commercial banks, one other newer commercial bank, 80 Bank Perkreditan Rakyat
Shariah (BPRS—smaller banks limited to borrowing and lending in limited areas), and
2,470 BMT (of which a few are reported to be registered with the Ministry of
Cooperatives and Small Business). The Islamic commercial banks and BPRS file
frequent and detailed reports with Bank Indonesia and thus produce reliable and current
statistics. This is not yet the case with BMT.10
The amount of funds in Islamic institutions has been growing rapidly, as the paper,
“The Blueprint of Islamic Banking in Indonesia,” which is also being presented at this
10 I also rely on my visits to Islamic financial institutions in the field and meetings with experts
involved in their development. I thank in particular Mr. Adiwarman Karim and his numerous
colleagues at Bank Muamalat (especially Mr. Pallas Athene and Asril), and Prof. Dr. Amin Azis,
Chairman of Pusat Inkubasi Bisnis Usaha Kecil (Center for Incubating Small Businesses [PINBUK]),
which is a project of Yayasan Inkubasi Bisnis Usaha Kecil (Foundation for Incubating Small
Businesses [YINBUK]) and a director and leader in other financial institutions such as Induk Koperasi
Syariah BMT.
session, illustrates. Assets in Islamic banks have grown from US$52 million to
US$302 million but still account for only 0.26 percent of assets in the banking system.
The figure is somewhat higher if we exclude the considerable assets of conventional
banks that represent government recapitalization bonds of one sort or another. Bank
Indonesia has been moving to ensure that support institutions are developed for Islamic
I will present some data on the largest and oldest Islamic bank, Bank Muamalat, and
the BMT because they will not be presented elsewhere at this conference.

Bank Muamalat

Bank Muamalat’s position as of December 31, 2002 (from quarterly reports posted on the
Bank Indonesia website) can be seen in the following table.12 Various small
approximations were made; precise concepts are specified in Bank Indonesia sources.
Bank Assets Credit Deposits
Loans (%)
Bank Muamalat 238 190 190 4.8
Bank Mandiri 28,103 7,101 20,444 6.6
Banking System 123,556 45,556 92,778 8.1
Bank Muamalat’s loans, according to its recent annual audited reports, are distributed
among Islamic financial instruments as shown in Table 1. (Definitions for these
instruments are given in the appendix.)
About two-thirds of the rupiah financing and half of the foreign currency financing
are for less than one year. This is a high level of longer-term financing for a commercial
bank. There is a trend toward mudharabah. The average return on loans seems to be a
little more than 10 percent, which is not high by Indonesian standards.
Bank Muamalat splits gross revenues with borrowers, not net profit as in other
Islamic institutions, and almost always insists on collateral. Its “sharing,” non-fixed term
lending is thus easier for it to manage than it would be in some other countries.
11 Blueprint, op. cit.
12 The currency conversion rate used for this paper is 9,000 rupiah (Rp) per U.S. dollar (US$).

Table 1. Bank Muamalat Loans by Type of Shariah Instrument (Rp billion)
Financing Instrument 1998 1997
For Rupiah

Bai Bitsaman Ajil 141 179
Murabahah 83 130
Mudharabah 68 29
Musyarakah 13 12
Al Qardhul Hasan 1 1
Total 306 351

For Foreign Currencies

Bai Bitsaman Ajil 78 86
Murabahah 71 21
Mudharabah 7 1
Total 156 108
Grand Total 462 459
The bank made a profit when many Indonesian banks were losing money. It used to
have a higher percentage of nonperforming loans, but the situation appears to be
improving. The pattern of outside funds deposited in Bank Muamalat by instrument can
be seen in the following figures, from a similar source to Table 2.
Savings and Returns 1998 Amount 1998 Returns
Mudharabah Time Deposits 221 28
Securities *** 23
Mudharabah Savings Deposits 103 7
Wadiah Demand Deposits 68 3
Others 3
The cost of outside funds seems to be roughly half that charged borrowers—again
somewhat low by Indonesian standards. Bank Muamalat reports that despite its relatively
low payment of 10–12 percent on deposits, while other banks were paying in the mid-
20s, the nominal amount of deposits declined by only 15 percent. This reflects the strong
customer loyalty enjoyed by all Islamic financial institutions. In recent months a number
of banks have opened or announced that they will shift to Islamic principles or open
shariah branches, so competition for Bank Muamalat is likely to increase.
Bank Muamalat has a specifically social focus, as noted in its 1998 annual report. Its
mission is “to become the catalyst for Islamic financial institution development,” and
“enhance its role in small scale industry finance.” Almost 17 percent of its lending goes
to small and medium enterprises, which is above average for commercial banks. Bank
Muamalat intends to “selectively [distribute] its financing with emphasis on small
businesses by using its shariah financial institution network,” 29 of the 78 BPRS, and 100
of the 2,000 BMT, and aspires, as well, to serve the kopontren (registered multipurpose
cooperatives connected with pesantren, Islamic school dormitories), which often have a
savings and credit unit.
Bank Muamalat is also one of three sponsors that conduct extensive training for
BMT. The other training sponsors are the Indonesian Council of Muslim Intellectuals and
the Majlis Ulema Indonesia (a group of Islamic scholars) of Yayasan Inkubasi Bisnis
Usaha Kecil (Foundation for Incubating Small Businesses [YINBUK]).

Bank Perkreditan Rakyat Shariah

The roughly 80 shariah BPRS have Rp 80.5 billion in total assets. They were created as a
legal category under the 1988 banking reforms. They are permitted to borrow and lend
money but do not have access to the payments system, have lower capital requirements
than commercial banks, and are subject to inspection by Bank Indonesia. BPRS have
been growing rapidly (as noted in the Bank Indonesia Blueprint) although they still
constitute a small portion of the total.

Bait Maal Wat Tamwil—Islamic Savings and Loan Cooperatives

The BMT savings and loan cooperatives follow Islamic procedures as well. So far only a
few of these are registered with the Ministry of Cooperation and Small Enterprise and are
subject to its rules. The BMT, like the BPRS, more or less follow the general rules for
savings and loan co-ops.
Most BMT are associated with Induk Koperasi Syariah BMT (Inkopsyah BMT),
which was established by 18 registered Islamic BMT and 2,200 unregistered “pre–coops.”
13 Other BMT are associated with other organizations, especially the foundation
Dompet Dhuafa and some religious organizations, or are independent.
The registered cooperatives are either free-standing savings and loan cooperatives
(Koperasi Simpan Pinjam–KSP) or units in broader cooperatives (Unit Simpan Pinjam—
USP). I visited one Islamic USP that was part of a multipurpose cooperative that operated
a store and garment factory as well as the USP; another was part of a kopontren. BMT,
even free-standing ones, typically are closely associated with other Islamic institutions.
The Mohamadiya Polyteknik in Karaganyar told us that it has five BMT associated with
The legal status of BMT, unless they are registered as cooperatives, is ambiguous,
although the Ministry of Cooperatives and local governments often work with them.
Pusat Inkubasi Bisnis Usaha Kecil (Center for Incubating Small Businesses [PINBUK])
has helped develop a regulatory system for them, and USAID contributed to a national
13 Dr. Amin Aziz, “The Development of Micro Enterprise Institutions in Indonesia: The Case of
National Board of Revenue Sharing Micro Enterprise Cooperatives (Induk Koperasi Syariah Bmt,
Baitul Maal Wat Tamwil), presented at the Symposium of the APEC Center for Entrepreneurship,
Jakarta, August 10, 1999.
seminar on the subject. A strong consensus exists on the need for some regulatory
scheme to be developed, but the form that such a scheme would take is still unclear.
As of June 1998, there were 330,000 members in 2,470 BMT with Rp 187 billion in
outstanding loans in this network. The number of BMT rose from 300 at the end of 1995
to 700 at the end of 1996 and 1,501 at the end of 1997. The BMT currently have 8,253
paid staff, mostly university graduates, who have been trained by PINBUK. As of June
1998, of the $20 million of outstanding BMT loans, the overwhelming amount was short
term, averaged $100 per loan, and went to microenterprises. About half of the borrowers
are reported to be “microenterprise groups.” Some of these are possibly guarantee groups
of individual microentrepreneurs, but most are presumably classic NGO group
enterprises. The borrowers are predominantly small traders.14
This $20 million of small lending was 83 percent funded by the savings of members,
and 14 percent from the capital of the cooperatives. Apparently, no funds came from
BPRS, though some funds have come from Bank Negara Indonesia, a government bank,
Bank Maumalat, and some government enterprises, especially Pertamina. The BMT
appear to be 100 percent lent up, with no liquid funds in bank accounts or cash. So far,
overdue amounts are negligible; less than one-third of amounts due are more than a
month overdue.15

Kopontren—Cooperatives Connected with Pesantren

The 1,500 kopontren connected with pesantren are registered with the Ministry of
Cooperatives. Most of their savings units do not follow the Islamic system, although
some are beginning to do so: One hundred to 300 of the kopontren savings units are
estimated to have shifted to Islamic banking. The Islamic financial institutions look on
them as an important target market segment, but much of the kopontren leadership does
not want to identify solely with Islamic financial institutions. Because the pesantren are
mostly in rural areas, their cooperatives and credit are frequently connected with


Though Bank Muamalat and the BPRS offer a full range of Islamic deposit and credit
products, most Islamic credit in Indonesia has taken the form of trade finance (bai al
salaam, bai bitsama ajil, istishna, or murabaha), though the proportion declines as the
partnership or trust provision of working capital (musyarakat and mudharabah) increases.
Rates (charged and paid) differ considerably between institutions and from time to time,
but the average rates on Islamic credit often approximate those of other institutions.
14 See footnote 13.
15 See footnote 13.
Although Bank Muamalat did not suffer as severely as many large banks from the
financial crisis, it did require some management change and has begun healthy growth
again. BPRS and BMT have been growing despite the monetary crisis.
The BMT have mobilized a great deal of savings and provided financial services to a
large constituency, many of whom have never been served before. They have a large
prospective market and the advantage of building on the informal network created by the
Islamic institutions with which they are associated as well as the moral sanction that
comes with that affiliation. However, as largely unsupervised and unguaranteed
institutions, many of which are run by relatively inexperienced personnel using new
methodologies, they clearly present prudential dangers—though not different in principle
from those posed by all savings and loan cooperatives in Indonesia.
In form rather than substance Islamic finance is familiar. Many of its instruments are
the same as those used by other financial institutions—leasing, advance purchase, etc.
The difference lies in the first instance in the social impulse for sharing—responsibility,
risk, and property. Consequently, fixed-interest transactions in which risk is assigned
entirely to the borrower are avoided. More important for participants, Islamic finance
represents part of a divinely sanctioned economic gestalt into which they fit.
Thus Islamic finance
· Enables financial services to an otherwise underserved group including small,
rural, and agricultural producers;
· Furthers a social thrust to assist smaller producers and consumers and is often
given in the context of a movement to assist them; but
· Requires some adjustment, mostly formal, of techniques and regulation to take
account of Islamic values.
Islamic finance, as part of a financial sector development strategy, ought to be
encouraged, mainstreamed, and adjusted to. An IMF study on the matter concludes that
Islamic finance should be encouraged by regulation and supervision that accommodate its
forms while ensuring that their unfamiliarity is not exploited to defraud clients. Normal
prudential and supervision norms should be adequate. The IMF study does, however,
suggest that higher capital adequacy ratios and more detailed disclosure requirements
may be appropriate.16 The paper suggests a modified CAMEL (capital adequacy, asset
quality, management, earnings, liquidity) system of banking supervision for Islamic
banking. Special risks are the generally uncollateralized nature of Islamic banking and
greater risks in the profit-sharing forms of lending. To the extent that Islamic banking is
collateralized or does not engage in profit-sharing forms, the issues are less serious.
16 Luca Errico and Mitra Farahbaksh, Islamic Banking: Issues in Prudential Regulations and
Supervision, IMF Working Paper, March 1998. Other IMF publications include Nadeem Ul Haque
and Abbas Mirakhor, The Design of Instruments for Government Finance in an Islamic Economy,
IMF Working Paper, March 1998; and V. Sundarajan, David Marston, and Ghiatt Shabsigh, Monetary
Operations and Government Debt Management under Islamic Banking, IMF Working Paper,
September 1998. These documents can be accessed at http://www.imf.org/external/pubind.htm.
Nonetheless, the Islamic banks are often more comfortable with specialized regulations
and infrastructure that recognize their peculiarities.The BMT in particular need adequate
supervision and some guarantee for their depositors, though not as elaborate as those
provided commercial banks and BPRs.
Islamic banking should be mainstreamed by maximizing the interaction between
Islamic institutions and the rest of the financial system, subject to the constraints of
shariah. The financial system and its regulation should be adjusted as necessary to
accommodate the other two thrusts.
Donors should ensure that their assistance to financial system development includes
Islamic financial institutions. This will help include otherwise excluded groups and avoid
regulatory loopholes.


These definitions for the borrowing and lending instruments used by Bank Muamalat,
Indonesia’s first shariah commercial bank, come from its 1998 annual report. 17

Advance Purchase Forms
Cost Plus Financing—Murabaha

A sales contract between the bank and the customer for the sale of goods at a price that
includes a profit margin agreed to by both parties. As a financing technique it involves
the purchase of goods by the bank as requested by the customer. Repayment is conducted
by installments within a specified period.

Purchase with Specification—Istishna

A sales contract between the bank and the customer wherein the customer specifies goods
to be made. After the goods are made or shipped the bank sells them to the customer
according to a pre-agreed arrangement.

Purchase with Deferred Delivery—Bai al Salam

A sales contract whereby the price is paid in advance by the bank and the goods delivered
later by the customer to a designee.

Lease and Hire Purchase—Ijarah Mutahia Bittamlik

A contract under which the bank leases equipment to a customer for a rental fee. At the
end of the lease period the customer buys the equipment at an agreed price from the bank,
with the rental fees already paid being part of the price.
17 This list differs in minor particulars from the lists in other sources such as a recent IMF study,
which mentions in addition: mazar’ah—the counterpart of mudharaba for farming in which the bank
provides land or funds and the harvest is shared; musaqat—the traditional counterpart of the
musharaka in orchard keeping; direct investment; bai’salam or bai’salaf—purchase with deferred
delivery; and joalah—service charge. See V. Sundararajan and Luca Errico, op. cit., pp 21–22.
Profit-Sharing Forms
Trust Financing/Trustee Profit-sharing—Mudharabah/Mudharabah Muqayyadah

The bank provides the capital (shahibul maal) and the customer manages the project
(mudharib). The gross revenues from the project are split according to a pre-agreed ratio.

Partnership/Participation Financing—Musyarakah

A partnership between the bank customer in which profits are shared on a pre-agreed
basis but losses are shared on the basis of equity contribution. This partnership may be
managed by the bank or the customer, jointly, or by a third party.

Benevolent Loan—Qardh ul Hasan

An interest-free loan, generally with a charitable motivation.

Collateral Agreement—Rahn

An agreement to provide collateral to the bank, either in the bank’s or the customer’s
custody as appropriate. This is connected with some other form of lending.


An agreement to authorize another to be an agent to conduct some business. In this case,
an authorization to the bank to conduct some business on the customer’s behalf.


An agreement by the bank to undertake some of the liabilities of the customer. When the
liabilities mature the customer pays back the bank. The bank is paid a fee for undertaking
the liabilities concerned.

Ummat Savings—Tabungan Ummat

A savings account from which money can be withdrawn any time at any Muamalat office
or ATM. Customers share in the bank’s revenue. The Ummat Savings customers also
receive life insurance and the opportunity to win a free Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca.

Trendi Savings—Tabungan Trendi

A savings account for teenagers and students. Besides accident insurance coverage, it
offers special prizes for highly ranked students and one-year scholarships for 50 students.
Ukhuwah Savings—Tabungan Ukhuwah

A savings account conducted in cooperation with Dompet Dhuafa Republika for
convenience in making regular and automatic payment of zakat, infaq, and shadaqat in
three packages: Rp 25,000, Rp 50,000, and Rp 100,000. This savings account also gives
the depositor an ATM card, shopping discounts at certain shops, and accident insurance

Arafah Savings—Tabungan Arafah

A savings account designed specifically for the hajj pilgrimage. The saving scheme will
help customers in planning their hajj in accordance with their financial capability and
intended hajj date. Life insurance is also provided. The depositors are also eligible for

Fulinves Deposits—Deposito Fulinves

A time deposit with a revenue sharing package available for various terms and with a
chance to win prizes. Life insurance is provided to those with longer-term deposits.

Wadi’ah Current Account—Giro Wadi’ah

A current account providing checking and allowing some profit sharing.

Muamalat Financial Institution Pension Fund—Dana Pensiun Lembaga Keuangan

A pension fund for those who make regular deposits. The bank intends to add a variant
that provides life insurance.


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