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Islamic microfinance and socially responsible

Table of contents:
1. Introduction
2. The basic principles of Islam and Islamic finance
2.1 The principles of Islamic banking
2.2 The Islamic financing contracts
a Murabaha
b Ijara and Ijara wa-Iqtina
c Istinsa
d Mudaraba
e Musharaka
3. The basic principles of microfinance
4. Islamic microfinance
3. Future perspectives References

1. Introduction

In his famous book Wealth of Nations, “Adam Smith argued that participation in
religious sects could potentially convey two economic advantages to adherents
(Anderson 1988, Noland).The first could be seen as a reputational signal: while the poor
might look alike to potential employers, lenders, and customers, membership in a
specific group could convey a reduction in risk associated with the particular individual
and ultimately improve the efficient allocation of resources. Second, religious groups
could also provide for extra-legal means of establishing trust and sanctioning miscreants
in intragroup transactions, again reducing uncertainty and improving efficiency,
especially where civil remedies for failure to uphold contracts were weak ”1.
This paper aims to focus on different issues: whether the economic behavior can be
influenced by the predominant religious belief, the role of Islamic finance in Muslim
societies nowadays but most of all its potential to fight poverty in those countries
belonging to the so called developing world, when related with important economic
development tools such as microfinance.
Both Islamic finance and microfinance seem to be concepts surrounded by a
“fashionable aura” in Muslim developing countries: banks, financial institutions, MFIs,
NGOs are very interested in the issues and most of all in the relation between the two,
especially when it comes to fighting poverty. Strange enough, even if the interest is
high2, there are very few examples of actual MFIs operating in the field of Islamic
finance and Islamic banks involved in microfinance.
Nevertheless, evidence proved that there is a need for and an interest on Islamic
microfinance, for different reasons:
a. microfinance is a very flexible tool, whose models can be replicated but require to
be tailored on the local socio-economic and cultural characteristics
b. the potential demand for tailored microfinance services is still largely unmet, also
in countries where the majority of the population is constituted by Muslims
1 Noland M. “Religion, Culture and Economic Performance” Institute for International Economics
2 For example, Sanable dedicated a workshop to Islamic finance during its first Annual Conference with
the participation of: Mr. Bassem Khanfar, General Manager Microfund for Women, Jordan
Dr. Mohammed N. Alam, Islamic Microfinance Consultant, Canada, Mr. Kais Aliriani, Head of Unit,
Small and Micro Enterprise Development Unit Social Fund for Development, Yemen, Mr. Magdy
Moussa, Senior Manager and Finance Advisor Environmental Quality International (EQI), Egypt Ms. Eva
Stenius, Associate JAK Members Bank, Sweden
c. some surveys proved that there is a high demand for Islamic banking especially in
low and middle income predominantly Muslim societies3
d. commercial banks could be interested in this issue as a tool to reach interesting
market niches, create loyalty in their clients and accomplish their client
satisfaction strategies
e. Islamic finance, microfinance and socially responsible finance share most of their
principles, such as:
- Prohibition of all forms of economic activity which are morally or
socially injurious
- Egalitarian approach (no restriction to any category of clientele)
- Focus on the well being of the community as a whole, concentrating
on the poor, destitute or deprived sections of the society
- Aim at social justice
- Advocacy of entrepreneurship
- Advocacy for financial inclusion through partnership finance4
- Participatory approach
- Risk sharing
Moreover, they both constitute forms of finance that represent unconventional but
effective solutions to financial needs, focusing on activities that lack capital but
are promising and show a potential.
At a very basic level, the disbursement of collateral free loans in some cases constitutes
an example of how Islamic banking and microfinance share common aims. Thus
Islamic banking and microcredit programs, may complement one another in both
ideological and practical terms (Dhumale, Sapcanin, 1999).
Even if they both constitute fairly new trends in the financial environment, the inclusion
of Islamic finance and microfinance in the activities of the traditional banking system
evolved in a quite similar way, because they both started from a marginal position and
managed to reach a growing popularity.
3 Ibrahim M. 2004 in Range 2004
4 Ferro N. “Value Through Diversity: Microfinance and Islamic finance and Global Banking”,
Fondazione ENI Enrico Mattei, June 2005
2. The basic principles of Islam and Islamic finance

Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, a process of growth that does not affect
only the traditional Islamic countries, namely those located in Northern Africa and
Middle East, but also other countries in every continent. Muslims cover approximately a
quarter of the world’s population, 1.2 billion people.
According to the tradition, the Prophet Muhammad was born in Makkah, a city in the
present-day Saudi Arabia in 570 C.E. Muhammad received divine revelations (The
Holy Quran) over a period of 23 years in the seventh century of the Christian Era.
For Muslims, the Holy Quran and the Sunnah constitute the primary sources of
knowledge: the Holy Quran confirms what was revealed to earlier messengers of God
and serves as the criterion of what is right and what is wrong while the Sunnah is
collected in books which are separated from the Holy Quran and are known as Hadith5
books. While the Holy Quran is considered totally as the “word of God revealed to the
Prophet”, not every hadith is considered authentic. Early Muslim scholars have
classified hadith into various categories ranging from different levels of authenticity to
false hadith.
In Islamic societies, the Sunnah constitutes the second most important source of
jurisprudence after the Quran. “The most difficult part of Islamic Law for most
westerners to grasp is that there is no separation of religion and state. The religion and
the government are one. Islamic Law is controlled, ruled and regulated by the Islamic
religion. The theocracy controls all public and private matters. Government, law and
religion are one. There are varying degrees of this concept in many nations, but all law,
government and civil authority rests upon it and it is a part of Islamic religion. There are
civil laws in Muslim nations for Muslim and non-Muslim people. Shariah6 is only
applicable to Muslims and it governs every aspect of their lives.”7
The foundation of Muslim life are the so called Five Pillars of Islam: faith or belief in
God and the finality of the prophet hood of Muhammad, worship respecting the five
daily prayers, almsgiving and concern for those who are in need, self-purification
through fasting and the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able to do it.
5 The Arabic word hadith is very similar to Sunnah, but not identical. A hadith is a narration about the
life of the Prophet (saas) or what he approved - as opposed to his life itself, which is the Sunnah as
already mentioned.
6 Traditional Islamic law
7 Shariah Islamic Law April 7th, 2005 by Denis J. Wiechman, Jerry D. Kendall, and Mohammad K.
Not unlike the non-Muslim developing countries, those counting a significant Muslim
population have tested a huge variety of economic systems. For centuries Muslims
have developed ways to integrate their religious beliefs with the external economic
realities of the nations they lived in. This has shown varying degrees of compatibility
with the empires and customs they encountered. Like most things in Islam, the
economic and financial issues adapts to al-urf, "the custom"8.
The economic systems that were set in Muslim countries have generally followed the
blueprints of the developing world and “reflect persistent tensions between equity and
growth, import substitution and export-led industrialization, and agricultural and
industrial investment. Due to the close ties between some Muslim countries and the
global economic and financial system, however, these tensions have expressed
themselves in particularly stark form in much of the Muslim world. For example, oil
wealth and the resulting flow of labor remittances and bilateral aid has dramatically
influenced the course of development in many Muslim countries, stretching from
Tunisia to Malaysia. The extent to which religious doctrine has influenced economic
policy and the normative choices that underpin such policies varies tremendously over
time both within and among Muslim countries. Islam has no single, monolithic vision of
economic justice; as a result, there is a void at the heart of Islamic doctrine which is
filled by the complex interaction of political, social and economic forces. Thus the
vexing question of why Islam is brought into debates on economic policy at some
junctures and ignored at others becomes a task for historical and sociological inquiry”9.
In Muslim countries, especially those located in the North Africa and Middle East
region, the economic liberalization and increasing interdependence of the 1980s and
1990s highly influenced the political and economical choices of governments.
The banking system, in particular, strongly reacted to these changes: in the 1980s and
1990s Muslim bankers and religious leaders developed ways to integrate Islamic law on
usage of money with modern concepts of ethical investing. Consequently, a
sophisticated economic discipline has emerged with its own concepts, analytical tools
and institutions. Some of these revived traditional micro venture capital and ethical
investing frameworks that thrived in medieval times. However, they incorporated many
modern techniques and technologies. A number of researchers suggest that the
underlying causes of the genesis of modern Islamic economics was based more on the
desire to reflect beliefs about Islamic identity than to establish a more ethical or
religiously sound banking system
8 term referring to the custom, or 'knowledge', of a given society, leading to change in the fiqh (Islamic
9 University of Berkley, California , Institute of International Studies “The Moral Economy of Islam”
2.1 The principles of Islamic banking

Islamic banking, based on the Quranic prohibition of charging interest, has moved from
being 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.
It is important then to understand the principles of Islam that underpin Islamic finance.
The Shariah consists of the Quranic commands as laid down in the Holy Quran and the
words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. The Shariah 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 Quran is clear about the prohibition of Riba,
which is sometimes defined as excessive interest. "O You who believe! Fear Allah 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.
In general, the principles of Islamic banking are:
a. Al Zakat (the 4th pillar of Islam). One of the most important principles of Islam
is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in
trust. The word zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are
purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need.
b. The prohibition of taking interest rates (Al Riba)10. Within the Islamic scholars,
there are two interpretations on what Riba means:
- A modernist view, according which reasonable interest rates are
- A conservative view, which states that any kind of fixed interest is
10 Critics of Islamic economics anyway argue that the fundamental characteristic of charging interest (i.e.
charging a premium, on the principal amount of a loan, for the time value of the loaned money) is not
truly eliminated in Islamic banking, but rather the interest is merely hidden and relabeled.
The Quran anyway, clearly states that interest rate is forbidden, especially because related with usury:
Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the Evil One by his touch hath driven
to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden
usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord desist shall be pardoned for the past; their case
is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (the offence) are companions of the fire: they will abide
therein (for ever) 2: 275
ye who believe! fear Allah and give up what remains of your demand for usury if ye are indeed believers.
2: 278
ye who believe! devour not usury doubled and multiplied; but fear Allah; that ye may prosper. 3:130
c. the prohibition of unproductive speculation or unearned income (Al Maysir11) as
well as gambling (Al Quimar)
d. freedom from excessive uncertainty
e. the prohibition of debt arrangements - most Islamic economic institutions advise
participatory arrangements between capital and labor. The latter rule reflects the
Islamic norm that the borrower must not bear all the cost of a failure, as "it is Allah
who determines that failure, and intends that it fall on all those involved."
While the banning of interest is rooted in Muslim theology, proponents of Islamic
finance provide strong motivations to support the ban of interest rate. First of all, in an
Islamic profit sharing contract the return on capital will depend on productivity and the
allocation of funds will be primarily based on the soundness of the project, improving
the capital allocation efficiency. Second, the Islamic profit sharing system will ensure
more equitable distribution of wealth and the creation of additional wealth to its owners.
Third, the profit sharing regime may increase the volume of investments and hence
create more jobs. The interest regime accepts only those projects whose expected
returns are higher than the cost of debt, and therefore filter out projects which could be
acceptable under the Islamic profit sharing system (Zahier, Hassan).
According to the Indian researcher Dr. F.R. Faridi, “Islamic Economics comprises
Justice, Equality and Fair Play. In fact, it is the best form of bringing about equality
among the masses. Islamic Economics defines certain rules that regulate company
structure, effectively preventing abuse and corruption. For instance, Islam forbids
monopolies by outlawing the hoarding of wealth and eliminates copyright or potency
laws that would open the avenue for potential monopolies to develop. Also, Islam
protects the ownership of businesses and companies by restricting ownership of
companies only to those who contribute both capital and effort to the company or
business, thus effectively putting the seal on such concepts as “corporate takeover”
from ever becoming a reality.”
Islamic banking presents a holistic approach, based on Islamic principles on behalf of
the individual and at the same time of the society he/she belongs to giving serious
consideration to the global development constraints of the society.
11 Maisir refers to gambling and to any form of business activity where monetary gains are derived from
mere chance, speculation and conjecture. For example uncertainty of the timing of benefits in a pure life
insurance contract creates an element of maisir. The basis of compensation must be clearly pre-defined.
In its absence, the proceeds of a life insurance policy may not relate to premiums paid up to the date of
2.2 The Islamic financing contracts

Since Islamic Banking can be rather complex, Sharia principles are governed by Islamic
experts or ‘Ulama’. It is always essential to obtain the approval of the Sharia advisor of
the bank on the forms of the financing contracts, in order to ensure their compliance
with the principles of Islamic Sharia. These contracts in fact are exposed to high risks
and arise a problem of moral hazard. In fact, they require substantial trust between the
banks and their customers in terms of honesty, integrity, management and business
skills. Equally problematic is the aspect of monitoring and supervision. Given the fact
that both mudharabah and musharakah are equity financing in character, collateral is not
a prerequisite12.
Tarek S. Zaher and M. Kabir Hassan (2001) define five basic Islamic financing
- Murabaha (Financing Resale of Goods)
- Ijara and Ijara wa-Iqtina (Lease financing)
- Istinsa
- Mudaraba (or Modaraba – participation financing)
- Musharaka
a Murabaha
This constitutes one of the most well known Islamic products, consisting in “a cost-plus
profit financing transaction in which a tangible asset is purchased by an Islamic
institution at the request of its customer from a supplier. The Islamic institution then
sells the asset to its customer on a deferred sale basis with a mark up reflecting the
institution’s profit”13.
b Ijara and Ijara wa-Iqtina
These concepts are very close to the Western idea of leasing. In the first case the
financial institution leases an asset to its customer agreeing on lease payments for a
certain period of time but excluding the option of ownership for the client.
In the second case, the client has the option ownership by buying the asset from the
financial institution.
“The conditions governing both types of leasing are that assets must have a long/secure
productive life, and must not be handled in an un-Islamic way, meaning that the lease
payments must be agreed on in advance to avoid any speculation”14
12 Iqtisad Al Isalmy “Contracts in Islamic Commercial and their Application in modern Islamic Financial
System” Ramadhan 1424 H/2003 @Islamic-World.Net
13 Tarek S. Zaher and M. Kabir Hassan, ibid.
14 Tarek S. Zaher and M. Kabir Hassan, ibid.
c Istinsa
“Istinsa is a pre-delivery financing and leasing structured mode that is used mostly to
finance long term large scale facilities involving, for example, the construction of a
power plant”.15
d Mudaraba
“Mudaraba is a trust based financing agreement whereby an investor (Islamic bank)
entrusts capital to an agent (Mudarib) for a project. Profits are based on a pre-arranged
and agreed on a ratio. This agreement is akin to the Western style limited partnership,
with one party contributing capital while the other runs the business and profit is
distributed based on a negotiated percentage of ownership. In case of a loss, the bank
earns no return or negative return on its investment and the agent receives no
compensation for his (her) effort”16
In this kind of contract, all the financial responsibilities rely on the business itself: the
financial institution invests on an idea, a project and shares its fate.
From the perspective of financial services, Modaraba falls under three categories:
1. Demand Deposits: These deposits are not restricted, payable on demand and do
not share in any profits.
2. Mutual Investment Deposits: An Islamic Bank will combine these deposits with
the Bank’s money in order to participate in mutual investment transactions
conducted by the bank. Under these deposits, the percentage of profit is fixed at
the end of the bank’s financial year.
3. Special Investment Deposits: An Islamic Bank will invest these deposits in a
specific project or investment upon the request or the approval of the depositor.
The depositor in this case will be entitled to receive profit and is liable for the
losses, provided that the bank is not negligent or in default. At the end of the
deposit period, the bank receives its share of profit against its contribution of
experience and management, while the depositor receives his share of profit as a
capital share contributor17.
All these deposit transactions are based an Islamic Sharia concept called ‘Modaraba’
(Participation Financing), where one party (the depositor) provides the cash and the
other party (the Bank) provides the experience and management.
15 Tarek S. Zaher and M. Kabir Hassan, ibid.
16 Tarek S. Zaher and M. Kabir Hassan, ibid
17 http://executivecaliber.ws/sys-tmpl/islamicfinancing/
e Musharaka
This contract is very similar to a joint venture with participation financing. “Two parties
provide capital for a project which both may manage. Profits are shared in pre-agreed
ratios but losses are borne in proportion to equity participation”18. The peculiar aspect
of this contract is not the sharing the profit and losses, but sharing the management and
the decision taking process.
3. The basic principles of microfinance
Microfinance is constituted by a range of financial services for people who are
traditionally considered non bankable, mainly because they lack the guarantees that can
protect a financial institution against a loss risk.
The true revolution of microfinance is that this tool gives a chance to people who were
denied the access to the financial market, opens new perspectives and empowers people
who can finally carry out their own projects and ideas with their own resources, and
escape assistance, subsidies and dependence. Microfinance experiences all around the
world have now definitely proved that the poor demand a wide range of financial
services, are willing to bear the expenses related to them and are absolutely bankable.
The target group of microfinance19 is not constituted by vthe poorest of the poor, who
need other interventions such as food and health security, but those poor who live at the
border of the so called poverty line. Those who could reach more easily a decent quality
of life and who have entrepreneurial ideas but lack access to formal finance.20
18 Tarek S. Zaher and M. Kabir Hassan, ibid
19 According to the CGAP, the clients of microfinance—female heads of households, pensioners,
displaced persons, retrenched workers, small farmers, and micro-entrepreneurs—fall into four poverty
levels: destitute, extreme poor, moderate poor, and vulnerable non-poor. While repayment capacity,
collateral availability, and data availability vary across these categories, methodologies and operational
structures have been developed that meet the financial needs of these client groups in a sustainable
manner. More formal and mainstream financial services including collateral-based credit, payment
services, and credit card accounts may suit the moderate poor. Financial services and delivery
mechanisms for the extreme and moderate poor may utilize group structures or more flexible forms of
collateral and loan analysis.The client group for a given financial service provider is primarily determined
by its mission, institutional form, and methodology. Banks that scale down to serve the poor tend to
reach only the moderate poor. Credit union clients range from the moderate poor to the vulnerable nonpoor,
although this varies by region and type of credit union. NGOs, informal savings and loan groups,
and community savings and credit associations have a wide range of client profiles.
20 These people usually do not lack finance in a broad sense: they can borrow money from friends,
relatives or local money lenders, but of course they cannot access a wider and safer range of services.
They need a formal financial institution to rely on, to ask not only for credit but also saving or insurance
Beginning in the 1950s, development projects began to introduce subsidized credit
programs targeted at specific communities. These subsidized schemes were rarely
successful. Rural development banks suffered massive erosion of their capital base due
to subsidized lending rates and poor repayment discipline and the funds did not always
reach the poor, often ending up concentrated in the hands of better-off farmers. In the
1970s, experimental programs in Bangladesh, Brazil, and a few other countries
extended tiny loans to groups of poor women to investment in micro-businesses. This
type of microenterprise credit was based on solidarity group lending in which every
member of a group guaranteed the repayment of all members. Through the 1980s and
1990s, microcredit programs throughout the world improved upon the original
methodologies and bucked conventional wisdom about financing the poor. First, it
showed that poor people, especially women, had excellent repayment rates among the
better programs, rates that were better than the formal financial sectors of most
developing countries. Second, the poor were willing and able to pay interest rates that
allowed microfinance institutions (MFIs) to cover their costs.
These two features—high repayment and cost-recovery interest rates—permitted some
MFIs to achieve long-term sustainability and reach large numbers of clients. In fact, the
promise of microfinance as a strategy that combines massive outreach, far-reaching
impact, and financial sustainability makes it unique among development interventions21.
Microfinance is considered a very effective development tool: for this reason, year 2005
has been declared by the General Secretary of the United Nations “International Year of
Microcredit”. Microfinance is also a very flexible tool, that can be adapted in every
environment, based on the local needs and economic and financial situation. For
example, in Asia group microlending proved to be very effective, while in Egypt or in
Brazil beneficiaries prefer individual lending. One more example: MFIs (Microfinance
Institutions) and NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) in India mostly rely on
savings collection to support their institution and become sustainable while in Egypt
they are forbidden by law to collect savings. Microfinance can be effective both in the
South of the world and in Western countries, equally characterized by financial and
social exclusion22.
Following this logic, microfinance can easily be adapted to certain cultural
environments, such as countries characterized by a majority of Muslims that follow the
Islamic law. Moreover, the similarities in the principles of the two make microfinance
services, to deal with on a transparent basis (usury is usually a high risk for these people). Microfinance is
filling this vacuum, the gap that until a few decades ago kept these people away from the realization of
their own projects.
21 Source: www.cgap.org
22 Viganò L. a cura di “La microfinanza in Europa”, Giuffrè ed., Milano, 2004
easier to expand in those countries, giving life to the new hybrid reality of Islamic
A few studies have been carried out on the subject and experience on the field is still
relatively small, but it proves to have huge potentialities both to fight against poverty
financial and social exclusion and to enlarge and enrich the basin of clients of financial
institutions in developing countries with an Islamic cultural substratum.

4. Islamic microfinance

Islamic convictions on the responsibility go well beyond mere profitability goals and
coincide with the renewed perception on business recently at stake within the most
advanced sectors of western business and civil societies. Far from the limits imposed by
neo-classical thought, this new wave implies new sorts of responsibilities on behalf of
the company falling under the rubric of corporate social responsibility (Ferro, 2005).
As its ultimate goal is the maximization of social benefits as opposed to profit
maximization, through the creation of healthier financial institutions that can provide
effective financial services also as grass roots levels, some authors (Al Harran, 1996)
argue that Islamic finance, if inserted in a new paradigm, could be a viable alternative to
the socio – economic crisis lived by the Western paradigm.
As stated before, a relatively few studies and a few experiences on the field are
concentrated on Islamic microfinance.
Between the most complete researches on the topic, Dhumale and Sapcanin (1999)
drafted a technical note in which they tried to analyze how to combine Islamic banking
with microfinance. They took into consideration the three main instruments of Islamic
finance (mudaraba, musharaka and murabaha) trying to use them as tools to design a
successful microfinance program.
1. a mudaraba model: the microfinance program and the microenterprise are
partners, with the program investing money and the microenterpreneur investing
in labor. The microenterpreneur is rewarded for his/her work and shares the
profit while the program only shares the profit. Of course the model presents a
series of difficulties, given most of all by the fact that microentrepreneurs
usually do not keep accurate accountability which makes it more difficult to
establish the exact share of profit. As stated before the, these models are
complicated to understand, manage and handle which implies that those who are
involved need specific training on the issues. For this reason, and for an easier
management of the profit sharing scheme, the mudaraba model might be more
straightforward for businesses with a longer profit cycle.
2. a murabaha model: under such contract, the microfinance program buys goods
and resells them to the microenterprises for the cost of the goods plus a markup
for administrative costs. The borrower often pays for the goods in equal
installments, and the microfinance program owns the goods until the last
installment is paid.
A murabaha model example: Hodeidah Microfinance Programme, Yemen
Although traditional banking products have been available in Yemen for many
years (and are still the predominant type of finance), many people, especially
the poor, have been reluctant to take credit, in part due to religious beliefs.
This is one of the main reasons why the Hodeidah Microfinance Programme
(HMFP) was implemented in 1997, in Hodeidah, a port city with a population
of nearly half a million. It is characterized by an active economy based on
trading, fishing, food production, small industries, handicrafts and
transportation. In the early 1990s, during and after the Gulf War, many
families returned to this city from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. Now,
roughly 30 percent of the total population in Hodeidah are returnees, a key
market segment for HMFP. Much of the population has conservative Islamic
beliefs. The population studied showed a clear preference for the
methodologies of Islamic banking in terms of receiving credit.
HMFP is the first microfinance project of its kind in Yemen and consequently
has had to develop its human resources itself. It had 1770 active clients as of
June 2000, 23 percent of whom were women and $350,000 in outstanding
loans. The average loan size is 38,000 Yemeni Rial (YR) ($240 US dollars).
There is a cycle of loans the clients go through but each level has a wide
scope. The first loan can be up to 50000 YR ($300 US). The maximum loan
for the final level is 250,000 YR ($1500 US).HMFP uses a group-based
methodology. Group members are not confined to the same loan amounts or
the same activities, although loan amounts need to be within the range of the
cycle set by HMFP. There is also a small percentage of individual loans (10
The procedure is as follows: upon receipt of the loan application, the credit
officer investigates the group and does a feasibility study for their activities.
From this study, the officer can estimate the precise loan amount. If the
feasibility study is positive, the client should identify items
(commodities/equipment) needed from the wholesaler and negotiate a price.
The credit officer then purchases items from that source and resells them
immediately at that price to the client. HMFP has two elements of
accounting/finance, which differ from most microfinance organizations. Both
have implications for content of financial statements. The first is capitalization
of the service charge expected upon disbursement, which affects the balance
sheet. The second is the absence of the "principle of interest" on outstanding
loan balances affecting yield on the portfolio and thus income earned.
Source (for detailed information also): UNCDF web site
Range, in his paper (2004), underlines how the prohibition of Riba in Islamic finance
does not constitute an obstacle in building sound microfinance products; on the
contrary, the side effects of an Islamic foundation could probably enhance it. These
effects are: the high rate of return (compared to a fixed interest rate), the holistic
approach in supporting businesses and productive activities, a more effective
mobilization of excess resources, a fairer society.
An interesting case: the Mali-North Program of the German cooperation
GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) and KfW (German Financial Cooperation)
worked on a development project in the former civil war areas of Timbuctu’, Mali,
constituted by three main components: rural development, promotion of municipal
structures and microfinance.
The microfinance project was supposed to start through the creation of a financial
institution managed and refinanced by the Banque Nationale de Développement
Agricole (BNDA), set in Bamako. But the potential customers of the bank
preferred discuss the proposal in order to find a more suitable solution. The aim of
the project was quite ambitious: the financial services were supposed to reach all
the tribes of the area, the Moors, the Tuareg and various black African groups. The
only common denominator on which the previous civil war opponents could agree
was Islam: a bank that respected the religious rules for financial services would
have been accepted by anyone. The selected bank was Azaouad Finances plc: the
bank disburses loans and also promotes the collection of savings, not charging
interest but participating in the profits and losses of the borrowers.
With the loan from Azaouad Finances, the market in the area blossomed: the
business relationships of local merchants now reach Abidjan and the Arabian
peninsula. The bank also has a small program intended to support women
entrepreneurs. The bank also entered into cooperation with the BNDA in order to
thereby link up with the SWIFT international payments system. Now the
herdsmen can deposit the earnings from their business dealings in Abidjian or
Dubai into their account in the town of Lere using a SWIFT transfer.
Source: “Small Loans according to the Koran”, Kohler W. Microfinance Akzente
special GTZ

3. Future perspectives

Social welfare, unemployment, public debt and globalization have been re-examined
from the perspective of Islamic norms and values. Islamic banks have grown recently in
the Muslim world but still constitute a very small share of the global economy
compared to the Western debt banking paradigm. It remains to be seen if they will find
niches, although hybrid approaches, such as microfinance, which apply classical Islamic
values using at the same time conventional lending practices, as lauded by some
proponents of modern human development theory.
Islamic law allows room for financial innovation, and several Islamic contractual
arrangements can be combined to design a new hybrid23.
In the globalization era, banks and financial institutions in general cannot afford to face
financial exclusion. The segment of the population that has been excluded from
financial services so far, has to be seen as an opportunity, a profitable market niche. As
a result of a major interest towards these people, positive social externalities will show.
The “financially excluded” group is heterogeneous and includes not only poor people in
developing countries, but also migrants who need money transfer to manage their
remittances in their home countries, young people with the enthusiasm of staring some
new income generation activity but lack capital,
Exclusion can come about as a result of problems with access, prices, marketing,
financial literacy or self-exclusion in response to negative experiences or perceptions.
Barriers to inclusion include:
• Difficulty in accessing financial services, whether that be geographically or culturally
(for instance, language barriers)
• Inappropriate and not tailored products
• Excessive cost of some products such as home contents insurance
• Scarce knowledge of financial products caused by a lack of marketing in certain areas
considered less profitable by financial institutions or difficulty in understanding
financial products, for example low levels of financial literacy, which may lead to debt
problems or wasting money on inappropriate products
• Government regulations or the interpretation of these (for instance, in the case of
identification documents required for bank account opening)
• Psychological barriers such as negative perceptions of financial institutions or
previous bad experience
Other issues include:
• Lack of free debt advice
23 Khan , Mansoor H “Designing an Islamic Model for Project Finance” International Finance and Law
Review 6: 13 -16 in Dhumale and Sapcanin, ibid
• Lack of generic (non-brand specific) financial advice
• Lack of confidence in the banking industry
Groups particularly affected by financial exclusion tend to be those on low incomes.
However, financial exclusion is dynamic as people move in and out of work and may
have more or less need of financial services24.
Ina future perspective, the key words will be:
• Inclusion
• Tailoring of financial products on needs and religious belief
• Diversification of the financial services offered
• Attention to the social outcomes of the financial activity both in developed
countries ( meeting the sensibility of some clients who are very attentive
towards specific issues such as respect of human rights and environment,
socially responsible criteria in the choice of investments and so on) and in
developing countries (including the “non bankable” in the financial system will
improve the general conditions of the whole society while socially responsible
criteria will educate in being more respectful towards human and workers rights,
gender and environmental issues and so on)
• Separation of competencies and specialization – in the whole range of financial
institutions, the diversification and tailoring of products could also mean
specialization of different institutions. MFIs that are close to or deriving from
NGOs could specialize in financial services at the grass root level, commercial
banks could specialize in micro and small entrepreneurs, Islamic banks to those
clients with specific religious beliefs which do not fit with the western financial
• Effectiveness – both socially responsible investments in Western societies and
Islamic branches/products in Muslim societies often proved to be merely a
marketing operation used to attract new clients belonging to small niches. Given
their high values, they should be taken into more serious consideration, and not
only used as an easy way to attract new clients.


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