ISLAMIC BANKING: Banking Without Usury or Interest
Islamic banks appeared on the world scene as active players over two decades ago. But "many of the principles upon which Islamic banking is based have been commonly accepted all over the world, for centuries rather than decades".
The basic principle of Islamic banking is the prohibition of Riba- (Usury - or interest):
"While a basic tenant of Islamic banking - the outlawing of riba, a term that encompasses not only the concept of usury, but also that of interest - has seldom been recognised as applicable beyond the Islamic world, many of its guiding principles have. The majority of these principles are based on simple morality and common sense, which form the bases of many religions, including Islam.
"The universal nature of these principles is immediately apparent even at a cursory glance of non-Muslim literature. Usury was prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, while Shakespeare and many other writers, particularly those writing in the 19th century, have attacked the barbarity of the practice. Much of the morality championed by Victorian writers such as Dickens - ranging from the equitable distribution of wealth through to man's fundamental right to work - is clearly present in modern Islamic society.
"Although the western media frequently suggest that Islamic banking in its present form is a recent phenomenon, in fact, the basic practices and principles date back to the early part of the seventh century." (Islamic Finance: A Euromoney Publication, 1997)
It is evident that Islamic finance was practiced predominantly in the Muslim world throughout the Middle Ages, fostering trade and business activities. In Spain and the Mediterranean and Baltic States, Islamic merchants became indispensable middlemen for trading activities. It is claimed that many concepts, techniques, and instruments of Islamic finance were later adopted by European financiers and businessmen.
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