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Not to be confused with Murabba.

Murabaḥah, murabaḥa or murâbaḥah (Arabic مرابحة) is a term of Islamic fiqh or jurisprudence for a sale where the buyer and seller agree on the markup for the item(s) being sold.[1] In recent decades it has become a term for a form of Islamic (i.e. "shariah compliant") financing, and involves the buyer using Murabahah as a mechanism to borrow money, paying the seller (who serves as a lender) the marked up price with deferred payments.[2] It has been called "the most prevalent"[2] or "default" type of Islamic finance.[3]

Because the buyer/borrower pays the seller/lender at an agreed upon higher price, instead of interest charges (which would be forbidden as riba), the contract involves "a profit on the sale of goods", which is permissible in Islam.[2][4] Some conservative Islamic finance scholars consider murabaha as a "transitory step" towards a "true profit-and-loss-sharing mode of financing",[5] and a form to be used where profit-and-loss-sharing is "not practicable." [5][6]

The basis of Murabaha financing has been called "cost-plus"[7] and is similar to a rent-to-own arrangement, with the intermediary (i.e. the lending bank) retaining ownership of the property until the loan is paid in full.[8]

A murâbaḥah differs from conventional loans in a number of other ways. After the murâbaḥah contract is signed, the "amount being financed cannot be increased in case of late payment or default, nor can a penalty be imposed, unless the buyer has deliberately refused to make a payment".[9] The seller also has to assume "any liability from delivering defective goods".[9] Sources differ as to whether charges for late payments are allowed,[10] with some authors stating late fees ought to be donated to charity.[11][12][13] Proper Murâbaḥah involves guidelines, (such as the bank taking actual possession of the good before selling it to the customer), to ensure that a Murâbaḥah transaction is based on trade between the bank and the customer and not merely a financing transaction.

Critics/skeptics complain/note that in practice most transactions are merely cash-flows between banks, brokers and borrowers, with no buying or selling of commodities;[14] that the profit or mark-up is based on the prevailing interest rate used in haram lending by the non-Muslim world;[15] that "the financial outlook" of Islamic Murabaha financing and conventional debt/loan financing is "the same",[16] as is most everything else besides the terminology used.[17]

Islamic finance, use, varieties[edit]

Murâbaḥah is one of three types of bayu-al-amanah (fiduciary sale), requiring an "honest declaration of cost". The other two types are tawliyah (sale at cost) and wadiah (sale at specified loss).

The accounting treatment of Murâbaḥah, and its disclosure and presentation in financial statements, vary from bank to bank. If the exact cost of the item(s) cannot be or are not ascertained, they are sold on the basis of musawamah (bargaining).[2] Different banks use this instrument in varying ratios. Typically, banks use murabahah in asset financing, property, microfinance and commodity import-export.[18]

Many scholars believe that the seller may not use Murâbaḥah if profit-sharing modes of financing such as mudarabah or musharakah are practicable.[5][6] But since those involve risks, they cannot guarantee banks income. Murabahah, with its fixed margin, offers the seller (i.e. the bank) a more predictable income stream.

One estimate is that 80% of Islamic lending is by Murabahah.[19] The International Monetary Fund reports that, Murâbaḥah transactions are "widely used to finance international trade, as well as for interbank financing and liquidity management through a multistep transaction known as tawarruq, often using commodities traded on the London Metal Exchange" (LME).[9] Author Harris Ifran writes that use of hurabaha "has become so distorted from its original intent that it has become the single most common method of funding inter-bank liquidity and corporate loans in the Islamic finance industry."[20] A number of economists have noted the dominance of Murabahah in Islamic finance, despite its theological inferiority to profit and loss sharing.[21][22][23] One scholar has coined the term "the murabaha syndrome" to describe this.[24]

Bay al-Ina[edit]

One simple form of Murabahah, known as bay al-ina was used by a number of modern Islamic financial institutions despite condemnation by jurists but its usage is "very much limited nowadays".[25] An example of bay al-ina is where a borrower finances the purchase of a $10,000 automobile by having the Islamic bank agree to purchase the automobile from the dealer for $10,000 and then sell it to the borrower for $11,000 to be paid in installments over the next two years. Individually, the two steps of the transaction:

  1. a car is bought for $10,000 and sold for $11,000.
  2. a purchase is made on a deferred payment basis.

... are not haram (forbidden) in Islam. However, the Islamic bank lender receives a predetermined return,[26] (in this case equal to an approximately 5% annual interest loan by a traditional bank).[17]

Bay' al-Tawarruq[edit]

Tawarruq (also called commodity murabaha) differes from bay al-ina by involving a third party in addition to the borrower and Islamic bank. As compared to the example above, the borrower would buy $10,000 worth of a commodity (such as copper, gold, etc.) from the bank to be paid in installments over the next two years and sell that commodity on the sport market (that buyer being the third party) for an immediate $10,000 which it would use to buy the car.[25][27] According to Irfan, this complication has "not persuaded the majority of scholars that this series of transactions is valid in the Sharia."[28] The IMF states that "tawarruq has become controversial among Shari’ah scholars because of its divergence of its use from the spirit of Islamic finance".[9] But some prominent scholars have tolerated commodity murabaha "for the growth of the [Islamic finance] industry".[3] Harris Irfan states that (at least as of 2015) Sharia boards of some banks (such as Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank), have taken a state against Tawarruq and were "looking at 'purer' forms of funding" (such as mudarabah).[29]

Challenges and criticism[edit]

The Commodity Murâbaḥah has been criticised by Islamic Scholars who say it should only be used as a structure of last resort where no other structure is available. In practice, in most transactions the commodities never change hands (the commodity never appears on the bank's balance sheet[3]) and usually there are no commodities at all, merely cash-flows between banks, brokers and borrowers. Often the commodity is completely irrelevant to the borrower's business and not even enough of the relevant commodities are in existence in the world to account for all the transactions taking place.[14]

Islamic banking enthusiast Harris Irfan bemoans the fact that "not only is the murabaha money market insufficiently well developed and illiquid, but the very sharia compliance of it has come to be questioned", often by Islamic scholars not known for their strictness.[29]

Scholar Muhammad Taqi Usmani laments that

Many institutions financing by way of murabahah determine their profit or mark-up on the basis of the current interest rate, mostly using LIBOR (Inter-bank offered rate in London) as the criterion.[15]

Some Muslims (Rakaan Kayali among others) complain that Murabaha does not eliminate interest as it guarantees for itself the amount of profit it collects,[17] and so amounts to a hilah or legal "trick" to defeat the intent of shariah.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Usmani, Taqi. An Introduction to Islamic Finance. Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0. p. 65. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Islamic Finance: Instruments and Markets. Bloomsbury Publishing. 2010. p. 131. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Irfan, Harris (2015). Heaven's Bankers. Overlook Press. p. 139. 
  4. ^ "A Simple Introduction to Islamic Mortgages". 14 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Irfan, Harris (2015). Heaven's Bankers. Overlook Press. p. 136. 
  6. ^ a b Usmani, Taqi. An Introduction to Islamic Finance. Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0. p. 107. Retrieved 4 August 2015. Therefore, it [Murabahah] should neither be taken as an ideal Islamic mode of financing, nor a universal instrument for all sorts of financing. It should be taken as a transitory step towards the ideal Islamic system of financing based on musharakah or mudarabah. 
  7. ^ Irfan, Harris (2015). Heaven's Bankers. Overlook Press. p. 135. 
  8. ^ "Murabaha". Investopedia. Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d Hussain, Mumtaz; Shahmoradi, Asghar; Turk, Rima (June 2015). IMF Working paper, An Overview of Islamic Finance (PDF). p. 8. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "Late Payment Charges for Islamic Financial Institutions". Islamic Bankers : Resource Centre. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  11. ^ Visser, Hans (ed.). "4.4 Islamic Contract Law". Islamic Finance: Principles and Practice. Edward Elgar. p. 77. Retrieved 9 July 2016. The prevalent position, however, seems to be that creditors may impose penalties for late payments, which have to be donated, whether by the creditor or directly by the client, to a charity, but a flat fee to be paid to the creditor as a recompense for the cost of collection is also acceptable to many fuqaha. 
  12. ^ Kettell, Brian (2011). The Islamic Banking and Finance Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to help you ... Wiley. p. 38. Retrieved 9 July 2016. The bank can only impose penalties for late payment by agreeing to `purify` them by donating them to charity. 
  13. ^ "FAQs and Ask a Question. Is it permissible for an Islamic bank to impose penalty for late payment?". al-Yusr. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Misused murabaha hurts industry". Arabian Business. 1 February 2008. 
  15. ^ a b Usmani, Taqi. An Introduction to Islamic Finance. Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0. p. 81. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  16. ^ Murabaha Financing VS Lending on Interest| Qazi Irfan |July 22, 2008 | Social Science Research Network
  17. ^ a b c Kayali, Rakaan. "Murabaha: Halal or Haram?". Practical Islamic Finance. 
  18. ^ Government of Pakistan: Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan
  19. ^ Haltom, Renee (Second Quarter 2014). "Econ Focus. Islamic Banking, American Regulation". Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Retrieved 26 August 2015.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. ^ Irfan, Harris (2015). Heaven's Bankers: Inside the Hidden World of Islamic Finance. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 135. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  21. ^ Iqbal, Munawar, and Philip Molyneux. 2005. Thirty years of Islamic banking: History, performance and prospects. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  22. ^ Kuran, Timur. 2004. Islam and Mammon: The economic predicaments of Islamism. Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press
  23. ^ Lewis, M.K. and L.M. al-Gaud 2001. Islamic banking. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar
  24. ^ Yousef, T.M. 2004. The murabaha syndrome in Islamic finance: Laws, institutions and policies. In Politics of Islamic finance, ed. C.M. Henry and Rodney Wilson. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
  25. ^ a b c Irfan, Harris (2015). Heaven's Bankers: Inside the Hidden World of Islamic Finance. Overlook Press. p. 137. 
  26. ^ Khan, Mohsin S.; Mirakhor, Abbas (1987). Theoretical Studies in Islamic Banking and Finance. Islamic Publications International. p. 18. 
  27. ^ "What is the Difference Bay' al-Tawarruq and Bay' al-Inah?". Investment and Finance. Jan 11, 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  28. ^ Irfan, Harris (2015). Heaven's Bankers: Inside the Hidden World of Islamic Finance. Overlook Press. p. 138. 
  29. ^ a b Irfan, Harris (2015). Heaven's Bankers: Inside the Hidden World of Islamic Finance. Overlook Press. p. 226. 

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