Of all the things that observant Muslims try to avoid, interest is the most challenging. It seems impossible to get by in today's world without it. How do you finance your education, buy a home, start a business or get out of a jam when you can't borrow money with interest? What does Islam say about it? Is all interest bad? What is interest for? How does it work? What does it do to people and society?
When Facebook went public on May 18, for the handful of venture capitalists, Accel Partners, Greylock Partners and Meritech Capital, who have been with the company since its early days, it was a massive financial payoff. With the IPO also came fame and reputation. At a closing price of $38.23, Facebook's market value is nearly $105 billion, creating huge paper gains for scores of early insiders and hundreds of employees.
Venture capitalist Accel Partners, which initially invested $12.7 million in Facebook at a $98 million valuation back in 2005, the year after it was founded, is clearly the big winner. With the IPO, the current stake of Accel and its affiliates will be worth $6.3 billion, assuming a mid-point stock price of $31.50.
The Muslim world is in a difficult phase. Even though its people comprise more than a fifth of the world's population, and its regions are resource-rich, it produces only around eight per cent of the purchasing power adjusted gross national product of the world. It is plagued by illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, social sterility and macro-economic imbalances.
We know from history, that this was not always the situation in the Muslim world. We know Muslims enjoyed a glorious past stretching over several centuries. They say history is our best teacher, and I believe very important lessons can be learnt and applied from the economic miracle that occurred in the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid from 786 to 809 (170 - 193 A.H.).
As a wave of change sweeps the Islamic world and Muslim countries are opening up to plurality and democracy, citizens of these countries now have the opportunity to play their role of a strong civil society. But for civil society to become sustainable, development in indigenous philanthropy is required. The heavy reliance on foreign donors was never an effective solution to local society as it promoted an orientation to the needs and perspectives of the donor, rather than the community served. A heavy or exclusive reliance on government funding is worse as it comes with a heavy hidden tag price. Fee-for-services and other forms of income have also proven to be unsustainable.
Islamic finance and banking have enjoyed success in common law jurisdictions such as England, New Zealand, Australia and India. In fact, Islamic banks willingly submit themselves to common law courts to enforce shariah-compliant commercial contracts.
Islamic banks in the UK have in their murabahah (Islamic financing) agreements a governing law clause that states: "Subject to the principles of the Glorious Shariah, this Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England".