Islamic finance and investment is a rapidly growing industry. Islamic financial products, and the principles they embody, have found increasing acceptance outside their traditional Muslim borders. Currently, over 267 institutions in more than fifty countries work exclusively in the Islamic financial sector. Several innovative international banks successfully operate Islamic subsidiaries. Many non-Islamic institutions offer Islamic products side-by-side with conventional structures. Financial institutions increasingly use the structures of Islamic financial instruments to provide unique value added features to their customers.

The potential market represented by Islamic capital sources is enormous. It is estimated that over USD $ 400 billion is available for investment. The total existing Islamic investment pool represents in excess of USD $ 260 billion in assets.
Islamic finance and investment offers a successful model for demonstrating the practical application of religious principles to economics and business. As both need and demand for Islamic financial products expand, a growing body of financial institutions, professionals, academicians and researchers are contributing to the development of this discipline.
The essential difference between conventional and Islamic finance centers around the element of “interest”. Interest (RIBA) is considered as “exploitive”. A basic principle of Islamic law decrees that exploitive and unfair contracts are unenforceable. Other provisions that are prohibited under Islamic law include “excessive risk”, “speculations” and “uncertainty”. Depending on the nature of the agreement, contracts containing such provisions may be banned outright, and are always discouraged.
The removal of the prohibited elements, such as interest, from a financial products is not enough, however, to render a transaction “Islamic”. The Islamic financial and investment industry is much more than simply “interest free” banking. Islamic finance and investment encompasses the implementation of an “Economic Order” based on the principles of Islam.
The Islamic Economic Order strives to build a society based on social justice, equality, moderations and balanced relationships. It is a system embodying central values, which safeguard the rights of men and women, while constantly reminding them of their obligations to self and society.

The activities within this Order must conform to Islamic (Sharia’a) law. Sharia’a forbids all forms of unfairness to or exploitation of others, and praises straightforward, fair dealings. It honors industry, and encourages men and women to earn their living by honest means and to manage their earnings in a prudent way.

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