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Islamic finance is the fastest growing market in ethical finance with an annual average growth rate of between 10 percent and 20 percent. Current global Islamic finance assets stand at $800 billion and are predicted by some to rise to $4 trillion by 2015. The credit crunch has provided Islamic finance with a unique opportunity to assert its values of ethically based financing, which could help to shape the global financial industry as a whole.
Islamic finance distinguishes itself from conventional finance in its compliance with the principles of Islamic commercial jurisprudence. Islamic finance techniques seek to promote ethical and socially responsible investment while providing an alternative to interest-based finance. The main tenets of Islamic commercial jurisprudence prohibit interest payments on monetary loans or securities, speculation, uncertainty in certain contractual terms and engaging in anti-social business activities. Some of the main Islamic financing techniques include murabaha (cost-plus financing), sukuk (Islamic bonds), ijara (based on the leasing of an asset), istisna’a (production/construction financing) and musharaka (equity investment).
The recent defaults in the Islamic finance industry have shown that the Gulf has been affected by the same liquidity issues as the West, with central banks actively intervening to encourage interbank lending. However, there are significant differences in the views about long-term prospects expressed by bankers in different states in the Gulf, as well as between bankers situated in Western banks, conventional local banks and Islamic banks, with the latter being the most optimistic, especially if they are based in countries with rich energy resources. The general view among all bankers is that they will monitor market performance in the first two quarters of next year.