Bai Al Inah and Interconditionality Issues

I have been asked recently on the validity on a Bai Al Inah contract that had sparked controversies many years ago by claims that it is not a valid Islamic contract that is rejected by most Shariah scholars.

What do I think? As limited my Shariah knowledge is, the position of Bai Al Inah, and its counterpart Bai Bithaman Ajil (BBA), have always been that it is a structure of 2 standalone contracts of Musawamah (simple sale) and Murabahah (deferred cost-plus sale). The intention of these 2 contracts is for the purpose of obtaining cash or working capital through creation of debt. Both contracts are executed consequentially and valid as all the tenets of the contracts are met perfectly.

SO WHAT IS THE ISSUE THEN?
Generally both contracts of BBA and Bai Al Inah suffers from the same issue ie the existence of “Interconditionality” practices in their legal clauses in transaction documents. Both contracts have 2 standalone contracts i.e. one sale contract and one buy-back contract. Both contracts must be able to stand alone and the aqad is executed sequentially, which makes it valid based on trading rules.

The Aqad for the Bai Al Inah transaction uses the Bank’s own Assets for the underlying transaction, as the customer do not have any Asset to sell to the Bank in the first place. So Banks have been using their own Assets such as pieces of land, office hardware, office furnitures, company shares, investments in securities, machines, and any other valuable Assets that is identifiable, transferable and valuable.

CONTRACT #1 – SALE OF BANK’S ASSET (MURABAHAH) TO CUSTOMER IN BAL AL INAH 

These Assets are to be sold by the Bank to the Customer at a Sale Price (includes profit) and to be settled at a later date or at specific intervals. For example, the Bank sold its ATM equipment to the Customer at a price of RM180,000. This amount is to be paid back within 5 years (Deferred). This is a valid and perfected standalone contract. The debt created here remains valid until full settlement at the end of the 5th year.

CONTRACT #2 – BUY-BACK OF BANK’S ASSET (MUSAWAMAH) FROM CUSTOMER IN BAL AL INAH 

The Bank then makes an offer to Buy-Back the Bank’s Asset from the Customer at a simple sale transaction where the amount will be settled immediately. As the Customer intention is to obtain Cash or Working Capital, the Customer will generally agree to the Bank’s offer to Buy-Back the Asset at the current market price. For example, the Bank offers to buy-back the ATM equipment from the Customer at a price of RM100,000. This amount is to be paid immediately for settlement. Bank takes ownership of the ATM and pays the Customer RM100,000 cash. This is also a valid and perfected standalone contract

BUT WHAT HAPPENS IF THE CUSTOMER, AFTER COMPLETING CONTRACT #1, REFUSE TO ENTER INTO CONTRACT #2 AND DECIDE TO KEEP/TAKE THE DELIVERY OF THE ATM EQUIPMENT INSTEAD? THIS REPRESENTS A RISK TO THE BANK AS THE ASSET (ATM EQUIPMENT) IS NOW RIGHTFULLY OWNED BY THE CUSTOMER UPON COMPLETION OF CONTRACT #1

Because banks want to minimise risks, the interconditionality clauses are added to ENSURE that once the first sale contract (#1) is concluded, the second buy-back contract (#2) MUST be executed (mandatory). It goes on to say that if the second buy-back contract is not executed, then the first sale contract is invalid and restitution (going back to the original state) must be effected to recover the Asset already sold; in this case the ATM Equipment.

From Shariah point of view, it is problematic, because the first Aqad for the sale contract (#1), is a valid contract and completed under Aqad which meets all its trading tenets. To impose that another external event (i.e. the non-completion of the buy-back contract) that will invalidate a valid sale contract (already concluded and perfected), implies that the whole arrangement is superficial and do not carry real value.

This must not be the case, because the Aqad is already validly executed and is now running. Thus having the interconditional clauses is not favoured by Shariah and needs to be removed.

In Summary:
1) The Sale of Asset contract is valid on completion of Aqad
2) The Buy-Back of Asset contract is valid on completion of Aqad
3) If the Buy-Back of Asset contract (#2) is not completed, the Sale of Asset (#1) remains valid as the Aqad is already completed.
4) The requirement to force the Buy-Back of Asset contract to be completed via an interconditionality clause is problematic in substance. The notion of “one contract is only valid upon completion of another contract” does not sit well with Shariah.

Of course, for Banks, removal of such clauses from the documents represents a risk as the assets used for the transaction belongs to the Bank in the first place. The idea that the Customer cannot be compelled / forced to re-sell the assets back to the bank (or banks not allowed to buy-back) is a risk banks are not willing to take. As such impasse, the only way most banks can comply with the requirements to remove interconditionality in their contracts is to remove these contracts from their shelves.

There are still some Banks using products based on BBA or Bai Al Inah, but such usage is now limited to its uses are required by design (such as restructuring an existing Bai Al Inah account) and/or mainly transactions between financial institutions (not between banks and retail consumers) where the interconditionality clauses are not required/ can be ignored.

For the public, Tawarruq or Musyarakah Mutanaqisah or Ujrah structures are now used as acceptable replacements of both Bai Al Inah and BBA products, signalling the demise of these hugely unpopular products.

Wallahualam.

 

Continuing Post : The Problem with Transplanting the ‘Sustainability’ Movement on Islamic Banking

By Dr Rosana Gulzar Mohd
EXCERPT : In ‘Islamic’ Banking, we dance around issues as if vying for a Bollywood Oscar. The latest theme, on ‘Sustainability’, is fashioned after the United Nations (UN)’ Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), in concert with other large organisations such as the Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank. While they may seem like a natural fit with goals such as peace, justice and decent work for all, a closer look uncovers a few fundamental flaws. Firstly, while championing social and environmental wellness, we continue to evade the main issue, which is that profit- and loss-sharing, arguably the main tenets of Islamic Banking, have been replaced with tawarruq, which resembles riba in form and spirit. Secondly, and related to the first argument, this concept of ‘Sustainability’ is at odds with the modern financial system. One is about preserving for future generations while the other belies a winner-takes-all mentality. There is a view that like Islamic Banking, ‘Sustainability’ cannot be sustained in Commercial Banks even though several of them, from Singapore to London, have adopted the practices. In Islamic Banks’ (blind) pursuit of Commercial Banking, are we being set up for failure?

Following up her article earlier this month, this discussion focuses on the “Sustainability” revolution undertaken by Islamic Banks, and whether “being compassionate” adds value to the Islamic banking proposition which still practices debt-based banking. What do you think? Read the full article here or click on the above diagram. Comments and feedback welcomed

For more writings under Dr Rosana, visit the page in this site which houses more of her writings by clicking below:

Continuing Post : True Islamic Banking is Not in a Commercial Bank

By Dr Rosana Gulzar

 EXCERPT : This is the ‘square’ that the ‘round’ Islamic Banks have been fitted into. So although Islam encourages a range of objectives that include communal welfare and profit-making (Note: NOT profit-maxisiming), Islamic Banks, as Commercial Banks, are almost single-mindedly pursuing the highest profits they can make for shareholders. They do this through all kinds of loans that look eerily like the riba they are supposed to replace. This is the outcome of a decision made by a group of founders in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in the 1970s. They wanted to quickly absorb the people’s newfound wealth from the oil boom. Several earlier attempts at genuine PLS in Egypt failed so the fastest build-up for Islamic banking would be by replicating conventional finance.

This is the continuing discussion by Dr Rosana on the above topic, which puts in the case for Cooperative Banks to be a more suitable testbed for Islamic Banking concepts and contracts. Perhaps a new look on what financial structure is most suitable adopt the requirements of Shariah banking is required. What do you think? Do give your comments and contribute to the discussion. Read the full article here or click on the above diagram.

For more writing under Dr Rosana, visit the page in the site which houses more of her writings by clicking below:

New Post : Dr Rosana Gulzar

Sometimes we are obsessed with an idea that we are not able to step back to take a look at the bigger picture.

This is what Dr Rosana is attempting to do, to ask us to take stock of what Islamic Banking is all about and how to recognise the need to call the model as it really is. The idea of Islamic Banking cannot be just a single textbook idea, but must consider other models that is already doing it in substance instead of just form. She intends to outlay the shortfall of Islamic Banking and perhaps offer an insight of what can be the solution to it all.

Do visit her page by clicking on the above pictures or access her opening gambit to her upcoming articles in the following page.

  1. How About We Stop the Wayang in Islamic Banking?