A Shari‘ah Analysis of Issues in Islamic Leasing
Mohammad Hashim Kamali
International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Abstract: This essay is presented in two parts and several sections.
The first part provides a fairly detailed examination of the fiqh rules
pertaining to the contract of ijarah. It begins with the definition of
ijarah and reviews the leading schools of Islamic law on the basic
conditions and requirements of this contract. This is followed by a
review of the two varieties of ijarah known to the market, namely
operational lease, and financial lease. The discussion proceeds with a
review of contractual options (khiyarat) and their relevance to ijarah,
liability for loss and insertion of penalty clauses in the ijarah, and then
the fiqh rules pertaining to the termination of this contract.
The second part of this essay deals with the sukuk (bonds) in
general and the Islamic bonds in particular. It also discusses potential
benefits of Islamic bonds and their effects on economic development
and examines experts’ opinions on issues of concern to Islamic bonds
that have drawn the attention of commentators. A brief review of some
recent issuances of Islamic bonds is followed by a discussion of hybrid
assets in the sukuk.
I. Introductory Remarks
This essay is presented in two parts, one of which provides an exposition of the fiqh
rules pertaining to ijarah, and the other addresses market developments and Shari‘ah-
related issues in ijarah bonds. The discussion starts with a review of the concept and
definition of ijarah, its basic requirements and conditions of validity according to the
leading schools of fiqh. This is followed by a brief discussion of the two forms of ijarah,
namely operational lease and financial lease, drawing attention to the fact that financial
leasing and securitization of ijarah do not find a precedent in the works of fiqh. The
succeeding sections expound the fiqh rules pertaining to contractual stipulations, and the
relevance of options (khiyarat) to ijarah, liability for loss, penalty for default, and the
termination of ijarah.
(*) It is a revised and improved version of the paper presented at the International Islamic Leasing Conference
in Kuwait, April 24-25, 2005.
(1) See for details Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid, Lahore: Faran Academy, n.d, II,
166; Wahbah al-Zuhayli, Al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuh, 3rd edn. Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1409/1989,
IV, 130; Abd al-Wahhab Abu Sulayman, ‘Aqd al-Ijarah 19-21 (n.6); ‘Ali al-Khafif, 485 (see note 2).
(2) Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudamah, al-Mughni, n.8 below, VI, 12: Abu Sulayman (next note 6) ‘Aqd al-
Ijarah, 18, Ali al-Khafif, Ahkam al-Mu‘malat al-Shar‘iyah, Bahrain, Bank al-Baraka, n.d., 485;
‘Abdullah ‘Alawi Haji Hasan, Sales and Contracts in Early Islamic Commercial Law, Islamabad:
Islamic Research Institute, 1984, 155.
The second part on developments in the sukuk market introduces the sukuk and then
provides a more detailed discussion of ijarah bonds. The discussion highlights the
potential benefits of Islamic bonds in reference to mobilization of funds that can
stimulate economic development and serve therefore the maslahah (welfare, interest) of
the people. The discussion proceeds with a review of expert opinion including some fiqh
academy resolutions on issues of concern to Islamic bonds and commentators response
to some of those issues. This is followed by a brief review of some recent bonds issues,
the development of hybrid assets in sukuk, and a conclusion.
II. The Contract of Ijarah
Ijarah derives from the root word ajara – to recompense, compensate or give a
consideration and return. Ajr refers to a worker’s wage, and ujrah to rental payment. In
its juristic usage, ijarah primarily refers to both a rental as well as a hire contract that
engages the services of persons. In its current usage ijarah also occurs in two types,
namely operational lease and financial lease, the latter is known as ijarah wa iqtina‘.
Ijarah is validated by the Qur’an, Sunnah, and general consensus (ijma‘). Several
verses are found in the Qur’an (al-Kahf,77:al-Qasas, 26: al-Talaq, 65-6) on the worker’s
entitlement to a wage where references are also made to the practices of previous
Prophets on ijarah, thus indicating that ijarah represents an instance of continuity in the
Qur’an of the laws of previous nations. References also occur in hadith to ijarah and the
employer-employee relations, including, for example, the instruction, in symbolic terms,
to the employer to “pay the employee his wages before the sweat of his brow dries up”.
Whereas the Qur’an and Sunnah only refer to ijarah as an employment contract, the
companions of the Prophet practiced ijarah, in the sense of employment as well as
rental of real property. The validity of ijarah is thus upheld by conclusive ijma‘ of the
companions, as well as general custom (‘urf) among Muslims that prevails to this day(
The fiqh texts provide elaborate details on ijarah which stop short nevertheless of
offering a blueprint for the modern applications of this contract, especially as a mode of
contemporary finance. This essay explores aspects of fiqh on ijarah that are of relevance
also to contemporary applications of this contract.
Scholars of the four schools of Islamic law have differed somewhat on the precise
definition of ijarah. All the madhahib are in agreement however, that ijarah is a
contract of the sale of known and specified benefits or services in return for
F2F). Minor variations that occur in the definition of ijarah may be
summarized as follows: Whereas the Maliki and Hanbali definitions of ijarah qualify
benefits and services into lawful benefits and services (manfa’ah mubahah) that would
preclude unlawful objects and activities, other schools subsume this qualification under
the conditions and requirements of ijarah. Another stipulation of the Hanbali definition is
(3) Cf. Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri, Kitab al-Fiqh ‘ala al-Madhahib al-Arba‘ah, Cairo, Al-Maktabah al-
Tawfiqiyah, n.d. III, 86-90.
(4) Cf. Al-Jaziri, Kitab al-Fiqh ‘ala al-Madhahib al-Arbacah, n.3, III, 97.
(5) Id., III, 104.
(6) Mansur Ibn Yunus al-Buhuti, Kashaf al-Qina‘an Matn al-Iqna‘, ed. Mustafa Hilal, Riyadh: Maktabat al-
Nasr al-Hadithah, n.d. III, 561; ‘Abd al-Wahhab Abu Sulayman, ‘Aqd al-ijarah Masdar min Masadir
al-Tamwil al-Islamiyah, Jeddah, Islamic Research and Training Institute, 1413/1992, 27.
(7) Ali al-Khafif, Ahkam Mu‘amalat al-Shar‘iyah, n.2, 487.
To say that ijarah is the sale of benefits differentiates it from sale proper, gift and
charity (bay’, hibah, sadaqah) which consist of the transfer of the capital asset as a
whole and not only of its benefits. Ijarah is thus a sale of benefits, or usufruct, usually
of durable goods. Reference is also made in the precise determination of what may or
may not be suitable for ijarah to the prevailing custom, which is also applicable to the
mode of payment, whether of wages or rental, as to how they are paid. Consideration in
ijarah is normally payable toward the end of a specified period, be it a week, month or
year, as the benefit of ijarah usually materializes over a period of time. Yet Custom
may change this and determine that the benefit of ijarah be paid for in advance.(
Custom also determines the manner how the usufruct is derived in ijarah. A tenant is
thus expected to live in the rented place and use it for familiar purposes of living and
not outside the customary expectations of proper usage for that purpose(
Since ijarah is a variety of sale, it is lawful in everything that can lawfully be
bought and sold, and the rules of Shari‘ah pertaining to sale are also generally
applicable to ijarah. The fuqaha‘ have, however, singled out basically two things,
namely the human being, and the waqf property which cannot be sold but can be made
the valid subject matter of ijarah.(
F6F) Furthermore, since ijarah is a variety of sale,
anything that can be paid as a price (thaman) in sale can also be given as consideration
Most of the rules relating to the contract of sale, such as those pertaining to sanity,
adolescence and consent of the contracting parties without which no contract can come
into existence also apply to ijarah. Other rules of sale that apply to ijarah include
options (khiyarat) such as khiyar al-ru‘yah (option of viewing), khiyar al-‘ayb and
khiyar al-shar‘i (option of defect, and option of condition), revocation (faskh), and
iqalah (termination by mutual agreement), but not pre-emption (shuf‘ah). The Shafi’is
also disallow khiyar al-shari in ijarah. In a defective ijarah (ijarah fasidah) the fair rent
or wage (ajr al-mithl) but not the one specified in contract would be applicable. Since
ijarah transfers the ownership of usufruct from the lessor to the lessee, the former must
not only own the assets involved but also be able to transfer the ownership of its
benefits to the lessee(
F7F). It is also a requirement of a valid ijarah that the capital asset
(8) Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi, al-Mughni, Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-Jadid, 1403/1983, VI,
12. Mohammad Abu Zahrah, al-Milkiyah wa Nazariyat al-‘Aqd fi’l Shari‘ah, Cairo: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.,
272; Shams al-Din al-Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj (see n.22), IV, 6.
(9) Fakh al-Din ‘Uthman al-Zayla‘i, Tabyin al-Haqa’iq Sharh Kanz al-Daqa’iq, 2nd edn. Beirut: Dar al-
Ma‘rifah, V, 106: al-Jaziri, Kitab al-Fiqh, n.3, III, 93; Abu Sulayman, ‘Aqd al-Ijarah n. 6, p.30.
Other conditions required in a valid ijarah are that the two sides of the exchange
must both be known and specified in such a way that eliminates the possibility of
disagreement and dispute; that the usufruct in question has a financial or market value;
and also that it does not involve indulgence in haram activities and substances(
Objects such as a dead carcass, pork, wine, and prohibited activities such as usury,
prostitution and gambling may not be the subject either of sale or ijarah.
Moreover, ijarah like sale involves exchange of values on both sides. The usufruct
in ijarah may thus be sold for money, another object of value, or indeed another
usufruct such as rental of a house in exchange for the rental of another house. This is the
majority position although the Hanafis have held that the counter values of ijarah
should not be of the same genus. The reason given that the benefits of ijarah are non-
existent on both sides at the time of contract, and since ijarah is a form of sale, if both
the counter values are of the same genus, it would resemble deferred sale (bay‘ bi‘l-
nasi‘ah) on both sides, which is not permissible(
F9F). Deferment is allowed according to
the majority of jurists of one of the counter values in sale, such as in salam or bay’ bi-
thaman ajil (BBA) but not of both sides of the bargain.
Leasing is used as a mode of financing by Islamic financial institutions with the
purpose of enabling customers to use durable goods and equipment such as ships,
aircraft, heavy machines and plants in productive enterprises without having to buy
them. In a simple ijarah that does not involve securitization of the ijarah receivables,
the customer or the lessee, pays a certain amount in cash as rental of the leased asset
over a period of time. Since the Islamic bank or financial institution acquires the desired
asset only when a client requests it and commits himself to enter into a lease contract
with the bank, the bank can make a profit by setting the rent at a level that covers, over
the lease period, the purchase price as well as a return in line with the current rate of
mark-up murabahah. The lease is usually for a time long enough to cover the life of the
asset. The banks are usually not interested in the asset itself and the contract generally
provides for sale or gift of the asset to the lessee at the end of the contract period. This is
ijarah-wa-iqtina‘, or a lease ending up with the lessee owning the asset. This form of
ijarah is widely practiced as it is akin to murabahah and suits the banks’ role as
The Syariah Advisory Council (SAC) of the Securities Commission of Malaysia
has noted that financial leasing is not a new contract but an extension of the contract of
ijarah and a mechanism that develops the same concept into a mode of financing.
Moreover, the sale of usufruct which is a feature of financial lease is lawful and Islamic
jurisprudence recognises it as mal. The SAC thus noted that “financial lease without a
(10) Securities Commission of Malaysia, Resolutions of the Securities Commission, Syariah Advisory
Council, Kuala Lumpur, 2002, 69.
(11) Cf., Muhammad Taqi Uthmani, no. 14, Introduction to Islamic Finance, 172.
penalty clause does not contradict Syariah”(
F10F). The SAC further noted that in their
calculation of the rental, the leasing companies take a similar approach, which is based
on the value of the asset, rate of charge or return, and the period of financing, The main
difference being that an operational lease does not offer an option to the lessee to buy
the leased asset.
Notwithstanding its general acceptance in Islamic banks, some aspects of financial
leasing are not fully Shari‘ah compliant and need to be reviewed and rectified. One of
these is concerned with assignment of lease without the transfer of ownership. The
lessor can sell the leased property to a third party in which case the relation of lessor
and lessee shall be established between the new owner and the lessee. However,
assignment of the lease itself for a monetary consideration without assigning ownership
of the leased asset is not valid. The difference being that in the latter case the ownership
of the asset is not transferred to the assignee, but he becomes entitled to receive rent of
the asset only. This kind of assignment is acceptable in Shari‘ah only where no
monetary consideration is involved. For example, a lessor can assign his right to claim
rent from the lessee to his brother or friend as a gift. Similarly, he can assign this right
to any one of his creditors to set off his debt out of the rent receivables. But if the lessor
wishes to sell this right for a price, he would be indulging in the sale of money (the
amount of rentals) for money which would be tantamount to riba(
Unlike sale which under the scholastic fiqh cannot be effected for a future date,
ijarah for a future date is permissible. The lease period, and also the lessor’s entitlement
to rent, however, commence form the date on which the leased asset is delivered to the
lessee, regardless as to whether the lessee has started using it or not. This enables both
the lessor and lessee to make preparation plans ahead over a longer period of time. The
rent or any part thereof may be payable in advance before delivery of the asset to the
lessee, but the amount so collected by the lessor remains with him as payment on
account that is adjustable against the actual rent. Jointly owned property by two or more
persons can be leased out and the rent is distributed among them in proportion to their
respective share in the property. A joint owner of a property may also lease out his part
to his partner but not to an outsider without an agreement with his partner/s first. The
lessee may not use the leased asset for purposes other than those specified in the lease
agreement. If no such purpose has been specified in the lease agreement, the asset may
be used for any purpose that is deemed customary and normal.
III. Two Modes of Lease Financing
The fiqh discourse does not envisage ijarah as a mode of financing, but a transaction
for the transfer of usufruct from person to person for an agreed consideration and period.
Yet as earlier noted, in financial leasing, ijarah is basically used as a substitute to long
term lending on the basis of interest. The lessee thus acquires the equipment he needs
without borrowing on interest but resorts to leasing as an alternative. Leasing companies
(12) Cf. Husayn Hamid Hassan, al-Istithmar al-Islami wa Turuq Tamwiliah, Bank Dubai al-Islami, (in-
house publication) 1997, 60. In Malaysia this variation has been further extended in the form of what is
known as ijarah thumma al-bay‘ (ijarah then sale) which means that two separate contracts are
concluded, namely ijarah and sale: upon expiry of the lease period the lessee enters into a second
contract to purchase the leased asset from the lessor.
(13) Cf. Muhammad Nejatullah Siddiqi, Riba (Interest) and Rationale of its Prohibition. Jeddah: IRTI,
Islamic Development Bank, 2004, 62; Mohammad Muzzafar, “Ijarah: Financing on the Basis of Hire-
Purchase and Leasing” Encyclopedia of Islamic Banking, 137; Liaqat Ali Khan Niazi, Islamic Law of
Contract, Lahore, 298; Derek Weist “Issues in Islamic Leasing” London: New Horizon, June 1997, 7.
and Islamic banks often lease objects such as plants and machinery to business firms and
entrepreneurs who may be unable to buy them for their production purposes(
In a financial lease, Islamic banks and institutions are usually not interested in the
asset itself, yet the option remains open for them to retain ownership of the item, sell or
lease it to another client. Financial leasing has become popular due to tax advantages as
the rental can be offset against corporate tax by the lessee, including zakah. Since the
client renting the equipment is not its owner, any wealth assessment for zakah will not
include the item in question.
The critics say that financial leasing basically boils down to a form of disguised
security agreement since it transfers to the lessee all the risks associated with ownership.
The long-term and binding nature of financial lease add to the weight of that problem.
Even when the leased object is eventually made into a free gift or given at a nominal
price, it does not address the issue that the residual value is predetermined and built into
the lease payments which may prove to be unjust. For the lessee loses the asset as well
as the extra payments he may have made in the event he dies or is unable to continue the
lease payments. To address this problem, it is suggested that the lease agreement should
not bind the lessee to acquire ownership of the asset as this would tie up one agreement
with another and make the one a pre-condition of the other. However, the lessor is at
liberty to sign another contract with the lessee at the end of the lease period, just as he
may also make a unilateral promise to sell, or make a gift of the leased asset to the
lessee at the end of the lease period. In this way the lessee would still have the option
whether or not he wishes to acquire ownership of the leased asset(
In some cases the lease commences on the very day the lessee receives the price
irrespective of whether he has taken delivery of the asset. The lessee’s liability for rent
thus begins prior to taking delivery of the leased asset. This contravenes one of
requirements of ijarah as it amounts to charging rent on the money given to the
customer, and it is tantamount to interest. If the supplier has delayed delivery after
receiving the price, the lessee should not be liable for the rent of the period of delay.
Furthermore, when the lessee himself has been entrusted with the purchase of the
leased asset, two separate relations come into play between the institution and the client
one after the other. In the first instance, the client is an agent (wakil) of the institution to
purchase the asset on the latter’s behalf. The lessor-lessee relationship has not yet come
into operation at this stage. The second stage begins from the date when the client takes
delivery from the supplier. It is only then that the lessor-lessee relation begins within the
context of ijarah. During the first stage, the client cannot be held liable for the
(14) Cf. Muhammad Taqi Uthmani, Introduction to Islamic Finance, Karachi, Pakistan, Idaratul-Ma‘arif,
(15) al-Khafif, Ahkam Mu‘amalat al-Shar‘iyah , n.2, 491.
obligations of the lessee as he only acts as a trustee and agent. But when he takes
delivery of the assets, he also acquires the role of the lessee(
IV. Liability for Loss
Since the lessor, in a financial lease, bears ownership responsibilities, in the event
the asset is destroyed during the lease period, he alone stands to suffer the loss.
Similarly if the leased asset loses its utility and function without the lessee’s fault or
negligence, the lessor’s entitlement to rent discontinues. This may also be said to be one
of the differences between ijarah and conventional leasing, as the latter entitles the
lessor to receive rent even if the lessee could not obtain any benefit from the leased
Long term leases with fixed rent may be liable to market fluctuations of rent and
inflation which may present loss-incurring factors for the lessor. To prevent excessive
uncertainty in this regard, the lessor may insert a condition in the lease that the rent may
be reviewed or made renewable on new terms at specified intervals. This would be
tantamount to what is now known as floating ijarah, as opposed to fixed rate ijarah.
If the lessee contravenes any of the terms of the agreement, he may be held liable
for compensation of the loss caused, but he cannot be compelled to pay the rent of the
remaining period. The lease asset normally reverts to the lessor when the lease is
terminated. Should there be no contravention on the part of the lessee, the lease cannot
be terminated without mutual consent. Hence any stipulation which gives the lessor
unrestricted power to terminate the lease would be contrary to Shari‘ah. Similarly, any
clause which obligates the lessee to payment of rent for the remaining of the lease
period would be ultra vires the Shari‘ah.
If the leased asset has totally lost its utility and function, accidentally destroyed, or
its usufruct value substantially reduced and no restoration or repair is feasible, the lease
terminates as of the day of the loss of its utility. However, in modern practice, the leased
assets are usually insured against such contingencies, in which case, it may be
unnecessary to insert additional stipulations in the lease contract.
The lessee’s control over the leased article is in the nature of a trust (amanah) which
means he is not liable for loss and damage that occurs through normal use of the leased
object. But he is liable to pay compensation when he violates the terms of the trust and
uses the leased article contrary to what is normal and customary, or when proved
deliberately negligent and abusive(
Financial lease agreements often stipulate a penalty if the lessee defaults on
payment. Uthmani observed that a penalty of this kind is not valid in an Islamic lease.
The reason given is that the rent after it becomes due is a debt payable by the lessee and
a monetary charge on it is tantamount to riba. A stipulation may, however, be inserted
in the ijarah agreement making late payment by the lessee over a period of time liable
(16) Uthmani, Introduction to Islamic Finance, n. 14, 171-72; see also Ali Arsalan Tariq Managing
Financial Risks of Sukuk Structures, unpublished Master of Science Dissertation at Loughborough
University, UK, 2004.
(17) SAC 20th Meeting, 14 July, 1999, see Securities Commission of Malaysia, n. 10, 102.
(18) Securities Commission of Malaysia, n. 10, 103.
to a certain amount of charity. This may provide a deterrent to late payment even though
it does not compensate the lessor for his opportunity cost over the period of default(
The SAC of the Securities Commission of Malaysia, has held that late payment in
an operating or a financial lease may be subject to a one per cent penalty, which may
not, however, be compounded. In holding this position the SAC actually followed an
earlier resolution of its sister organization, namely the Shari‘ah Advisory Council of the
Central Bank (Bank Negara) of Malaysia, which had also approved imposition of a flat
one per cent penalty per annum(
In a subsequent resolution of the SAC (8 November 2000) the issue of default on
payment was addressed more widely, that is, with reference to all Islamic financing
transactions, under the rubric of substitution of compensation (ta‘wid). Thus it was held
that imposing ta‘wid is permissible 1) for arrears of due payments, 2) for failure to pay
after the due date, 3) for early settlement before due date in Islamic financing products
that are based on contracts of exchange (‘uqud mu‘awadat) including Islamic debt
securities. Ta‘wid can be imposed after it is found that deliberate delay in payment
(mumatalah) is present on the part of the payee to settle the payment of principal or
profit. The rate of ta‘wid on late payment of profit is one per cent per annum of the
arrears which may not be compounded. Where the ta‘wid rate on payment of the
principal is based on the prevailing market rate in the Islamic inter bank money market;
it too may not be compounded.
The SAC resolution added that “the imposition of ta‘wid, or shart jaza’i” is penalty
agreed upon by the ‘aqd parties as compensation that can rightfully be claimed by the
creditor, when the debtor fails or is late in meeting his obligation to pay back the loan.
Payment by way of ta‘wid may not in any case exceed the total amount of the
F18F). The Shari‘ah evidence cited for this resolution refers to two
hadiths, and a ruling of qiyas (analogy) as follows:
• Procrastination by the affluent is injustice (matl al-ghani zulm).
• Harm may neither be inflicted nor reciprocated (la darar wa la dirara fi‘l-Islam).
This last hadith is moreover supported by the legal maxim that “harm must be
eliminated (al-darar yuzal)”.
Qiyas: delay in due payment is seen to be analogous to ghasb (usurpation) and the
usurper may, in the Shafi‘i and Hanbali schools, be held liable to compensate the owner
for his loss. The ‘illah or effective cause that is in common between ghasb and
mumatalah is “obstructing the use of property and exploiting it in a tyrannical way”.
The Fiqh Academy of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, in its resolution 66
(1992) authorised imposition of liquidated damages and penalty in istisna‘
(19) Majma‘ al-Fiqh li Rabitah al-‘Alam al Islami. Qararat Majma‘ al-Fiqh al-Islami, Jeddah, 1975.
(20) al-Bukhari, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Shurut (Book of Conditions), vol. V, 354.
(21) Mustafa al-Zarqa, al-Madkhal al-Fiqhi al-‘Amm: al-Fiqh al-Islami fi Thawbihi al-Jadid, Damascus: Dar
al-Fikr, 1968, III, 386.
(22) Shams al-Din al-Ramli, Nihayat al-Muhtaj ila Sharh al-Minhaj, Cairo, 1386/1967 IV, 6; Abu
Sulayman, ‘Aqd, al-Ijarah, n.6, 40.
(23) Cf., al-Khafif, Ahkam, n.2, 490-91.
V. Options and Stipulations (Khiyarat)
Each of the parties in an operational lease has the right to insert stipulations in the
contract such as the option of condition (khiyar al-shart) according to which the option
stipulator can duly exercise it and dissolve the lease. This kind of option is limited to
three days according to the majority view. The Shafi‘is validate insertion of khiyar al-
shart in sale but not in ijarah(
F22F). The parties to an operational lease or a financial lease
and their representatives may thus, according to the majority, but not the Shafi‘is,
choose to insert stipulations that reflect new market realities and such other matters as
timing of fulfillment of their contractual obligations. Similarly both the lessor and lessee,
or their agents, have the right to stipulate the option of viewing (khiyar al-ru’yah) which
would entitle them to dissolve their contract after seeing the leased object, if they have
not seen it at the time of contract. Furthermore, under the option of defect (khiyar al-
‘ayb), if the lessee finds any defect in the leased object, he is entitled to dissolve the
contract provided the defect in question is such as to obstruct normal enjoyment of the
The lessee himself or anyone else with his permission may utilise the leased article
with or without payment. If the leased asset is likely to be differently used by different
users, the lessee may not sub-lease the leased asset without the permission of lessor. If
the sub-lease rental is equal or less than the original rent, and the asset is used for
similar purposes, all the leading madhahib agree on the permissibility of sub-leasing.
However, opinions vary in the event where the sub-lease rental is higher than the
original rent. Whereas the Shafi‘i and Hanbali schools allow this, Imam Abu Hanifah
has held that the surplus should be given in charity, but allows it if the sub-lessee has
enhanced the assets in some way(
F23F). Notwithstanding the pious caliber of Abu
(24) Ibn Qudamah, al-Mughni, n.8, VI, 20; Abu Sulayman, ‘Aqd al-Ijarah, n.6, 75.
(25) Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid, n.1, II, 288; Ali al-Khafif, Ahkam al-Mu‘amalat al-Milkiyah, n.2, 502;
Abu Sulayman, ‘Aqd al-Ijarah, n.6, 76.
(26) Al-Khafif, Ahkam, n.2, 503-504.
VI. Revocation (Faskh) of Ijarah
Since the principal purpose of ijarah is to enable the lessee to enjoy the usufruct of
the leased object, the majority of schools, excepting the Hanafis, allow revocation
(faskh) of ijarah in basically one situation only, which is when the leased article loses
its utility and benefit. The majority consequently do not allow revocation of ijarah on
grounds of any personal disability that befalls the lessor or the lessee. Hence a lease
contract may not be revoked on any other ground(
The Hanafis also permit revocation of ijarah on ground of disabilities affecting the
parties even when the leased item remains intact. Revocation is thus allowed of the
lease, for example, of a shop if prior to taking occupancy, the lessee loses all his
merchandise. Similarly, when someone hires a chef for an event which is, however,
unexpectedly postponed or cancelled, the hire contract may be revoked. Disagreement
among the schools has also arisen over the dissolution of ijarah in the event of death of
one of the contracting parties. The majority of schools maintain that ijarah remains
intact even after the death of one of the contracting parties and hold that their legal heirs
would inherit the contract. The latter would consequently step into the shoes of their
deceased relative and would consequently be bound to honor the contract. The Hanafis
maintain, on the other hand, that the contract is dissolved upon the death of one of the
contracting parties. This is because usufruct according to the Hanafis is a manfa‘ah
(benefit) which is not mal and therefore not inheritable. Transfer of ownership by way
of sale, gift and inheritance also does not vitiate the ijarah, which according to the
majority including the Hanafis survives the transfer and the new owner must observe it
until the end of its period(
Ijarah basically expires when its period of validity comes to an end unless it be for
a reason that necessitates its extension beyond the due date. Thus when the hire period
of an animal or a vehicle comes to end during the continuation of a journey they have
been hired for, the ijarah continues until the time the carrier reaches destination.
As already noted ijarah that is subject to option of stipulation, option of defect or
option of viewing comes to an end with the due exercise of these options(
VII. Islamic Bonds or Sukuk
Sakk (p1. sukuk) in Arabic lexicology derives from the idea of striking one’s seal on
a document signifying a covenant or conveyance of rights and obligations. The word is
also used for minting coins. In its present usage, sukuk refer to certificates or financial
securities that represent a proportional or undivided interest in an asset, or pool of assets,
and the claim embodied in sukuk is not simply claim to a cash flow but an ownership
(27) Exposure Draft of AAOIFI Shari‘ah Standard No. 18, November 2002, p.4.
(28) Cf., Tariq “Managing Financial Risks of Sukuk,” no. 16, 22.
(29) The salam sukuk of Bahrain are monthly issues and are non-tradable. So far over 40 issues of these salam
sukuk have been issued and each oversubscribed.
(30) Monzer Kahf, “The Use of Assets Ijarah Bond for Bridging the Budget Gap.” Islamic Economic Studies,
vol. 4, n.2, May 1997, 82.
The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions
(AAOIFI) released in November 2002 a document on Shari‘ah standards concerning
sukuk. The document provides that “Investment sukuk are certificates of equal value
representing, after closing subscription, receipt of the value of the certificates and
putting them to use as planned, common title to shares and rights to tangible assets,
usufructs and services, or equity of a given project of a special investment activity”(
Zero-coupon sukuk, as they are known, are debt financing but non-tradable sukuk
which are created where the assets to be mobilized do not exist yet. The purpose would
be to create more assets on the balance sheet of a company. However, certificates of this
nature would not readily be tradable because of Shari‘ah restrictions on sale of debts
(except for Malaysia and Indonesia). The primary asset pools to be generated would
partake of istisna‘ and instalment purchase/sale contracts that create debt-bearing
obligations. The certificates on these debts are known as fixed rate zero coupon sukuk
and they are generally deemed to be Shari‘ah compliant(
Sukuk may be divided into two types: sukuk that yield pre-determined returns, and
sukuk based on profit and loss sharing. sukuk al-ijarah are a prime example of
certificates that yield pre-determined returns. So far sukuk al-ijarah has been the
dominant type of sukuk issued, although salam sukuk has also been used for similar
purposes and it is being actively promoted by the government of Bahrain(
F29F). Part of the
motivation to promote these new tools has been to replace the commodity murabahah
transactions so commonly used by Islamic banks to generate liquidity. Ijarah bonds are
“securities of equal denomination for each issue, representing physical durable assets
that are tied to an ijarah contract as defined by Shari‘ah”(
Ijarah bonds represent leased assets without actually relating the bond holders to
any corporate body or institution. For instance, an aircraft leased to an airline company
can be represented in bonds and owned by a thousand different bond holders, each of
them individually and independently collecting their periodic rent from the airline
company without having to associate with other bondholders. They are, in other words,
(31) Cf., Nathif J. Adam and Abdul Kader Thomas, Islamic Bond, Your Guide to Issuing, Structuring and
Investing in Sukuk. London: Euromoney Books, 2004, 117; Tariq, “Managing Financial Risks.” n.16, 21.
not owners of a share in a company that owns the leased airline, but simply a sharing
owner of one thousandth of the aircraft itself. The bondholders receive steady income
that is even more risk averse than common stock, due to the fixed and predetermined
nature of their rental cash flow.
Ijarah bonds are nevertheless exposed to risks arising from general market
conditions, price movements of real assets, the ability of the lessee to pay the rental
installments, maintenance and insurance costs. This might mean that the expected return
on some forms of ijarah bonds may not be precisely predetermined and fixed. The fixed
rental may thus represent a maximum that is subject to certain deductions. Pure ijarah
sukuk are usually issued on the basis of stand-alone assets identified on the balance
sheet. The assets can be parcels of land to be leased, equipment such as aircraft and
ships. The rental rates on these sukuk can be both fixed and floating depending on the
particular originator and contract(
There is scope, of course, for introducing mudarabah and musharakah bonds
although these are more likely to be designated as notes since the returns will be
variable rather than fixed-unlike the ijarah and salam certificates which are pre-
determined. Mudarabah and musharakah bonds have, in fact, been introduced by many
countries as well as the IDB.
Securitization is commonly used as a risk management tool as well as an instrument
of monetization of illiquid and untapped assets. It helps to decrease funding risks by
diversifying the sources of funds. Securitization can generate gains for both financial
institutions and investors. The investors are enabled to make their investment decisions
almost independently of the credit standing of the originator and focus instead on the
degree of protection provided by the SPV (special purpose vehicle) to meet the
Ijarah-based securitization starts with the identification of a suitable underlying
asset, which must be capable of both sale and leasing. The process normally starts with
the lessor/originator selling the leased asset to the SPV. The latter then enters into a
lease contract with the originator. The lease contract creates income in the form of
rental payments in favor of the SPV. The SPV then issues sukuk al-ijarah that are
supposed to represent an undivided proportionate ownership in favor of its holders over
the leased asset. At the end of the lease period, which also signifies maturity of the
sukuk, the issuer will redeem the sukuk from the holders, effectively by buying back the
Securitization of ijarah gained momentum in the last few years with the issuance
initially of the Malaysian Global Sukuk of USD600 million in June 2002. This was
followed with the USD700 million State of Qatar Islamic Sukuk in 2003, and the
USD250 million Bahrain Monetary Agency’s Ijarah sukuk in early 2004. Saudi Arabia,
Pakistan and the IDB etc., have added to the list. In June 2004 the Department of Civil
Aviation of UAE mandated the Dubai Islamic Bank to issue USD750 million sukuk al-
(32) The Asia Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2004, M1.
(33) Cf., Tariq, “Managing Financial Risks of Sukuk,” n. 16, 29.
(34) See newspaper articles on Euromoney Asian Islamic Banking and Finance Summit by B.K. Sidhu
“Systematic Standard Needed,” and “Have Innovative Products. Players Urged” by Hamish Hamid, The
Star, Kuala Lumpur 22 September 2004, quoting Khalid Yusuf, Dubai Internatinal Financial Centre,
Islamic Finance Director, and Iqbal Khan, Dubai based Amanah Finance CEO, 22 September 2004, p.5;
see also The Asian Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2004, Money and Investing M1.
(35) Id., p.6 report by C.S. Tan “Zeti: Set up efforts for progressive Islamic financial system.”
ijarah to raise funding for the expansion of Dubai International Airport. Indonesia is
reported to be issuing “part of its planned USD2 billion in overseas bonds in 2005 in the
F32F). All the issues introduced so far were highly successful and well
received in the Middle East, Europe and beyond. Yet the relatively low number of
issues has been a restrictive factor on overall liquidity in the market, and the situation is
not helped by the fact that investors were inclined to hold on to their investments(
The successful reception of ijarah bonds and its world-wide Shari‘ah compliance
endorsement is partly due to the fact that they avoid the somewhat controversial bay‘ al-
dayn mode of asset securitization. A distinction of note to be drawn is between lease-
based securitization, and debt-based securitization, which makes the former acceptable
generally whereas reservations tend to persist in the Middle East and Gulf regions over
the acceptance in Shari‘ah of the latter, although it is accepted in Southeast Asian
countries that adhere to the Shafi‘i madhhab.
In a 2004 Euromoney Islamic Banking and Finance Summit held in Kuala Lumpur(
commentators confirmed that murabahah and bay‘ bi-thamam ‘ajil continued to be in
focus but that sukuk, although limited in supply and institution bound, is the most
sought after product. The overall size of Islamic finance worldwide was estimated at
USD250 billion and according to a subsequent Asian Wall Street Journal estimate, 270
billion comprising murabahah transactions in short-term market operations, equity-
based real estate and hedge funds, retail finance products like mortgages, car financing
etc, adding, however, that Islamic bonds were yet to be fully developed. It was further
noted that only 20 per cent of Muslim population in GCC countries buy Islamic
products. The focus in the future should be on real estate investment trust (REIT) and
real estate investment funds which have wider retail appeal and distribution. In her
keynote address, Dr. Zeti Aziz, Governor of Central Bank Malaysia called for exploring
the prospects of “creation of an Islamic Universal Bond. Interested countries and
selected institutions could sell their assets to a special purpose vehicle, which, in turn,
would lease back the assets to the countries. Proceeds could then be transferred to the
participating countries for the general purposes of economic development”(
In February 1988, the Fiqh Academy of the Organisation of Islamic Conference
considered, at the request of delegates from Jordan, Pakistan and Malaysia, the question
of Islamic investment certificates at their fourth annual plenary session held in Jeddah.
The Academy held that the Shari‘ah encourages documentation of contracts as
stipulated in sura 2:282 of the Qur’an:
“When you deal with each other in transactions involving future
obligations over a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing… It is more
just in the sight of God, more suitable as evidence and more convenient to
prevent doubts among yourselves.”
(36) Quoted in Adam and Abdul Kader, Islamic Bonds, n.31, 4-5.
(37) Cf., Javed Hussain and Sharifa Marafi, “The Role of Islamic Finance for industrial projects in the State
of Kuwait.” Conference paper presented at the Fifth International Conference on Islamic Economics
and Finance, Bahrain, 7-9 October 2003, Vol. II of conference papers, 682; Tariq “Managing Financial
Risks,” n.16, 41.
The Fiqh Academy thus held in its decision number (5), 1988:
“Any collection of assets can be represented in a written note or bond,
and the bond or note can be sold at the market price provided that the
composition of the group of assets, represented by the security, consists of
a majority of physical assets and financial rights, with only a minority
being cash and interpersonal debts”(
Some of the salient features, and maslahah-oriented benefits, of ijarah and
ijarah bonds may be summarized as follows:
a) As already noted, ijarah bonds do not represent debt; they represent undivided
ownership in the leased asset. They are as such participatory trust certificates that
resemble equities. Since the sukuk are neither debt nor monetary instruments, Islamic
legal difficulties that accrue the sale of debts or money do not arise in this case. The
sukuk would, however, lose their Shari‘ah compliance without a share in ownership of
b) The determining factor of the cost of ijarah financing is the benchmark rate used
by the lessor to assess his required return. The market reference used is the London
Inter-Bank Offer Rate (LIBOR) over which a competitive premium is added. The
Shari‘ah compliance of this has often been questioned especially with reference to the
floating rate return distributed to the certificate holders. One could assume that the
interest rate on loans of the same maturity is used as a benchmark rate. However, it
could be different for at least two reasons. First, being asset-backed, ijarah may be
considered less risky than a term loan of the same maturity, and as such, a lower
benchmark rate would be in order. Second, the lessor, as owner of the asset, may be
willing, under the same circumstances, to pass on a part of these benefits to the lessee in
the form of lower lease payment(
F37F). Having said this, it should be noted that in the case
of ijarah bonds, LIBOR serves only as a market reference for the returns whereas the
intrinsic value of return arises from the rentals pertaining to the leasing arrangements
with the originator and SPV.
c) The fact that the lessor remains legal owner of the leased assets places him in a
secure position without any need for collaterals. This is a significant advantage
especially in countries where the law relating to collaterals may have loopholes which
hinder bank lending. But the main criticism of collateral-based lending at a fixed
predetermined rate of interest is that it is inherently conservative. It favors the rich and
those who are already in business, and is only indirectly concerned with the success of
the venture it finances. Conventional financing appears to be collaterally overstretched
and more of the same can only make it more selective and difficult for those who do not
qualify. In contrast, since leasing companies are not deposit takers, they tend to be less
(38) Cf., Ibrahim Warde, “Islamic Finance: A Quarter-Century Assessment,” in Proceedings of the Fourth
Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance, September 30–October 1, 2000, 194; Mohammad
Muzaffar, “Ijarah: Financing on the Basis of Hire Purchase and Leasing,” Encyclopedia of Islamic
Banking and Insurance, 143.
(39) Cf., Nafel as-Hathal, “Innovation in Ijarah Financing”, Conference paper presented at Labuan
International Summit on Islamic Financial & Investment Instruments, 16-18 January, 1997, 4.
(40) Cf., Tariq, “Managing Financial Risks,” n.16, 50.
(41) Cf., Adam and AbdulKader, Islamic Bonds, n.31, 27.
tightly regulated than banks and finance companies(
F38F). Leasing offers the advantage of
not requiring collateral and thus of simpler repossession procedures since ownership of
the asset lies with the lessor. The lessor is only exposed to a low level credit risk from
the lessee as the lease transaction is, by definition, asset-backed.
d) Since the lessor purchases the required equipment often at the request of the
lessee and obtains it directly from the supplier, the possibility of misuse of funds and
assets is minimized. Leasing is thus not only asset-backed but also purpose-driven and
can contribute to long term economically beneficial investment.
e) Relatively simple documentation keeps transaction costs down, allowing leasing
companies to achieve high leasing volume more efficiently. Lower costs are also to
some extent a corollary of the fact that leasing is backed by its own assets, which make
it independent of collateral taking procedures(
f) Ijarah is also a flexible facility since the lease payments can be short-term or
long-term. Financing and pricing can be on a fixed or floating basis, unlike fixed-term
or fixed-date trading contracts such as murabahah and istisna‘. A rent might fluctuate in
line with changes in the markets. However, the price of a sold item may not be adjusted
upwards or downwards once the sale is complete, even if the payment of price is
deferred. It is partly due to the flexibility of ijarah that this facility has experienced a
Until a few years ago, floating rate ijarah was not seen to be Shari‘ah compliant as
it was thought that the originator could only guarantee rents or returns on fixed return
underlying assets. But fixed rate sukuk face many market risks. To match the market
requirement of sukuk to be a floating rate on one hand, and the Shari‘ah requirement of
rents to be fixed rate on the other, a solution was found, which was to base the ijarah
bonds on a master ijarah agreement with several subordinate ijarah agreements. In the
subordinate ijarah contract the rents were revised semi annually in accordance with the
market benchmark. This method ensured that the rent was fixed for six months and
floating at the same time. Major ijarah bond issues in the Middle East, Gulf and
Malaysia are based on this variant. This method abated, partially at least, the market
risks concerning the fixed rate ijarah bonds(
g) Another reason for the rapid growth of ijarah-based financing is its close
similarity with conventional leasing, hence resulting in the enforceability of the
conventional lease contracts in the Gulf region and Southeast Asia. The question of
enforcement is likely to be problematic with regard to other interest-based financial
contracts in the courts of some Gulf countries(
(42) Upon closing the deal, the IDB issue had an asset base comprising 65.8 per cent Sukuk al-ijarah,
murabahah receivables represented 30.73 percent and sukuk al-istisna‘, 3.4 per cent.
Sukuk certificates also serve to replicate the functions of conventional bonds in
respect of resource mobilization and liquidity management as well as providing stable
sources of income for investors. However, sukuk differ from conventional bonds in that
sukuk do not proceed on interest rates.
Investing in sukuk also facilitate the funding of trade and production of tangible
assets. Sukuk are as such linked with real sector activities and are not likely to create
short-term speculative movement of funds and potential financial crises. Moreover, in
their capacity as owners, ijarah sukuk holders are entitled to information on the use of
their investment, nature of the underlying assets and information that would otherwise
be redundant in conventional bonds. This is likely to encourage greater market
VIII. Hybrid Islamic Bonds
The underlying pool of assets in sukuk can comprise of istisna‘ and murabahah
receivables as well as ijarah. Having a mixed portfolio of assets of different classes may
indeed allow for greater mobilization of funds. For without pooling together murabahah
and istisna‘ with ijarah, the former two would normally be inaccessible to securitization
on their own.
In July 2004, the Islamic Development Bank issued a USD400 million hybrid sukuk
for the global market under a new name, sukuk al-istithmar. This was the first instance
of Islamic securitization that comprised a plurality of instruments in its underlying pool
of assets. Previous issues of global sukuk had relied on revenue from leases of real
estate assets mainly in the form of ijarah bonds.
The IDB Sukuk consisted of real ijarah-based, and also debt-based assets
(murabahah and istisna‘). Yet the asset portfolio was so structured so as to be
dominated by the ijarah-based portion which represented 66 percent of the total. It was
also considered that ijarah assets should always constitute more than 50 per cent of the
portfolio. Due to the fact that the IDB portfolio comprises murabahah and istisna‘
receivables, the return on these certificates could only be pre-determined and fixed (at
3.625% per annum) payable at six monthly intervals until August 2008 when they will
be redeemed in full(42F).
In juridical terms, the IDB experiment may be said to represent an instance of the
fiqhi concept of talfiq, or patching up, which pieces together different rules, and in the
present case, financial instruments, in order to arrive at a desirable solutions, which in
the present case means a unified marketable formula. The three components of the IDB
sukuk al-istithmar, namely ijarah, murabahah and istithmar are all sub-varieties of sale
and also belong to the general category of contracts of exchange (‘uqud al-mu‘awadah)
that involve exchange of values. The three differ, however, in respect of their own
requirements and conditions. Whereas murabahah belongs to the category of fiduciary
contracts (‘uqud al-amanah), ijarah and istisna‘ do not fall under that category.
Furthermore, ijarah is sale of usufruct (manafi‘) while the other two contracts involve
The present writer is not aware whether anyone involved in structuring the IDB
sukuk al-istithmar had actually mentioned talfiq as a framework and formula, but it
seems that the idea fits in.
Talfiq can be an innovative instrument, or one that can be squarely placed under
rubric of imitation and taqlid, depending on its component segments and its outcome.
Talfiq has in the past been used as a formula by which to patch together a whole or a
part of the ruling of one madhhab with another, or the opinion of one individual jurist
with another within or outside the existing madhahib in order to reach an appropriate
ruling or a way out of rigidity that may have been caused by adherence to the ruling of a
single madhhab. The IDB experiment could be said to manifest a kind of piecing
together of different contracts into a single product. Talfiq has in this instance been used
as a tool of modern financial engineering in reference to Islamic bonds.
Lastly, mixed asset bonds could be used as a means by which to reduce over-
reliance on debt-based murabahah and BBA bonds that claim the lion share of the
Southeast Asian Islamic bonds market. The latter can try perhaps to combine
murabahah and BBA contracts with ijarah and other asset-backed contracts when such
might present a feasible alternative. The Middle East and Gulf markets will most likely,
on the other hand, follow the IDB formula on a wider scale and in this way the existing
gulf between the Middle East and Southeast Asian approaches on the application of bay‘
al-dayn to Islamic bonds can be gradually reduced.
The basic advantages of ijarah and how it can be used to avoid some of the
controversial features of bay‘ al-‘inah and bay‘ al-dayn have generated much interest in
ijarah-based financing and sukuk in recent years. Ijarah can also be used as an incentive
to economic development as it is usually long term and offers potential for stimulating
productive industries. The fact that ijarah is not dependent on collaterals also means
that it has greater in-built stability to contain inflationary pressures in the economy.
As a method of financing, ijarah is still in its early stages of development and there
is much scope in Malaysia, the Middle East, and Asia to further expand its applications
for project financing. It seems that only a handful of Muslim countries have hitherto
utilized ijarah bonds and the dominant majority of Muslim countries have not yet begun
utilizing ijarah bonds for mobilization of assets in secondary markets. This is reflected
in the recent suggestion by the Governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia for
introduction of an Islamic universal bond, preferably ijarah-based, with the
participation of developing countries the revenue from which could be used for project
financing in the participating countries. Ijarah can also be utilized as a substitute to the
somewhat excessively utilized bay‘ al-mu‘ajjal and murabahah in the Islamic bonds
(43) Further details on the permissibility or otherwise of traded options from the Shari‘ah perspective can be
found in M.H. Kamali, Islamic Commercial Law: An Analysis of Futures and Options, Cambridge.
Islamic Texts Society, 2001: Idem “Islamic Commercial Law: An Analysis of Options” The American J.
of Islamic Social Sciences. Vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 17-37.
Our analysis of the Shari‘ah-related issues pertaining to ijarah-based financing also
suggests that there are basically no major departures from Shari‘ah principles in the
contemporary applications of this contract. Some of the issues to which attention has been
drawn in this essay have featured in the existing literature on ijarah and the quest
continues for better solutions. With regard to financial leasing, the main critique is that the
ijarah certificates should represent a portion of the bearer’s ownership in the leased assets
and not a mere sale of the right to charge rent. This is not also an insurmountable issue.
Issues pertaining to compensation, or imposition of penalty for default, also call for
attention but this too is a matter of correct observance of Shari‘ah provisions and
insertion of suitable clauses in the lease contract so as to curb unfair practices that
burden the lessee with unwarranted demands. Another issue raised is over the obligatory
manner of committing the lessee to acquire ownership of the leased asset at the end of
the contract period. This practice is inconsistent, as explained earlier, with the
requirements of Islamic law. For stipulation of such terms in the original lease not only
amounts to combining two contracts in one (known as al-safqah fi safqatayn), but can
also lead to injustice. There is no objection to drawing a basic memorandum of
understanding, or exchange of promises, between the parties that would help secure the
desired purposes of the parties, provided it does not bind the lessee to acquire ownership.
The lessor may also make a unilateral commitment to offer the lessee an option to buy
the leased assets at the end. For those who accept the legality of traded options from the
Islamic perspective, one may suggest perhaps that the lessor may offer a put option to
the lessee to sell the leased assets to the latter at the end of the contract period. The
option so provided would only commit the lessor but would not bind the lessee to
exercise the option.(
F43F) Since a traded option is a separate contract in any case, this
would overcome the issue of combining two bargains into one. One may also suggest
that the lessor should in such a case absorb the costs of the put option and offer it in the
form, as it is, of a unilateral commitment upon himself.
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