Ijarah Investment Funds

Another type of Islamic Fund may be an ijarah fund. Ijarah means leasing the detailed rules of which have already been discussed in the third chapter of this book. In this fund the subscription amounts are used to purchase assets like real estate, motor vehicles or other equipment for the purpose of leasing them out to their ultimate users. The ownership of these assets remains with the Fund and the rentals are charged from the users. These rentals are the source of income for the fund which is distributed pro rata to the subscribers.

Each subscriber is given a certificate to evidence his proportionate ownership in the leased assets and to ensure his entitlement to the pro rata share in the income. These certificates may preferably be called ‘sukuk’—a term recognized in the traditional Islamic jurisprudence. Since these sukuk represent the pro rata ownership of their holders in the tangible assets of the fund, and not the liquid amounts or debts, they are fully negotiable and can be sold and purchased in the secondary market. Anyone who purchases these sukuk replaces the sellers in the pro rata ownership of the relevant assets and all the rights and obligations of the original subscriber are passed on to him. The price of these sukuk will be determined on the basis of market forces, and are normally based on their profitability.

However, it should be kept in mind that the contracts of leasing must conform to the principles of Shariah which substantially differ from the terms and conditions used in the agreements of conventional financial leases. The points of difference are explained in detail in the third chapter of this book. However, some basic principles are summarized here:

1. The leased assets must have some usufruct, and the rental must be charged only from that point of time when the usufruct is handed over to the lessee.

2. The leased assets must be of a nature that their halal (permissible) use is possible.

3. The lessor must undertake all the responsibilities consequent to the ownership of the assets.

4. The rental must be fixed and known to the parties right at the beginning of the contract.

In this type of the fund the management should act as an agent of the subscribers and should be paid a fee for its services. The management fee may be a fixed amount or a proportion of the rentals received. Most of the Muslim jurists are of the view that such a fund cannot be created on the basis of mudarabah, because mudarabah, according to them, is restricted to the sale of commodities and does not extend to the business of services and leases. However, in the Hanbali school, mudarabah can be effected in services and leases also. This view has been preferred by a number of contemporary scholars.


Source: Republished with the kind permission of Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani.

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