Leased Asset - Residual Value
Another important feature of the modern ‘financial leases’ is that after the expiry of the lease period, the corpus of the leased asset is normally transferred to the lessee. As the lessor already recovers his cost along with an additional profit thereon, which is normally equal to the amount of interest which could have been earned on a loan of that amount advanced for that period, the lessor has no further interest in the leased asset. On the other hand, the lessee wants to retain the asset after the expiry of the leased period.
For these reasons, the leased asset is generally transferred to the lessee at the end of the lease, either free of any charge or at a nominal token price. In order to ensure that the asset will be transferred to the lessee, sometimes the lease contract has an express clause to this effect. Sometimes this condition is not mentioned in the contract expressly; however, it is understood between the parties that the title of the asset will be passed on to the lessee at the end of the lease term.
This condition, whether it is express or implied, is not in accordance with the principles of Shariah. It is a well settled rule of Islamic jurisprudence that one transaction cannot be tied up with another transaction so as to make the former a pre-condition for the other. Here the transfer of the asset at the end has been made a necessary condition for the transaction of lease which is not allowed in Shariah.
The original position in Shariah is that the asset shall be the sole property of the lessor, and after the expiry of the lease period, the lessor shall be at liberty to take the asset back, or to renew the lease or to lease it out to another party, or sell it to the lessee or to any other person. The lessee cannot force him to sell it to him at a nominal price, nor can such a condition be imposed on the lessor in the lease agreement.
But after the lease period expires, and the lessor wants to give the asset to the lessee as a gift or to sell it to him, he can do so by his free will. However, some contemporary scholars, keeping in view the needs of the Islamic financial institutions have come up with an alternative. They say that the agreement of ijarah itself should not contain a condition of gift or sale at the end of the lease period. However, the lessor may enter into a unilateral promise to sell the leased asset to the lessee at the end of the lease period. This promise will be binding on the lessor only. The principle, according to them, is that a unilateral promise to enter into a contract at a future date is allowed whereby the promisor is bound to fulfil the promise, but the promisee is not bound to enter into that contract . It means that he has an option to purchase which he may or may not exercise. However, if he wants to exercise his option to purchase, the promisor cannot refuse it because he is bound by his promise.
Therefore, these scholars suggest that the lessor, after entering into the lease agreement, can sign a separate unilateral promise whereby he undertakes that if the lessee has paid all the amounts of rentals and wants to purchase the asset at a specified mutually acceptable price, he will sell the leased asset to him for that price.
Once this promise is signed by the lessor, he is bound to fulfil it and the lessee may exercise his option to purchase at the end of the period, if he has fully paid the amounts of rent according to the agreement of lease. Similarly, it is also allowed by these scholars that, instead of sale, the lessor signs a separate promise to gift the leased asset to the lessee at the end of the lease period, subject to his payment of all amounts of rent. This arrangement is called ‘ijarah wa iqtina’. It has been allowed by a large number of contemporary scholars and is widely acted upon by the Islamic banks and financial institutions. The validity of this arrangement is subject to two basic conditions:
Firstly, the agreement of ijarah itself should not be subjected to signing this promise of sale or gift but the promise should he recorded in a separate document.
Secondly, the promise should be unilateral and binding on the promisor only. It should not be a bilateral promise binding on both parties because in this case it will be a full contract effected to a future date which is not allowed in the case of sale or gift.
Source: Republished with the kind permission of Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani.