Murabahah - Guarantee
The seller in a murabahah financing can also ask the client to furnish a guarantee from a third party. In case of default in the payment of price at the due date, the seller may have recourse to the guarantor, who will be liable to pay the amount guaranteed by him. The rules of Shariah regarding guarantee are fully discussed in the books of Islamic fiqh. However, I would point out to two burning issues in the context of Islamic banking.
The guarantor in the contemporary commercial atmosphere does not normally guarantee a payment without a fee charged from the original debtor. The classical Fiqh literature is almost unanimous on the point that the guarantee is a voluntary transaction and no fee can be charged on a guarantee. The most the guarantor can do is to claim his actual secretarial expenses incurred in offering the guarantee, but the guarantee itself should be free of charge. The reason for this prohibition is that the person who advances money to another person as a loan cannot charge a fee for advancing a loan, because it falls under the definition of riba or interest which is prohibited. The guarantor should be subject to this prohibition all the more, because he does not advance money. He only undertakes to pay a certain amount on behalf of the original debtor in case he defaults in payment. If the person who actually pays money cannot charge a fee, how can fee be charged by a person who has merely undertaken to pay and did not pay anything in actual terms?
Suppose, A has borrowed 100 US dollars from B who asked him to produce a guarantor. C says to A, “I pay off your debt to B right now, but you will have to pay me 110 dollars at a later date.” Obviously 10 dollars charged from A are not allowed, being interest. Then D comes to A and says, “I stand as a guarantor to you, but you will have to pay me 10 dollars for this service.” If we allow to charge a fee for guarantee, it will mean that C cannot charge 10 dollars, despite the fact that he has actually paid the amount, and D can charge 10 dollars, despite the fact that he has merely committed himself to pay only when A fails to pay. This being unfair apparently, the classical Muslim jurists have forbidden the charging of a fee for guarantee, so that both C and D, in the above example, may stand on equal footing.
However, some contemporary scholars are considering the problem from a different angle. They feel that guarantee has become a necessity, especially in international trade where the sellers and the buyers do not know each other, and the payment of the price by the purchaser cannot be simultaneous with the supply of the goods. There has to be an intermediary who can guarantee the payment. It is utterly difficult to find the guarantors who can provide this service free of charge in required numbers. Keeping these realities in view, some Shariah scholars of our time are adopting a different approach. They say that the prohibition of guarantee fee is not based on any specific injunction of the Holy Qur’an or the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). It has been deduced from the prohibition of riba as one of its ancillary consequences. Moreover, guarantees in the past were of simple nature. In today’s commercial activities, the guarantor sometimes needs a number of studies and a lot of secretarial work. Therefore, they opine, the prohibition of the guarantee fee should be reviewed in this perspective. The question still needs further research and should be placed before a larger forum of scholars. However, unless a definite ruling is given by such a forum, no guarantee fee should be charged or paid by an Islamic financial institution. Instead, they can charge or pay a fee to cover expenses incurred in the process of issuing a guarantee.
Source: Republished with the kind permission of Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani.
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