Risk of Loss in Musharakah

It is argued that the arrangement of musharakah is more likely to pass on losses of the business to the financier bank or institution. This loss will be passed on to depositors also. The depositors, being constantly exposed to the risk of loss, will not want to deposit their money in the banks and financial institutions and thus their savings will either remain idle or will be used in transactions outside of the banking channels, which will not contribute to the economic development at national level.

This argument is, however, misconceived. Before financing on the basis of musharakah, the banks and financial institution will study the feasibility of the proposed business for which funds are needed. Even in the present system of interest-based loans the banks do not advance loans to each and every applicant. They study the potentials of the business and if they apprehend that the business is not profitable, they refuse to advance a loan. In the case of musharakah, they will have to carry out this study with more depth and precaution.

Moreover, no bank or financial institution can restrict itself to a single musharakah. There will always be a diversified portfolio of musharakah. If a bank has financed 100 of its clients on the basis of musharakah, after studying the feasibility of the proposal of each one of them, it is hardly conceivable that all of these musharakahs or the majority of them will result in a loss. After taking proper measures and due care, what can happen at the most is that some and them make a loss. But on the other hand, the profitable musharakahs are expected to give more return than the interest-based loans, because the actual profit is supposed to be distributed between the client and the bank. Therefore, the musharakah portfolio, as a whole, is not expected to suffer loss, and the possibility of loss to the whole portfolio is merely a theoretical possibility which should not discourage the depositors. This theoretical possibility of loss in a financial institution is much less than the possibility of loss in a joint stock company whose business is restricted to a limited sector of commercial activities. Still, the people purchase its shares and the possibility of loss does not refrain them from investing in these shares. The case of the bank and financial institutions is much stronger, because their musharakah activities will be so diversified that any possible loss in one musharakah will be more than compensated by the profits earned in other musharakahs.

Apart from this, ‘an Islamic economy must create a mentality which believes that any profit earned on money is the reward of bearing risks of the business. This risk may be minimized through expertise and diversifying the portfolio where it becomes a hypothetical or theoretical risk only. But there is no way to eliminate this risk totally. The one who wants to earn profit, must accept this minimal risk. Since this understanding is already there in the case of normal joint stock companies, nobody has ever raised the objection that the money of the shareholders is exposed to loss. The problem is created by the system which separates the banking and financing from the normal trade activities, and which has compelled the people to believe that banks and financial institutions deal in money and papers only, and that they have nothing to do with the actual results emerging in trade and industry. Therefore, it is argued that they deserve a fixed return in any case. This separation of financing sector from the sector of trade and industry has brought great harms to the economy at macro-level. Obviously, when we speak of Islamic banking, we never mean that it will follow this conventional system in each and every respect. Islam has its own values and principles which do not believe in separation of financing from trade and industry. Once this Islamic system is understood, the people will invest in the financing sector, despite the theoretical risk of loss, more readily than they invest in the profitable joint stock companies.


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

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