Salam - Mode of Financing

It is evident from the foregoing discussion that salam was allowed by Shariah to fulfil the needs of farmers and traders. Therefore, it is basically a mode of financing for small farmers and traders. This mode of financing can be used by the modern banks and financial institutions, especially to finance the agricultural sector. As pointed out earlier, the price in salam may be fixed at a lower rate than the price of those commodities delivered at spot. In this way, the difference between the two prices may be a valid profit for the banks or financial institutions. In order to ensure that the seller shall deliver the commodity on the agreed date, they can also ask him to furnish a security, which may be in the form of a guarantee or in the form of mortgage or hypothecation.11 In the case of default in delivery, the guarantor may be asked to deliver the same commodity, and if there is a mortgage, the buyer / the financier can sell the mortgaged property and the sale proceeds can be used either to realize the required commodity by purchasing it from the market, or to recover the price advanced by him.

The only problem in salam which may agitate the modern banks and financial institutions is that they will receive certain commodities from their clients, and will not receive money. Being conversant with dealing in money only, it seems to be cumbersome for them to receive different commodities from different clients and to sell them in the market. They cannot sell those commodities before they are actually delivered to them, because it is prohibited in Shariah.

But whenever we talk about the Islamic modes of financing, one basic point should never be ignored. The point is that the concept of the financial institutions dealing in money only is foreign to Islamic Shariah. If these institutions want to earn a halal profit, they shall have to deal in commodities in one way or the other, because no profit is allowed in Shariah on advancing loans only. Therefore, the establishment of an Islamic economy requires a basic change in the approach and in the outlook of the financial institutions. They shall have to establish a special cell for dealing in commodities. If such a special cell is established, it should not be difficult to purchase commodities through salam and to sell them in the spot markets.

However, there are two other ways of benefiting from the contract of salam.

Firstly, after purchasing a commodity by way of salam, the financial institutions may sell it through a parallel contract of salam for the same date of delivery. The period of salam in the second (parallel) transaction being shorter, the price may be a little higher than the price of the first transaction, and the difference between the two prices shall be the profit earned by the institution. The shorter the period of salam, the higher the price, and the greater the profit. In this way the institutions may manage their short term financing portfolios.

Secondly, if a parallel contract of salam is not feasible for one reason or another, they can obtain a promise to purchase from a third party. This promise should be unilateral from the expected buyer. Being merely a promise, and not the actual sale, their buyers will not have to pay the price in advance. Therefore, a higher price may be fixed and as soon as the commodity is received by the institution, it will be sold to the third party at a pre-agreed price, according to the terms of the promise.

A third option is sometimes proposed that, at the date of delivery, the commodity is sold back to the seller at a higher price. But this suggestion is not in line with the dictates of Shariah. It is never permitted by the Shariah that the purchased commodity is sold back to the seller before the buyer takes its delivery, and if it is done at a higher price it will be tantamount to riba which is totally prohibited. Even if it is sold back to the seller after taking delivery from him, it cannot be pre-arranged at the time of original sale. Therefore, this proposal is not acceptable at all.


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