1. THE HOLY QUR’ANHAS PROHIBITED RIBA. WHAT IS MEANT BY THIS TERM?
The term Riba can be loosely translated into the financial concept of ‘interest’. As per Shariah law and Islamic scriptures, the practice of giving or taking interest upon principal is prohibited. In financial transactions a few types of Riba could arise, namely, riba al-qard, riba al-nasa or riba al-Quran. It so happens in Islamic societies that traders and bankers tend to circumvent explicit payment of interest through other subtler means. Taking congnisance of this loophole, Islamic scholars have identified ribas such as riba al-fadl and riba al-buyu, so that the faithful would be forewarned of forbidden commercial practices.
2. WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF TRANSACTIONS TO WHICH THE BAN ON RIBA IS APPLICABLE? DOES THE TERM APPLY ONLY TO THE INTEREST CHARGED ON CONSUMPTION LOANS OR DOES IT ALSO COVER PRODUCTIVE LOANS ADVANCED BY BANKING AND FINANCIAL . . . Read More
The article titled Sukuk and their Contemporary Applications by Muhammad Taqi Usmani is a report of issues in relation to the “compliance of Sukuk with the precepts of the Shariah.” Sukuk, which can loosely be translated as ‘financial certificates’ in common economic parlance, is a crucial instrument in Islamic banking procedures. The precepts of Shariah state clearly prohibit the promise of interest upon investments. Hence Sukuk have to be deviced in such a way that they circumvent this restriction but yet remain useful investment options for investors. At a time when Internet-based commerce and banking is on an ascendency, Islamic Banking procedures would also have to adapt to new technologies. The challenge lies in adapting instruments such a Sukuk in these mediums without compromising on the dictates of the Shariah.
Of all the financial certificates transacted in banks outside the Islamic world, bonds are most amenable to the requisites of . . . Read More
All people of the Islamic religion are expected to observe a set of five simple rules which are called the Five Pillars of Islam. These are, namely, “Belief, Worship, Fasting, Alms giving and Pilgrimage”. The Five Pillars act as a template for how the faithful have to conduct themselves in relation to fellow believers as well as non-believers. Taken in the right spirit, adherence to the Five Pillars will take the faithful close to Allah and ensure a blissful after-life. In the original Arabic rendition, the Five Pillars are termed “Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith, Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day, Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy, Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan, Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca”. (bbc.co.uk, 2009)
The first pillar, Shahadah requires that Muslims recite “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger” (bbc.co.uk, 2009). . . . Read More
There are many Apostles and Saints who propagated the message of Christianity across the world. Among these St. Paul is one of the more prominent. Also referred to as Apostle Paul or Paul of Tarsus, this early missionary carried the message of Jesus Christ to unchartered geographies and its people. His contribution to the writing of New Testament is widely recognized. Though he started his life as a devout Jew, his acceptance of Jesus Christ as a messenger of God changed the course of not just his life but also Christianity. Indeed, during the time of his conversion, there was no established Christian doctrine and recognition of a unique Christian religion. It was early pioneers like St. Paul who helped consolidate the teachings of Jesus Christ into the Holy Bible. St. Paul’s moment of revelation played an important role in the birth of Christianity. During A.D. 30 Paul of Tarsus “had what he called an ‘apocalypse’ or, literally, a revelation. Having been a . . . Read More
Buddhism is a major religion in current times, but its origins goes back thousands of centuries. Having originated in North Eastern India, it had spread far and wide in the Eastern hemisphere, making it a dominant religion in the Asian continent. Buddhism has been in existence even before the rise of Judeo-Christians, making it stand second only to Hinduism in the chronological order for major surviving religions. But, Buddhism differs from most other major religions of today in that it offers practical and feasible solutions for universal human concerns. Buddhism is typically an Eastern religion for it focuses on human suffering and offers practical solutions to counter it. Rather than dealing with the paranormal and the supernatural, it is a practical philosophy toward life. In other words, Buddhism can be seen as offering psychological insights into the workings of the human mind, an understanding of which will benefit the individual subject. Both Buddhism and psychology can be . . . Read More
Since tribe formation is the earliest form of human organization, tribal religions can said to be the earliest expression of organized religion. Since human tribes lived in a state of nature and their survival depended on benign natural conditions and events, they recognized the power of natural elements. These elements included fire, water, air, earth and sky. All these elements had the potential to destroy an ecosystem or tribal inhabitation, inducing in tribes a sense of fear mixed with reverence. Being the most intelligent species on the planet, early human beings tried to ascertain cause-effect relationships between their actions and natural events. When some sort of a pattern emerged as a result of this analysis, then primitive religious rituals were seen to have causative powers. For example, the practice of sacrificing lives (human and animal) started as a way of placating the Gods of nature. With the tools of statistical analysis at the disposal of modern man, it is easy to . . . Read More
In the reading titled In Search of Progressive Islam Beyond 9/11, author Farid Esack makes several valid observations. At the outset, he admits that the word ‘progressive’ is very hard to define due to elements of subjectivity and scope. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and other targets, cultural and religious scholarship is full of calls for a progressive followers. But what is often left out in speculating about progress is its political basis. In political discourse, the term progressive is associated with Left-of-center ideologies such as Marxism. The 911 attacks were commonly seen as an attack on the American way of life with or seen as a continuation of the historical conflict between Christianity and Islam that goes back to the Crusades. But what is not represented in mainstream commentary is the economic disparity between the terrorists and their targets. If the terrorists are acting on the basis of fundamentalist Islamic . . . Read More
One of the misconceptions in the Occidental discourse on Islam is that the latter is a monolithic entity. Islam has spread far and wide across the planet. It has a significant presence from China in the East to Spain and Northern Africa toward the West. And through this broad range, there is considerable diversity and variety in the expression of the religion. While maintaining the core principles of Islamic law and jurisprudence, each region has assimilated its own local flavor into Islamic practice. Islam not only moves along the cultural scale but also along the temporal one. In the 13 centuries of its existence, the religion has accommodated itself reasonably well with changing Zeitgeist (with a few exceptions). Author Umar Faruq Abd-Allah and Tariq Ramadan state this truth in their respective articles. In a way, they are reiterating Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism, whereby the East is seen as the eternal ‘other’ to the more progressive and liberal . . . Read More
In the article written by Amina Wadud, titled Quran, Gender and Interpretative Possibilities, we see one of the emerging trends in contemporary Islamic discourse. That beyond the commonly understood and accepted fact of ‘the text’ being of revelatory nature, one has to take into account other socio-historical circumstances of 7th century A.D, in order to open up interpretative possibilities. For example, considering that patriarchal social systems are the norm during the time of revelation, one can see why the choice of a male ‘messenger of God’ in the form of Prophet Mohammad strengthened the status quo. What Wadud seems to be implying is that although there is no dispute about the revealed word, its documentation and dissemination was exclusively done by men, making it susceptible to sub-conscious (if not deliberate) gender bias. Seen in this perspective, the Holy book could be interpreted as a divine code meant to apply only to men and which employs . . . Read More
Humanism is a school of thought in philosophy that is based upon established and emerging facts about human nature. Humanism, which flourished during the Italian Renaissance is largely secular in its composition, making no references to the unknown and the supernatural. But in the centuries that have gone by, it has been adopted into various religious doctrines, giving rise to a branch of theology called religious humanism. No other religion has interplayed its tenets and principles with Humanism more than Christianity. Generally, when we talk of Christian Humanism, it implies the attempt to incorporate humanistic ideas into established Christian practices; seldom is it the other way around. While Christianity’s interaction with Humanism seems to have started as early as 2nd century A.D, it wasn’t until the beginning of Renaissance that the two ideologies fused substantially.
The Renaissance was a period when Europe woke up to the . . . Read More