Introduction

From the very beginning of its existence, the human race has been in pursuit of developing and imposing rules on ways of conducting various acts of day-to-day life in their respective jurisdictions.

These regulations cover crimes and punishment, trading and exchange, economy and finance, property and business and various other aspects of human life. In the modern age, most of the countries have an approved constitution and a legal mainframe largely based on civil law or common law, or a mix of both.

Parallel to such man-made laws, there has always been divine guidance to the human beings on the do’s and don’ts which means that man has never been left unguided by his Creator. Strong evidence in this regard is the famous story of the creation of Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) by the Almighty and the knowledge bestowed upon him before allowing him to start the human race on this planet.

Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) was followed by a string of prophets sent by the Almighty to different nations and areas who kept reminding human beings of their purpose in life to worship God alone and to respect and follow His divine laws, especially when related to dealings with fellow human beings.

God kept enhancing the level of guidance based on the evolution homo sapiens had attained with the passage of time, until the divine revelation came to a halt with the last prophet of God, Prophet Mohammed Bin Abdullah (peace and blessings of God be upon him).

The message brought by Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) in the shape of the Holy Quran completed the cycle of divine guidance and will remain valid for as long as the human race continues to occupy this planet.

This is also the reason why God kept the text of the Holy Quran intact in its original form notwithstanding the lapse of 14 centuries. Moreover, there is a strong link and also similarities between the earlier divine revelations, ie the Holy Torah and Holy Bible, and the Holy Quran since the sender of them all is one source: God. Believing in these earlier divine revelations is a prerequisite to be a Muslim together with believing in all prophets of God.

The foregoing explains the existence of two parallel sets of laws which have been available to human beings in all ages to choose from – one is man-made and the other divine. While the latter is meant to take care of humanity across the board in a perfect manner, the former simply safeguards the interests of privileged ones and elites who drafted and imposed the laws.

I cannot explain the aforementioned point better than by giving my own example. When I was working for the conventional banking sector for almost a quarter of a century in different capacities, I only knew one way to conduct financial transactions and trusted it to be the best, ie the man-made conventional way of borrowing money from depositors and lending them to the borrowers – and at both ends on interest.

By switching sides in 2001 to Islamic banking, it dawned on me that there could be another way to do financial transactions.

My deeper involvement in various transactions over the next few years allowed me to gain invaluable insight into a different set of rules, most certainly a much fairer one.

The differences between man-made and divine rules then made a lot of sense.

New initiative
IFN is pleased to start a new weekly educative column on Islamic banking and finance from today.

It is an honor for me to contribute to this noble initiative, which is intended to cover various aspects of the ever-popular subject of Islamic banking and finance in the modern financial world.

The aim of this new initiative by IFN is to provide an authentic account of what Islamic banking and finance is all about and, more importantly, how this financial system differs from the conventional financial edifice overwhelmingly practiced in the world, including in the majority of Muslim countries.

Sohail Zubairi is an Islamic finance expert and AAOIFI-accredited Shariah advisor and auditor. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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