The term “Islamic Investment Fund” in this article means a joint pool wherein the investors contribute their surplus money for the purpose of its investment to earn halal profits in strict conformity with the precepts of Islamic Shariah. The subscribers of the Fund may receive a document certifying their subscription and entitling them to the pro-rated profits actually accrued to the Fund. These documents may be called “certificates” “units” “shares” or may be given any other name, but their validity in terms of Shariah, will always be subject to two basic conditions:
First, instead of a fixed return tied up with their face value, they must carry a pro-rated profit actually earned by the Fund. Therefore, neither the principal nor a rate of profit (tied up with the principal) can be guaranteed. The subscribers must enter into the fund with a clear understanding that the return on their subscription is tied up with the actual profit earned or loss suffered by the Fund. If the Fund earns huge profits, the return in their subscription will increase to that proportion; however, in case the Fund suffers loss, they will have to share it also, unless the loss is caused by the negligence or mismanagement, in which case the management, and not the Fund, will be liable to compensate it.
Second, the amounts so pooled together must be invested in a business acceptable to Shariah. It means that not only the channels of investment, but also the terms agreed with them must conform to the Islamic principles.
Keeping these basic requisites in view, the Islamic Investment Funds may accommodate a variety of modes of investment which are discussed briefly in the following paragraphs.
In an equity fund the amounts are invested in the shares of joint stock companies. The profits are mainly achieved through the capital gains by purchasing the shares and selling them when their prices are increased. Profits are also achieved by the dividends distributed by the relevant companies.
It is obvious that if the main business of a company is not lawful in terms of Shariah, it is not allowed for an Islamic Fund to purchase, hold or sell its shares, because it will entail the direct involvement of the share holder in that prohibited business.
Similarly the contemporary Shariah experts are almost unanimous on the point that if all the transactions of a company are in full conformity with Shariah, which includes that the company neither borrows money on interest nor keeps its surplus in an interest bearing account, its shares can be purchased, held and sold without any hindrance from the Shariah side. But evidently, such companies are very rare in the contemporary stock markets. Almost all the companies quoted in the present stock market or in some way involved in an activity which violates the injunctions of Shariah.
Even if the main business of a company is halal, its borrowings are based on interest”. On the other hand, they keep their surplus money in an interest bearing account or purchase interest bearing bonds or securities.
The case of such companies has been a matter of debate between the Shariah experts in the present century. A group of the Shariah experts is of the view that it is not allowed for a Muslim to deal in the shares of such a company, even if its main business is halal. Their basic argument is that every share-holder of a company is a sharik (partner) of the company, and every sharik, according to the Islamic jurisprudence, is an agent for the other partners in the matters of the joint business. Therefore, the mere purchase of a share of a company embodies an authorization from the share-holder to the company to carry on its business in whatever manner the management deems fit. If it is known to the share-holder that the company is involved in an un-Islamic transaction, still, he holds the shares of that company, it means that he has authorized the management to proceed with that un-Islamic transaction. In this case, he will not only be responsible for giving his consent to an un-Islamic transaction, but that transaction will also be rightfully attributed to himself, because the management of the company is working under his tacit authorization.
Moreover, when a company is financed on the basis of interest, its funds employed in the business are impure. Similarly, when the company receives interest on its deposits an impure element is necessarily included in its income which will be distributed to the share-holders through dividends.
However, a large number of the present day scholars do not endorse this view. They argue that a joint stock company is basically different from a simple partnership period. In partnership, all the policy decisions are taken by the consensus of all the partners, and each one of them has a veto power with regard to the policy of business. Therefore, all the actions of a partnership are rightfully attributed to each partner. Conversely, the policy decisions in a joint stock company are taken by the majority. Being composed of a large number of share-holders, a company cannot give a veto power to each share-holder. The opinions of individual share-holders can be overruled by a majority decision. Therefore, each and every action taken by the company cannot be attributed to every share-holder in his individual capacity. If a share-holder raises an objection against a particular transaction in an annual general meeting, but his objection is overruled by the majority, it will not be fair to conclude that he has given his consent to the transaction in his individual capacity, specially when he intends to withdraw from the income attributable to that transaction.
Therefore, if a company is engaged in a halal business, however, it keeps its surplus money in an interest-bearing account, wherefrom a small incidental income of interest is received, it does not render all the business of the company unlawful. Now, if a person acquires the shares of such a company with clear intention that he will oppose the incidental transaction also, and will not use that proportion of the dividend for his own benefit, how can it be said that he has approved the transaction of interest and how can that transaction be attributed to him?
The other aspect of the dealings of such a company that it sometimes borrows money from financial institutions. These borrowings are mostly based on interest. Here again the same principal is relevant. If a share-holder is not personally agreeable to such borrowings, but has been overruled by the majority, these borrowing transactions cannot be attributed to him.
Moreover, according to the principals of Islamic jurisprudence borrowing on interest is a grave sinful act for which the borrower is responsible in the Hereafter; however, this sinful act does not render the whole business of the borrower as haram impermissible. The borrowed amount being recognized as owned by the borrower, anything purchased in exchange of that money is not unlawful. Therefore, the responsibility of committing a sinful act of borrowing on interest rests with the person who willfully indulged in a transaction of interest, but this fact does not render the whole business of a company as un-lawful.