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Current Global Financial Crisis And Islamic Financial System

The entire world is now in the grip of financial crisis which is most severe since the Great Depression 1930s. It has taken about $3 trillion of bailout and liquidity injecting by number of countries to lessen the intensity of the crisis. Hence, there is a need to restructure the financial world that would help in minimizing the frequency and severeness of such crises in future (Chapra, 2009).

It could not be possible to build a new system without determining the primary causes for this financial crisis. The most important cause of all financial crises has been imprudent and excess lending by banks over many years, which has also been acknowledged by many financial institutes.

This raises the question that what make it possible for banks to involve in such devastating practice which is not only unstable the financial system but also not in their own long-term best interest. There are three main elements which make it possible. First of all inadequate market discipline in the financial system resulting from the absence of profit-and-loss sharing (PLS). The second is the huge expansion in the size of derivatives, especially credit default swaps (CDSs) and the third is assurance to big banks from the central bank that it will definitely come to their rescue and will not allow them to fail.

Therefore, bank and financial institute have not undertaken a careful measure against risk, which has led the whole financial system in the excessive volume of credit, excessive leverage and to a volatile rise in asset prices and speculative investment.

One of the foremost objectives of Islam is to realize greater justice in human Society. According to the Quran (57:25) “a society where there is no justice will ultimately head towards decline and destruction�.

The financial system may be capable to promote justice if it meets at least two conditions. Firstly, the finance should also share the risk and not only shift the whole burden of losses to the entrepreneur and secondly an equitable share of finance resources should become available to the poor people of community to help eliminate poverty, consequently, expand employments opportunities and hence reduce inequalities of wealth. (Chapra, 2009).

To meet the first condition, Islam requires both the financer and entrepreneur to share equally in profit and loss. This will help in introducing greater discipline into the financial system and motivate financial institutions to evaluate the risks prudently and monitor the use of funds by the borrowers. This assessment of risks by the financiers and as well as by the entrepreneur should help in putting greater discipline and reducing excessive lending.

Islamic finance should ideally help raise significantly the share of equity and PLS in businesses; even mainstream economist supports the greater reliance on equity financing. Rogoff (1999) states that ‘in an ideal world equity lending and direct investment would play a much bigger role’.

On the debt side, Islamic financials system doesn’t permit the creation of debt through direct lending and direct borrowing but it allow the creation of debt through the sales / lease of real assets which means Islamic debt modes of financing (murabaha, ijara, salam, istisna and sukuk), but, it has, nevertheless, put down number of conditions.

The asset - sold or leased must be real – this will eliminate a huge number of derivatives transactions which involving gambling by third parties who are mostly concerned to claim for compensation for losses which not actually been suffered by them but by principal party

The goods being sold or leased must be owned / possessed by seller/lessor- this condition ascertain that the seller (lessor) also take a part in risk to get a share in the return

The sale / leased transaction must be real trade transaction – this ensure that the creditor take extra measures to evaluate the credit risk but also prevent unneeded explosion in the value and volume of transactions.

The risk associated with sales / leased must be borne by lender / seller himself as debt can’t be sold- this prevent the debt from growing above the size of the real economy and also discharge significant volume of financial resources for real sector, hence expanding employment and production of goods and services.

History is full with evidence of instability of the conventional financial system. Many prominent economists have argued that this system is inherently unstable and tends to severe financial crisis.

They have regarded the interest rate the main cause of huge fluctuations in commodity and asset prices, a source of financial instability, cumulative inflation, and detrimental to long-term economic growth. They have also called for a separation of deposit and investment banking. (Mirakhor, 2009).

The main objective of this study is three-fold; firstly understand the global financial crisis and what determinants have caused it; secondly understand Islamic finance in context of global financial crisis and some of its major differences with conventional financial system and thirdly built up a model to assess the compare the financial stability of Islamic and conventional financial system.


To analyze the determinants which have caused current global financial crisis:

a) The TED Spread: Global Finance's Thermometer 

TED spread is the difference between the LIBOR (The London Interbank Offered Rate at which banks lend to each other) and short-term U.S. government debt ("T-bills"). It indicates a perceived credit risk in the economy. As T-bills are regarded as risk-free an LIBOR are riskier than T-bills, so LIBOR always exceed the T-Bills.

The TED spread, often used as a measure of the general credit risk of an economy is used to decide which date to divide the time series. The original TED�spread was the difference between US Treasure bills and Eurodollar contracts represented by Libor (Brown and Smith, 2005).

Marquardt (2008) says that “TED Spread measures market stress by revealing the willingness (or reluctance) of banks to lend money to one another�.

“A jump in the spread shows how panicky banks are, in that they are charging each other a bigger interest-rate premium than money lent to the U.S. government," (CNN Money, 2008).

Realized and Expected Writedowns or Loss Provisions for Banks By Region

(in billions of U.S. dollars)


IMF Global Financial Stability Report Oct 2009.

TED speed has always been under 1%, however, it rocketed in 2007 to about 2.5% and in late 2008 moved to highest level of 4.5%.

Mid of 2007, newspapers reported Northern Rock, UK Bank, collapsed because liquidity had disappeared and banks were reluctant to lend money to another bank because of the high risk of market after the rise in the TED spread to unprecedented level in the history, then an historical phrase ‘credit crunch’ emerged; an environment, where even a creditworthy borrower are unable to find funds. Consequently, the central banks had to supply a massive amount of money to the interbank market, but the limited impact of TED spread chart, that in September2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed and filed bankruptcy protection with massive reduction in assets ever.

b) US sub-prime mortgage

There is no consensus on the exact definition of subprime mortgages. The term subprime is often used to describe certain characteristics of the borrower. For example, a FICO score (a standard industry model to evaluate creditworthiness of a borrower) less than 620 is a common definition of a subprime borrower. Another definition is that a subprime mortgage does not usually need any down-payments and that little documentation is required. However, a broad definition is that a subprime loan entails a high risk of default (Demyanyk et al (2008)).

The housing mortgage market in the U.S. has been well functioning over the past two centuries, enabling millions of people to fulfil the dream of home ownership. During this time there has been several periods of disruption in these markets, but none of them as severe as the episode, sometimes referred to as the “subprime mortgage market meltdown� that begun around the summer of 2007, with falling real-estate prices and increasing defaults. Today, economists fear that more than 2 million or more Americans might lose their homes to foreclosure in 2009 (Barth et al (2008)).

The banking industry is facing huge losses as a result of the sub-prime crisis. Already banks have announced $60bn worth of losses as many of the mortgage bonds backed by sub-prime mortgages have fallen in value. The losses could be much greater, as many banks have concealed their holdings of sub-prime mortgages in exotic, off-balance sheet instruments such as "structured investment vehicles" or SIVs. Although the banks say they do not own these SIVs, and therefore are not liable for their losses, they may be forced to cover any bad debts that they accrue. (BBC News, 2007)

Many years of strongly rising house prices caused lenders to relax their lending criteria. Loan-to-value ratios rose and low starter-interest rates were introduced (typically for the first two years of the mortgage) to be recouped by higher interest rates for the remaining 28 years of the typical 30 year US mortgage.

In many cases the borrowers knew that they could not afford the monthly payments after the initial two-year low interest period expired; they were relying on rising house prices to enable a profit on sale or refinancing The mortgage default rates on these sub-prime mortgages were much higher than predicted by the lenders’ credit models. These models were based upon the historical behaviour of prime borrowers, not sub-prime borrowers who behaved differently. (Amin, 2009)

c) Securitisation

Securitization is often stated to be part of the originate-to-distribute model, where institutions that originate assets (in this example, mortgages) move them away from their balance sheet by distributing them to purchasers of ABSs (asset-backed securities). The advantages for institutions conducting in securitization is mainly that they are able to free up capital and liquidity by moving the assets away from the balance sheet. Furthermore, securitization is a way of providing liquidity and funding to mortgages – by investing in an ABS, a Japanese asset manager (for example) might finance the real-estate mortgages of U.S. home owners (Criado and Rixtel (2008)).

US mortgage market had moved away from a ‘lend and collect’ model (the bank lends on a mortgage and collect it back over 30 years) to an ‘originate to distribute’ model (the bank makes a mortgage loan in order to sell it on.) Originating loans and selling them on means that banks make profits from lending as much as possible, provided that the loans can be sold on; once the loan has been sold the bank is relatively indifferent to its collectability.

d) Collateralized Debt Obligations

CDOs are ABSs that are constructed by pooling and securitizing in particular higher risk assets such as risky loans or tranches of other ABSs (Criado and Rixtel (2008)).

There are different types of classifications for CDOs and one of the most common is cash flow CDOs, a term relating to the scenario where the trust (special purpose vehicle or special purpose entity) involved in the securitization owns the underlying debt posted as collateral in the CDO. A synthetic CDO refers to the scenario where the trust does not own the underlying debt, and instead invests in CDSs (credit default swaps) to synthetically track their performance. The hybrid CDO combines cash flow CDOs and synthetic CDOs. There is also the CDO squared (CDO2) which is a CDO that has securitized the tranches of another CDO. ABS CDOs and CDOs squared thus consist of a “double layered securitization� (Criado and Rixtel (2008)).

Here CDO securities created by Bank 1 and Bank 2 selling their customer loans are purchased by Special Purpose Entity (SPE) 3 which pays for them by issuing CDO securities to investors. As these are CDOs based on other CDOs, they are called CDO2.

The challenge with such complex structures is that it becomes almost impossible to accurately project likely defaults on the original customer loans to the likely defaults on the securities issued by SPE 3. In many cases, complex CDO structures involved some sub-prime mortgages being blended with prime mortgages to boost the yield of the overall package of assets. Accordingly, once defaults started happening in the relatively small sub-prime market, that led to a collapse in the market value of a much larger amount of CDOs.

The creation of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) by mixing prime and subprime debt made it possible for mortgage originators to pass the entire risk of default of even subprime debt to the ultimate purchasers who would have normally been reluctant to bear such a risk. Mortgage originators had, therefore, less incentive to undertake careful underwriting. 

Estimates of Global Bank Writedowns by Domicile, 2007-10

(in billions of U.S dollars)

Source: IMF Global Financial Stability Report Oct 2009.

e) Credit Derivatives

The credit default swap originally thought as a way for bondholders to protect against a bond default can also be used for speculation on the creditworthiness of a company. One key difference between a regular insurance policy and a CDS contract is that the buyer of credit protection does not have to own the underlying instrument. Like most derivative instruments credit default swaps can be used for hedging, speculation and arbitrage.

Under a credit default swap contract (CDS) the seller is paid a regular amount each year by the buyer of the CDS. If a credit event occurs in relation to the underlying asset which is referenced by the CDS, the seller pays the buyer for the fall in value of the reference asset. However, the buyer does not need to own the reference asset; in that case the CDS buyer is simply speculating that the reference asset will fall into default.

When there is excessive and imprudent lending and lenders are not confident of repayment, there is an excessive resort to derivatives like CDSs to seek protection against default. The buyer of the swap (creditor) pays a premium to the seller (a hedge fund) for the compensation he will receive in case the debtor defaults. If this protection had been confined to the actual creditor, there may not have been any problem. What happened, however, was that hedge funds sold the swaps not to just the actual lending bank but also to a large number of others who were willing to bet on the default of the debtor. These swap holders, in turn, resold the swaps to others. The whole process continued several times. 

While a genuine insurance contract indemnifies only the actually insured party, in the case of CDSs there were several swap holders who had to be compensated. This accentuated the risk and made it difficult for the hedge funds and banks to honour their commitments. The notional amount of all outstanding derivatives (including CDSs of $54.6 trillion) is currently estimated by the BIS to be over $600 trillion, more than ten times the size of the world economy. No wonder George Soros described derivatives as ‘hydrogen bombs’, and Warren Buffett called them ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’.

The well known American economist Joseph Stiglitz has summarised the role of credit default swaps in the crises: "With this complicated intertwining of bets of great magnitude, no one could be sure of the financial position of anyone else�or even of one's own position. Not surprisingly, the credit markets froze." (Stiglitz, 2009)

f) General over-leveraging 

The economies of the UK and US had not suffered a serious recession for many years. In these benign business conditions, companies had gradually increased their gearing, as interest on debt is tax deductible whereas dividends on share capital are not tax deductible. The high gearing was particularly striking in companies owned by private equity firms, which were typically very highly leveraged. If economic conditions worsened, such firms would risk insolvency.

To assess the difference between Islamic and conventional finance in context of global financial crisis:

Islamic finance is defined as a financial system based on Islamic law known as Shari’ah Islamic finance is limited to financial relationships involving entrepreneurial investment, subject to the moral prohibition of following

(i) interest earnings or usury (riba) and money lending,

(ii) haram (sinful activity), such as direct or indirect association with lines of business involving alcohol, pork products, firearms, tobacco, and adult entertainment,

(iii) speculation, betting, and gambling (maysir), including the speculative trade or exchange of money for debt without an underlying asset transfer,

(iv) the trading of the same object between buyer and seller (bay’ al-inah), as well as

(v) preventable uncertainty (gharar), such as all financial derivative instruments, forward contracts, and futures agreements.

As opposed to conventional finance, where interest represents the contractible cost for funds tied to the amount of principal over a pre-specified lending period, the central tenet of the Islamic financial system is the prohibition of riba, whose literal meaning “an excess� is interpreted as any unjustifiable increase of capital whether through loans or sales. The general consensus among Islamic scholars is that riba covers not only usury but also the charging of interest and any positive, fixed, predetermined rate of return that are guaranteed regardless of the performance of an investment (Iqbal and Tsubota, 2006; Iqbal and Mirakhor, 2006; Iqbal and Llewellyn, 2000).

Since only interest-free forms of finance are considered permissible in Islamic finance, financial relationships between financiers and borrowers are governed by shared business risk (and returns) from investment in lawful activities (halal). Islamic law does not object to payment for the use of an asset, and the earning of profits or returns from assets are indeed encouraged as long as both lender and borrower share the investment risk together. Profits must not be guaranteed ex ante, and can only accrue if the investment itself yields income. Any financial transaction under Islamic law assigns to investors clearly identifiable rights and obligations for which they are entitled to receive commensurate return. Hence, Islamic finance literally “outlaws� capital-based investment gains without entrepreneurial risk. In light of these moral impediments to “passive� investment and secured interest as form of compensation, shariah-compliant lending in Islamic finance requires the replication of interest-bearing, conventional finance via more complex structural arrangements of contingent claims (Mirakhor and Iqbal, 1988).

The permissibility of risky capital investment without explicit interest earning has spawned several finance techniques under Islamic law. We distinguish among three basic forms of Islamic financing methods for both investment and trade finance:

synthetic loans (debt-based) through a sale-repurchase agreement or back-to-back sale of borrower- or third party-held assets.

lease contracts (asset-based) through a sale-lease-back agreement (operating lease) or the lease of third-party acquired assets with purchase obligation components (financing lease), and

profit-sharing contracts (equity-based) of future assets. As opposed to equity-based contracts, both debt- and asset-based contracts are initiated by a temporary transfer of existing assets from the borrower to the lender or the acquisition of third-party assets by the lender on behalf of the borrower.

Islamic “loans� create borrower indebtedness from the purchase and resale contract of an (existing or future) asset in lieu of interest payments. The most prominent form of such a “debt-based� structural arrangement is the murabaha (or murabahah) (“cost-plus sale�) contract. Interest payments are implicit in an installment sale with instantaneous (or deferred) title transfer for the promised payment of an agreed sales price in the future. The purchase price of the underlying asset effectively limits the degree of debt creation. A murabaha contract either involves (i) the sale-repurchase agreement of a borrower-held asset (“negative short sale�) or (ii) the lender’s purchase of a tangible asset from a third party on behalf of the borrower (“back-to-back sale�). The resale price is based on original cost (i.e., purchase price) plus a pre-specified profit markup imposed by the lender, so that the borrower’s repurchase of the asset amounts to a “loss-generating contract.�

Different installment rates and repayment and asset-delivery schedules create variations to the standard murabaha cost-plus sale. The most prominent examples are salam (deferred delivery sale), bai bithaman ajil (BBA) (deferred payment sale), istina (or istisna, istisna’a) (purchase order), quard al-hasan (benevolent loan), and musawama (negotiable sale). As opposed to the concurrent purchase and delivery of an asset in murabaha, asset purchases under a salam or a bai bithaman ajil contract allow deferred delivery or payment of existing assets. Salam closely synthesizes a conventional futures contract and is sometimes also considered an independent asset class outside the asset spectrum of murabaha (Batchvarov and Gakwaya, 2006). An istina contract provides pre-delivery (project) finance for future assets, such as long-term projects, which the borrower promises to complete over the term of the lending agreement according to contractual specifications. A quard al-hasan signifies an interest-free loan contract that is usually collateralized. Finally, a muswama contract represents a negotiable sale, where the profit margin is hidden from the buyer.

Analogous to conventional operating and finance leases, al-ijarah leasing notes (“asset-based�) provide credit in return for rental payments over the term of the temporary use of an (existing) asset, conditional on the future (re-)purchase of the assets by the borrower. The lease cash flow is the primary component of debt service. The lessor (i.e., financier) acquires the asset either from the borrower (operating lease or “sale-leaseback�/“lease-buyback�) or a third party at the request of the borrower (financing lease or “lease-purchase�) and leases it to the borrower (or a third party) for an agreed sum of rental payable in installments according to an agreed schedule. The legal title of the asset remains with the financier for the duration of the transaction. The financier bears all the costs associated with the ownership of the asset, whereas the costs from the use of the asset have to be defrayed by the lessee.

If the ijarah transaction is a financing lease (ijarah wa iqtina), such as an Islamic mortgage, the repayment through lease payments might also include a portion of the agreed resale price (in the form of a call option premium), which allows borrowers to gradually acquire total equity ownership for a predetermined sales price.15 If the lessee does not exercise the call option at maturity, the lender disposes of it in order to realize the salvage value (put option).16 In an operating lease with a repurchase obligation, the asset is returned to the borrower for the original sale price or the negotiated market price17 unless otherwise agreed.18 In this case, the lender’s put option represents a repurchase obligation19 by the borrower (at the current value of outstanding payments), which is triggered upon certain conditions, such as delinquent payments or outright default.

In Islamic profit-sharing contracts (equity-based), lenders (i.e.,, investors) and borrowers (i.e.,, entrepreneurs) agree to share any gains of profitable projects based on the degree of funding or ownership of the asset by each party. In a trustee-type mudharaba (or mudarabah) financing contract, the financier (rab ul maal) provides all capital to fund an investment, which is exclusively managed by the entrepreneur (mudarib) in accordance with agreed business objectives. The borrower shares equity ownership with the financier (i.e. a call option on the reference assets) and might promise to buy-out the investor after completion of the project. At the end of the financing period, the entrepreneur repays the original amount of borrowed funds only if the investment was sufficiently profitable. Profits are distributed according to a pre-agreed rate between the two parties. Investors are not entitled to a guaranteed payment and bear all losses unless they have occurred due to misconduct, negligence, or violation of the conditions mutually agreed by both financier and entrepreneur. The equity participation and loss sharing in a musharakah contract is similar to a joint venture, where both lender/investor and borrower (or asset manager/agent) jointly contribute funds to an existing or future project, either in form of capital or in kind, and ownership is shared according to each party’s financial contribution. Although profit sharing is similar to a mudharaba contract, losses are generally borne according to equity participation.

Overall, the different basic types of Islamic finance combine two or more contingent claims to replicate the risk-return trade-off of conventional lending contracts or equity investment without contractual guarantees of investment return or secured payments in reference to an interest rate as time-dependent cost of funds. Such arrangements may become complicated in practice, once they are combined to meet specific investor requirements under Islamic law (El-Qorchi, 2005). Although both Islamic and conventional finance are in substance equivalent to conventional finance and yield the same lender and investor pay-offs at the inception of the transaction, they differ in legal form and might require a different valuation due to dissimilar transaction structures (and associated legal enforceability of investor claims) and/or security design (Jobst, 2006d). Most importantly, Islamic finance substitutes a temporary use of assets by the lender for a permanent transfer of funds to the borrower as a source of indebtedness in conventional lending. Retained asset ownership by the lender under this arrangement constitutes entrepreneurial investment. The financier receives returns from the direct participation in asset performance in the form of state-contingent payments according to an agreed schedule and amount.


Z-score for Emerging Markets

The z-score measures the degree of vulnerability of a particular business or an industry segment by categorising firms into two distinct clusters, namely strong and vulnerable firms, based on the historical default experience. The construction of the z-score used by the Bank is referenced on the model developed by Altman for emerging markets and employs the multiple discriminant analysis as an underlying statistical tool to derive a linear combination of financial ratios that best discriminate between the two categories. The multiple discriminant analysis improves on the traditional approach of individual or sequential analysis of financial ratios by reducing the reliance on rules of thumb and subjective judgment in determining the threshold levels and relative importance of the ratios. Selected key financial ratios are subsequently consolidated into a composite score to provide a snapshot of a firm’s financial health. The discriminant function for the z-score for emerging markets based on the study conducted by Altman is given by the following equation:

Z =

Based on the z-score, both strong and vulnerable firms can be identified, whereby a higher z-score indicates a lower likelihood of the firm encountering financial distress.

Working Capital/Total Assets (WC/TA) The working capital/total assets ratio is a measure of the net liquid assets of the firm relative to the total capitalization. Working capital is defined as the difference between current assets and current liabilities. Liquidity and size characteristics are explicitly considered. This ratio was the least important contributor to discrimination between the two groups. In all cases, tangible assets, not including intangibles, are used.

Retained Earnings/Total Assets (RE/TA) Retained earnings (RE) is the total amount of reinvested earnings and/or losses of a firm over its entire life. The account is also referred to as earned surplus. This is a measure of cumulative profitability over the life of the company. The age of a firm is implicitly considered in this ratio. It is likely that a bias would be created by a substantial reorganization or stock dividend, and appropriate readjustments should, in the event of this happening, be made to the accounts.

In addition, the RE/TA ratio measures the leverage of a firm. Those firms with high RE relative to TA have financed their assets through retention of profits and have not utilized as much debt. This ratio highlights the use of either internally generated funds for growth (low-risk capital) or OPM (other people’s money)—higher-risk capital. This variable has shown a marked deterioration in the average values of non-distressed firms in the past 20 years and, in subsequent model updates, we utilized a transformation structure in order to make its negative impact less dramatic on current Z-Scores.

Earnings before Interest and Taxes/Total Assets (EBIT/TA) This is a measure of the productivity of the firm’s assets, independent of any tax or leverage factors. Since a firm’s ultimate existence is based on the earning power of its assets, this ratio appears to be particularly appropriate for studies dealing with credit risk. We have found that this profitability measure, despite its reliance on earnings, which are subject to manipulation, consistently is at least as predictive as cash flow measures.

Market Value of Equity/Book Value of Total Liabilities (MVE/TL) Equity is measured by the combined market value of all shares of stock, preferred and common, while liabilities include both current and long-term obligations. The measure shows how much the firm’s assets can decline in value (measured by market value of equity plus debt) before the liabilities exceed the assets and the firm becomes insolvent. (Altman and Hotchkis (2006))