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Islamic banking practice, which started in early 1970s on a modest scale, has shown tremendous progress during the last 25 years. Serious research work of the past two and a half decades has established that Islamic banking is a viable and efficient way of financial intermediation. A number of Islamic banks have been established during this period under heterogeneous, social and economic milieu. Recently, many conventional banks, including some major multinational Western banks, have also started using Islamic banking techniques. All this is encouraging. However, the Islamic banking system, like any other system, has to be seen as an evolving reality. This experience needs to be evaluated objectively and the problems ought to be carefully identified and addressed to.

It is with this objective that the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) presents this paper on Challenges Facing Islamic Banking, as decided by the IDB Board of Executive Directors. A team of IRTI researchers consisting of Munawar Iqbal, Ausaf Ahmad and Tariqullah Khan has prepared the paper. Munawar Iqbal, Chief of the Islamic Banking and Finance Division acted as the project leader. Two external scholars have also refereed the study. IRTI is grateful for the contribution of these referees. The final product is being issued as the Second Occasional Paper.

It is hoped that serious consideration will be given to the challenges facing Islamic banking identified in the paper. Theoreticians and practitioners in the field of Islamic banking and finance need to find ways and means to meet those challenges so that Islamic banking can keep on progressing as it enters the 21st Century.

Rethinking International Relations Theory in Islam

Mohammad Abo-Kazleh

The legal foundation of foreign relations in Islam is based on Sharīy’ah. The original sources ofSharīy’ah are the Quran and the Prophetic traditions (Sunnah). Derived from Sharīy’ah is theFiqh or Islamic jurisprudence which covers the myriad of problems and issues that arise in thecourse of man’s life. (al-Mawdūdī, 2002) Among the main issues which the contemporaryIslamic jurisprudence attempt to deal with are foreign relations in Islam. Muslim jurists havedeveloped different opinions about the organizing principle of foreign relations in Islam. Some(hereafter referred to as traditionalists) who were influenced by the realistic tendency of Islamicstate, particularly during the periods of Conquest, believe that foreign relations in Islamoriginally depend on the attitude of non-Muslim groups or states toward Islam and Muslims.Therefore, the basis of foreign relations of Islamic state is fight, but under certain conditions. Incontrast, other jurists (hereafter referred to as pacifists or non-traditionalists) believe that theorigin of foreign relations in Islam is peace, because the Quran unambiguously states “there isno compulsion in religion.”(2: 256) Accordingly, the principle of war advocated bytraditionalists is, non-traditionalists believe, not compatible with this unrelenting Quranic rule.The differences over the original principle of foreign relations in Islam are usually attributed tothe fact that exegetes of the Quran most often diverge in their approach to analyze andunderstand the related Quranic verses, and this create a dilemma in Islamic jurisprudence. Theproblem is complicated because proponents of both approaches depend on Quranic verses tojustify their claims.

Progressive Thinking in Contemporary Islam

Prof. Dr. Christian W. Troll

It seems sensible to start by shedding light on the background context and then to define the broader framework within which the “progressive thinking” in contemporary Islam which we want to discuss is embedded. The movements and trends which are shaping the contemporary Islamic world can be analyzed and assessed in the light of two conflicting forces, namely the notions of authenticity on the one hand and modernity on the other.
Such an approach perceives contemporary Islam as being torn between the authenticity in matters of life and doctrine which it derives from its past and the modernity which refers it to a present (and a future) in which Muslims no longer hold the reins of power and are therefore no longer able to control the development of thought.
Islam is centred on a scripture which it holds in faith to be the revelation of God. This scripture, the Qur’an, is believed to be eternal and immutable in form and content and thus to be valid for every place and time, to contain a truth which obtains for ever. Modernity, by contrast, is characterized by the relativity and the progressive nature of all truth. For the modernists there is nothing, spoken or written, which cannot be construed and questioned, which cannot and indeed should not be further refined by the human mind.
Islam thus sees itself positioned between the authenticity of a truth – that of the Qur’an as a – so to speak – naked, irrefutable fact – and a modernity whose knowledge in all fields is constantly being reconstructed. Is the solution to be found in modernizing Islam or in Islamizing modernity? It is the task of the Muslims to answer this question.