Monday, 24 February 2014 10:00


A Malaysian outfit researching Islamic finance has come out with a neat job of publishing a book on Islamic legal maxims that are key to the sector.

Let me start by saying that this is a must-have for those involved in the fast-expanding Islamic finance, especially for those who rely heavily on materials in English. They will be delighted with the 249-page Islamic Legal Maxims & Their Application in Islamic Finance (picture).

This is the latest work to come from the International Shariah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA), an outfit that was set-up six years ago with a generous backing of the Malaysian central bank.

This book, authored by ISRA ED Dr Mohamad Akram Laldin and five others, targets the English-speaking readers to develop an understanding of the themes that run through the Shariah and appreciate the salient featurs of the philisophy of Islamic jurisprudence.

“Not only does it make available an important part of the intellectual legacy of classical Islamic jurisprudence in fluent English, it demonstrates the relevance of this knowledge to the modern world,” writes Dr Akram in its preface. This adds to ISRA’s ealier works: “ISRA Compendium for Islamic Finance Terms” and textbook- styled “Islamic Financial System - Principles & Operations”.

In this work, the team had taken the trouble to sift the various legal maxims and narrowed down to 40 that are most relevant to muamalat (transactions) and Islamic finance.

Maxims play a critical role in fiqh and Islamic finance. Fiqh is the Islamic term for jurisprudence.

It may also be termed as the jurists’ understanding of the Shariah, as explained in a glossary which runs at the end of the book, a convenient guide.

The legal maxims of fiqh are statements of principles that derives from the detailed reading of the rules of fiqh on various themes, writes Prof Mohammad Hashim Kamali, the founding chairman and CEO of International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia. It is “particularly useful in depicting a general picture of the nature, goals and objectives of the Shariah”.

One crucial maxim for Islamic finance and muamalat is this: “The presumption of validity and permissibility applies to all contracts and conditions”. The book explains that what this means is that evidence must be provided to prohibit a contract of of one of its terms. The burden of proof of dispute lies with the claimant that the contract, of one of its terms, is

You may hear of this maxim from Shariah scholars and Islamic bankers at forums when putting forward new transactions and innovative products. Some maxims included are “Judgment is to be based on knowledge and understanding”, “The fundamental requirement in every contract is justice”, “Deferent constitutes a part of the price”, “Matters are determined by intentins”, “Hardship begets facility”, “Necessities render the prohibited permissable”, and “Ecolution of Shariah rulings [based on custom and ijtihad] due to changing times is not to be denied”.

The presentation is neat and tidy. Each maxim is spelt out in Arabic, accompanied by its English translation. The authors then explain the maxim and then point out the authority that validites it. They then show how it is applied in fiqh and Islamic finance.

For research purposes, each of the key statements are referenced to its original source. Now, this is heaven to folks who undertake research. It makes their life so much easier. The book is priced at RM130 for the Malaysian market and US$50 (RM165) for the international market.