Shubber, K. (2008), "Handbook of Islamic Banking", International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 179-180. https://doi.org/10.1108/17538390810881017
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The differentiating characteristics of a “handbook”
What differentiates a “handbook” from other books?
Clearly, the general expectation is that a “handbook” tends to be comprehensive and all‐encompassing. In covering any given field, a “handbook” does not approach the vast scope of an “encyclopaedia”, but it certainly goes beyond what is envisaged of a book. At the same time, a “handbook” is often thought to have a focus on practicalities, so as to guide action and relevant decision making.
These are two major challenges in authoring such a publication in any field: comprehensiveness and practicality. Add to this, the requirement to be up‐to‐date, and the need for uniformity in structuring and literary style, in a field that is rapidly changing and developing such as Islamic banking and finance.
Well‐written and informative
On the whole, the two editors of this volume appear to have succeeded in tackling these challenges, thereby producing a publication that is well‐written and highly informative. The various chapters are organised into five major parts, focusing on the foundations of Islamic financing; operations of Islamic banks; instruments and markets; Islamic systems; globalisation of Islamic banking.
In effect, this handbook is a symposium, whereby each of the 25 chapters is written by one or more authors. A total of 31 authors have made contributions, three of whom are members of the Editorial Board of this journal, namely Rodney Wilson, Mahmoud El‐Gamal and Monzer Kahf. Among the notable features of the handbook is a glossary of technical terms presented right at the beginning, in addition to over 20 illustrative graphs, and a brief profile on every contributor, many of whom are well‐known names in Islamic finance and banking.
Owing to the fact that each chapter was specially commissioned, the handbook is not a mere a collection of articles put together by the editors. Thus, a rationale and a common thread can be discerned in the sequence of the five parts, as well as the chapters encompassed by each part. Starting with the development of Islamic economic and social thinking, passing through several theoretical‐cum‐practical topics such as the governance of Islamic banks, measuring efficiency/performance, speculation over stock prices, the handbook ends by poring over the problem of globalisation in Islamic banking, with a separate chapter on Islamic banking in the West.
Comparing Islam and Christianity
An interesting feature of this handbook is the chapter devoted to a comparison between Islamic and Christian attitudes to “usury”. As the Author of this chapter (Mervyn Lewis) clearly points out, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity had in the past opposed usury, but with the passage of time, and due to pressures from rulers and the business class, this prohibition has been whittled down and made virtually non‐existent. Under Christianity:
On the issue of the link between Islamic banks and economic development, the handbook notes that the immediate and most important outcome of the moral and ethical commitment of Islamic banking institutions is developmental in nature. As the Author of this chapter (Monzer Kahf) makes clear, Islamic banks are required to:
[…] prohibitions or severe restrictions upon usury operated for over 1400 years […] but gradually only exorbitant rates of interest came to be considered as usurious, and in this particular form usury laws of some sort, preventing excessive interest, remain in force (even) today in many Western countries (and some Muslim ones) (p. 64).
A further and practical characteristic of the handbook is that it covers various technical aspects of Islamic banking and finance. These include securitisation (e.g. issue of sukuks), financing of cross‐border trade, profit‐and‐loss sharing contracts, project finance, in addition to several others.
[…] restrict their financing to goods and services that are useful and abstain from financing harmful goods such as alcoholic beverages and tobacco, or morally unacceptable services such as casinos and pornography, regardless of whether or not such goods and services are legal in any given country (p. 281).