Emerging Issues in Islamic Finance Law and Practice in Malaysia
Table of contents(17 chapters)
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Wealth and Consumer Protection
This chapter offers a practitioners’ perspective on how Islamic banks in Malaysia deal with unlawful sources of funds. Specifically, it investigates the practice of Islamic banks in Malaysia in dealing with funds that originate from unlawful sources such as accepting deposits for safe-keeping and investment and providing financial facilities to customers whose incomes come from unlawful sources. This is regardless of whether the sources of fund are wholly unlawful or there is a mix of lawful and unlawful sources. A quantitative methodology is adopted to collect data from selected industry practitioners who are directly involved with Islamic banks, mainly officers of Sharīʿah departments, members of Sharīʿah committees and other stakeholders of Islamic banks. Based on a simple descriptive analysis, it is found that majority of the respondents opine that when the sources of funds are deemed unlawful, the bank cannot accept such deposits, investments or give financing to a customer if he or she is known to possess unlawful sources of funds. With respect to the mixed sources of funds or activities, that is, lawful and unlawful, the bank should not be prevented from receiving the funds either for safe-keeping, investment or payment of financing. The study also finds that banks have the right to investigate the sources of funds of the customers whether they are derived from Sharīʿah compliant, non-Sharīʿah compliant or mixed sources as part of the general due diligence implemented by such banks.
A family takaful certificate is subscribed by a takaful participant for the purpose of preparing financial support for his dependants after his death. The takaful benefits could then be made payable to a nominee named as the beneficiary under conditional hibah (gift). In this respect, the participant is free to decide to whom the benefits are to be given since the law is silent as to the criteria of the beneficiary. This situation gives rise to the issue on whether such a practice fulfils the objectives of Sharīʿah, especially when the nominated beneficiary is not the sole dependant of the deceased participant. Therefore, this research aims to evaluate the status of family takaful benefits, analyse the rules of conditional hibah from the Sharīʿah perspective and propose solutions whenever necessary. The research adopts doctrinal analysis by examining existing primary and secondary materials including statutory provisions and other legal and non-legal literatures. The study predicates that the application of conditional hibah to the whole benefits does not reflect the objectives of Sharīʿah if determination on the status of the benefits is solely based on the nomination made by the participant. It is observed that takaful benefits payable from the Participant’s Account should be considered as the deceased’s estate and must be distributed according to fara’id or Islamic law of inheritance. Conversely, the sum covered payable from the Participant’s Special Account may be paid to the deceased’s dependants whose criteria are determined by the Sharīʿah Advisory Council as the highest authority in Islamic financial matters.
Legal and Sharīʿah issues abound in creating security to finance waqf property development in Malaysia, for it involves integrating the Sharīʿah concept of waqf with requirements of Malaysian land law as well as the requirements of modern finance under civil law. Banks and financial institutions will not generally finance property development without any form of security for the loan. The best type of security transaction under Malaysian land law is to create a charge on the land under the National Land Code 1965, rendering the land liable as a security which upon default of the chargor, would entitle the chargee to seek statutory remedies including sale of the land. Such may not be feasible for waqf properties due to the inalienable nature of such properties. Due to the remedy of sale of the land upon default, the same issues would arise in regard to other types of securities like a lien and a loan agreement cum assignment. There is therefore a need to diversify the available options in creating security over waqf property. What are the existing Sharīʿah restrictions on waqf property? Do these restrictions affect the creation of security over waqf lands under conventional Malaysian land law? What are the legal and Sharīʿah issues relating to creating a charge over waqf lands? What are some feasible options? Initial findings are that creating a charge on a lease of waqf land as well as resorting to a hybrid form of a traditional security transaction in Malaysia, called ‘Jualjanji’, may hold some answers. Through doctrinal legal research and content analysis, this chapter explores these issues and recommends feasible solutions.
Hisbah is one of the distinguished institutions that had emerged since the early days of the Islamic empire. Based on its cardinal duty to enjoin good and prohibit evil, over time, its functions gradually expanded, and its responsibilities increasingly grew. In light of the contemporary trend in establishing institutional framework for consumer protection, entrusting an agency with multifarious tasks may not be the best and effective way in handling consumer protection issues. Thus, this chapter attempts to explore the new paradigm of hisbah as a consumer protection institution in Malaysia with a special reference to the Islamic consumer credit industry. While utilising the doctrinal legal research methodology, relevant sources of law have been examined and analysed. This research finds that the classical hisbah institution provides a good reference point in establishing regulatory agency and dispute management body. Nevertheless, some modifications are required to remain relevant especially in terms of specialisation of role and function. Likewise, it is viewed that adjustment of the hisbah institution is also necessary regarding the characteristic of the muhtasib (ombudsman).
Part III: Regulatory Compliance and Legal Documentation
This chapter aims to examine Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) approach in fulfilling its financial consumer protection mandate from unfair contract terms and the statutory framework relevant for consumer protection in the domestic market. This is a qualitative-based research. Using content analysis, this study analyses BNM’s Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report from 2012 to 2016, specifically on the ‘market conduct and consumer empowerment’ to explore BNM’s prudential regulatory, supervisory and consumer protection roles in protecting bank consumers from unfair contract terms. It is found that even if a number of standards and guidelines have been issued by BNM in improving ‘fairness and transparency’, the potential risk facing bank consumers from unfair terms in standard consumer contracts of Islamic banks especially where terms may be unfair or unclear remains unchanged. This study recommends that BNM as the Central Bank and financial regulator of Malaysia promotes self-regulation of the Islamic banks by adopting value-based banking of a consumer-focussed culture in delivering an effective protection for consumers from unfair contract terms and empowering them in their dealings with Islamic banks in Malaysia. This study will be helpful in bringing a policy formulation by BNM in identifying their weak areas and suggesting improvements in pursuing a strong consumer protection agenda from unfair contract terms.
Dynamism of digital economy requires innovation in the mobile payment system to provide for the free flow of information to facilitate electronic transactions. However, regulations and standards were introduced at the global and country levels to impose limitations on mobile payment system to protect consumers’ interests. The Malaysian government introduced the Anti-money Laundering, Anti-terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (Act 613) (AMLA) to protect the people from being involved in offences both locally and internationally and an unlawful activity carried out physically or by using virtual mechanisms. It is argued in this study that AMLA has hindered the innovation of the digital economic system that is promoted by the government in line with global developments. The research method adopted is personal interview with selected respondents to gather their views on the challenges posed by the restrictions imposed by AMLA that has had the impact of limiting innovations in the mobile payment system sector.
Money laundering and terrorism financing are financial crimes which affect the economic stability and integrity of the country. In this respect, the relevant regulator has a duty to preserve and protect the financial stability of the country. This duty is in line with the concept of the protection of wealth (hifz al-mal) under the maqāsid al-Sharīʿah or higher objectives of Islamic law framework. The objective of this chapter is to examine the protection of wealth vis-á-vis money laundering and terrorism financing from the maqāsid al-Sharīʿah perspective. This study analyses the primary and secondary legal sources on the laws and regulations on anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism while also considering the primary and secondary sources of Islamic law. This study is significant as it makes an exploration of the maqāsid al-Sharīʿah perspectives and discusses the position of unlawful wealth that is acquired from the illicit gain of property from the abuse of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. This chapter suggests that Islamic law emphasises on the lawful ownership of wealth and prohibits a person from acquiring illicit wealth. This study will contribute towards the study on the deployment of maqāsid al-Sharīʿah, which is beneficial in safeguarding an individual action as well as the country’s commitment against abuse and misuse of wealth for financial crimes.
The Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Thematic Review of Banking & Insurance sectors conducted by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in 2013 indicated that oversight functions are still inadequate in the areas of compliance, internal audit, board of directors and senior management. The oversight functions refer to the AML/CFT compliance programme, which financial institutions, including Islamic banks, are obliged to execute as a part of mitigating activities against money laundering and terrorist financing. The main purpose of this chapter is to analyse whether there is any improvement in the oversight functions at the Islamic banks in Malaysia since the release of the thematic review report by BNM on 17 September 2014. This research is important as penalty for non-compliance under Section 22 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLATFPUAA) is severe. Section 22 of AMLATFPUAA entails personal responsibility on the compliance officer of an Islamic bank and not the reporting institution as a whole. Qualitative research method via interview is employed to gauge the extent of Islamic banks’ adherence to AML/CFT compliance programme. This chapter is significant as it provides Islamic banks and future researchers with the details of the compliance study as well as the current status of AML/CFT compliance programme within the Islamic banks in Malaysia.
This chapter provides a case study on a Sharīʿah-compliant home facility contract based on the Bai Bithaman Ājil (BBA) contract, generally used by Islamic banks in Malaysia. The study emphasises on the need to comply with the existing legal framework and execute relevant contracts in line with the Sharīʿah resolutions of the Sharīʿah Advisory Council of Bank Negara Malaysia without causing harm (ḍarar) to the customers or introducing uncertain elements or procedures (gharar) in the execution of the agreements. This chapter is based on doctrinal analysis of the relevant issues as well as a qualitative legal research through content analysis of relevant BBA agreements, case law as well as statutory provisions. The case study used in this chapter is completely anonymised. The study finds that the execution of BBA agreements in Malaysia leaves much to be desired. Even though the regulatory framework for Sharīʿah-compliant home financing in Malaysia is robust, there are some legal and Sharīʿah considerations which the stakeholders need to look into in order to project Malaysia as the main global hub of Islamic finance. This study demonstrates the need for proper Sharīʿah auditing of the practical execution of BBA agreements to avoid an incorporated element of gharar at the time of execution of the agreements, which might ultimately lead to unforeseen reputation risks for the bank. Though there are several studies on the Sharīʿah, financing and accounting aspects of the BBA home facility agreement, this study focusses on both Sharīʿah and legal issues, using the case study approach. The recommendations are expected to provide a good policy framework for the stakeholders in the Islamic financial services industry in Malaysia.
The Malaysian economy is expected to face another tumultuous year in 2019. It has been reported more than 21,000 people lost their jobs in 2018, half of whom were in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. This rising unemployment gravely affects a person’s source of income, particularly when he/she is the sole breadwinner of the family. It further leads to the inability to pay one’s monthly commitments such as home, personal and car financing. Notwithstanding the above situation, Sharīʿah encourages leniency on the part of the creditor, that is, when the debtor is in a difficulty, to grant him/her time until it is easy for him/her to pay. Nonetheless, in Malaysia, the inability to pay debt or non-performing loan/financing entitles the financial institutions (both conventional banks and Islamic financial institutions) to proceed with legal proceedings in civil court It is trite that Islamic financing in Malaysia is governed by Sharīʿah principles and legislations, which are conventional in nature; and contractual rights and duties involving Islamic finance are enforceable in the civil court of law. This chapter examines procedural laws governing the event of default of Islamic financing in Malaysia. The methodology adopted in this chapter is doctrinal legal analysis whereby the relevant laws, namely, Rules of Court 2012, Insolvency Act 1967, Limitation Act 1953, Evidence Act 1950, Court of Judicature Act 1964 and the National Land Code 1965 are analysed in addition to the relevant case law. The study reveals that while some of the provisions are sufficient to regulate the event of default of Islamic financing, the laws are largely inadequate. The chapter also finds a significant number of legal issues and challenges relating to event of default in Islamic financing, which require legal reform.
Part IV: Fintech and Blockchain Technology
The worldwide trend of Financial Technology (Fintech) reached the Malaysian shores in the past few years, making the observations and analysis of this subject more critical than ever. Furthermore, Fintech has developed to be an unavoidable area in the Islamic finance industry. Therefore, this chapter seeks to analyse the development of Fintech in the Islamic finance industry and its connection to Islamic economics, as well as the impact towards existing regulatory mechanisms. While the scarcity of studies on this area is apparent, the authors have identified the undebatable need to regulate the development of the Fintech industry and its effects while analysing the drawbacks and positive effects of Fintech towards parties involved in the Islamic finance industry. This chapter objectively studies the phenomenon of Islamic Fintech globally with emphasis on Malaysia through analytical research methods by utilising existing facts and findings on Fintech to make proposals for possible issues identified. Existing legal frameworks are studied and scrutinised to determine whether they can accommodate the rapidly evolving Fintech. The new Regulatory Sandbox by Malaysia’s central bank and existing laws are also examined. It is found that there is a room for improvement to the current regulatory framework.
The global Islamic financial landscape is changing with rapid advances in technology. The increasingly tech-savvy demography is presenting both opportunities and challenges to the industry. With the advances in e-finance and mobile technologies, financial technology (Fintech) innovations emerged by combining the e-finance, Internet, social networking services, social media, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics. Fintech promises to reshape the Islamic financial landscape by improving processes’ efficiencies, cost-effectiveness, increased distribution, Sharīʿah compliance and financial inclusion. As far as the Islamic fund management industry is concerned, AI seems to be the keyword. Islamic fund managers have recently started to incorporate AI and big data analytics into their strategy in the process of making accurate decisions based on facts and figures, which eliminates any biases and personal intuition. This disruption in status quo is raising new issues, new concerns and new exciting opportunities. While disruption may carry negative connotations, the industry players have been embracing the innovation and potential revolution the technology could offer. Thus, the objective of this chapter is to discuss legal aspects of Fintech and its impact on the Islamic fund management industry in Malaysia. This chapter introduces a historical overview of Fintech and its evolution in the Islamic fund management industry. This chapter further provides an overview of the legal and regulatory aspects of Fintech with regards to the industry. Finally, legal issues and challenges are identified and discussed. Being a legal research, this chapter adopts a qualitative method by analysing the relevant literatures on the subject. This chapter is expected to provide an insight into the application of Fintech and its impact on the Islamic fund management industry in Malaysia.
This chapter attempts to clarify and describe the legal and regulatory framework for cryptocurrency with special focus on Malaysia and the threats that it poses from the anti-money laundering perspective. Currently, very few countries have legislations that regulate cryptocurrency. Nonetheless, the crazy surge in prices (to more than 20-folds at some point) has sent both legitimate investors and criminals flocking to cryptocurrencies. This chapter analyses and compares the official reports from various governments, writings of government officials, experts and scholars in journals and newspapers, interviews and draws conclusions on the legal framework of cryptocurrency, and money laundering challenges. The study notes that the decision of the US regulators in allowing Bitcoin futures to trade on major exchanges to be one of the reasons behind the sudden surge. The study also finds that the South Korean regulators’ approach in banning its financial institutions from dealing with virtual currency is a positive one. The chapter stresses that it is not adequate for regulators to warn the public to act with extreme caution and increase their understanding on the risks they take on if they choose to invest in cryptocurrencies. Instead, it is necessary to have comprehensive international and national laws and regulations for the control and management of cryptocurrencies. In addition, the anti-money laundering legal framework must be improved to cater to the new threats posed by cryptocurrency.
Regulation of digital currency is still at its infancy as authorities around the world grapple with its mechanics, and study its impact and the best method to regulate it. Significant increase in the use of digital cryptocurrency based on Blockchain technology post-Bitcoin phenomenon had challenged the conventional idea of central bank monopoly in currency issuance. This had also raised concern that digital currency being used as an instrumentality of crime given its anonymity feature that allows for the flow of funds without tracing and the fact that it is built on trustless system that provides security of transaction. This concern, plus other consideration including the prospect of issuing central bank digital currency, had driven some authorities around the world to adopt countermeasures either via an outright ban or a regulatory regime that suits the nature of digital currency, which is purely virtual and anonymous. However, in coming out with an appropriate legal regime, authorities faced multiple difficulties especially when the pace of legal development does not sync congruently with the rapid progress of technology. In addition, given the growing prominence of Islamic finance around the world, questions also arise pertaining to the legality of digital cryptocurrency from the Islamic perspective. Through a qualitative study of relevant literatures as well as legislations in different countries, this chapter discusses the various categories of digital currency, its position from the Islamic perspective, regulatory regimes of digital cryptocurrency in selected jurisdictions and challenges faced by authorities around the world in regulating this new medium of exchange.
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