The book under review is a collection of 30 dense chapters contributed by 66 authors covering wide and much diversified areas of research in Islamic economics and finance. A chapter-by-chapter review of the book is impractical. Fortunately, however, despite their breadth of coverage, the chapters link up to a central theme: empirical assessment of Islam’s influence on economic growth and finance both in terms of what it is now, and what it ought to be in the future. This commonality allows me to introduce the book and its subject to readers. The book is a welcome addition to the literature in that it brings together important empirical papers on Islamic economics and finance. Academic work in Islamic economics and finance started in the 1940s and continued with the appearance of important studies that were, however, works separated in time and place of appearance. From the 1970s onwards the frequency and amount of research increased, helped by the establishment of dedicated research and teaching institutions from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, among them: the Centre for Research in Islamic Economics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, the International Institute of Islamic Economics at International Islamic University Islamabad, the Islamic Research and Training Institute at IDB in Jeddah, and the International Islamic University Malaysia. Most of the research of that period was theoretical in nature, addressing in particular questions about the need for an Islamic economic and financial system, conceptualizing its distinctive elements, and discussing what to expect from it. As the practical implementation of these ideas took root, and the practice of Islamic banking and finance started, the ‘how to’ questions became important: for example, how to make Islamic banking functional within the monetary setup of different countries; how to mobilize finance for large infrastructure projects while Islamic banking institutions were small; how to manage zakāt efficiently. The practice of Islamic economics and finance in various settings and different forms over the last 20 years has yielded data that is now enabling empirical assessment, and new ‘why’, ‘what’, and ‘how’ questions are emerging. The empirical focus of the present book brings together papers that are based on data generated both in natural conditions and controlled experiments. The selection of subjects is restricted to ‘what can be measured and tested, as opposed to what can be conceptualized and formulated.’ Even so, the coverage is quite broad, as illustrated by the thematic titles of the five parts into which the papers are divided: Religion and Growth (3 papers); Islamic Social Finance (7 papers); Islamic Banking and Finance (9 papers); the Islamic Capital Market (8 papers); and Sukuk (Islamic Bonds) (2 papers). The bias of the collection is towards Islamic finance, with relatively little on Islamic economics. This is natural as most of the available data relates to implementation of the concepts being tried out in Islamic banking and finance. Islamic banks and investment and fund management companies have come into existence due to private initiatives. For these institutions, reporting performance data to stakeholders and regulators is mandatory. Further, since money can be made or lost on the performance of stocks and sukuk, there exist private sector initiatives for data collection and dissemination. As for Islamic economics, very little is being done at government level. Most Islamic economics activities are in the private sector and at the micro level; they are very diverse and widely dispersed. Moreover, separate reporting of Islamic and non-Islamic economic activities is, at present, required neither by stakeholders nor by regulators. Defining the criteria for separation of activities and data collection are costly for researchers. There is a need for new initiatives in data collection on Islamic socio-economic indicators for individuals, households, firms, social institutions, governments and states. If any headway is to be made in economic research and policymaking in an Islamic milieu, facilitating the availability of reliable data will be critical. The dearth of empirical papers in Islamic economics is a measure of the challenge. Nevertheless, some of the papers in Part I and in Part II do attempt to highlight empirical research in Islamic economics while others remain focused on finance. For example, in Part I (religion and growth) one of the papers (Shah, Khan and Khan, pp. 23–46) points to the conclusion that religious values can encourage ‘pro-social and other-regarding’ behaviour. Data from experiments comparing responses of people influenced by religious teachings and those not so influenced showed that religious values can transform preferences in favour of what is better for society. Though the experiment was conducted at the micro, individual level, individual choices can bring about very different macro-economic outcomes than those advocated by conventional economics that treats preferences as given, and looks only to how (rational) economic agents make choices under different economic conditions/incentives. Another paper (Gazadar, Grassa, Hassan, pp. 47–71) explains variations in the levels of development in Islamic banking and finance with respect to legal environment and culture in different countries. It tackles the question of how to measure such abstract variables as culture and law and assess their impact on the development of Islamic finance. A third paper (Henry, pp. 72–90) shows the importance of Islamic finance in entrepreneurship development. It concludes, for the Arab region, that more inclusive financing—provided by Islamic finance—could be the key to economic diversification. However, it will require greater transparency and accountability for equity-based finance to function well. In Part II (Islamic social finance) seven papers focus on zakāt, waqf, financial inclusion, microfinance, and macro effects of finance and institutions on poverty and the human development index. Some of these papers can open up new avenues for research. For example, Nurzaman’s (pp. 93–108) evaluation of the impact of zakāt is both interesting and innovative. It utilizes panel data obtained by conducting two surveys separated in time. It relates zakāt to human development index (HDI) improvement, with HDIs calculated at household level. Future research can build upon this. The paper suffers from the problem of having selected those variables for analysis that are long-term in nature, i.e., not affected by zakāt in the short run. The papers in Part III focus on the impact on Islamic banking of the global financial crisis, governance and institutional quality, macro-economic shocks, liquidity management issues, financial intermediation costs and efficiency of investment bank managers. Empirical findings on these matters are interesting and telling. Weill (pp. 343–53) finds that improvements in institutional quality have a higher positive impact in Islamic banking than in the conventional sector. But Sufian et al. (pp. 306–31) reach the opposite conclusion in that rule of law improvements negatively impact revenue efficiency in both Islamic and conventional banks but the latter more severely. Unfortunately, these studies ignore the nature of the institutions in their analysis. Improvement in the quality of one type of institutional support is not helpful for Islamic finance. The institutional quality measure as advanced by the World Bank was conceived in the context of debt culture and it measures the improvement of institutional quality in respect of extension of credit. Empirical analysis using regressions of Islamic banking and finance performance over these institutional indices cannot be meaningful. In settings where there is not much difference between Islamic and conventional banking operations, the improvement of institutional quality of this type will create convergence in the performance of both. By contrast, where there is significant difference between Islamic (sharing-oriented) and conventional (debt-oriented) banking operations, improvement of institutional quality judged by the same measure will create divergence in performance, with conventional banks’ performance rising much higher by their facilitation of lending over sharing. Other papers in Part III provide, through empirical analysis, good insights into operational aspects of Islamic banking—for example, the differentiating factors, while controlling for other features such as size, in the business models of Islamic and conventional banks relative to their sources and uses of funds; the resilience of Islamic and conventional banks in the face of macroeconomic shock, the response of deposits and credits of Islamic and conventional banks to monetary policy shocks. The data and analysis are important for both policy and theory. If Islamic banks’ behaviour is not as desired under an interest-free Islamic system, it allows policy makers and other stakeholders to initiate short- and long-term changes to bring about the desired outcomes. Part IV (Islamic capital markets) focuses on performance, risk characteristics, and costs of the Shariʿa-compliant tradable assets and their portfolios. It contains papers on the design of venture capital contracts and integration of Islamic stock markets across countries and between conventional stock markets. The emerging messages are: 1) Shariʿa-compliant indices do not necessarily provide hedging benefit. The stability benefit of Islamic stocks during the bear market, which was identified in earlier literature, was mainly due to the use of a market capitalization approach in the calculation of debt to asset ratio (Ashraf and Khawaja, pp. 465–84). 2) Better calculation of value at risk for Shariʿa-compliant stocks is possible by jointly accounting for fat tails in statistical distribution of returns and their asymmetry (Aloni et al., pp. 485–508). 3) Stocks can become Shariʿa-compliant or non-compliant depending on certain financial ratios used as screening criteria. The Islamic label on a stock does not reveal any supplemental information to investors, as it does not bring any abnormal returns (Hayat and De Anca, pp. 509–32). 4) Islamic equity funds prioritize Shariʿa-compliance over out-performance of returns. Thus investors sacrifice returns in order to comply with religious obligations (Nainggolan et al., 533–58). 5) Islamic stocks are closer to the mean-variance frontier and informationally efficient in the sense that new information is quickly reflected in the prices of these stocks. The impact of the financial crisis on Islamic funds was relatively small due to their avoidance of derivative products in their portfolios (Akhtar and Jahroni, pp. 559–78). The paper by Mehri et al. (pp. 579–601) in this part provides a good summary of venture finance literature and how it deals with the agency problem caused by asymmetry of information between the venture capitalist and the manager. It relates this to the similar agency problem faced in Islamic muḍāraba and mushāraka contracts, and proposes profit-sharing ratio as a screening device to select the appropriate type of managers and to reduce the asymmetry of information. The book also introduces various new techniques of quantitative analysis applied to Islamic finance. For example (Bekri et al., pp. 602–23), the application of copula in measuring risks of stock returns and Islamic capital market indices when the probability distribution of returns may have fat tails, for example, due to volatility clustering. Another paper (Naseri et al., pp. 624–56) simply uses standard co-integration and GARCH techniques to evaluate integration of the Malaysian Islamic capital market index with other Islamic stock indices of other capital markets. It finds that it is integrated with Islamic indices of developed markets and larger markets of the region, namely China and Japan. El Alaoui et al. (pp. 657–84) apply the wavelet approach to determine relationship between indices of various Islamic and conventional stock markets as well as relationship between these indices and LIBOR. It finds significant relationships at different timescales between DJI Europe and global Islamic and conventional stock market indices. Part V of the book has three papers on sukuk. El Alaoui et al. I have just mentioned. Shafi et al. (pp 687–705) apply conventional model and techniques of distress prediction to evaluate the likelihood of sukuk distress. However, more accurate prediction is possible by realizing the differences between sukuk and bonds and incorporating those differences in the modelling and in the choice of predictor variables. Asutay and Aksak’s paper (pp. 706–29) discusses economic and political determinants of the development of sukuk markets. They find that different factors contributed to the growth of sukuk in different countries, domestic economic and political conditions being the more important. However, international macroeconomic conditions, risk appetite and availability of liquidity also played important roles. Along with its many good qualities, the book as a whole does also have some shortcomings. While it covers a variety of topics, it ignores some important subjects on which empirical research exists. Even allowing for the scant coverage of Islamic economics, the editor’s selection has neglected areas like microfinance, awqāf, and the development effect of Islamic finance. To call the book a ‘Handbook of Empirical Research’, implies that it is a representative sample of all areas of empirical research in Islamic economics and finance or of all empirical techniques applied in such research. Unfortunately, it is neither of these. At best, it is a collection of 30 thematically organized empirical papers, not all of which are equally rigorous. Some are good in their research design and data collection method; others are poor in describing the data and sampling method. Requiring the authors to add some detail about the data would have improved the usefulness of the collection. The stated objective of the Handbook is to focus on empirical studies so as to evaluate how well the Islamic institutions have performed in pursuing their objectives. Does it provide an answer to this question? Not really, albeit it is a first step forward. Some chapters do not provide any evaluation of the achievement of the objectives, only restatement of the objectives and the hope, or they propose a test of a hypothesis on whether Islam can have positive impact on economic and financial outcomes. The book has paid attention to proper formatting and uniformity in italicizing Arabic words, but some errors remain. Some of the linking arrows needed in Figure 26.7 (p. 620) seem to be missing. For a book of this size, the index is quite short, which is not helpful in finding subtopics readily. The index entries focus more on listing the names of authors, mentioned or cited in various papers, than on concepts and terms, to the extent that some key terms such as zakāt are completely missing. Finally, I should mention that many of the papers in this collection have benefited from the substantial contribution of the institutions that organized conferences (and, often, provided financial support), which enabled the presentations of these papers. Proper acknowledgment of such support and sponsorship is lacking. Overall, the book is a good addition to the literature, as it brings together empirical papers that would otherwise be scattered in different publications. It is a useful volume both for libraries and for individuals concerned with Islamic economics and finance. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Journal of Islamic Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 28, 2018
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