Extending our understanding of Islamic banking through questioning assumptions and drawing unprecedented comparisons

2018-12-03T09:55:40Z (GMT) by Sara Navid
This thesis challenges two key assumptions made in the current Islamic banking literature. Firstly, this thesis challenges and empirically invalidates the assumption that all Islamic banks are indistinguishable from their conventional counterparts and are thus equally unIslamic. To do so, this thesis uses the profit and loss sharing (PLS) criteria, which is central to the philosophy of Islamic banking and is the key principle differentiating Islamic from conventional banking, in theory and practice. By investigating variation in PLS levels between Islamic banks and comparing with conventional banks with and without Islamic windows, this thesis illustrates that the Islamic banking industry does not comprise a homogeneous group of banks that are all indistinguishable from their conventional counterparts. Rather, a typology of Islamic banks exists, comprising of three distinct groups of banks, each one following a different business model. While one group can genuinely be considered indistinguishable from conventional banks, another group shows clear evidence of pursuing PLS-oriented strategies in formulating its asset portfolio, differentiating itself from the purely debt-based intermediation model adopted by conventional banks. As such, empirical evidence shows that some Islamic banks are, in practice, operating closer to the PLS principle and can thus be considered more Islamic than others. Further investigation illustrates that the institutional environment matters for the provision of ideal PLS Islamic financing instruments. Secondly, this thesis overcomes two methodological issues to compare the corporate social performance (CSP) of Islamic and conventional banks. In doing so, this thesis challenges the second identified assumption from the literature, that religion-specific category of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is particular to Islamic banking, and invalidates it on conceptual, theoretical and empirical basis. A novel CSP Index based on the evidence-based disclosure criteria, comprising of 6 dimensions and 25 social performance indicators is constructed and complemented with three Social Performance Quantitative Indicators (SPQIs) to compare the CSP of Islamic and conventional banks. From this comparison, this thesis concludes that, contrary to the industry s claims and expectations held of it, Islamic banking does not offer an ethical alternative to conventional banking. Differences in the level and composition of CSP between the two industries are more subtle and require a nuanced approach to be studied.