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Wednesday word: Istisna’a

June 6, 2012

Like salam, istisna’a is an Islamic contract that allows two parties to agree on a price now for a product delivered later (although Islam generally prohibits deferred payment sales or sales of objects that do not yet exist).

Specifically, istisna’a is defined by Islamic finance specialist Brian Kettell as “a sale contract whereby the purchaser asks the seller to manufacture a specifically defined product, using the seller’s raw materials, at a given price.”*

One difference between istisna’a and salam is that is that istisna’a is used for major manufactured products, facilities, or equipment such as an oil rig, while salam is often used for agricultural or other objects.

However, while there is a marginal justification for salam in Islamic law, there is virtually none, if any, for istisna’a.  Kettell writes:

Similarly to Murabaha and Ijara, no direct support for the principle of Istisna’a can be found by studying the major sources of Sharia’a law.  In fact, the majority of religious schools argue that Istisna’a is inconsistent with Sharia’a law.  Only the Hanafi School accepts the Istisa’a contract and then merely because there is a need within society and customary practice (urf) to have an Islamically acceptable form of project finance.  Nothwithstanding the lack of juristic support for Istisna’a, it is still a widely employed method among Islamic banks.

In a 10 page document describing and justifying salam and istisna’a, Mufti Taqi Usmani (one of the two most notorious sharia finance proponents in the world) cites only one Hadith to justify salam, and none to justify istisn’a.  Usmani makes one vague reference to the Ottoman Empire as having utilized istisna’a.  Although Mr. Usmani supports jihad, sharia, and Islamic supremacy, his apparent support for istisna’a contracts may be based upon something other than Islam.

*Kettell, Brian B., Introduction to Islamic Banking and Finance (Chippenham: John Wiley and Sons, 2011).

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