Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad was perhaps the first person to discuss Islamic economics in detail in his books Nizame Nau (1942) and Islam ka Iqtisadi Nizaam (1945). Later work included that of Naeem Siddiqi and Maulana Maududi. The writings of Muhammad Hamidullah (1944, 1955, 1957 and 1962) should be included in this category. Also the Iqtisaduna(Arabic: “Our Economics”) is a major work on Islamic economics by a prominent Shia cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. Written between 1960 and 1961, it is al-Sadr’s main work on economics, and still forms much of the basis for modern Islamic banking.
They have all recognised the need for commercial banks and their perceived “necessary evil,” have proposed a banking system based on the concept of Mudarabha – profit and loss sharing.
In the next two decades interest-free banking attracted more attention, partly because of the political interest it created in Pakistan and partly because of the emergence of young Muslim economists. Works specifically devoted to this subject began to appear in this period. The first such work is that of Muhammad Uzair (1955). Another set of works emerged in the late sixties and early seventies. Abdullah al-Araby (1967), Nejatullah Siddiqi (1961, 1969), al-Najjar (1971) and Baqir al-Sadr (1961, 1974) were the main contributors.
The early 1970s saw greater institutional involvement. The Conference of the Finance Ministers of the Islamic Countries held in Karachi in 1970, the Egyptian study in 1972, the First International Conference on Islamic Economics in Mecca in 1976, and the International Economic Conference in London in 1977 were the instrumental as the involvement of institutions and governments led to the application of theory to practice and resulted in the establishment of the first interest-free banks. The Islamic Development Bank, an inter-governmental bank established in 1975, was born of this process. Dr. Sami Hassan Homoud, a Jordanian (1976) who made his PhD in Islamic Banking, was the first one to write about Morabaha, and he established the Jordanian Islamic Bank in 1978.
The first modern experiment with Islamic banking was undertaken in Egypt undercover without projecting an Islamic image—for fear of being seen as a manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism that was anathema to the political regime. The pioneering effort, led by Ahmad Elnaggar, took the form of a savings bank based on profit-sharing in the Egyptian town of Mit Ghamr in 1963. This experiment lasted until 1967 (Ready 1981), by which time there were nine such banks in country.
In 1972, the Mit Ghamr Savings project became part of Nasr Social Bank which, currently, is still in business in Egypt. In 1975, the Islamic Development Bank was set up with the mission to provide funding to projects in the member countries. The first modern commercial Islamic bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, opened its doors in 1975. In the early years, the products offered were basic and strongly founded on conventional banking products, but in the last few years the industry is starting to see strong development in new products and services.
Islamic banking is growing at a rate of 10-15% per year and with signs of consistent future growth. Islamic banks have more than 300 institutions spread over 51 countries, including the United States through companies such as the Michigan-based University Bank, as well as an additional 250 mutual funds that comply with Islamic principles. It is estimated that over US$822 billion worldwide sharia-compliant assets are managed according to The Economist.
This represents approximately 0.5% of total world estimated assets as of 2005. According to CIMB Group Holdings, Islamic finance is the fastest-growing segment of the global financial system and sales of Islamic bonds may rise by 24 percent to $25 billion in 2010.
Addressing the Oman Investment Forum in October 2011, all conventional banks in Oman can offer Sharia-based financial services upon approval from the Central Bank of Oman (CBO).
The Vatican has put forward the idea that “the principles of Islamic finance may represent a possible cure for ailing markets.