Cost Calculation in Murabahah
It is already mentioned that the transaction of murabahah contemplates the concept of cost-plus sale, therefore, it can be effected only where the seller can ascertain the exact cost he has incurred in acquiring the commodity he wants to sell. If the exact cost cannot be ascertained, no murabahah can be possible. In this case, the sale must be effected on the basis of musawamah (i.e. sale without reference to cost).
This principle leads to another rule: the murabahah transaction should be based on the same currency in which the seller has purchased the commodity from the original supplier. If the seller has purchased it for Pakistani rupees, the onward sale to the ultimate purchaser should also be based on Pakistani rupees, and if the first purchase has occurred in U.S. dollars, the price of murabahah should be based on dollars as well, so that the exact cost may be ascertained.
However, in the case of international trade, it may be difficult to base both purchases on the same currency. If the commodity intended to be sold to the customer is imported from a foreign country, while the ultimate purchaser is in Pakistan, the price of the original sale has to be paid in a foreign currency and the price of the second sale will be determined in Pak. Rupees.
This situation may be met with in two ways. Firstly, if the ultimate purchaser agrees and the laws of the country allow, the price of the second sale may also be determined in dollars.
Secondly, if the seller has purchased the commodity by converting Pakistani Rupees into dollars, the exact amount of Pak rupees paid by the seller to convert them into dollars can be taken as the cost price and the profit of murabahah can be added thereon.
In some cases, the bank purchases the commodity from abroad at a price payable after three months or in different instalments, and sells the commodity to his client before he pays the full price to the supplier. Since he pays the price in dollars, its equivalent in Pakistani Rupees are not known at the time when the commodity is sold to the client. Due to fluctuation in the price of dollars in Pak Rupees, the bank may have to pay more than it anticipated at the time of murabahah sale. For example, the rate of U.S. dollars at the time of murabahah was Rs. 40/- for one dollar. The price of murabahah was settled according to this rate, but when the bank paid the price to the supplier, the dollar rate increased to Rs. 41/- for one dollar, meaning thereby that the cost of the bank increased by 2.5%. In order to meet this situation, some financial institutions put a condition in the murabahah agreement that in case of such fluctuation in currency rates, the client shall bear the additional cost. According to the classical Muslim jurists, murabahah based on this condition is not valid because it leads to uncertainty of the price at the time of sale. Such uncertainty continues upto a date after three months when the buyer actually pays the price to the supplier. Such uncertainty renders the transaction invalid. Therefore, there are following options open to the bank in this issue:
(a) The bank should purchase that commodity on the basis of L/C at sight and should pay the price to the supplier before effecting sale with the customer. In this case no question of fluctuation in currency rates will be involved. The murabahah price can be determined on the basis of the market rate of dollars on the date when the bank has paid the price to the supplier.
(b) The bank determines the murabahah price in US dollars rather than in Pak rupees, so that the deferred murabahah price is paid by the customer in dollars. In this case the bank will be entitled to receive dollars from the customer and the risk of the fluctuation in dollar’s price will be borne by the purchaser.
(c) Instead of murabahah, the deal may be on the basis of musawamah (a sale without reference to the cost of the seller) and the price may be fixed as to cover the anticipated fluctuation in the currency rates.
- Available with the kind permission of Skeikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani