Mudarabah – Introduction

Mudarabah is a special kind of partnership where one partner gives money to another for investing it in a commercial enterprise. The investment comes from the first partner who is called “rabb-ul-mal”, while the management and work is an exclusive responsibility of the other, who is called “mudarib”.

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The difference between musharakah and mudarabah can be summarized in the following points:

(1) The investment in musharakah comes from all the partners, while in mudarabah, investment is the sole responsibility of rabb-ul-mal.

(2) In musharakah, all the partners can participate in the management of the business and can work for it, while in mudarabah, the rabb-ul-mal has no right to participate in the management which is carried out by the mudarib only.

(3) In musharakah all the partners share the loss to the extent of the ratio of their investment while in mudarabah the loss, if any, is suffered by the rabb-ul-mal only, because the mudarib does not invest anything. His loss is restricted to the fact that his labor has gone in vain and his work has not brought any fruit to him. However, this principle is subject to a condition that the mudarib has worked with due diligence which is normally required for the business of that type. If he has worked with negligence or has committed dishonesty, he shall be liable for the loss caused by his negligence or misconduct.

(4) The liability of the partners in musharakah is normally unlimited. Therefore, if the liabilities of the business exceed its assets and the business goes in liquidation, all the exceeding liabilities shall be borne pro rata by all the partners. However, if all the partners have agreed that no partner shall incur any debt during the course of business, then the exceeding liabilities shall be borne by that partner alone who has incurred a debt on the business in violation of the aforesaid condition. Contrary to this is the case of mudarabah. Here the liability of rabb-ul-mal is limited to his investment, unless he has permitted the mudarib to incur debts on his behalf.

(5) In musharakah, as soon as the partners mix up their capital in a joint pool, all the assets of the musharakah become jointly owned by all of them according to the proportion of their respective investment. Therefore, each one of them can benefit from the appreciation in the value of the assets, even if profit has not accrued through sales.

The case of mudarabah is different. Here all the goods purchased by the mudarib are solely owned by the rabb-ul-mal, and the mudarib can earn his share in the profit only in case he sells the goods profitably. Therefore, he is not entitled to claim his share in the assets themselves, even if their value has increased.

Business of the Mudarabah

The rabb-ul-mal may specify a particular business for the mudarib, in which case he shall invest the money in that particular business only. This is called al-mudarabah al-muqayyadah (restricted mudarabah). But if he has left it open for the mudarib to undertake whatever business he wishes, the mudarib shall be authorized to invest the money in any business he deems fit. This type of mudarabah is called “al-mudarabah al-mutlaqah” (unrestricted mudarabah)

A rabbul-mal can contract mudarabah with more than one person through a single transaction. It means that he can offer his money to A and B both, so that each one of them can act for him as mudarib and the capital of the mudarabah shall be utilized by both of them jointly, and the share of the mudarib shall be distributed between them according to the agreed proportion.2 In this case both the mudaribs shall run the business as if they were partners inter se.

The mudarib or mudaribs, as the case may be, are authorized to do anything which is normally done in the course of business. However, if they want to do an extraordinary work, which is beyond the normal routine of the traders, they cannot do so without express permission from the rabb-ul-mal.

Source: Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, An Introduction to Islamic Finance. Republished with permission.