Nature of Capital

Most of the Muslim jurists are of the opinion that the capital invested by each partner must be in liquid form. It means that the contract of musharakah can be based only on money, and not on commodities. In other words, the share capital of a joint venture must be in monetary form. No part of it can be contributed in kind. However, there are different views in this respect.

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1. Imam Malik is of the view that the liquidity of capital is not a condition for the validity of musharakah, therefore, it is permissible that a partner contributes to the musharakah in kind, but his share shall be determined on the basis of evaluation according to the market price prevalent at the date of the contract. This view is also adopted by some Hanbali jurists.

2. Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Ahmad are of the view that no contribution in kind is acceptable in a musharakah. Their standpoint is based on two reasons:

Firstly, they say that the commodities of each partner are always distinguishable from the commodities of the other. For example, if A has contributed one motor car to the business, and B has come with another motor car, each one of the two cars is the exclusive property of its original owner. Now, if the car of A is sold, its sale-proceeds should go to A. B has no right to claim a share in its price. Therefore, so far as the property of each partner is distinguished from the property of the other, no partnership can take place. On the contrary, if the capital invested by every partner is in the form of money, the share capital of each partner cannot be distinguished from that of the other, because the units of money are not distinguishable, therefore, they will be deemed to form a common pool, and thus the partnership comes into existence.

Secondly, they say, there are a number of situations in a contract of musharakah where the partners have to resort to redistribution of the share-capital to each partner. If the share-capital was in the form of commodities, such redistribution cannot take place, because the commodities may have been sold at that time. If the capital is repaid on the basis of its value, the value may have increased, and there is a possibility that a partner gets all the profit of the business, because of the appreciation in the value of the commodities he has invested, leaving nothing for the other partner. Conversely, if the value of those commodities decreases, there is a possibility that one partner secures some part of the original price of the commodity of the other partner in addition to his own investment.

3. Imam al-Shafi’i has come with a via media between the two points of view explained above. He says that the commodities are of two kinds:

(i) Dhawat-ul-amthal (i.e. the commodities which, if destroyed, can be compensated by the similar commodities in quality and quantity e.g. wheat, rice etc. If 100 kilograms of wheat are destroyed, they can easily be replaced by another 100 kg. of wheat of the same quality.

(ii) Dhawat-ul-qeemah (i.e. the commodities which cannot be compensated by the similar commodities, like the cattle. Each head of sheep, for example, has its own characteristics which cannot be found in any other head. Therefore, if somebody kills the sheep of a person, he cannot compensate him by giving him similar sheep. Rather, he is required to pay their price.

Now, Imam al-Shafi’i says that the commodities of the first kind (i.e. dhawat-ul-amthal) may be contributed to the musharakah as the share of a partner in the capital, while the commodities of the second kind (i.e. the dhawat-ul-qeemah) cannot form part of the share capital.

By this distinction between dhawat-ul-amthal and dhawat-ul-qeemah, Imam al-Shafi’i has met the second objection on ‘participation by commodities’ as was raised by Imam Ahmad. For in the case of dhawat-ul-amthal, redistribution of capital may take place by giving to each partner the similar commodities he had invested. However, the first objection remains still unanswered by Imam al-Shafi’i.

In order to meet this objection also, Imam Abu Hanifah says that the commodities falling under the category of dhawat-ul-amthal can form part of the share capital only if the commodities contributed by each partner have been mixed together, in such a way that the commodity of one partner cannot be distinguished from that of the other.

In short, if a partner wants to participate in a musharakah by contributing some commodities to it, he can do so according to Imam Malik without any restriction, and his share in the musharakah shall be determined on the basis of the current market value of the commodities, prevalent at the date of the commencement of musharakah. According to Imam al-Shafi’i, however, this can be done only if the commodity is from the category of dhawat-ul-amthal.

According to Imam Abu Hanifah, if the commodities are dhawat-ul-amthal, this can be done by mixing the commodities of each partner together. And if the commodities are dhawat-ul-qeemah, then, they cannot form part of the share capital.

It seems that the view of Imam Malik is more simple and reasonable and meets the needs of the modern business. Therefore, this view can be acted upon.

We may, therefore, conclude from the above discussion that the share capital in a musharakah can be contributed either in cash or in the form of commodities. In the latter case, the market value of the commodities shall determine the share of the partner in the capital.

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