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Islamic banking’s profit-maximising fervour, building upon the use of interest-resembling products, has raised concerns about its Shariah authenticity and financial stability. While early Islamic economists envisioned an industry built on values of mutuality and participation, architects of Islamic banking have chosen to replicate interest-based conventional banking for the purpose of fast growth. This study has two objectives. First, to narrate the history of Islamic banking, from the theories postulated to the beginnings of the industry. This builds an understanding of why ‘Islamic’ banking operates as it does currently, which has implications for Shariah compliance and financial stability. It is suggested that the mimicking of conventional banks may cause instability since unlike commercial banks, ‘Islamic’ banks face Shariah constraints. This leads to the second objective, which is to analyse the cooperative banking model, which has been described as the closest theoretical model to Islamic banking. Specifically, this study focuses on the model in Europe which, despite its challenges, has managed to silence critics in the way it contributes to communal welfare and financial stability, especially during credit crunches when commercial banks are known to retreat from markets. This first study of a functioning cooperative banking model, in the context of Islamic banking, may thus offer lessons for Islamic banking reform.
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