The question as to whether Forex trading is permissible according to Islamic law is a difficult question to conclusively answer. Although Islamic authorities certainly agree that currency exchange under certain conditions is halal (i.e., permissible according to Islamic law), there is some dispute regarding under exactly what conditions. Let’s examine the issues one by one after looking at the saying on the subject by the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him):
“Gold for gold, silver for silver, wheat for wheat, barley for barley, dates for dates, salt for salt, like for like, same for same, hand to hand. If the types are different then sell however you like, so long as it is hand to hand.”
Is there such a thing as halal Forex trading? Is Forex halal or haram?
Forex Trading - Halal or Haram Fatwa
Usury is of course completely prohibited in Islam, and is defined very widely. This implies that any kind of deal or contract which involves an element of interest (riba) is not permissible according to Islamic law.
Islamic Forex Brokers
For a long time, retail Forex brokers reflected the market practice of paying or charging to the trader the interest differential between the two components of any currency pair whose position remains open overnight. Eventually, most Forex brokers responded to market forces (and pressure from Islamic traders) by becoming “Islamic Forex Brokers” and offering “Muslim Forex Accounts” which operate without standard interest payments. You might ask how they did so and maintained the profitability of their operations. This was achieved by charging increased commissions in spot Forex trades, and this practice has become the hallmark of nearly all Islamic Forex brokers. Arguably, this in itself is just a camouflaged interest component, and if this view is taken, it makes Forex trading problematic according to Islamic law.
The interest problem also eliminates any possibility of trading Forex forwards, as there is always an interest element involved in these transactions.
However, “regular” spot Forex trading offered by Forex brokers, with no overnight interest payments or charges, could clear the hurdle of riba.
What Islam Says on Online Forex Trading
Having reduced the issue to one of trading spot Forex and assuming there is no interest element deemed to be involved, we move onto the next issue. It would seem to be permissible only “so long as it is hand to hand”. So clearly, the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) had in mind exchanges of different types of commodities that would be made between two parties, recognizing that this was a natural and just aspect of commerce. The question here lies in what is considered to be “hand to hand”.
What Qualifies as "Hand to Hand"?
In the olden days, there were of course no computers or telephones, so the aspect of making a deal face to face (or hand to hand) wasn’t much of a question. In fact, one could extrapolate that it was natural and accepted for a deal to made between two different parties. In modern times, it can be argued that in regards to Forex trading, the deal is made between a Forex broker and a trader, so this would qualify under such a definition of two different parties, which would be permissible according to Islamic law.
A further widely recognized stipulation is that the actual exchange must take place during the same “sitting” in which the contract is made- in other words, trades must be concluded more or less immediately. We would seem to be on solid ground here, as when a trade is made with a Forex broker, it takes effect immediately. Interestingly, this could suggest that all non-market trades (i.e. stop or limit orders) are haram!
Speculating vs. Buying
It is here that we arrive at the biggest hurdle in attempting to answer the question “Is Forex halal or haram?” Generally, Forex traders do not expect to take actual delivery of the currency they are “buying”, and never actually own the currency that they are “selling”. They are simply speculating that the value of one with go up and the value of another will go down. Is such speculation permissible according to Islamic law?
This is an extremely difficult question to answer and it may be one that should be discussed with your own religious leader rather than being decided base on an internet article. Nevertheless, we’ve researched the issue thoroughly and will be outlining some points of thought below.
We can start by saying that Islam recognizes that nearly all adult human beings strive to improve their financial positions, and that life involves a large element of uncertainty. In life we are confronted with many choices, the outcome of which is unclear, and we strive to use intelligence and skill in choosing the available option that will produce the superior outcome. However, we then must go on to say that gambling is strictly forbidden by Islamic law, even as a form of recreation or entertainment when undertaken with small monies which the gambler might be said to be able to afford to lose.
In measuring these two competing elements, it can be said that it is the method of speculation that makes the difference. One author has examined the subject and stated that speculation on the basis of fundamental analysis is permissible, but technical analysis is not, and an interesting reasoning is given: placing trades based on technical analysis is essentially tantamount to betting on the bets of others, and relying upon the behavior of the crowd to influence your speculation is drenched with the essence of gambling, which is forbidden by Islamic law.
However, this argument can certainly be criticized as spurious as related to market realities. For example, is a speculator who believes that the U.S. Dollar will rise against his Euros due to economic fundamentals bound to simply make the trade immediately, and forbidden to take any action to time the trade entry to a psychologically opportune moment?
Once you’ve done your research thoroughly, you can decide whether Islamic Forex is right for you.
A stronger argument could be made that a Muslim has no business speculating on the currency markets unless he or she has a firm basis upon which to anticipate success. This would mean that trades must involve either some element of fundamental analysis or technical analysis which the trader actually has a firm reason to believe in. One example might be trend following trends that have an academically established track record as a profitable trading method in liquid financial markets, and trading these trends using Islamic FX Brokers. A trader could argue that a strong technical trend is easier to establish – and is also likely to have an underlying (if invisible) “fundamental” reason behind it - than a classical fundamental economic outlook which might be disputed by professional economists!
Creating a Muslim Forex Account
There is no question that currency exchange is permissible in Islam, provided that there is no interest element, that it is made hand to hand (though this phrase can be translated in multiple ways), and that the exchanger has a valid reason to anticipate a probable profit based upon an analysis that does not rely upon the psychology of gambling. On a minimal basis, Islamic Forex brokers can be used to trade, which should at least remove arguably all of the riba challenges. As we have seen, there are certain grey areas within this qualification that must be investigated deeply in good faith and conscience by anyone wishing to begin halal Forex trading with a Muslim Forex account.
Top Islamic Forex Brokers
Short Selling in Islam
A further issue that tends to cause a lot of misunderstanding in discussion of Islamic Forex is that of short selling.
Many terms used in Forex derive from stock trading, as Forex trading in the modern sense was mostly unknown until about the year 2000. In fact, before the 1970s, the exchange rates between almost all major currencies were fixed.
In stock trading, “short selling” refers to the practice of trying to profit from the decline in value in stocks. As it is impossible to sell something that one does not own, stock traders would borrow shares that they wanted to sell short, sell them, and pay interest to the lender while hoping that the value would decrease. This riba element of course made the practice clearly haram. The borrower of the shares would then hopefully to be able to buy an equivalent number of shares to what they borrowed later, but at a cheaper price, repaying the loan and pocketing the difference as profit.
In Forex, “short selling” refers only to a making a trade where it is hoped the price of a currency pair or cross goes down. There is no essential difference between making a short or long trade in Forex, and there is no essential borrowing element required to make this transaction. We can therefore be clear that there is no problem per se with Forex short selling in Islam.
Sharia Law Investments and Halal Stocks
As we have moved into the area of stock trading, it is important to mention that there are important requirements of Islamic law in this area also. More and more Forex / CFD brokers are offering trading in individual stocks and shares, so Forex traders may find themselves trading stocks for the first time without really thoroughly considering the implications of these trades.
Investing in Sharia Law Investments
Many Muslims are careful to ensure that they comply with Islamic law in their long-term investments by only investing in funds which can legitimately label themselves as sharia law investments, especially if they are resident in countries with no Islamic legal framework. In most western countries, this can nowadays be achieved easily.
If a Forex / CFD broker offers trading in individual stocks or stock market indices, and the legal format is structured in a way that the legal ownership of the stock vests in the trader, these trades clearly do not comply with Islamic law if the stocks are non-sharia law investments.
However, in most cases, the trader never takes ownership of the shares, and is really only taking a position on whether the price of the shares rises or falls. Is this an acceptable loophole? Very few Islamic scholars would say yes.
It therefore seems clear that the key issue in Islamic law regarding the trading of stocks or shares is whether owning part of the company itself is haram. Fortunately, this can often be easy to determine by consulting approved Islamic listings of stocks and shares which are deemed to be halal stocks or haram stocks. Most Forex / CFD brokers offering trading in stocks and shares tend to offer trading in mostly the largest, most well-known publicly traded companies on the stock exchanges of wealthy developed countries. This means that if you want to trade in such well-known shares, it is usually very easy to determine whether the company is widely agreed to be haram or halal, as there are plenty of easily accessible Islamic assessments easily searchable online.
This leaves the case of lesser-known companies who may not have been assessed much, if at all, by Islamic authorities. Here, the trader may need to apply the laws concerning which stocks are halal themselves if the broker offers no help and there is nothing online.
What Factors Make a Stock Halal?
The factors which make a stock halal are clear in Islamic law:
- Investors may not be paid interest
- Investors must share in profits / losses incurred by the company
- The company must not conduct business or invest in a business which is unacceptable under Islamic law. For example, it would be forbidden to trade in the shares of a casino.
Is Trading Indices Halal?
Equity indices are representative baskets of all the shares trading on a particular stock market. For example, the FTSE 100 index is calculated based upon the prices of shares in the 100 largest publicly quoted companies in the U.K., weighted by market capitalization. This means that if the value of all the shares in company X are worth 10% of all the companies traded on the exchange, the fluctuations in its price will account for 10% of the calculation of the index’s value.
Many Forex / CFD brokers offer trading in equity indices. Therefore, the question as to whether trading such indices is halal is an important one.
It is clear that almost every major equity index consists of at least 30 shares, or more commonly 100 (as in the case of the FTSE 100 index). It can even go as high as 500, as in the case of the S&P 500 index.
What Makes Trading Indices Halal?
In order for buying or selling an index to be halal, we would have to know that every single company within that index would be halal as an individual share. This is unlikely to be the case, unless the index is from the stock market of an Islamic country which imposes Islamic law upon its stock market.
One answer for Muslims which has been provided by some financial services companies has been to create Islamic versions of certain stock indices, screening out those companies deemed to be haram, and building an Islamic index with the remaining companies. This is done not only with market indices, but of course also ETFs. There is a large number of Shariah-compliant ETFs and these can be another option for Muslims who want to be exposed to a broad range of shariah-compliant stocks.
There are a number of Sharia-compliant equity indices, but unfortunately, very few Forex / CFD brokers offer them for trading.
Fortunately, some Forex brokers do offer major equity indices from Islamic countries.
Is CFD Trading Halal?
CFDs (contracts for differences) are essentially derivative instruments, based upon the price of an underlying asset. Typically, trading CFDs involves an element of riba, although Islamic brokers offer them without the overnight interest payments or charges.
The Challenge with CFDs
The heart of the Islamic problem over CFDs lies more in the fact that the instrument is typically a leveraged derivative. Of course, no trader is required to use leverage in trading. The potential problem with CFDs lies in the fact that one does not directly own the underlying asset.
Many have, however, pointed out that if riba and leverage are removed, and the CFD is clearly and predictably representative of an Islamically permissible underlying asset, perhaps a CFD can be compliant with the meaning of Sharia law. Of course, the underlying asset would have to be halal for this case to be made convincingly. Remember that CFD is just legal wrapping, not really an asset class itself. A CFD based on the S&P 500 stock market index could not be halal in any case, because there are several stocks within the S&P 500 index representing companies whose business is clearly haram.
It should be stressed that though we’ve researched the issue of Islamic Forex and its validity within Islamic law at length, we are in no way attempting to provide religious guidance for readers of this article or their acquaintances. As evidenced in the research presented here, there are certainly many people who believe that in the right circumstances, Islamic Forex trading is permissible. However, there may be some that aren’t comfortable using these workarounds, and this is a completely valid approach as well. If you are interested in researching more on the issue or considering how each Forex broker implements their Islamic Forex system, we recommend that you evaluate our top Islamic Forex brokers and speak to their teams if you have any questions or concerns about how their practices relate to Islamic law. A solid and respectable Forex broker will have concrete answers and will make you feel at ease, not uncomfortable.
Is trading haram in Islam?
Trading is not haram, provided that there is 1) no interest element, 2) trades are conducted “hand to hand”, and 3) the stocks, commodities, or currencies purchased do not offend against the tenets of Islam.
What does Islam say about online Forex trading?
As long as there is no interest element and deals are concluded immediately with some logical reasoning to expect a likelihood of resulting financial gain, there is no clear reason why Islam must prohibit online Forex trading.
Is Forex gambling?
Whether Forex is gambling depends upon the intention of the Forex trader. If a trader uses a method of analysis which has proven profitable in the past, it is risky, but cannot be called gambling as the term is usually understood.
Is short selling haram?
Traditional-style short selling, where stocks or shares are borrowed at interest to be sold, is widely agreed to be haram. Fortunately, this is not a problem in Forex trading, as currencies are paired, so “going short” in Forex does not necessarily have to involve borrowing any asset or any interest element.
Is online Forex trading halal or haram?
If the riba (interest) element is removed, a convincing case can be made that online Forex trading is halal and not haram, especially if leverage is not used. Many Forex / CFD brokers offer Islamic trading accounts which do not charge or pay overnight interest on open positions.
Is Forex trading legal in Pakistan?
Yes, Forex trading is completely legal in Pakistan, with no laws restricting Pakistani residents from opening trading accounts with the best Forex brokers in Pakistan.
Is leverage trading halal or haram?
Trading with leverage involves borrowing money at interest, so it is haram. However, just because a Forex broker offers leverage, does not mean you have to use that leverage in your trading.
What is a swap free account?
A swap free account is an account which does not charge or pay any overnight interest on positions kept open over 5pm New York time, which is a common practice in Forex trading. These swap free accounts can remove the riba element from Forex trading, making them suitable for Islamic Forex traders.