by Ali Ismail


Islamic finance defines gharar as something that is uncertain, risky, or hazardous. If there is a financial transaction where any of the basic elements of the agreement are unclear, uncertain, or ambiguous then the transaction or activity could be deemed to have an element of gharar.

Using the principles of Sharia law, the reason gharar is prohibited in Islam is that it removes transparency, openness, and certainty in financial transactions and contracts.


According to Islamic finance principles, which themselves are based on Sharia law, gharar is a fundamental prohibition in Islam as it results in a lack of certainty.

This lack of certainty then increases the level of risk and liability to one or both parties.


Islamic finance is based on ethical finance. What this means is that whilst Islamic finance and Sharia rules recognise the importance of finance in society, there is a need to ensure that there is intrinsic value and ethical boundaries when parties transact.

The underlying ethical principles in Islamic finance aim to ensure that there is transparency and certainty for the parties involved.

When you understand the ethical nature of Islamic finance you appreciate how it works to protect the parties and ensure there is fairness.


Some examples of gharar in modern contracts and financial transactions include the following:
  • options contracts
  • future sales
  • selling the unknown
  • short selling
  • sales of debt
  • day trading
Essentially, the sale of anything which is not present or tangible is gharar, and therefore not permissible in Islam.

Similarly, if ownership of an asset or product is uncertain this could also be considered to be gharar.

This is why it is important that you understand the concept of gharar and how it is applied, whether you are dealing with a bank, business, financial institution, web page or individual.


In order to decide if any financial tranaction or business dealing has an element of gharar you need to assess the level of certainty within the terms of the deal.

Some of the main terms you need to understand include the nature of the transaction, the parties, the language of the contract, the product, or service involved.

Gharar has certain characteristics that you need to be aware of.
  • the parties: gharar does not always relate to uncertain or risky terms in the contract. Gharar could also occur in the nature of the parties involved, their relative bargaining power, their openness and the level of risk they take on
  • contract terms: language used in the contract must be clear and concise.
  • two or more sales in one: this refers to deals that are uncertain with timings. For example, if a seller states they will 'sell this asset for £100 in cash today and £150 next week'. The timings here are uncertain.
  • conditional contracts: this refers to conditions in a contract that are unknown and uncertain. For example, if a seller states they will sell the buyer an item if the market improves.
  • price : if the price in a contract is not known then this could be deemed to be gharar. You should always be careful where the payment terms are not clear.
  • Speculation: if you have agreed terms that are speculative then this is not permitted.
  • Subject matter: ie, if there is uncertainty in the subject of the contract.
  • Delivery: again, be careful if there are no specified delivery terms or final contract date.

In Islamic finance, certain types of contract are void. These include contracts that are deemed to be invalid, and contracts that are defective.

Invalid contracts are those where key details are missing, such as the price, the payment terms, and the duration.

Defective contracts are contracts which do not contractually bind the parties correctly.Based on these principles, any contract that includes elements of gharar can be deemed to be both invalid and defective in Islam.


Whether you are looking to avoid gharar in your financial dealings or daily life, there are some things you can do to ensure that you are compliant with Sharia rules.

You can ensure that there is certainty in your dealings, fairness and openness, and that you are not misleading anyone else. Any transaction should involve the consent and knowledge of the parties involved.


When it comes to trading or business, one of the main ways to ensure you do not fall into the gharar trap is to ensure that any trading has the consent of both parties.

Any form of trading in risk is not permissible. If it is likely that one party in the transaction is likely to make a significant gain at the cost of the other, then the result is that this is generally forbidden under Sharia law.

Any exchange that could lead to exploitation and injustice should be avoided. Instead, you should aim to ensure that all your dealings are transparent, consensual, and satisfactory to both parties. 

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