Is Investment Banking Haram?

by Shazia Hussain


Investment banking refers to a form of banking that deals with large and complex financial transactions. These transactions include mergers, acquisitions, raising capital funds, and re-organisations of businesses.

Investment bankers work with clients within the world of investment and high finance. Investment banking often deals with raising funds and money for large companies and governments.

Investment banking also involves underwriting debts and securities and brokering trades for private and global investors.

As conventional investment banking includes many interest-based and speculative activities, this has raised the question about the permissibility of investment banking in Islam and if it is haram.


In order to ascertain and evaluate if investment banking is halal or haram, we need to understand the Islamic (Sharia) concepts of halal and haram.In their very basic form, halal and haram mean the following:
  • halal - permissible
  • haram - impermissible/prohibited
When something is deemed to be halal in Islam, it means that it meets the very specific criteria Islam sets out. Often, the concept of halal is commonly associated with the consumption of food and drink, but in reality for Muslims the concept of halal and haram permeates their daily lives, behaviours, and actions.

For example, drinking alcohol is haram, but so is engaging in dishonest or interest-based financial activities.


The concepts of halal and haram are important for Muslims as they influence their daily choices, behaviours, and practices.

Let's explore these concepts and understand why they matter to Muslims.

Halal encompasses actions, behaviours, and practices that are permitted and encouraged by Islamic law (Sharia). Halal extends to various aspects of life, including business transactions, financial dealings, accounting, personal conduct, and moral and ethical considerations.

The importance of halal lies in its connection to piety and the pursuit of righteousness. Muslims strive to lead a life in accordance with Allah's commands, and adhering to the concept of halal is a means to attaining spiritual purity and fulfilment.

By consuming halal food, engaging in halal financial transactions, and following halal practices, Muslims aim to align their actions with the principles of Islam and seek the blessings of Allah.

Haram, on the other hand, means "forbidden" or "prohibited." It refers to actions, behaviours, and practices that are explicitly prohibited by Islamic law. Haram activities are considered sinful and spiritually harmful to individuals who engage in them.

Muslims avoid haram practices to maintain their spiritual well-being and to fulfill their duty of obedience to Allah. By refraining from haram actions, Muslims seek to purify their souls, develop self-discipline, and safeguard their relationship with Allah.

The Importance of Halal and Haram for Muslims:
  1. Morality and ethics: for Muslims, the concepts of halal and haram provide a guide and framework within which to live their lives. This framework is centred on principles of morality and ethics.
  2. Spiritual Connection: Halal and haram act as guiding principles for Muslims, enabling them to establish a strong spiritual connection with Allah. By adhering to halal and avoiding haram, individuals aim to cultivate righteousness and seek closeness to Allah in their daily lives.
  3. Personal and self-discipline: Adhering to halal and avoiding haram helps Muslims in their personal development by fostering self-discipline, self-control, and mindfulness. Consciously following the halal path means individuals can enhance their character, strengthen their faith, and develop a sense of accountability.
  4. Social Cohesion: The concepts of halal and haram contribute to social cohesion within the Muslim community. Shared adherence to these principles promotes unity, mutual respect, and a sense of collective responsibility among Muslims.

Islamic finance principles that relate to investment banking are in place to ensure that investment banking activities are Sharia compliant.

Some of the key Islamic finance principles that would govern investment banking trading and activities include the following:
  • No riba - one of the main principles to adhere to when looking for halal investment banking is ensuring there is no element of interest involved in the transaction.
  • uncertainty - similarly, there should be little to no uncertainty (ghahar) and speculation.
  • ambiguity - there should be no ambiguity
  • Profit and loss sharing - the parties should share in any profits and losses.
  • ethical - the investment activities should be ethical


Traditional investment banking operates within the framework of conventional financial systems and practices.

These systems are often interest-based. In Islamic the concept of interest (riba) is strictly prohibited. So, investment banking which relies on interest based activities is haram.

Conventional investment banking involves activities such as capital raising, mergers and acquisitions, underwriting securities, and providing financial advisory services.

Traditional investment banks typically engage in interest-based transactions, speculative investments, and may invest in sectors that are considered unethical or haram according to Islamic principles, such as alcohol, gambling, or pork-related industries.

In traditional investment banking, interest (riba) plays a significant role, as it is often earned through loans, debt instruments, and interest-bearing investments and payment options.

Additionally, derivative products, short-selling, and leveraging strategies are commonly employed in traditional investment banking practices. These activities may conflict with Islamic principles that emphasize fairness, transparency, and the avoidance of uncertainty (gharar).

The level of uncertainty and speculation within traditional investment banking can be deemed to be haram.


Halal investment banking, also known as Islamic investment banking or Sharia-compliant investment banking, is a specialised form of financial services that aligns with Islamic principles and guidelines.

Islamic investment banking operates within the framework of Islamic finance. These principles seek to promote ethical and socially responsible financial practices. This means there is less scope for one-sided risk and high levels of speculation. Ultimately, this leads to greater equity and fairness in business dealings.

In halal investment banking, interest-based transactions (riba) are strictly avoided. Instead, Islamic banks and financial institutions offer products and services that are structured in a way that eliminates interest, and instead, focuses on profit-sharing arrangements or partnerships.

For example, instead of charging interest on loans, Islamic banks may engage in profit-sharing agreements, lease-based contracts (Ijarah), or partnership-based arrangements (Mudarabah). What this means for the parties is that there is more fairness.

Furthermore, halal investment banking adheres to ethical investment criteria, avoiding sectors or activities that are deemed haram, such as the porn or alcohol industry.

Investments are directed towards industries that comply with Islamic principles, such as halal food, healthcare, sustainability projects, renewable energy, and ethical real estate.

The concept of risk-sharing is also emphasized in halal investment banking. Islamic financial institutions aim to distribute risks and rewards equitably among parties involved in investment activities. This principle promotes fairness, accountability, and responsible investment practices.


Overall, the key difference between traditional investment banking and halal investment banking lies in their underlying principles and practices.

Halal investment banking adheres to Islamic guidelines, avoiding interest-based transactions, speculative investments, and unethical industries while emphasizing risk-sharing, profit sharing, ethical investment, and fairness.

By aligning financial activities with Islamic principles, halal investment banking seeks to cater to the specific needs and values of Muslim investors.


Islamic investment banking is a growing industry. In the United Kingdom, there are many banks and financial institutions that offer halal investment banking opportunities, products and services.

For students who are currently studying economics and finance subjects, there are opportunities to seek employment and a career in Islamic investment banking firms.

However, it is important to make sure that you work with investment bankers who are familiar with the concepts of Islamic finance and halal and haram. They will guide you to investment banking services and options that are deemed to be halal under Islamic finance rules.  

Qardus Limited does not give financial or investment advice.

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