Sharia (Islamic) Law has been a hot topic of debate for Canadians. Many Canadians are opposed to the implementation of Sharia because of misperceptions about flogging, decapitations and potential abuse towards women. However few have discussed the where if any in Canada a lending institute must certify their mortgages as Islamic.
Currently there is no Sharia board that represents all Muslims in the Canadian banking system. Each Islamic bank may or may not have their own Sharia board which gives their collective opinion as to the Sharia compliance of a particular home purchasing program. Furthermore, different schools of thought exist in determination if some act is in accordance with Sharia or not.
Lending institutions have to determine exactly what Sharia compliant is and what is not. Canadian law does not recognize Sharia law except in the case of false advertisement or mutually agreed upon marriage arbitration. False advertisement claims are typically brought against restraints that advertise that their food is Halal when in fact it isn’t. Arbitration by an elder or learned person in the case of divorce has only recently been recognized by courts but must be willing engaged in by both parties.
International banks may have a Sharia compliance board which overviews the compliance of lending practices but these do not hold any legal precedence in Canada. Furthermore, such boards are typically on the payroll of the lending institution and their opinion may be suspect in matters of detail.
Small cooperatives that purchase homes and sell ownership do not have a Sharia compliance board and function within the confines of Canadian law. These programs function within a small community setting and with limited financial capital. Such programs were developed during the beginning stages of Islam in Canada and are still prevalent today.
Therefore, approval by a Sharia board is not a mandatory requirement of an Islamic mortgage. However, simply because a Sharia board is not necessary doesn’t mean that any mortgage is Islamic. In order for a mortgage to be considered Islamic it still needs to adhere to the basic principles of Sharia that prohibit the use of Riba (interest).