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Blockchain Applications for Islamic Finance

Hussein Elasrag

Table of Contents

Key Concept:


Chapter 1

The blockchain basis

Types of Blockchain

Investments in Blockchain

Why it's hard to trust a blockchain

Chapter 2

Applications of Blockchain in Islamic Finance

1. Smart Contracts

2. Cloud Storage

3. Digital Currencies

4. The collection of zakat

5. Improving the utility of waqf

6- Effective, and efficient halal supply chains

7- Remittance Transaction Flow using Cryptocurrency and Blockchain

8- Takaful (Islamic Insurance)

9- Smart Sukuk

Chapter 3

Applying Blockchains for Islamic finance: Obstacles, Challenges, & Mental Blocks

Government Interferences:

Underdeveloped Ecosystem Infrastructure

Unclear Regulations:

Security , Privacy and Lack of Standards

Human resources and Costs Issues

Immature Middleware and Tools



Key Concept:


Cryptography is the act of creating codes that allow data to be kept secret. Cryptography

converts this data into a format that can only be read/decoded by authorized users. Thus,

the data can be transmitted without fear of it being decrypted and compromised by

unauthorized actors. Authorized actors may decrypt the data using a “key”, which is

essentially a corresponding private code that only an authorized user should know


A node is simply a user or computer on a Blockchain platform that is running Blockchain

software. The general job of “full nodes” is to store a full copy of a Blockchain ledger,

receive data from other nodes, validate the data, and pass it to other nodes on the network

so long as it is valid. “Mining nodes” perform these tasks, but also publish new blocks to

a Blockchain through the mining process, as discusses later in this document. Finally,

“lightweight nodes”—generally found on devices with limit processing power such as

smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) devices—are nodes that are do not maintain full

copies of a Blockchain ledger and tend to send their data to full nodes for processing and


Distributed Ledger Technology

A technology upon which records of transactions are “spread across multiples sites,

countries or institutions, and is typically public. [Transaction] records are stored one after

the other in a continuous ledger, but they can only be added when participants [confirm

the feasibility and validity of the transaction]”.


A cryptocurrency is a virtual coinage system that functions much like a standard

currency, enabling users to provide virtual payments for goods and services free of a

central trusted authority. Cryptocurrencies rely on the transmission of digital information,

utilising cryptographic methods to ensure legitimate, unique transactions”


All copies of one document are constantly and automatically synchronized

hence identical at all times. Furthermore, “there is no canonical copy; all copies are

created equal”


There is perfect information across all actors in the system. All platform

members have access to all members’ information.


Immutable means that something is unchanging over time or unable to be changed.

In the context of Blockchains, it means once data has been written to a Blockchain, no

one, not even a system administrator, can change it. Immutability allows senders,

receivers, and any interested party to be able to verify that data have not been altered.


On many Blockchain platforms, user identities can be anonymous but their accounts are

not, as all of their transactions are visible to all other users. On these platforms, user

accounts can be created without any identification or authorization process. This allows

users to use a pseudonym – a fictitious name. However, some permissioned Blockchains

may require and a user’s identity be verified before they are able to access or interact on

the Blockchain.


Hashing is a cryptographic function that generates a unique fixed-length hash

code for any given input, such as text, an image, a video. The specific input, if

unchanged, will always produce the same exact hash code. If, however, absolutely any

part of the input (e.g., one letter was changed from lower-case to a capital letter), the hash

code would change to an entirely different and unique hash code.

Mining Nodes

Mining nodes are a subset of all nodes—generally nodes or pools of nodes with powerful

computers—that are responsible for publishing new blocks to a Blockchain. Mining

nodes validate that the transactions were appropriately cryptographically signed (through

the use of a private key) by the sender and adding validated transactions to the

Blockchain by publishing them in blocks. In some Blockchain platforms like Bitcoin,

these mining nodes are compensated financially for doing extra work needed in order to

validate and publish new blocks.


Blockchain is an exciting new technology that may prove to be a radical innovation—similar to technologies such as the steam engine and the Internet that triggered previous industrial revolutions—with the power to disrupt existing economic and business models. It has the potential to deliver productivity gains to multiple industries, from the financial sector to energy markets, supply chains, intellectual property management, “virtual firms”, the public sector, and beyond. Its ability to provide disintermediation, improve transparency, and increase auditability can significantly reduce transaction costs, introduce efficiency into existing value chains, challenge revenue models, and open new markets. And blockchain may prove particularly valuable in emerging market economies. Yet the technology is in its early stages of development and serious challenges and risks, both technical and regulatory, will need to be addressed before it achieves widespread adoption. Questions remain about blockchain’s scalability, interoperability, security, transition costs, data privacy, and governance. And business leaders and policy makers will need to think long and hard about when and under what conditions a blockchain initiative may be warranted.(International Finance Corporation, 2019)

Blockchain technology has been referred to as a new “trust machine” because of its ability to allow people to interact and conduct transactions even though they may not know each other or have a pre-existing trust-based relationship . Although the technology is amassing a body of literature, few sources make sense of the technology in accessible ways, and fewer yet focus on its applicability to the public sector, such as ways it can enable collaboration within and across governments and help reduce fraud, errors, and the cost of paper-intensive processes .(Berryhill, 2018)

Islamic finance and its digital economy offer opportunities for Muslims and non-Muslims as both populations now seek a convergent solution to their pressing issues—rebuilding trust and confidence in a financial system that had lost them. Some technologists imagine this world without intermediaries, while others just want a faster and more efficient way of transacting. Either way, the challenge comes from accountability, and embedding that sense of accountability within the new systems that are being built, based on the sharing of risks and profits that anchor the nature of our economies, including the sharing economy of underutilized assets.(Mohamed & Ali, 2018)

Islamic finance, as an alternative and ethical financing method, directs funding to impact-oriented real economic activities; it thus utilizes economic and financial resources to satisfy the material and social needs of all members of the community. The main foundations of Islamic financial products are its asset-based transaction nature, together with its equity-based nature of sharing risk and profits. Each of these financing categories has a fundamental role to play in increasing the financial inclusion and innovative start-ups, as well attracting potential capital from Islamic capital providers and sources.

Distributed ledger technology (DLT), the technology that started the various cryptocurrencies in circulation today, has created quite a buzz in many areas in the last few years. Putting it simply, a DLT is a decentralized system for recording transactions with mechanisms forprocessing, validating and authorizing transactions that are then recorded on an immutable ledger. Blockchain is one implementation of DLT. It is also referred to as an “Internet of value”, meaning a secure way to store and transact value – anything from currency, stocks, contracts and even votes – from one entity to another. It is also the underlying technology powering cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether.(Sylvester, 2019)

The blockchain technology is rapidly gaining the attention of Organizations of Islamic Cooperation. There are various Islamic financial institutes which are planning to use the blockchain system to bring the benefits that come with it. The authorities in Dubai have revealed their plan that in 2020 they will be using blockchain in public and private sectors. It is no surprise that even government is showing interesting in the digital currency. Here we have the information related to the relationship of blockchain in Islamic finance and banking system.

What is the state of blockchain today? In PwC’s 2018 survey of 600 executives from 15 territories, 84% say their organizations have at least some involvement with blockchain technology. Companies have dabbled in the lab; perhaps they’ve built proofs of concept. Everyone is talking about blockchain, and no one wants to be left behind.It’s easy to see why. As a distributed, tamperproof ledger, a well-designed blockchain doesn’t just cut out intermediaries, reduce costs, and increase speed and reach. It also offers greater transparency and traceability for many business processes. Gartner forecasts that blockchain will generate an annual business value of more than US $3 trillion by 2030. It’s possible to imagine that 10% to 20% of global economic infrastructure will be running on blockchain-based systems by that same year.1

For the Islamic economy, blockchain technology has the potential to make a significant impact. The blockchain in Islamic finance and banking will surely help the Islamic banks, and financial institutes to succeed. Without worry about the interest and other such issues Islamic banking system will be able to work more productively.

Islamic financial institutions are increasingly using blockchain technology for complex financing terms, Shariah-compliant transactions and Islamic and sharia-compliant alternatives to conventional insurance. back-office automation, and underwriting of micro-insurance. Islamic finance can use cryptocurrencies for SMEs finance, underpinned by blockchain technology, to structure payments in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

The installation of blockchain in Islamic Banking will primarily affect the way payments, remittances and trading activities are conducted. This technology is moving forward towards the mainstream and promises to provide benefits in several areas. It can:

Modernize legal documentation through the application of smart contracts

Significantly reduce transaction processing time

Reduce costs for providers, and transaction fees for consumers

Eliminate the need for documentation and manual reconciliation of transactions

Reduce the need for centralized regulation

Eliminate the risk of errors and duplication

Reduce or eradicate fraud

Manage counterparty risk

Blockchain’s core attributes mean that it has significant potential for use in Islamic finance due to its:

Transparency: blockchain provides provenance, traceability and transparency of transactions

Control: access to permissioned networks is restricted to identified users

Security: the digital ledger cannot be altered or tampered with once the data is entered. Fraud is less likely and easier to spot

Real-time information: when information is updated, it’s updated for everyone in the network at the same time

Given this state, this book aims to provide an introduction to applying Blockchain for Islamic finance and outline some potential areas for consideration for the all sectors of the Islamic finance. The book:

• Explains what Blockchain technology is and is not;