Edited by M. Kabir Hassan
Chapter 23: Taking a leap of faith: are investors left short changed?
This chapter examines the compliance and performance of an international sample of faith-based ethical funds which screen their investment not only on risk and return but also on compliance with Islamic law – Islamic equity funds (IEFs). Using a set of stringent shariah screens similar to those of Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) Islamic Index, we find less than one-third of the equity holdings of IEFs are shariah compliant. While most of the fund holdings pass the business screens, only about 38 per cent pass the total debt to total assets ratio screen. This finding suggests that, in order to overcome a significant reduction in the investment opportunity, shariah principles are compromised, with IEFs adopting lax screening rules in an attempt to achieve financial performance. Our matched firm approach shows that shariah screening reduces investment performance by an average of 0.04 per cent per month if benchmarked against matched conventional funds – this is a relatively small price to pay for religious faith. Cross-sectional regressions show an inverse relationship between shariah compliance and fund performance: every 1 percentage point increase in total compliance decreases fund performance by 0.01 per cent per month. However, shariah compliance fails to explain relative performance of the funds when matched with conventional funds.
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