Halal Investment Options for Muslims in Canada

I’ve always been a huge advocate of avoiding Riba (Interest), either earning or paying. There are definite financial, social and religious reasons for this and we, as Muslims, are aware of them.

There has always been a concern among the Muslim community in Canada of where they should put their extra money in terms of Savings or Investments, earn money from that or at least hedge against the Inflation and other factors. Based on my knowledge and experience (Allah knows best), I was able to dart down the following investment opportunities available in the Canadian market.

Investing in Commodities e.g. Gold and Silver

Gold and Silver have historically been the best source of securing your wealth over a long period of time. From my research of historical Gold prices, they have tripled in last 20 years. Silver is not far behind. Rather, silver has outperformed gold if we take different time ranges. So let’s say you are not someone who has huge sums of money and can make big investments, investing in gold or silver is definitely an option for you. This is purely a halal investment and if you are looking to invest for a longer period of time, let’s say saving money for your child’s education, investing a couple of hundred dollars a month should not be difficult. This way you are preserving your wealth and, in the meantime, saving money for your child’s education. You can buy gold from banks or can even purchase from an accredited gold dealer in Canada.

There are other commodities you can invest in but for a domestic investor it would be hard to store those commodities over a long period of time.

Investing in company Stocks i.e. shares

Basic reasoning as to why stocks are halal investments is as investors you will be rewarded with profits of the company and will also to have bear losses, if any. There are different types of stocks you can invest in based on your investment horizon i.e. time period you want to invest for and the amount of risk you can handle. Moreover, it also matters what kind of income stream you have in mind i.e. do you want regular dividend payments or you are more interested in Capital Gains (IPO’s i.e. companies that are recently launching their stocks into the stock market, are best for Capital Gains).

Examples of stocks you can invest in as Muslims are:
1. Retail companies
2. Oil and Gas companies
3. Trading companies etc.

There is a list of type of companies we, as Muslims, should not invest in i.e. these won’t be considered as Halal investments. Companies that primarily deal in:
1. Financial institutions i.e. banks, loaning companies
2. Alcohol
3. Pork and pork related products
4. Tobacco
5. Weapons and ammunition
6. Entertainment

The list provided above is just an example and is not extensive.

As a normal person who does not have much knowledge about how to invest in stocks in Canadian Stock markets, best thing is to reach out to someone who knows. They may be your relationship managers at the bank, a muslim scholar who has finance knowledge as well and knows financial markets or contact brokerage companies.You will need to make sure you have explained to them in detail the criteria for your investments i.e. type of companies you are looking into.

Some banks such as RBC Royal Bank give you an online account that you can use trade stocks online. For this you need to have reasonable knowledge of how stocks work and how to analyse an investment opportunity.

Land and property

If you have enough spare cash that you have saved over a period of time and looking to invest in halal options, property and land present another option for you. People do engage into buying houses through mortgage and increase their asset base, but that is definitely not a halal option. So, if you are someone who likes to avoid interest, you should not go into buying houses through mortgage.

Now there are 2 scenarios:
1. You have enough money to buy a house. In this case you should be on the look for best investment opportunities in terms of property and land. I’ve seen people usually invest more into buying houses than buying land in Canada. This is not a bad option and is more secure. But investing in Land around the areas that have potential in terms of future growth and have developmental projects in the pipeline is something that can generate higher returns for you.

2. You don’t have enough money to buy a house in Canada. In this scenario, since almost all of us are immigrants here, there is always an opportunity available in your country of origin. You can invest in smaller properties there and once you have collected enough money, you can bring it back here (if your goals is to own property in Canada).
Investing in new companies

A large number of Muslim business men/women want to start their new projects, they have good ideas but do not have the money to invest. You can find these people in your community or social networks and discuss about their ideas. If you have the financial knowledge, try and analyse their ideas, both in terms of practicality and future revenues. If you don’t have the knowledge, have them create a business plan and then present that business plan to an investment advisor.

You can also create a pool of money with your friends, acquaintances and start a business that you normally can’t afford. Investing in new projects i.e. businesses, is riskier than investing into an already running business but if weighed and measured properly and work hard on, can generate much better returns.

In the end, my knowledge is limited and above mentioned options are just suggestions, but I am hopeful they can give you an idea about investing halal and saving yourself from the curse of Riba (Interest). I’d be more than pleased to help with any of the above.

Muhammad Khurram Shahzad is an ERP consultant in an MNC in Canada and an experienced investment advisor. He has been involved in many start up ventures and has created business plans for the start up companies. He writes on different investment and finance related topics in blogs, articles and other forums.

Why Investing in Long-Term Wood Plantations Is a Good Idea

Did you know the best ships and boats in the world use a type of wood called “Teca” for the floor construction? Did you know millionaires buy “Teca” to make their home furniture and their house floors?

“Teca” is a type of wood that is planted in tropical weather. The approximate cycle time is of 20 years from planting to harvesting. Even though this is a large time period, it is considered one of the most profitable businesses in the agricultural industry. In fact, the demand of this product is so high, that traders from Eastern countries like India go to South America to buy this wood and ship it to their nations.

People who tend to invest in this business are usually individuals that are looking to have a family business and pass it from generation to generation. However, this is a business with one and only one purpose: Investing in order to have long-term income and profits. Therefore, “Teca” growers do not have plantations looking for a short-term monthly income. Usually, people in this industry have an additional job or business for their living, and think of the “Teca” plantation as their savings for retirement or to pass the business to their next generations.

In terms of maintenance and daily work, this plant does not require much of it. The key time are the first years after the first planting cycle in which care and fertilization must be provided. After that, the tree grows by itself without much job to be done. Another important detail is that after the first harvest, a new plant is naturally regenerated, with better quality and less care needed.

When talking about selling and distribution, there is nothing to worry about. Buyers will come by themselves looking to buy, so this is not a business that requires having a lot of contacts and networking.

The main reason of why this business is so profitable is that there is too much demand and very few supply because most people do not have the necessary amount to invest. The ideal project would be to have your own land and plantation. However, there are many traders and companies looking to sell shares of an existing plantation. Nowadays, this last method is being very common because people do not have enough money but they know and belief in the business wellness and prosperity. In fact, in the last decade, South American farmers and executives with savings have been looking for land and plantations of “Teca” more than ever before in order to invest their money.

Additionally, due to the prosperity and growth of the business, people are looking to become expert forest engineers. Even though this plant does not require of much attention, it is fundamental to have an established project with statistics, measurements and details. This work is done by such forest engineers and hence the reason of people wanting to become one.

Again, this is a long-term business that will not provide any gain or income in the present. However, think about it. If you want to invest your savings and earn more money from it in the future, “Teca” is a great option that should be considered.

Finally, have in mind that most of the wealthy people in South America, are individuals who took a risk but are now experiencing the results of effort. Now is up to you to become one of those with “Teca” as the road and the pathway.

Finding the Best Investment Opportunities Now

I once read that NOW is always the toughest time to find the best investment opportunities, and that sometimes it is anything but easy to make money investing. Now is 2015, and once again investment opportunities are out there if we can only find them. Where might we make money investing in 2015, 2016 and beyond?

People tend to throw the words “opportunity” and “opportunities” around a lot, especially when they are trying to sell you something (like swamp land or desert properties). For example, “the opportunity of a lifetime” or “one of the best investment opportunities I’ve ever seen”. We all learn sooner or later that real opportunities are the exception; and not the normal occurrence. Let us keep this in mind as we try to find ways to make money investing in 2015, 2016 and beyond.

If you have a brokerage account with a discount broker the world of investment opportunities is available to you at a cost of about $10 a trade. In one account you can make money investing by making a bet on stocks, bonds, interest rates, commodities; and in a wide array of markets, both domestic and abroad. Your broker’s website should offer lots of information to sift through, but it won’t tell you where the best investment opportunities will be in 2015, 2016 and beyond.

Here’s a good way to look at things: now is always a good time to look for the best investment opportunities, but it may not be an easy time to make money investing. For example, natural gas might look cheap, but it has been going down in price for several years. Interest rates are near all-time lows, but this has also been the case for years. On the other hand, stock market volatility has fallen as stock prices continued to rise. Stocks in general are now quite expensive, and super-low interest rates have made bonds expensive by historical standards.

No matter what happens in the markets in the next couple of years, many of the best investment opportunities are available to average investors in the form of ETFs (exchange traded funds) which trade as stocks. If you don’t have a brokerage account go to a financial website like Yahoo Finance and sift through the ETF performance section… looking for the best and worst performers for various time periods. You’ll be surprised by the wide array of opportunities available. Now, you must decide how you want to try to make money investing in them.

Let’s look at a couple of extreme examples you could find in early 2015. The best performer over the past 3 years (up 94%) was a Leveraged Equity fund that invests in healthcare stocks with 3x leverage. It was also up 20% in the last 3-month period. The worst performer was a 2x leveraged volatility fund, which was down 90% over the past 3 years and also down 15% over the last 3-month period. Other big losers included: gold stock funds and leveraged inverse equity (stock) funds. The real question is: do you jump on the big winners to make money investing? Or, will the big losers be the best investment opportunities for 2015, 2016 and beyond?

Here’s a real extreme example from early 2015. The best investment over the last 3-month period was a 3x LEVERAGED INVERSE CRUDE OIL ETF. It went up 285% (in 3 months). What’s that? INVERSE means that as the price of oil FALLS, the share price of this fund goes UP; and 3x LEVERAGED means it is designed to go up 3 times as much (on a percentage basis) as the drop in oil price. This was one of the very best investment opportunities in the months leading up to 2015, because oil prices then started to fall like a rock. But after a gain like that, it’s probably no longer the best investment if you want to make money in 2015 and beyond. This was yesterday’s opportunity.

On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that oil prices will rebound strongly in 2015, 2016, or later. If and when this happens, some of the best investment opportunities will likely be found in oil and other energy stocks (or ETFs) that fell in line with the previous drop in oil prices. Timing and anticipation are the keys to finding the best investment opportunities. You can make money investing by jumping on current winners, but the best investment opportunities are often found when a change in price trend begins.