Ijara is an exchange transaction in which a known benefit arising from a specified asset is made available in return for a payment, but where ownership of the asset itself is not transferred. The ijara contract is essentially of the same design as an instalment leasing agreement. Where fixed assets are the subject of the lease, such can return to the lessor at the end of the lease period, in which case the lease takes on the features of an operating lease and thus only a part amortisation of the leased asset's value results. In an alternative approach, the lessee can agree at the outset to buy the asset at the end of the lease period in which case the lease takes on the nature of a hire purchase known as ijara wa iqtina (literally, lease and ownership). Some jurists do not permit this latter arrangement on the basis that it represents more or less a guaranteed financial return at the outset to the lessor, in much the same way as a modern interest-based finance lease. The terms of ijara are flexible enough to be applied to the hiring of an employee by an employer in return for a rent that is actually a fixed wage. Some generally agreed conditions for ijara are as follows :
a) the leased item should be transferred to the lessee on completion of the lease agreement and should be of a condition that is fit for performance of the required tasks. The lessor should transfer the leased items to the lessee in their completed form.
b) the usufruct of the leased item should have value.
c) the amount and timing of the lease payments should be agreed in advance, though the agreed schedule and amount of those payments need not be uniform.
d) the lease payment schedule becomes active upon complete acquisition of the usufruct of the leased goods, whether such usufruct is in fact enjoyed by the lessor or not.
e) the period of the lease must be specified.
f) the conditions of usage of the leased items must be stated.
g) the lessor must have full possession and legal ownership of the asset prior to leasing it.
h) the leased asset must continue to exist throughout the term of the lease. Items which are consumed in the process of usage, ammunition for instance, cannot be leased.
i) in contrast with most conventional finance leases, the responsibility for maintenance and insurance of the leased item under ijara remains that of the lessor throughout.
j) a price cannot be pre-determined for the sale of the asset at the expiry of the lease. However, lessor and lessee may agree the continuation of the lease or the sale of the leased asset to the lessee under a new agreement at the end of the initial lease period.
k) in the event of late payment of rental, the ijara may be terminated immediately.
l) the lessor may claim compensation for any damage caused to the leased assets as a result of negligence on the part of the lessee.