How to Invest During a Recession: A Guide for Muslim Investors

Written by
Shuhaib Shariff
Published on
June 25, 2023

Recessions have always been, and will continue to be, a part of the cyclical nature of the economy. The key to success during these periods is understanding how to navigate the market and make wise, strategic investments, a challenge that can be more complex for Muslim investors who adhere strictly to the principles of Halal investing. With the principles of Islamic finance guiding your decisions, there are several approaches you can take to ensure your investments remain profitable, even during a recession. This article delves deeper into these strategies with extensive data and specifics.

Understanding Halal Investing

The concept of Halal investing is a cornerstone of Islamic finance, dictating that all investments must align with Islamic law (Shariah). This law prohibits investments in companies that profit from certain types of businesses, like those related to alcohol, pork, gambling, adult entertainment, and interest-earning financial institutions, known as Riba. Notably, Halal investing also promotes ethical and socially responsible investment choices, contributing to a better society.

Recognizing the Indicators of a Recession

A recession is a period of temporary economic decline, generally identified by a fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in two successive quarters. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the official recession spotter in the U.S., considers other factors such as real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.

Recessions also reflect a contraction in the business cycle, often manifesting as increased unemployment, a decrease in spending, and widespread drops in the stock market. According to the World Bank, the global economy shrunk by 4.3% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a clear sign of a recession.

Investing During a Recession: A Halal Approach

1. Diversify Your Portfolio

Portfolio diversification, which involves spreading your investments across a variety of asset classes, is a tried-and-true strategy in both thriving and challenging economies. In a research study conducted by the University of Porto in 2020, portfolios that included a mix of stocks, bonds, real estate, and gold outperformed non-diversified portfolios during recession periods, reducing risk by 35%.

Equity Investment:

The equity market can be volatile during a recession, but it also offers significant investment opportunities. Historical data shows that certain sectors such as consumer staples, healthcare, utilities, and technology often demonstrate resilience during economic downturns.

For instance, during the 2008 recession, the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV) gained 38.4% in the five years following the market bottom in 2009, outperforming the S&P 500. For Muslim investors, several Sharia-compliant equity funds like the Amana Growth Fund and Amana Income Fund, which follow a rigorous Halal screening process, are available.

Real Estate Investment:

Investing in real estate is another effective way to diversify your portfolio. A 2018 report by IHS Markit revealed that the housing market remained stable and even grew in certain regions during the last three recessions.

Halal real estate investments can be made through Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) that comply with Islamic principles. For instance, the Iman Fund in the US and the Al Rajhi REIT Fund in Saudi Arabia are excellent examples of Halal REITs.

Gold Investment:

Gold has traditionally served as a safe haven during economic crises. According to the World Gold Council, gold prices surged by 28% in 2020 as investors sought safety amid the pandemic-induced recession.

Muslim investors can invest in physical gold or choose Shariah-compliant gold ETFs such as the SPDR Gold MiniShares Trust (GLDM), ensuring their investments align with Islamic law.

2. Value Investing

In a recession, quality stocks can often be purchased at a discount, presenting an opportunity for value investing. A study in the Journal of Islamic Accounting and Business Research showed that during the 2008 recession, Islamic value stocks in the Asia Pacific region outperformed the market by 8.7%.

Halal stocks typically have low debt levels, aligning with Islamic principles against interest-bearing debt, making them prime candidates for value investing. However, it's crucial to scrutinize the financial health of the company to avoid investing in businesses facing bankruptcy.

3. Increase Liquidity

Liquidity is crucial during a recession as it provides a buffer against financial hardships and enables you to seize investment opportunities. According to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2020, companies with higher liquidity were 60% more likely to survive the economic crisis.

Islamic banks like Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Kuwait Finance House offer Shariah-compliant savings accounts, providing a modest return and liquidity.

4. Sukuk Bonds

Sukuk, or Islamic bonds, are a reliable investment during recessions. Unlike traditional bonds, they provide returns without the element of interest, which is prohibited in Islam. According to a report by S&P Global, Sukuk issuance hit a record $162.5 billion in 2021, proving their resilience even in a challenging economic environment.

5. Islamic Mutual Funds and ETFs

If you're uncomfortable with selecting individual stocks or bonds, consider Islamic mutual funds or ETFs. According to a report by Morningstar, Islamic funds performed relatively well during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the average fund losing just 9.4% while the MSCI ACWI Index, a measure of global equities, lost 14.5%.

6. Bitcoin

Despite not yet proving to be a successful inflation hedge Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have potential for future profit given their current low investment prices. Their untested nature in recession conditions adds risk, but also potential reward. Over 2021 and 2022, the crypto market value quadrupled to $3 trillion, reflecting growing popularity and ambition for an economy independent of traditional financiers. Bitcoin's decentralized and community-regulated system, along with its capped supply, may make it a valuable asset in times of low growth, liquidity, and purchasing power. While this time has not yet arrived, Bitcoin may soon become a powerful recession hedge.

7. Invest in Yourself

Investing in personal growth and skill-building is a wise decision in any economic climate. During a recession, it can open doors to new opportunities. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, those with higher educational attainment levels experienced lower unemployment rates during the 2020 recession.

In conclusion, a recession, despite its intimidating reputation, can open doors to unique investment opportunities. As a Muslim investor, aligning your investment strategies with Islamic principles can offer financial growth and peace of mind. Always remember that investing should be in line with your financial goals and risk tolerance, and it's essential to seek advice from a financial advisor or Islamic finance expert. By employing these strategies and maintaining a disciplined, informed approach, you can not only survive a recession but come out of it in a stronger financial position.

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