بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

Interest: The sin that ruins human beings

Of the numerous bounties that, Allah has bestowed upon us, wealth is one of the most significant ones. It is through wealth/money that an individual tries to cater his/her worldly needs within the framework of commandments of Allah. However, Islamic Shari’ah has made it obligatory on each and every believer to earn only through permissible means because on the Day of Judgement each and every individual will have to stand before Allah and account for the sources of wealth (what were the means through which wealth was earned, were they permissible), and where all was it spent, as in, while spending the money, did the person take into consideration the obligations towards Allah and towards people.

Notwithstanding the fact that wealth is both a bounty and a need, the Creator of the universe, and leader of all the prophets (AS) Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have repeatedly referred to wealth as a temptation, a deceptive or misleading thing, and nothing more than some kind of embellishment of this world, as mentioned by Allah in the Holy Quran, “Know well that the worldly life is but a play and an amusement, and a show of beauty, and exchange of boastful claims between you, and a competition of increase in riches and children” (Surah Al-Hadeed, verse No. 20). Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Each nation has had its temptation. For my Ummah the temptation is wealth” (Tirmidhi). Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “I swear by Allah, I do not fear for you for poverty but I fear that just like the previous nations, worldly bounties, as in wealth and property, are opened up before you and then you indulge in its pursuit, and then that wealth and property, just the way it happened with people of previous nations, destroy you” (Bukhari and Muslim).

This does not imply that we simply do nothing in order to earn wealth or money because striving for Halaal sustenance, raising children on Halaal means in itself is a part of religion. Even Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “If a person spends on his family members then that too is charity, i.e. for that, too, the person will be rewarded” (Bukhari and Muslim). Instead, the idea is that we live this worldly perishable life alongside fearing Allah and come what may, we must give preference to success in the Hereafter (preference ought to be always for deeds that contribute to success in the Hereafter). If at all one confronts a situation wherein there is a clash between the worldly life and life after death then rather than betting his Hereafter he should overlook the temporary objectives of this perishable worldly life. Moreover, we should stay away from things that remain doubtful (with respect to their permissible character).

These days there is such a maddening race for accumulating wealth that many people don’t even pay attention to the means through which wealth is accumulated (whether the means are Halaal or Haraam). In fact, there are few who have now given different names to forbidden means of accumulating wealth and not only have they made those means permissible for themselves, they have even started persuading others to employ those means, though Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said, “Halaal is clear, Haraam is clear. Between these two there are a lot of things many people don’t know. He who saved himself from the things that are suspected, had protected his religion and honour. And he who gets into things that are suspected (does not stay away from them) will (in due course) fall into things that are forbidden just like the shepherd who takes his goats for grazing near the grazing lands owned by others for there is a strong possibility that because of a moment’s distraction of the shepherd the goats end up grazing from the lands owned by others” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Therefore, each and every Muslim ought to remain content with Halaal means as highlighted by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “Do not make your body grow on Haraam wealth because fire is better than that” (Tirmidhi). Similarly Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He who has been raised on Haraam wealth will not enter the Paradise. The destination of such a person is the Hell” (Musnad Ahmad). Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “How can the prayers be answered of those who eat Haraam, drink Haraam, and wear Haraam” (Sahih Muslim).

Among the major sins that are increasingly gaining currency in our society, the severest of all is interest.

What is Interest?

In relation to things of the same category that can be weighed or measured by means of some standard or money etc., when two people strike a deal in such a way that one has to give a little more in return is called Riba, that is called interest or usury in English.

When the Holy Qur’an declared interest as forbidden, the Arab society was well introduced to dealings based on interest and at that point of time what they called interest was when someone was given money with the condition that he would return a higher amount regardless of whether the borrower has taken the amount for his personal expenses or for business purpose, i.e. whether it is simple interest (interest is applicable only once) or compound interest (interest rates are applicable repeatedly). For details kindly refer to commentator of the Holy Qur’an Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi’s (RHA) book Mas’la-e-Sood (The Issue of Interest). This book is available on my website (www.najeebqasmi.com) for free downloading. For instance, if Zaid lends 100 rupees to Bakr for a month on the condition that he will take 110 rupees in return then it will be interest. However, in case the lendee, out of his own wish, returns more than the borrowed amount then not only it is permissible but it is something that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself did. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that a higher amount must not be agreed upon in advance. The extra amount that the bank gives on the deposited amount – an addition that is fixed in advance in terms of certain percentage – is interest too.

Forbiddance of Interest

Interest is clearly forbidden in the light of the Holy Qur’an and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Allah has mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, “While Allah has permitted sale, and prohibited riba” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse No. 275). Similarly Allah has said, “Allah destroys riba and nourishes charities” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse No. 276). When the commandment in relation to forbiddance of interest was revealed, people were forbidden to even claim whatever amount of interest others owed to them: “and give up what still remains of riba, if you are believers” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse no. 278). Similarly, Allah commands in the Holy Qur’an, “O you who believe, do not eat up the amounts acquired through Riba (interest), doubled and multiplied” (Surah Aale Imran, verse No. 130).

Declaration of war against those who give and take interest

Interest has been highlighted as such a severe sin in the Holy Qur’an that even for major sins such as drinking of alcohol, eating of pork and adultery we don’t find the kind of severe expression Allah has used in relation to interest. Thus, Allah mentions in the Holy Qur’an, “O you who believe, fear Allah and give up what still remains of riba, if you are believers. But if you do not (give it up), then listen to the declaration of war from Allah and His Messenger” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse Nos. 278-279). For those who consume interest, Allah and His Apostle (PBUH) have declared a war against them and such a severe warning has not been used in relation to any other major sin such as adultery or drinking of alcohol. Renowned companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) says that he who does not agree on quitting his association with interest based dealings, it is the responsibility of the erstwhile caliph to make him repent. In case the person does not follow the injunction then the caliph should get him executed (Tafseer ibne Katheer).

Humiliation and disgrace on the Day of Judgment for those who give and take interest:

With reference to those who are associated with giving and taking of interest, the humiliation and disgrace they will face on the Day of Judgment is described in the Holy Qur’an in the following manner, “Those who take riba (usury or interest) will not stand but as stands the one whom the demon has driven crazy by his touch” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse No. 275). May Allah protect us from all the possible forms of interest and from its harmful consequences. In relation to those who make room for several forms of interest, Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “That is because they have said: ‘Sale is but like riba’, while Allah has permitted sale, and prohibited riba” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse no. 275).

Those who give and take interest but do not repent will go to the Hell:

“So, whoever receives an advice from his Lord and desists (from indulging in riba), then what has passed is allowed for him, and his matter is up to Allah. As for the ones who revert back, those are the people of Fire. There they will remain forever” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse No. 275).

So, in these verses of Surah Al-Baqarah, Allah has strictly warned us to stay away from the sin that ruins the human being and with reference to those who indulge in giving and taking of interest Allah has categorically mentioned that in case they do not repent they should get ready for a war against Allah and His Apostle (PBUH). Moreover, Allah also mentions in the Holy Qur’an that those who give and take interest will be humiliated and disgraced on the Day of Judgment and they will be thrown into the Hell. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) too has insisted a lot on abstaining from interest and has pronounced severe warnings against those who give and take interest. Out of those I am mentioning a few:

Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in relation to interest:

On the occasion of the last pilgrimage (Hajjatul Wida’), pronouncing the forbiddance of interest Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “(Today) Interest belonging to the period of ignorance is waived and the first of all the interests that I waive off is the interest of my uncle Abbas (RA). All of that has been waived off.” Since Abbas (RA) used to lend money to people on interest before the commandment in relation to forbiddance of interest was revealed, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Today I waive off all the interest that others owed Abbas (RA)” (Sahih Muslim, Chapter Hajjatun Nabi). Reports inform us that it was roughly ten thousand mithqaal of gold. Interest was forbidden sometime during the last years of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life.

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Stay away from seven sins that ruin human beings. The companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked, “What are those seven major sins (that ruin the human beings)?” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Polytheism, performing magic, killing someone for no reason, give and take of interest, gobbling up the wealth of an orphan, fleeing the battlefield (in the event of war against the infidels), pointing the finger at chaste woman” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Abdullah bin Mas’ud (RA) says, “Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has cursed the person who consumes interest and the one who makes others consume it” (Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, Nasai). The wordings of another report say that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has cursed the persons who take and give interest, those who maintain a record of interest based dealings, and those who bear witness to any interest based transaction. The wordings of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) curse on those who give and take interest are to be found in all the famous and celebrated texts of Hadeeth. May Allah make us all true lovers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and may He help us live this perishable worldly life in the light of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Amen!

Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “There are four kinds of people in relation to whom Allah has made it obligatory upon Himself that He will not let them enter the paradise nor will He let them even taste the bounties of paradise; 1) The one who is alcoholic, 2) the one who consumes interest, 3) the one who gobbles up an orphan’s wealth, 4) the one who disobeys his/her parents.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “There are more than seventy divisions of interest and the lowest one is similar to committing adultery with one’s own mother.” (Haakim, Al-Baihaqi, Tabraani, Maalik).            

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “To consume a dinar of interest is worse than committing adultery 36 times” (Ahmad and Tabraani fil Kabeer).

Loan from bank is also interest:

99.99% Ulama of all the schools of thought agree that in the present times, the regularly followed process of taking loan from the bank and taking interest on the deposited amount are to be understood as the same interest that has been declared forbidden in the verses of Surah Al-Baqarah. It is the same interest regarding which Allah and His Apostle (PBUH) have declared a war against those who do not abstain from it, and those who do not repent, for them there is humiliation and disgrace on the Day of Judgment and their destination is the Hell. Majmaul Fiqhe Islami, an important organisation that has Ulama from all over the world, has had numerous meetings on this topic but in all the meetings it has been decided that this (loan from bank and interest on deposited amount) is forbidden. Majority of Ulama from the Indian subcontinent agree that it is forbidden (Haraam). In numerous conferences organised by Fiqh Academy, New Delhi, it has always been concluded that it is forbidden. Even Ulama from Egypt, who are normally considered more liberal and open-minded, have a consensus among themselves that there is no justification whatsoever when it comes to taking loan from the bank under the existing banking system and receiving interest on the deposited amount. In the entire world not even one school of thought’s concerned Darul Ifta department (the department or section from where decrees are sent out), has termed it permissible or justified to take loan from the bank under the existing banking system or take interest on the deposited amount for personal use.

What should we do in the present times?

  1. Along with fearing Allah we should always live our perishable worldly life by making attainment of success in the Hereafter as our principle aim of life.
  2. In case someone terms bank loan or interest on deposited amount as permissible then we should stay away from such lines of argument and remain mindful of the consensus (in relation to all of this being forbidden) between 99.99% of Ulama of the current world.
  3. We need to keep in mind that, in the light of the Holy Qur’an and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), our respected Ulama’s decision to term bank loan and interest on deposited amount forbidden is not because of some enmity that they have with us. Rather, we must understand that their decision is in our favour because interest has been termed as an exceedingly severe sin in the Holy Qur’an and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The words that Allah has used in relation to interest are not used even in relation to other major sins such as drinking of alcohol, eating pork and adultery.
  4. The Prophet (PBUH), to whose nation we belong and take pride in that association, has cursed the ones who give and take interest.
  5. The Prophet (PBUH) whose name we take has instructed us to stay away from things that are doubtful even if we perceive some loss with respect to this worldly life so that our Hereafter does not get ruined.
  6. Abstain fully from taking a loan from the bank. We should fulfil our worldly needs without taking loan from the bank (manage them in a way that we don’t fall in need of taking a loan from the bank). In case we confront some difficulties or troubles, we must observe patience.
  7. We should always look at those who are weaker than us in terms of worldly stature and be grateful to Allah.
  8. In case our amount is deposited in a bank, we should not use the interest that is offered on that amount on ourselves. Instead, we should spend it in general domains of charity or give it to institutions where poor and destitute and orphan children are looked after.
  9. These days banks have come up with different names of money-related transactions. Before investing money in any of these we must share complete details of the plan or policy with our respected Ulama and only after their approval, we should invest in the plan or policy.
  10. In case a person resides in a country where it is impossible to stay away from interest, he should abstain from it to the extent he can. He should always remain concerned about ways in which he could protect himself from it and should continuously seek forgiveness from Allah.
  11. Those, who do not abstain from interest are humbly informed that interest is an incredibly severe sin. Therefore, at least they should not use the interest amount for their own personal expenditures. Instead, with that amount they could pay income tax that is levied by the government because several Muftis have allowed us to use our interest amount in order to pay our income tax.
  12. Those of us who have already used interest amount should first of all seek forgiveness from Allah and should make a resolve that from now on they will not take even a penny of interest and spend the remaining amount of interest in public good.
  13. In case a company is only into interest-based transactions and no other business dealings then it is not permissible to work in such a firm. However, in case a bank, alongside interest-based transactions, is into permissible transactions as well (ones that are not Haraam) then it is not forbidden to work in such a firm. That said, one should still try and avoid working in such a firm.
  14. Several economists who have a very little understanding of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are found presenting their arguments in favour of interest. The decisions or assessments of these materialists overlook the life of the Hereafter and are only in the light of this worldly perishable life.
  15. In case someone wants to sell old gold jewellery and buy new gold jewellery then he should get the pricing done for both the items separately and only then take possession or give possession. It is not permissible to give old gold and the difference between the two in return of new gold because this too is a form of interest. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has declared it forbidden to buy and sell gold with a certain difference in pricing.
  16. Every year we should calculate our wealth and accordingly give Zakaat (obligatory charity). In the Holy Qur’an, Allah has expressed exceedingly severe warning for those who do not give Zakaat on their wealth.

An important point:

According to iconic economists of the world, the existing interest-based system that we have serves none except the capitalists. Moreover, there are numerous problems in it because of which the entire world is now getting attracted towards Islamic system.

Note:

There are several materialists who provide an argument in justification of interest that the forbiddance of interest mentioned in the Holy Qur’an is in relation to taking loan on interest for personal needs. They assert that for business purpose one could take loan on interest. Similarly, there are several materialists who say that the forbiddance in relation to interest mentioned in the Holy Qur’an is about interest on interest (compound interest) and single interest does not fall under that commandment. First of all, an unconditional forbiddance is declared in the Holy Qur’an with respect to give and take of interest. So if we have to go beyond this declaration of the Holy Qur’an we will have to come up with an unambiguous argument in the light of the Holy Qur’an or sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), something that cannot be presented till the Day of Judgement (is absolutely impossible). This is why, right from the best of times till now, not even a single commentator commented on the verses that forbid interest in this particular manner. Moreover, when the Holy Quran declared interest as forbidden, it was operational both with reference to personal as well as business needs. Similarly, both simple and compound forms of interest were operational. For as many as 1400 years, commentators, scholars of Hadeeth and our respected Ulama have written about this only in the light of solid arguments. This matter is pretty much like someone saying that in the Holy Qur’an alcohol is forbidden because during that time alcohol was made at places that were not clean and now it is made with an informed sense of cleanliness and hygiene, is packaged in attractive bottles and sold at grand hotels, so it is not forbidden anymore. May Allah save all the Muslims from such worshippers of this world.   

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (www.najeebqasmi.com)