Q&A: Interest

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Question:

A friend believes that in the present day and age the Muslims cannot progress economically without interest. According to him since other communities are making tremendous strides in the economic field on the basis of interest, Muslims should also follow suit.

 

Answer:

Each person views the things around him and formulates his opinion according to his level of intelligence, knowledge and wisdom. Thus a toddler sees the cat droppings on the floor and thinks it is something to devour. An adult, however, knows the reality and regards consuming such filth as repugnant and extremely harmful.

 

REPUGNANT

Likewise Allah Ta'ala in his infinite wisdom forbade interest. So repugnant is interest that Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: “The sin of Riba (interest) has seventy categories, the lowest of which is equal to having committed incest with one’s mother” (Mishkaat). Hazrath Jaabir (R.A.) narrates that Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Allah Ta’ala has cursed the one who consumes interest, the one who gives it, the one who records the transaction and the one who witnesses it - and all are equal in the sin” (Sahih Muslim).

 

OBJECT ON EARTH

Furthermore, Allah Ta'ala has not created us for economic advancement. Our primary object on earth is to recognise our Creator and establish His Deen everywhere. Even if we do not make any material progress but manage to fulfil our primary object on earth, we are successful. If we fail in our primary objective we are dismal failures even if we own the world. While economic progress in a lawful manner is permissible, Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) also drew the attention of the Sahaaba (R.A.) away from focussing in this direction. After the Battle of Khaibar a person came to Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) and exclaimed: "No one else has earned so much profit today (in buying and selling the booty that was gained) as I!" When he informed Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) that he earned 300 ouqiyah of silver, Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) remarked: "Two rakaats of nafil salaah after the fardh is better than that (Abu Dawood)."

 

CIRCUMSTANCES

One should also consider the situation and circumstances of the Sahaaba (R.A.) when the prohibition of interest was revealed. Many Sahaaba (R.A.) were deep in debts which they owed to the kuffaar. There were those who had stones tied to their bellies due to hunger. Some Sahaaba (R.A.) would faint due to starvation. Many could not afford even two pieces of cloth to cover their bodies. A Sahaabi (R.A.) wishes to get married but does not have anything to give even as the mehr. Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) himself had to keep his armour as security with a Jew for a debt to fulfil the needs of his household. Yet in these conditions also transacting in interest, whether taking or giving, was forbidden.

In this state of abject poverty Allah Ta'ala also forbade the Muslims from even raising their gazes to look at the "economic advancement" of the enemies of Allah Ta'ala. The Qur'an declares: "Do not raise your eyes in longing for what we have given for enjoyment to various groups among them (the disbelievers), (it is) the splendour of the life of this world so that we may test them thereby" (S20, V131).

Therefore we should not bother about the economic advancement of the kuffaar. Furthermore, in the light of the prohibitions of the Qur'an and Hadith we should harbour a deep aversion and hatred for interest and all that is associated with it - far more intense hatred than the aversion for animal droppings. The very thought of indulging in interest should make us shudder out of fear of incurring Allah Ta’ala’s punishment. 

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