To understand the issue of interest, we must understand the concept and reality of Rizq – sustenance in Islam. Rizq is an all-encompassing word that includes everything that one needs to live in the world. It is not restricted to money or food. It includes, air, water, time, knowledge, energy, health, beauty, strength, food, education, money, spouse, children, movable and immovable property, power, influence, authority, and every kind of resource that we can imagine that we need for us to survive and live. About Rizq, Allahﷻ said:
قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيَقْدِرُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
Saba 34:36. Say (O Muhammadﷺ): “Verily, my Rabb enlarges and restricts the provision to whom He pleases, but most people know not.”
أَوَلَمْ يَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيَقْدِرُ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
Zumar 39:52 Do they not know that Allah enlarges the provision for whom He wills and restricts it (for whom He wills). Verily, in this are signs for people who believe!
There are many more such Ayaat in the Qur’an with the same meaning that it is Allahﷻ who decides the quantum of our Rizq but that we are accountable for the means we choose to earn it. Nothing we do or not do, will change the total quantity of our Rizq but the means we choose to take it from, will decide if we enter Jannah or Jahannam when we meet Allahﷻ .
Abdullah bin Abbas (R) reported: One day I was behind Rasoolullahﷺ [riding on the same mount] and he said, “O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allahﷻ and Allahﷻ will protect you. Be mindful of Allahﷻ and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allahﷻ [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allahﷻ [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allahﷻ had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allahﷻ had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”
If we understand this one simple, basic fact then all decisions become very easy, and we can live a totally stress-free life. Shaytaan deceives us by distracting our attention from what is in our control – choice of means to receive our Rizq – to what is not our control – quantum of Rizq. He tries to frighten us with poverty and invites us to disobey Allahﷻ. Allahﷻ warned us about this. The question to ask ourselves is, “Who do I believe?” Allahﷻ or Shaytaan. It is truly as clear as that. On that depends our salvation.
الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاءِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلًا ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
Baqara 2: 268 Shaytaan threatens you with poverty and orders you to do shameful deeds, while Allah promises you forgiveness and (great) bounties from Him. And Allah is All-Bountiful, All-Knowing.”
There is nothing more shameful and traitorous than taking something from someone and using it against them. All we have, is from Allahﷻ. Our lives, wealth, knowledge, capability, everything is from Allahﷻ. How shameful to use that in disobedience to Him? Let us take warning and save ourselves.
About Riba (interest), Allahﷻ stated in the clearest of terms:
ٱلَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ لَا يَقُومُونَ إِلَّا كَمَا يَقُومُ ٱلَّذِى يَتَخَبَّطُهُ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ مِنَ ٱلْمَسِّ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ وَأَحَلَّ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ فَمَن جَآءَهُۥ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِۦ فَٱنتَهَىٰ فَلَهُۥ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُۥٓ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ أَصْحَـٰبُ ٱلنَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَـٰلِدُونَ
يَمْحَقُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلرِّبَوٰا۟ وَيُرْبِى ٱلصَّدَقَـٰتِ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَأَقَامُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَوُا۟ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَذَرُوا۟ مَا بَقِىَ مِنَ ٱلرِّبَوٰٓا۟ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا۟ فَأْذَنُوا۟ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَٰلِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ
Baqara 2:275 – 279: Those who eat Ribâ (interest) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaytaan leading him to insanity. That is because they say: “Trading is only like Ribâ (interest),” whereas Allâh has permitted trading and forbidden Ribâ (interest). So, whosoever receives an admonition from his Rabb and stops eating Ribâ (interest) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allâh (to judge); but whoever returns to Ribâ (interest), such are the dwellers of the Fire – they will abide therein. Allâh will destroy Ribâ (interest) and will give increase for Sadaqât (charity). And Allâh likes not the disbelievers, sinners. Truly those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât, they will have their reward with their Rabb. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. O you who believe! Fear (the anger of) Allâh and give up what remains (due to you) from Ribâ (interest) (from now onward), if you are (really) believers. And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allâh and His Messenger but if you repent, you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly (by asking more than your capital sums), and you shall not be dealt with unjustly (by receiving less than your capital sums).”
Prohibition of taking Ar-Riba (Interest)
Abdullah bin Mas`ud (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ cursed both the one who accepts Ar-Riba (interest) and the one who pays it. [Muslim]. The narration in At-Tirmidhi adds: “And the one who records it, and the two persons who stand witness to it.”
Commentary: Both the parties, that is the one who charges interest and the one who pays it, are equally guilty in the matter of interest (or Riba). This Hadith highlights the intensity of unlawfulness of Ar-Riba, or interest which can be judged from the fact that not only the person who charges it and the one who pays it are cursed but even those who write the documents and bear witness to the transaction are condemned although the latter two don’t gain directly from the deal. They have been condemned for their co-operation in the matter of interest. Let us ask ourselves if we want the curse of Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ?
Most Muslims who have confused themselves about Riba, ask three questions. I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.
- We don’t take interest, but we pay interest on loans and mortgages. Why is that Haraam?
- The interest we pay is not excessive. It is only 2-3% (USA). Interest was made Haraam because the people of the time of Rasoolullahﷺ used to charge excessive interest.
- We live in Da’ar-ul-Harb and so taking and paying interest is permissible here (India, Canada, South Africa, USA, UK etc) and we have a Fatwa to prove it.
We don’t take interest, but we pay interest on loans and mortgages. Why is that Haraam?
The basic Usool of Fiqh (Rule of Islamic Jurisprudence) is that if something is prohibited (Haraam), then everything to do with it is also prohibited. For example, consumption of alcohol is prohibited and so are the manufacture, sale, storage, transport, and purchase of it. Similarly with the consumption of pork, along with which is also prohibited the sale, rearing, transport, processing of pigs.
This is also the case with Riba or interest. Taking it, paying it, writing interest notes (IOU’s) working in any business institution that deals with the charging of interest, mortgages, hire purchases involving the payment of interest are all Haraam and prohibited and come under the purview of the Ayaat and Ahadith quoted above which clearly prohibit all kinds of interest dealings, simple or compound. The hadith I have quoted above is also clear on this matter.
Investing in the shares of companies which deal in interest in their business i.e., have bank loans or any other form of interest-based dealings, as well as those who are in banking, is also prohibited for the same reason. As a shareholder, you are a part-owner of the company and so are morally responsible for their actions. Investing in companies that don’t have bank loans and produce products or services which are Halaal is permissible.
- The interest we pay is not excessive. It is only 2-3% (USA). Interest was made Haraam because the people of the time of Rasoolullahﷺ used to charge excessive interest.
The same rule as above applies. That means that if something is Haraam then it is prohibited irrespective of quantity. Consumption of alcohol and pork, committing Zina (adultery), committing murder, are all prohibited (Haraam). Whether you consume one milliliter of alcohol or a whole barrel, whether you eat one pork chop or the whole pig, whether you commit Zina or murder once in your lifetime or once a week, is not the issue. What is Haraam is prohibited irrespective of quantity. So also, is the case of Riba. Percentage of interest is immaterial. It is Haraam no matter how high or low the percentage. I know that there are ‘scholars’ who have given Fatawa ‘permitting’, certain percentages of interest. They and all those who follow them will stand before Allahﷻ with their Dala’ail. May Allahﷻ forgive them. All I know is that if someone tells me that a glass of water in which there is 1% urine is good to drink, then I will tell him to drink it himself. But I will not touch it. Allahﷻ didn’t declare war on someone who drinks contaminated water, but He declared war Himself and on behalf of Rasoolullahﷺ on someone who deals in interest, and He didn’t specify any percentages in that declaration. I know that when I stand before Allahﷻ , I need His forgiveness and mercy. On that Day I need the intercession of Rasoolullahﷺ. Neither can be expected if I accept a declaration of war from Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ and my name is in the list of the Enemies of Allahﷻ . Anyone who thinks that is too strong, ask yourself what you call the one you are at war with. So, I don’t accept any of these percentages. I accept what Allahﷻ told me and what Rasoolullahﷺ told me, and I ask for the Mercy of Allahﷻ and His Forgiveness. You are welcome, to choose what you will. We will stand alone.
- We live in Da’ar-ul-Harb and so taking and paying interest is permissible here (India, South Africa, USA, UK etc) and we have a Fatwa to prove this.
There are three kinds of situations that a Muslim may be living in: Da’ar ul Harb, Da’ar ul Aman and Da’ar ul Islam. I give below the definitions of each. Please see if dealing in interest is permitted.
Da’ar ul Harb: (Place of War)
A place where you live in a state of captivity in some form, either because of having been captured by your enemies or because they are occupying your lands. In this place you are not permitted to practice your religion and face persecution and danger (imprisonment, death, fines) if you try to follow Islam. If you live in such a place, then you must seek to migrate to Da’ar ul Islam or Da’ar ul Aman, where you can practice Islam. There is no question of taking loans to build or expand businesses or to buy or build houses in Da’ar ul Harb. For those of us who migrate to the West, the basic question is, “If indeed you considered it to be Da’ar ul Harb, then why did you spend your money and energy to go there? You are supposed to escape from Da’ar ul Harb, not to go there.”
The reality is that nobody brought modern day migrants like you and me; to the US, UK etc. in chains, and we are not enslaved in these countries. We came here because we wanted to come here seeking a better lifestyle and prosperity that we enjoyed in our home countries. On the other hand, we enjoy freedoms to practice Islam that we didn’t have in our home countries. Surely it is said that one can fool oneself, not others. And certainly not Allahﷻ . It is about such people that Allahﷻ told us about what will happen when the angels come to take their souls.
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ تَوَفَّىٰهُمُ ٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُ ظَالِمِىٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا۟ فِيمَ كُنتُمْ قَالُوا۟ كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ قَالُوٓا۟ أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ ٱللَّهِ وَٰسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا۟ فِيهَا فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ مَأْوَىٰهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَسَآءَتْ مَصِيرًا
Nisa 4: 97 When angels take the souls of those who die in sin against their souls they say: “In what (plight) were you?” They reply: “Weak and oppressed were we in the earth.” They say: “Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (from evil)?” Such people will find their abode in Jahannam what an evil refuge!
Da’ar ul Aman: Place of Peace
A place where you are not a captive and live freely having gone there voluntarily. You are not constrained in any way from practicing your Deen and can do so openly and without any danger. In such a situation, all the laws of the Shari’ah will apply to the Muslim’s personal life and he or she must live in obedience to those laws. In the Da’ar ul Aman, the Muslim or Muslimah is obliged to obey the laws of the land if those are not in conflict with the Shari’ah. There are no special considerations or freedoms from obeying the laws of the Shari’ah while living in a Da’ar ul Aman. All laws apply. Since we can practice Islam, where is the excuse for breaking the laws of Allahﷻ ? Interest dealings will be totally Haraam in Da’ar ul Aman because you are permitted to practice your religion.
Da’ar ul Islam
This is the land of the Muslims where the rulers are Muslim and the Shari’ah is in force. This is a country where the only law is the Law of Allahﷻ. Needless to say, in such a place all the laws of the Shari’ah will apply and be enforced.
It can be seen clearly from the above that in none of these cases is it permissible for the Muslim to take or give interest, irrespective of its quantity and irrespective of how it is disguised. For a Muslim, to disobey Allahﷻ is not an option no matter what excuses the Shaytaan may teach us.
Having said that, it is also necessary to encourage Muslims to seek ways of Islamic financing and doing business in an interest free environment. There are many examples of viable and profitable businesses that are run on these lines, sometimes by non-Muslims; simply because an interest free financing environment is healthier and more robust and equitable. Islamic financing institutions have been set up, sadly by the same banks, which have non-Islamic banking, as they see a business opportunity. Unfortunately, we Muslims seem to be so caught up in our own sense of learned helplessness that we are unwilling to break out of it. Instead, we seek to break the laws of Allahﷻ on the pretext of having Fatawa from various Ulama.
One very important matter to understand is the difference between a Fatwa and a Hukm. A Fatwa is a legal opinion. That’s all. It is not a Hukm (ruling) and doesn’t change the law. As an example, consider this: you ask your Tax Consultant if any tax is due on your income. He tells you that you need not pay any tax. You accept his opinion and don’t pay. Later that year, the IRS or its equivalent knocks on your door. You say, “But my Tax Consultant said that I need not pay any tax!” The IRS officers will tell you, “That was his opinion. He was wrong. And you are in trouble. His opinion didn’t change the law or your liability.” That is what a Fatwa is. A legal opinion. Not a ruling.
The Hukm (ruling) is that what Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ made Halaal (permitted) is Halaal and what they made Haraam (prohibited) is Haraam and the entire population of Ulama cannot change that. Ijtihad is only permissible where there is no clear Qur’anic injunction or order of Rasoolullahﷺ and that also within the boundary of Qur’an and Sunnah. No Ijtihad can contradict the Qur’an and Sunnah. Both the Qur’an and Sunnah are clear on the issue of Riba (interest) and so is the collective opinion of the Ulama of Islam (Ijma’a) from the time of Rasoolullahﷺ. Nothing and nobody can change that, ever.
If this is still not enough to convince us of the terrible gravity of the offense, and its prohibition, then let us ask ourselves these simple questions: Are we willing to have Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ as our enemies? Are we confident of winning the war against Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ? Let us remember that on the Day of Judgment, we will stand before the Throne of our Rabb, alone.
As Muslims, let us fear Allahﷻ’s displeasure and remember that every action of a Muslim must necessarily keep the Aakhira in perspective for such an action to be logical and sensible. If an action in this world is at the expense of everlasting torment and the anger of Allahﷻ then that is not the action of a Muslim. Let us examine our faith in the Day of Judgment and not be like the polytheists (mushrikeen) of Makkah who used to believe in Allahﷻ but not in the Day of Judgment. May Allahﷻ protect us from such follies which are originated by Shaytaan and which are meant to drive us into humiliation and punishment on the Day of Judgment, when nobody other than Allahﷻ can help us. Allahﷻ warned us about that Day and said:
رَّبِّ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنِ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا
يَوْمَ يَقُومُ ٱلرُّوحُ وَٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُ صَفًّا لَّا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا
ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْيَوْمُ ٱلْحَقُّ فَمَن شَآءَ ٱتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِۦ مَـَٔابًا
إِنَّآ أَنذَرْنَـٰكُمْ عَذَابًا قَرِيبًا يَوْمَ يَنظُرُ ٱلْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ وَيَقُولُ ٱلْكَافِرُ يَـٰلَيْتَنِى كُنتُ تُرَٰبًۢا
Naba 78: 37-40 From the Rabb of the heavens and the earth and all between (Allah) Most Gracious: none shall have power to argue with Him. The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks none shall speak except any who is permitted by (Allah) Most Gracious and he will say what is right. That Day will be the sure Reality: therefore whoso will, let him take a (straight) Return to his Rabb! Verily We have warned you of a Penalty near the Day when man will see (the Deeds) which his hands have sent forth and the Unbeliever will say “Woe unto me! Would that I were (mere) dust!
Let us ask ourselves, whether on that day, it makes sense to have the only One who can help us, at war with us because we chose to ignore His warning and accepted His declaration of war. Let us ask ourselves, if our clever and convenient Fatawa and Muftis will come to help us in this battle against Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ.
Those of us who hope to benefit from the intercession of Rasoolullahﷺ and for the meeting with him and water from his Hauz-al-Kauthar, should ask themselves if those things will happen if we reach the Day of Judgment in a state of war against him? How much longer will we continue to fool ourselves? How much longer do we think we have of this life?
And Allahﷻ knows best.