Dealing in Riba (Interest) is War against Allaah and His Messenger (pbuh)


In the name of Allaah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful

Verily, the issue of Riba is one of the most serious matters that should be tackled. In this regard, all of the heavenly revelations have prohibited dealing in it, and Allaah warns those dealing in it with the severest threat. Allaah, Exalted be He, says:

“Those who consume interest cannot stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity…” [Quran: Al-Baqarah: 275]

In this verse, Allaah decrees for the person, who deals in Riba and accepts its interest that he “cannot stand” from his grave “except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity”. This means that the usurer only stands from his grave like the epileptic when being at the time of paroxysm of epilepsy. Figuratively, this is because the usurer used to accept interest on his money in his life and thereby his abdomen became bulky with it.

Furthermore, Allaah threatens the one who returns to dealing in Riba after knowing that Allaah has prohibited it, that he will be one of the Inhabitants Of the Fire wherein he will abide eternally. Allaah, Exalted be He, says:

“But whoever returns (to dealing in interest or usury) — those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.” [Quran: Al-Baqarah: 275]

Allaah, Exalted be He, also says:

“Allaah destroys interest and gives increase for charities..” [Quran: Al-Baqarah: 276]

This verse means that Allaah wipes out the blessing of money that is mingled with the interest gained from dealing in Riba. Despite the fact that the usurer may become richer and richer, Allaah will Wipe off the blessing of his money and there will be no good in it. Rather, this money will result in bad consequences upon its owner; he will be weary in this life, punished in the Hereafter, and it will be of no avail for him.

In addition, Allaah describes the usurer as a sinning disbeliever. Allaah, Exalted be He, says:

“Allaah destroys interest and gives increase for charities. And Allaah does not like every sinning disbeliever.” [Quran: Al-Baqarah: 276]

Thus, Allaah tells (us) that He does not like those dealing in Riba. Accordingly, deprivation of the Divine love means being hated and detested by Allaah. Therefore, Allaah, Exalted be He, calls the one dealing in Riba a disbeliever. The word ‘disbeliever’ may be interpreted according to two meanings. As for the first one, it refers to the person who is exceedingly ungrateful to the favors of Allaah. Yet, his disbelief does not mean that he is no longer a Muslim. In other words, the usurer shows ungratefulness to the divine favors but still believes in Allaah. This is due to the fact that this person does not show mercy toward the disabled, help the poor, nor grant a respite to the insolvent person until the latter’s circumstances allow him to pay (to settle his due debt). With regard to the second meaning, the word “disbeliever” may refer to the actual disbeliever who is no longer a Muslim. This is when such a person deals in Riba deeming it lawful. Hence, Allaah, Exalted be He, describes such a person in this verse as a “sinning disbeliever” since he is immersed in committing sins and wholly engulfed in enjoying the material benefits illegally acquired from Riba, and at the same time causes harm to others.

Furthermore, Allaah, Exalted be He, as well as His Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) have declared war against the usurer, since the latter is an enemy of Allaah and His Messenger unless he stops dealing in Riba. Allaah describes the usurer as a wrongdoer, as He says:

“O you who have believed, fear Allaah and give up what remains (due to you) of interest, if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war (against you) from Allaah and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal – (thus) you do no wrong, nor are you wronged.” [Quran: Al-Baqarah: 278-279]

In addition to all these prohibitive Quranic verses that deter dealing in Riba and accepting interest, many other prohibitive hadiths are stated in the Prophet’s Sunnah (Tradition). That is, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) has regarded Riba as one of the great destructive sins [Al-Bukhari (2766) [5/481] and Muslim (258) [1/273]]. He (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) has also cursed the one who accepts Riba. the one who pays it, the one who records it and the two witnesses to it. [Muslim (4069) [6/28] and (4068)].

Moreover, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said that if one benefits from only one dirham [A dirham Of silver equals 2.975 grams of silver] of Riba, (when he knows that it is ill-gotten money), it will be more than (the evil of) committing adultery thirty three times [Ahmad (21855) [5/225] and Ad-Daraqurni (2820) [3/13]]. In another narration, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said:

“Riba is like committing adultery thirty six times after the advent of Islam.” [Ahmad (21854) [5/225], Ad-Darqutni (2821) [3/13] and Al-Tabarani in his book “Al-Awsat” (7151) [7/158]]

He, (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), also said:

“Riba is seventy two degrees (of evil), the least of which resembles (in its sinfulness) committing adultery with one’s mother.” [Ibn Majah (2274) [3/72] and (2275)]

In this connection, Shaykhul-lslam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

“The prohibition of Riba is stronger (because of its degree of sinfulness) than the prohibition of gambling. This is because the usurer takes unlawfully an increase (the interest) from a person who is in need, while the gambler may gain this increase or lose it.”

Then, Ibn Taymiyah demonstrated that Riba, beyond doubt, is injustice. This is because when dealing in Riba, the rich person invests his power over the poor (the borrower), while in gambling, the poor may gain money from the rich or both gamblers may be equal in poverty or richness. Then he added:

“…As gambling involves taking money unjustly, Allaah prohibits it. Yet, the injustice and harm afflicted upon the needy person (who has to borrow) due to Riba are not the case in gambling. Furthermore, it is known that doing injustice to those in need (as the case of Riba) is graver than doing injustice to others who are not in need.” [See: “Majmu ‘ul Fatawa” (20/341,347)]

In addition to this, taking the interest (accrued from Riba transactions) is one of the characteristics of the Jews for which they have deserved eternal and continual curse. Allaah, Exalted be He, says:

“For wrongdoing on the part of the Jews, We made unlawful for them (certain) good foods which had been lawful to them, and for their averting from the way of Allah many (people). And (for) their taking of usury while they had been forbidden from it, and their consuming of the peoples wealth unjustly. And we have prepared for the disbelievers among them a painful punishment.” [Quran: An-Nisa’: 160-161]

The Wisdom behind Prohibiting Dealing in Riba

  • Dealing in Riba involves consuming people’s wealth unjustly. That is, the usurer takes Riba from people without giving them anything useful in return.
  • Dealing in Riba involves causing harm to those in need and who borrow by increasing the debts due upon them (interest rates) when they are unable to pay their debts.
  • Riba prevents favors and kind treatment among people, blocks good loans (i.e. loans without interests), opens the door wide for lending for interest, which overburdens the needy borrower.
  • Riba also results in stopping gains, trades, professions and crafts without which other people’s interests would not be set right. This is because, when the usurer increases his money through Riba, without exerting any effort, then why should he look for other ways to gain his livelihood? In this regard, Allaah, Exalted be He, has made dealings among people be based on mutual benefit in return for work or a material return. On the other hand, dealing in Riba does not involve this, since it is simply giving money multiplied, from one party to another, without any visible product or work.

Linguistically, the word “riba” in Arabic means increase, while jurisprudentially, Riba means increase in particular things, and it is divided into two kinds. The first is Riban-nasi’ah (conditional excess for delay of payment) and the other kind is Ribal-fadl (the selling of an item for another of the same type, on the spot, but in excess).

Riban-Nasi’ah (Delay Usury)

The word ‘nasi’ah’ in Arabic refers to delay. Riban-nasi’ah involves two types:

First: Increasing the debt on the insolvent person (by way of an interest rate). This is the origin of Riba which used to be done in the Pre-Islamic Period of Ignorance (Al Jahiliyyah). It means that a person owes another person a sum of money that is to be paid at a certain time. So, when it is time for paying back, the creditor gives the debtor the option either to pay the debt or to allow him much more time in return for an interest on the borrowed sum. Therefore, if the debtor chooses not to settle his debt, the creditor prolongs the period of payment against an interest, which thereby results in the excessive increase of the debt. This is why Allaah, Exalted be He, prohibits this type of transactions saying:

“…And if someone is in hardship, then (let there be) postponement until (a time of) ease…” [Quran: Al-Baqarah: 280]

The verse signifies that if the time of payment is due and the debtor is unable to fulfill his debt, it is impermissible for the creditor to increase debt; rather the creditor should give the debtor a grace period. On the other hand, if the debtor is wealthy, he is to pay his due debt. Hence, no increase on the debt (by way of an interest) should be made whether the debtor is insolvent or not.

Second: It refers to the Riba taken through selling goods of the same type but in excess (which is the property in the case of Ribal-fadl) with delaying the date of delivery, whether for both or just one of the items. There are many examples of this type, such as selling gold for gold, silver for silver, wheat for wheat, barley for barley, dates for dates, salt for salt and the like. Besides, this type includes selling any type of these items for the same on credit. The same applies to whatever shares these items in the property (of Ribal-fadl), as will be pointed out below.

Ribal-Fadl (Excess Usury)

This type of Riba refers to the selling of an item for another of the same type but in excess. With regard to this issue, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) dictates that this kind of transactions is prohibited in six items, namely, gold. silver, wheat, barley, dates and salt. Thus, if any of these items is sold in exchange for another of the same type, then it is prohibited to take more than the other (in weight or measure). This is due to the hadith narrated by ‘Ubadah Ibnus-Samit (may Allaah be pleased with him) as a marfu (traceable) hadith [Marfu (traceable) hadith is whatever word, deed, approval or attribute, traced directly back to the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) with a connected or disconnected chain of transmission.], in which the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said:

“Gold is to be paid for gold, silver for silver, wheat for wheat, barley for barley, dates for dates, and salt for salt, like for like and equal for equal, and payment is to be made hand to hand.” [Related by Muslim (4039) [6/16] and Ahmad (9605) [2/438]]

The above hadith states the prohibition of paying gold for gold, all its types; coined or not, silver for silver, wheat for wheat, barley for barley or dates for dates, unless like for like, equal for equal and payment is made on the spot. Furthermore, the majority of scholars uniformly agree on the prohibition of selling an item as a payment for another unless both are equal. The same ruling applies to other things that share the same cause of judgment. Yet, scholars differ as regards setting such cause of judgment. In this respect, the soundest view is that the common property in money (coins or banknotes) is its value. That is other similar types are to be valued according to the value of money, such as those banknotes used today. Hence, it is maintained prohibited to sell any of such items in excess for another of the same type, namely, being issued in the same country.

As for the cause of judgment of the rest of the six items — mentioned in the previous hadith, namely, wheat, barley, dates and salt it is the measure or weight; besides, such items are edible. Thus, the same ruling applies to whatever shares any of their property, as regards weight or measure and edibility. That is, such type of transactions (i.e. Ribal-fadl) is viewed prohibited, unless there is equality in measure or weight.

In this connection, Shaykhul-lslam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) says:

“…The criterion in prohibiting the transactions of Ribal-fadl is measure or weight (of items being paid for other items) in addition to edibility. This is one of the two views maintained by Imam Ahmad.” [See; “Majmu ‘ul Fatawa.”]

Accordingly, whatever item shares these six items mentioned in the hadith in that cause of judgment (namely being edible and measurable or being edible and can be weighed, or is paid for as a price), it is to be included in transactions condemned as Riba. Similarly, if such items share that cause of judgment as well as being of the same type, then it is prohibited to sell wheat for wheat, for example, in excess or with delaying the payment. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), in which he says:

“Gold is to be paid for gold, silver for silver, wheat for wheat, barley for barley, dates for dates, and salt for salt, like for like and equal for equal, and payment is to be made hand to hand.” [Muslim (4039) [6/16] and Ahmad (9605) [2/438]]

Furthermore, if the items share the same cause of judgment but differ in type, such as in cases of selling wheat for barley, it is prohibited to delay payment; it must be made on the spot. While, in this case, it is permissible to sell one type for more of the other. This is due to the hadith, in which the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) says:

“If these classes differ, then sell as you wish if payment is made hand to hand.” [Muslim (4039) [6/16] and Abu Dawud (3350) [3/419]]

The phrase “hand to hand” here means that payment must take place on the spot before the two parties separate. On the other hand, if the items are different in both cause of judgment and type, it is maintained permissible to pay one type for more of another, so is the case of delaying payment, such as selling gold for wheat or silver for barley. Let it be known to you, dear Muslim reader, that it is viewed impermissible to sell an item which could be weighed for another of the same type except with equal weight. Besides, it is impermissible to sell a measurable item for another of the same type except with equal measure. This is due to the hadith, in which the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) says:

“Gold is to be paid for gold with equal weight, and silver is to be paid for silver with equal weight, and wheat is to be paid for wheat with equal measure, and barley is to be paid for barley with equal measure.” [Muslim (4540) [6/17]]

Besides, since items will not be equal when their legal criterion (measure or weight) is different, it is impermissible to sell an item that can be weighed or measured with a random weight or measure for another of the same type. This is because one does not guarantee that both items are equal; hence, ignorance of equality is like knowing about excess (in one item over the other).

As for the issue of money exchange, whether of the same type or not, and whether money is of gold, silver or banknotes, which are common these days, the same ruling applied to the selling of gold and silver is to be applied to it. This is based on the fact that they share the same property; being of value that can be measured. Thereupon, if an amount of money is exchanged for another of the same type, such as gold coins for gold coins, silver coins for silver coins or any category of paper money for another of the same type (e.g., a dollar for a dollar or Saudi paper dirhams for the like), both exchanged items must be amount of money of one type is exchanged for another of a different type. such as exchanging Saudi paper riyals for US dollars, or exchanging gold coins for silver coins, both parties (the buyer and the seller) must be present at the time of the exchange, and payment must take place on the spot. In such a case, it is permissible to exchange one type for more of the other type, both according to their value. Similarly, if a piece of gold jewelry is sold for silver dirhams or for paper money, both the buyer and the seller must be present at the time of the transaction, and the payment must take place on the spot. The same applies to the selling of silver jewelry for gold coins.

On the other hand, if a piece of gold or silver jewelry is sold for jewelry or money of the same type, such as in the case of selling a piece of gold for gold or a piece of silver for silver, there are two matters that should be fulfilled. First, both pieces must be equal in weight. Second, both the buyer and the seller must be present at the time of concluding the transaction and the payment must take place on the spot.

With regard to this, dealing in Riba implies a great danger that one cannot avoid, unless one is well acquainted with its rulings. Therefore, whoever is not able to know about its rulings by himself can ask the people of knowledge. This is because it is not permissible for someone to undertake any transaction, except when being certain that it does not involve Riba, so that his religion can be saved and he can rescue himself from Allaah’s punishment, with which He has threatened the usurers. It is also impermissible to imitate others in any kind of transactions, without considering it carefully, especially nowadays when people do not consider the ways through which they can get their wealth and gains: be they lawful or not. In this respect, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said:

“There will come a time when people will eat (i.e., take) Riba. Even the one who will not eat it may not spare its dust (i.e. he will be affected by it in a way or another).” [Abu Dawud (3331) [3/407]. An-Nasa’i (4467) [4/279] and Ibn Majah (2278) [3/74]]

It is worth mentioning here that there are many usurious transactions undertaken nowadays. One of these transactions is increasing the debt on the insolvent debtor (by way of an interest rate) when one’s debt becomes due and one is unable to fulfill it. That is, the creditor allows the debtor to postpone fulfilling the debt and in return, he increases that debt in a certain percentage according to the debtor’s period of delay This is the Riba done at the Pre-Islamic period of Ignorance (Al-Jahiliyyah) which is prohibited according to the unanimous agreement of Muslim scholars. In this regard, Allaah, Exalted be He, says:

“O you who have believed, fear Allaah and give up what remains (due to you) of interest, if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war (against you) from Allaah and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal – (thus) you do no wrong, nor are you wronged. And if someone is in hardship, then (let there be) postponement until (a time of) ease…” [Quran: Al-Baqarah: 278-280]

In these noble verses, Allaah, Exalted be He, threatens those taking and dealing in Riba with many threats. These threats involve:

First, Allaah, Exalted be He, addresses His servants saying, “O you who have believed…” and “…if you should be believers…” which indicates that it is not proper for a believer to deal in Riba.

Second, Allaah, Exalted be He, says, “…fear Allaah…” which indicates that those dealing in Riba do not obey Allaah nor do they fear Him.

Third, Allaah says, “…and give up what remains (due to you) of interest…” This part of the verse is considered a divine command that obligates refraining from dealing in Riba. Hence, this prohibition indicates that whoever deals in it disobeys the Command of Allaah.

Fourth, Allaah, Exalted be He, has declared war against those who do not give up dealing in Riba, as He, says, “…and if you do not…” which means if those dealing in Riba do not give up, “…then be informed of a war (against you) from Allaah and His Messenger…” This means that those dealing In Riba should come to know that they, indeed, wage war against Allaah and His Messenger.

Fifth, Allaah, Exalted be He, addresses the usurer as a wrongdoer, saying, “…but if you repent, you may have your principal – (thus) you do no wrong, nor are you wronged…”

There is another usurious transaction, namely lending against a specified interest. This is through lending something to someone. such as an amount of money, on the condition that the borrowed amount be paid back with an interest. It may also be through crediting an amount of money on the condition that the borrower must return more than its actual value according to an agreed upon percentage. These are explicit usurious transactions done in banks as well as the other banking institutions, as they conclude transactions through lending loans for those needing them, traders, factory owners, etc. They lend these categories charging them a fixed interest calculated according to a specified percentage. Such percentage is increased in case of failure to pay the amount of the loan on its due time. Thus, such type of lending involves both types of Riba, namely Ribal-fadl (excess usury) and Riban-nasi’ah (delay usury).

Similarly, depositing at banking institutions for a specified period and against a specified interest is considered one of the usurious transactions. During this period, the bank has the right of free disposal, as regards the deposited amount until the maturity date. So, the depositors are paid (by the bank) a fixed interest according to a certain percentage on the total sum of the deposits, such as 5 or 10 percent.

Likewise, the issue of ‘inah transactions is considered amongst the usurious transactions. [‘Inah: A usurious kind Of transaction in which a seller sells a commodity on credit to a buyer and then buys it from him at the same time at a lower price. For example, trader sells a car for twenty thousand pounds on credit then buys it from the same man (who has just bought it) for fifteen thousand pounds cash. Thus, the original buyer owes the seller twenty thousand pounds to be paid at the due time.] It refers to a transaction in which one buys a commodity on credit then sells it in cash to the same person but at a less price. In this kind of transactions, the buyer takes an amount of cash against the commodity previously bought on credit, yet it is but a pretext for gaining Riba. There are many hadiths and traditions forbidding dealing in ‘inah transactions. For example, Abu Dawud relates a hadith, in which the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) says:

“If you sell to one another with ‘inah, hold the tails of cows (i.e. become occupied with worldly gains), are pleased with agriculture, and give up conducting jihad (fighting in the Cause of Allaah), Allaah will make disgrace prevail over you, and will not withdraw it until you return (i.e. adhere) to your religion.” [Abu Dawud (3462) [3/477]]

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) also says:

“There will come a time for people when they will consider Riba lawful by means of trade.”

Therefore, every Muslim must take precaution lest Riba should be mingled with his transactions and money. This is because taking Riba and dealing in it are among the major sins. Besides, no people deal in Riba and commit adultery, but Allaah, Exalted be He, afflicts them with poverty, incurable diseases and injustice from rulers. Moreover, Riba causes destruction to one’s wealth and wipes off its blessing.

Furthermore, Allaah strongly warns and threatens Muslims against accepting Riba making it one of the most abominable deeds and one of the most grievous of major sins. Allaah, Exalted be He, also demonstrates the penalty be imposed on the usurer in both this life and in the Hereafter, as He stated, in the Glorious Quean, that the usurer wages war against Allaah and His Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam)Thus, Allaah punishes the usurers in this world through destroying the blessing of their wealth making it subject to damage and ruin. How often we hear about people’s huge wealth being damaged by way of fires and flood, thus turning its owners into poor people! However, if those usurious people still keep their wealth acquired through Riba, such wealth will be of no use since Allaah takes away its blessing. Besides, those people only suffer the trouble of its collection, bear its imposed punishment (on the Day of Resurrection) as well as become tormented in the Hellfire for it.

In addition, the usurer is hated by Allaah as well as by the people, since he takes money but never gives in return, collects wealth and withholds it from people, and spends but never in charity. Moreover, he is a greedy miser who collects money and abstains from spending it in goodness. As a result, people’s hearts and the community are disinclined towards such a person. In fact, this is considered the worldly torment for this person while his torment in the Hereafter is more severe and more enduring, as demonstrated in the Glorious Quran. This is because Riba is a prohibited gain that causes a harmful privation and is regarded as a frightening nightmare from which all societies suffer.

Taken from: (Al-Mulakhas al-Fiqhi) A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence Volume – 2 (Dar Al-Asimah), Trade Transactions, Chapter 6: Riba | By: Sheikh Salih Al-Fawzan

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