An effort in f a c i l i t a t i o n

Ribaa is evil and strictly prohibited in Islam!

The next ayah, Ayah No. 278, in the series Yaaa Ayyuhal Lazeena Aamnu is also from Surah al Baqarah.

After discussing Aayaats 254 to 274 that deal with charity, we are now moving ahead with another set of aayaats (verses 275 to 281) dealing with interest/usury among other things.

While charity denotes giving, generosity, purification, growth, cooperation and mutual social welfare, Ribaa signifies stinginess, greed and self-aggrandizement. 

Charity is giving of one’s wealth without any expectation of reward or repayment whereas, usury/interest is squeezing of every ounce of blood and sweat from the borrower.

By bringing the subject of Ribaa immediately after the pleasant topic such as charity, Allah in His infinite wisdom wants to highlight and bring into focus the sharp contrast between the two, and their effects on people and society.

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers.” (Surah al baqarah 2: 278)

Listen to this Beautiful Recitation

To understand this ayah in a complete and comprehensive way, it is necessary that we first learn and understand the previous aayaats.

And also, we need to understand the next three verses to grasp the full meaning of this ayah.

So the interpretation of the verses 275 to 281 is as follows:

“Those who consume interest cannot stand [on the Day of Resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say, “Trade is [just] like interest.” But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with Allah. But whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] – those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein. 

Allah destroys interest and gives increase for charities. And Allah does not like every sinning disbeliever.

Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.

O you who have believed, fear Allah 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 Allah 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. But if you give [from your right as] charity, then it is better for you, if you only knew.

And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be treated unjustly.” (Surah al Baqarah 2: 275-281)

The Key word Ribaa which is translated in English as ‘interest’, ‘usurious interest’, ‘usury’ means to increase; to grow; to grow up; to exceed.

Definition of USURY:

1. archaic : interest

2. the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially : the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates

3. an unconscionable or exorbitant rate or amount of interest; specifically : interest in excess of a legal rate charged to a borrower for the use of money

Definition of INTEREST

a. charge for borrowed money generally a percentage of the amount borrowed

b. an excess above what is due or expected <returned the insults with interest.

As per the Shariah, any amount that comes in excess (it could be even one dirham/dollar/euro/rupee whatever) is included in the definition of Ribaa.

Some points to learn, understand and practice, Inshaa’Allah:

1. Call it ‘interest’ or ‘usury’ or ‘usurious interest’, Ribaa is strictly prohibited for all Muslims.

2. Ribaa has got the severest form of condemnation in the Qur’an and usury/interest is an evil in itself.

3. The glorious Qur’an is full miracles. The miracle here is that Allah is using the word ‘those who eat interest’ instead of saying ‘those of take interest’. In relation to ribaa, ‘Eat’ is a stronger word than ‘Take’.

By application, it means taking and using of ribaa. This may be in eating or clothing or housing and its furnishings. But, it is identified with the act of ‘eating’ because that which is eaten cannot possibly be retrieved, contrary to other type of uses where things can be taken back. Therefore, total possession and monopoly are expressed through the word, ‘eating’.

4. A perfect example is cited here to bring home the behaviour of those who consume ribaa:

Just as an insane person, unconstrained by ordinary reason, resorts to all kinds of immoderate acts, so does one who takes interest. He pursues his craze for money as if he were insane. He is heedless of the fact that interest cuts the very roots of human love, brotherhood and fellow-feeling, and undermines the welfare and happiness of human society, and that his enrichment is at the expense of the well-being of many other human beings. This is the state of his ‘insanity’ in this world.

5. The craziness or ‘insanity’ of the consumers of ribaa is not just restricted to this world.

It is said that those who consume ribaa do not stand except like a man who has been driven crazy by the embrace of some satan or jinn. It appears in hadith that the word, la yaqumuna or ‘do not stand’ means the rising of the dead from their graves on the day of resurrection in the sense that the dealer in ribaa, when he rises from his grave, will rise like the mad man who has been driven crazy by some satan or jinn.

6. Now, at this point, we have to look for a certain compatibility in crime and punishment. When punishment comes from Allah Almighty, for a person or group, against a certain crime, it is certainly appropriate to the crime. Therefore, raising the consumers of ribaa, without sense, on the day of resurrection is perhaps indicative of a certain parallelism. Isn’t it that the consumer of ribaa is so drunk with his greed for money that he is neither kind to anyone poor, nor does he blush before anyone for what he does? Since he was really senseless during his lifetime in the world, he was raised on the day of resurrection in that same condition.

7. The unbelievers at the time of the Prophet (sal-lal-laahu-alaihi-wa-sallam) used to say that ‘trade/business is just like interest’. But Allah categorically refutes saying “Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest”. 

People intelligently used to twist the fact saying: Trade is like interest. And if you, O Muhammad (sal-lal-laahu-alaihi-wa-sallam) say that interest is not allowed, then it means trade is also not allowed. Or, if trade is halaal, then ribaa must also be halaal because ‘trade is like interest’!

Allah answers saying Trade is halaal, and Ribaa is haraam. Both are opposite poles. So do not mix and confuse things in order to continue with your attitude of extracting interest from the borrowers! And do not justify your criminal act by equating trade with interest!!

8. Clear announcement is made in ayah no. 275 declaring the consumers of ribaa as the dwellers of the Hell-fire, who will abide therein forever! (May Allah save us from the evil of ribaa, Aameen)

9. Allah destroys interest and gives increase in charity. There is no barakah in ribaa as it is in fact a curse and an evil. In sadaqah, there is barakah and Allah increases the wealth of those who give charity.

It is interesting to note about the mention of ribaa and sadaqaat together.

It will be noted that there is contradiction in the very nature of riba and sadaqah, then their outcomes are also contradictory, and generally, those who engage in these two have contradictory intentions and objectives. The contradiction in nature can be explained by the fact that in sadaqah one gives to others what belongs to him without any reward or return, while in riba, that which belongs to others is taken without any compensation or return.

That the outcome of both is contradictory is made clear by this verse which says that Allah Almighty erases the gains obtained through rzba or takes away its barakah (blissful abundance); and increases the wealth, or its barakah for the giver of sadaqah.

10. Ayah no. 277 is sandwiched between the verses dealing about ribaa.

“Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.”

This is a reminder to the true believers that that emaan must lead them to the performance of good deeds, establish salah and give zakah. There is a subtle reminder that those who give zakah cannot even think of giving ribaa a place in their life.

11. Let us now read and understand the verse of our series Yaaa Ayyuhal Lazeena Aamanu:

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers.” (Surah al Baqarah 2: 278)

The gist of this ayah is that after the revelation that prohibited ribaa, the giving and taking of the amount of ribaa that remained due against anyone was also prohibited.

Explaining this, it can be said that ribaa was rampant all over Arabia before it was prohibited by revelation. When verses earlier than the present one brought forth its prohibition, Muslims following their Qur’an-oriented habit abandoned all their ribaa related dealings. But some people had claims of unpaid ribaa amounts on some others. In that connection, it so happened that Banu Thaqif and Banu Makhzum, two Arab tribes, had mutual riba dealings and people from Banu Thaqif had claims of unpaid ribaa amounts against Banu Makhzum.

When Banu Makhzum became Muslims they, after having made their commitment to Islam, thought it to be impermissible to pay back the amount of ribaa due. On the other side were Banu Thaqif; their people started pressing their claim. Since these people had become Muslims, but did have a mutual peace agreement, the people of Banu Makhzum told them that they had now entered the fold of Islam and had no  intention of spending their Islamic earnings in paying off ribaa.

This dispute rose in Makkah. That was a time after the conquest of Makkah. The Governor of Makkah reported about this dispute in writing to the Prophet sal-lal-laahu-alaihi-wa-sallam requesting his guidance. It was in this background that this verse of the Qur’an was revealed, the gist of which is that all previous dealings involving ribaa should be terminated after entry into the fold of Islam, also no previous ribaa amount should be realized. The principal was all that could be taken.

12. In the next verse (ayah no. 279), severe warning has been given to those who act contrary to this injunction. They are told if they do not abandon ribaa, they must face a declaration of war from Allah Almighty and His Messenger. So severe is this warning that any other warning of such severity does not appear anywhere in the Qur’an in relation to any other sin, no matter how great, except kufr (disbelief), of course.

The verse then closes with the words that is, ‘if you repent and resolve to leave off the remaining amount of ribaa in future, you will get your principal.  Neither will you be able to do injustice to anyone by extracting more than your principal, nor will anyone be able to do injustice to you by decreasing or delaying the return of your principal.

13. In comparison to the anti-human claim of ribaa, the next ayah stresses upon pure moral behavior of showing lenience to the poor and the have-nots. It is said that, if your borrower is too poor to pay back your loan, the provision of Shariah is that that he be given time until he has the means, and should you forgive him your loan, it is much better for you.

The general habit of ribaa-consumers is that they, once they know that their borrower is poor and cannot pay the loan back at the appointed time, add up the ribaa amount in the principal unleashing a vicious series of ribaa over ribaa, even increasing the rate of ribaa in that process.

Here Allah Almighty, the wisest of all law-givers, gave the law that a genuinely poor borrower who is unable to pay back his loan should not be harassed. Instead, he should be given respite until such time that he becomes capable of doing so. Along wlth it was given the inducement to forgive the loan which is more beneficial for the lender.

14. The verses containing the injunctions about ribaa end on a warning note:

“And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be treated unjustly.”

May Allah give us the Tawfeeq and Hidayah to abide by His injunctions, fear Him and lead a life of righteousness. Aameen. May Allah keeps us safe and sound from the evils of ribaa. Aameen

Jazakallahu Khayra for reading this post. Vassalam.


PLEASE NOTE: The topic of ‘Ribaa’ is so huge that it is next to impossible to discuss everything here. Nor am I competent to discuss on this topic. I took help mostly from the Ma’ariful Qur’an.

Please go to these links to learn further on ribaa, Inshaa’Allah:

Fatwas of the Permanent Committee

Fatwas of Ibn Baz

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Tafheemul Qur’an

June 5, 2013 - Posted by | O You Who Believe!, Reflections | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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