The Harm of The Habit of Being in Debt

The Harm of The Habit of Being in Debt

Author: Said Yai bin Imanul Huda, MA

Islam is a noble religion. Islam already oversees all aspects in social life, including debt and credit. Not only does Islam allow a man to owe other, it also regulates the etiquettes and rules in debt.
The basic ruling of debt is permissible (jaa-iz)

Allah the Glorified and Exalted mentioned some of the etiquettes in debt inside the Qur’an. Allaj the Glorified and Exalted decreed,

{ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنْتُمْ بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ }

Believers! Whenever you contract a debt from one another for a known term, commit it to writing.” (Chapter Al Baqara/The Cow:282)

Even the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- once indebted to other. At the end of his life, he still owed a jew, and his debt was paid with the armor that he mortgaged to that person
It is narrated from ‘Aisha -may Allah be pleased with her- that she said,

( أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- اشْتَرَى طَعَامًا مِنْ يَهُودِيٍّ إِلَى أَجَلٍ فَرَهَنَهُ دِرْعَهُ )

“The Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- bought food from a jew not in cash, thus he mortgaged his armor to him.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari no. 2200)

However, many of the muslims are still underestimating this problem. They feel comfortable living with debt that strangle them. Even some of them have never wanted to be free from debt in their whole life. Before their first loan is settled, they still want to borrow money for the second time, third time, and even more than that.

If we are to let it happen, this phenomenon will get to be complicated and be “contagious” to others around them. Moreover, there are plenty of facilities that enable people to contract debt provided by usury-based institutions, councils, or companies.

What’s worse is that it is not restricted to the common people, instead, it reaches people who have been studying religion for long, as well as the intellectuals and the rich. Why?

It is narrated from ‘Aisha -may Allah be pleased with her – that she said, “In the past, the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- often recited du’a during his prayer,

( اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ فِتْنَةِ الْمَسِيحِ الدَّجَّالِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ فِتْنَةِ الْمَحْيَا وَفِتْنَةِ الْمَمَاتِ, اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْمَأْثَمِ وَالْمَغْرَمِ )

“O Allah! I seek Your protection “O Allah! Indeed, I seek refuge from the torment inside of the grave, from the trial of the Messiah the Liar, from the trial of life and trial of death. o Allah! Indeed, I seek refuge from anything that causes sin and from being in debt.”

Someone told him,

( مَا أَكْثَرَ مَا تَسْتَعِيذُ مِنَ الْمَغْرَمِ؟ )

“How often does you seek refuge from being in debt?”

He replied,

( إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ إِذَا غَرِمَ, حَدَّثَ فَكَذَبَ وَوَعَدَ فَأَخْلَفَ. )

“Indeed, a man who is used to be in debt, when he speak, he’ll lie, when he make promise, he will deny it.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhaari no. 832 and Muslim no. 1325/589)

It is understood that being in debt is not a sin, as we’ve explained earlier. However, for a person who is accustomed to it, debt could lead him into committing the unlawful deeds. In the hadith above, the Prophet mentioned two sins which derived from the habit of being in debt, namely: telling lie and breaking promise. Aren’t they major sins?

We’ve probably encountered people who are oftein indebted to others, and are strangled by it. What are his habits? Aren’t they often telling lies, swindling, and breaking their promises? May Allah protect us from such those evil deeds.

One of the readers might say, “Wasn’t the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- himself indebted to other?”

The answer is yes, the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- indebted to others because he really needed it ar that time. If we examined the previous hadith closely, we’ll see that the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- only borrowed foodstuffs? If the debtor is in dire need of the debt, then it is not something despicable.

However, we need to note that along woth his debt, the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- had done a noble act, by mortgaging his armor as collateral. If at the future he can’t pay his dent back, the armor will serve as the payment.

That is what we’re supposed to do when we are in debt. We should have a collateral for our debt. It could be in the forms of:

– Wealth that we possess
For example, a man wanted to buy a motorcycle, and he has some money in his account, which amounted about IDR 15 millions,-. He didn’t dare to spend the money, since it was the saving intended for his business, as a back up for his capital or emergency money for other unexpected need. He then bought a motorcycle for IDR 15 millions by credit from other within certain period of time. This practice is allowed, because if he died, he still has the collateral of money that he had saved.

– Mortgage (Ar Rahn)
The method is as practiced by the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-.

– Shifting the debt to the possessed credit (Al Hawaalah/Al Hiwaalah)
For example, A has a credit about IDR 5 millions (other people, in this case, B, is indebted to him), and then A wants to borrow some money from C for about IDR 5 millions. A said to C, “What do you think if my credit to B becomes the collateral for this debt?”. Then C agrees to it. This kind of practice of shifting is allowed in Islam. Supposed that A dies, then the debt becomes the responsibility of B to pay.

– Finding a warrantor for the debt (Al Kafaalah)
For example, a person suddenly needs a hefty sum of money, such as the money for operation due to a traffic accident. He doesn’t have money or wealth as collateral. The hospital asks him to find a warrantor (kafil) for his debt. Supposed that he run away or dies, the warrantor will be the one to pay for his debt to the hospital. It is allowed with the requirement that the warrantor is able to pay for debt, or is able to summon the debtor back when he runs away.

If a person doesn’t have these kinds of collateral, he better not allows himself to be in debt often. Because anyone who dies while having a debt, will be the subject of many harms. I’ll mention at least three harms in this article.

1. Firstly: The Religious figures will not pray janaza prayer for his corpse

The Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- didn’t perform janaza prayer if the deceased still had debt:

( عَنْ سَلَمَةَ بْنِ الأَكْوَعِ -رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ- قَالَ: كُنَّا جُلُوسًا عِنْدَ النَّبِيِّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- إِذْ أُتِيَ بِجَنَازَةٍ، فَقَالُوا: صَلِّ عَلَيْهَا ، فَقَالَ : (( هَلْ عَلَيْهِ دَيْنٌ ؟ )), قَالُوا: لاَ، قَالَ: (( فَهَلْ تَرَكَ شَيْئًا ؟ )), قَالُوا: لاَ، فَصَلَّى عَلَيْهِ، ثُمَّ أُتِيَ بِجَنَازَةٍ أُخْرَى، فَقَالُوا: يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، صَلِّ عَلَيْهَا، قَالَ: (( هَلْ عَلَيْهِ دَيْنٌ ؟ )) قِيلَ : نَعَمْ ، قَالَ: (( فَهَلْ تَرَكَ شَيْئًا؟ )) قَالُوا : ثَلاَثَةَ دَنَانِيرَ، فَصَلَّى عَلَيْهَا، ثُمَّ أُتِيَ بِالثَّالِثَةِ، فَقَالُوا: صَلِّ عَلَيْهَا، قَالَ: (( هَلْ تَرَك شَيْئًا؟ )) قَالُوا : لاَ، قَالَ: (( فَهَلْ عَلَيْهِ دَيْنٌ ؟ )) قَالُوا: ثَلاَثَةُ دَنَانِيرَ ، قَالَ: (( صَلُّوا عَلَى صَاحِبِكُمْ ))، قَالَ أَبُو قَتَادَةَ: صَلِّ عَلَيْهِ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، وَعَلَيَّ دَيْنُهُ، فَصَلَّى عَلَيْهِ.)

It is narrated from Salamah Ibn Al Akwa’ -may Allah be pleased with him-, he said, “In the past, we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-, then a corpse was brought to us. People who brought it said, “Please pray for him!” He asked, “Does he have any debt?’. They answered, ‘No’. He then asked, ‘Did he leave any wealth?’. They replied, ‘No’, then he performed janaza prayer for him. And then another corpse was brought to him. People who brough it said, ‘Please pray for him’. He asked, ‘Does he have any debt?’. They replied, ‘Yes.’ He then asked, ‘Did he leave any wealth?’. They answered, ‘Three dinars.’ Then he prayed for him. Then the third corpse was brought to him. People who brought it said, ‘Please pray for him!’. He asked, “Did he leave any wealth?’. They replied, ‘No.’ He asked, ‘Does he have any debt?’. They replied, ‘Yes, about three dinars.’ He said, ‘pray for your friend!’. Then Abu Qatadah said, ‘Pray for him, O Messenger of Allah! I’ll settle his debt.” He then prayed the janaza prayer for the deceased.” (Narrated by Al Bukhari no. 2289)

In this hadith, it is shown very explicitly that the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- didn’t want to perform janaza prayer for people who still have any debt. This strict action bears his message to teach people not to get themselves used to be indebted, while they do not have anything as collateral. Therefore, it is suggested that the public figures and prominent leaders of society and religion does as the Prophet did whenever a person dies while he doesn’t have anything to be used as collateral.

– Secondly: His sins will not be forgiven until his debt is settled

It was narrated from Abu Qatada -may Allah have mercy on him- from the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-, that a man asked the Messenger of Allah – peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- :

( أَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ قُتِلْتُ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَتُكَفَّرُ عَنِّى خَطَايَاىَ ؟)

“What do you think, if I am killed in Allah’s Cause, will my sins be forgiven?”

He answered,

( نَعَمْ وَأَنْتَ صَابِرٌ مُحْتَسِبٌ مُقْبِلٌ غَيْرُ مُدْبِرٍ إِلاَّ الدَّيْنَ فَإِنَّ جِبْرِيلَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ قَالَ لِى ذَلِكَ )

“Yes, as long as you’re patient, wishing for the reward, charging ahead and doesn’t run away, except if you have debt. indeed, the angel Gabriel -peace be upon him- just told me that.” (Narrated by Muslim no. 4880/1885)

This hadith explains to us that worship, even the best of it, which is Allah’s right, couldn’t nullify the obligation to fulfill other people’s right.

– Thirdly, he will be prevented from entering the Paradise, despite his many good deeds, until the problem between him and his creditor is settled

It is narrated from Tsauban, that the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- said,

( مَنْ مَاتَ وَهُوَ بَرِىءٌ مِنْ ثَلاَثٍ: الْكِبْرِ, وَالْغُلُولِ, وَالدَّيْنِ دَخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ )

“Whoever dies while he is free from three things, namely: arrogance, ghuluul (stealing the spoils of war before tis distribution), and debt, will enter the Paradise.” (Narrated by At Tirmidhi, no. 1572, Ibn Maja, no. 2412, and others. Sheikh Al Albani said, “Valid” , in his book, “Shahih Sunan Ibn Maja).

Therefore, before I end this article, there are some points of advice that I’d like to give to all of the readers:

– Do not let yourself get used to be in debt, particularly debt without having any collateral. Today, there are plenty of facility that facilitate people to get involved in usury. Therefore, do not let ourselves fall into its trap! It is narrated from ‘Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, that the Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- said,

( لَعَنَ اللَّهُ آكِلَ الرِّبَا ، وَمُوكِلَهُ ، وَشَاهِدَهُ ، وَكَاتِبَهُ.)

“Allah curses the consumer of usury, the usurer, the witness, and the scriber.” (Narrated by Ahmad no. 3725. Sheikh Syu’aib said, “Shahih li ghairih.”)

If we want to borrow money, or be in debt, we shall doe it with an honest intention in order to settle the debt at its due time. By Allah’s permission, Allah will help you to sell it.

The Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- said,

( مَنْ أَخَذَ أَمْوَالَ النَّاسِ يُرِيدُ أَدَاءَهَا أَدَّى اللَّهُ عَنْهُ ، وَمَنْ أَخَذَ يُرِيدُ إِتْلاَفَهَا أَتْلَفَهُ اللَّهُ.)

“Whoever borrows other people’s health and he intends to pay it, Allah will pay it for him. Whoever borrows it and he doesn’t intend to pay it, then Allah will take the wealth away from him.” (Narrated by Al Bukhari no. 2387).
If the due time has arrived, be haste in settling the debt and do not postpone it, except at that time, we do not have anything to pay it. People who has wealth to settle his debt, but he deliberately postpone the payment, is considered as an oppression and sin.

The Messenger of Allah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- said,

( مَطْلُ الْغَنِيِّ ظُلْمٌ )

“Postponing the payment of debt for people who is able to is an oppression.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhaari no. 2288 and Muslim no. 4002/1564).

If we are really unable to pay the debt at the due time, then we should immediately seek for the creditor forgiveness and ask for more time to pay it.

This is the end of this short article, may it benefits us all, and please be kind to convey it to others.
O Allah, we seek your protection from sins and debt.

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