The Doomed Usury
All praises be to Allaah, the Exalted. Peace and prayer of Allaah be upon Prophet Muhammad, his family, and his companions.
The rapidly growing and expanding economy that will create prosperity, is the ideal of every human being. With prosperity, people will easily obtain happiness in this world. Thus, in order to seize this dream, they use various means and ways possible; among them are those who take the industrial route, agricultural, farming, and so on. Among them there are those who take the straight and honest route, but there are also many who justify all means to achieve their goal without taking heed of the religious values and morals that exist in the society.
One of the evil route usually taken by the greedy to double their wealth is by working as a loan shark. They assumed that by taking this path, they can increase their wealth significantly, subsequently realizing success in this world. They forget that the history has recorded and proven how that illegal path is only the beginning of misery.
“Indeed, the (wealth coming from) usury, no matter how much, eventually will become small.”
The Ruling of Usury
Usury is one of the thing that is forbidden in Islam. There are many indicatiions that support and block every chance of usury to happen.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا لاَ تَأْكُلُوا الرِّبَا أَضْعَافًا مُّضَاعَفَةً وَاتَّقُوا اللهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
Believers! Do not devour interest, doubled and redoubled, and be mindful of Allah so that you may attain true success,(Aali Imran/The Family of Imran:130)
Ibn Katsir commented, “ Allaah The Exalted forbids His faithful slaves to engage in the practice of and consumption of usury which is continuously increasing in double. In the time of ignorance, if a credit reached its due time, the creditor say to the debtor, “Settle your debt, or pay for the usury. If the debtor couldn’t settle his debt, the creditor could postpone the bill with the compensation that the debtorwould have to add the mount of his payment. It happened repeatedly every year, thus the debt that is initially small, is increasing in double or triple, or even more that that.”
Allaah the Exalted declared,
“As for those who devour interest, they behave as the one whom Satan has confounded with his touch. Seized in this state they say: “Buying and selling is but a kind of interest,” even though Allah has made buying and selling lawful, and interest unlawful. Hence, he who receives this admonition from his Lord, and then gives up (dealing in interest), may keep his previous gains, and it will be for Allah to judge him. As for those who revert to it, they are the people of the Fire, and in it shall they abide.” Allah deprives interest of all blessing, whereas He blesses charity with growth. Allah loves none who is ungrateful and persists in sin. Truly the reward of those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish Prayer and pay Zakah is with their Lord; they have no reason to entertain any fear or grief. Believers! Have fear of Allah and give up all outstanding interest if you do truly believe. But if you fail to do so, then be warned of war from Allah and His Messenger. If you repent even now, you have the right of the return of your capital; neither will you do wrong nor will you be wronged.But if the debtor is in straitened circumstance, let him have respite until the time of ease; and whatever you remit by way of charity is better for you, if only you know.” (Al-Baqaroh/The Cow:175-180)
These five verses indicate a strict prohibition as well as a dire threat to the cosumer of usury. They also exhibit various strong and clear clues regarding the prohibition of usury.
Firstly, people who devour usury will be humiliated in the Hereafter before all creatures, after he is ressurected from his tomb. He will be resurrected in a very humbled state, as if he is an insane man. Ibn ‘Abbas -may Allaah be pleased with him- said,
“The devourer of usury will be resurrected from his tomb in insanity and strangulation.”
Sa’id Ibn Jubair, Qatada, and Ibn Zayd all gave similar explanation, according to Ibn Jarir Ath-Thabari in his tafseer.,
Secondly, The threat for an usurer who keep on doing it while he has already been informed of its illegality, will be plunged into the Hell. Moreover, not only he’ll enter it, he’ll be eternal it as well.
The fact that there is a threat of the punishment in Hell, or in the world, is a proof that usury is a grave, major sin.
Thirdly, the confirmation that Allaah will extinguish usury. Ibn Katsir said, “Allaah the Exalted has informed us that He will extinguish usury; which means whether He will extinguish it as a whole from the hand of a usurer, or prevent him from enjoying the blessing in it.
Therefore, a usurer will not be able to enjoy the result from his usury, or even worse, Allaah will destroy him through that wealth from usury in this world, and later in the Hereafter, Allaah will punish him because of that wealth.
A usurer deserves to get such a heavy punishment because what he did reveal that he isn’t satisfy with Allaah’s provision. Allaah has permitted him to use all lawful means in order to obtain livelihood; however, he is dissatisfied with Allaah’s law thus he attempts to devour other’s wealth through evil and indecent means. These are a real form of being ungrateful of Allaah’s favors, being evil, greedy, and robbing others of their wealth.
Fourthly, Allaah the Exalted declares war against those who are unwilling to abandon usury.
Ibn ‘Abbas -may Allaah be pleased with him- said, “Later, in the Hereafter, it will be said to the usurer, ‘Bring up your weapon to fight (against Allaah and His messenger).’”
There are many other contents of the verses above that prove the danger of practicing usury. To help you gain a better understanding about the sin of usury, let us ponder about the saying of Allaah’s messenger -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- :
“(the sin of) usury has seventy two doors, the lightest among them is equal to (the sin of) a man who committ adultery with his own mother. Indeed, the most severe of usury is when a man violates the honor/dignity of his brother.”
The Kinds of Usury
The scholars have mentioned that in general, usury is categorized into two:
1. Nasi’ah (Usury due to Postponement/Usury of the ignorants)
I.e., usury that is caused by postponing of payment, on a contract of exchange between two commodities that are included in usurious goods; whether they are similar or not.
This kind of usury can occur in trading contract, as well as in debt and credit contract.
Example of nasi’ah in trading:
- Exchanging a new/better gold with an old gold with an equal amount, but the new gold can only be handed over one month after the transaction occurred.
- If A exchanges a currency of IDR 100.000,00 to B, with the smaller currency of IDR 1000,00. However, at the time of exchange, B only brings 50 piece of IDR 1000,00 with him, and the rest will be given one hour after the contract of exchange. These two actions are categorized as nasi’ah.
Further explanation regarding nasi’ah in trading will be written under the explanation of the second kind of usury, i.e., the fadhl usury, since they have a tight connection one another.
Example of nasi’ah in debt and credit contract:
A borrowed money of IDR 1.000.000,00 from B, with the due time of one month. When the time came, A was unable to pay it off, thus B postponed the bill with the stipulation that A should pay some interest or fine for the delay. Or, it is possible that since the beginning, B have required for A to give some addition to his debt upon its settlement.
Al Mujahid said, “In the past, whenever a man was indebted to another (which had reached its due time whereas he was unable to pay it off), he would say, “I’ll give you such and such, as long as you postpone the due time of my debt; and so, the creditor postponed its due time.”
Abu Bakar Al-Jasosh said, “The depiction of usury that was practiced by the ancient Arabs is: They lent some silver or gold coins to others until a certain amount of time, with the stipulation of additional money/interest over the original amount of the debt, according to an agreement between the lender and the debtor; the picture of usurious transaction that they usually did is as I said, ‘i.e., lending people some silver or gold coins, in a certain amount of time, with the stipulation of interest.”
This is the kind of usury that was practiced since the time of the ignorants, even far before the arrival of Islam.
“Thus, We forbade them many clean things which had earlier been made lawful for them for the wrong-doing of those who became Jews, for their barring many from the Way of Allah, and for their taking interest which had been prohibited to them, and for their consuming the wealth of others wrongfully. As for the unbelievers among them, We have prepared a painful chastisement.” (An Nisaa’/The Women:160-161)
This was the usury that the Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- meant in his sermon at the desert of ‘Arafa, at the time of the farewell Hajj (Hajj Wada’):
“We will abolish all kinds of usury of the ignorants, and the first that I abolish is the usury of our kind (our tribe), i.e., the usury of Abbas Ibn Abdul Muththolib. Indeed, all of his usury is abolished.” (Narrated by Imam Muslim, hadith no. 3009)
The addition on debt and credit contract is forbidden, because originally, it is a social contract. Ideally, a social contract is merely aimed to help others who are in need. However, if the creditor reaps some benefits from it, then in reality, he is wolf in sheep disguise- he pretends to help, while essentially, he is following his ambitions to obtain as many wealth as possible. As a result, he has a heart to use other people’s hardships as a mean to gain profits for himself.
2. Fadhl (Usury due to An Addition/Usury in Trading)
Ubadah Ibn Shamit -may Allaah be pleased with him- narrated from the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- (he said):
“Gold is traded with gold, silver with silver, wheat with wheat, and salt with salt, (the measurement/the weight) must be exactly equal, and (is paid) in cash. Whoever adds, or asking for addition, has committed usury.” (Narrated by Muslim)
The scholars have agreed upon the status of the six commodities mentioned in the previois hadith; those six are the commodities in which the law of usury in trading (fadhl) is applied to.
As a consequence, they are not allowed to be traded in exchange (goods for goods) except by following the requirements below:
- The transaction should be done in cash. The two exchanged goods must be handed over at the time of contract, without any delay whatsoever.
- The exchanged goods must be equal in amount and in measurement. For example, an ounce of gold can only be traded with an ounce of gold, none of them is allowed to be added, even if they have different qualities.
A safer solution for people who intend to exchange his gold jewelry with a new one, is by selling his old jewelry with cash, or goods. After he receives the cash or the goods, he can buy the new jewelry that he wishes. This solution is based on a hadith from the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him-,
“Sell the common dates with dirham, then use the dirham to buy the top quality dates.” (Narrated by Bukhari no. 2089 and Muslim no. 1593)
Second, if the exchange happens is between two different commodities, for example, wheat is exchanged with salt, and gold is exchanged with silver, a difference in weight is allowed, even if the exchange must be carried out at the very moment. This principle is based on a hadith from the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him-,
“Gold is exchanged with gold, silver is exchanged with silver, wheat is exchanged with wheat, coarse wheat is exchanged with coarse wheat, dates is exchanged with dates, and salt is exchanged with salt; by equal measurements and by cash. If the goods are different, then you can exchange it as you like, as long as it is done by cash.” (Narrated by Muslim)
As for other things aside from those six commodities, the scholars have different opinions regarding their status. The strongest opinion is the opinion of the majority of the scholars, which states that the law of usury in trade applies on other commodities which have similar qualities with the six ones.
The similar qualities among those six commodities with other are:
- Gold and silver, since they are gold and silver, which are commonly used as a standard for wealth and functions as tools of transaction.
- Whereas the other four commodities are similar in the trait that they are food staple which can be measured or weighed.
This opinion is supported by a hadith from Ubadah Ibn Ash Shamit -may Allaah be pleased with him-, in which he said, “The Messenger of Allaah – peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- forbade the selling of gold with gold, whether it is in the form of bar or in dinar, except if it is similar in weight, and silver with silver, in the form of bar or dirham, except if it is similar in weight. He also mentioned about the selling of wheat with wheat, dates with dates, salt with salt, with the similar measurements. Whoever adds or asks for addition, has committed usury.” (Narrated by An Nasa’i, in hadith no. 4564)
It is also supported by a hadith from th Prophet -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- below:
“Foodstuff (that is sold) with foodstuff should be similar and equal.” (Narrated by Muslim, hadith no. 1592)
By combining several indications above, as well as the others, it is concluded that the status of the other four commodities is foodstuff that is measured or weighed, is the reason why the ruling of usury in trading applies on it. Therefore, every kind of foodstuff that is traded by being measured or weighed, should adapt the similar ruling of usury in trading.
Brothers! The wealth in this world is just a means for you to achieve happiness and peace. Hence, it is not appropriate for you to be fooled by your love for that wealth, so much so that you violate Allaah’s rules. Wealth is your means to attain happiness, and not the vice versa, you trade your happiness in order to obtain wealth and riches.
The Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- said, “Woes to the worshiper of dinar, dirham, and silk (worshiper of wealth, -ed), if he is given (wealth, -ed) he rejoices, and if he isn’t, he loathes. Woes to him, and woes to him (as if he is afflicted with miseries over miseries, -ed), and if he is pierced by a thorn, may he be unable to pull it out from himself.” (Narrated by Bukhari, hadith no. 2730)
May this concise explanation increases our faith, and stir us awake, to be aware of the practices of usury. And Allaah knows best.
Source: “Al Furqon” magazine, 1st edition, 11th year, 1432 H
Article of www.PengusahaMuslim.com