Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
My husband’s family had taken out a lot of loans for him while he was in college and never paid them back. These loans were made in my husband’s name and we are now facing paying riba. May Allah give us strength, we are working hard to pay it off but neither of our jobs pays too much. His salary is going mostly into bills, so I am working to raise enough money to pay off our debts and be free of this sin. However, my husband’s family is also going through a lot of tough times. His father has lost his job and is working at a very low paying place and is barely able to make ends meet. If I did not have to use my money to pay off the debt, I could have given them the money I make to help them out. I do not know what mine and my husband’s priority is Islamically. Is our first priority to pay off the debts we are getting riba on or is it to help his parents out. Unfortunately, we cannot efficiently do both at the same time. If we use half to help his family and half for our debts, our debts will take 5, 6 years to pay off (assuming we have no children yet) and the money we give his family won’t be enough to really help them out. Please let me know insha’Allah what the best course of action will be.
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
A person is responsible to financially support his parents provided they are poor and provided he is financially in a position to do so. Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“And it (m: financial support) is necessary (wajib) on the child who is wealthy even if he is young, wealthy to the extent that Sadaqah al-Fitr is Wajib on him.” (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 3/621)
Now, Sadaqah al-Fitr becomes necessary (wajib) upon a person who owns wealth equal to the value of the Zakat-payable amount (nisab), which is 612.36 grams of silver or/and 87.48 grams of gold or its equivalent in value, and this wealth is in excess of one’s personal needs. If one’s wealth is less than the value of Nisab, then Sadaqah al-Fitr is not necessary.
If one’s excess wealth reaches the value of Nisab, but on the other hand one is also in debt, then one will subtract the debt and see what remains. If the remainder is equal to the Nisab, then the Sadaqah will be necessary otherwise it will not be necessary. (See: Radd al-Muhtar, 3/278, Bada’i al-Sana’i, 2/l97-200 and al-Hidayah, 1/292)
In light of the above, it becomes clear that, if an individual is in debt to the extent that it covers his wealth, he is not responsible to financially assist his father. You state that you and your husband have allot of debts that need to be paid off and that interest is being added on it, thus your husband is not responsible to financially support his father, for the condition of financially supporting one’s parents is that one himself is capable of doing so.
Therefore, I suggest that you and your husband work hard to pay the various debts off as soon as possible. If it is possible to obtain an interest-free loan from someone to pay these debts, then that would be ideal, otherwise you will have to economize and try your best. After all your debts are paid off, your husband may financially help and assist his parents.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK