Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
I have a friend who is an upright Muslim. He does not follow a madhab, and often uses his own reasoning to come up with his own opinion on something. Recently, he started a business in which he acts as a middleman for people looking for house loans. These are regular interest bearing loans from various lenders. He finds loans with low interest rates for people and gets a fee for facilitating the loan. He does not get any interest per se. My friends and I have tried to convince him not to involve himself with such an endeavor. However, he states that since he is not getting any interest, it is okay Islamically. He also says that most Muslims take out loans from regular banks, and this is not condemned too much. Moreover, he already has a high paying job elsewhere and he is just doing this on the side, to earn some extra money; in other words, he is not doing this out of any compelling necessity. I am not knowledgeable enough to convey to him the enormity of usury and things associated with it. What can I tell him to convince him of the seriousness of it? How do I respond to his claims about Muslims taking out loans being the same as giving out loans?
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
Someone who follows their mere whims in interpreting the primary texts is not an upright Muslim,’ for they are far from the command of Allah, which enjoins us to, “Ask the people of understanding when you know not.” [Qur’an, 16.43]
Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) related that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
“Whoever interprets the Qur’an based on mere opinion let them prepare their seat in Hell.” [Tirmidhi and Ahmad, in a sound hadith]
The commentators on Sunan al-Tirmidhi explain that mere opinion’ here means without having the interpretative knowledge to be able to do so, based on the established principles of Qur’anic interpretation (which requires deep knowledge of classical Arabic, the primary texts, and Shariah sciences).
What your friend has fallen into illustrates why Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, one of the foremost Sunni scholars of the 20th Century, wrote a short treatise entitled, “Non-madhhabism is the bridge to non-religion.”
When one veers away from the well-trodden path of Sunni scholarship, as embodied in the scholarly output of the inheritors of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) from the four schools of fiqh, one goes from one absurdity to the next. One falls far from the Command of Allah, and on a direct route to loss of religion, faith, and, ultimately, to Hell.
About Riba (Usury)
Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:
“Those who swallow usury cannot rise up save as he arises whom the devil
has bewildered by (his) touch. That is because they say: Trade is just like usury;
whereas Allah permitted trading and forbidden usury.
Remember the words of Shaykh Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti of Damascus, Syria, one of the greatest scholars alive:
“The necessity which allows usurious loans is the same necessity which allows eating the meat of a dead animal, pig and the like, in which case the one necessitated is exposed to perish from hunger, nakedness or losing lodging. Such is the necessity, which makes such prohibitions lawful.”
Allah Most High Himself as told us in the Qur’an,
“Allah has blighted usury and made charity fruitful. Allah loves not the impious and guilty.” [Qur’an, 2.276]
The scholars of Qur’anic interpretation, such as Imam Alusi (Allah have mercy on him) have explained Allah has blighted usury,’ as meaning that Allah, “Removes all baraka (blessing) from it, and destroys the wealth of the one who enters into it.” [Alusi, Tafsir Ruh al-Ma`ani, 3.51]
Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) related that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
“Usurious money, even if much, becomes paltry in the end.” [Ahmad, Ibn Maja, and Hakim, with a rigorously authentic chain of transmission]
Finally, who in their right mind would accept that Allah and His Messenger declare war on them? This is the plight of those who engage in usury (riba), whether taking it or giving it.
Allah Most High warns us in the Qur’an:
“O you who believe! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remains (due to you) from usury, if you are (in truth) believers.
And if you do not, then be warned of war (against you) from Allah and His messenger. And if you repent, then you have your principal (without interest). Wrong not, and you shall not be wronged.” [Qur’an, 2.278-279]
The choice is ours.
And Allah alone gives success