Imposing Commission on Current Account if Balance Drops below the Specified Amount

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
What is the ruling on opening an account in an Islamic bank where in case the account balance dropped below the specified amount, a monthly sum is deducted from it ?

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of The Worlds, and may His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

Commission imposed by banks on current accounts, in case the balance dropped below the amount specified by the bank in advance, is amongst the matters upon which the Ijtihad(Independent reasoning) of the modern scholars have varied: Some considered it lawful while others considered it unlawful.

Scholars who have considered it lawful have based their view on many an evidence; the most important of these are:

First: Generality of the evidence indicating the permissibility of taking a wage against work. Therefore, it is permissible for the bank to take a commission against the services it provides to holders of current accounts.

Second: The Hadith: “ There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” Imposing a commission on the customer wards off harm against the bank, because the latter is obliged to open accounts for all customers.

Third: By analogy, since it is the bank`s decision to charge or not to charge a commission on current account, it is permissible to relieve some accounts-in which the balance drops below the specified amount- from this commission.

Fourth: Regular practice in the banking industry which doesn`t violate Sharia. Such a practice is taken into consideration by Sharia.

Fifth: Benefit. In fact, Islamic banks are facing fierce competition from non-Islamic/usurious banks. Therefore, burdening the former with the expenses of current accounts, whose balance has dropped below the specified amount, undermines their ability to compete with non-Islamic/usurious banks.

On the other hand, scholars who have considered imposing commission on current account, if balance dropped below the specified amount, unlawful have based their view on many an evidence. The most important of these are:

First: The sum deposited in the current account is framed as a loan from the customer to the bank. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the bank to bear the loss as it harvests the profit. Since the Sharia maxim in this regard says: " Profit follows responsibility," burdening the customer with some expenses of this account contradicts this rule. Scholars added that, on this matter in particular, some usurious banks are fairer than Islamic banks.

Second: Imposing this commission makes the loan a commutative contract rather than a donation. So, the rules of exchange contract should be implemented here, and they are: payment on the spot and like for like (cash for cash).

Third: Imposing this commission makes the transaction a kind of sale and loan, and this is prohibited in Sharia since it is a loan from the customer to the bank and a sale of service from the bank to the customer.

Fourth: It is unacceptable to differentiate holders of accounts in case balance had dropped lower than the specified amount, unless the commission is charged against the loan, and this is prohibited since every loan that generates a benefit is usury(Riba).

Each group of scholars has conducted Ijtihad in discussing the pieces of evidence produced by their counterparts. Here, it is neither the time nor the venue to elaborate on that.

Anyways, responsibility-if any-is on the shoulders of the Sharia body of the bank, and the citizen isn`t to blame. And Allah knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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