Is it true that if one dies in debt, one will not be forgiven until one’s debts are paid off?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
Paying off debts is something extremely important in Islam. The financial rights of other people are given great moral and legal weight. It is for this reason that when the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) had to get into debt near the end of his life, he left collateral with the creditor. [Bukhari and Muslim]
So as to encourage people to take debt seriously, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The soul of a believer is tied to his debt until it is paid off.” [Tirmidhi]
However, as long as the person was genuinely trying to pay back the debts, then he will not be punished in the Hereafter. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever borrows money from people, genuinely intending to pay them back, Allah will pay it back for him.” [Bukhari] He also said, “No Muslim ever takes a loan while Allah knows that he intends to pay it back save that Allah will pay it back for him in This Life.” [Ibn Hibban]
Similarly, it is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “There are two types of debt[ors]. There are those who [borrow money] and then die while having had intended to pay it back; I am responsible for such a people. Then there are those who [borrow money] and then die while having no intention of paying it back; such people are those whose good deeds will be taken from them on a day on which there will be neither dinar nor dirham.” [Tabarani; Majma’ al-Zawa’id, Haythami; Fayd al-Qadir, Munari]
The aforementioned hadiths all confirm a principle that we are all very familiar with: Allah does not punish us for things out off of our control. If someone has to borrow money because they cannot make ends meet and then dies in debt, Allah will not punish them for that.
Nonetheless, one should still try to pay the deceased’s debts off or ask them to be waived as soon as possible. If they are waived by the creditors (e.g. the bank), then no debt is due, and nothing has to be paid off.
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.