In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
Readers' Reactions to Riba - Part I
The Readers' messages are aligned left and in blue font, and my rejoinders to them are aligned right and in black font.
Fresh Readers are requested to read both sides dispassionately and take their own decisions in this very important matter of Ar-Riba. We all have to remember that Allah Ta'ala will question us regarding this, on the Day of Judgement!
Assalamualaikum Bro. Mohammad Shafi,
I was just wondering, again, why don't you offer your ebook for free if you are really keen to help more Muslims understand your view/findings perchance you might be correct? Paying US10 for it is pretty stiff, if you ask me. After all it is an ebook and personally I don't think one should pay so much for an ebook. I hope my suggestion here is not seen as belittling your efforts or perhaps your attempt to recover costs plus some profits.
There are many ebooks that are offered free of charge as well as those where payments are required. But normally the payment required for ebooks are very much lower. Honestly I am not inclined to order at US10 . Maybe I am a stingy poker. .But the idea of ebooks is not only to overcome the problem of looking for a publisher but also to make it available easily and cheaply.
Wa alaykum-as-salaam, Brother!
This question about why I am not giving my ebook free has been raised by
some others also, Brother! So please spare me the trouble of drafting a
separate reply all over again, and allow me to paste herein below the reply to
one of the others who thought that it was unislamic on my part
'Why do you think it is un-Islamic, Sister? I would be in a better position to answer your question, if you had given some reasons. Without the reasons, it’s like the proverbial dog being given a bad name to hang it.
Haven’t you seen, Sister, that even a copy of the
Qur’aan has a price tag in the market, although it is renamed as hadiya?
Is it un-Islamic for the several authors of
No, Sister, by no stretch of imagination can you brand this un-Islamic. Although Allah Ta’ala is the Author of the Qur’aan, worldly expenses are involved to bring out its copies. Unless a philanthropist agrees to bear the expenses, there is no alternative to the Qur’aan copy having a price tag. Similar is the case of the Commentaries.
Why then do you make an exception in my case? Had I been in a sound financial position, I would send you not only the electronic copy free, but also get hard copies printed and send one free to you, Sister.'
And here's another extract from another reply:
“Brother! For a long period of over
a year, I had kept the earlier edition of my book freely available on the Net.
Absolutely free of cost, that is! But what happened?
I realised that even a free book needs immense publicity for any recognisably large section of people to be aware of its existence. And immense publicity needs lots of funds, which I pitifully lacked. I am a retired person and with the pension I get I can hardly meet my own personal expenses, leave alone meeting the expenses for publicity of the book.
It was in these circumstances, Brother, that I decided to sell my book online after thoroughly revising it! And I have had to invest a considerable amount from my paltry pension funds to produce and publish the book online. Your remark ‘Is he trying to make money or trying to set things right?’ therefore hurts, Brother! It hurts badly!”
Extracts from yet another reply:
"Only the wearer knows where
the shoe pinches, ........! To bring this truth home to you, let me put a
counter question. Allah Ta’ala has promised infinite reward to
If this question sounds ridiculous to you,
........, your question was equally ridiculous to me!
Further to what I have already stated herein above in this context, I would like to add that you are being very naïve, ......., in thinking that there are no expenses involved in producing and marketing an electronic book online!" [For obvious reasons, name of the addressee is deleted.]
You talk of my 'attempt to recover costs plus some profits', Brother! With people of your way of thinking around, I doubt whether I shall ever be able to recover even a substantial portion of my costs, leave alone any profits.
Brother! You make me feel as if I am begging of you to buy my book. May I
assure you, with all the emphasis at my command, that I am not! I have already
conveyed to you my message, through the article, that Ar-Riba covers all
iniquitous usurpation of others' dues/properties during
Your duty is to check whether what I say is correct. You have to do that with the Qur'aan. You have to take the trouble of studying the relevant Qur'aanic verses for that. It appears you do not wish to take that trouble, but demand, for free, the result of the study done by someone else. Whenever you get an insight into the divine concept of Ar-Riba, Brother, you may find that procuring anything by such a demand is tantamount to Ar-Riba!
One more thing , do you have it in a format that can be downloaded to a Palm PDA? Most of my ebooks are in my Palm PDA including Yusuf Ali's translation.
So what say you?
I am sorry, I am not technically savvy enough to answer this, Brother! What I know is that the ebook is downloadable and is in MS Word format.
"Readers B" wrote:
Assalamualaikum Brother Mohammad Shafi,
my first reply to your ruling about riba and modern banking
Wa alaykum-as-salaam, Brother .......!
It's not my 'ruling', Brother! Who am I, a mere creature, to give a ruling on a divine term like Ar-Riba?
I have yet to read your eBook because I still do not trust credit card payment through Internet. By the way, I agree with brother .......... that $10 for an eBook is a bit too much.
I hope you have read my reply to Brother ........
In my reply, I solely judge your ruling based on the e-mail you have sent to Dr. .......
Please do not embarrass me by calling my analysis/understanding as my ruling! It would be blasphemous for any human to give a 'ruling' on a divinely dealt with matter! Allah Ta'ala has already given His rulings in the Qur'aan on all such matters.
If you want my further comment, you can sent your eBook to me for my review.
For your review, Brother?! Why should I, by so doing, virtually consider you as a god besides God? I am sure you need no reminding that our creed is: la ilah illaAllah! If you want to read the book, I am afraid, you will have to buy it, Brother! Payment modes, other than through credit cards, can be considered.
caption above is a quote from the Qur'aan - part of 275th
Modern banking business that we have today, does not exist in the past. The first modern banks were established in the 17th century, notably the Riksbank in Sweden (1656) and the Bank of England (1694). Source: Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia
There is no such ruling by the prophet, the great imams as well as other scholars in the early day about modern banking business.
The Prophet (Allah's blessings and peace be upon him), the great imams as well as the other scholars were all human beings, Brother! They were of course not expected to know the future.
But Allah knows the future (refer the ayatul kursi)! And His Book of Guidance, the Qur'aan, is valid for all times till the Last Day! And Allah has said that He has perfected the Book. It ought therefore to contain - and it does contain - guidance on all matters, including that of modern banking, that would confront humanity during all times till the Qiyamah! It would be blasphemous for anyone to think that He has left humanity to fend for themselves in matters like modern day banking!
The ruling about modern banking business is made through Qiyas (refers a new matter to the root of the old matter because they share the same principles). Therefore, to accuse modern scholars who made ruling that is not exist at the time of prophet is a serious mistake. Many issues that exist today do not exist in the olden day, however it never prohibits scholars who live at the contemporary age to give out their ruling based on Qiyas or Ijtihad. It is an ijma (consensus) of the whole ummah from the earliest day to the present as a predetermined positive rate of return on loans, irrespective of whether this rate is small or big is riba.
The modern scholars are human beings. And like all human beings, they are prone to mistakes. This is the reality, confirmed in the Qur'aan. Affirming this reality is no mistake, serious or otherwise. It would indeed be a serious mistake, on the other hand, if anyone thinks that the scholars can make no mistakes. That would tantamount to considering the scholars as gods besides Allah! It would be shirk, an unpardonable sin!
As against the ijma definition (as given by you), the Riba (Ar-Riba), as defined in verse 30.39 and prohibited by verse 2.275, is any gain unjustly sought to be made from the rightful dues, earnings or possessions of others (fee amwaalinnasi) during human transactions for material things or services.
And you want me, Brother, to accept the man-made and perverse ijma definition in preference to the immensely just and welfare-oriented divine definition?!
By business, of
course, what they mean here is the earnings that it
"Earning generated" does not justify that a business is legitimate. Can you consider earning generated from selling liquor or swine as a form of legitimate business?
Consumption of liquor and swine has been specifically prohibited in the Qur'aan. Business in such things cannot therefore be legitimate. It would, in fact, be no business at all from the Islamic point of view. For, in a business, one supplies things that are beneficial to and therefore needed by human society.
On the other hand, money, i.e. purchasing power, is a thing the society cannot do without, and therefore very much needed! Money has not been prohibited by Allah Ta'ala, as liquor and swine are! Banking, per se, is therefore a legitimate business. It is the perverse, man-given definition of Ar-Riba that makes it appear so.
the money that a bank gets as interest goes in meeting bona
The expenses and the open market forces do not justify that banking is a legitimate business (in the eye of Islam). No doubt that the foundation of business is the element of risks and the open market forces, however, these forces do not exist between the borrowers (clients) and the lender (bank). These forces are merely competition between banks, on the other hand, transactions between banks and their clients through stipulated interest rate are clearly a form of riba.
The prophet prohibited business for what is haram. For instance, although competition between liquor companies is a form of legitimate business competition, but the entire business itself is haram because they are transacting what is prohibited by Allah. Even if the income of selling liquor is use to pay for bona fide expenses, and there are open market forces oblige the liquor company to keep their profit as low as possible that does not justify that selling liquor is a legitimate form of business. Similarly, banks earning is through interest (riba) and riba is clearly haram.
Ditto my preceding comments.
And, as regards your remarks, "No doubt that the foundation of business is the element of risks and the open market forces, however, these forces do not exist between the borrowers (clients) and the lender bank)", may I ask you if these forces exist between the consumers and the trader? The position of the borrowers vis-a-vis the bank is the same as that of the consumers vis-a-vis the trader. Just as the trader fixes his prices taking into account his expenses and fixing his profit margin dependent on the open market conditions, so does the banker fix his rate of interest taking into account his expenses and fixing his profit margin dependent on the open market conditions.
As for the risk factor, the banking business too is not free from it. Banks
are obliged to write off some bad debts. Laws of a welfare state do not allow
them to enforce repayment where debtors' financial conditions are reduced to
just the subsistence level. To reduce the risk involved in investing all their
funds in only one basket (debt market), the banks are obliged to invest part of
their funds in the equity market also. There too, because of unforeseen rapid
rises and falls in share prices due to
is thus a legitimate business as any other. Whereas other
This is indeed the most serious mistake you have made. If this true, then, it will override the entire ruling about riba, whether it is in the Quran or the Sunnah. People who lend money on interest can claim that it is just a mean to provide purchasing power or assistance to the needy.
Brother! You are looking at things through the crooked mirror of the man-given ruling about Ar-Riba. Look at them in the divine light of verse 30.39. Everything will then appear in its correct perspective, Insha'Allah! Refer again to my comments herein above, in this context.
religious leaders deride this legitimate business as unlawful
You have made another big mistake here. It is you who claim that other scholars regard riba as only interest, nothing but interest. Sheikh Imran Hosein has listed at least 14 types of riba and it could be more. Some form of riba may not even appear in this world yet. Only Allah knows. Look at the statement of the prophet S.A.W:
The prophet S.A.W declared that there are seventy kinds or form of riba.
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger S.A.W as saying "Riba has seventy parts, the least serious being equivalent to a many marrying his own mother (a polite language of the Prophet S.A.W with which describe the abominable act of a man having sex with his own mother). - Sunan, Ibn Majah.
What we are discussing is only form of riba and indeed it is one of the most severe and dangerous forms of riba known as riba al-fadl, i.e. lending or borrowing on a fix interest rate.
Ah, Brother! The hadheeth that you have quoted in this part ought to show you, if you would but reflect, the utter unreasonableness of the ijma definition of Ar-Riba you subscribe to.
Suppose, I deposit in a bank a sum of $1000 for a year. The bank gives
interest of 4% per annum. So I am given $1040 at the end of the year. I,
however, find that the inflation rate has gone up by 5% during the same year.
In terms of the real value of the money I had deposited a year back, therefore,
I am put to a loss of $10 when I accept $1040. Even so, since $40 of this sum
is given to me as Interest, I would be committing a horrible sin like the one
mentioned in the hadheeth quoted
That should serve you as some food for thought, Brother! Could our Compassionate, Merciful Lord be so unjust?!
As the Qur'aan says, "Look, how they invent a lie against
You say that Interest is only one of the seventy forms or kinds of Ar-Riba.
But, Brother, when it comes to translating the Arabic word in any other
language, no one finds any equivalent word, other than interest! In the hadheeth
quoted by you above, you have of course retained the Arabic word Riba,
obviously to support your argument here. But it is not the first time that I
have read the translation. In the translations that I have read from other
sources, the English word used is interest! Yes! the word Usury is used
sometimes. But I have no quarrel with this word, since usury, in the meaning of
interest at unjustly
The other translations that I have read speak of seventy grades (and not forms) of Ar-Riba. The context suggests that grades is a more appropriate rendition!
is no Qur'aanic basis for this interpretation of the religious
True, that does not exclude bank interest!!!
effect an increase in my wealth by evading Government taxes. I
I agree with you. Do you know that paper money that we are using is also a form of riba?
If you agree that all those dubious ways of increasing one's wealth are forms of Ar-Riba, half of my quarrel with you vanishes, Brother!
As regards paper money, I am not so sure that it could be a form of Ar-Riba in the divine light of verse 30.39.
religious leaders insist that the
I have explained this, but the ulamas give special attention to this form of riba because it is one of the most severe, obvious and dangerous forms of riba that numerous hadits have specifically address it.
I maintain that neither the ulamas nor you have given any Qur'aanic basis for the contention that Interest as such is Ar-Riba! Follow the Qur'aanic light, please! The Qur'aan says, "Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord, and follow not any auliya besides Him! Little do you remember!" [Q: 7.3]
careful study of the very first verse [Q: 30.39], as also the
The verse 30.39 is as follows: "That which ye lay out for increase through the property of (other) people, will have no increase with Allah…."
The statement is a general statement referring to the increase through the property of others. We do not deny the form of increases as you stated, but clearly bank interest is not excluded.
This is the crux of the dispute between us, Brother! You say that bank interest is included in what is termed as 'increase through the property of (other) people (amwaalinnasi)'. In other words you say that bank interest is Ar-Riba!
By so saying, Brother, you are confirming the prediction made in the Qur'aan: '...they insist that the business is like Ar-Riba, whereas Allah has permitted the business and prohibited Ar-Riba!' In this context, let me quote herein below from one of my own messages to another list:
"In a business,
commodities/services are made conveniently available to those who need them.
So far as banking is concerned, it is 'the purchasing power' (money) that the banks make conveniently available to those who need it. It is providing one of the necessary needs of human society. It is therefore a business, like any other. This banking business too is entitled to the (cost) + expenses) + (reasonable profit), as any other business is. It has been a practice for the banks to call (expenses) + (reasonable profit) as interest. It is a wanton distortion to say that Allah Ta'ala has prohibited such interest. "Look how they invent a lie against Allah..." [Q: 4.50]
I hold no brief for the banking business! If any bank extends its profit margin to unreasonable limits, then it would be usury and cross into the prohibited domain of Ar-Riba! But, for that matter, any other business, including trading, would be guilty of taking Ar-Riba if its profit margin is unreasonably large.
So, Brother, it is those who say that interest as such is Ar-Riba that are distorting the meaning of Allah's Words - not I!"
To further understand the word increase that is related to bank interest, we can refer to the following hadith:
Abu Said al-Khudri reported Allah's Messenger S.A.W as saying "Gold is to be paid for by gold, silver by silver, wheat by wheat, barley by barley, dates by dates and salt by salt, like for like, payment being made on the spot. If anyone gives more or asks more he has dealt in riba. The receiver and giver are equally guilty." - Muslim
Here, the Prophet S.A.W referred to the increase as asking for more in the exchange of similar good. When banks give debt, they expect the return more that what they have given. This is the form of increase in exchange that is referred in this hadith.
One may argue that banks allow deferment for the payment of debt, therefore they deserve an increase in return, but the prophet said:
"There is no riba except in nasi'ah (waiting)" - Bukhari, i.e. increase the price in consideration of deferred payment.
Clearly, modern banks which give debts and expect additional return after a period of time not only engaging in riba-al-fadl, but also riba an-nasi'ah. This is also applicable for those who invested in bank for a fix return interest rate.
Interpretation of Quran should first refer to the Asbab-an-Nuzul, i.e. the purpose of revelation. One cannot fully understand the verse unless he/she knows why the verse was revealed and to whom it is revealed. One way to find out is to refer to book of tafsir or Asbab-an-Nuzul.
The Asbab-an-Nuzul and the ahaadheeth do have their importance in providing the historical perspective or background. The perspective does also help us in understanding the Qur'aanic verses better.
But this does not mean that the divine Book is necessarily dependent on the human-authored books for being understood poperly. If anyone thinks so then he is guilty of non-belief in the oft-repeated Qur'aanic assertion that Allah Ta'ala has explained His verses variously and in details to enable mankind to understand them easily.
We should therefore read the man-authored books in the the light of the Qur'aan and not vice versa. It is because this principle has not been observed that Satan has been able to hijack our understanding of the divine concept of Ar-Riba!
Despite the Qur'aanic assertion to the contrary, the Satan has duped us into believing that the Qur'aan has not provided a clear definition of Ar-Riba, which is prohibited.
Without taking the divine light of verse 30.39, therefore, we have been groping in the dark, like those proverbial blind men trying to find out what an elephant was like! We have been groping in the dark among the numerous ahaadheeth and resorting to qiyaas and ijma in desperate bids to hammer out a human definition of Ar-Riba!
Lets look at the subsequent verse revealed on riba. This
is the second
O ye who
believe! Devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear
to Ibn Jabir, this verse is directed to the believers
"usury, doubled and multiplied" refers to a common practice
banking business has no different than this form of riba. I
The verse needs no great interpreter to understand its plain meaning. And the plain meaning is that the believers were prohibited from taking Ar-Riba exorbitantly.
In order of revelation, this is the 2nd verse, after 30.39, revealed on Ar-Riba specifically. While in 30.39, the Riba that Allah Ta'ala abhors was defined but not prohibited, in 3.130, only excessive indulgence therein was prohibited. This is in keeping with the Qur'aanic principle - as in the case of wine - of eradicating an established harmful practice, gradually and step by step.
And, Brother, how could you really know if I have made the 'careful study' or not, unless you read my book?!
one effects an increase in one's wealth by adopting any of
Despite the divine permission thus given to
business, the religious
world, riba has become a form of legalized business. This
No, Brother! This verse talks about people who insist that the business is like Ar-Riba!
But here, you are saying that a business that runs on riba is legitimate.
No, Sir! A business that runs on the Qur'aanic concept of Ar-Riba can never be legitimate!
I have explained above that there is no business in a product that is haram.
And I have explained above why your insistance, that the banking business is like Ar-Riba, is flawed and wrong in the divine light of relevant Qur'aanic verses!
Brothers and Sisters! The unpalatable and bitter truth is that
study should be done with the knowledge of usul fiqh, tafsir,
That is what you say, Brother! But please listen to what Allah says:
"This is the Book, whereof there is no doubt - a guidance to the pious!
Who believe in the unseen and establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them!
And who believe in what has been sent down to you and in what were sent down before you, and believe with certainty in the Hereafter!
They are the ones who are on guidance from their
Lord, and they are the ones who are successful!"
The most important thing is the sincerity and humbleness.
And piety, Brother! That is, remembering Allah always, being conscious of Him and fearing His wrath for any wrong done against His wishes! That is most important for getting guidance from His Book, as the foregoing verses tell us!
One must not regard his opinion is the most superior that those who differ in opinion are naïve and deception of satan.
As a matter of fact, Brother, a human being's personal opinion has no value at all where interpreting Qur'aanic verses is concerned! How can a mere creature seek to inerpret the Creator's words?! The Creator Himself therefore has inerpreted and explained His words variously and in details to enable His pious creatures to understand these easily!
Allah knows best
Of course, Brother ....., Allah Ta'ala indeed know best!
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