THE REALITY OF INTEREST AND ITS MODERN INTERPRETATIONS

The history of the prohibition of Interest

In the Torah (Old Testament) where intoxicants, fornication and the consumption of pork are declared unlawful interest is also prohibited. This bears testimony to the fact that Interest was unlawful and prohibited during the time of the Banu Israaeel (Children of Israel). But the Jews in their egoism and transgression revolted against this divine law with such intensity that they became proverbial USURERS and INTEREST EATERS. During the time of the Zaboor, a group condemned for their transgression.

'Those of the children of Israel who went astray were cursed by the tongue of Dawood and of Eesa, son of Maryam. That was because they rebelled and used to transgress.' (Sura 7 v. 78)

This accursed nation was continuously afflicted with punishments and calamities even upto the present day. Their empires and kingdoms were repeatedly overthrown and they wandered from door-to-door. This was in reality the consequences of their insatiable evil deed to consume interest and their insanity, through which they had murdered their own messengers and prophets (Alayhimus salaam), falsely accused them and rejected their miracles. When the Christian empire was established, one Jew deluded Christians by proclaiming that Jesus was the son of God, thereby distorting the reality of Christianity.

During the era of the Christian invasion of Europe, practically every lawful thing was declared unlawful. Interest devouring has reached its peak, such a level especially after the two world wars. That practically the entire world's economy evolves around this most destructive system.

RIBA OR INTEREST

Interest in the Holy Qur'an is referred to as 'Riba'. Riba is derived from the word, 'Ribwun' which literally means 'increase'. This outward increase, in reality, is a loss. Allah most High sanctions in the Noble Qur'an:

'Allah has blighted Usury and made almsgiving fruitful'

This verse explicitly explains the reality of Interest and its result.

In the above verse, the word 'Yurbi' is used in its literal meaning which means increase and the word 'Riba' is used in its figurative meaning: that excess in a transaction, against which there is no value.

If the above meanings are not observed, the correct translation of this verse will not be possible. This verse informs us that the apparent (outer) increase in Interest is in reality decrease and loss and the apparent (outer) decrease in charity is in reality expansion and increase.

INTEREST IS HARAAM (IN ITS NATURE AND SUBSTANCE)

Allah most High has made unlawful for the believers all types and forms of interest because interest in its nature and essence is Haraam and the prohibiting factor is also found in it i.e. decreasing and abolishing. These two realities i.e. prohibition and decreasing are original qualities of the very nature of interest and because the original properties can never be abandoned. From it, no portion of interest can be free from these two qualities. Consequently, each and every part of interest is forbidden and Haraam.

The conclusion that little interest and single interest is lawful proves total ignorance of the reality of interest or is based upon false imputations.

MR SABSWARI'S MISCONCEPTION
Mr Sabswari has termed the Alif laam on the word Al riba in the verse 'Allah permitted trading and forbiddeth usury' as an indication to a particular type of interest, not all types of interest. He terms that particular type of interest, as compound interest. He claims that this verse forbids only compound interest and not all interests. He further tries to substantiate this by using Imaam Razi's statement that the Alif laam on the word Riba is similar to the Alif laam on the word 'bay' which really means that the permission granted to trading in the said verse refers to a particular type of trade. What particular trade is meant in this verse? It is evident that this view of Mr Sabswari is incorrect. In reality, the word alif laam in both the words Riba and Bay' (Trade) are general and refer to all types of trade and interest. Unfortunately, Mr Sabswari who is not a theologian, wrongly substantiated his view with the words of Imaam Razi (and could not understand these words from Imaam Razi RA).

The verse prohibiting Interest is not Muskil (an Aayat which does not give a definite meaning and requires some interpretation to understand it) nor it is Mushtabeeh (an Aayat bearing more than one meaning and requires something to determine which meaning is meant) nor is it obliterated (Mahsooq) by the Ahaadith that it can be refuted or rejected.'

Qaadhi Thanaullah mentions in his commentary of the Noble Qur'an, Tafseer Mazhari that trade in this verse means all types of trade that are not Makrooh (disliked) Baatil (incorrect) and Faasid (corrupt). He also accepts that trade is opposite to interest. That proves that the alif laam on the words Trade and Interest are general and include all forms and types. Then only will trade and interest be termed as opposites i.e. all types of trade are permissible and all types of interest are prohibited.

DR FAZLUR RAHMAAN'S MISCONCEPTION

Dr Fazlur Rahmaan has also failed to understand the verse, 'O Ye Who believe devour not usury doubling and quadripling'. He mentions that the words 'quadripling' are linked with the command 'Devour not'. He has stated that only compound Interest is prohibited not simple interest. Interest is of two types - one permissible the other unlawful.

This division is totally against the terminology of the Noble Qur'an. The clarifications of the the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) and the views of the learned Ulama of Fiqh.

All the commentators of the Noble Qur'an, the narrators of Hadith and the Jurists have unanimously declared interest as Haraam, and have based their claims on relevant facts. They say that the words 'doubling and quadripling' are merely emphasising this system of interest. The prohibition is alredy derived from the words 'devour not'.

Qaadhi Thanaullah (RA) mentions that the words 'doubling and quadripling' are mentioned as a rebuke and reproach not for abstinence from this particular form of interest because all forms are prohibited.

The Noble Qur'an explicitly prohibits all forms and types of interest in the following verse, 'O You who believe! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remaineth (due to you) from usury. If you are (in truth) believers' (Baqarah 278).

This verse prohibits the remains of interest. The word Maa is general and includes all forms and types of interest thus resulting in the total prohibition of all interest. However, it is permissible to collect the principle amount invested but whatever is over and above that, will be interest and is totally prohibited even if it is equal to a gram of silver or merely one Dirham. It will all be in 'what remained from usury'. Similarly simple interest, interest that has been doubled or any other form will be included in the verse 'what remained from usury' which has been prohibited. The classification of interest as simple interest and compound interest is incorrect. All forms are prohibited, therefore, the commentators of the Noble Qur'an like Imaam Razi (RA), Imaam Abu Mas'ood (RA) have termed interest as absolutely unlawful and Haraam and they totally reject such misconceptions as compound interest is Haraam and simple interest is lawful.

Besides these clear verses of the Noble Qur'an, the Ahaadith also very explicitly state that interest is entirely forbidden. Hadhrat Abdullah bin Hanzala (RA) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, 'One Dirhma of interest, whosoever devours intentionally is worse than thirty six fornications.' (Abur-Razzack, Tibri)

The modern interpreters who have classified Interest into simple and compound interest are asked, 'One Dirham is interest or not?' If they termed it as interest, all their interpretations are invalidated. If they do not term it interest, they have openly rejected the Hadith and falsified the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam).

However, this Hadith makes apparent that though fornication is a major sin and completely against the conduct of Islam, interest eating is much worse, immaterial how little it is, even if it is equals to just one Dirham.

Furthermore, the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) mentioned in his sermon at the farewell pilgrimage (the last sermon). 'EVERY BLOOD OF IGNORANCE IS TRAMPLED UNDER MY FEET AND EVERY INTEREST IS TRAMPLED UNDER MY FEET'.

THE WORD 'Riba' is an indefinite noun which has a general meaning i.e. every kind of interest is abolished. This is exactly what is meant by the verse 'Allah permiteth trading and forbiddeth usury'.
The effort to legalise interest today is not a new one. The Noble Qur'an bears testimony that this was present even in the time of our Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). The Noble Qur'an states: 'That is because they say trade is like usury'. (Baqarah 275)

Their initial claim was 'usury is like trade' but they deliberately reversed the sentence to strengthen their claim. Their object was as follows: trading is generally accepted to be lawful. Loss and gain (profit) is permitted in trade. Interest is similar to trade. Therefore, why is profit and gain not permitted in interest?

Allah, most High exposes these distorts of this truth by quoting their own words and replying to them that they are destined for punishment for their distorted claims.

THE PROPAGATION OF INTEREST OR THE LEGISLATION OF INTEREST

The legalisation of interest will have detrimental results and effects on the entire society. Basically, the poor sink deeper into poverty and the wealthy hold a monopoly over the wealth. Divine power does not allow this monopoly for long, and eventually the poor will take revenge on the rich by means of what is termed today as a revolution. Therefore, Islam has totally and strictly forbidden interest and the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) preached its evil consequences in detail and practically eradicated it from his society. After him the Khalifas and Imaams of Islamic laws termed it absolutely Haraam without an atom of doubt.

Hadhrat Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) says, 'Eradicate all doubt the matter (Aayat) is conclusive and decisive.'

THE WARNING TO THOSE WHO EARN AND DEVOUR INTEREST

How severe is this warning in the Noble Qur'an against interest!
'Those who swallow usury cannot rise up save as he ariseth whom the Devil has portrayed by (his) touch' (Baqarah 275)

Hadhrat Abu Sa'eed Khudri (Radhiallaahu Anhu) while reporting the incident of Me'raaj has quoted many narrators who report that Hadhrat Ibn Abbaas (Radhiallaahu Anhuma) used to mention in the commentary of the abovementioned Aayat that their getting up from the graves in this state and being unable to stand will be a sign of the interest-eaters. They will be recognised by these very signs.

Tabraani reports on the authority of Hadhrat Auf bin Maalik (Radhiallaahu Anhu) that they will be crazy, insane and mad. Imaam Muslim (Radhiallaahu Anhu) reports on the authority of Hadhrath ibn Mas'ood (Radhiallaahu Anhu) and Imaam Bukhari (RA) reports on the authority of Hadhrat Abu Juhayfa (RA) that the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) has cursed both the giver and taker of interest.

The following verse is more threatening:
'As for him who returned (to usury) such are rightful owners of the fire. They will abide therein.'(Baqarah 275)

Finally, the most severest punishment, declared in the Qur'an, is mentioned for those who do not abstain from interest.

AND IF YOU DO NOT, THEN BE WARNED OF WAR (AGAINST YOU) FROM ALLAH AND HIS MESSENGER (Baqarah 279)

This announcement will remain in force till the day of Judgement for those who engage in interest bearing deals.

By Moulana Haroon Abbaasomar
President: Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)