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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Prohibition of Riba in Quran

Historical Analysis of the Verses of Riba

Surah Ar-Rum

“And whatever riba you give so that it may increase in the wealth of the people, it does not increase with Allah.” [Ar-Rum 30:39]

First of these verses is a part of Surah Ar-Rum which was undisputedly revealed in Makkah. This verse is not of prohibitive nature. It simply says that the riba does not increase with Allah i.e. it carries no reward in the Hereafter.

Many commentators of the Holy Qur’an are of the opinion that the word riba in this verse does not refer to usury or interest. Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (D310 AH), the most famous exegete of the Holy Qur’an, reports from Ibn Abbas, Radi-Allahu anhu, and several Tabi’in like Saeed Ibn Jubair, Mujahid, Tawoos, Qatadah, Zahhak, and Ibrahim Al-Nakha’i that the word riba in this verse means a gift offered by someone to a person with the intention that the latter will give him in return a greater gift.

However, some commentators of the Holy Qur’an have taken this word to mean usury. This view is attributed to Hasan Al-Basri as reported by Ibn Al-Jawzi. If the word riba used in this verse is taken to mean usury according to this view, which seems more probable, because the word of ‘riba‘ used in other places carries the same meaning, there is no specific prohibition against it in the verse. The most it has emphasized is that riba does not carry a reward from Allah in the Hereafter. Therefore, this verse does not contain a prohibition against riba. However, it may be taken as a subtle indication to the fact that the practice is not favored by Allah.

Surah An-Nisaa

“And because of their charging riba while they were prohibited from it.” [An-Nisaa 4:161]

The second verse is of Surah al-Nisaa where, while listing the evil deeds of Jews, it is mentioned that they used to take riba which was prohibited for them. The exact time of this verse is very difficult to ascertain. The commentators are mostly silent on this point, but the context in which the verse was revealed suggests that it would have been revealed before the 4th year of Hijra. Verse 153 of the Surah Al-Nisaa is as follows:

“The People of the Book ask you to bring down upon them a Book from the heaven.” [An-Nisaa 4:153]

This verse implies that all the forthcoming verses were revealed in answer to the argumentation of the Jews who came to the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and asked him to bring down a Book from the heavens like the one given to the Prophet Musa (Moses), alayhi salam. It means that this series of verses was revealed at a time when Jews were abundantly present in Madina and were in a position to argue with the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Since most of the Jews had left Madinah after 4th year from Hijra, this verse seems to have been revealed before that.

Here the word riba undoubtedly refers to usury because it was really prohibited for the Jews. This prohibition is still contained in the Old Testament of the Bible. But it cannot be taken as a direct and explicit prohibition of riba for the Muslims. It simply mentions that riba was prohibited for the Jews but they did not comply with the prohibition in their practical lives. The inference, though, would be that it was a sinful act for the Muslims also, otherwise they had no occasion to blame the Jews for the practice.

Surah Al-i-’Imran

“O those who believe do not eat up riba doubled and redoubled.” [Al-i-'Imran 3:130]

The third verse is of Surah Al-i-’Imran which is estimated to have been revealed sometime in the 2nd year after Hijra, because the context of the preceding and succeeding verses refers to the battle of Uhud which took place in the 2nd year after Hijra.

This verse contains a clear prohibition for the Muslims and it can safely be said that it is the first verse of the Holy Qur’an through which the practice of riba was forbidden for the Muslims in express terms. That is why Hafidh Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, the most famous commentator of Sahih Al-Bukhari, has opined that the prohibition of riba was declared sometime around the battle of Uhud.

Some commentators have also pointed out the reason why this verse was revealed in the context of the battle of Uhud. They say that the invaders of Makkah had financed their army by taking usurious loans and had in this way arranged a lot of arms against Muslims. It was apprehended that it may induce the Muslims to arrange for arms on the same pattern by taking usurious loans from the people. In order to prevent them from this approach the verse was revealed containing a clear-cut prohibition of riba.

That the prohibition of riba had been imposed sometime around the battle of Uhud finds further support from an event reported by Abu Dawood in his As-Sunan from the noble companion, Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu anhu.

The report says that Amr ibn Aqyash was a person who had advanced some loans on the basis of interest. He was inclined to embrace Islam but was reluctant to do so on the apprehension that after embracing Islam he would lose the amount of interest and therefore he delayed accepting Islam.

In the meantime the battle of Uhud broke up whereby he decided not to delay embracing Islam and came to the battlefield, started fighting on behalf of Muslims and achieved the rank of a Shaheed (martyr) in the same battle.

This tradition clearly shows that riba was prohibited before the battle of Uhud and it was the basic cause for the reluctance of Amr ibn Aqyash to embrace Islam.

Surah Al-Baqarah

“Those who take interest will not stand but as stands whom the demon has driven crazy by his touch. That is because they have said: ‘Trading is but like riba‘. And Allah has permitted trading and prohibited riba. So, whoever receives an advice from his Lord and stops, he is allowed what has passed, and his matter is up to Allah. And the ones who revert back, those are the people of Fire. There they remain for ever.

Allah destroys riba and nourishes charities. And Allah does not like any sinful disbeliever. Surely those who believe and do good deeds, establish Salah and pay Zakah, have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

O those who believe, fear Allah and give up what still remains of the riba if you are believers. But if you do not, then listen to the declaration of war from Allah and His Messenger. And if you repent, yours is your principal. Neither you wrong, nor be wronged. And if there be one in misery, then deferment till ease. And that you leave it as alms is far better for you, if you really know. And be fearful of a day when you shall be returned to Allah, then everybody shall be paid, in full, what he has earned. And they shall not be wronged.” [Al-Baqarah 2:275-281]

The fourth set of verses is contained in Surah Al-Baqarah where the severity of the prohibition of riba has been elaborated in detail.

The background of the revelation of these verses is that after the conquest of Makkah, the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, had declared as void all the amounts of riba that were due at that time. The declaration embodied that nobody could claim any interest on any loan advanced by him.

Then the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, proceeded to Taif which could not be conquered, but later on the inhabitants of Taif who belonged mostly to the tribe of Thaqif came to him and after embracing Islam surrendered to the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and entered into a treaty with him.

One of the proposed clauses of treaty was that Banu Thaqif will not forego the amounts of interest due on their debtors but their creditors will forego the amount of interest. The Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, instead of signing that treaty simply wrote a sentence on the proposed draft that Banu Thaqif will have the same rights as the Muslims have.

Banu Thaqif having the impression that their proposed treaty was accepted by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, claimed the amount of interest from Banu Amr Ibn-al-Mughirah, but they declined to pay interest on the ground that riba was prohibited after Islam.

The matter was placed before Attaab ibn Aseed, Radi-Allahu anhu, the governor of Makkah. Banu Thaqif argued that according to the treaty they are not bound to forego the amounts of interest. Attaab ibn Aseed, Radi-Allahu anhu, placed the matter before the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, on which the following verses of Surah Al-Baqarah were revealed:

“O those who believe, fear Allah and give up what still remains of the riba if you are believers. But if you do not, then listen to the declaration of war from Allah and His Messenger. And if you repent, yours is your principal. Neither you wrong, nor be wronged.” [Al-Baqarah 2:278-279]

At that point of time Banu Thaqif surrendered and said we have no power to wage war against Allah and His Messenger.

Source: The Text of the Historic Judgement on Interest – Given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan

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