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Our Economic Policy: Spending, Charity, and Interest Free

08 Dec 2018
Our Economic Policy: Spending, Charity, and Interest Free

Following are the Quranic Principles of spending, charity, and interest-free economy. These are the God-given principles. We strongly believe that if Canada chooses this economic system, the economy of our nation will flourish, and we will never get depression and face an economic crisis. Currently, there is not a single state (including all so-called Muslims’ states) in the world implementing this system of economy. Almost all the states are economically enslaved of capitalism and interest-based economy. This article provides insights into the benefit of the Quranic/Islamic system of economy and permanent cure of economic misery.

(Qur’an: 51:19) and in their wealth, there was a rightful share for him who would ask and for the destitute.1

1. In other words, on the one hand, they recognized the right of their Lord and duly discharged it; on the other hand, they did not think that whatever Allah had given them, whether little or much, was wholly their own and their children’s right, but they had the sense that in their possessions there was the right and share of every such person who was indigent and needy. They did not render help to the people as a charity to earn their gratitude for the favor done, but they regarded it as the people’s right and discharged it as their duty. Then their this service to mankind was not only confined to those who came to them for seeking help as beggars but anyone about whom they came to know that he had been left destitute, they would become anxious to render him necessary help of their own accord. There was no orphan who might have been left helpless, no widow who might have had no breadwinner, no disabled person who might be unable to earn a living, no one who might have lost his job, or whose taming might not be sufficing his needs, nobody who might have been hit by a calamity and might be unable to compensate for the loss by himself. In short, there was no needy one whose condition they might have known and yet might have withheld their help when they could have rendered him necessary help and support.

The following are the three qualities on the basis of which Allah regards them as the righteous doers of good, and says that these very qualities have made them worthy of Paradise: (a) That they believed in the Hereafter and refrained from every act and conduct which Allah and His Messenger had stated to be disastrous for the life-after-death. (b) That they executed their utmost to do full justice to the service of Allah and still sought Allah’s forgiveness instead of exulting at their acts of piety. (c) That they served Allah’s servants not as a favor to them but as their duty and their right due from them.

Here, one should also know and understand another thing; The right of the needy ones that have been mentioned here in the wealth of the believers does not imply the zakat (mandatory annual 2.5 % charity on savings), which has been imposed as a religious duty on them. But this is the right that a well-to-do believer himself feels there is in his possessions of the needy even after he has paid off the zakat, and he discharges it willingly even if it has not been made obligatory by the Shariah (Islamic law, rulings, and principles).

Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Zaid bin Aslam and other scholars have understood this very meaning of this verse. In fact, the real spirit of this divine command is that a pious and virtuous person is never involved in the misunderstanding that he has become relieved of his duty of discharging the right of Allah and His servants that there was in his possessions after he has paid the zakat, and now he is not bound to help every needy and destitute person whom he comes across. Contrary to this, every servant of Allah, who is really pious and righteous, remains ever ready to do whatever good he can do willingly, does not let slip any opportunity when he could do some good to the people in the world. He is not of the way of thinking that he has done whatever good he had been enjoined to do and now no more good is required to be done by him. The one who has recognized the true value of goodness does not perform it as a burden but tries to earn more and more of it, greedily as a bargain to his own advantage, in his own interest.

(Qur’an: 2:219) They ask: And they ask you what they should spend. Say, "The excess [beyond needs]." Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought.

 (Qur’an: 2:261) The example of those2 who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah3 is like that of a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears, and in every ear, there are a hundred grains. Thus Allah multiplies the action of whomsoever He wills. Allah is Munificent, All-Knowing.4

2. Believers were urged to sacrifice life and property for the sake of the great cause in which they believed. It is difficult, however, to persuade those whose standard of judgment in respect of economic matters has not completely changed, to rise above either personal or narrow group interests and dispense their wealth wholeheartedly for the sake of a righteous cause. People who have a materialistic outlook and whose life constitutes an uninterrupted pursuit of money, who adore every single penny they have, and who can never stop thinking about their balance sheets can never have the capacity to do anything really effective for the sake of higher ideals. When such people do spend money for the sake of higher moral ideals, it is merely an outward act which is performed after carefully calculating the material benefits which are likely to accrue either to them, to their group or to their nation. With this outlook, a person cannot go one step forward along the path of that deen (system of life) which requires a man to become indifferent to considerations of worldly profit and loss, and constantly to spend time, energy and money to make the Word of God reign supreme. 

To follow such a course requires a moral outlook of an altogether different kind; it requires a breadth of vision and magnanimity and, above all, exclusive devotion to God. At the same time, it requires that man's collective life should be so re-molded as to become conducive to the growth of the moral qualities mentioned above rather than to the growth of a materialistic outlook and behavior. Hence the three succeeding sections, i.e. verses 261-81 are devoted to enunciating instructions designed to foster such an outlook.

3. A great many expenditures fall under the category of spending 'in the way of Allah,' as long as this is done according to the laws of God and with the intention of seeking His good pleasure. This includes spending one's wealth to fulfill one's legitimate needs, to provide for one's family, to look after the needs of relatives, to help the needy and to contribute to the general welfare and to spread the true deen and so on.

4. The greater the sincerity and the more intense the feeling with which one spends for the sake of God, the greater will be God's reward. It is not difficult at all for God, Who blesses a grain so that out of it seven hundred grains grow, to allow one's charity to grow in like manner so that the unit of money one spends will return seven hundredfold. This statement is followed by a mention of two of God's attributes. First is His munificence. His Hand is not clenched to restrain Him from recompensing man for his deeds to the fullest extent that he deserves. Second, God is All-Knowing. He is not unaware of what one spends and the spirit in which one spends. So there is no reason to fear that one will not receive one's due reward.

(Qur’an: 2:262) Those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah and do not follow up their spending by stressing their benevolence and causing hurt will find their reward secure with their Lord. They have no cause for fear and grief.5

 5.  They need not fear that they will not be amply rewarded or that they will have any reason to feel remorse for spending in the way of God.

 (Qur’an: 2:263) To speak a kind word and to forgive people’s faults is better than charity followed by hurt. Allah is All-Sufficient, All-Forbearing.6

6. This implies two things. First, Allah does not stand in need of anybody's charity, for He is Self-Sufficient. Secondly, He likes those people who are generous and large-hearted but does not like frivolous and narrow-minded people, for He is Generous, Clement and Forbearing. How, then Allah, Who bestows on the people the necessities of life without stint, and forgives and pardons them over and over again in spite of their errors, would like those who mar the self-respect of a person by sending repeated reminders of their charity and making pointed references to it even though they might have given only a farthing. A Tradition of the Holy Prophetﷺ says that on the Day of Resurrection, Allah will neither speak a word nor even so much as look at a person who makes pointed references to the gift he gave to someone.

 (Qur’an: 2:264) Believers! Do not nullify your acts of charity by stressing your benevolence and causing hurt as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen by people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day.7 The example of his spending is that of a rock with a thin coating of earth upon it: when a heavy rain smites it, the earth is washed away, leaving the rock bare;8 such people derive no gain from their acts of charity. Allah does not set the deniers of the Truth on the Right Way.9

7. The desire to display one's good deeds itself proves that the person concerned does not truly believe in God and the Hereafter. One who does good merely to impress people with his righteousness clearly regards those persons as his god. Such a person neither expects a reward from God nor is he concerned that his good deeds will someday be reckoned to his credit.

8. In this parable, 'heavy rain' signifies charity, and 'rock' the wicked intent and motive which lie behind external acts of charity. The expression, 'with a thin coating of earth upon it' signifies the external aspect of charity which conceals the wicked intent and motive of a man. These explanations make the significance and purport of the parable clear. The natural effect of rainfall should be the growth of plants and harvest. But if the earth, which is the repository of fertility, is insignificant in quantity, for example only a coating of it on some rock, the result will be that instead of yielding any beneficial result the rainfall may even prove harmful. Similarly, the charity has the capacity to generate goodness and benevolence in human beings. Man's potential for goodness, however, is conditional on sincerity. Devoid of that charity leads to sheer loss and waste.

9. Here the term kafir is used in the sense of the ungrateful person who refuses to acknowledge benevolence. People who either make use of the bounties of God to seek the gratitude of God's creatures rather than God's good pleasure, or who spend on others and then hurt them by stressing their acts of benevolence and kindness, are ungrateful to God for His bounties and favors. Since such people do not seek to please God, God does not care to direct them to the way that leads to His good pleasure.

(Qur’an: 2:265) The example of those who spend their wealth single-mindedly to please Allah is that of a garden on high ground. If a heavy rain smites it, it brings forth its fruits twofold, and if there is no heavy rain, even a light shower suffices it.10 Allah sees all that you do.

10. 'Heavy rain' signifies here charity motivated by a high degree of benevolence and sincerity. 'Light shower' refers to charity deficient in sincerity and goodness, though not altogether devoid of them.

 (Qur’an: 2:266) Would any of you desire that he should have a garden of palms and vines with rivers flowing beneath it – a garden in which he has every manner of fruit – and that it should then be struck by a fiery whirlwind and be utterly burnt down at a time when old age has overtaken him, and his offspring are still too small to look after their affairs?11 Thus does Allah make His teachings clear to you that you may reflect.

11. It is obvious that a man does not like to see the earnings of his lifetime destroyed in his old age, when he needs them badly and when he can no longer earn. How is it, then, that he can contemplate stepping into the realm of the Hereafter and finding suddenly that he is empty-handed; that he has sown nothing from which he can reap the fruit? In the Next world there will be no opportunity to begin earning anew. Whatever one can do towards ensuring one's well-being in the Hereafter must be done in this world. If one devotes oneself totally to the pursuit of the riches of this world rather than to the Hereafter, one's situation will be as pitiable as that of the age-stricken man whose orchard (his source of income in his old age) is reduced to ashes too late for him to produce a new one.

(Qur’an: 2:267) Believers! Spend (in the Way of Allah) out of the good things you have earned and out of what We have produced for you from the earth, and choose not for your spending the bad things such as you yourselves would not accept or accept only by overlooking its defects. Know well that Allah is All-Munificent, Most Praiseworthy.12

12. It is obvious that He Who is invested with the best attributes cannot be appreciative of those possessed of low and evil qualities. God is, for instance, Generous and Beneficent, and constantly showers His favors and bounties on His creatures. How is it possible for Him, then, to love those who are mean, and vicious?

 (Qur’an: 2:268) Satan frightens you with poverty and bids you to commit indecency whereas Allah promises you His forgiveness and bounty. Allah is Munificent, All-Knowing.

(Qur’an: 2:269) He grants wisdom to those whom He wills, and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted much good.13 Yet none except people of understanding take heed.

13. 'Wisdom' signifies sound perception and sound judgment. The purpose of this statement is to point out that one who possesses of wisdom will follow God's path rather than that of Satan. The followers of Satan believe that it is the height of wisdom and shrewdness to be constantly concerned with saving out of one's earnings and to be perpetually on the look-out for higher income. But for those endowed with Divine perception, such an attitude is sheer folly. True wisdom consists in using one's resource moderately to meet one's needs and in spending whatever is left over for charitable purposes. It may be possible for a person who does not spend on charitable purposes to attain a much greater degree of worldly prosperity than others. The life of this world, however, is only a fraction of man's total life which is not limited to the confines of this world. One who risks the well-being of his eternal existence for the sake of highly transient well-being in this world is indeed a fool. The truly wise person is he who makes full use of the tenure of this life and invests his resources in prosperity in this life that will never cease.

 (Qur’an: 2:270) Allah knows whatever you spend or whatever you vow (to spend). The wrong-doers have none to succor them.14

14. Whether or not a man spends in the way of God, and whether or not he vows to spend in the way of God, God is fully aware both of his intentions and deeds. All those who either spend for the sake of God or vow to spend for the sake of God will be adequately rewarded. As for those who have either spent or have vowed to spend for others than God, no one will save them from God's chastisement. 

'Vow' means either a man's pledge to spend something or to perform some act of goodness which is not obligatory on him providing a particular wish of his is fulfilled. Provided that this vow is related to some wish which is in itself permissible and good and that the person concerned makes it to none but God and for the sake of God, then such a vow will be reckoned as an act of obedience to God and its fulfillment will be worthy of reward. Otherwise, such a vow will be seen as an act of disobedience and sin and its fulfillment will invite punishment from God.

(Qur’an: 2:271) If you dispense your charity publicly, it is well; but if you conceal it and pay it to the needy in secret, it will be even better for you.15This will atone for several of your misdeeds.16 Allah is well aware of all that you do.

15. Charity is of an obligatory nature, it is preferable to dispense it openly. Non-obligatory charity should preferably be dispensed secretly. This principle applies to all acts. As a rule, it is more meritorious to perform obligatory acts openly and non-obligatory acts of goodness, secretly.

16. The performance of good deeds in secret leads to the continual improvement of one's life and character. One's good qualities develop fully, and one's bad qualities gradually wither away. This makes a man so acceptable to God that He pardons the sins that he might have committed.

(Qur’an: 2:272) You are not responsible for setting these people on the Right Way; Allah sets on the Right Way whomsoever He wills. Whatever wealth you spend in charity is to your own benefit for you spend merely to please Allah. So, whatever you spend in charity will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.17

17. In the beginning, Muslims tended to hesitate in helping either their non-Muslim relatives or other non-Muslims who were in need. They thought that helping Muslims only constituted 'spending in the way of Allah'. This verse rejects this attitude. The purpose of this verse is to point out that Muslims are not responsible for forcing true guidance down the throats of people; conveying the message of Truth to people absolves them of the obligation incumbent upon them. It is, then, for God either to favor the recipients of the message with true perception or not.

Also Muslims should not shrink from helping their relatives in the affairs of the world on the ground that they are not following the true guidance; God will reward them for whatever help they render to needy persons for the sake of God.

(Qur’an: 2:273) Those needy ones who are wholly wrapped up in the cause of Allah, and who are hindered from moving about the earth in search of their livelihood, especially deserve help. He who is unaware of their circumstances supposes them to be wealthy because of their dignified bearing, but you will know them by their countenance, although they do not go about begging of people with importunity. Whatever wealth you spend on helping them, Allah will know of it.18

18. The people referred to here are those who, because they had dedicated themselves wholly to serving the religion of God, were unable to earn their livelihood. In the time of the Prophet, there was a group of such volunteer workers, known as Ashab al-Suffah, consisting of about three or four hundred people who had forsaken their homes and gone to Madina. They remained at all times in the company, of the Prophet, always at his beck and call to perform whatever service he required of them. They were dispatched by the Prophet on whatever expeditions he wished. Whenever there was nothing to do elsewhere, they stayed in Madina and devoted themselves to acquiring religious knowledge and imparting it to others. Since they were full-time workers and had no private resources to meet their needs, God pointed out to the Muslims that helping such people was the best way of 'spending in the way of Allah.'

(Qur’an: 2:274) Those who spend their wealth by night and by day, secretly and publicly, will find that their reward is secure with their Lord and that there is no reason for them to entertain any fear or grief.

(Qur’an: 2:275) As for those who devour interest,19 they behave like the one whom Satan has confounded with his touch.20 Seized in this state they say: “Buying and selling is but a kind of interest, ”21 even though Allah has made buying and selling lawful, and interest unlawful.22 Hence, he who receives this admonition from his Lord, and then gives up (dealing in interest), may keep his previous gains, and it will be for Allah to judge him.23 As for those who revert to it, they are the people of the Fire, and in it shall they abide.

19. The term riba (used in Qur’an) in Arabic means 'to grow, to exceed, to increase'. Technically, it denotes the amount that a lender receives from a borrower at a fixed rate of interest. At the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, several forms of interest transactions were in vogue and were designated as riba by the Arabs. Of this one was that the vendor sold an article and fixed a time limit for the payment of the price, stipulating that if the buyer failed to pay within the specified period, he would extend the time limit but increase the price of the article. Another was that a man loaned a sum of money to another person and stipulated that the borrower should return a specified amount more than the amount loaned within a given time limit. The third form of interest transaction was that the borrower and vendor agreed that the former would repay the loan within a certain limit at a fixed rate of interest and that if he failed to do so within the limit, the lender would extend the time limit, but at the same time would increase the rate of interest. It is to transactions such as these that the injunctions mentioned here apply.

20. The Arabs used the word majnun (possessed by the jinn) to characterize the insane. The Qur'an uses the same expression about those who take interest. Just as an insane person, unconstrained by ordinary reason, resorts to all kinds of immoderate acts, so does one who takes interest. He pursues his craze for money as if he were insane. He is heedless of the fact that interest cuts the very roots of human love, brotherhood, and fellow-feeling, and undermines the welfare and happiness of human society, and that his enrichment is at the expense of the well-being of many other human beings. This is the state of his 'insanity' in this world: since a man will rise in the Hereafter in the same state in which he dies in the present world, he will be resurrected as a lunatic.

21. The unsoundness of this view lies in not differentiating between the profit one gains on investment in commercial enterprises on the one hand and interest on the other. As a result of this confusion, the proponents of this view argue that if the profit on money invested in a business enterprise is permissible, why should the profit accruing on loaned money be deemed unlawful? Similar arguments are advanced by those who thrive on interest in our times. Their argument runs as follows: A person who could have profitably invested his money in commercial enterprise loans it out to somebody who, in turn, makes a profit out of it. In such circumstances why should the borrower not pay the lender a part of the profit? Such people, however, disregard the fact that no enterprise in which a man participates, whether it is commercial, industrial or agricultural, and whether one participates in it with one's organizing skill or capital, or by both, is immune from risk. No enterprise carries absolutely guaranteed profit at a fixed rate. What is the justification, then, for the fact that out of all the people in the business world, the financier alone should be considered entitled to a profit at a fixed rate in all circumstances, and should be protected against all possibility of loss? 

Let us set aside for a moment the questions of non-profitable loans and vacillations in the rate of profit. Let us consider only the question of loans for profitable enterprises, and confine our consideration to loans made at non-exorbitant rates of interest. The question, however, remains: Which rational principle, which logic, which canon of justice and which sound economic principle can justify that those who spend their time, energy, capacity and resources, and whose effort and skill make a business thrive, are not guaranteed profit at any fixed rate, whereas those who merely lend out their funds are fully secured against all risks of loss and are guaranteed profit at a fixed rate? And which principle can justify the fact that a man lends out his funds to an industrial concern and fixes, say for the next twenty years, that he will be entitled to receive each year a given percent interest on his capital, while the proprietors of the industrial concern have no means of foretelling the price changes affecting their commodity, and hence their profit? Let us consider another case, namely that of war loans. How can it be appropriate that all classes of people endure all kinds of losses and are exposed to all kinds of risks and dangers connected with war, whereas the financiers, simply by having made loans, continue to receive Interest on them for long periods, sometimes even for a whole century?

22. The essential difference between non-interest business transactions and interest-bearing transactions rests on the following grounds: 

(1) In ordinary business transactions there occurs a mutually equitable exchange of benefits between the buyer and the seller. The buyer derives benefit from the article which he purchases from the seller; the seller receives compensation for the effort, ingenuity and time spent on making the article available to the buyer. In interest-bearing transactions, on the other hand, the exchange of benefits does not take place equitably. The interest receiving party receives a fixed amount as a payment for using the loan he advances and thus his gain is secured. The other party to the transaction has only one thing at his disposal - a period of time during which he can make use of the funds loaned, and which may not always yield a profit. If such a person spends the borrowed funds on consumption, there is obviously no question of profit. Even if the funds are invested in trade, agriculture or industry, one stands a chance both of making a profit and of incurring a loss during the period of time in question. Hence an interest-bearing transaction entails either a loss on one side and a profit on the other, or an assured and fixed profit on one side and an uncertain and unspecified profit on the other. 

(2) In business enterprises, the profit that a person makes, however large it may be, is made only once. The person who lends out money on interest receives, on the contrary, an on-going profit which multiplies with time. Moreover, however large the extent of the profit made by the borrower from the loaned money it will still be within certain limits, while the claims of the lender in return for this profit are unlimited. It is even possible that the lender may seize the entire turnover of the borrower if he defaults on payment, thus depriving him of all the resources from which he makes his living. It is also possible that even after the lender has seized all the property of the borrower, his claims will remain unsatisfied. 

(3) In a business deal, the transaction ends with the exchange between a commodity and its price. After this exchange has taken place, no obligation remains on either party towards the other. If the transaction is that of rent, the thing rented (e.g., land or building) is not consumed but is rather used and remains intact, and is returned to the owner after a stipulated period of time. In a transaction involving interest, however, what actually happens is that the borrower first spends the loaned funds, then reclaims them with his efforts, returning them to the lender together with a surplus. 

(4) In agriculture and industry, and trade and commerce, one makes a profit after having expended one's effort, intelligence and time. In an interest-bearing transaction, on the contrary, one becomes entitled to a sizeable share in the earnings of others without any toil and effort, by merely allowing someone to make use of one's surplus money. The lender is neither a 'partner' in the technical sense of the term, for he does not share both the profit and the loss, nor is his share in proportion to the actual profit. 

There is thus a tremendous difference from an economic point of view between business transactions as such, and interest-bearing transactions. Whereas the former plays a highly constructive role in human society, the latter leads to its corrosion. This is in addition to its moral implications. By its very nature interest breeds meanness, selfishness, apathy, and cruelty towards others. It leads to the worship of money and destroys fellow-feeling and a spirit of altruistic co-operation between man and man. Thus it is ruinous for mankind from both an economic and a moral viewpoint.

23. What is said here is not that man will be pardoned by God for the interest taken in the past, but that it is for God to judge him. The expression: 'may keep his previous gains' does not signify absolute pardon from God for the loan has taken, rather it points to the legal concession that has been made. It only means that no legal claim will be made for the interest taken in the past. For were such claims to be entertained, an endless succession of litigation would ensue. From a moral point of view, however, the earnings made by way of interest would continue to be impure. If a person is really God-fearing and if his economic and moral viewpoint has really undergone a change under the influence of Islam, he will try to abstain from spending on himself the income which he has obtained by illegitimate means. He will also try to seek out those from whom he has derived illegitimate earnings and will try to return those earnings to such people; if he is unable to locate them, he will try to spend them on collective welfare rather than on himself. It is this conduct alone which can save him from the punishment of God. As for one who continues to enjoy his illegitimate earnings, it is not unlikely that he will be subjected to God's punishment.

(Qur’an: 2:276) Allah deprives interest of all blessing, whereas He blesses charity with growth.24 Allah loves none who is ungrateful and persists in sin.25

24. The fact stated in this verse is a truism from a moral and spiritual as well as from an economic and social viewpoint. For, although wealth apparently multiplies through interest and shrinks as a result of charity, in fact, the opposite is the case. By God's decree, the law of nature is such that interest not only serves as a strain on moral and spiritual well-being, and social and economic growth, it also causes actual regression and decline. Charity, however, (including such acts as lending money to people with the stipulation that they should return it if they can. and at their convenience) leads to the growth and expansion of man's moral and spiritual qualities and the growth of human society and economy. 

Looked at from moral and spiritual standpoints, it is evident that interest is not only the outcome of selfishness, miserliness, and callousness but also encourages their growth. Charity, on the other hand, is the outcome of generosity, compassion, large -heartedness and magnanimity, with the result that the more one practices charity, the more these qualities develop. It is obvious that if there is a society whose individuals are selfish in their dealings with one another, in which none is prepared to assist the other without self-interest, in which every person considers the other's need an opportunity to capitalize and exploit, in which the interests of the rich are directly opposed to the interests of the common people, that society does not rest on stable foundations. In such a society, instead of love and compassion, there is bound to grow mutual spite and bitterness, apathy, indifference and callousness. The elements which compose such a society are bound to remain inclined towards disintegration and chaos; acute internal conflict and strife are sure to occur. 

Contrast this with the society which is based on mutual sympathy and co-operation, whose individuals deal with one another magnanimously, in which, when a person is in need, people

willingly come forward to accord generous help, in which the 'haves' assist the 'have-nots' with compassion and at least engage in just and equitable co-operation. In such a society mutual cordiality, goodwill, and fellow-feeling are bound to flourish. The various components of such a society will be closely knit together and prove a source of mutual support. In such a society internal conflict and strife will make few inroads. Also, owing to mutual co-operation and goodwill the pace of development should be faster than in the other kind of society. 

Let us now look at the matter from an economic viewpoint, from which interest-bearing loans are seen to be of two kinds. The first category consists of loans incurred by people in genuine need, who are compelled to borrow for their personal consumption requirements — the second consists of the loans incurred by businessmen for investment in trade and industry or agriculture. 

The first category is generally acknowledged to lead to ruin. Nevertheless, there is not one country in the world where financiers and financial institutions are not sucking the blood of poor labourers, peasants, and ordinary low-income people through interest on consumption loans. The burden of interest makes it extremely difficult, often impossible, for borrowers to pay off the original loan. They may even have to resort to fresh borrowing from elsewhere to pay it off. Because of the way interest works, the sum outstanding against them often remains even after they, have paid twice or three times its amount in interest. The bulk of the income of workers is snatched away from them by lenders, leaving them without enough for the bare necessities of life for themselves and their families. This situation steadily erodes their interest in their jobs. For if someone else is to reap the benefit of a man's hard work, why should he work hard at all? Moreover, oppressed by the worries of debt, the health and strength of workers are gradually destroyed by undernourishment and lack of medical treatment. 

In short, a minority of people continually fatten themselves by sucking the blood of millions of ordinary people, but the total production level of the people remains much lower than its optimum potential. Ultimately, of course, these exploiters are seldom spared the evil consequences of their actions. Their callous selfishness causes such widespread misery among the masses that anger and resentment against the rich smolder in their hearts ready to erupt in times of revolutionary unrest. The exploiters then have to pay very dearly: their ill-earned riches are not only wrested from them, but they are also either killed mercilessly or subjected to ignominy and humiliation. 

The second category of loans, those invested in productive enterprises, also cause harm because of the infliction of a predetermined rate of interest on such borrowings. The most significant are the following: 

(a ) Projects which do not promise a higher rate of profit than the current rate of interest to fail to attract sufficient funds, no matter how useful and necessary they may be from the viewpoint of larger national interests. Loanable funds flow towards those business enterprises which are likely to yield at least the same, if not a higher rate of profit on investments than the current rate of interest, even though they may be of very little or no benefit to the nation at large. 

(b) There can be no guarantee that business investment, whether it is in trade, industry or agriculture, will always yield a rate of profit which is higher than the rate of interest. Not only can there be no such assurance, but there also can never be an assurance about any business that it will always remain profitable. What really happens, therefore, is that the financier is assured interest at a predetermined rate whereas the business in which the loan is invested is exposed to risk and possible losses. 

(3) Since the lender does not share the profit and loss of the business but lends out funds on the assurance of a fixed rate of interest, he is in no way concerned with the fortunes of the business itself. He is solely concerned, and in a totally selfish spirit, with his own pecuniary benefit. Hence, whenever the lender senses the faintest sign of depression, he begins to withdraw money from the market. The result is that sometimes imaginary fears and anxieties spark off an actual depression in the economy. And if the economy is depressed owing to other factors, the excessive selfishness of the financiers tends to escalate the situation into a full-scale economic crisis. These three evils of interest are obvious to every student of economics. Can anyone then deny the truth of the Natural law, enunciated by Allah that interest decreases the national economic wealth? 

Let us now look at the economic effects of charity. Suppose the general attitude of the prosperous members of society, is that within the limits of their means they spend generously on the fulfillment of their requirements and the requirements of their family, and then devote the surplus to helping the poor. After that, they, either use their funds to provide interest-free loans to businesspeople, invest them in business with the stipulation that they shall be co-sharers in both the profit and loss of the business or deposit them with the government so that it may use them on projects of public welfare. A little reflection will make it obvious that trade, industry, and agriculture in such a society, will attain maximum prosperity; the standard of living of its people will continually rise, and production in it will be much higher than in societies where economic activity is fettered by interest.

25. It is clear that only those who have a surplus of earnings over their basic requirements can lend out money at interest. This surplus, according to the Qur'an, constitutes God's bounty. And true thankfulness for this bounty requires that a person should be bountiful towards other creatures of God even as the Creator has been to him. If instead of doing this, the person tries to become richer at the expense of those whose present earnings are insufficient to meet their needs, he is at once guilty of ungratefulness to God, and blatantly unjust, cruel and wicked.

(Qur’an: 2:277) Truly the reward of those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish Prayer and pay Zakah is with their Lord; they have no reason to entertain any fear or grief.26

26. In this section, God brings into sharp relief two contrasting characters. One is selfish, Mammon-worshipping, a kind of Shylock. He is preoccupied with making and accumulating money in total disregard of his obligations to God and his fellow-beings. He counts the money he has saved and is so consumed by the desire to see it multiply that he spends much time estimating how much it will grow in the weeks, months and years to come. The other character is a God-worshipping, generous and compassionate person, ever conscious of the claims of both God and man, ready to spend whatever he earns by the sweat of his brow on himself as well as on other human beings, and devotes a good part of it to philanthropic purposes. 

The first character is strongly denounced by God. No healthy society can exist on the basis of such people, and in the Hereafter, too, they are destined to meet grief and affliction, torment and misery. The latter, by contrast, is a character highly extolled by God, a character which will serve as the basis of a sound and healthy society in this world and will lead man to salvation in the Next.

 (Qur’an: 2:278) Believers! Have fear of Allah and give up all outstanding interest if you do truly believe.

  (Qur’an: 2:279) But if you fail to do so, then be warned of war from Allah and His Messenger.27 If you repent even now, you have the right of the return of your capital; neither will you do wrong nor will you be wronged.

27. This verse was revealed after the conquest of Makka and has been placed here because of its contextual relevance. Although interest was considered objectionable earlier, it had not been legally prohibited. After the revelation of this verse interest-bearing transactions became a punishable offense within the realm of Islam. The Prophet (peace be on him) warned the Arab tribes through his officials that war would be declared against them if they did not give up interest-bearing transactions. It was specified, for instance, in the agreement under which the Christians of Najran were granted internal autonomy under the suzerainty of the Islamic governance, that if they continued to use interest, the agreement with them would be considered void and their action an act of belligerency.

 (Qur’an: 2:280) But if the debtor is in straitened circumstance, let him have respite until the time of ease; and whatever you remit by way of charity is better for you, if only you know.28

28. This verse is the basis of the Islamic regulation that if a person has become incapable of paying off his debt, the court will force the creditors to grant him respite for payment. In fact, under certain circumstances, the court is entitled to remit a part of his debt and, at times, the whole of it. It is mentioned in the Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammadﷺ) that once a person suffered a loss in his trade and became greatly burdened with debt and the case was brought to the notice of the Prophet. The Prophet urged the people to help their brother in his distress. They came to his assistance, but the amount of help was not enough to wipe out his debts. Then the Prophet approached the lenders and asked them to accept whatever amount was available and to grant remission to the borrower because of his inability to make further payments. Muslim jurists have made it clear that a debtor's residential house, eating utensils, clothes and the tools which he uses for earning his livelihood may not be confiscated in any, circumstances whatsoever for non-payment of loans. (For relevant discussion and textual evidence see the commentaries on this verse in Ibn Kathir, Jassas, and Qurtubi - Ed.)

 (Qur’an: 2:281) And have fear of the Day when you shall return to Allah, and every human being shall be fully repaid for whatever (good or evil) he has done, and none shall be wronged.

Source:  “Towards Understanding Quran

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