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In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

"They insist that the business is like Ar-Riba"

The caption above is a quote from the Qur'aan - part of 275th verse in Chapter 2 thereof [Q: 2.275].

I do not have before me now any historical evidence of people living at the time of revelation of the Qur'aan saying so. But I know of people in my own age - some of the religious leaders of my own Faith - saying so!

They say that the banking business is Ar-Riba! In fact, they have gone even beyond the Qur'aanic quote. They do not say that this business is like Ar-Riba. They say it is Ar-Riba.

By business, of course, what they mean here is the earnings that it generates. Since a bank invests a substantial portion of the money it holds in debt instruments - in giving loans for trade and industry etc. - the interest accrued on such loans constitutes a major source of its earnings.

Most of the money that a bank gets as interest goes in meeting bona fide expenses like salaries to staff, office rentals and equipment, interests paid to depositors etc. The rest of it is the net earning of the bank. The open market forces oblige the bank to keep its net earning/profit margin as low as possible.

Banking is thus a legitimate business as any other. Whereas other businesses provide materials and services conveniently to their customers, banking business provides purchasing power (money). Banking business thus fulfils a legitimate necessity in human society.

The religious leaders deride this legitimate business as unlawful because part of its profit comes from interest. And, in their view, Ar-Riba that the Qur'aan prohibits, is interest, and nothing but interest!

There is no Qur'aanic basis for this interpretation of the religious leaders. The Arabic word Riba literally means increase/gain/growth. So all kinds of increases ought to be covered by this general term.

I can effect an increase in my wealth by evading Government taxes. I can effect the increase by paying my employees less than what they actually deserve to get. I can effect the increase by shirking the work given to me by my employer and attending to my own private work during the employer's office hours. I can effect the increase by unduly hiking my profit margins on the goods I sell, by economic exploitation of my hapless customers.

There are umpteen numbers of other dubious ways in which I can effect increases in my wealth! But the religious leaders insist that the increase, effected by taking interest only, is prohibited as Ar-Riba. And they give no Qur'aanic basis for this interpretation!

A careful study of the very first verse [Q: 30.39], as also the subsequent ones, revealed in the matter of Ar-Riba, would show otherwise. It would show that the increases effected by the dubious means such as the ones mentioned in the paragraph preceding the last one above, rather than interest as such, that are all covered in the Qur'aanic Concept of Ar-Riba.

When one effects an increase in one's wealth by adopting any of these dubious means, one perpetrates an injustice on someone else. Allah condemns and abhors every kind of injustice. By prohibiting Ar-Riba, He has prohibited all economic injustices! "And Allah has permitted business (bai'a) and prohibited Ar-Riba," the Qur'aan says in continuation of the captioned quote from verse Q: 2.275.

Despite the divine permission thus given to business, the religious leaders insist that the interest-based banking business is a prohibited one! Look what the Qur'aan says in this context: "Those who devour Ar-Riba stand not but as one on whom has the Satan cast his spell by touch. That is because they insist that the business is like Ar-Riba!" This, in fact, is the beginning part, which includes the captioned quote, of the same said verse Q: 2.275.

Indeed! Persons influenced by Satan only could call a divinely permitted thing prohibited. Under this satanic influence, we, Muslims, substitute the divine concept of Ar-Riba with its man-made interpretation as interest, and nothing but interest. The Satan must be congratulating himself immensely! For, by this masterstroke, he is not only impoverishing the Muslims, his arch-enemies, economically, but has also succeeded in keeping them blissfully unaware of the real Ar-Riba growing - and growing luxuriantly - in their own backyards!

Yes, Brothers and Sisters! The unpalatable and bitter truth is that we Muslims are ourselves steeply involved in Ar-Riba dealings - more so than the people living in some of the well-developed countries are. Because, Ar-Riba is corruption. It is, in the Qur'aanic concept, the unjust usurpation of others' dues in transactional dealings. It is economic injustice. A sincere and diligent study of the Qur'aanic verses on Ar-Riba, I am sure, will reveal this fact to you.

Study the relevant verses, therefore, please! And save yourself from Hell fire! For, the said verse, Q: 2.275, ends as follows, "And the ones who persist (in Ar-Riba dealings) shall be those who would inhabit the Fire, therein to abide!"

Mohammad Shafi J. Aga
Author of The Qur'aanic Concept Of Ar-Riba

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