the fifteenth call: prohibition of eating riba
almighty allah says (what can be translated as): “o you who have believed, do not consume usury, doubled and multiplied, but fear allah that you may be successful. and fear the fire, which has been prepared for the disbelievers. and obey allah and the messenger that you may obtain mercy.” (al-imran: 130-132)
allah (swt) prohibits his believing servants from eating riba (taking an interest more than their capital sums) or managing their transactions based on interest as they used to do at the times of jahiliah before embracing islam and the guidance from allah. they used to say to the person in debt when it is time for him to pay: whether you pay your debt or you pay a higher interest plus the debt. so, he either pays or they extend the time in return for extra interest. it goes that way every year. the small debt multiplies till it becomes duplicated. so, allah orders his servants to commit to piety so that they become successful in the present life and the hereafter.
almighty allah commands his servants to adhere to piety and not to deal with the usurers or do any transactions based on usury which leads them to end in the hellfire that allah prepared for the disbelievers.
allah (swt) commands the believers to obey him and his messenger muhammad (peace be upon him) with regard to the prohibition of eating riba and giving charity to gain allah’s mercy reflected in the reformation of society in the present life and winning the best reward in the hereafter.
some people at our time try to hide behind the text and twist the meaning to say: the prohibition is the “doubled and multiplied”. as for the small interest of four, five, seven or nine percent, they are not doubled and multiplied. so, the prohibition does not apply in this case!
let’s start by clarifying that the doubled multiplied is a description of a fact, not a condition on which the ruling depends. the text in surat al-baqarah is absolutely clear in banning the source of riba without any limitation or condition: “and leave behind what remains of riba.” whatever it is!
now after ascertaining the principal, let’s move to the description: it is actually not a historical description of the usurious transactions that took place in the arabian peninsula which are prohibited here. it is a description that applies to the hateful usurious system no matter how much the interest can be.
the usurious system means establishing the whole capital turnover on this rule which means the usurious transactions are not single or simple; they are repeated transactions on the one hand and multiplied on the other. so, the interests increase with the passage of time, they keep repeating and multiplying till they become doubled multiplied interests with no doubt.
the nature of the usurious system always fulfills this description. so, the description of the verses is not only about the transactions that used to happen in the arabian peninsula, it is an innate description of the usurious system at any given time or place.
this system ruins the psychological and moral life, as it was detailed earlier in the tenth call prohibition of riba. it also ruins the economic and political life, also as described before, hence the strong effect of this system becomes clear on the life of the entire ummah (muslim nation) and accordingly on our destinies.
when islam was establishing the muslim nation, it wanted to achieve the purity of the psychological and moral aspects and the safety of the economic and political sectors. the impact of this and that on the outcomes of the battles fought by the ummah is well-known. prohibition of eating riba in this context commenting on the battle is understandable in this comprehensive insightful method.
as for the commentary on the prohibition by mentioning the piety towards allah to seek success and avoid the hellfire prepared for the disbelievers, it is also understandable. it is the most suitable commentary:
no pious human that fears the hellfire would ever eat riba, no believer in allah will ever eat riba and join the lines of the disbelievers. belief is not a word uttered by the tongue; it is the state of following the method that allah has made a factual translation of this belief. he (swt) has made the belief as an introduction to apply the method in the real life and adjust the society according to the rules of this method.
it is impossible to have belief and usurious system at the same place. wherever the usurious system is established that means a violation of the complete religion. there is also the hellfire prepared for the disbelievers! the altercation in this matter is not changeable. the combination in the verses between prohibition of eating riba, call to fear allah and the mention of the fire prepared for the disbelievers is not a coincidence or a random combination. it is a report of the truth to establish such truth in the understanding of muslims.
there is also the hope and achievement of success by letting riba and fearing allah. success is the natural fruit of piety and fulfillment of the method of allah in people’s lives. we discussed earlier the horrible effects of riba on the human societies and its ugly consequences on the lives of humans. let’s go back to this statement to realize the meaning of success here and its connection with abandoning the hateful usurious system.
then here comes the final confirmation: “and obey allah and the messenger that you may obtain mercy.”
it is a general command to obey allah and the messenger (peace be upon him). mercy depends on this general obedience, yet mentioning this after the prohibition of riba has a special significance. it clarifies that there is no obedience to allah and his messenger (pbuh) in a society established on the usurious system. the heart that eats riba in any form has no room for the obedience of allah and his messenger muhammad.
thus, the commentary is considered a confirmation following another. additionally, there is a special connection between the previous verses on the incidents of the battle when the command of allah’s messenger was not fulfilled (battale of uhud) and the command to obey allah and the messenger in the verses at hand because such obedience is the mean to success and source of hope.
yes, we have seen in the chapter of al-baqarah the context combining the talk on riba and charity as they are both two faces of the social relationships in the economic system and also they are the two prominent features of two opposing kinds of systems: the usurious system and the cooperative system. here the verses combine between the talk on riba and the expenditure in prosperity and hardship or what is called through sick and thin.
the warning against riba in the prophetic teachings:
narrated samura bin jundab: whenever the prophet finished a prayer; he would face us and ask, "who amongst you had a dream last night?" so if anyone had seen a dream he would narrate it. the prophet would say: "masha'allah" (an arabic maxim meaning literally, 'what allah wished,' and it indicates a good omen.) one day, he asked us whether anyone of us had seen a dream. we replied in the negative. the prophet said, "but i had seen (a dream) last night that two men came to me, caught hold of my hands, and took me to the sacred land. there, i saw a person sitting and another standing with an iron hook in his hand pushing it inside the mouth of the former till it reached the jaw-bone, and then tore off one side of his cheek, and then did the same with the other side; in the mean-time the first side of his cheek became normal again and then he repeated the same operation again. i said, 'what is this?' they told me to proceed on and we went on till we came to a man lying flat on his back, and another man standing at his head carrying a stone or a piece of rock, and crushing the head of the lying man, with that stone. whenever he struck him, the stone rolled away. the man went to pick it up and by the time he returned to him, the crushed head had returned to its normal state and the man came back and struck him again (and so on). i said, 'who is this?' they told me to proceed on; so we proceeded on and passed by a hole like an oven; with a narrow top and wide bottom, and the fire was kindling underneath that hole. whenever the fire-flame went up, the people were lifted up to such an extent that they about to get out of it, and whenever the fire got quieter, the people went down into it, and there were naked men and women in it. i said, 'who is this?' they told me to proceed on. so we proceeded on till we reached a river of blood and a man was in it and another man was standing at its bank with stones in front of him, facing the man standing in the river. whenever the man in the river wanted to come out, the other one threw a stone in his mouth and caused him to retreat to his original position; and so whenever he wanted to come out the other would throw a stone in his mouth, and he would retreat to his original position. i asked, 'what is this?' they told me to proceed on and we did so till we reached a well-flourished green garden having a huge tree and near its root was sitting an old man with some children. (i saw) another man near to the tree with fire in front of him and he was kindling it up. then they (i.e. my two companions) made me climb up the tree and made me enter a house, better than which i have ever seen. in it were some old men and young men, women and children. then they took me out of this house and made me climb up the tree and made me enter another house that was better and superior (to the first) containing old and young people. i said to them (i.e. my two companions), 'you have made me ramble all the night. tell me all about that i have seen.' they said, 'yes. as for the one whose cheek you saw being torn away, he was a liar and he used to tell lies, and the people would report those lies on his authority till they spread all over the world. so, he will be punished like that till the day of resurrection. the one whose head you saw being crushed is the one whom allah had given the knowledge of quran (i.e. knowing it by heart) but he used to sleep at night (i.e. he did not recite it then) and did not use to act upon it (i.e. upon its orders etc.) by day; and so this punishment will go on till the day of resurrection. and those you saw in the hole (like oven) were adulterers (those men and women who commit illegal sexual intercourse). and those you saw in the river of blood were those dealing in riba (usury). and the old man who was sitting at the base of the tree was abraham and the little children around him were the offspring of the people. and the one who was kindling the fire was malik, the gate-keeper of the hell-fire. and the first house in which you have gone was the house of the common believers, and the second house was of the martyrs. i am gabriel and this is michael. raise your head.' i raised my head and saw a thing like a cloud over me. they said, 'that is your place.' i said, 'let me enter my place.' they said, 'you still have some life which you have not yet completed, and when you complete (that remaining portion of your life) you will then enter your place.'" (sahih al-bukhari: 1297)
narrated samura bin jundab (ra): the prophet (peace be upon him) said, "i had seen (a dream) last night that two men came to me and took me to the sacred land. so we proceeded on till we reached a river of blood and a man was in it. another man was standing at its bank with stones in front of him, facing the man standing in the river. whenever the man in the river wanted to come out, the other one threw a stone in his mouth and caused him to retreat to his original position; and so whenever he wanted to come out the other would throw a stone in his mouth, and he would retreat to his original position. i asked, 'what is this?' he said: 'the one you saw in the river is the one dealing in riba (usury).' (sahih al-bukhari: 1943)
narrated 'aun bin abu juhaifa: my father bought a slave who practiced the profession of cupping. (my father broke the slave's instruments of cupping). i asked my father why he had done so. he replied, "the prophet forbade the acceptance of the price of a dog or blood, and also forbade the profession of tattooing, getting tattooed and receiving or giving riba, (usury), and cursed the picture-makers." (sahih al-bukhari: 1944)
narrated abu huraira: the prophet said, "avoid the seven great destructive sins." the people inquire, "o allah's apostle! what are they? "he said, " to associate others in worship along with allah, to practice sorcery, to kill the life which allah has forbidden except for a just cause, (according to islamic law), to eat up riba (usury), to eat up an orphan's wealth, to give back to the enemy to flee from the battlefield at the time of fighting, and to accuse chaste women who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers." (sahih muslim: 272)
abdullah (ra) said: the messenger of allah (pbuh) cursed the taker of riba and the giver. he said: 'and the writer and the two witnesses? ' he replied: 'we only say what we heard. ' (sahih muslim: 4176)
jabir (ra) said that the messenger of allah (pbuh) cursed the taker of riba, giver, the writer of it, and its two witnesses, and he said: 'they are all equal'. (sahih muslim: 4177)
abu hurairah (ra) reported that the messenger of allah said: "a time will certainly come when none of the people will remain without eating riba. if the person does not eat it, its vapor will overtake him." ibn isa said: "its dust will overtake him." (sunan abu dawoud: no 3333, broken chain of transmission)
abdul rahman ibn abdullah ibn masoud (ra) said: the messenger of allah (pbuh) cursed the taker of riba, the giver, the witness and the writer. (sunan abi dawoud: 3543, hadith hasan1)
narrated abu umamah that the prophet (pbuh) said: “if anyone intercedes for his brother and he presents a gift to him for it and he accepts the gift, then he approaches a huge door of the doors of riba.” [sunan abu dawoud: 3534, haidth hasan]
safwan ibn assal (ra) reported: “one day a jew said to his friend, ‘take me to this prophet person.’ the friend said, ‘don’t call him a prophet, if he hears this from you then his happiness will know no bounds.’ they both arrived at the messenger of allah (pbuh) and asked about the 9 clear signs. the messenger replied: ‘do not associate others in worship along with allah. do not steal. do not commit adultery. do not to kill the life which allah has forbidden except for a just cause (according to islamic law). do not send a person whom is in safety to a ruler who may sentence him to death. do not practice sorcery. do not eat up riba (usury). do not accuse a chaste woman of adultery. do not give back to the enemy to flee from the battlefield at the time of fighting. especially as jews, do not break the code of sabbath.’ safwan said, “they both kissed the prophet’s hands and feet and said, ‘we testify you are a true prophet.’ the prophet (peace be upon him) asked: ‘what keeps you from following me?’ they replied, ‘prophet david (pbuh) prayed to his lord that the sending of prophets among his progeny may not cease. therefore, we fear that if we become your followers then the jews will kill us.’ (sunan at-tirmidhi: 2952, hadith sahih2)
abu huraira (ra) reported that the prophet of allah (pbuh) said, "a time will come upon the people wherein a man will not bother what he intakes; whether from halal (permitted) source or haram (forbidden).“ (sahih al-bukhari: 1941)
narrated al-harith ibn abdullah from abdullah that he said: “the man who lends money at interest (riba), the man who accepts to pay it back at interest, the two witnesses, the man who writes down this usurious agreement if they knew about it, the tattooer and the tattooed for beauty, the procrastinator of zakah (the one who does not pay zakah in its designated time), the apostate who turns back to the bedouin life after his immigration. (the one who returns to desert and live as a bedouin after his immigration without excuse was considered an apostate) are cursed by muhammad (peace be upon him) on the day of resurrection.” (musnad ahmed no. 4171, musnad abu ya’li al-musali (part 10, page 237, no 4851) hadith sahih for others.
on the authority of al-mattlab bin abdullah bin hantab, on the authority of abdullah ibn amr who said the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) ascended the pulpit and said: ‘i do not swear, i do not swear, i do not swear.’ then he came down and said: ‘have glad tidings, have glad tidings; verily whoever prays the five prayers and keeps away from the seven deadly sins enters into paradise from any door he wishes.’ al-mattlab said: i heard a man ask abdullah ibn amr did you hear the messenger of allah (pbuh) mention them? he said: ‘yes, disobedience to parents, committing shirk with allah, killing a human, falsely accusing a chaste woman, eating up the wealth of an orphan, retreating from a battle and eating up riba.’ (al-mujam al-kabir by al-tabarani, no. 13485, sahih al-targhib, no. 1340, al-kafaya, no. 266, hadith sahih by others)
abu bakr ibn muhammad ibn amr ibn hazm reported on the authority of his father from his grandfather that the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) wrote a letter to the people of yemen and sent it with amr ibn hazm in which he clarified to them the zakah and the greatest sins among which he mentioned the eating of riba.
narrated abdullah that the prophet (pbuh) said: "riba has seventy three doors. the least one (in sin) is as that of a man who sleeps with his mother. and worst form of riba is harming the honor of a muslim man." (al-mustadrak by al-hakim no 2259, he graded it hadith sahih based on the two conditions of the two imams)
narrated abdullah that the prophet (pbuh) said: "riba has more than seventy doors and polytheism is the same." (musnad al-bazar, no 1935, sahih mawquf3)
ali (ra) said: "the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) cursed ten: the eater of riba, the payer, the two witnesses, the writer, the tattooer, the tattooed, banner of sadaqah, the muhil4 (the one who makes halal) and the muhalal lahu (for the one it is made halal)” (shoeb al-iman by al-bayhaqi, no 5266)
narrated samura bin jundab (ra): the prophet (peace be upon him) said, "i had seen (a dream) the night i was taken to the sacred land a man swimming in the river and stones thrown in his mouth. i asked: who is he? i was told: this is the eater of rib (usury)." (al-shoeb: 5267, hadith sahih)
narrated ibn masoud that the prophet (pbuh) said: “even if riba is numerous, subsequently it will diminish.” (musnad ahmed, no. 3827, sahih mawquf)
abdullah ibn masoud reported that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: “whoever increases riba (taking interest), the outcome will be a decrease.” (al-shoeb, no. 5270, hadith sahih)
um al-darda' said that prophet musa ibn imran (peace be upon him) said: "o my lord! who are the ones who will land in the sacred abode at yours and take a shade under your throne at a day when there is no shade but yours?" he (allah) said: "musa! they are the ones whose eyes do not look at adultery. they do not take riba (interests) over their money. they accept no bribe to attain the authority. tuba (it means all kinds of happiness or name of a tree in paradise) is for them and a beautiful place of (final) return.” (al-shaub, no. 5271, hasan mawquf)
abdullah ibn salam said the prophet said: "riba has seventy two segments, the least serious being equivalent to a man committing adultery with his own mother or that he lays with her. the worst kind of riba is when a muslim violates the honor of his muslim brother." (authenticated by al-bayhaqi in al-shoeb (5275-5272) sahih mawquf)
from abdullah ibn hanzalah: the messenger of allah (pbuh) said: "a dirham of riba which a man receives knowingly is worse than committing adultery thirty-six times." (on the authority of ahmad in his musnad, no. 22600 and sahih al-jamie 3375, hadith sahih) al-bayhaqi has also reported the above hadith in shu'ab al-iman with the addition that "hell befits him whose flesh has been nourished by the unlawful."
abdul rahman ibn abdullah ibn masoud narrated from his father that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "allah cursed the eater of riba, and the one who feeds it (payer), and its witness and its writer." he also said (pbuh): "no people among whom adultery and riba become openly practiced unless they have earned the punishment of god". (musnad ahmed 3886, sahih by others)
narrated ibn masoud that the prophet (peace be upon him said): "shortly before the hour, riba, adultery, and alcohol will appear (widespread and condoned)" (al-albani)
habib ibn ubaid reported that habib ibn maslamah brought a man who stole from the spoils of war. he handcuffed him beside the mosque. he ordered for his belongings to be brought and burnt. when he finished leading the people in prayer, he stood to give speech. he thanked and praised allah. he mentioned ghalul (stealing from the spoils of war) and recited the verses of allah about it. awf ibn malik stood up and said: "o people avoid the sins which cannot be expiated. when a man eats riba (takes interest) then repents, allah forgives him. allah, exalted and sublime be he says: “it is not [attributable] to any prophet that he would act unfaithfully [in regard to war booty]. and whoever betrays, [taking unlawfully], will come with what he took on the day of resurrection. then will every soul be [fully] compensated for what it earned, and they will not be wronged.” [al-imran 161] allah resurrects the eater of riba as mad and shocked on the day of resurrection.” (hadith sahih)
in another narration by awf ibn malik he said that the messenger of allah (pbuh) said: “i forbid myself from the unforgivable sins: ghalul (stealing from the spoils of war), whoever betrays by taking unlawfully will come with what he took on the day of resurrection. eating riba for whoever eats riba will be resurrected mad and floundering.” then he recited: “those who consume interest cannot stand [on the day of resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by satan into insanity.” [al-baqarah: 275] (al-mujam al-kabir by al-tabarani (part 12/ page 428) no (14536 and 14537) hadith hassan for others.)
narrated ibn abbas that the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) said: “by whom my soul in his hand, some people of my ummah will spend the night in tyranny, ungratefulness, play and entertainment and they will be transformed at morning into monkeys and pigs for committing the prohibited acts, taking lovers, drinking alcohol and wearing silk." (musnad ahmed, no 23483, hadith hassan by others) tyranny here means to transgress using the blessings they were given from allah. ungratefulness means feeling too proud to accept what is right.
ibn umar said i heard the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) saying: “if you trade in eena (riba), and follow the tails of cows, and became content with being farmers, and ignored jihad, allah will impose on you a humiliation that would not be taken away until you go back to your religion.” (sunan abu dawoud, no 3464, hadith sahih)
(1) al-hasan: it is a hadith which is well-known, and with reputable source.
(2) al-sahih: it is a hadith free of any kind of fault related by several continuous chains of veracious transmitters with more than one first recorder.
(3) al-mawquf: it is a hadith which reaches the sahabah, regardless of continuity in the chain of transmission
(4) muhil: a man who marries a woman that has been trebly divorced, on the condition of his divorcing her after consummation of the marriage, in order that she may become lawful to be remarried to the former husband who is the muhalal lahu mentioned in the hadith.