Present Islamic understanding and misconception about Riba

Being a Muslim, it is our faith - what said in Quran is true and what does Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H) said in Hadith is the explanation and logical continuation of Quranic verses. How is it possible that any Hadith can be different in its sense from Quran on same subject? Impossible.

I have intensely investigated Quranic verses and Hadiths on Riba and found that the meaning and sense of both sources is the same, the most popular Hadith on Riba, i.e., hand to hand and equal for equal, had in fact helped a lot in the understanding and defining of Riba. The prevailing misconception aroused from the fact that Islamic scholars and economists were not trying to establish a link between the sense of two sources. This has given birth to very strange definition of "riba-al-fadl or riba-al-buyu" that means "Riba in trade". I said strange because when ALLAH (SWT) has prohibited Riba and allowed trade then what does it mean "Riba in trade" and one should be careful in giving such title because this is a direct conflict with the verses of Quran. If we look at the terminology of transactions, trade has nothing to do with Riba and it is not possible that Riba could exist in trade, and therefore trade is allowed in Quran.

As stated earlier, the most popular Hadith on Riba, i.e., hand-to-hand and equal-for-equal transaction of few mentioned commodities, basically defines following things:

  1. Increase of value - i.e., demands more
  2. The medium of exchange - i.e., gold, silver, dates etc.
  3. Transaction of single produce/element - i.e., gold for gold, silver for silver etc.
  4. Exchange on spot - i.e., hand-to-hand means in zero time frame

There are many other misconceptions about Riba; like it is mostly related to poor, needy, exploitation of individuals, unearned income, lack of risk taking etc. and such week arguments are given for these concepts that in most of the cases we can justify Riba because in those transaction none of the subject is true. Mostly, the implications of Riba are discussed and those implications are presented as the reasons for the prohibition. Implications are the result and results can be controlled with trimming and redefining policies and this has been done in many parts of the world, but reasons are logic and the science that can not be changed like nature.

Keeping the ideology of why Riba was prohibited and the definition of riba as stated in previous pages, the same reasoning and philosophy is justified on all Hadiths & Quranic verses on Riba. It is my belief that Islam is a religion of logic and clarity, but it is observed unfortunately that some interpretations of its instructions by some people have created confusion and illogical arguments in the society, that must be addressed properly. Some people are not responsible enough to deal with sensitive subjects and because they have a weight in the society, their sayings are propagated in the society. For instance, one of my recent observation about a magazine issue of August 2002, a very prominent Islamic scholar propagated proudly the concept of two types of Islamic economic system, I read that very carefully which negates itself in its own content therein, but the scholar is proud of putting his concept. The Islamic and economic mechanics does not support the idea on very logical and natural grounds but his idea is well circulated in the society.

keeping the spirit of the religion on top of the mind, we must differentiate divine law (Ilhami qanoon) from ethical preaching and teachings. For instance, the divine law about Riba is its prohibition; we can not make a preaching or practice - a part of this law, like treating the borrower gently is a preaching, to give him relief in time/value if he needs/demands is also a teaching of ethics, the best would remain if one donates him the money the borrower is in need of, but under any circumstances these teachings cannot become a part of the law.

This is the beauty of Islam; it rejects un-natural things, it encourages gentle and ethical approach and relates the reward with the level of ethics one shows. Every human has got a different nature, acts and thinks in a different way, no two are 100% equal. The law is equally applicable to all of them, but the reward is in proportion of the fineness of their treatment and behavior in the society.