Surah Al Baqra Ayat No. 275 to 281
اَلَّذِيْنَ يَاْكُلُوْنَ الرِّبٰوا لَا يَقُوْمُوْنَ اِلَّا كَمَا يَقُوْمُ الَّذِيْ يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطٰنُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ ذٰلِكَ بِاَنَّھُمْ قَالُوْٓا اِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبٰوا ۘ وَاَحَلَّ اللّٰهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبٰوا ۭ فَمَنْ جَاۗءَهٗ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّنْ رَّبِّهٖ فَانْتَهٰى فَلَهٗ مَا سَلَفَ ۭ وَاَمْرُهٗٓ اِلَى اللّٰهِ ۭ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَاُولٰۗىِٕكَ اَصْحٰبُ النَّارِ ۚ ھُمْ فِيْهَا خٰلِدُوْنَ ٢٧٥
يَمْحَقُ اللّٰهُ الرِّبٰوا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقٰتِ ۭ وَاللّٰهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ اَثِيْمٍ ٢٧٦
اِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْا وَعَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ وَاَقَامُوا الصَّلٰوةَ وَاٰتَوُا الزَّكٰوةَ لَھُمْ اَجْرُھُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ ۚ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا ھُمْ يَحْزَنُوْنَ ٢٧٧
يٰٓاَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ وَذَرُوْا مَا بَقِيَ مِنَ الرِّبٰٓوا اِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُّؤْمِنِيْنَ ٢٧٨
َاِنْ لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوْا فَاْذَنُوْا بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ اللّٰهِ وَرَسُوْلِهٖ ۚ وَاِنْ تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوْسُ اَمْوَالِكُمْ ۚ لَا تَظْلِمُوْنَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُوْنَ ٢٧٩
وَاِنْ كَانَ ذُوْ عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ اِلٰى مَيْسَرَةٍ ۭ وَاَنْ تَصَدَّقُوْا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ اِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُوْنَ ٢٨٠
وَاتَّقُوْا يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُوْنَ فِيْهِ اِلَى اللّٰهِ ۼ ثُمَّ تُوَفّٰى كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا كَسَبَتْ وَھُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُوْنَ ٢٨١ۧ
But those who devour interest become like the one whom Satan has bewitched and maddened by his touch. They have been condemned to this condition because they say, “Trade is just like interest”, whereas Allah has made trade lawful and interest unlawfu1. Henceforth, if one abstains from taking interest after receiving this admonition from his Lord, no legal action will be taken against him regarding the interest he had devoured before; his case shall ultimately go to Allah.
But if one repeats the same crime after this, he shall go to Hell, where he shall abide forever.
Allah deprives interest of all blessing and develops charity; and Allah does not like an ungrateful, sinful person.
As to those who believe and do good deeds, establish the Salat and pay the Zakat, they will most surely have their reward with their Lord and they will have nothing to fear nor to grieve.
O Believers, fear Allah and give up that interest which is still due to you, if you are true Believers;
but if you do not do so, then you are warned of the declaration of war against you by Allah and His Messenger. If, however, you repent even now (and forego interest), you are entitled to your principal; do no wrong, and no wrong will be done to you.
If your debtor be in straitened circumstances, give him time till his monetary condition becomes better. But if you remit the debt by way of charity, it would be better for you, if you only knew it.
Guard against the disgrace and misery of the bay when you shall return to Allah: there everyone shall be paid in full, for the good or evil one has earned and none shall be wronged.
The term riba 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 these 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 of time, 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 in excess of the amount loaned within a given time limit. A 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.
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.
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 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 own times. Their argument runs as follows: A person who could have profitably invested his money in a 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 per cent 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 of time, sometimes even for a whole century?
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 the 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 the passage of 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 still 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 in 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.
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 interest one 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.
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 actual 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 to 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 practises 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 in the rest-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 if 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 labourers 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 labourers is 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 smoulder 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, they are 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:
(1 ) Projects which do not promise a higher rate of profit than the current rate of interest 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.
(2) There can be no guarantee that a 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, there 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 a society, is that within the limits of their means they spend generously on the fulfillment of their own requirements and on 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 businessmen, 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.
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.
In this section God brings into sharp relief two contrasting characters. One is selfish, Mammon-worshipping, a kind of Shylock. He is totally 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 men, 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.
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 offence within the realm of Islam. The Prophet (peace he 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 state, that if they continued to use interest, the agreement with them would be considered void and their action an act of belligerency. On the basis of the last words of the verse, Ibn ‘Abbas, Hasan al-Baari, Ibn Sirin and Rabi’ ibn Anas are of the view that anyone who takes interest within the boundaries of the Islamic State (Dar al-Islam) should be pressed to repudiate the transaction and recant and, if he persists, should be put to death. Others consider it sufficient to imprison such people and keep them in prison until they pledge to give up taking interest.
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 that once a person suffered 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.)
Surah Aale Imran Ayat No. 130 and 131
يٰٓاَيُّھَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْا لَا تَاْ كُلُوا الرِّبٰٓوا اَضْعَافًا مُّضٰعَفَةً ۠ وَاتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُوْنَ ١٣٠ۚ
وَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِىْٓ اُعِدَّتْ لِلْكٰفِرِيْنَ ١٣١ۚ
Believers! Do not swallow interest, doubled and redoubled, and be mindful of Allah so that you may attain true success.
And have fear of the Fire which awaits those who deny the Truth.
The major cause of the setback suffered at Uhud was that precisely at the moment of their victory the Muslims succumbed to the desire for worldly possessions, and turned to collecting booty rather than completing their task of crushing the enemy. Hence God thought fit to raise a barrier against this excessive adoration of money, and to urge them to give up usury which keeps man constantly absorbed in considering ways and means of amassing wealth and generally whets his appetite for money.
Surah An-Nisaa Ayat No. 160 and 161
فَبِظُلْمٍ مِّنَ الَّذِيْنَ هَادُوْا حَرَّمْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ طَيِّبٰتٍ اُحِلَّتْ لَهُمْ وَبِصَدِّهِمْ عَنْ سَبِيْلِ اللّٰهِ كَثِيْرًا ١٦٠ۙ
وَّاَخْذِهِمُ الرِّبٰوا وَقَدْ نُھُوْا عَنْهُ وَاَ كْلِهِمْ اَمْوَالَ النَّاسِ بِالْبَاطِلِ ۭوَاَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكٰفِرِيْنَ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابًا اَلِـــيْمًا ١٦١
Thus, We forbade them many clean things which had earlier been made lawful for them, for the wrong-doing of those who became Jews, for their barring many from the way of Allah,
and for their taking interest which had been prohibited to them, and for their consuming the wealth of others wrongfully. And for the un-believers among them We have prepared a painful chastisement.
After this parenthetical statement, the main discourse is once again resumed. This may refer to the regulation mentioned in Surah al-An’am 6: 146, that all beasts with claws, and the fat of both oxen and sheep, were prohibited to the Jews. It might also refer, however, to the highly elaborate set of prohibitions found in Judaic Law. To restrict the choice of alternatives in their life is indeed a kind of punishment for a people. (For a fuller discussion see Surah al-An’am 6,)
The Jews, on the whole, are not satisfied with their own deviation from the path of God. They have become such inherent criminals that their brains and resources seem to be behind almost every movement which arises for the purpose of misleading and corrupting human beings. And whenever there arises a movement to call people to the Truth, the Jews are inclined to oppose it even though they are the bearers of the Scripture and inheritors of the message of the Prophets. Their latest contribution is Communism – an ideology which is the product of a Jewish brain and which has developed under Jewish leadership. It seems ironical that the professed followers of Moses and other Prophets should be prominent as the founders and promoters of an ideology which, for the first time in human history, is professedly based on a categorical denial of, and an undying hostility to God, and which openly strives to obliterate every form of godliness. The other movement which in modern times is second only to Communism in misleading people is the philosophy of Freud. It is a strange coincidence that Freud too was a Jew.
The Torah categorically lays down the injunction: ‘And if you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbour’s garment in pledge, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down; for that is his only covering, it is his mantle for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate’ (Exodus 22: 25-7). This is one of several passages of the Torah which embody the prohibition of interest. The followers of the Torah, however, are most conspicuously engaged in transactions involving interest and have become notorious the world over for their meanness and hard-heartedness in monetary matters.
God has kept in store a painful punishment both in this world and in the Next for those Jews who have deviated from the course of true faith and sincere obedience to God, and are steeped in rejection of faith and rebellion against God. The severe punishment which has befallen the Jews in this world is unique and should serve as a lesson for all. Two thousand years have gone by and they have remained scattered all over the world and have been treated everywhere as outcasts. There has been no period during the last two millennia when they have not been looked on ignominiously and there is no part of the world where they are respected despite their enormous riches. What is more, this nation has been left dangling between life and death, unlike other nations which once appeared on the stage of history and then vanished. Their condemnation to this state of suspension makes them a lesson for all nations till the end of time. It marks the tragic fate that meets a people who, despite enjoying the guidance of the Book of God, dare to defy God. It would seem that their punishment in the Hereafter must be even more severe than in the present world. (For the questions which arise about the validity of our view, in spite of the establishment of the state of Israel, see Towards Understanding the Qur’an, vol. I, Surah 3: 112, n. 90.)
Surah Ar-room Ayat No. 39
وَمَآ اٰتَيْتُمْ مِّنْ رِّبًا لِّيَرْبُوَا۟ فِيْٓ اَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ فَلَا يَرْبُوْا عِنْدَ اللّٰهِ ۚ وَمَآ اٰتَيْتُمْ مِّنْ زَكٰوةٍ تُرِيْدُوْنَ وَجْهَ اللّٰهِ فَاُولٰۗىِٕكَ هُمُ الْمُضْعِفُوْنَ 39
The interest that you give in order to increase the wealth of the people, does not increase in the sight of Allah; and the Zakat that you pay in order to win Allah’s approval, its payers do indeed increase their wealth.
This is the first verse revealed in the Qur’an that condemned interest. It only says this: “You pay interest thinking that it will cause an increase in the wealth of the money-lender. But actually, in the sight of Allah, interest does not increase the wealth, but the wealth is increased by the payment of the Zakat “. Afterwards when the Commandment prohibiting interest was sent down at Madinah, it was said: “Allah deprives interest of all blessing and develops charity.” (For the later Commands, see AI-i-` Imran: 130, and AI-Baqarah: 275 to 281).
This verse has been given two interpretations by the commentators. One section of them says: Here riba does not mean the interest which is forbidden by the Shari’ah, but it means the gift or the present which is given with the intention that the recipient will return it redoubled, or will perform some useful service for the donor, or his becoming prosperous will be beneficial for the donor himself. “This is the view of Ibn ` Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak, Qatadah, ‘Ikrimah, Muhammad bin Ka’b al-Qurzi and Sha’bi. Probably this comment has been made by these scholars for the reason that in this verse the only consequence mentioned of the act is that in the sight of Allah such wealth will not increase at all; if, however, it had meant the interest forbidden by the Shari’ah, it would have been positively said that it will be severely punished by Allah. The other group differs from this and says that it means the same well known riba’ which has been forbidden by the Shari ah. This is the opinion of Hasan Basri and Suddi, and ‘Allama Alusi also has opined that the apparent meaning of the verse is the same, for riba, in Arabic is used in the same meaning. This interpretation has been adopted by the commentator Nisaburi also.
In our opinion also this second interpretation is correct, for the argument given in favour of the first interpretation is not enough for discarding the well known meaning of the word riba’. In the period when Surah Ar-Rum was sent down, interest had not been forbidden yet. The prohibition was made several years afterwards. The way of the Qur’an is that it first prepares the minds for the thing that it has to prohibit at a later stage. About wine also the only thing said in the beginning was that it is not pure food. (An-Nahl: 67). Then in AI-Baqarah: 219, it was said that the harm of its sin is greater than its benefit. Then it was enjoined that the Prayer should not be offered in the state of intoxication. (An-Nisa’: 43). Then, finally, it was prohibited totally. Similarly, about interest here it has been only said that it does not increase the wealth, but the real increase is caused by the Zakat. After this, the compound interest was forbidden (Al-i-` Imran: 130); and finally, interest itself was made absolutely unlawful. (AI-Baqarah: 275).
There is no limit to this increase. The greater the sincerity of intention, the deeper the sense of sacrifice, the greater the intensity of desire for Allah’s pleasure with which a person spends his wealth in His way, the greater and snore handsome will be the rewards that Allah will give him. According to an authentic Hadith, even if a person gives a fig in the way of Allah, Allah will increase it to the size of Mount Uhud.