Posts Tagged ‘Ijtihad’

Riba (usury), prohibition vs dubious easements! 

March 13, 2020

“Those who devour riba will stand, on judgment day, like those driven to madness by a touch of the evil. That is because they say “trade is just like usury”. But Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury. Whosoever, after receiving a warning from their lord, refrains may keep their previous gains, and their case is left to Allah. As for those who persist [in devouring riba], their abode will be hellfire. They will remain there forever. (Q, 2:275)



In my view, in the above verse and other verses on the topic, there is no ambiguity; which may lead one to any confusion, that business transactions within the parameters delineated by the Prophet, are unequivocally permissible (except recent innovative/circumventive dubious transactions). Riba/usury, however, in whatever type or form (discussed in detail in the proceeding paras) is unequivocally forbidden. I strongly disagree with the currently in vogue innovative-easements; justifying the riba/interest drenched transactions, under the guise of “lease-purchase and loaning/financing in the name of murabaha”. 

I also disagree with the blatantly adduced assumption that “taking interest is forbidden but not giving” It contravenes an implied Qura’anic injunction; of not giving an increased amount on loaned money (Q, 30:39). This assumption is not only illogical but also negates the “duality of creation” (rule), affirmed in the Holy Qura’an.  These innovatively crafted-distortions do not fit the doctrine of Maslahah” as well. Terms of the loans in the Islamic financing are inevitably dictated by the “creditor” and not by the “debtor”, as enjoined in the Qura’an [Q, 2:282]

“And of everything We have created pairs: That ye may receive instruction” (Q, 51:49) {Pair may be ln a tangible form, in an intangible or conceptual form; such as—man/woman, day/night, taking/giving or good/bad, etc.}

“He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: no son has He begotten, nor has a partner in His Kingdom. He created everything and ordered them in due proportions” (Q, 25:2)

{Singularity (Monotheism) is exclusively Allah’s attribute; nothing else, could/would exist in singularity} Nauzubillah! 


Notes: appearing at the end of certain points, in the proceeding paragraphs, is the point of view of the author.


Riba was prohibited gradually in four stages via                                                                Q, 30:39, 4:161, 130:132 & 2:282.

Kinds of riba

Islamic discourse identifies three different types of riba: 1) riba al-Fadl (primarily related to sales transactions), 2) riba al-Nasiya (sales or debt involving deferment) and a variation of the previous two, 3) riba al-Jahliyyah.

Riba Al-Fadl is the excess over and above the loan paid in kind.  It lies in the payment of an addition by the debtor to the creditor in exchange for commodities of the same kind. The Shari’ah wishes to eliminate not merely the exploitation that is intrinsic in the institution of interest, but also that which is inherent in all forms of unjust exchange in business transactions.

Riba Al-Nasi’ah refers to the interest on loans; its prohibition essentially implies that the fixing in advance of a positive return on a loan as a reward for waiting is not permitted in Islam.

Riba Al-Jahiliyyah when a buyer/borrower did not pay his due after the stipulated time, the seller/lender would increase the price, and thus a higher principal amount, sometimes doubled (or more), would be imposed.

According to Ibn Abbas, one of the major companions of the Prophet and earliest of the Islamic jurists, and few other companions (Usama ibn Zayd, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’udUrwa ibn Zubayr, Zayd ibn Arqam) “considered that the only unlawful riba is riba al-jahiliyyah.” (No textual/hadithic authority/basis cited)


Muhammad Nezatullah Siddiqi. In his book Riba, Bank Interest, and The Rationale of Its Prohibition [p. 41], offers a thorough work explicating the rationales of the prohibition of bank interests, and lists the following reasons justifying its prohibition: 1. Riba corrupts society. 2. Riba implies the improper appropriation of other people’s property. 3. Riba’s ultimate effect is negative growth. 4. Riba demeans and diminishes human personality. 5. Riba is unjust.

{These arguments are objectively scrutinized hereunder}.

 1) Riba corrupts society! 

Corruption studies or corruption-related literature does not identify interest anywhere as one of the determinants of corruption. Indeed, most of the Muslim-majority countries rank high in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).11 

Siddiqi’s flawed logic can be identified by simply examining his first point – that riba corrupts society. While riba-based transactions are unjust and thus may have corrupting influence on society, but the corruption studies or corruption-related literature does not identify interest anywhere as one of the determinants of corruption. Indeed, most of the Muslim-majority countries rank high in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).11 But corruption-related studies relating to these countries done by either non-Muslims or Muslims have never identified interest as one such determinant of corruption.

As we will see, Siddiqi’s enumeration is generally not much different from the earlier ones by Abul Ala’ Mawdudi and Dr. Yousuf Ali-Qaradawi (using Al-Razi’s arguments ad verbatim) and is as polemical as well as empirically unsubstantiated and untestable as ever. Only one rationale is identifiable from the Qur’an: exploitation/injustice (zulm): “If you do it not, Take notice of war from Allah and His Messenger: But if you turn back, you shall have your capital sums: Deal not unjustly, and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.” [la tazlimoona wa la tuzlamoon; [Q, 2:279] Hadith: – (Prophetic narrations) also does not provide in this context any specific rationale other than what is identified in the Qur’an.

Note: – 1) It does not, by any mean, means that CPI index or corruption-related studies absolve “riba” of its implications or represents an Islamic perspective in any contextual sense. Riba simply was not taken into account as a consideration. 

2) Injunctive (hukmi) verses, at times, may not necessitate any explanations, for these are/maybe above and beyond the scope of human reasoning and logic.


[In terms of the use of riba, Sudan is the strictest and Malaysia the most liberal state]


2) Improper appropriation of other people’s property.

Charging/taking an interest, here, implies appropriating another person’s property without giving him anything in exchange because one who lends one dollar for two dollars gets the extra dollar for nothing. Now, a man’s property is for (the purpose of) fulfilling his needs and it has great sanctity. According to the hadith, ‘A man’s property is as sacred as his blood.’ This means that taking it from him without giving him something in exchange is haram. [p. 265]

One can argue that, in trade, taking something from someone without giving something in exchange is haram (prohibited). However, the argument is misleading and erroneous. When a non-charitable transaction is involved, both the parties know what the lending and borrowing entail. The borrower is borrowing for some commercial or personal benefit and the lender is lending for-profit motive. In such a non-charitable context, the lender is giving up or foregoing the purchasing power for a specific period. In other words, the lender is “renting out” the purchasing power of his/her capital for a specific period at a cost; interest here constitutes “rent” that is paid by the borrower. The lender is getting paid (interest) for foregoing something; it is not something for nothing but quid pro quo!

Note: {Islam, in the first place, does not espouse the concept of non-charitable-loaning but charitable one—Qarzhasanathat may be administered by the state from the “Sadaqat” collected. Allah will destroy Riba (usury) and will grant increase, for Sadaqat..}     (Q, 2:276)


Time-value of money in Islam!

Islamic economics/finance literature generally denies that Islam recognizes the time value of money. [El-Gamal 2000, quoting Mawdudi and Al-Sadr]. “[I] in Shari’ah, there is no concept of the time value of money.” [Usmani, p. xvi] Some authors think that the time value of money as relating to sales (deferred sales, to be specific) is allowed in Islam, but that it is not the same kind of time value of money as in case of loans. [Saadallah; M. Akram Khan cited in Vogel and Hayes, p. 202] Others even suggest that there should not be any profit-motive on the part of Muslims, seeking service from Islamic Banks. Although, its equivalent is found in Murabaha, cost-plus financing in purchase and resale. It has been conveniently ignored that accepting the time value of money logically leads to the acceptance of interest. [Saeed, p. 95]

Note; 1) -It may be due to the reason that; the time is created and determined (finite); relevant only to the temporal realm, whereas the recompense for use/misuse of money is indeterminable (at, this stage; i.e. temporal level) and relevant to the non-local domain only.  The time-value of money, in the charitable transactions, therefore, would render utterly irrelevant!

2) – The question of the distinction between the nominal-value and the real value of money, due to inflation, has also not been addressed in Islamic economic literature. At present, there is no economy “without-inflation” {Inflation, in my view, is a derivative of the flawed global economic system; whereby mostly the investors and/or the manufacturers benefit; reflected in different countries at different levels, representing overall state of economy} 


3 & 4) Riba’s ultimate effect is negative growth. & Riba demeans human personality.

Supporting arguments.

Dependence on interest prevents people from working to earn money, since the person with dollars can earn extra dollars through interest, either in advance or at a later date, without working for it. The value of work will consequently be reduced in his estimation, and he will not bother to take the trouble of running a business or risking his money in trade or industry. This will lead to depriving people of benefits, and the business of the world cannot go on without industries, trade and commerce, building and construction, all of which need capital at risk. (This, from an economic point of view, is unquestionably a weighty argument.) [p. 265]

Counter arguments.

In modern times, commercial lending and borrowing usually do not take place involving an individual lender at a personal level. Rather, there are lending institutions that mobilize savings from individual and institutional savers/depositors and channel such savings to the borrowers. The lending institutions have to work hard to solicit and pool the savings. They also employ people for the purpose.

The primary source of banks’ lending is savings and demand deposits of the depositors. Demand deposits come from people of all sorts, irrespective of their financial status. A good part of the savers; who use a bank as a source of quick and safe-return instead of risky and arduous stocks and bonds markets are usually risk-averse, older and/or retired people. They want quick access to their savings with a guaranteed return on it. This class of savers consists of people of all ages and financial backgrounds – wealthy and not-so-wealthy, young and older/retired. Indeed, these people can’t be expected/forced to engage in risky investments or laborious-works to seek “earned” income!


5) Riba is Unjust.

Supporting Arguments: –

Permitting the taking of interest discourages people from doing good to one another, as is required by Islam. If interest is prohibited in a society, people will lend to each other with goodwill, expecting back no more than what they have loaned, while if interest is made permissible the needy person will be required to pay back more on loans (than he has borrowed), weakening his feelings of goodwill and friendliness toward the lender. (This is the moral aspect of the prohibition of interest.). [p. 266] 

Counter-arguments: –

This whole argument is contrary to the profit-motive, recognized in Islam. Unless we are talking about charities, these arguments would be misplaced and erroneous. This would also imply that people in interest-based societies have lesser goodwill toward others and may not be engaged in enough charitable acts. Is there any empirical corroboration behind such comparative observation?

Note; – [ In my view both, the pro and against, arguments are flimsy at the best. Profit motive sanctioned in Islam is through business dealings not through money-lending for a pre-determined period and profit. Islam, as mentioned earlier, does not espouse non-charitable lending]


Some [al-maslaha-al-mursala based] opinions/fatawa; issued by earlier religious figures are being vehemently propagated by some present religious figures with unabashed assertiveness. 


The point, a bone of contention; that has divided Muslim scholars is, whether riba (usury) and bank interest are to be considered the same/equivalent or distinct?


Equivalence Proponents.

One body of scholarly opinion defines riba to include not only interest but also transactions involving speculation, capital gains, monopoly, hoarding, and absentee rents, in other words, any appropriation of value for which an acceptable counter value is not forthcoming. The reader can easily read through and conceptualize the implications of using more and more restrictive definitions, in the limit (to borrow a mathematic term) equating riba simply with interest.


“All the schools of thoughts of Muslim jurisprudence hold the unanimous view that riba, usury and interest are strictly prohibited.” [Siddiqui, p. 15] Also see, Mabid Ali Al-Jarhi and Munawar Iqbal. “Islamic Banking: Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions,” Islamic Development Bank, Occasional Paper No. 4, 2001.; Tariq Talib al-Anjari. “Islamic Economics and Banking,”;

“The renowned Islamic scholar Dr. Yusuf Ali Qaradawi holds that the question of prohibition of interest is a settled issue and that ‘there is no provision left in it for any reformist to re-interpret and provide an excuse for stating anything otherwise’. He states that it is ‘an issue which has withstood the test of consensus (Ijmah) of ummah of the present day as well as of the past’.” [ Syed Thanvir Ahmed. “Attempt to Justify Interest an Exercise in futility,”]

Abul Ala’ Mauwdudi defines riba as the amount that a lender receives from the borrower at a fixed rate of interest. {for a fixed time and transaction contingent on the excess on the principal}. The transaction would be usurious whether it is for productive-investment or private needs.[Mawdudi, 1997;164] The most explicit report of the Council of Islamic ideology (CII) says: “There is complete unanimity in all schools of thoughts in Islam that the term “riba” stands for interest in all its types and forms”


Non-Equivalence Proponents

Those who have argued against this equation, the Non-Equivalence School [Ahmed, p. 28], have not made their arguments in clear and convincing terms so that the common Muslims can decide for themselves. Thus, this discourse needs to continue more vigorously and engagingly.

Note: In my view, as also enunciated in the preface, verse 30:39 categorically settles the issue of non-equivalence of usury, riba or interest by stating “whatever you give in addition to loan amount”, is riba. Supported by a hadith narrated by Jabir, mentioned in Muslim and Tirmazi“Prophet cursed the receiver and payer of the riba, recorder and witnesses to the transaction. And said they are all alike” (in sinfulness)


Interest-free economies

Since there has not been any true interest-free, modern Islamic economy and a few places where it is being attempted, the Islamic financial institutions (IFI hereafter), are moving rather closer to the conventional banking practices.

Note: – Use of Interest regime (to control the demand and supply of the funds/liquidity levels; which in turn determines the cost of borrowing; seldom yields the desired results, due to several other factors at play) is the chief catalyst in the volatility of the world’s, almost all, interest-based economies! [Although the man-made  economic management system has gained a high level of sophistication, yet lacks the precision]


The primary source of an Islamic Economic system is the Holy Qura’an and Sunnah. Secondary sources include the followings: –

Ijtihad: – True Ijtihad is both the source and the legal instrument that allows a dynamism to be set in motion at the heart of Islamic law and jurisprudence—closely linked with Qura’an and Sunnah.

Ijmaa (Consensus): In its technical dimension, Ijmaa means the agreement of all competent jurists in any particular generation, acting as representatives of the community on a point of law. In practice, the Ijmaa acts as proof if there is no element of the Qur’an or the Sunna that makes it possible to decide on a case, and could in principle elevate a ruling based on probable evidence to absolute certainty.

Qiyas (Analogical reasoning): this technique consists of assigning, based on a common underlying characteristic, the legal ruling of an existing case found in the texts of the Qur’an, Sunnah and/or Ijmaa, to a new case whose legal ruling could not be deduced directly from the scripture and/or Sunnah. This ruling nevertheless ought to remain within the confines and spirit of the primary sources of Islamic law.


Misuse of the concept “IJMA’A”

It has been a common practice among Muslim scholars and jurisprudents to claim consensus (ijma) about almost anything they have given their juristic opinion on. The very use of the word ijma inspires awe among faithful Muslims. However, the existence of multiple schools of jurisprudence (fiqh) is not evidence of consensus, but the lack of it.

The reality is that there is not even a consensus on the definition of ijma.  Indeed, it is reported that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, founder of one of the four orthodox schools (madhab) made a general assertion: “Whoever claims consensus is a liar.

Note; – The concepts, of hire-purchase and lending under Murabaha, seem to fall in the same category; for there are many scholars and Islamic Financial institutions, voicing against these financing modes.


Foundational work; a springboard for the current deviant practices, under the guise of Islamic Financing!


In the 1930s, Syrian scholar Marouf al-Daoualibi suggested that the Qur’an bans interest only on consumption loans, not investment loans, and in the 1940s Egyptian jurist, Al-Sanhuri argued that the Qur’an sought chiefly to ban interest on interest. A more extreme and recent example is the opinion of the mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, who in 1989 declared that interest on certain interest-based government investments was not forbidden riba (because the gain is little different from the sharing of the government’s profits from use of the funds or because the bank deposit contract is novel), thus joining the thin ranks of prominent religious figures who have issued fatawa declaring clear interest practices permissible. This fatwa aroused a storm of controversy, with opposition from nearly all traditional religious scholars and warm praise from secular modernizers. Later he went even further, saying that interest-bearing bank deposits are perfectly Islamic, and more so than ‘Islamic’ accounts that impose disadvantageous terms on the customer. Laws should change the legal terminology used for bank interest and bank accounts to clarify their freedom from the stigma of riba. [Vogel and Hayes, p. 46]


Fatwa for sale

Owen Matthews, “How the West Came to Run Islamic Banks”, Newsweek [October 31, 2005] While the evolved orthodox position about riba was not necessarily tainted by worldly considerations, the contemporary IBF discourse does note “the debate on ‘fatwas for sale” … fatwa wars”, etc. [Warde, p. 227] It is important to note that the classical orthodox position revolved around riba and the modern, contemporary discourse revolves around not merely riba, but a riba-interest equation. The contemporary Shari’ah experts serving the IBF industry hardly have anything to say about the political tyranny, or concentration of wealth, involving the patrons of the IBF movement. [IBF—Islamic Banking and Finance].


Islamic Financial Instruments include: MusharkahMudarabahMurabahaMusawamah, Salam,Istisna’aTawarruqIjarah and Qard Hasana.    [Only the relevant financial instruments are discussed in detail]


Arguments against lease-purchase/lending.

According to Yousef, “the predominance of the murabaha represents a challenge to the very notion that Islamic finance would provide an alternative to interest-based conventional financial systems.” [p. 64] Siddiqi went much further to warn the Islamic finance industry: … we cannot claim, for an interest-free alternative not based on sharing, the superiority which could be claimed based on profit-sharing. What is worse, if the alternative in practice is built around predetermined rates of return to investible funds, it would be exposed to the same criticism which was directed at interest as a fixed charge on capital. 


It so happens that the returns on finance provided in the modes of finance based on murabaha, bay’ salamleasing and lending with a service charge, are all predetermined as in the case of interest. Some of these modes of finance are said to contain some elements of risk, but all these risks are insurable and are insured against. The uncertainty or risk to which the business being so financed is exposed is fully passed over to the other party. A financial system built solely around these modes of financing can hardly claim superiority over an interest-based system on grounds of equity, efficiency, stability and growth. [Siddiqi, 1983, p. 52]


It is noteworthy that, contrary to the popular perception of the believing Muslims, Murabaha, (leasing and lending), may not be, as generally claimed, quite Shari’ah-compliant. It is heavily criticized or repudiated by many Islamic scholars and by some Islamic financial institutions.


Why Western Institutions are swarming Islamic Banking?

Western interest in “interest-free” banking, is not because the West is convinced about the claimed superiority of Islamic finance/banking in general, and Islamic financial products in particular; but because they don’t find any substantive difference between conventional banking and the current practices of Islamic banking, which have shifted away from profit-loss sharing (PLS)/Risk-sharing-based transactions to Murabaha. It is a vast untapped lucrative market for them, with a clear edge in terms of credibility, experience and capitalization. These banks have found Mudaraba and Musharaka to be inoperable in the modern context. [Saeed, chapter “Murabaha Financing Mechanism,” pp. 76-95; Aggarwal and Yousef, p. 106; Vogel and Hayes, p. 7] Thus, they quietly disengaged themselves from risk-sharing, Musharaka and Mudaraba modes and engaged in Murabaha, instead.


Application of the Doctrine of Maslaha.

Maslaha is a very specific concept—in its definition, its levels, its types, and its conditions require that the ulama (religious scholars) constantly refer back to the revealed sources to be able to formulate judgments in conformity with the Qura’an and Sunnah, even when there is no specifically relevant text available. They must try—by carrying out a thorough and detailed study–to provide Muslims with (common good) new banking and financial instruments, guided by Islamic principles and in conformity with Sharia’a.

Presently, this concept is being used and also abused to justify all sorts of new fatawaeven some manifestly in contradiction with obvious proofs from the Qura’an and the Sunna, as in the case of rules concerning interest (riba), inheritance and lending under Murabaha.

Note: [A glaring example of “Tufian” approach, appearing below]

Imam Malik referred to the notion of istislah, which meant “to seek the good.” In his legal research, he, therefore, used the example of the companions—who formulated numerous legal decisions in the light of the common good while respecting the corpus of the sources—to justify the fact that “to seek the good” (istislah) is one of the fundamentals of the Sharia and so is part of it.

It is, however, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali who, with his strict codification, provided the clearest framework for tackling this question from his time to the present. In his Al-mustasfa min ilm al-usul, he states very precisely: “In its essential meaning, al-maslaha is a term which means to seek something beneficial [manfaa] or avoid something harmful [madarra].

What we mean by maslaha is the preservation of the objective [maqasid] of the Law [shar], which consists of five things: the protection of religion, life, intellect, lineage, and property. Whatever ensures the protection of these five principles [usul] is maslahawhatever goes against their protection is mafsada, and to avoid it is maslaha”.

Al-Ghazali, still referring to the broad meaning of maslaha, mentions three different types: al-daruriyyat (the imperative), a category which has to do with the five elements of maqasid al-sharia (here in the sense of the objectives of the Law) listed earlier; al-hajiyyat (the necessary, the complimentary), which has to do with the prevention of anything that could be a source of difficulty in the life of the community, without leading to death or destruction; and finally al-tahsiniyyat and al-kamaliyyat (the enhancing and the perfecting)*1, which concern anything that may bring about an improvement in religious practice. These three levels cover all that can be considered as the masali (common good) of the human being considered as a person and as a worshipper of God, and this categorization was hardly ever questioned in debate and polemic.

*1 {The only point which could be cited, while ignoring all other parameters, vaguely favoring financing under murabaha}

Ulama established a typology based on the degree of proximity of al-maslaha to the sources. If al-maslaha is based on textual evidence (i.e., a quotation from the Qur’an or the Sunna), it is called maslaha mutabara (accredited), and it must necessarily be taken into account. If, on the other hand, the maslaha invoked is contradictory to an undisputed text (nass qati), it is called mulgha (discredited) and cannot be taken into account. The third type occurs when there is no text: the Qura’an and the Sunna do neither confirm nor reject a maslaha that became apparent after the age of Revelation. A maslaha of this type is call mursala (undetermined), for it allows the “Ulama” to use their judgment and personal reasoning to formulate a legal decision in the light of the historical and geographical context; using their best efforts to remain faithful to the commandments and to the “ letter and spirit” of the law.


It is this last type that has given rise to much debate and polemic (the analysis is beyond the scope of this study). Suffice it to say here that the main cause of disagreement was the fear, on the part of those opposed to the very concept of al-maslaha al-mursala, that such a notion, with such broad scope, might then allow the ulama to formulate regulations without reference to the Qur’an and the Sunna based on exclusively rational and completely free reasoning, all in the name of a remote hardship or “an anticipated difficulty  Most ZahiriteShafaiite and Malikite ulema did not recognize al-maslaha-al-mursala, for it does not refer back to the sources—as a legal proof; they saw it as a specious (Wahmiyya) proof.


This was the very same instinctive fear in an approach that is although purely rational but disconnected with the Law; that pushed Al-Ghazali to restrict work on al-maslaha to the area of the application of qiyas (analogy), which, of its nature, requires a close link with the text for the deduction of the cause (illa) on which analogical reasoning rests.

Note: – Hire-purchase and lending under Murabaha, therefore, contravenes the second rule of maslaha as well as the third rule, by not fulfilling the “referring back to the source” requisite. Hence being spurious (whamiyya) in nature, becomes clearly impermissible!


Famous fourteenth-century Hanbali jurist–Najm al-Din al-Tufi– ended up giving al-maslaha priority over texts from the Qur’an and the Sunna; which, according to him, should be applied, according to Mahmasani, only–“to the extent that the common good does not require anything else” 


Currently, we see very strange “modern Islamic legal decisions” based on “modern maslaha-al-mursala” that are manifestly contradictory to the sources. The misuse of al-maslaha al-mursala thus sometimes seems to justify the strangest behavior, as well as the most obscure commercial dealings, financial commitments, and banking investments, under the pretext that they protect, or could or should protect, “the common good.”


Common good 

Famous 14th Century renowned scholar of Grenada, Al-Shitabi, first of the proponents of the doctrine of al-maslaha-al-mursal who stipulated the precise conditions for “common good” –to be considered as a reliable judicial source, restricting its application `preventing ulema from resorting to maslaha without justification. There is a general agreement of the scholars (both, for and against al-maslaha-al-mursala) on the precise definitions stipulated by Al-Shitabi for “common good”

Without going into too much detail, we may summarize the three generally recognized main conditions for situations when it is sure that no text has been enunciated:

  • The analysis and identification must be made with serious attention so that we may be sure that we have before us an authentic (haqiqiyya) and not an apparent or spurious (wahmiyya) The scholar must reach a high degree of certainty that the formulation of an injunction will avoid difficulty and not do the opposite and increase problems in the context of the Islamic legal structure.
  • The maslaha must be general (kulliyya) and be beneficial to the population and society as a whole, and not only to one group or class or individual.
  • The maslaha must not be in contradiction to or conflict with an authentic text from the Qur’an or the Sunna. If it were, it would no longer be a maslaha mursala but would be a maslaha mulgha.


What is clear from the above three conditions that it is the supremacy of the Qur’an and the Sunna over all other references and legal instruments. 


Dr. Yusuf Ali Qaradawi rightly recalls, taking up the ideas of al-GhazaliIbn al-Qayyim, and al-Shitabi, that everything found in the Qur’an and the Sunna is, in itself, in harmony with “the good of humankind” in general, for the Creator knows and wants what is best for human beings, and He shows them what they must do to achieve it. We find in the Qur’an, referring to the revealed message: “[the Prophet] who will enjoin upon them the doing of what is right and forbid them the doing of what is wrong, and make lawful for them the good things and forbid the bad things of life, and lift from them their burdens and the shackles that were upon them [aforetime]”

“They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” 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”. [Q, 2:219]


If the conditions stipulated for common good are, manifestly proclaimed (qati al-thubut wa-qati al-dalala) in the Qur’an and/or the Sunna, they must be respected and applied in the light of an understanding of the whole body of the objectives of Islamic teaching, maqasid al-Sharia.


“And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet except that when he spoke [or recited], Satan threw into it [some misunderstanding]. But Allah abolishes that which Satan throws in; then Allah makes precise His verses. And Allah is Knowing and Wise”. [Q, 22:52]



The author earnestly hopes and prays, that this piece will provide clarity to the people, on the issue of “RIBA” {as promised by Allah}, and help them choose the right path. InshaAllah.



April 9, 2018


By Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. (published on this site with his approval)

(This article was first published in JIMA (Journal of Islamic Medical Association, Volume 15, and No.4, 1983. The author holds the unique distinction and honor to be the first Muslim Scholar in the world to declare Smoking is Haram. He did with full conviction and courage.  Twenty years later the Ulama have realized the truth and every Muslim country in the world is following suit by declaring Smoking is Haram.)  


Cigarette smoking is the most widespread example of drug dependence in the United States and in all the Islamic countries as well.  The U.S.  Surgeon General’s Office considers cigarette smoking to America’s worst drug addiction problem. Medical investigations show that cigarette smoking is a major factor in the development of many cases of cancer, heart trouble, chronic lung and respiratory disease and other ailments. Smoking causes more illness and death than all other drugs. Cigarette smoking in pregnant women results in deleterious health effects on their newborn children. These Findings and the revelations in the Holy Qur’an clearly prohibit smoking of tobacco by Muslims. Hence smoking is unlawful in Islam.

 Smoking and Health Effects

 It is very well known that cigarette smoking is the most widespread example of drug dependence in the United States. A pamphlet released by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office entitled “Why People Smoke Cigarettes” calls cigarette smoking America’s worst drug addiction problem. It involves addiction to the drug nicotine in tobacco and possible other tobacco substances.

            An authoritative British report (1) stated that tobacco smoking is a form of drug dependence different from but no less strong than that of other addictive drugs—the most stable and well-adjusted person will, if he smokes at all, almost inevitably become dependent on the habit.

 An Australian government report of 1977 called Drug Problems in Australia – An Intoxicated Society(2), says, “It is important to recognize that smoking is a form of drug dependence, but one with especially insidious characteristics.”

 Like many other drugs, the chemicals in cigarette affect the chemistry of the brain and nervous system and create dependence and lead to compulsive use.

 More than 56 million Americans and multiple scores of millions more in other nations, including Islamic nations (3) are hooked on cigarettes in the same way as caffeine addicts are hooked on caffeine. A major reason why sales continue at high levels despite widespread public knowledge about the health hazards is the addictive nature of cigarettes.

  Most people start smoking just to conform to peer or social pressures. They get a feeling of “grown up.” They find smoking (nicotine) at first acts as a stimulant. Later they find they need to smoke as a tranquilizer.  These smokers develop a level of tolerance and bodily adjustment to nicotine. If this level of nicotine is not maintained in their blood, they will experience uncomfortable physical-psychological dependence problems. These uncomfortable feelings are classic drug withdrawal symptoms. Addictive drugs are psychoactive which create brain and nervous system dependence and lead to compulsive use. Abrupt discontinuation leads to physiological and psychological distress. The withdrawal symptoms are headache, stomach discomfort, nervousness, irritability, sweating, change in heart and blood pressure and lower excretion of some hormones affecting the nervous system (4).

The former U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Coop, says, “Cigarette smoking is clearly identified as the chief preventable cause of death (340,000 deaths per year in U.S.A.). In our society it is a major factor in the development of many cases of cancer, heart trouble, chronic lung and respiratory diseases and other ailments. Smoking causes more illnesses and death than all the other drugs.”(5)

Smoking and Islam

 In Islam cleanliness and hygiene are emphasized to the extent that it has been considered a part of Iman (faith). It is very well known that a smoker’s mouth is unclean and foul smelling “like a cigarette ash-tray.” Allah (SWT) says:

And forbids them what is bad.” The Qur’an, Surah Al-‘Araf, 7: 157

 “0 ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. Eschew such abominations that ye may prosper.”

 Al Ma’idah, 5: 93 

 The word intoxicant has three meanings (6):

(1)       To induce, especially the effect of ingested alcohol.

(2) To stimulate or excite.

(3)    To poison.

Except the first meaning the latter two are very well valid and both applicable to nicotine and caffeine.

  Smoking is nothing but a form of slow suicide. The Qur’an says:

“And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden…”

  Surah, Al-Isra, 17: 33

 “And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction.” Surah, Al-Baqara, 2: 195

 “Nor kill or destroy yourselves for verily Allah hath been to you most   Merciful.”    Surah, An-Nisa, 4: 29


The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) has said:

“Nor be hurt or injure others.” It is scientifically proven that the exhaled smoke of the smoker is hazardous to non-smokers around him.

The amount of money a smoker spends on cigarette smoking in a period of 30 years is calculated to be Two Hundred Thousand Dollars or more. All this money is simply wasted (not including the money spent on smoker’s health care).

Allah (SWT) says:  

“But squander not your wealth in the manner of a spend thrift, verily spendthrifts are brothers of evils.”

            Surah, Al-Isra, 17: 26, 27

 Body is polluted by smoking. Hence smokers cannot pray until they have cleansed themselves. According to the Qur’an:

 “0 ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when you are drunken, till ye know that which ye utter, nor when you are polluted save when journeying upon the road, till you have bathed.”

Surah, An-Nisa, 4: 43

 The Christians consider the human body to be a sacred trust given to man by God because it contains the spirit breathed into it by God. Even the Qur’an says 

“So,when I have made him and have breathed unto him of My spirit, do ye fall down, prostrating yourselves unto him ”                    Surah, Al-Hijr, 15: 29. 

Hence the physical body should not be polluted or injured or destroyed in any way by smoking or taking of alcohol or any type of habit-forming drugs.

The following is presented as evidence to prove the adverse effects on human body by tobacco smoke; figure 1 shows the chemical structure of Benzo (a) pyrene which is one of the most potent carcinogens known to man to be present in the tobacco smoke. Table I shows a list of tumor-initiating agents present in the particulate phase of tobacco smoke. Tables 2 to 5 present the mortality ratios for coronary artery disease, lung cancer, and other diseases. Table 6 shows the adverse effects of smoking by pregnant women on themselves, their fetuses, and their children.

C 0 N C L U S 1 0 N

For the foregoing reasons and for reasons considered elsewhere smoking is Haram or unlawful in Islam, hence smoking should be discouraged and finally banned in all Islamic countries.

All smoking Muslims should give up this unhealthy and un-Islamic activity. The best way to give it up is to stop all smoking completely. Tapering off on the amount one smokes does not work for most people. It is not easy to quit suddenly, but it is presently the most successful way. There are many ways and techniques available for a serious minded person to give up smoking, which cannot be discussed here.  For the Muslims who sincerely practice Islam and who submit themselves to the Will of Allah, this should not be a difficult task.


  1. The Royal College of Physicians, Smoking, or Health, Third Report

     1977, p.98.

  1. Drug Problems in Australia: An Intoxicated Society?  A Report from the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia, 1977.

3.Taha A.: Smoking and Muslim Countries: The immediate and serious Threat. J I M A.  14: 50-52, 1982.

  1. Jaffee JH, Drug Addiction and Drug Abuse  (Ch.16), Clinical Characteristics: Nicotine. In: The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. Goodman LS and Gilman A (Editors), Macmillan Pub. Co. Inc., New York, 1975.  P. 305.
  2. The Health Consequences of Smoking. The Changing Cigarette – a Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, P.H.S., Rockville, Maryland, 1981, DHSS (PBS) 81 – 50156.
  3. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1978, P. 686.
  4. Yusuf Al Qaradawi, Al Halal Wal Haram.  Cairo, 1960.
  5.  Smoking and health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service. P.H.S. Publication NO.1103 U. S.  Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Washington, D.C.  1965.

Psychological dimension of Qura’an

October 3, 2016


Image result for PICTURE OF OPEN QURAN

Qura’an’s main emphasis is on the guidance of human behavior/actions. Guidance is dispensed, mostly through general, and a few specifically, absolute, injunctions. Specifically, absolutes injunctions are called “limits” (Hudood)–which are just five. In explanation of the verses a fair use of analogy/allegory has been employed to accommodate common man’s logic and reasoning—elaborated through Ahadith and Sunnah; (words and deeds of the Prophet Mohammad-PBUH). Qura’anic verses, Ahadith and Sunnah are further interpreted and explained, by the exegetes, with reference to their contextual background presenting a coherent and cosmic perspective. (Literal translation whereof otherwise, may be misleading).


The importance of guidance can be gauged from the very fact that God, in the very first Surah “Al-Fath” (The-Victory), Himself taught the man how to pray and ask for guidance—for it is an embodiment of all material and spiritual benefits here and hereafter.


In Islamic parlance, the process of guidance is three tiered.                                                                          The first degree of guidance is given to every created thing. Qura’an (20:50) “Our Lord is He who gave unto everything its nature, then guided it aright”. Qura’an (17:44) “And there is not a thing except that it exalts God by His praise, but you do not understand their way of exalting”

The second degree of guidance is given to rational beings only through the Scriptures and Prophets explaining it. It may be accepted by some and rejected by others-hence being believers or non-believers. The tertiary degree of guidance is limited only to the Prophets and Men of God. It is of the highest degree and unlimited. It is called “Tawfeeq” which cannot be refuted or repelled by any rational being. Although the first and third degree of guidance are direct; without the medium of scripture or the prophets, yet in a matter of gradual progression from second to the third level, a rigor of the second degree (following the scripture and Prophet) would be inevitable. (The best example of “Tawfeeq” would be the endowment of Prophet-hood to Mohammad—PBUH—as he was un-lettered therefore, taught everything as a “Tawfeeq” by God).



RIGHTS fall in two domains as bifurcated below.



  • Rights of God (Allah) &   2) Rights of fellow human beings.     


Rights of God (Hudood) are absolute. There is no choice endowed to any human being regardless of his status or station; for any addition, deletion, modification or mollification. For details access the link below.


Rights of fellow Human beings, on the contrary, are open to interpretations within the strictures of Qura’an, Hadith & Sunnah; available as a consensus of OPINIONS of the (competent) religious scholars. There is an avenue of “Ijtihad” (by the competent religious scholars of the highest eminence) also available to address new issues/situations, which have either, not been addressed sufficiently, or at all, in either of the sources mentioned above. The institution of Ijtihad and the presence of various School-of-thoughts, provide a scope for adaptability as well, where “Taqleed” is not adhered to. (By the way, Imam Hanbal and Imam Ibn Tamayya and many others are against “Taqleed”).


Although in Qura’an, there is a panoply of topics on which injunctions have been issued, this treatise, however, would be restricted to tangibility and vassal; which are least discussed and explained with specific reference to human psychology.




Human Psychology

Human behavior, as mentioned earlier, is the main locus of Divine guidance, which can also be divided into two areas. (Philosophical terms have also been inducted at relevant places to broaden the scope of comprehension).

  1. Instinctive or innate behavior(Phil: Idealism, Priori knowledge).

Most prominent is the conception of the Creator–the Supreme Being, followed by empathy, compassion, rage fear, gratitude, possessiveness, self-protection, suckling etc. Qura’an stresses the cleansing of the inner-self through meditation, compassion and tranquility of justice enhancing the awareness and benefits conferred by these traits. In Sufic terminology, it would be a deliberate process of subduing the lower-soul, or lower-self (Nafs). These traits, contrary to general belief, do not annihilate, for they are an integral part of the human genre, but get channeled, through the bottleneck of struggle (mujahida), into higher soul/higher-self for higher purposes.


  1. Learned or acquired behavior— (Phil; Empiricism, Posteriori knowledge). A litany of the behavioral attitudes fall in this category, to name a few—-Defrauding, avariciousness, vanity, tangibility, and Vassal etc. The last two traits are often faced, but least understood and discussed. Qura’an in such matters, for the most part, orders prudence, care in association and equity of behavior by enshrining the element of “awe” (generally translated as (Fear)* backed up by a retributive system. The system of retribution is mostly reserved for the hereafter (with the exception of “injustice”, which is often swiftly dealt with here as well). Justice, of the last resort, however, will be done in the hereafter without the slightest discrepancy whatsoever.(Qura’an) A very important issue, which Qura’an mentions, is that the good done by the non-believers would fetch no reward in the hereafter. It would instead be rewarded right here in this world.



Tangibility & Vassal Qura’an has not expounded on these topics exclusively as a subject matter but rather alluded to them as causative-weaknesses of human behavior.



Acquired traits of human beings are of immense consequence. Most of the aberrations in human behavior stem from these, as a consequence of upbringing, culture, education, and training etc. We, in general, become so accustomed to tangibility that often, substitutes even God (Allah SWT) with someone or something conspicuous. For example instead of relying on God and asking Him to fulfill our needs we resort to some acquaintance. We always, as an impulse, think of rich and powerful to help us rather than the one who made them rich and powerful. This behavioral aberration emanates from “cognitive easement” which triggers the instant sense of association culminating in instant reposal of trust in thus cognized entity. (This cognitive easement, however, is normally one-sided and may or may not be fortuitous). On the contrary, cognitive journey, towards an unseen or invisible entity, would require deliberated efforts and conviction to be completed and fruitful. This behavioral pattern vividly explains the difference in the approach and mindset of an unbeliever* from that of a believer. This aspect of human tangibility and vassal has been aptly articulated in Surah Zuukhruf 43, V 31 & 32.                                                      *(A professed believer could also act as an unbeliever).



Pagans of Arabia often raised the objection that why Prophet Mohammad (PBUH); being of an ordinary background, has been accorded the prestige of Prophet-hood instead of some rich and powerful person of the town; who could have helped them with some mercy (compassion/favor) and put them to work. Ironically we, in our own time, often witness people coagulating around rich and powerful due to habituation with vassal and tangibility. Prophet Noah, (A.S) also complained of such an attitude of his people in Surah Nuh 71, V-21. Exegesis of Surah Tur 52, V-37 predicates the issue of similar attitude as well.


A couple of anecdotes, which would help bring the point home, are quoted here.

1) When Prophet Moses (A.S) journeyed to Mount Sinai (Zion) for 40 days his people, in his absence, started worshiping a “CALF” instead of God (Because it was visibly and tangibly right there).

2) When Prophet Moses (A.S) crossed river Nile and reached the other side, the first thing his people saw was; a tribe worshiping an idol, therefore, due to sudden tangibility impulse, they demanded that Prophet Moses (A.S) should make them a statue of God, like theirs. This probably was the worst example of habituation with tangibility. Prophet Moses (A.S) who just saved Israelites from the clutches of Pharaoh-god’s (tangibility/vassal): who they were forced to worship, wanted to worship an “idol” instead of God!


Translation (Surah Zukhruf 43, v 31, 32)

“They say! Why Qura’an is not revealed on any one of the great men of the two big cities?” “Is it they who distribute mercy of your Lord? We distributed among them their livelihood in this world and raised some of them in ranks over the others so that some of them may put some others to work. And Mercy of your Lord is much better than what they (the rich and powerful) may have accumulated” (wealth and resources etc)


Explanation (Exegesis)

“Mercy” here represents the Prophet (PBUH); which they objected to for being of humble background, and asked why not one of the rich men from big cities like Mecca or Taif has been chosen for this august office? God answered by admonishing them, that you can’t even handle the small economies of your cities, division of labor, distribution of resources etc, how dare you suggest, who should be chosen as a Prophet? God then declared that some of you have been accorded a higher rank; to act (like) as an Economic Manager, and that they have also been assigned resources (economy). Then He cautioned, that despite their higher ranks, do not seek favors from them (vassal) as My mercy is far better than their hoardings (wealth and resources—attractive to most human beings)” Human beings thus have been given a befitting answer with a warning about their weakness (I seek Allah’s refuge for any inadvertent misinterpretation or mistake)


1* – Fear (of not being able to do justice to the great task of worshiping God and recognizing His greatness). (Khashiyyah)  is the real term used, instead of fear, for its use is limited with reference to God only.  Khashiyyah} can loosely be translated as “Awe”.   “Fear” {Khawf}  ordinarily, is from  the other sentient beings.…/…/10/disjunctive-sequel-2/


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