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Living a life free of riba in the twenty first century

Shakirah Hunter

The way we live in South Africa and in most of the Western world –  is intertwined with credit. In the world we live in it seems almost impossible to afford our lives. We use credit to purchase our children’s clothes, they grow so quickly, and it seems like we cannot keep up with the amount of needs and necessities that they have. Then there are bigger things that we purchase on credit – we look at the buying of a car and hardly any of us are able to afford this without credit. Purchasing a house is something that we all aspire to, yet the reality is that we are signing our lives away in a contract of interest.

Allah Ta’ala very clearly addresses Riba in the Qur’an:

قوله -تعالى-:(يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَذَرُوا مَا بَقِيَ مِنَ الرِّبَا إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ * فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا فَأْذَنُوا بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَالِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ)،

Firstly, Allah addresses us here as “Oh you who believe fear Allah” this highlights to us that it is only one’s Iman that might stop someone from living a life of interest as it makes our lives “seemingly” easier. Allah then says, “and leave whatever remains from interest if you are true believers”, Allah again ties the act of leaving interest to faith. And as we begin this discussion it is important that we understand that it won’t be easy to leave ribaa, but the long-term benefits allow for incredible amounts of barakah in your time and wealth. Here Allah highlights an important effect of Ribaa in that it directly enters us into a war with Allah Ta’ala. This means a long-term impact on our lives. A constant sense of chasing your tail and never having enough to meet your daily needs.

Allah Ta’ala has made ribaa haram to ensure that we live in a society of equity and justice – to promote charity and to remove selfishness and self-centeredness. In the current climate, people are living with the focus of their own selves and how they can gain more at the expense of others. The banking systems are built to be exploitative in nature.

Narrated by  Abu  Hurayrah (ra):  The  Prophet,  (peace  be  upon  him),  said:  “On  the  night of Ascension I came  upon people whose stomachs  were like  houses  with snakes  visible from the outside. I asked Jibril (As) who they were. He replied that they were people who had  received Riba.”  (Ibn  Majah,  Kitab  al-Tijarat,  Bab  al-taghlizi  fi al-Riba;  also  in Musnad Ahmad)

We understand that Riba is not permitted in Islam – but it is in deciding to live a life that is Riba free that we begin this journey. At first we look at little changes – but ultimately our goal is to live on the money that we earn and save our money and spend without credit or debt. This seems to be incredibfly difficult – but in asking Allah Ta’ala to allow us to live without these effects there will be short term test and strife but long term benefit. One practical way to get ahead of interest is to live frugally for a month or two and save your wealth. Once you have some savings it becomes easier to live within your means  and to spend without taking out interest.

How do we stay away from Riba practically?

  1. Having tawakkul that Allah will provide for you and your family- this has to be a daily focus of your words, thoughts and actions. The current Conversations of Society tend to break down our Iman and it is usually those statements that take you away from relying on Allah.
  2. If you do have store -cards or credit cards – don’t simply pay the minimum amount. Ensure that you pay double to offset the interest amount.
  3. If you do not have an Islamic account – ensure that you check the amount of interest on your account and remote that amount monthly and give it out to a person who can be a xzakah recipient. This will not be regarded as your zakaah but will be a cleansing for your wealth.
  4. Not taking out loans which incur interest- personal loans are often the easiest loans to get approved by a Bank and usually have irrational amounts of Pinterest attached to it.
  5. Choosing halal investments (for example gold rather than the stock market)
  6. Renting and saving the cash for a home instead of a mortgage
  7. Being wary of contracts you sign and having a student of knowledge/imam/shaykh check them
  8. Opening up bank accounts without interest (in other words, chequing accounts)
  9. Making bill payments on time so as not to incur a late penalty (set your account to automatic payment so the bank will automatically withdraw and you will be sure to not pay late)
  10. Borrowing money from family or friends where possible
  11. Not buying what you simply don’t have the money for – live within your means
  12. Dealing with Islamically compliant banks
  13. Accepting/Organizing a “Goodly Loan” (al Qard al Hasanah), which is a loan by means of which one intends to show kindness to another, which does not involve taking Riba.

Listen to the full Podcast here


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