Warnings And Advises Regarding Debt
by Hussain Aalus-Sheikh - from Masjid Al-Haramain
1) Shari’ah preserves people’s rights.
2) The sanctity of the Muslim’s wealth.
3) Islaam warns against debt.
4) The Prophet refuses to pray over the one who died while still in debt.
5) Delaying payment of debt while able to is a form of transgression.
6) Advises to debtors, creditors and charitable people.
7) The virtue of tolerant creditors.
8) Warning against depriving workers from their rights.
Brothers in faith! When one considers the sources of the noble Islamic Shari’ah it will be apparent that the general purpose of establishing these laws is to protect the organic structure of this Ummah, its existence and it’s uprightness; from the soundness of its Aqeedah and deeds to the correctness of people’s affairs in all their manifestations. This, Islam does in a complete systematic arrangement in order to maximize the derivation of benefit and to prevent or minimize the occurrence of corruption and vices.
To actualise this noble goal, Islaam holds people’s rights in high esteem by identifying the rightful owners of these rights and giving instructions on how to make proper use of them in a natural way. It is from this point that Islamic teachings covetously aspire to protect people’s rights and respect them and this is what made the 'Ulamaa established the popular principle: “Whereas the rights of men are based on limitations and inconsistency, the rights of Allah are based on facilitation and leniency.”
Allah, the Almighty, calls attention to an aspect of honouring people’s rights when He says, “And eat up not one another’s property unjustly.” (Al-Baqarah: 188).
The Prophet also corroborated this point when he said, “A Muslim’s property should not be taken except by his willing consent.” He also said, “Verily, your blood, properties and honour are sacred to each another, just as the sacredness of this day of yours in this month of yours and in this city of yours.” This is confirmed by another statement of his, “The hand is responsible for whatever it takes until it returns it.” He also says, “Render back the trust to whoever put something in your trust and do not betray he who betrays you.” (Abu Dawood and others).
Fellow Muslims! Among the people’s rights that Islam guarantees and firmly laid it’s foundation and principles is paying debts owed to fellow human beings. Islam strongly warns against negligence in paying debts, unnecessarily delaying them or treating them with utter disregard. Debts due to human beings are great trusts and huge responsibilities in the eyes of Islam. Allah says, “Verily! Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice.” (An-Nisaa’: 58).
Imaam Al-Bukhaaree titled a chapter in his Saheeh: “Chapter: Paying of Debts” He then completely quoted the above verse and said, Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, strongly commands His slaves, saying, “Then if one of you entrusts the other, let the one who is entrusted discharge his trust (faithfully).” (Al-Baqarah: 283). He also says, “O you who believe! Fulfil (your) obligations.” (Al-Maa’idah: 1).
Further, Islaam strongly condemns violation of these rights. The Prophet said, “Whoever has done a wrong to his brother should free himself from that (i.e. by rectifying it) for he will possess not a single gold or silver coin (on the Day of Judgement) until his wronged brother is given of his good deeds (as a compensation). If he however has no good deeds to his credit, some of sins of his wronged brother will be taken and thrown upon him.”
Islam regards debts so seriously, that they are exempted from the deeds than can be forgiven and overlooked. The Prophet said, “Allah will forgive the martyr all his sins except for his debts.” (Muslim).
In a Hadeeth narrated by Abu Qatadah, the Prophet stood among them (his companions) and said, “Indeed, Jihaad in the way of Allah and Eeman are the best of all deeds.” A man stood up and said, “Tell me, if I am killed in the way of Allah, shall all my sins be removed, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, :Yes, if you are patient, seeking your reward from Allah, facing the enemy and not turning your back to him- except debt- That is what Jibreel told me.” (Muslim).
It is also to stress the gravity of debts that the Prophet did not pray upon a debtor when he died. Jaabir narrated that, “A man died among us and we bathed him, perfumed him and shrouded him. Then we came to the Prophet and asked him, ‘Will you pray on him?’ He took a few steps and then said, ‘Has he any debts?’ We replied, ‘He has a debt of two Dinars.’ Upon hearing that, the Prophet went away. Then Abu Qatadah undertook to pay the debt. We, thereafter went to the Prophet and Abu Qatadah told him, ‘I would pay the two Dinars.’ The Prophet then said, ‘The creditors right is guaranteed and the deceased is free from debt?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet then prayed on him.” (Ahmad and others).
In a Hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurrairah, the deceased persons used to be brought to the Prophet and he would ask, ‘Did he leave anything with which his debt could be paid?’ If we told him that he left something, he would pray on him and if not, he would say, ‘Pray on your man (yourselves).’ When Allah opened the treasures for him as a result of the conquests he would say, ‘I am closer to the believers than their own selves; whoever dies (among them) and he has debts, I will be responsible for his debts.’” (Bukhaarie & Muslim).
The ‘Ulamaa say, “His abstention from praying on debtors when they died was because his prayer on them is an intercession, and his intercession is accepted, while nothing cancels debts except paying it.”
Brothers in Islam! Deferment of paying outstanding debts on the part of rich people is injustice and when one of you is made to follow a solvent man, he would follow him.” (Bukhaarie & Muslim).
He also said, “The delay of a capable man in paying his debts desecrates his honour and makes him liable to punishment.”
Brothers in Islam! There are some divine injunctions and Prophetic admonitions on matters of debts that emanate from Islam’s recognition of reality and its principle of kindness, mercy, compassion, facilitation and flexibility, of which is its permission for a Muslim to borrow when in a period of need with a good intention and a sincere determination to pay back the debt. He should not take it with an evil intention (i.e. with intention of not paying it back). The Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever takes people’s money (by debt) with the intention of paying it back, Allah will pay it back on his behalf, and whoever takes it with the intention of usurping it, Allah will destroy him.” The Ulamaa say, “Allah’s paying it back on his behalf means facilitating its payment for him in this world and paying it back on his behalf in the hereafter with whatever He wills if the debtor could not pay it in this world.”
Ibn Maajah and others reported that the Prophet said, “No Muslim will take a debt which Allah knows that he wants to pay it back except that Allah pay it back on his behalf in this world and the hereafter.” One should therefore be aware of nursing bad intention of not paying back the debt for whoever does that exposes himself to the destruction mentioned in the above-quoted Hadeeth. The Ulamaa say, “The destruction includes destruction of his life, his good living, making things difficult for him and making him devoid of blessings (Barakah) in this world not to mention the torment that awaits him in the hereafter.”
Brothers in faith! Of the noble instructions that Islam gives is its enjoinment of the creditor to give out debt with kindness, and honour the debtor when he is paying back. The Prophet borrowed a young camel from a man and when the Zakaah camels were brought to him he ordered Abu Raafi’ (his servant) to pay back the borrowed young camel. Abu Raafi’ told him that he could not find a young camel among the brought ones and that all the camels were of the best type. The Prophet told him, ‘Give it to him, for it is the best of all people who pays back in the best form.’” (Muslim).
Fellow Muslims! One of the legacies of Islamic law is that one should make things easy for the poor and the needy and grant them respite in paying back their debts. Allah says, “And if the debtor is in a hard time (has no money) then grant him time till it is easy for him to repay.” (Al-Baqarah: 280).
Brothers in Islam! Making things easy for the poor has a great virtue and a huge reward. The Prophet said, “Whoever makes things easy for a person in hardship, Allah will make things easy for him in this world and the hereafter.” Among major means of facilitation is to write off the whole debt or part of it. Allah says, “But if you remit it by way of charity, that is better for you.” (Al-Baqarah: 280).
The Prophet said, “There was a merchant who would lend money to people. Whenever he saw a poor person who could not pay, he would tell his workers, ‘Write off his debt that Allah may forgive us.’ So Allah forgave him.” (Al-Bukhaaree & Muslim).
In another Hadeeth, Huthaifah and Abu Mas’ood Al-Ansaarie narrated that they heard the Prophet saying, “A man died and was asked, ‘Why did Allah forgive you?’ He replied, ‘I used to have business transactions with people and I would write off debts owed me by the poor and alleviate for the rich.’” The Prophet also said, “Whoever gives respite to a poor person or writes off his debt, Allah will put him under His shade on a day on which there will be no shade except His.”
Brothers in Islam who are wealthy! Visit the poor and look for the debtors, support them with which that Allah has bestowed on you and make things easy for them. The Prophet said, “Whoever relieves a believer of a hardship of this world, Allah will relieve him of a hardship of the Day of Resurrection.” He also says, “Whoever wants his supplications to be accepted or his hardships to be removed should remove hardship from the poor.” (Ahmad).
Brothers in faith! Adhere to all these injunctions and enliven them: you will prosper, your affairs will be made good and your society will be upright.
Dear Brothers! Among the rights that Islam strongly enjoins and seriously condemns its postponement is unnecessary delay in payment of the wages of hired workers. The Prophet said, “Allah says, ‘There are three people whom I shall be their opponent on the Day of Judgement: (1) A man who was given something in My Name and then betrays; (2) A man who sells-off a free man (as a slave) and consumes the price; and (3) A man who hires a labourer, makes use of his service then does not give him his wages.’” (Bukhaarie). He also says, “Give the labourer his wages before his sweat dries.” (Ibn Majah).