The Islamic Etiquettes of Loaning
To give a loan to a needy person is to be helpful to him, and, in some Traditions of the Prophet (saws), it is said that the recompense on it is even greater than that on charity. At the same time, severe warnings have, also, been given concerning the debt. The Prophet (saws) urged the borrowers to pay back the debts as soon as possible for if they died in a state of indebtedness, with the claim of anyone lying unsettled on their heads, the sequel of it would be most lamentable for them in the Hereafter.
(1) It is related, on the authority of Abu Umama, that the Apostle of God (saws) said that “as a person entered Heaven, he saw that it was written on the Gate of Heaven that the recompense on charity was ten-fold, and on giving a loan, eighteen-fold.”
It is not clear who the person spoken of in this Tradition was. The Prophet (saws) may have narrated what had been seen by some virtuous man in a dream or described one of his own visions in this form. The latter view is, to some extent, supported by the fact that Imam Ibn Majah, too, has quoted this Tradition with the addition that: “I, (the Apostle of God), enquired from Gabriel what was the special merit in a loan that it was superior to charity. He replied that a suppliant (to whom charity is given) solicits alms and accepts charity even when he has something, (money etc.,) on him, while a person who asks for a loan does so only when he is in need.’” – Jam’a-ul-Fuwayid
Sometimes, a person who, also, is self-respecting is in dire need of money, but he does not like to ask anyone for help or accept charity, and prefers to borrow. To give a loan to such a person will, evidently, be better than charity. Our own experience is that there are many people who though willing to help a needy person through Zakat or charity, do not like to advance him a loan. This Tradition, particularly, contains a moral for them.
(2) It is related by Abu Moosa Ash’ari that the Apostle of God, said: “After the major sins (such as, Polytheism and adultery) from which God has strictly enjoined upon us to abstain, the greatest sin is that a man died in a state that he owed a debt to anyone and left behind no assets to pay it off.”
– Musnad Ahmad and Daarimi
(3) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “The soul of a faithful Believer remains suspended in the middle owing to indebtedness, until the debt is paid off.”
– Musnad Shaf’ae, Musnad Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Daarimi
It shows that if a person dies in such a condition that he is a Muslim, and has, also, done good deeds that are a source of deliverance, but he is in debt and has not been careful enough to pay it back, he will not be admitted to Paradise until the debt has been paid back on his behalf.
(4) It is related by Abdullah bin ‘Amr that the Apostle of God said: “If a person is killed in the path of God, all his sins are forgiven (by virtue of martyrdom), except a loan.”
Martyrdom is such a meritorious act that all the sins of a man are forgiven as a result of it. But if a person owes a debt to anyone and he falls a martyr in the way of God without having paid it off and has been negligent about it, he will remain caught in misfortune on account of it, since it is related to the Rights of Men, until the debt is paid on his behalf or the creditor himself decides to write it off for the sake of God.
(5) It is related, on the authority of Mohammad bin Abdullah bin Hajsh, that “(once), we were sitting in the open space outside the mosque where the dead bodies are brought and the Apostle of God, also, was sitting with us that, suddenly, he looked towards the sky, and saw something, and, then, lowered his gaze, and sat (in a typically concerned and meditative mood), with his hand placed on the forehead, and remarked: ‘Good God! God be praised! What a stern warning and commandment has come! The narrator, Mohammad bin Abdullah, goes on to relate: “We kept quiet on that day and night (and waited for what was to happen), (but), when all went well, we asked the Apostle of God the next morning about the grave and depressing thing that had been it revealed the last day. The Prophet replied: ‘A most stern warning and commandment has been revealed about loan,’ (Elaborating on it, the Apostle of God observed): ‘By the Holy Being in whose control is my life! If a person is killed in Jehad, and he returns to life, and is killed, again, in Jehad, and returns to life only to be killed again, in Jehad, and there is still a debt outstanding against him, even he will not enter Paradise until the debt is settled.’”
These Traditions and warnings, seemingly, appertain to cases in which the debts remain unpaid owing to negligence or badness of intention. If a person wants sincerely to pay back a loan but can not do so owing to the adversity of his circumstances and departs from the world being in debt, it is confidently expected from the Mercy and Benevolence of the Lord that he will be deemed excusable.
(6) It is related by Salma bin Ako’o that “we were sitting with the Apostle of God that a dead body was brought and the Apostle of God was requested to lead the funeral service. The Apostle of God enquired: ‘Does he owe a debt to anyone?’ On being told that the man had not died in debt, the Apostle of God led the service. Later. another dead body was brought and the Apostle of God enquired if the person owed a debt to anyone. ‘‘Yes’, he was told, ‘the man has died in debt.’ ‘Has he left behind anything out of which the debt can be paid?’ asked the Apostle of God. The people informed that he had left behind three Dinars. The Apostle of God, then, led the funeral service. After it, a third dead body was brought and the Apostle of God, again, enquired if the person had died in the state of indebtedness. ‘Yes’, the people said. ‘He owed three Dinars.’ The Apostle of God, then, asked if he had left any assets (which could be used for paying the debt). The Prophet was told that the man had left behind nothing. Upon it, the Prophet told the Companions present to offer the funeral prayers of their brother. At that time, Abu Qatadah Ansari requested the Apostle of God to lead the service, saying that he had taken upon himself the loan the dead person owed. (He will pay it). The Apostle of God, thereupon, led the funeral service.”
The action of the sacred Prophet, apparently, was aimed at imparting to the people the lesson not to be neglectful in the payment of dues. The endeavour of everyone should, as such, be to depart from the world in the condition that he did not owe anything to anyone. Another Tradition quoted in Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Hazrat Abu Hurairah, tells that the attitude of the holy Prophet towards the funeral Namaz of persons who, as indicated above, died being in debt, related to the early phase of Islam. Later on, when the Lord had opened the door of victories and abundance, and the period of poverty was over, the Prophet had declared that if a Muslim died in a state of indebtedness, and he did not leave behind assets that could be used to pay the debt, it would be his responsibility to clear it up. The aim, again, was that the claim of anyone on a Muslim did not remain unsatisfied.
(7) Abu Hurairah relates, saying that the Apostle of God said: ‘Whoever borrows (money etc.) from anyone and has the intention to return it, God will make it possible for him to pay it back, i.e., help him to clear it up, and if he cannot do so in his life-time, God will settle it, on his behalf, in the Hereafter, and, thus, release him of the responsibility. And whoever borrows (money etc.,) from anyone and has no intention to pay it back, God will have it destroyed, i.e., the money will not only prove a curse in After-life, but, in this world, too, it will be of no help or comfort to him.”
(8) It is related by Abdullah bin Jafar bin Abi Talib that the Apostle of God said: “God is with the debtor until the debt is paid provided that it has not been taken for a wrong purpose.”
– Ibn Majah
It shows that if a person takes a loan for a genuine need and a good and legitimate purpose, and, he, also, sincerely desires to pay it back, there will be the special favour of the Lord on him until the debt is cleared up. It is, further, stated in Ibn-i-Maja, in connection with the above report, that, on its ground, the narrator, Hazrat Abdullah bin Jafar, used always to remain in debt. He would say that he wished that none of his days and nights were spent without the good graces of the Lord. From the record of Hazrat Abdullah bin Jafar’s life it appears that he was a very generous person, and that was why he was always running into debt.
Practice of the Prophet
The holy Prophet, too, had the need to borrow which he often did. He used to take a loan, also, from non-Muslims like the Jews.
(9) Abu Hurairah narrates that “(once) a person demanded from the Apostle of God the payment of a loan he had made to him and used strong language upon which the Companions (present) thought of scolding him, but the Apostle of God checked them, saying: ‘Leave him alone. Do not say anything to him for a man who has a claim has the right to talk in that manner. Go and buy a camel to repay the loan and give it to him.’ On returning, the Companions said that (a camel of the class of the animal the man had lent was not available). The only camel that could be had was better and bigger than his camel. The Apostle of God, thereupon, said, ‘Buy it and give it to him for he is a better man who pays back better than what is due’”.
For the debtor to give more than what was due at the time of the repayment of a loan is not only-lawful, but, also, commendable, and in conformity with the practice of the Prophet. It does not amount to interest because no such condition is agreed to at the time of borrowing. It is a favour and a gift.
In the olden days, it was common in Arabia to borrow a camel. The deal was settled not in terms of cash, but that the borrower would return a camel of the same class and age within a specified period. The holy Prophet had taken a camel from someone on the same terms, and, perhaps, the man had come to demand payment at the end of the stipulated time and had been rude upon which the Companions wanted to rebuke him, but the Prophet told them to keep quiet as he owed him a debt and the creditor was within his rights to be angry. The Prophet, further, said to them to buy a camel of the same breed and age, and give it to him. The Companions looked for such an animal, but it was not available while a better one was. The Prophet, then, told them to buy and give it and added that a better man was he who paid more and of a superior quality than what was owed.
(10) Abdullah bin Abi Rab’ah narrates that “once the Apostle of God had taken a loan of forty thousand from him. When (enough) money had come to the Prophet, he returned it, and blessed him, saying: ‘May Allah bestow abundance on your wealth and family. The recompense of a loan is that it should be repaid and the giver thanked and praised.’”
As these Traditions show, the holy Prophet used to borrow money etc., and when it came to returning a loan, he gave better and more than what was due, and, also blessed the giver. The above report, further, tells that the Prophet, sometimes, borrowed large sums of money. He would, obviously, have taken such loans for a religious need like Jehad, otherwise his own life-style, as well as of his family, was such that, in the words of Hazrat Ayesha, they never ate, even barley-bread to their satisfaction for two consecutive days, and often went without a meal, and the oven was not lighted in their homes, for months during which they lived only on dates and water.