Interest in Islam: 5 Points to Remember When Dealing With The Issue of Riba

By Dr. Main Alqudah

For Muslims in today’s global economy, the subject of interest is at the top of a list of hot button issues that often stir controversy in our communities. For Muslims conscious of their religious teachings on business transactions, to reconcile between the standards of a market founded upon interest and their faith, which has taken a clear and unapologetic stance against it, can be a momentous task indeed.

The subject of Riba is very nuanced, as the wide acceptance of interest is a deeply rooted ethic in modern finance. However, through my academic background & experience in this field, and through research founded upon classical Fiqh books and fatawa of various Fiqh Councils, there are 5 general points to remember when dealing with the issue of Riba.

  1. Interest is a major sin that incurs divine damnation and distances one from Allah’s mercy. Its prohibition is known by It is reported on the account of Jabir that Allah’s Messenger وسلم عليه اهلل صلى cursed the accepter of interest and its payer, and one who records it, and the two witnesses, and he said: They are all equal. (Sahih Muslim)

 2. It is also one of the seven fatal sins the Prophet وسلم عليه اهلل صلى warned about. It is the only sin in the entire Qur’an which Allah declared war upon those who commit it. {O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger. And if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger.} (Al- Baqarah: 278-279)


  1. General Hardship cannot be used as a justification to allow interest (Riba) outside of Muslim lands, neither can difficulty in avoiding it or living in a capitalist society that promotes it be seen as sufficient legal grounds to change the One can indeed avoid dealing with interest. Whoever finds it impossible to do so should consider living elsewhere.
  2. The calls made by some activists for allowing interest so that Muslims may become more financially viable and influential in our society are unfounded. In Shari’ah, means are treated the same as Allah is best aware of the interests of His servants, and He knows what serves their betterment. For the believer, all that is allowed is what Allah and His Prophet عليهوسلم اهلل صلى have permitted, and all that is forbidden is what Allah and His Prophet وسلم عليه اهلل صلى have forbade.
  3. Necessity – according to its technical usage – and general needs should be considered in special circumstances for allowing some interest-bearing transactions. Such situations should be dealt with case by case.