Prohibition of Usury in Major Religions
Prohibition of Usury in Islam
The word “Riba” is used in the Holy Quran 8 times. In 30:39,4:161,3:130, 2:276,2:278 and 3 times in 2:275. In the pre-Islamic period, riba was prevalent. It was common practice to take addition along with the principal amount. Just like the prohibition of alcohol, Allah does not prohibit Riba suddenly, but he revealed in different stages. There are four stages of riba in the Qur’an. Click here to learn more…“Quranic Verses on Prohibition of Riba,” “Prohibition of Riba in stages”.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) classified it among the seven major sins
“Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Avoid the seven great destructive sins.” They (the people!) asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What are they?” He said, “To join partners in worship with Allah; to practice sorcery; to kill the life which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause (according to Islamic law); to eat up usury (Riba), to eat up the property of an orphan; to give one’s back to the enemy and freeing from the battle-field at the time of fighting and to accuse chaste women who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers.” Volume 8, Book 82, Number 840:
Some Muslims may argue that only the taking of interest is prohibited. But one Sahih Hadith says “Hazrat Jabir r.a. has reported that the Messenger of Allah cursed the
devourer of usury, its payer, its scribe and its two witnesses. He also
said that they were equal (in sin).” (Mishkat-ul-Masabih)
Prohibition of Usury in Judaism and Christianity.
Usury is not only prohibited in Islam. The prohibition is also found in the old testaments and new testaments where the Jews and Christians are forbidden to deal with usury. Ribit is the word used in the language of the Old Testament for usury. Some of the references are mentioned below:
If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a money lender; charge him no interest. (Exodus 22:25)
Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. (LevifiCus 25:36)
Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. (Deuteronomy 23:19)
In the Talmud, Ezekiel regarded interest as an abomination, and he associated people of usuary with people who shed blood. (Hossain, “Why is interest prohibited in Islam?” 241-253.)
“Righteous servant of God doesn’t take interest” He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or lie with a woman during her period. He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 18:5-9)
“He eats at the mountain shrines. He defiles his neighbor’s wife. He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things. He lends at interest and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head.” (Ezekiel 18:10-13)
In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken interest and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 22:12)
Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts…
Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever. (Psalms 15:1,2,5)
I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest each from his brother.”And I held a great assembly against
them. (Nehemiah 5:7)
Do not ill-treat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan… If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender, charge him no interest” (Exodus 22:21-25).
If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, do not take interest of any kind from him but fear your God that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit” (Leviticus, 25:35-37)
Luke 6:34-35 – “And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “
Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
For centuries, riba was condemned in Europe, and there was no leeway given. In the 12th century, Pope Alexender III implemented the serious penalty of ex-communication for those who dealt in usuary. (Hossain, “Why is interest prohibited in Islam?” 241-253.)
Prohibition of Usury in Hinduism
According to a Sanskrit dictionary, Kusida is any loan or thing lent to be repaid with interest, lending money upon interest, usury.
(A Sanskrit -English Dictionary, by Sir Monier Monier-Williams, Oxford University Press, Amen house, London. 1956, 1960, p. 208)
Vasishtha (A well known Hindu law-maker) made a special law prohibiting the higher castes of Brahmans (priests) and Kshatriyas (warriors) from lending on interest. The ruling of prohibition of interest in Hinduism is not general but it is prohibited only for two castes; Brâhmana and Kshatriya.
‘God weighed in the scales the crime of killing a learned Brâhmana against the crime of charging interest; the slayer of the Brâhmana remained at the top, the charger of interest sank downwards.’
( Vasishtha, The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, Part II, Chptr 2, vs 40-42. )
In addition, Goutama allows taking interest from someone else on the loan, but Boudhain rules that food should not be eaten in the house of Brahmans who receive usury.
(Prachin Bharat Ka Itihas (Ancient India), Hindi Edition By Mahajan V.D.2008 p.80.)
Bhishma said, ‘…They who betakes themselves to improper conduct, they who take exorbitant rates of interest, and they who make unduly large profits on sales, have to sink in hell.’. (Mahabharata Anusasana Parva Section XXIII).