Islam guides us in every major and minor decision in our lives. The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam taught us everything that will help us achieve Allah’s pleasure. It is essential to know how to deal with things in the way that is pleasing to Allah, and how to avoid His displeasure. Therefore the Prophet has elaborated in those issues that are most important in our daily transactions. One of these issues is that about loans and debts. Almost everyone at some point of their lives will give or take loans. The Prophet taught us exactly how to do it, and what are the best ways of doing it.
The Prophet’s Attitude Towards Incurring Debt
The Prophet did take loans from time to time. But in general he was wary of it. He used to make a lot of dua against incurring overburdening debts.
Anas ibn Malik said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to often say, ‘O Allah, I seek refuge with You from worry, sorrow, incapacity, laziness, cowardice, avarice, being overburdened by debt and being overcome by other men.'” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 801, sunnah.com]
Effect of Debt on Character
Aisha (radiyallahu anha) asked the Prophet why he made so much dua against incurring debts. He replied, ‘Whoever gets into debt speaks and lies, and makes a promise and breaks it.'” [Sunan an-Nasa’i 5454, sunnah.com]
Also, the creditor’s attitude often becomes harsh towards the debtor if the latter delays in paying off the loan. Although the creditor may be sometimes justified in doing so, it still has a bad effect on his character, making him tough.
This is indeed very true and observable in most business transactions taking place around us. Therefore, in order to safeguard our characters, it is best not to take loans.
The Prophet’s Attitude Towards Giving Loans
It is encouraged to give loans to the needy. Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A man would give loans to the people and he would say to his servant: If the debtor is in hardship you should forgive the debt that perhaps Allah will relieve us. So when he met Allah, then Allah relieved him.” [Sahih Bukhari 3293, Sahih Muslim 1562, dailyhadithonline.com]
It was narrated from Buraidah Al-Aslami that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Whoever gives respite to one in difficulty, he will have (the reward of) an act of charity for each day. Whoever gives him respite after payment becomes due, will have (the reward of) an act of charity equal to (the amount of the loan) for each day.” [Sunan Ibn Majah Book 15, Hadith 2511, sunnah.com]
Delaying to Pay Debt
Unless one is unable, it is very reprehensible delaying to pay one’s debts. Sheikh ‘Abd al-Hamid Kishk says about this, “A debtor, on the other hand, is eager for wealth at the time of his need but then lazy when it comes to repaying it, imagining this to be too much of a strain on him and fearing the poverty and need he was in which made him resort to borrowing in the first place.” (121)
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Procrastination (delay) in paying debts by a wealthy man is injustice. So, if your debt is transferred from your debtor to a rich debtor, you should agree.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 2287, sunnah.com]
It is even permissible to beg when one is in heavy debt. The Prophet said,
“Begging is not lawful except for one of three cases: a man who is in heavy debt, so begging is permissible for him until he pays it, after which he must stop….” [Sahih Muslim 1044, dailyhadithonline.com]
Effect of Debt after Death
The importance of paying off debts can be understood from the fact that after death, first of all the debts need to be cleared, and then only can the estate be divided among inheritors. Allah (swt) says (translation of the meaning),”If you have brothers or sisters, your mother receives a sixth, after any bequest you make or any debts.” (4: 11)
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The soul of the deceased believer remains pending on account of the debt till it (the debt) is repayed.” [At-Tirmidhi, Book 7, Hadith 49, sunnah.com]
Making It Easy for the Debtor
It is praiseworthy and highly rewarding to lift a burden from one’s brother, and debt is definitely a huge burden as can be seen from the above ahadith.
The Messenger of Allah said, “A man would give loans to the people and he would say to his servant: If the debtor is in hardship you should forgive the debt that perhaps Allah will relieve us. So when he met Allah, then Allah relieved him.” [Sahih Bukhari 3293, Sahih Muslim 1562]
Paying More During Repayment of Debt
The Prophet would pay more than the due amount while repaying debts. Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: The Prophet (ﷺ) owed me a debt and gave me something extra when he paid it. [Sunan Abi Dawud 3347]
Paying extra while repaying debt does not fall under riba, since it is done without the creditor asking for it, and it is done out of kindness and goodwill of the debtor.
Islam is a balanced religion. On the one hand we are encouraged to help our brothers and sisters by giving out loans and going easy in asking for payback. On the other hand we are discouraged to take loans unnecessarily and delaying in paying it back although we are able to do it. These rules indeed reflect the beauty and thoroughness of Allah’s religion.
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