"....semua makhluk ciptaan Tuhan samada manusia,binatang,tumbuhan, alam semulajadi dan sebagainya,saling perlu memerlukan,saling bantu-membantu kerana mereka berkait,terikat antara satu sama lain dalam satu kitaran yang berhubungan. Justeru, jangan diputuskan ikatan itu, kelak, seluruh kitaran akan musnah..." Ahmad Rais Johari
Riba literally means ‘Increase’. Technically, it means any unjustified increase in the transaction. It is in short, in lay-man terms, a ‘rip-off’. It can be conveniently translated as ‘Usury’. Lending money on interest is the most known form of Riba. However, there are seventy different kinds of Riba, the lowest enormity of which, the Prophet (Sal.) said, is equivalent to marrying one’s own mother. Riba transactions include cheating, breaking a promise of payment, taking payment before the delivery of goods, using a representation of money (or a form of debt – ‘dayn’) as money itself, which should be ‘ayn’, fraudulent transactions, transactions in which no risk, effort or warranty is involved and transactions in which one party benefits at the ignorance of the other party, among many others.
There was about a month left in the life of the Prophet (Sal.). Allah had already revealed the third verse of Surah al-Ma-idah mentioning that He has perfected the Deen and completed the favour upon the Muslims, and chosen Islam as the religion for them. Jibreel alayhissalam had just come to the Rasul (Sal.) in the form of a handsome man explaining Islam, Iman, Ihsan, and two prominent Signs of the Last Day to the Muslims, after which the Prophet (Sal.) described the event by saying, “That was Jibreel and he came to teach you your Deen.” The Prophet (Sal.) had also delivered his farewell sermon during the Hajj at ‘Arafah. By now, revelation had stopped for a while and it seemed everything was complete.
It was at this point that Allah in His mighty wisdom revealed His decree, the appointed time, for the last revelation of the Quran to descend. It was not by accident that after all the above-mentioned sequence of events this last revelation dealt with the subject of Riba. It was from verses 275 to 281 of Surah al-Baqarah. Allah revealed a last warning against the practice of Riba and did not stop there but went further to declare war against those who would ever dare to continue engaging in Riba transactions even after that revelation.
We are now living in the Last Age about which the Rasul sallallahu alayhi wa sallam warned, that in such times, the world will be engulfed in Riba and even for the best of the Muslims in such times who would not engage in usurious transactions, even on them, will be the dust of Riba, or in another narration, the vapour of Riba. It is only now that we may partially understand why Allah chose to give special warning against Riba and a singled-out declaration of waragainst those who practice Riba. We see today what Riba has done. We see the repercussions of the crime of Riba. Riba is a crime against humanity. We see how it has destroyed whole nations and continents and reduced the overwhelming majority of the world’s population to poverty and destitution. We see how the poor are growing poorer and larger in number, and the rich are growing richer and smaller in number. Riba is a disease that is destroying not only the human population, it is destroying the earth, the seas and the atmosphere and all that are on and in them.
Imam Malik said that he looked through the Quran and all the hadith that he knew and he found no other wrong action worse than Riba, after Shirk (associating partners with Allah). This is because Allah’s language and the Prophet’s (Sal.) language against Riba is probably theharshest of all sins. The Prophet (Sal.) cursed the one who gave Riba, the one who consumed it, the scribe and the two witnesses to the transaction. He said that consuming one dirham is equivalent to committing zina (adultery or fornication) 36 times. When we are in Riba, our worship and our dua are not accepted. This is what we find in the Quran and the sunnah. The prohibition of Riba is strong and there is no way any amount of Riba can be justified or allowed or accepted, not even a ½ percent.
It is therefore our duty to know about the different types of Riba and the enormity of the sin of engaging in such transactions. We must be meticulous in our trade, business affairs and our earnings so that there is no Riba in it. We must struggle to come out of Riba once we realise we are in it. We cannot say “I do what I can to come out of it.” We must say, “I do what I have to so I will not face Allah and His Messenger in war and I will come out of it with all my might, insha Allah!” If the dust is on us while we do not directly deal in any such transactions, then we should read Surah al-Kahf every Friday for protection from such fitnah and live by the Surah in such difficult times when “holding on to Islam is like holding on to burning coals”, but because the coals are burning our hands, can we drop them? We’ll let our hands perish in the fire of the coal rather than drop it on the ground.