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It is imperative to briefly examine the principle of tawhid oneness which constitutes the basis of Islam and its relation to the concept of interest. According to Quran, this principle is the essence of all Abrahamic religions. Allah offers what he owns to the humankind, so that humans would perform their economic activities[ 19 ]. Man is expected to assume some responsibilities in return for this generosity.

For instance, the principle of tawhid refers to some obligations in respect to the right to property and views the economic opportunities bestowed upon man as means of maturation[ 20 ]. For this reason, man is now allowed to make use of his properties without considering the divine rules and principles as if he is the absolute owner[ 21 ].

Thus, financial transactions cannot be properly understood without considering this cardinal principle of Islam Choudhury, One of the principles that Allah requires man to implement and properly follow is the interest ban, one of the key components of the financial transactions throughout the history of humankind.

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The principle of tawhid views interest as an illegal mean of acquiring properties. Those who violate His principles give priority to their material gains in this world. According to the Quran, those who do so move away from the principle of tawhid and turn their desires and ambitions into idols[ 22 ]. As a result, those who should consider this principle would be unable to stand against the interest because personal ambitions and desires would replace the divine message as a point of reference.

The term riba is used in Islamic literature to refer to interest and it is categorically prohibited in the Quran. As the direct interlocutors of the Quranic injunctions involving riba were the people of the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula centering the towns of Mecca and Medina, it could be safely inferred that riba was a pre-Islamic practice throughout these settings.

A transaction involving riba is different from a regular sale transaction where a seller exchanges a commodity in lieu of another or a value representing item, such as money. Quran, certainly, prohibits riba in its absolute form without any specification or restriction. The only restriction or qualification that can be identified here is the fact that it was the sort of riba which was practiced either in the Meccan or the Medinan community that was categorically prohibited. There is some conjectural historical evidence about what the pre-Islamic practice of riba was like. Even though it is not possible to clearly elucidate what riba is, it is certain that the interlocutors of the Quranic verses involving riba knew well what it meant.

As the concept of riba is mostly interpreted as similar to the concept of financial interest, any serious study should also consider looking into how pre-modern Muslim societies dealt with these two concepts. As a term in Islamic scholarship, on the other hand, it has been defined as a baseless excessiveness in transactions and dealings or the addition to the main capital in a contract İbn Manzur, ; Serahsi, The concept of excess interest out of lending money is known as jahiliyya riba[ 23 ] in Islamic jurisprudence which is banned in the Quran in strongest of terms.

The type of riba that the Islamic scholars analyze is basically the interest based on a period. This riba is classified into two categories, riba al fadl and riba al nasia. Both those who reject analogy as methodology and restrict the interest ban to these six goods alone and those who argue, by analogy, the ban covers some other goods as well rely on this hadith[ 25 ]. Therefore, the main controversy over riba is the causality in respect to these six goods.

The matters relating to interest are generally covered in Islamic jurisprudence under the heading of dealings and transactions[ 27 ]. The definitions that apply to riba suggest that the Islamic jurists place particular emphasis upon dealings and transactions. But critics argue that such a strong and restricted emphasis leads to ambiguities and uncertainties in the scholarly debates Kayyim, Criticisms mostly underline that the scholars are unable to offer a common definition of riba with reference to the Quran and the hadiths.

This eventually causes manipulation of the existing framework to legitimize and justify some forms of riba.

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For this reason, it should be analyzed within the context of the both. The term riba and its derivatives are mentioned in the Quran seventeen times in ten chapters. Both the literal and scholarly meanings of the term are referred to in the Quran[ 28 ]. A review of the verses in the Quran focusing on riba reveals that the script mentions a transfer of goods in different forms. A verse refers to riba for an extra addition to the goods, whereas another one recalls that polytheists compare riba to dealing and transaction.

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But a number of other verses also refer to such a transfer that does not involve lending interest. According to the Quran, on the other hand, riba is one of the methods to transfer goods by illegal means. However, the Islamic jurisprudence analyzes this term in a way to refer to a point between the legitimate and illegitimate methods of transferring goods and services. Even if it is an illegal means of transfer, riba is covered under the heading of dealings in the Islamic scholarship which causes ambiguities which should be addressed by jurists for clarification and methodological strength.

Riba is widely covered in Chapter Baqara where charity is underlined as a promoted act[ 29 ]. In these verses, charity is praised by comparison to riba which, according to the Quran, has devastating impacts.

The discussion on riba and charity in the Quran suggests that there are both similarities and differences between these two terms. A careful review of the verses in the Quran on the topic of riba also suggests that there should not be any restrictions to the goods and commodities where the interest ban applies. In other words, it is not possible to limit the ban to only six goods. Any good that can be given away as alms is also eligible to be considered in the framework of the interest ban.


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The mainstream jurists subscribe to this view, suggesting that any alternative to this stance should be considered as marginal[ 30 ]. As noted before, the issue of interest is covered in classical works in reference to matters on dealings, only Sughdi D. Covering riba with reference to dealings leads to a mixture of interest-based transactions with dealings. For this reason, the similarities and differences between dealing and interest should be clarified for a better definition of riba in Islam.

The main schools of law in Islamic jurisprudence offer different views on this matter. But the definitions offered by these schools do not make a strong emphasis upon the difference between the goods covered in the contract and the price. In terms of the nature of the transaction, it becomes apparent that in dealings, the subject matter of the exchange should be different at least in the level of quality. This is a major method of acquiring goods and services that are needed to sustain life. That method is used because it is either required or profitable. Because it is not possible for every human being to produce all the goods and services he or she needs, an exchange of goods becomes inevitable.

In different verses, the Quran suggests that the subject matter of a dealing may have different forms. One of the goals for dealing is profit[ 33 ].

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Islam both justifies and promotes trade which results in a reasonable amount of profit. But Islam also introduces rules and principles applicable to trade activities. In other words, not every transaction is allowed to generate profit. To be recognized as trade, an activity or transaction has to be based upon the exchange of at least two different goods. Only such a process will produce profit. Dealing has been viewed as a legitimate act for a long time.

The polytheists in Mecca compared interest-based transactions to the dealings and thus, they strongly opposed the prohibition of interest that Islam introduced. However, the Quran, noting that dealing is legitimate but interest is forbidden[ 34 ], stressed that interest-based transaction is different from dealing.

In terms of similarities, it is obvious that in both the cases, an exchange of goods is performed. However, the difference is that in the case of riba , goods of the same type are being exchanged. Riba is extensively covered in a number of hadith reports which can be classified into two categories: reports stressing that riba is a prohibited practice and condemning it, and reports providing information on the content of it[ 35 ].


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The hadiths placing emphasis upon the prohibition of riba in fact clarify the scope of the ban in the Quran. It seems that gold and silver used in the form of coins are treated separately from wheat, date and salt used as a means of payment in the hadith on six goods[ 36 ]. Because there is no danger of riba when gold and silver are used in the exchange of the goods, no condition is stipulated in the transaction. There are, however, two conditions in the case of the exchange of gold with gold, and silver with silver. The transaction has to be in advance and the prices have to be equal.

The condition of equality is not sought in the exchange of gold and silver. In the case of the exchange of the remaining four goods, the payment has to be made in advance and the amounts have to be equal if either of these goods is exchanged with the same product. It appears that the condition that the payment has to be made in advance also applies to the qarz al hasan at first glance.

Given that qarz al hasan is encouraged in the Quran and the hadiths, it is possible to conclude that this cannot be banned. The objective in banning the exchange of gold with silver in a fixed term might be the motive of preventing any potential additional revenue out of this process.

All other conditions that can be inferred from this hadith seem to be applicable to fixed term contracts. Therefore, it is possible to argue that the hadiths on the use of the six goods and products mainly prohibit the use of the debt or credit to make revenue. Basically, these hadiths define loans rather than an addition to the revenue and original amount. The emphasis upon the two conditions that payment has to be made in advance and the amounts have to be equal is because of the concern that these transactions may be manipulated to justify riba or interest-based transactions.

In a hadith, Prophet Muhammad states that he fears that his followers may become involved in interest-based activities without even knowing it.

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This indicates that riba will not occur in every case where there is an exchange of two similar goods in different amounts and that the intent matters in the exchange. This statement most probably suggests that the exchange of fungible goods that can be loaned may be used in a transaction that generates revenue. For an exchange of goods in the form of dealings, there has to be a true exchange of two separate items or goods.

In contracts, intent rather than the wording matters[ 39 ]. This indicates that the hadith on six goods should be considered within the context of potential loaning transactions in the disguise of dealing. The famous Muslim jurist Ibn al Qayyim D. If hadiths noting that riba is only to be sought in loans[ 41 ] are taken into consideration, then it becomes apparent that to speak of riba , there has to be a linkage to a loan transaction between parties. If there is loan, there is also a fixed term for repayment. In sum, both the Quran and the hadith offer extensive details on the issue of riba.

For this reason, the report attributed to Caliph Omar who allegedly argued that the Prophet Muhammad did not have enough time to explain the details of the verse on the prohibition of interest because it was the last one.

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This cannot be true because the verses in Chapter 2, titled Baqara were revealed right after the conquest of Mecca Kesir, [ 42 ].