Taking a loan (debt) is a form of mu’amalat (social and economic dealings) that is allowed by the Islamic Shari’ah to its adherents in facilitating their daily affairs. There are several conditions that have been stipulated by Muslim scholars upon the debtor and creditor so that such provision that is allowed in Islam does not get abused. Islam deems debt as a practice that is permissible when there arise genuine need and significance. However, Islam does not encourage a person to be in debt if the intention is solely to live with pleasure and luxury. Rasulullah had supplicated to Allah asking for protection from the burden of being in debt, as mentioned in the hadith of A’ishah (which means):
Allah’s Messenger used to invoke Allah in the prayer saying, “O Allah, I seek refuge with you from all sins, and from being in debt.” Someone said, “O Allah’s Messenger! (I see you) very often you seek refuge with Allah from being in debt.” He replied, “If a person is in debt, he tells lies when he speaks, and breaks his promises when he promises.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari]
Rasulullah’s invocation indicates to us how being in debt is a practice that is unhealthy if it is not properly managed, for it can cause the debtor to lie when speaking and breaks his promise after making them. Hence, it behooves us as the Muslim Ummah to avoid it according to our level best.
Lately, we notice that living with debt is becoming the norm for some within today’s society. Even more saddening are those that are financially sound, and yet they opted to be in debt, with the presumption that it is the best approach in attaining profit and wealth.
Such negative presumption has resulted in many individuals who are financially capable in completing purchases in cash, but yet prefers to remain in debt for their purchase and sale transactions even though it only involves their grocery and household needs. They pursued that route thinking that cash payment will lead to loss and difficulty.
Looking at the lifestyle of consumers today, one of the hot issues relating to consumerism is the new form within the debt culture, namely the usage of credit card. Findings from the Malaysian Department of Insolvency revealed that young executives are also among those caught in the declaration of bankruptcy due to their failure in paying off their credit card debt.
This predicament is truly worrying and must be given serious attention given the fact that these young individuals are within the productive age group. For sure, many consumers nowadays are grappling with credit card debt problems for not thinking far ahead and easily duped by the “temporary pleasure” promised by those plastic, electronic cards. Credit card facilities are no longer only available at hypermarkets, but now include restaurants and clothing stores. Consumers are easily deceived by sale promotions that they become unaware of going excessive with their credit card purchases, only to entrap themselves in the end. These type of consumers are likened as those that “do not measure their garments’ on their own bodies” when spending (meaning: living beyond their means).
A portion of the Muslim ummah nowadays does not take heavy precaution regarding the repayment of their debt. Therefore, we find many debtors that refuse to pay off their debt. For example, educational, housing, and car loans, loans from companies or personal loans, and unpaid rental payments. Moreover, there are those that deem paying off those debts as something trivial and insignificant. Unfortunately, some are even willing to be deemed as bankrupt for as long as they do not have to pay back those accumulated debts.
Let us altogether ponder upon the hadith of the Prophet, narrated by Abu Hurayrah (which means):
“It is an act of oppression on the part of a [financially able] person to procrastinate in fulfilling his obligation.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari]
Rasulullah had also described regarding those that refuse to settle their debts. In the hadith of Abu Hurayrah, Rasulullah said (which means):
“Whoever takes the money of the people with the intention of repaying it, Allah will repay it on his behalf, and whoever takes it in order to spoil it, then Allah will spoil him.” [Narrated by al-Bukhari]
Do we not remember how Rasulullah would refuse to perform the funeral prayer upon those that did not settle their debts? Even though some ulama’ (scholars) opined that this reluctance by Rasulullah had occurred during the early days of Islam, but it still manifests the importance and emphasis on the issue of debt in Islam. Not only that, even the martyrs, who were willing to sacrifice their wealth and soul for Islam, will not be spared from this obligation if they still have unsettled debt.
In the hadith of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, Rasulullah said (which means):
“All the sins of a shaheed (martyr) are forgiven except debt.” [Narrated by Muslim]
Therefore, let us fully realize upon the significance for everyone to repay their own debts, whether to the country, individuals, and others, for the sake of safeguarding the interest of the society, religion, and nation.
To end this point, let us derive several essential points as guidelines for all of us, namely:
- The Muslim Ummah must have full certainty that those that intentionally do not repay the debts accumulated will be held accountable and responsible before Allah in the Hereafter.
- The Muslim Ummah must fully comprehend that taking a loan is a form of mu’amalat in Islam that has its own conditions that are wajib (obligatory) to be fulfilled, in order to avoid retribution in the Hereafter.
- The Muslim Ummah must comprehend and remain cognizant that incurring debt without justified reasoning will cause its doer to plunge into perdition.