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The Method of Lending and Borrowing in Islam

By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
Authentic traditions have greatly emphasised the rewards that are promised for the one who lends. On the other hand, those who avoid this good deed have severe punishment in store. Sometimes it is obligatory to lend and not prohibited to lend. And sometimes it is Mustahab (recommended) to lend and Makrūh (detestable) not to lend.
Generally it is detestable to borrow but if the need to do so is genuine the detestibility is scaled down. The magnitude of detestibility is directly proportional to the actual gravity of the situation. In fact under some circumstances it is obligatory to borrow. For example it becomes obligatory to borrow to save one’s life or honour. If a person knows that he will not be able to repay the loan, then precaution demands that he should refrain from borrowing unless he is in dire need.

Rewards for lending-punishment for not lending
The blessed Prophet of Allah (S) said: “One who lends to his believing brother and gives him respite till he is capable of repaying it, the amount that he has lent is considered as Zakat and the Angels pray for him and seek Divine mercy for him till this (amount) is returned.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Chap.6 Vol.13 page 86)
The Messenger of Allah (S) has also remarked: “If one lends to his Muslim brother, it is for his own (good). Every Dirham that he lends will qualify him for a reward equivalent to Mount Ohud (which is in Mecca) and Mount Sinai. And if he is lenient in collecting his debt he shall cross the bridge of Sirat like a stroke of lightning. And if a Muslim brother relates his woes before a person and this person does not lend him any money, the Heaven shall be denied to him on the Day of recompensing good doers.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)

It is obligatory to have the intention of repaying ones debt
The person who is not in a position to repay his debt must necessarily have the intention to repay it as soon as he is capable of doing so. This intention should have the first priority with him. In fact the intention to repay should be there right at the outset. A person who takes a loan without having the intention to repay it is considered a thief. The following are the traditions of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) regarding the intention of a person who takes a loan: “One who takes a loan but does not care to repay it, is a thief.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia chapter of Tejārat)
He (a.s.) has also said: “There are Three kinds of thieves, one who does not pay Zakat, secondly one who does not consider the amount of Meher (dower) payable to the wife as an obligatory debt and one who takes a loan but does not intend to repay it.”
The respected Imam (a.s.) further said, “If the debtor intends to repay the loan, the Almighty Allah appoints two angels to help him till the loan is repaid. But if he becomes careless of this intention he becomes deprived of Allah’s blessings.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)

The Incapable Debtor Must be given Respite
Although it is allowed for a debtor to sell off his unnecessary belongings to repay his debts, the creditor is under divine obligation not to cause undue trouble. The creditor should give respite so that the loanee can easily repay the dues. Under these conditions if he condones his loan altogether, it will be considered a Sadaqah which will remain with Allah (S.w.T.) as his trust and he will continue to benefit from it forever.
The Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: “And if (the debtor) is in straitness, then let there be postponement until (he is in) ease, and that you remit (it) as alms is better for you, if you knew.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:280)
Two important points can be derived from the Qur’anic verse quoted above. One, it is obligatory to give respite to a debtor who is incapable of repaying the loan. Secondly, it is more meritorious for the creditor to condone the loan completely.
Numerous traditions have mentioned these two points.
The Holy Prophet (S) has said: “Your debtor is not permitted to delay in repaying the loan if he is capable to pay it. In the same way you are not permitted to pressurise him unduly when you know that he is not in a position to repay you immediately.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
The honourable Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has been recorded to have said: “Do not harass your Muslim brother with a demand to the repayment of debt when you know that he is not able to repay it. Because our exalted grandfather the Messenger of Allah has said that it is not permitted for a Muslim to harass his Muslim brother. And if a creditor gives respite to a loanee he shall become qualified to receive the shade (and protection) of the Almighty on the day when there will be no other shade.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
It means that on the Day of Judgement such a person will receive special favours from the Almighty. The Masūm (a.s.) has also remarked: “If one wishes that he be given refuge under Divine shade on the day when there will be no other shade, he should grant respite to his debtor and must not demand it (immediately), or should condone his loan completely.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) has said: “There would be some people under the shade of the Arsh on the Day of Qiyāma such that their faces will be bright, their dresses and their chairs shall be glittering. Then an announcer will call: These are the people who did good towards the believers and gave respite to the incapable debtor till the time he could repay the debt.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia)

Each Day of Respite Brings Rewards of Sadaqah
The trustworthy scholar of the Shias, Shaykh Kulayni (r.a.) has recorded that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) is reported to have said:
“One day the Holy Prophet (S) mounted the pulpit and after glorifying Allah and praising the prophets (a.s.) said: ‘Those who are present are under the obligation to convey (what I say now) to those who are not present (in the assembly).’
Then He (S) said:
‘If one gives respite to his helpless debtor then till the time he receives his loan it is upon Allah to record the reward of Sadaqah in his scroll of deeds.’”
(Wasa’il ul-Shia)
For each day of respite that a person gives his debtor he receives divine reward equivalent to the spending of the loan amount as Sadaqah. Several traditions on this subject could be quoted but the ones mentioned should suffice. It must be remembered that avoiding or delaying the payment of Khums and Zakat is also considered a failure to restore rights. Not paying Zakat is also a Greater sin according to the rulings of the Qur’an and hadith. We shall deal with it in a separate chapter.

Allah (S.w.T.) will Forgive
If a person dies before he has repaid his debt and the creditor has not been compensated for it from the belongings left by him; the creditor has not forgiven him his debt and provided the debtor has not been negligient about repaying, nor was the loan taken for an illegal purpose and also the person had every intention of repaying but was unable to do so. Under these circumstances according to traditions Allah (S.w.T.) by His Grace will compensate the creditor on the Day of Judgement.
Muhammad Bin Bashir came to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and told him that he owed a thousand Dinars to Shahab. He requested the Imam to persuade Shahab to respite him till the days of Hajj. So Imam (a.s.) summoned Shahab and said:
“You know that Muhammad Bin Bashir is among our followers. He owes you a thousand Dinars. This amount was not spent by him on himself. Rather it remained as a debt upon some people and he had to bear the loss. I wish that you will forgo your thousand Dinars.”
Then he (a.s.) said, “Maybe you are under the impression that his good deeds will be given to you in return of your loan?”
Shahab said, “Yes, I am under this impression.” Imam (a.s.) told him, “The Almighty Allah is Merciful and Just. If someone, in order to achieve Allah’s nearness, worships Him on cold winter nights and fasts on hot summer days, circles the Holy Ka’ba. Then do you think after all this Allah will take away his good deeds and give them to you? It is not so, His mercy is much more. By His munificence He recompenses the good deeds of a believer.”
After listening to these words Shahab said that he has condoned his loan forever.

The Debtor Whose Good Deeds are Given to the Creditor
If the debtor is guilty of being lazy in repaying, or if he had taken the loan for an illegal purpose, or if he has delayed the repayment inspite of being capable of doing so, and if after his death his debt has not been paid nor has the creditor condoned him. Then on the Day of Qiyāma his good deeds equivalent to the loan amount shall be given to the creditor and if his good deeds are exhausted or insufficient to cover the amount, sins from the scroll of deeds of the creditor will be transferred to the scroll of the guilty debtor.
Some narrations have described this phenomena in clear words.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has been recorded to have said: “The most difficult time on the Day of Qiyāma will be when those eligible to receive Khums and Zakat will rise up and besiege the one who has not paid it. They will complain to Allah that this person has not paid the amount due to them from Khums and Zakat. Then Allah will transfer the good deeds of that person and give them to those who were eligible (for Zakat and Khums).”
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has also said that on the Day of Qiyāma the creditor will complain against his debtor. Then if the debtor would have good deeds to his credit, they will be taken away for the creditor and if there are no good deeds for this purpose, the sins of the creditor will be added in the scroll of deeds of the debtor.
It is amply evident from the various traditions that if a person dies before fulfilling the rights of others upon him he will not achieve salvation till the rights are restored to the owner or the owner condones him. Or till his good deeds are given to the one who had the right upon him or if there are no good deeds for this purpose the sins of the latter are transferred to the scroll of deeds of the former. Or lastly, until the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) intercede on his behalf.

Amount of Compensation
Exactly how many of the good deeds will be required to compensate for an unpaid debt is a matter known by Allah (S.w.T.) and the Holy Prophet (S). Neither we have any knowledge of it nor is it necessary for us to know. However, some traditions do mention some equivalents. For example in a tradition the Holy Prophet (S) said that in lieu of each dirham 600 prayers of the debtor will be paid to the creditor. (Layali Akhbār)
And if 1/6 Dirham is of silver, then seven hundred accepted prayers of the debtor will be transferred to the rightful owner. (Each silver dirham is equal to the weight of 18 grains of gram). Thus, one who departs from this world while yet in debt will be under very difficult circumstances. Everyone must be very particular to repay one’s debt as soon as possible. If a person is unable to repay his debts he must establish contact with Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) and seek their intercession to obtain the forgiveness of the creditor.
The Messenger of Allah (S) says, “Nothing is more serious after the Greater sins than the fact that a person dies while he is in debt to people and there is nothing to (sell to) repay his debt.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
Moreover, the Prophet of Allah (S) told his companions after prayers one day: “Such and such person who was martyred is still waiting outside Paradise. He cannot enter it because he still owes Three dirhams to a Jew.”

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