Granting the Insolvent Debtor a Delay or acquitting him of Payment
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have urged their followers to grant the debtors, who experience harsh circumstances that prevent them from paying back their debts, a delay or extension of time to pay, because this is one of the religiously commissioned duties which the Holy Qur'an has emphasized. It would however be better to remit such debtors from repaying their debts by changing the debt into charity.
In this respect, the Holy Qur'an reads, If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time until it is easy for him to repay. But if you remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if you only knew. (2:280)
Many traditions have been validly reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) confirming this feature in various styles.
‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi-’Abdullah has reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) narrated the following: On one hot day, the Messenger of Allah (S) bent his palm and said, “Which one of you wishes to be protected from Hellfire?”
“We all do,” they answered.
The Holy Messenger (S) repeated this question three times and they repeated the same answer each time. Then, he said: “He that respites a debtor or remits an insolvent one will be shaded against the Hellfire.”
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) then added: ‘Abdullah ibn Ka’b ibn Malik has narrated that his father once detained a debtor in the mosque. The Holy Messenger (S) came towards the two and then entered his house while they were still sitting there. He then went out at midday, exposed his veil, and said, “O Malik, are you, along with your debtor, still sitting?”
“Yes, we are,” my father answered, “May Allah accept my parents as ransom for you!”
Then, the Holy Messenger (S) extended his hand and asked my father to take half of the amount that was in his palm. My father did and said, “May Allah accept my parents as ransom for you!”
The Holy Messenger (S) then asked me to surrender the other half of the amount so that the debtor would be freed from repaying that debt. My father then took half of the amount and surrendered the other half.ť1
Mu’awiyah ibn ‘Ammar has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Which one of you wishes to be shaded by the shade of Allah on the day when there shall be no shade except His?
The Imam (‘a) repeated this question three times, but people were too diffident to answer. However, he said thereafter, He that respites a debtor or remits his right to him will be so.2
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported to have narrated the following: One day, the Messenger of Allah (S) climbed the minbar and, after praising Almighty Allah, said, “O people, let the present inform the absent of this. Whoever grants respite to an insolvent debtor, alms as much as his money will be recorded for him by Almighty Allah every day until he receives his debt in full.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) then added, If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time until it is easy for him to repay. But if you remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if you only knew. (2:280)
This means that if you remit the insolvent debtor from the amount that he owes you, then this will be best for you.ť3
Reprieving the Dead and the Alive from Debts
One of the most favorable sorts of alms and the highest degree of charity is to acquit the debtors, especially the dead, from the debts that they failed to repay. By thus doing, the debtors are done double charity by lending them money or by acquitting them from repaying the creditor’s due.
This sort of charity and condescension of rights has been highlighted by the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) through many traditions.
Shaykh al-Kulayni, in al-Kafi, has reported that Hasan ibn Khunays said to Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “A man who has died owed ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Sayyabah an amount, but when we begged ‘Abd al-Rahman to release the dead man from that debt, he rejected.”
The Imam (‘a) commented, Woe to him! He should have known that he would be given ten Dirhams for each Dirham if he released the dead man from that debt, but he would gain a single Dirham for each Dirham if he did not.ť4
Mu’attab is reported to have said that Muhammad ibn Bishr al-Washsha' once visited Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) and asked him to mediate between him and Shihab to grant him respite to the end of that season, for he owed Shihab one hundred Dinars. The Imam (‘a) sent some people to invite Shihab to be present before him. When Shihab came, the Imam (‘a) said to him, “You already have an idea about the condition of Muhammad who is our adherent. He has told me that he owes you one thousand Dinars, which he has not used up on his stomach or private parts; rather, it has been used up as debts on others and deposits he had put with others. I will therefore be glad if you release him from repaying this amount to you.”
Shihab answered, “It seems that you are one of those who claim that the rewards of the debtor will be given to the creditor as compensation of his due in the debtor’s liability!”
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) replied, “Yes, I do claim so according to what I have received.”
The Imam (‘a) then added, Almighty Allah is too generous to deprive a servant (of Him), who worships Him on chilly nights, observes fasting for His sake on burning days, and circumambulates this House, of his rewards and transfers them to you! Nay! Almighty Allah has innumerable rewards with which He awards the believers.
Upon hearing this, Shihab declared that he would release Muhammad from that debt.ť5
1. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:546, H. 2.
2. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:546, H. 1.
3. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:546, H. 4.
4. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:548, H. 1.
5. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 11:548, H. 2.