بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

There is still much confusion among muslims (especially those living in the West) regarding the qualification for exemption from the general Islamic ruling that interest-based mortgage loans and financing in general are clearly and undoubtedly forbidden (haraam) in Islam. This is not an attempt at explaining whether interest-based mortgage loans and interest-based financing is forbidden in Islam. There is far too much evidence from the Quran, the Sunnah and the major scholars to argue against it.

Again, this is an effort to remove the confusion around who merits an allowance/exemption from the general Islamic ruling that interest based mortgage loans and interest based financing in general are clearly and undoubtedly forbidden in Islam.

Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ) have given the believer an exemption from a general ruling or command under certain very difficult circumstances that merit the exemption, usually on a temporary basis. The evidence is found in the Quran and the Sunnah. Allah says in the Quran:

فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

But if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Al-Baqara 2:173)

فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ

So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can… (At-Taghabun64:16)

Regarding this matter, the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

“Verily Allah has pardoned [or been lenient with] for me my ummah: their mistakes, their forgetfulness, and that which they have been forced to do under duress”. A hasan hadeeth related by Ibn Majah, and al-Bayhaqee and others.

First and foremost, in order to save yourself from making the wrong decision as to whether you are truly exempt from a ruling as it applies to your specific circumstances, you must not be the one who decides that you are exempt. You must not be the one who decides that your specific situation merits an exemption. You must not be the one who defines the term duress, as it applies to your specific situation. Why? Because most of us don’t have the required Islamic knowledge to do so, and most of us are going to be biased about ourselves and our circumstances.

Therefore, you must consult a person of knowledge, and make sure the person of knowledge you wish to consult is not someone looking for popularity among the people, as is the case with many today. There are far too many unqualified “muslim activists” and other unqualified people giving fatwas. It is no wonder that Allah has recommended that we ask the people of knowledge.

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

So ask the people who know the remembrance (revelation), if you do not know (the answer). (Al-Anbiya 21:7)

قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” (Az-Zumar 39:9)

First of all, it is important to understand that owning a home is not a right we are born with, and therefore, there is generally no obligation or necessity to own a home for most people. Owning a home is a luxury that most people in this world cannot afford. Renting a home is not shameful or disgraceful. However, involving ourselves in what is considered haraam (prohibited) is shameful and disgraceful (to say the least), especially on the Day of Judgment.

Secondly, it is important to understand that it is much better to be debt-free in life, as the burden of unpaid debt (when we die) is passed on to our inheritors, according to at least one authentic hadith (prophetic tradition). And, unpaid debts are from among the things that can lead to failure on the day of judgment. On that day, rewards for our good deeds may be given to those with whom we have unpaid debts.

If it is absolutely necessary that you borrow money, your first option should be to seek out an individual or group of individuals willing to provide you with an interest-free loan. If you are unable to do so, you must first look into the Islamic financial or lending options, before you even think about the traditional interest-based lending options.

Today, we have an abundant number of Islamic financial and lending organization, which we must not overlook. In fact, it is absolutely necessary that we look into this option first. Some of these loan options are only disguised as Islamic or sharia-compliant, but in reality they are no different than what the traditional lending institutions offer.

Some of these Islamic lending organizations also offer genuinely Islamic or sharia-compliant financing options. It is imperative to consult a person of knowledge to determine which options are the most Islamically or sharia-compliant. Please feel free to contact Sheikh Suleiman Anwar for help in this area.

If the traditional interest-based mortgage loan and financing is the only available option (for some odd reason), some of the conditions/circumstances of duress that must exist to be exempt from the ruling of prohibition from using such option are as follows:

  1. With regard to the purchase of a home (on interest payments), your circumstances must be that you are absolutely, and without exception, unable to rent an adequate home/shelter for yourself and your family, and which would result in having no shelter whatsoever.
  2. Not purchasing a home (on interest payments) would result in having to live indefinitely in a neighborhood/area in which there exists a consistent daily threat to your physical wellbeing and that of your family, and the preservation of their Islamic morality and obligatory Islamic conduct.
  3. You must have absolutely no other adequate shelter anywhere in the world in which you can live (without paying any interest), including living with family or friends who willfully provide such shelter.
  4. As for purchasing a car on interest-based financing, you must be unable to qualify for a lease contract or to buy an affordable used car in cash or by making interest-free payments.
  5. In the absence of adequate public transportation, not having a car will result in the loss of work, leading to a loss of adequate housing, and as such, putting yourself and your family in danger.

If you take on an interest-based mortgage loan or financing under the above conditions/circumstances of duress, it must be done with the intention of temporary relief from such conditions/circumstances, and you must make every effort to find an Islamically/sharia-compliant arrangement, as soon as possible, including emigration to another land.  Allah says in the Quran:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا ۚ فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ ۖ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا

Indeed, those whom the angels take [in death] while wronging themselves – [the angels] will say, “In what [condition] were you?” They will say, “We were oppressed in the land.” The angels will say, “Was not the earth of Allah spacious [enough] for you to emigrate therein?” For those, their refuge is Hell – and evil it is as a destination. (An-Nisa’ 4:97)

In addition to the existence of the above conditions/circumstances of duress, you must consult a trustworthy and reliable person of knowledge (of Islam/sharia) to determine whether you are under an Islamically-justifiable duress that merits acquiring an interest-based mortgage loan or financing.

And Allah knows best…

Suleiman Anwar

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