In January this year NEWS24 revealed the following shocking survey results! The article said that South Africans were the biggest borrowers in the world in 2014, according to a report issued by the World Bank. And they appear to be borrowing mostly from friends and family, private micro-lenders and to a far lesser extent from financial institutions. Mining was one of the hardest hit sectors for debt in the last few years, with strikes driving the miners into further debt. Anglo American is one of the mining companies looking to mitigate these statistics. The survey concluded by stating that more than 11 million South Africans are over indebted (in 2013 it was 5 million). With these statistics it’s clear that we have more people, amidst us, that are in financial trouble than those who are not. As Muslims in this country what do we do when we find ourselves ‘stuck’ with debtors? Or rather what does Islam teach us when it comes to dealing with our debtors. This article is for the Muslim creditor which provides the best guidelines sourced from Qur’aan and Hadeeth.

Allah Ta’ala says:

And if someone is in hardship, then [let there be] postponement until [a time of] ease. But if you give [from your right as] charity, then it is better for you, if you only knew.” [Suratul Baqarah, verse: 280].

In this verse, Allah Ta’ala enjoins patience and tolerance for the one who is poor and cannot repay on time and that the creditor should postpone the deadline. This command came to change the old practice during the pre-Islamic era where the creditor used to say to the debtor: “Either you pay or I start calculating interest on the loan”. Also, the verse comes directly after the verses addressing the issue of Riba (i.e. interest and usury) in which Allah Ta’ala Says:  “O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of Riba (i.e. interest and interest), if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal-[thus] you do no wrong, nor are you wronged.” [Suratul Baqarah, verses: 278-279].

In this verse the directive when dealing with debtors is clear. Allah Ta’ala says give them respite or as we use the term ‘payable when able’. But then it does not stop here. Allah Ta’ala encourages something even further when he says, “and if you give it away in charity then it is even better for you”. This means write it off!

And then the Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam said: “May Allah show mercy to a man who adopts a kind attitude when he sells, buys and demands for the repayment of loans.” [Bukhari]

The person who acts on the above hadeeth becomes deserving of the mercy of Allah Ta’ala because he dealt with people kindly and postponed the repayment for the one who could not repay him. Furthermore when he had to ask for his money he did so gently with kind words as not to hurt the feelings of the debtor.

These prophetic narrations deeply affected the companions Radiyallaahu anhum ajmaeen and they acted upon them. Hadrat Abdullaah bin Abu Qataadah Radiyallaahu anhu reported: “My father (i.e. Abu Qataadah) went to a man who was indebted to him, so the debtor hid from him. Later, Abu Qataadah saw the debtor and requested his money but the latter informed him that he could not repay him because he did not possess the money and that his financial situation was very tight. Upon hearing this, Abu Qataadah, asked the man saying; `Are you really in a tight situation? ` The man responded with the affirmative. Thereupon my father said: I heard the Messenger of Allah Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam saying: “He who likes Allah to deliver him from the calamities of the Day of Resurrection, let him either give respite to a debtor or grant him remission (of loans) in straitened circumstances.” Then he cried” [Muslim]

In another narration, the Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa sallam said:

He who gives respite to someone who is in straitened circumstances, or grants him remission, Allah will shelter him in the shade of His Throne, on the Day of Resurrection, when there will be no shade except His shade.” [Tirmidhi]

Hadrat Abu Qataadah Radiyallaahu anhu was not the only one who behaved in such a manner. Rather, this behaviour was common with all creditors amongst Sahabaah Ridwaanul Laahi alaihim Ajmaeen.

Many of the companions delayed the debtors who could not pay on time for long periods, and in many cases they even dropped and waived the entire debt altogether.

This was so because they lived the prophetic narrations practically in their lives. Some of them used to lend others just to get the reward mentioned in some narrations like the saying of the Messenger of Allah Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam:

Any Muslim who lends another Muslim twice will get a reward as if he has spent this money in charity.”

Another narration that was an encouraging factor is the saying of the Messenger of Allah Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam:

He who gives respite to someone who is in straitened circumstances, will get a reward as if he has spent this amount in charity for every day he delays him until its due date, and after it becomes due he will get double such reward.”

Giving respite and delaying those in tough situations can be the reason for freeing oneself from Hell. Hadrat Abu Hurayrah Radiyallaahu anhu reported that the Messenger of Allah Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam said: “There was a person who used to loan money to the people and he used to say to his servant: `When an insolvent person comes to you, show him leniency so that Allah may forbear our faults. ` So when he met Allah (i.e., when he died), Allah forgave him.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

Hadrat Abu Mas`ood Al-Badri Radiyallaahu anhu reported that the Messenger of Allah Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam said: “A person from amongst the people who lived before you was called to account by Allah on the Day of Resurrection. No good deeds were found in his credit except that he, being a rich man, had (financial) dealings with people and had commanded his servants to show leniency to those who were in straitened circumstances. Upon this, Allah, the Exalted and Majestic Said: `I am more entitled to this attribute, so waive (his faults).” [Muslim]

The abovementioned verses and narrations are a great encouragement for the creditor to postpone and give respite to the debtors who cannot repay on time due to their strenuous situations. They are messages to the rich who lend others and embarrass them and humiliate them, and may even be the cause for their imprisonment. Indeed, the creditor has the right to do so, but Allah Ta’ala says

“… but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, then his reward is [due] from Allah …” [Surah 42, verse 40].

From a business point of view the action would most definitely be regarded as foolish and imprudent but from the perspective of the hereafter this can be considered nothing but a “heavenly Investment” with most handsome unlimited returns!

The loss incurred here is negligible when we stack them against the rewards accrued in our afterlife. The choice is ours! Considering the current economic climate in the country let us look at this as an opportunity for a heavenly investment.


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