Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The “good loan” [al-Qard al-Hassan] is one of the gateways to social responsibility that Islam legislated, encourages and rewards.
The “good loan” is mentioned in the Holy Quran on numerous occasions; “Who is it that will offer of Allah a good loan, so He will multiply it to him manifold, and Allah straitens and amplifies, and you shall be returned to Him” [Surat al Baqara, Verse 245].
“Allah did aforetime take a covenant from the Children of Israel, and we appointed twelve captains among them. And Allah said: I am with you: if ye (but) establish regular prayers, practice regular charity, believe in my messengers, honor and assist them, and loan to Allah a good loan, verily I will wipe out from you your evils, and admit you to gardens with rivers flowing beneath; but if any of you, after this, resisteth faith, he hath truly wandered from the path or rectitude” [Surat al Maeda, Verse12].
“For those who give in Charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a good Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward” [Surat al Hadid, Verse 18].
“If you set apart for Allah a goodly portion, He will double it for you and forgive you; and Allah is the Multiplier (of rewards), Forbearing” [Surat al Taghabun, Verse 17].
“And establish regular prayer and give regular charity; and loan to Allah a good loan. And whatever good ye send forth for your souls ye shall find it in Allah’s presence, yea, better and greater, in reward and seek ye the grace of Allah: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, most Merciful” [Surat al Muzzamil, Verse 20].
Al Hassan [Ibn Ali] said that everything mentioned n the Quran regarding loans is regards to voluntary loans, and that this is righteous and honorable if offered sincerely. Here we find that some clerics have confined the kind of loan mentioned in the Quran to being loans made [to the poor] with the aim of moving closer to God. This is one way of spending [money] without seeking restoration [of the money] but rather wanting only reward from God on the Day of Judgment [for this good deed], in the same way [that Islam views] giving grants, charity, or equipping armies and providing for invasions for the sake of God.
However I believe that this [reward] should not just be limited to those who provide this kind of charity, but should also include what a Muslim provides for his [Muslim] brother in the form of a good loan, if this is offered with the intention of getting closer to God by helping out a fellow [Muslim].
This is further supported by the Hadith of Prophet Mohamed as narrated by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah in which he said: The prophet of God [pbuh] said, “On the Day of Judgment, God will say: O son of Adam, I was sick yet you did not visit me. He will reply, O God, how could I have visited You since You are Lord of the Worlds? God will say: Did you not know that so-and-so a servant of Mine was sick, and yet you did not visit him? Did you not realize that if you had visited him [I would be aware of this, and would reward you] and you would have found me with him? O son of Adam, I asked for food from you but you did not feed me. He will say: My Lord, how could I feed you since You are the Lord of the Worlds? God shall say: didn’t you know that so-and-so a servant of Mine asked food from you but you did not feed him, did you not realize that had fed him you would certainly have found [its reward] with Me? O son of Adam, I asked water from you but you did not provide Me with water. He will say, O God, how could I have provided you [with water] when You are Lord of the Worlds. God will say: so-and-so a servant of Mine asked you for water to drink but you did not provide him with water. Did you not realize that had you provided him with water to drink you would have found [its reward] with me?”
It is clear that these Quranic verses use the term “good loan” rather than “spending” or “alms” even though the Quran is full of verses that also include these two terms when encouraging spending for the sake of God. The Quran says “That He may reward those who believe and do good works. For them is pardon and a rich provision” [Surat Saba, Verse 4].
There is an additional meaning to this verse; it urges Muslims to offer “good loans” to their [Muslim] brothers in order to move closer to God and ask reward from him as this is considered a contract of easement whereby a lender seeks reward only from God, as were he to make financial gain from this by way of interest, it would be considered usury which is forbidden in Islam.
In a Hadith of Prophet Mohamed [pbuh], Muslim narrates that the Prophet of Allah [pbuh] cursed the one who accepted usury, the one who paid it, the witness to it, and the one who recorded it.
The good loan in Islam is considered even better than giving alms, according to the Hadith of the Prophet: on the authority of Abu Amama said that the Prophet [pbuh] said that “I saw on the gate of heaven written that the reward for charity is ten times and the reward for good loan is eighteen times.”
We have looked at the importance of the “good loan” and its subsequent reward, however this has no influence in Islamic banking today, although it could be classified as part of the industry’s responsibility towards society. The “good loan” is considered to be one of the means to bridge the gap between the rich and poor, and part of the distribution of wealth from the rich to those in need. It also contributes to increasing the level of productivity in society, as the channels of financing for low-income groups are almost non-existent due to the lack of sufficient guarantees.
It is sad and ironic that such a unique Islamic principle is being exploited by one of the pioneers of Islamic banking as a marketing tool with the aim of attracting salary accounts which are not associated with other means of financing. This Islamic banking pioneer ties up this loan with a set of terms and conditions which no longer make it a good loan whose aim is to ease the lives of needy Muslims, but a tool to lure in these types of accounts. Most members of society disapprove of such conduct by the banks and consider this to be exploitation of religion in order to achieve material goals whilst ignoring the significance and goals of such a deeply-rooted Islamic principle.
Does this type of behavior demonstrate that Islamic banking is faithful to the principles upon which it was first based upon?