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Personal Notes: My Birth Day and Riba (Interest and Usury)

Personal Notes: My Birth Day and Riba (Interest and Usury)

By Jawed Anwar

A page from my diary:

Today is December 31. This is my birthday.

I have never celebrated my birthday; reason being is that my most beloved person, the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (s.a.w.) never celebrated his birthday (similarly all other past Messengers of Allah whom I love dearly have never celebrated their birthdays). Secondly, the dearest Sahaba; the companions of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) did not see it fit to celebrate their day of birth. Thirdly most liked people; Tabiyeen (companions of Sahaba) didn’t observe their respected days and fourthly most important people; Taba Tabiyeen (companions of Tabiyeen) did not deem it important.

Canadians are making their New Year resolution for 2015. According to a survey about 50% of the Canadian population makes New Year resolutions regardless of their intention to fulfill them. I too have decided to follow the example my nation (Canada) has set, I have also made a resolution for 2015; I will stand up (Allah willing) against the two prominent evils of our society:

Fawahish ( Sexual disorientation);
a serious struggle for forbidding these two evils.

Starting with myself I have canceled my Visa Credit Card (which is the only credit card I have). It had $5,000 limit, to me it was a symbol and held memories of some good old days. Although, I don’t use it much and always paid the balance in full on the due date hence no interest was ever charged on it. However, it is a form of usury. Many Muslims believe that if you are paying full and without interest, it is halal (permissible) but, the fact of the matter is that it is not. The contract itself with visa to pay for usury or interest if you couldn’t pay on time is in actuality haram. Because you can’t guarantee even your next breath, how you can guarantee the payment on time (within a month).

This is not a hasty decision. It is a well informed decision based on FATWAs of prominent scholars, along with my own understanding and consciousness.

Islamic Fiqh Academy headed by the late Maulana Mujahidul Islam Qasmi (a leading Islamic jurist of our time and alumi of Darul Uloom Deoband), came to a decision after a drawn out debate and discussion with prominent scholars of Islam and faqih as well as with modern financial experts concluded their opinion as following:

The Islamic Fiqh Academy of India ruled that to get a credit card is not permissible because the transaction is an interest based one even though one may save himself from the interest. They say Halal and Haram is based on the transaction and this transaction is interest based. (Bank se jaari hone wale Mukhtalif card ke shari Ahkaam, Islamic Fiqh Academy 2007).

The similar decision of International Islamic Fiqh Academy, based in Jeddah is following;

“It is not permissible to issue a non-covered credit card or to use it if it is stipulated in it that Riba interest is to be paid, even if the one who requests the card is determined to pay it off within the free grace period.” (Decision No. 108(2/12).

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen ,a prominent Arab scholar writes about the credit card usage and transaction;

“This transaction is impermissible (haraam); this is because it consists of adhering (agreeing) to pay interest if the repayment is not done within the specified time [period], and this adherence (agreement) is not permissible. Even if a person believed or felt assured that he would make the repayment before the expiry of the time period, it is possible that circumstances could change rendering him unable to make the repayment within the specified time period. And since this is a matter of the future, a person [obviously] does not know what will happen in the future, so this transaction in this case is impermissible.” (Silsilah Kitab ad-Da’wah, al-Fataawa-volume 3, page 120-121 )

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qardawi stated in a response to a question from a student regarding the use of credit cards;

“The fact that the credit card which you mentioned is exempt from interest during a certain period, but its holder is obliged to pay interest after the expiration of the grace period, then this does not make it lawful to deal with it as the condition of Riba (usurious interest) still exists. Accordingly, it is forbidden to enter a prohibited contract without a necessity, and the purpose of decreasing the interest of your student loan is not considered a necessity that allows entering into such a prohibited transaction. Also, this is not a solution to the problem; rather, this may aggravate it. The only solution is in being committed to do what is lawful and avoid what is forbidden and repent from it.” (

A small group of scholars granted a fatwa to allow it if you never pay interest on it. This fatwa is based on urgent necessity of few people who addressed;

1. Using Credit card to build “credit” otherwise they can’t get phone and other necessary services.

2. During the journey/travel, having not credit card may face difficult.

However, living in USA and Canada, we know that these excuses are not valid considering the following options which are now available:

You can have debit Visa card from your bank and now you can use at most of the places.
You can apply for pre-paid credit cards. You can put on the card whichever amount of money you want to spend. This pre-paid credit card can give you necessary “credit” to have those facilities and utilities.

When I visited my bank to cancel my Visa Gold Elite card of very good standing and $500 overdraft limit from my checking account, the bank clerk looked at me as if I was crazy. She was repeatedly saying you might not get this facility again. However, when she was filling the cancellation form and asked the reason for cancellation and I told her it is the religious reason and it is my Islamic faith (with explanation) that doesn’t allow this kind of transaction, her face softened. Now, she was looking towards me as if I was a respectable dignitary from another planet.

Jawed Anwar can be reached at



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