Prohibition of Riba and its content inclusion in our education system

Adnan Malik

Riba (Interest) is considered an evil which destroys societies and nations. In Surah Al Baqarah, Verse No. 279, Allah declares war against those involved in Riba based dealings..

From Jabir : The Prophet, said , may cursed the receiver and tfhe payer of interest, the one who records it and the two witnesses to the transaction and said: “They are all alike [in guilt].” (Muslim, Kitab al-Musaqat, Bab la’ni akili al-riba wa mu’kilihi; also in Tirmidhi and Musnad Ahmad)

From ‘Abdallah ibn Hanzalah : The Prophet, , said: “A dirham of riba which a man receives knowingly is worse than committing adultery thirty-six times” (Mishkat al-Masabih, Kitab al-Buyu’, Bab al-riba, on the authority of Ahmad and Daraqutni).

All Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam prohibited riba based transactions. Later on, Jews started giving loans on Riba to non – Jews. Still, there are societies made by Jews providing Riba free loans to Jews. In Christianity, upto 14th Century, Riba based dealings were strictly forbidden. Those involved in Riba were neither allowed to enter church and nor their burial in proper religious way was allowed. Later on, due to growing business needs and lenient views of theologians allowed taking Riba up to the minimum extent. Still excessive Riba called usury is prohibited in theory at least.

Islamic teachings still prohibits all forms of Riba. Its teachings didn’t change with the passage of time despite of growing business needed. But unfortunately, still our Government and people are heavily involved in Riba based dealings. Pakistan came into being on the basis of Islamic ideology. 1973 constitution requires that all laws will be made in conformity to Quran and Sunnah. But despite the passage of more than 70 years, still almost after every quarter, State bank of Pakistan announces Riba rate in the monetary policy. Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to reduce poverty using Riba based schemes. A government seems to be confused on removing riba from economy, although, Prime Minister Idealise the First Islamic State; Mdaina.

In 1992, in Pakistan, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) gave its verdict on riba and ordered the Government to adopt the necessary measures for eliminating Riba from the economy of Pakistan by 30 June 1992. In response, the government and financial institutions lodged appeals against the FSC judgement at the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. Supreme Court upheld the FSC decision and ordered the Government to eliminate riba from Economy. Now again, State bank of Pakistan has filed an appeal at Supreme Court against its above decision. It is highly disappointing that instead of removing riba from economy, Government is trying to legalize it again. KP government has already passed a law banning Riba based dealing among individuals. On the contrary, Federal Government is trying to reverse the Supreme Court decision of riba elimination from economy which is highly objectionable.

Like our Government, public is also selective in following religion in their dealings. Those involved in interest based dealings may not be eating meat of forbidden animals, may not be taking wine and will be avoiding moral crimes but will not be hesitating in giving and taking riba. Why this is so? It seems that still, sufficient hatred against riba is not created as we have created regarding avoiding eating haraam meat, Alcohol and other moral crimes.

One of the reason may be the absence of reading content regarding prohibition of riba in the school syllabus of students. Presently, in our education system, perhaps in class 8th or 9th, in Islamic studies, last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), riba prohibition is mentioned which is highly insufficient and needs addition of more content. A sufficient level of awareness about Riba prohibition can be created through inclusion of impactful content in the course syllabus of primary, secondary and higher secondary/intermediate levels of our education system. The content may include relevant Quranic verses, Ahadith, and stories depending on the level of education. For instance, at Primary level, we used to read short stories giving a morale at the end like “Greed is a curse” and Tit for Tat” We still remember those stories and feel their impact. On similar lines, short stories showing the negative aspects of Riba for individuals, societies and nations can be displayed. On higher levels, a more detailed content can be added.

Moreover, at Higher Education level, some universities offer Islamic Finance as an option subject in the last semesters of BBA Finance. Islamic finance should be offered as core subject in earlier semesters. Also a question arises, is Riba forbidden only for muslims studying Finance at BBA level or for other muslims regardless of the profession? Riba is equally prohibited for a Doctor, Engineer, Judge, Architect, Teacher, and Shopkeeper etc. So then why only teaching Riba prohibition to Finance people. Adding the desired content in early education will inculcate hatred against the Riba among students and later on when they join any field, they will try to avoid riba based dealings.

It is pertinent to mention that on 4th January, 2021, Sindh Higher Education Commission directed all public and Private Universities to include a subject on Islamic Finance as a core course in the earlier semesters of Undergraduate and graduate degree programmes in the discipline of Business, Finance and Accounting. Sindh Higher Education commission was established in 2013 after the passage of 18th amendment in the constitution.

Ironically, KP Government has still not yet established its Higher Education Commission. We don’t work ourselves and then blame others that proper attention and resources are not given to our province. KP Government should immediately take steps to establish our provincial Higher Education Commission (HEC) and competent people should be appointed in it for better functioning.

At present, Higher Education Department, Government of KP regulates all public sector Colleges and Universities; therefore it should also take similar steps of introducing Islamic finance courses as a core subject in the business, finance and accounting degree programmes offered at Management Science colleges and Universities. The same can be extended to private universities, once KP HEC is established.

Moreover, a committee of experts should be constituted for developing course content on riba prohibition at Primary, secondary and higher secondary levels of education. TV programmes and awareness seminars can also be arranged explaining the evils of riba. If we don’t do it, we cannot prevent our future generations and communities from getting destroyed.

(Author is a lecture at Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar and Industry Chair at Centre for Excellence in Islamic Finance, IMSciences, Peshawar).