- Curvature movement between a positive upper limit and a negative lower limit
The sixth type represents the curvature movement between a positive upper limit and a negative lower limit. We often see this with financial transactions: if interest is levied the lower limit is reached; if, however, alms tax (zakah) is paid the curvature moves towards the upper limit. In between, there is a level of payment that can be defined as point zero. An example of this neutral stage (neither positive nor negative) is an interest-free loan. Hence, fiscal transactions in a given society move, by responding to the economic and social needs, between the two extremes of
- a) payments of taxes and charity money to
- b) giving loans with interest, while a middle position is reached if
- c) interest-free loans are provided.
If we take the root meaning of r-b-w, the Arabic term for ‘interest’, we notice that it means ‘growth or increase’, an expansion of wealth by ‘adding up’ or ‘piling up’. In words such as rabiyya or rubwa (‘hill’), derived from the same root, we discover similar semantic connotations.
Let us look at verses that mention the term al-riba: Those who devour usury [ al-riba] will not stand except as stand one whom the evil one by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury [ al-riba],” but God has permitted trade and forbidden usury [ al-riba]. Those who, after receiving direction from their Lord, desist shall be pardoned for the past. Their case is for God (to judge), but those who repeat (the offence) are companions of the Fire: they will abide therein (forever). (Baqara:275).
God will deprive usury [ al-riba] of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity; for He loves not creatures ungrateful and wicked. (Baqara:276). O you who believe! Fear God and give up what remains of your demand for usury [riba], if you are indeed believers. (Baqara:278). If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time till it is easy for him to repay. But if you remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if you only knew. (Baqara:280). O you who believe! Devour not usury [riba], doubled and multiplied; but fear God that you may (really) prosper. (al ‘Imran:130).
That which you lay out for increase [riba] through the property of (other) people, will have no increase with God. But that which you lay out for charity, seeking the countenance of God, (will increase): it is these who will get a recompense multiplied. (Rum:39). O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities. But let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good-will. Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves; for verily God has been to you most merciful! (Nisa”:29)
From this list of verses we are able to discern four different types of ‘interest’:
- Interest on sadaqa: God will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity; for He loves not creatures ungrateful and wicked. (Baqara:276)
- Interest on zakah : That which you lay out for increase through the property of (other) people, will have no increase with God. But that which you lay out for charity, seeking the countenance of God, (will increase): it is these who will get a recompense multiplied. (Rum 30:39)
- An upper limit for acceptable interest O you who believe! Devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear God that you may (really) prosper. (al ‘Imran 3:130)
- A point zero: If you do it not, take notice of war from God and His apostle. But if you turn back you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly and you shall not be dealt with unjustly. (Baqara:279)
Based on verses from the Book we propose a flexible banking system which can incorporate, if need be, interest on loans provided that the limits set by Allah are observed, but which can also prevent interest being charged at an exorbitant rate (usury). Our proposal is based on the belief that the Book does not categorically and unconditionally prohibit the charging of interest, and we do not follow either Muhammad’s or Umar bin. al-Khattab’s conclusive veto against it. Instead, we maintain that the three possible ways of money transfer within a society correspond to the movement, suggested, between an upper and a lower limit.
- Zakah: This is a special type of charity since it is defined as an alms tax for the benefit of the poor and handicapped who are adherents of Muhammad: Muslim-Believers. It corresponds to the absolute minimum of money transfer, a lower limit of sadaqa (fixed as 2.5 percent of supra income) that cannot be reduced.
- sadaqa: This is a general type of charity, called sadaqat al-islam, whose recipients are the poor and handicapped, whether they believe in Muhammad’s message or not. There exists no upper limit and each contribution is voluntary. The lower limit of sadaqa is the payment of zakah. There are therefore two different kinds of sadaqa:
- General sadaqa for everyone: It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West. But it is righteousness to believe in God and the Last Day, and the angels, and the Book, and the messengers; to spend of your substance [‘ata al-mal], out of love for Him, for your [dhawi ’l-qurba], for the [ yatama], for the [ al-masakin], for the [ibn al-sabil], for those who are [ al-sa”ilin], and for those [ fi’l-riqab]; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity [zakah]; to fulfil the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. (Baqara:177)
- Specific sadaqa for the Muslim-Believers (paid as zakah): Alms [sadaqat] are for the [ fuqara”] and the [masakin], and those who are [ al-‘amilin #alaiha]; for those who are [ al-mu”allafa qulubuhum]; for those [ fi’l-riqab] and [al-gharimin]; [ fi sabil Allah]; and for the [ibn al-sabil]. (Thus is it) ordained by God, and God is full of knowledge and wisdom. (Tawba:60)