When an individual thinks of religion, the first thing that comes to a believer’s mind is the nonnegotiable worship of a supreme being(s) as a source of tranquility whenever he/she is in distress. On the other hand, to a pro-secularization individual, religion only causes pricey conflicts between different cultures and is considered an outdated practice which should not have a place in today’s society.
What people in general tend to forget about religion is that it their respective figures like Prophet Muhammad and Jesus wanted to promote a way of life that would aim to achieve a standard of living that would see all members of the community equal. And a big part of any way of life is fair trade and decreasing the gap between the rich and the poor. This essay will compare and contrast the early Christian and the current Muslim prohibitions against lending money at interest in the context of today’s constant recession-threatening environment.
In order to be able to relate both the Muslim and Christian stance on the topic of lending money at issue it is integral to highlight the why countries tend to fall into a recession. In 2008, the US recession related to Americans buying houses they could not afford. In North America, investing in real estate is seen as a bullet-proof way of making money; making a low down payment expecting the value of their house to increase but it didn’t which leads foreclosure and eventually huge losses for banks.
Today, movements such as Occupy Toronto protest the lack of social responsibility of bankers who give out mortgages knowing the client would not be able to pay it off – it’s an economical concern of using money people simply don’t physically have. In Islam, the term for interest is Riba which literally means a gain in the Arabic language. “The Prophet said, ‘The selling of wheat for wheat is Riba (usury) except if it is handed from hand to hand and equal in amount.
Similarly the selling of barley for barley is Riba except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount, and dates for dates is usury except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount. ” (Umar). From an economical perspective, what the Prophet of Islam is referring to here is the idea that only the actual value of dates should exist in any trade transaction. For example, a bank giving out a loan for 100,000 dollars with an interest of 10% means that the 10,000 interest to be paid does not actually exist in the economy and hence to the prophet this is considered riba because the bank is gaining money out of nowhere.
In the Sharia, the modern day solution to this banking issue is Islamic banking which offers; “.. more just and equitable distribution of resources; more responsible and profitable lending due to the necessarily closer bank-client relationship; less volatile business cycles; and more stable banking systems. ” (Evans, 1987) Similarly, early Christianity has the same general view of usury, “In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God. ” (Exekiel 22:12).
However, Islam tends to be stricter about preserving authenticity of teachings of Allah or Prophet Muhammad because the teachings were meant to be implemented in the governing of the Islamic state; shariah. Ambiguity, over time, has led to an equivocal view of usury in the Christian faith, “.. to the extent that Christian doctrine rested on an Aristotelian foundation it was vulnerable to the charge of being, at heart, anti-trade and commerce. Aristotle adopted the view, later followed by the Physiocrats, that the natural way to get wealth is by skillful management of house and land.
Usury was diabolical and clearly the worst way of making money. But there was also something degraded about trading and exchanging things rather than actually making them,as summed up in the medieval saying,‘Homo mercator vix aut numquam Deo placerepotest’– the merchant can scarcely or never be pleasing to God. By contrast, the Holy Qur’an endorsed trade, so long as it was not usurious. ” (Lewis, 2007) On the contrary, with the when Islam and Muhammad did rise to power in the Arabian region, trade was something the Arabs were known for and was also religiously encouraged; there were virtually no disputes or new philosophies.
A lack of a solid implementation of the no usury rule (which only strictly existed in Early Christianity) lead to more lenient rule as times changed and the numerous Scriptures were considered more and more ambiguous. As the ages progressed since early Christianity, it went from no exceptions to usury to exceptions made such as allowed usury as long as the interest rate for the loan was fair and reasonable.
In one of Ruston’s books he mentioned; “usury passed from being an offence against public morality which a Christian government was expected to suppress to being a matter of private conscience [and] a new generation of Christian moralists redefined usury as excessive interest” (R, 1993) Hence, since Islam and Christianity are both Abrahamic religions, the view on the concept of usury is fairly similar in essence however politics has always had an influence on trade since the beginning of time.
In today’s world, with Muslim nations trading with Christian and secular nations and likewise with banking, it has become increasingly difficult to impose shariah or the teachings of Jesus in our interdependent global economy. Globally, the concern of usury has transformed to become more of a concern of social responsibility and social justice. While Islamic and Christian share similarities and some slight political differences with regards to interest, it remains an important moral reminder of preserving financial stability even if it might sound a little too unrealistic and utopian in our world today.
Courtney from Study Moose
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