Riba (Interest) Prohibited in Islam, Christianity and Judaism

1. Meaning of the word “Riba”

2. Prohibition Quran & Hadith

3. Prohibition in the Bible

1. Meaning of the word “Riba”

Riba literally means ‘to grow; to increase.’ Technically, it denotes the amount that a lender receives from a borrower at a fixed rate in excess of the principal. It is of two kinds:
1. Riba Nasi’a – taking interest on loaned money.
2. Riba Fadal – taking something of superior quality in exchange for giving less of the same kind of thing of poorer quality.

In English it is usually translated as “Interest” or “Usury”

2. Prohibition in Islam:

The word “Riba” is used in the Holy Quran 8 times. In 30:39,4:161,3:130, 2:276,2:278 and 3 times in 2:275. The Quran says

“Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury,” but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (The offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).” (Quran 2:275)

“O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear Allah. that ye may (really) prosper.” (Quran 3:130)

“O ye who believe! Fear Allah, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if ye are indeed believers. If ye do it not, Take notice of war from Allah and His Messenger. But if ye turn back, ye shall have your capital sums: Deal not unjustly, and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly.” (Quran 2:278-279)

If you are dealing in interest. Please do not expect angels to come down with swords to wage a war against you. It is talking about the severity of the sin. For other sins like alcohol, gambling etc. the Quran says

“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.” (Quran 5:90)

Here the Quran says that intoxicants and gambling are Satan’s handiwork and abstain from it. In the case of Riba(Interest) the Quran does not only say that it’s a sin but it says that Allah (SWT) and his messenger Muhammad (pbuh) will wage a war against. Showing how grave this sin really is. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said :

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) classified it among the seven major sins

 “Volume 8, Book 82, Number 840: 

    Narrated Abu Huraira: 

    The Prophet said, “Avoid the seven great destructive sins.” They (the people!) asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What are they?” He said, “To join partners in worship with Allah; to practice sorcery; to kill the life which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause (according to Islamic law); to eat up usury (Riba), to eat up the property of an orphan; to give one’s back to the enemy and freeing from the battle-field at the time of fighting and to accuse chaste women who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers.”

Some Muslims may argue that only the taking of interest is prohibited. But one Sahih Hadith says

“·  Hazrat Jabir r.a. has reported that the Messenger of Allah cursed the devourer of usury, its payer, its scribe and its two witnesses. He also said that they were equal (in sin).” (Mishkat-ul-Masabih)

Though there are many hadith which condemn riba (interest) but these two are sufficient for now.

3. Prohibition in the Bible

“Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest.” (Deuteronomy 23:19)

“Do not take interest of any kind  from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you.” (Leviticus 25:36)

“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest” (Exodus 22:25)

Righteous servant of God doesn’t take interest

5 “Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.

6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or lie with a woman during her period.

7 He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.

8 He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man.

9 He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 18:5-9)

But the violent one will take it

10 “Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things

 11 (though the father has done none of them): “He eats at the mountain shrines. He defiles his neighbor’s wife.

 12 He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things.

 13 He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head” (Ezekiel 18:10-13)

Jesus Christ (pbuh) came to fulfill the Law. He said:

“[17] Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
[18] For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
[20] For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 5:17-20)

The Hebrew word used for interest/usury in all these verses is

neh‘-shek: which means:

From H5391; interest on a debt: – usury.

Hence, The Quran and Bible both consider interest to be a sin and Muslims, Christians and Jews Should NOT indulge in it.