please click here to login first
This passage dealing with lending and borrowing is concluded with advice on how to deal with insolvent debtors. In such cases, the solution would not be to impose further penalties in lieu of deferred payment, but the debtor should be granted a reprieve until he is able to settle his debt, or the lender should be magnanimous enough to write off the debt completely.
The words evoke an atmosphere of tolerance and benevolence. They provide a respite from the harshness and severity of greed and selfishness. They call for clemency and compassion on the part of creditor and borrower, as well as by society as a whole.
These words may not make a great deal of sense to those ‘rationalists’ who apply purely materialistic criteria. It makes even less sense to moneylenders, individuals as well as faceless institutions, that justify their exploitative and extortionate practices on utterly amoral and inhuman principles and considerations. These Qur’ānic exhortations may never reach their hearts. But, as believing Muslims, we recognise that these are words of truth that are certain to bring about happiness and security for all mankind: “If [the debtor] is in straitened circumstances, grant him a delay until a time of ease. And if you waive [the debt entirely] as a gift of charity, it will be better for you, if you but knew it.”
Under Islam, a debtor is never put under duress by either the creditor or the law, but is always given another chance to settle his debt. Furthermore, society at large will not stand idly by when a borrower is suffering genuine hardship because of his indebtedness. God calls on the creditor to willingly waive the debt, and if’ he does so it will be good for him and for the debtor, and for the welfare and cohesion of the community as a whole.
The abolition of usury would lose much of its purpose if the creditor were allowed to harass and squeeze the debtor while he was not able to settle the debt. Thus the sūrah urges that he should be given time to settle, and advises the creditor to waive the debt, in full or in part. Other Qur’ānic statements (9:60) specify that insolvent debtors, who borrow money for legitimate purposes and are unable to pay it back, qualify for help from zakāt funds to clear their liabilities and alleviate their situation, provided that their debts were incurred for legitimate purposes.