Verse of Usury
The Verse of Usury, or al-Ribā Verse (Arabic: آیة الربا), refers to verses 278-280 of Qur'an 2, in which the ruling of the forbiddance of usury, its consequences, and some rulings of retaking the capital from the debtor are mentioned. The verses were revealed after the Conquest of Mecca. With these verses, the Prophet (s) abolished interests of usury remaining from the Age of Ignorance.
Text and Translation
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَذَرُوا مَا بَقِيَ مِنَ الرِّبَا إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٢٧٨﴾ فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا فَأْذَنُوا بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ۖ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَالِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ ﴿٢٧٩﴾ وَإِن كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَىٰ مَيْسَرَةٍ ۚ وَأَن تَصَدَّقُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah and abandon [all claims to] what remains of usury, should you be faithful. And if you do not, then be informed of a war from Allah and His apostle. And if you repent, then you will have your principal, neither harming others, nor suffering harm. If [the debtor] is in straits, let there be a respite until the time of ease; and if you remit [the debt] as charity, it will be better for you, should you know.
|— Qur'an 2: 278-280|
Occasion of the Revelation
Three stories have been cited for the occasion of the revelation of the Verses of Usury:
1. The verses have been revealed when the family of Amr b. Umayr received interests from the family of Mughira. After the Conquest of Mecca when the usury forbidden, the family of Mughira went to Attab b. Usayd, who was appointed by the Prophet (s) as the supervisor of Mecca, and complained that the family of Amr received interests from them. Attab wrote a letter to the Prophet (s), and then verses of usury were revealed to the effect that people must stop receiving interests; otherwise they should prepare for a war with God and His Messenger (s). After the revelation of these verses, the family of Amr went to the family of Mughira to retake their money. But since it was not the harvest season and the Mughira family were in financial hardship at the time, they asked to be given some time for repayment. The Amr's family refused to give them the time. But then the verse 280 was revealed to the effect that the repayment of the debt must be postponed if the debtor is in hardship.
2. The verses were revealed about Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib and Uthman b. Affan who purchased dates with advanced payments, and when it was time for picking the dates no dates were left for the owners of the palm trees. Thus, they allowed the owners to have some of the dates provided that they paid back with twice the price. When the Prophet (s) learned about the story, he prohibited Abbas and Uthman from this, commanding them to retake their capital only.
3. Abbas and Khalid b. Walid were financial partners during the Age of Ignorance. They purchased goods with advanced payments and received interests. After the emergence of Islam, they were owed a large amount of money out of usury. Thus the Prophet (s) announced the abolition of all kinds of usury from the Age of Ignorance, and the first usury that he abolished was that of his uncle, Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib.
The verses explicitly announce usury as Haram or forbidden, and emphasize on consequences of usury. The verse 278 of Qur'an 2 addresses the believers and prohibits them from receiving usury, which indicates that some Muslims received usury in that period. The verse begins with an address to believers and ends with an emphasis on believing in God. This is taken to imply that usury is not consonant with the spirit of believing in God, and that the belief in God requires the abandonment of usury.
In these verses, God asks believers to stop receiving the remainders of their interests and to rest content with the original capitals they had lent to others. And if someone cannot pay his or her debts, then they should be given some time. Thus, God prohibits both doing wrong to others and being wronged by others.
In the verse 279 of Qur'an 2, God threateningly addresses those Muslims who have not abandoned usury, characterizing their act as a war with God and His Messenger (s). The word, "harb" (war), in this verse is in the indefinite form, which is taken to connote the hugeness of the war.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from آیه ربا in Farsi WikiShia.