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Islamic Finance: The Problem with Riba (Usury)

Author (s): 
Gelovani Nani

The present work deals with the problem of usury in the work Kitāb al-Kabā‘ir (The Book of Major Sins) by the XIII-XIV cc. Arab historian and theologian Al-Dhahabī. The work also considers the data of scientific literature.  Kitāb al-Kabā‘ir is a work of a legal and theologian character. We use the Beirut edition (undated). As the editor ‘Abd Allah ibn Sulayman has informed us, working on the manuscript was completed in 1922 and the lists were finally established in 1936. The Preface says that at some time, ‘Arif ibn Muhammad Khawadj al-Bakhalri, a tradesman of Makka had the manuscript, who published the work to make it known and available to everyone. It should be noted that there were three lists of this book, but the editors chose the variant, which in their opinion, ‘was closer to the reality’. The work deals with the sins severely punishable under Islam. Such sins are not performing the Prayer, not paying Zakat, not fasting, wrongfully consuming the property of an orphan, gambling, stealing, etc. Al-Dhahabī names 70 types of major sins condemning every Muslim to equal suffering in hell. The list of sins, among other things, includes usury. Al-Dhahabī mainly relies on Kur’ān and Traditions. He was an adherent of the Shafii school.  However, he also quotes the opinions about the usury of the followers of other Madhhabs and sects. Al-Dhahabī does not define the term ribā. He considers the usury as a negative event and identifies the contradictions in the theory and practice of Islam. Al-Dhahabī underlines that ribā, which means selling and exchange not only money, but other things, too, should be differentiated from legal trade admissible under Kur’ān. 


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