I own a house, which I purchased through mortgage. At the time I purchased it, I did not know that paying Riba was not according to the spirit of Islam. I now like to sell the house in order to avoid further payment of Riba.
My problem is this: The person who buys from me will most likely finance it through a mortgage as well. This means that I will involve someone else in Riba in order to get myself off the hook. Is it wrong for me to sell the house? It may be impossible to find someone who could pay the price of the house upfront. Am I in a no way out situation?
I would appreciate your advice. Thank you.
Dear brother, your concern in adhering to what you have understood to be God’s directives is commendable indeed. May the Almighty grant us all the courage in doing so and bestow us with His promised rewards, in this world as well as the hereafter.
Nevertheless, before we consider any of your stated options in any detail, it is important that you be aware of my opinion regarding the issue of the prohibition of the payment of Riba. As I have explained in a few of my earlier responses to similar questions, the basic prohibition of the Shari`ah relates to charging or taking Riba. Payment of Riba is not a direct prohibition of the Shari`ah. On the contrary, payment of Riba has been discouraged because every instance of payment of Riba would, without any exception, entail the taking of Riba by the party to whom Riba is being paid. Such taking of Riba has categorically been declared as a sin and a disobedience to God’s commandments. Thus, in a way, the payment of Riba, even though not a sin in itself, entails taking part in an activity, which directly or indirectly, results in the involvement of another party in a clear sin. Such activities, which directly or indirectly result in the involvement of another party in sin, are termed as ‘cooperating in a sin’ of another person. The Shari`ah has directed the Muslims to cooperate with each other in the promotion of pious and noble deeds and to refrain from participating in any such activity, which may directly or indirectly result in cooperation in the sin and the transgression of another person. Thus, a God-fearing Muslim should avoid participating in any such activity, which may result in the involvement of sin of another person. Taking and repayment of a Riba-based loan should be considered in the light of the explanation given above.
A Muslim, as should be clear from the foregoing explanation, should try to avoid, as far as possible, to secure a Riba-based loan. However, the answer to the question regarding whether a particular Riba-based loan is, in fact, a cooperation in the sin of another person or not, depends on a number of variables. These variables may include the purpose for which the loan is being secured; the availability or otherwise of any alternative sources of financing the need; and the position of the debtor with particular reference to his awareness of the Prophet’s directives regarding the issue. Thus, questions like whether the loan is being secured to provide for a necessity or not; whether the person securing such a loan had the opportunity to provide for the fulfillment of the required necessity through a Riba-free loan or through any other source or not, need to be answered for the purpose of determining whether securing a Riba-based loan for a particular need and under some specific circumstances should be considered as ‘cooperating in the sin of another person or not. However, only the person directly concerned and facing the situation can answer these questions. No one other than the borrower himself can answer these questions. Thus, in case the person did not have any option but to fulfill a necessity through a Riba-based loan, then it may be hoped that due to his pressing circumstances, he may not be held as an accomplice to the crime of the person who is pocketing the amount of Riba. On the other hand, if the person does not require the loan to fulfill an actual need (and is only interested in a better standard of living), or if the person could have fulfilled his need from his own sources or from any other Riba-free sources, yet he opted for the Riba-based source with the awareness that his action would result in the sin of another person, then, he may have to face the consequences of being an accomplice in the crime of the other person (of taking Riba).
The foregoing explanation should adequately clarify my opinion regarding the position of the payment of Riba.
Coming, now, to the specific questions in your letter, I am of the opinion that, in the modern day societies, besides those things, which have always been acknowledged as necessities, a few of the most obvious necessities that a person generally likes to secure (at varying levels in different societies) include a reasonably comfortable house and a reasonably comfortable and reliable means of commuting. Nevertheless, the ultimate decision regarding whether it was (and is) justified for you to have secured a loan for the particular purpose that you did, rests solely upon you. If you consider the purpose justified, then you should carry on repaying the loan (with the accumulated interest) while praying to God that He may forgive you for any mistake you may have committed in your decision. On the other hand, if you do not consider the purpose, for which the loan was secured, to be justified, then you may, as you have yourself suggested, try your utmost to relieve yourself of the liability as soon as it becomes easily possible for you. Even in such a case, I would suggest that the following points be kept in mind:
You must not default on the repayment of the loan and you must fulfill the contract that you had previously agreed upon. Fulfillment of all promises and agreements, it should be remembered, is a religious obligation for all Muslims;
You may try to get a Riba-free loan (which may entail the provision of any adjustments for inflation) from your friends and brothers in your community and through this loan retire your liability toward the bank;
You may try to retire the loan as quickly as is possible for you. For instance, if you still have to pay about fifty installments to the financing institution, you may try to retire the loan in twenty-five installments by voluntarily doubling the amount that you repay in each installment. In this way, you shall be able to reduce (by at least half) the total amount of interest that you will have to pay on the loan;
If the above options are not available, then you may try to sell the house, as you have yourself suggested. Even though resorting to this option, in my opinion, is not necessary. Nevertheless, if you do resort to this option, you should only sell the house if you can get someone to buy it at its actual market price. Do not sell it at a throwaway price. You should also let the buyer know about the liability of the mortgage as well as the element of the payment of interest, which has induced you to sell off the property. If the buyer is still willing to buy the property, there shall then be no blame upon you for his payment of Riba.
I hope this helps.
September 26, 2000