Aspects Of Islamic Faith - 100:
Exchanging Goods Of The Same Kind
Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals
Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi
Islam is very strict in forbidding usury in any type
or form. The Qur'an makes this very clear in several
places. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has added very
clear warnings against usurious transactions of any
type. The reason for such strictness is that usury is,
in essence, a transaction that seeks to increase the
usurer's wealth by exploiting the need of people who
find themselves in desperate circumstances.
In business transactions there are many ways by which
one party tries to exploit the need of the other,
dictating terms that are unfair. Islamic legislation
makes clear that fairness must be maintained in all
deals. In fact, when two parties make a loan
agreement, the Qur'an makes clear that the debtor
should write down the terms of the agreement. The
reason is that the debtor is the weaker party. If the
creditor writes down the terms, he may impose some
difficulty on the debtor whose need for the loan may
prevent him from protesting. By giving the debtor the
right to specify the terms, Islam seeks to prevent
hardship. The debtor is ordered to maintain the fear
of God as he writes the terms, and to ensure that the
other party gets their full rights. A person who gives
his Muslim brother a loan to alleviate his hardship
stands to earn generous reward from God.
Islam also takes precautionary measures to prevent
circumventing the strict prohibition of usury.
Consider the following Hadith in which Abu Hurayrah
quotes the Prophet as saying: "Do not sell gold for
gold, or silver for silver, unless both quantities are
absolutely equal. You may sell gold for silver, or
silver for gold, as you please." (Related by Al-Bukhari).
The Prophet mentions gold and silver, which were the
currencies people used at the time and which were the
main articles by which usurious transactions were
conducted. The Hadith tells us that any exchange of
any type that may be usurious must be of equal
amounts. Other Hadiths also specify that the exchange
must be physical and on the spot. All these conditions
are imposed as precaution against usury. What is also
important to note is that the quality of the articles
exchanged, or the manufacture added, are not taken
into account. Thus, if the quality of the two amounts
of silver or gold being exchanged is different, with
one known to be of better quality than the other, no
variance in price is allowed. The person with the
higher quality gold or silver cannot ask to exchange
100 grams for 120 grams of the lower quality type.
This applies to bullion gold and silver in the same
way as it applies to manufactured ones.
If the exchange is gold for silver, then the price may
be agreed by the two parties as they think is fair.
However, the exchange must take place on the spot.
Thus, 100 grams of gold may be exchanged for 300 grams
of silver, or more or less, as the market value of
each type dictates. Once the terms agreed, the
exchange should take place on the spot.
If the sale does not involve anything that lends
itself to usury, then the two parties may agree
whatever terms they wish, with regard to delivery and
payment. Thus, if we are buying clothes or furniture
for money, then terms of payment may be decided as we