Friday, February 12, 2010

Doubling traffic fines is not usury: Scholar

Had a lunch with Ustaz Zaharuddin Abdul Rahman and discussed on usury as he is very much known on this particular matter.

We are very much living in usury world, knowingly or not....do we options? Alternatives?

One of point is we do not have enough pool of good scholars who can spread the message effectively to the masses on usury.

There are a lot of confusions and grey areas which need to be addressed and resolved for all to understand the consequences of usury in our lives.

By Naim Tamim Al-Hakim

JEDDAH – In the ongoing debate taking place on the issue, a leading scholar argues that doubling traffic fines is not considered usury.

Dr. Saleh Al-Sadlan, Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence “Fiqh” in the Postgraduate Studies Department at Imam Muhammad Islamic University in Riyadh, said the doubling of traffic fines does not fall under the jurisdiction of usury in Islamic law.

This view supports an edict made by Dr. Abdul Mohsen Al-Obikan, the adviser at the Royal Court.

However, it is in disagreement with a ruling made by the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh who ruled that the doubling of fines for traffic violations is usury.

Al-Sadlan said scholars have different views about penalties which have to be paid with money.
“Islamic jurisprudence, Fiqh, was developed to determine normative Islamic conduct as detailed in the Shariah. The legal precedents and principles provided by the Qur’an and Sunnah were used to develop and elaborate a system of rules of jurisprudence. By the middle of the eighth century, Islamic jurists had developed and laid down legal theory to allow a judge or mufti to find out in all circumstances what was legal and moral action,” Al-Sadlan explained.

Coming back to the issue of usury or “Riba”, he said that usury, in its Qur’anic sense, means paying money for the use of money.

“Islamic ethics mediate through God’s will and are an integral part of the Shariah. It is a divinely ordained blueprint for human conduct, which is inherently and essentially religious.”

He said that his explanations are necessary to provide a concise background to Islamic rules which are derived from the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, the Prophet’s traditions.

With regard to doubling fines there is an authentic Hadith by the Prophet in Sahih Muslim indicating that it is an injustice for a rich person, who can pay a debt, to delay such a payment.
The Hadith is: Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) as saying that delay (in the payment of debt) on the part of a rich man is injustice.”
Going by this Hadith, it shows that the doubling of financial fines, whether for traffic violation or not, does not fall under usury. He cited a further example: “When a man commits a mistake when he is in a state of Ihram the punishment will be severer than when he is not in a state of Ihram.”

He argued further that: “If a person bought a building for SR100,000 and did not pay the installment when it was due, then there would be a penalty for this. The penalty would be in the form of paying extra money.

He said this applies to traffic violations, pointing out that: “We understand from the aforementioned Hadith and other examples that the doubling of traffic fines when there are delays, does not fall under the jurisdiction of usury, but falls under the jurisdiction of financial or cash penalties.”

This was also the opinion of Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obikan who had affirmed, in an earlier statement to Okaz, that the Grand Mufti’s edict, which states that the doubling of fines for traffic violations is usury, is not based on any of the principles of the Islamic Shariah, because the definition of ‘Riba’ in the Qur’an means paying of money for the use of money.

He said this jurisprudential definition does not apply to a traffic violation because it is a financial penalty decreed by the ruler because of the violation of the rules or committing a certain mistake. Thus from the Shariah perspective, it is not considered as “Riba”.

Replying to the fatwa of the Grand Mufti, he said: “Traffic fines come under the jurisdiction of financial penalties which have been approved by the majority of the Ulema and are legal in most of the opinions of the scholars including Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taimia.”

However, Al-Obikan has appealed to the higher authorities to lighten people’s burden and review these fees which have become a heavy burden on poor people with average incomes. – Okaz/SG