Classical Muslim jurists defined riba as an increase or excess in a loan, whether it be monetary or in-kind, with the condition that it is to be repaid in greater value or quantity. They did not distinguish between the riba mentioned in the Qur’an and the riba mentioned in the Sunnah (prophetic traditions). For them, the prohibition of riba was understood to be a comprehensive concept that encompassed any form of unjust increase in a loan or exchange.
The term “riba” in the Qur’an is considered mujmal, meaning it is not explicitly defined in detail within the text. However, the Qur’an provides general guidelines and principles that imply the prohibition of riba. The classical jurists believed that the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings in the Sunnah served as an elaboration and clarification of the concept of riba mentioned in the Qur’an.
By considering riba as a mujmal term, classical jurists relied on the elaboration and details provided in the prophetic traditions. These traditions clarified the various forms of prohibited transactions that involved riba, such as riba al-nasi’ah (interest on loans) and riba al-fadl (excess in exchange of goods of the same kind). The Sunnah provided additional context and examples to understand the prohibition of riba comprehensively.
The implications of considering riba as a mujmal term of the Qur’an, elaborated by the prophetic traditions, are significant. It allows for a more comprehensive understanding of riba and enables the application of Islamic finance principles in various economic contexts. The prophetic traditions provide specific guidance on what transactions are prohibited, allowing scholars and practitioners to identify and avoid practices that involve riba.
However, it’s important to note that there may be differences in interpretation among scholars, both in classical and contemporary times, regarding specific transactions and their classification as riba. Some contemporary scholars have further refined the understanding of riba and introduced additional distinctions based on the economic and financial complexities of modern societies. These distinctions are often aimed at differentiating between riba and permissible financial transactions, while remaining true to the underlying objectives of the prohibition.
Overall, the consideration of riba as a mujmal term in the Qur’an, supplemented by the elaboration in the prophetic traditions, provides the foundation for understanding and implementing the prohibition of riba in Islamic finance and economic practices. It allows for the development of financial systems and transactions that are in line with Islamic principles, promoting fairness, justice, and ethical conduct in economic affairs.