#189: Debt with Non-Muslims


Is it obligatory to settle the debt we have with non-Muslims?


Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Debt according to the 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan [1] means cash and other things loaned to someone else.

In Arabic, it is known as al-qardh (القَرضَ). Al-Qardh literally means cut. According to the dictionary al-Misbah al-Munir[3]: ‘قَرَضْتُ الشَّيْءَ قَرْضًا’ means I’m cutting something. The noun of this word means something given to someone on loan. This word is used in Arabic for it (a debt) cuts the rights of ownership of the person loaning it to someone else.

According to the jurists, the terminology debt is handing over ownership of something to another person on the condition that the other person returns it without any additions. In Arabic, this process is named qardh, because this process cuts a part of the ownership to be given to the debtor. This is in line with the literal meaning of qardh. [4]

Allah SWT commanded the believers to record all of his debt and its agreed time of payment. Allah SWT states in the Quran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ ۚ وَلْيَكْتُب بَّيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ

“O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write [it] between you in justice.” [5]

Debt is a responsibility that is obligatory to be settled fairly and the ruling of settling one’s debt as an agreement between people is obligatory. Debt is a form of agreement between a debtor and creditor and it has been commanded by Allah SWT to be obeyed and fulfilled. Allah SWT states:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَوْفُوا بِالْعُقُودِ

“O you who have believed, fulfil [all] contracts.” [6]

Command sighah (speech) in this verse instructed us all to fulfil all agreements made in a general and absolute manner, which blankets all agreements amongst Muslims and non-Muslims.

Fulfilling an agreement is among the attributes of a true believer:

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَانَاتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَاعُونَ

“And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive.” [7]

Moreover, numerous hadiths warn anyone who doesn’t settle their debt, among them are:

يُغْفَرُ لِلشَّهِيدِ كُلُّ ذَنْبٍ إِلاَّ الدَّيْنَ

“Every fault but a debt will be forgiven to a martyr.” [8]

There is also a narration that states that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH himself once buy something through a loan with a Jew. Saidatina ‘Aisyah R.Anha said:

اشْتَرَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم طَعَامًا مِنْ يَهُودِيٍّ بِنَسِيئَةٍ، وَرَهَنَهُ دِرْعًا لَهُ مِنْ حَدِيدٍ‏

“Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) bought some foodstuff (barley) from a Jew on credit and mortgaged his iron armor to him (the armor stands for a guarantor).” [9]

Likewise, the Prophet PBUH also once take out a loan from a Jew named Zaid bin San’ahm and he immediately paid him back when asked even when the loan isn’t due:

أَنَّ زَيْدَ بْنَ سَعْنَةَ، كَانَ مِنْ أَحْبَارِ الْيَهُودِ أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَتَقَاضَاهُ، فَجَبَذَ ثَوْبَهُ عَنْ مَنْكِبِهِ الْأَيْمَنِ، ثُمَّ قَالَ: إِنَّكُمْ يَا بَنِي عَبْدِ الْمُطَّلِبِ أَصْحَابُ مَطْلٍ، وَإِنِّي بِكُمْ لَعَارِفٌ، قَالَ: فَانْتَهَرَهُ عُمَرُ فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «يَا عُمَرُ أَنَا وَهُوَ كُنَّا إِلَى غَيْرِ هَذَا مِنْكَ أَحْوَجَ، أَنْ تَأْمُرَنِي بِحُسْنِ الْقَضَاءِ، وَتَأْمُرَهُ بِحُسْنِ التَّقَاضِي، انْطَلِقْ يَا عُمَرُ أَوْفِهِ حَقَّهُ، أَمَا إِنَّهُ قَدْ بَقِيَ مِنْ أَجَلِهِ ثَلَاثٌ فَزِدْهُ ثَلَاثِينَ صَاعًا لِتَزْوِيرِكَ عَلَيْهِ

“Indeed, Zaid bin San’ah – a Jew pastor came to meet the Prophet Muhammad PBUH and demanded him to pay his debt and pulled on the Prophet PBUH’s clothing on his right shoulder and said: “Indeed, you people from Bani Muthalib are from amongst who delay paying their debts and I know too well of this.” Umar RA was furious, but Rasullullah PBUH said to Umar: “O Umar, there are matters between him and me, don’t interfere. It is best if you advised me to settle my debt fairly and advise him to ask for his repayment fairly. Go and fulfil his right O Umar, although there’s still a third of his day before it is due for me to pay the debt; add another 30 saa’, for you’ve frightened him.” [10]

 Furthermore, scholars explained that debt and agreement with harbi disbelievers are obligatory to be fulfilled. Imam al-Ramli stated the situation of a disbeliever who became a prisoner of war and was taken in as a slave and there was a Muslim who owed a debt to him, it is still obligated for the Muslim to settle the debt. [11]

Hence, the rights of harbi disbelievers and prisoners of war are obligatory to be respected and fulfilled, then it is prioritized for us to respect and fulfil the agreement with non-Muslims who are the citizens of our country and live peacefully with us.

We conclude that the debt with anyone is obligatory to be settled even if he is a non-Muslim. This is due to the fact that everyone has his own rights over his wealth property even if he has a different faith. May Allah SWT give us a good understanding in this religion.

Wallahu a’lam.


[1] See https://prpm.dbp.gov.my/cari1?keyword=hutang

[2] See al-Fiqh al-Manhaji, (6/82), Mughni al-Muhtaj, (2/117) and al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah, Qism al-Buyu’, (pg. 45)

[3] See al-Misbah al-Munir, 2/497

[4] See al-Fiqh al-Manhaji, 4/121-122

[5] Surah al-Baqarah: 282

[6] Surah al-Ma’idah: 1

[7] Surah al-Mu’minin: 8

[8] Narrated by Muslim (1886)

[9] Narrated by al-Bukhari (2251) dan Muslim (1603)

[10] Narrated by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (2237) and (6547), and Ibn Hibban (288). According to al-Hakim, the isnad is sahih, however, it is not narrated by Imam al-Bukhari and Muslim.

[11] See Fatawa al-Ramli, 3/216

Kami amat mengalu-alukan sumbangan anda untuk penyelenggaraan operasi Maktabah Al-Bakri.

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