By N A Ansari (The Milli Gazette)
New Delhi: According to Safdar Husain Khan, chairman of Delhi State Minorities Commission, a report of the Reserve Bank of India says that a hopping amounts of 1.5 trillion dollars (Rs. 67,50,000 crore) as interests accrued on the deposits of Muslims are lying unclaimed in different Indian banks. Since taking and giving of “interest” (Riba) has been described haram or illegal in Islam, an overwhelming majority of Muslims do not want to avail of it, with the result these are lying unclaimed in banks of the country. According to this report, in Kerala only Rs. 40,000 crore and in J&K, Rs. 50,000 crore as interest on deposits of Muslims are lying unclaimed in the banks of these states.
According to prominent economist, Prof. Tahir Baig, leaving aside statistics, there are no two opinions that if regarding such huge amounts of interests on the deposits of Muslims which are lying unused and unclaimed in different Indian banks, in addition to the parts of principal amounts, ulama and jurists take a positive decision about the utilisation of these amounts, many welfare and developmental activities and projects can be undertaken. It is feared that if such a large amount is left unclaimed, there is a possibility that because of some manipulation, anti-Muslim forces may grab it and use their (Muslims) own money against them.
It may be stated in this connection that the problem of interest being legal or illegal is being interpreted differently by different ulama or jurists. Whereas some ulama argue that this interest i.e. the one given by banks on deposits is not like the village money lenders interest which was exorbitant and highly exploitative. Banks as a rule give interest to depositors or account holders of their own will without asking and hence it is not haram. Rather, it is a kind of profit for the depositors.
Some people even argue that the interest money can be used in a way which does not bring material gains to the depositors such as, for example, building of loos. This argument is not quite convincing because building of loos also fulfils an important need of people. There are still some people who argue that interest money can be used for beneficial purposes for poor and needy people without expecting any sawaab or heavenly reward; but in the changing scenario of modern economic and financial system when value of money is constantly decreasing, it needs serious consideration whether interest can be legally accepted. For example, the real value of, say Rs. one lakh deposited in a bank five or ten years ago, may be worth Rs. 50,000 or 60,000 only today. So, how can this loss of Rs. 40 or 50 thousand rupees be made good? If interest willingly given by banks on deposits is accepted, it will make up the loss to some extent at least if ulama or jurists decide through ijtehad that in view of the constantly decreasing value of money and the resultant loss to the depositor, interest can be legally accepted.
In any case, since there is no unified opinion of ulama and jurists on the acceptance or otherwise of bank interest they should take a decision on this question which has become vital now. Islamic Fiqh Academy which from time to time reviews and takes decisions on various issues arising in modern times in the light of Qur’an and Sunnat should now discuss this problem and take a decision through ijtehad for the benefit of Muslims.