It’s no wonder that Muslims of today suffer at the hands of others – they have lost their identity because they have stopped standing up for each other. Amina Ahmed tells you her experience
Everywhere you see nowadays, Muslims are fighting with each other. You have the age-long battle between the Sunnis and Shias, the fights among individuals, each arguing their point, each trying to prove that they are right. And then we ask why all around the world our brothers and sisters are in pain, suffering at the hands of others.
A few weeks ago I decided to do a feature on university loans. I thought it would be interesting what with the time coming when students all around the country would be logged on to the UCAS website, some desperately trying to get into good universities while others filling out the dreary forms just because they were ordered to do so by their tutors. However, some Muslims, like myself, would be sitting around wondering what they should do while their peers moan about how long the application to get into university is. Why? Because thanks to our wonderful education system, you have to not only take out £9000 a year to pay to go university but also have to pay 3% interest on top. And for those of you who don’t know: Muslims are not allowed to give or take interest.
God says in chapter three of the Quran: “Oh you, who have believed, do not consume interest, doubled and multiplied, but fear God that you may be successful.”
So you see: my feature was a Muslim vs. government thing. Keep that in mind while I tell my tale.
I called a lady I know who runs an Islamic institute. I had studied there for a while and knew that all students went there to study Islam after school, college or university. It was a good source to find stories about young women who couldn’t go to university because of the above-mentioned problem. I asked her to find out if anyone would share their experience with me. Few days later, I called again. The life of a journalist involves nagging people in a nice way and that’s just what I did. Her daughter picked up and asked me to explain to her what I wanted. I then detailed the situation, what I was trying to do and what I had asked her mum to do for me. She went on to tell me that taking loans out that incur interest was not wrong.
Now stop right there. See, the problem with Muslims of today is that they are in a constant fight with each other. Islam is about peace, about brotherhood – supporting each other and living in harmony. But we have made it into a vicious circle of petty fights. What was supposed to be a Muslims vs. government feature became into a Muslim vs. Muslim debate suddenly.
She said: “There isn’t really interest on the loans, it’s inflation-based and that’s not the same.”
She then went on to imply that Imams (Muslim legal expert who gives rulings on religious matters) said that when it was a ‘necessity’ then taking interest was fine.
Firstly, not only am I training to be a journalist but I also went through the whole gruesome process of applying for universities last year and therefore I know all the nitty-gritty. The loan incurred not only inflation-based interest but also 3% on top. This changed recently when the loans themselves rose from £3000 a year to £9000. I explained this to her and she chose to ignore me.
Secondly – and this I did not tell her because I am not the type of Muslim who likes to fight, judge and dictate fellow Muslims – going university isn’t a “necessity”’. And therefore, that argument is invalid. However, no-one is perfect and I am no model-Muslim and I don’t expect others to be.
Thirdly, it is a common thing for the Muslims of today to blindly follow what a Mufti says, so much that a teacher of mine once asked if I could pay interest if “my Mufti” said it was okay. For one, I don’t have a Mufti and for two, I do not do what anyone else tells me to do. Some things in Islam are open to interpretation and personal choices and circumstances. I do not think going to university is a good enough reason to take interest and displease my God. It doesn’t matter what a scholar tells me.
However, for those who do decide that that is the right option, I have no right to tell them they are wrong. Many times in his life, our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did the same thing in different ways not so that later on we could argue about which way is right but so we could choose the easiest way for us. At the same time, some verses in the Quran are open to interpretation not because God wants us to be confused and fight amongst each other but because, I believe, He wants it to be left open for us to choose the way which we think is the most suitable and easy. Therefore, any Muslim who believes in their heart truly that taking a loan out that has interest on it is right; I am not there to prove them wrong.
When Muslims learn to accept the differences, to help other Muslims when they are in need no matter how different they may be, then and then only will the Muslims of today be able to live peacefully.
Katherine Grace Chowdry converted to Islam in 2006. “Muslims have become too concerned with minor details rather than the core aspects of the religion such as prayers. We have to get the balance right between judging others and giving sincere advice.” She told me.
United we stand, divided we fall.