Al-Azhar Fatwa Declaring Interest Permissible
by Mufti Taqi Usmani
Question: There are media reports of a new Al Azhar declaration on Interest. This poses a serious dilemma for us in the West and your guidance is needed as to how we should deal with it. [Abdul Hai Patel]
Answer: I have not yet seen the text of so-called Fatwa issued by Majma-ul-Bahoos of Al-Azhar of Egypt. What I have seen is the press reports that have appeared in different newspapers and magazines which have reported that Majma-ul-Bahoos has allowed fixed interest by a resolution adopted by it with a majority of 20 to 1. The following points may be kept in view about this resolution:
1. Majma-ul-Bahoos, at present, does not comprise of very competent scholars of Shariah. There was a time when this institution was regarded as the most prestigious research institute with regard to Shariah and great scholars from all over the world used to attend its meetings. At that point of time this very institute had issued a detailed resolution about the prohibition of bank interest which was adopted unanimously by the personalities not less than Sheikh Abu Zahra, Hassanain Makhloof, Mustafa Zarqa etc. At present no one of that caliber is available in this institution.
2. It is well known that Sheikh Tantavi had issued his opinion about the permissibility of bank interest as a Mufti of Egypt after which he was elevated by the government to the post of Sheikh of Al-Azhar. His views were forcefully rejected and refuted by the Shariah scholars throughout the world and he was condemned by them for the Fatwa issued by him in this regard. It seems that the same Sheikh Tantavi has somehow managed to get this resolution issued by the Majma-ul-Bahoos which has at present has no outstanding scholars in it.
3. The importance in Shariah is always of the evidence produced from the Qur'an and Sunnah and not from the individual opinion expressed by some scholars. Since all the noteworthy Shariah Scholars have declared the bank interest as Riba and prohibited by Qur'an. This scanty opinions expressed by some unknown persons cannot contradict the position taken by the Ummah throughout the centuries.
Extracted 12/09/02 from Albalagh