Thursday, January 27, 2005

A convenient rule for tyrants

For anyone (like me) who wants (and needs) to learn more about Islam, the Arab News is a good place to start. Here's an interesting bit from the Q&A column in the religion section:

Q. I have always felt that the use of credit cards is permissible if one makes sure not to pay interest on one’s transactions. However, I saw a published ruling forbidding the very use of credit cards because it involves agreement to pay interest in certain cases. Please explain.

A. Some scholars find it easy to pronounce rulings of prohibition on questions put to them, when they may not be able to produce sufficient evidence to support such a ruling. In this case the ruling is based on the conditions imposed by the company or the bank issuing the credit card, rather than on the person’s own intentions and actions. The company requires that interest be paid when payment of transactions recorded within a month is delayed beyond the specified date of payment, or when one withdraws money in cash, rather than pay bills. But when the client takes out a credit card, Islam holds him accountable for what he does with it, not what the issuing company requires.

Interesting start, though I don't quite follow some of it. The answer goes into more detail, referencing the policies common to credit card companies, then concludes with this:

Besides, my reader says that he has arranged to pay his credit card bills through direct debit, which means that the card company sends the bill to his bank for payment, and the bank pays it on the due date, ensuring that there is never any delay. This covers all eventualities and ensures that interest is never charged on his credit card transactions. In other words, it shows that the man has taken sufficient precautions and has no intention whatsoever to put himself in a situation when interest may be charged from him. How can this be forbidden? If we were to forbid it on the basis of a situation that may never arise, we may as well say that having a bank account is forbidden because of the possibility that one may at one time or another be in debit and the bank would then charge interest. This will place people in great difficulty, when Islam is a religion built on the basis of making things easy. God says in the Qur’an: “God desires that you have ease. He does not desire that you be afflicted with hardship.” (2: 185)

I already knew about Islam's prohibition on paying interest, which comes in mighty handy for keeping your subjects poor, with little chance of improving their lives. What strikes me about this column is the lengths to which ordinary citizens appear to go in order to obey Islam's laws.

Slices of culture like this give some insight into the lives of normal Muslims - those not interested in waging jihad, but just trying to live their lives and provide for their families.

Hopefully our efforts here in Iraq will result in the freedom and security these people so desperately need - many will doubtlessly continue to live by rules such as these, but at least they will be able to make that choice themselves.

Update: Maybe President Bush didn't have his head too far into the clouds on Inauguration Day. The AP reports: Jordan to Introduce Democratic Reform. At least it's a start.

UpdateII: Chrenkoff posts "Good news from the Muslim world, part 4"