Many Muslims have a question about “can Muslims work at conventional banks?”. The fact that many Muslims work in a conventional bank makes them wonder if it is halal or haram. This article aims to give you some scholars’ views about Muslims working in a conventional bank.
Can Muslims work in banks?
It depends on what kind of bank you work in. If the bank doesn’t deal with interest-based activities and transactions, it is permissible for Muslims to work at banks e.g., Islamic banks. But if the banks are based on interest activities, some Muslim scholars said it is totally haram regardless of any roles. Other scholars said that if the job has direct involvement with the interest-based activities, then it is haram. But if the work is not related to interest-based activities, the income will be lawful, although superior to avoid.
Muslim Scholars Point of View
According to some scholars, working at a riba-based bank is haram. Even if the position does not include dealing with riba directly, such as guards, cleaners, and other services. However, other scholars allow some roles in conventional banks that do not involve in riba transactions. To answer the question of “can Muslims work at conventional banks?”, here we elaborate you some of their fatwas.
1- Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah
Even though the work someone does has nothing to do with riba, it is not acceptable for a Muslim to work in a bank that deals with riba. This is because he provides the needs of the bank’s employees who deal with riba and helping them with their interest calculation. Allah says in the Qur’an :
“but do not help one another in sin and transgression” (Al-Maidah 5:2)
2- Mufti Faraz Adam
Regardless of any position, most scholars would advise a Muslim to avoid working in a conventional bank. Certain scholars believe that as long as the specific position is halal, the earnings will be legal. However, working in such a sector is not the best option; instead, look for a company whose primary services and products are halal.
Mufti Faraz Adam added that working in a role that does not involve dealing with riba transactions is acceptable. The earning will also be lawful (for example, fraud prevention job).
3- Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam, Darul Iftaa
According to Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam, the permissibility or impermissibility of employment in a specific firm or company is based on two factors:
- The nature of the job must be permissible (halal). It means that if the job comprises doing something prohibited by Shariah, it will be unlawful (e.g., selling haram food or beverages)
- The salary must originate from a Halal source. Accepting a job when the work is permissible (halal) but salary is paid with unlawful and impure money, such as stolen or interest money, remains prohibited.
Employment at a bank that requires direct involvement with interest-based transactions; such as a manager, cashier, clerk, or other similar position, will be unlawful (haram).
Hadith related to dealing with riba activities
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud narrated that; the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) cursed the one who accepted usury, the one who paid, the witness to it, and the one who recorded it. (Sunah Abu Dawud)
Hadith from Sahih Muslim mentioned that; the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) invoked curse (la’na) on the receiver of interest, the payer of interest, the scribe, and the two witnesses. And he said: “They are the same” (i.e., in sin).
If a person is currently working in a conventional bank, scholars advise that he should not leave his job right away; instead, he should search for a permissible position elsewhere. If he finds one, he should leave his job at the bank.
However, suppose the work within the conventional bank has no direct interaction with interest-based transactions, such as being a guard, cleaner, or cook, for example. In that case, this type of job is acceptable, but it is preferable to avoid.
Scholars point out that the money held in a bank is not entirely made up of interest money. Rather, the cash stored in the bank (and from which the salary is paid) is made up of depositors depositing their money in various accounts, capital put in by the bank’s owners and interest money. In reality, when compared to the other two sources of income, interest money is typically lesser.
As a result, the bank remuneration is a combination of unlawful and lawful money, whereby lawful money is dominant. Thus, accepting this money as compensation would be permissible as long as the nature of the job is permissible.
4- Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Any job that requires direct involvement with interest-based transactions will be unlawful and sinful. Moreover, the salary on such work being haram. While any job that does not contain direct involvement with usurious transactions will be permissible.
Mufti Muhammad specified the role at the bank with its permissibility as follows:
- Working as a call centre agent for a bank and answering phone calls would be permissible as long as the work comprises discussing general banking issues and providing general information to customers. However, if the work also involves giving guidance on interest-based transactions or assisting the consumer in being involved in Riba. In that case, this is deemed assisting in sin and is therefore prohibited.
- It would also be permissible to provide computer software or create computer programs for the bank. On the other hand, designing programs for usurious transactions is impermissible.
- Working in a bank as a manager is impermissible.
- Bank teller is likewise impermissible.
- Working in a bank as a guard, cook, or cleaning will be acceptable.
5- Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
According to Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an eminent Muslim scholar stated that the Islamic economic system is based on fighting usury. In Islam, usury is one of the major sins that causes disasters and societal destruction in this life and a severe penalty in the hereafter. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Allah will deprive usury of blessing but will give increase for deeds of charity, for He loves not creatures ungrateful and wicked.” (Al-Baqarah 2: 276)
A person’s refusal to work at a conventional bank will not change the outcome of this disaster. What changes it is a social desire to be free of the system’s catastrophic results. The change will occur when people take control of their destiny and act accordingly.
In fact, usury has infiltrated the very structure of our economic and financial systems. The adversity has spread to all of us. As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) once said,
“There will come an age where everybody eats usury, and its dust will touch those who don’t.”
What matters is that the public is convinced of usury’s negative consequences. As a result, when they have the desire to change it, they will. Therefore, every Muslim should use his heart, tongue, and energy to create an economic system according to Islam’s guidelines. Non-Muslims will rule the economies as well as the global economy if we, too forbiding Muslims working with banks and financial institutions.
Dr Yusuf added that there is no problem in accepting a job with a conventional bank as long as they do not involve in usurious transactions.
In conclusion, most Muslim scholars agree that Muslims who work in conventional banks and involve directly in riba transactions is unlawful, and the salary of this kind of job is also haram. However, some scholars allow some roles in conventional banks with no direct involvement with riba transactions, although they advise Muslims to avoid it.
As what has been stressed by Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, that every committed Muslim should use his heart and words, as well as his efforts, to improve the Muslim economic system. Although it is not the only way, Muslims can start by avoid taking a work in a place that brings them closer to haram objects such as conventional banks.
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