Emergency Status (Dharurah) and Islamic banks
Zaharuddin Abd Rahman
"If a person was lost for days in the thick forest without eating and may die, could he consume a pig due to desperation (dharurat)?" I asked the participants in an Islamic finance seminar.
"Yes, he could," answered the participants confidently.
"Wrong" I replied, creating confusion.
"This is because other options are still exist in the forest to ease his hunger such as snails, worms, plants, fruits and so on, which are far better than a pig. That should be prioritized rather than consuming the pig," I argued.
"Thus there is no dharurat at that time, and it is not permissible for the man to consume the pig just because it is tastier, more appetizing and fatter than worms" I said firmly, inviting laughter from participants.
The same situation applies to Islamic banking in Malaysia. Muslims should give priority to Islamic banking although it looks less ‘appetizing' and causes additional difficulties as compared to riba based institutions. Muslims cannot use dharurat as an excuse to use the facilities of conventional banks.
"Verily what is allowed due to emergency (dharurat) requires a certainty that the emergency occurred after every effort of searching (for what is permitted)." (Syarhul Umdah, 1/426)
The example above is to indicate that the argument of emergency for using conventional banks and insurance in Malaysia these days is totally unacceptable since there are Islamic banks, Islamic banking windows and takaful. The excuse that the price in conventional banks is cheaper should not be used as it is similar to the lost and starving person who saw a chicken (that is permitted) but consumed a pig just because he desired it. The only exception is when all Islamic institutions have rejected your application. Remember the Islamic Legal Maxims that reads:
Meaning: "What is permissible due to dharurat is limited to a certain limit." (As-Ashbah Wa An-Nazair, As-Suyuti, 1/82; Hawashi Asy-Syarwani, 3/272)
Consider the following scenarios:
In a secluded village where clean drinking water is scarce, two sellers approach the villagers with the following offer:
Seller A: Offering 1 liter of cheap liquor at only RM0.50 a bottle.
Seller B: Offering 1 liter of cheap orange juice at only RM1.00 a bottle.
Who do you think, in the above scenario, is inconsiderate and malicious? If your answer is B ( because selling orange in higher price than liqour), YOU MIGHT NEED TO RETHINK AND RECHECK your level of belief and taqwa, it might be at a worrying stage. Why?
It shows that the person make the visible and material element i.e price as a more important than the spiritual element i.e the prohibition of liquor.
To me, there is nothing more malicious and cruel than offering liquor that is prohibited, and at a cheap price that attracts people to do the prohibited.
Do not reprimand seller B for selling at a higher price, as we do not know his capital and cost to obtain the oranges. He also wants to profit while offering a permitted drink.
You say, "True, but seller B should be more considerate and sacrifice to save a lot of people from being attracted to what is prohibited". I believe it depends on the ihsan and belief of seller B but what he did was permissible. It depends on the owner. Therefore, if the owner of an Islamic bank is unable to give discounts, other owners may not be able to do so as well.
Finally, we should be fair in evaluating Islamic banks and not hastily accusing them as malicious when they are actually saving the Muslim ummah from falling into the trap of riba-based conventional banks.
Zaharuddin Abd Rahman
14 April 2009
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