Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. My dad has a lot of debt that he owed from many people. As far as I know, the soul of a person in debt is suspended until his debts are settled. In this issue, what is the resolution for it since I don’t have the money to settle them?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
In this issue, we would like to start with a hadith of the Prophet PBUH narrated by Abu Hurairah RA:
نَفْسُ الْمُؤمِنِ مُعَلَّقَةٌ بِدَيْنِهِ حَتَّى يُقْضَى عَنْهُ
"A believer’s soul remains suspended according to his debt until it is settled or paid off on his behalf,"
Sunan Ibnu Majah (2431), Sunan al-Tirmizi (1079) and al-Baihaqi (6891)
Imam al-Suyuti said: “The meaning of the hadith is that the soul or spirit of believers will be prevented from an honoured status.” (See Tuhfah al-Ahwazi, 4/193 and Mir’at al-Mafatih, 8/152)
Thus, in answering the above question. The debts have to be settled first. As for if he is able to settle his father’s debts, then it is considered as doing good and ihsan for his parents. And surely, there are great rewards for it. The Prophet PBUH compares the issue with the worship that the mother of a Companion has left and is obligatory to be replaced as narrated by Ibn Abbas RA:
جَاءَ رَجُلٌ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّ أُمِّي مَاتَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا صَوْمُ شَهْرٍ أَفَأَقْضِيهِ عَنْهَا فَقَالَ " لَوْ كَانَ عَلَى أُمِّكَ دَيْنٌ أَكُنْتَ قَاضِيَهُ عَنْهَا " . قَالَ نَعَمْ . قَالَ " فَدَيْنُ اللَّهِ أَحَقُّ أَنْ يُقْضَى "
“A man came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said: Messenger of Allah, my mother has died (in a state) that she had to observe fasts of a month (of Ramadan). Should I complete (them) on her behalf? thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Would you not pay the debt if your mother had died (without paying it)? He said: Yes. He (the Holy Prophet) said: The debt of Allah deserves more that it should he paid.”
Sahih Muslim (1148)
We take this opportunity to state several points related to debt:
- Do not take on debt unless it is a necessity. Avoid borrowing frequently that it becomes a habit just like the advice of a companion of the Prophet PBUH named Uqbah ibn Amir RA who said: “Do not take on debt even if you are forced to wear animal skin.”
- If you need to take out a loan, then it should be the minimum amount needed and according to one’s capability to pay it back.
- The debt taken should be in a written contract with witness as stated in the Quran:
Allah SWT states:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ
“O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down.”
Surah al-Baqarah (282)
Ibn Kathir explained, “the verse is guidance from Allah SWT to His slaves who are believers to write and record if one is taking out a loan.” (Refer Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 1/411). Imam al-Sa’di state that the verse contains great and beneficial ruling from recording a debt which is to prevent a greater harm. (Refer Tafsir al-Sa’di, 1/118). Imam al-Maraghi said, “The commandment of asking believers to take care of their debt affairs falls under the akad of loan and salam.” (Refer Tafsir al-Maraghi, 1/551)
- Have a firm intention to settle the debt as soon as possible. From Maimunah binti Harith, the Prophet PBUH said:
مَنْ اسْتَدَانَ دَيْنًا يَعْلَمُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ مِنْهُ أَنَّهُ يُرِيدُ أَدَاءَهُ أَدَّاهُ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ
“Whoever takes out a loan and Allah know that he intends to pay it off, surely, Allah would make it easy for him.”
Musnad Ahmad (25840)
Mafhum of the hadith showed that the intention of wanting to pay back debt would then make him offered help by Allah SWT based on his good intentions. Furthermore, it is according to His will even if there are obstacles, he would still be able to settle it by the will of Allah. In a famous hadith from Abu Hurairah RA, the Prophet PBUH once said:
أَنَّهُ ذَكَرَ رَجُلًا مِنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ سَأَلَ بَعْضَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنْ يُسْلِفَهُ أَلْفَ دِينَارٍ فَقَالَ ائْتِنِي بِالشُّهَدَاءِ أُشْهِدُهُمْ فَقَالَ كَفَى بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا قَالَ فَأْتِنِي بِالْكَفِيلِ قَالَ كَفَى بِاللَّهِ كَفِيلًا قَالَ صَدَقْتَ فَدَفَعَهَا إِلَيْهِ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَخَرَجَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَقَضَى حَاجَتَهُ ثُمَّ الْتَمَسَ مَرْكَبًا يَرْكَبُهَا يَقْدَمُ عَلَيْهِ لِلْأَجَلِ الَّذِي أَجَّلَهُ فَلَمْ يَجِدْ مَرْكَبًا فَأَخَذَ خَشَبَةً فَنَقَرَهَا فَأَدْخَلَ فِيهَا أَلْفَ دِينَارٍ وَصَحِيفَةً مِنْهُ إِلَى صَاحِبِهِ ثُمَّ زَجَّجَ مَوْضِعَهَا ثُمَّ أَتَى بِهَا إِلَى الْبَحْرِ فَقَالَ اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ تَعْلَمُ أَنِّي كُنْتُ تَسَلَّفْتُ فُلَانًا أَلْفَ دِينَارٍ فَسَأَلَنِي كَفِيلَا فَقُلْتُ كَفَى بِاللَّهِ كَفِيلًا فَرَضِيَ بِكَ وَسَأَلَنِي شَهِيدًا فَقُلْتُ كَفَى بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا فَرَضِيَ بِكَ وَأَنِّي جَهَدْتُ أَنْ أَجِدَ مَرْكَبًا أَبْعَثُ إِلَيْهِ الَّذِي لَهُ فَلَمْ أَقْدِرْ وَإِنِّي أَسْتَوْدِعُكَهَا فَرَمَى بِهَا فِي الْبَحْرِ حَتَّى وَلَجَتْ فِيهِ ثُمَّ انْصَرَفَ وَهُوَ فِي ذَلِكَ يَلْتَمِسُ مَرْكَبًا يَخْرُجُ إِلَى بَلَدِهِ فَخَرَجَ الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي كَانَ أَسْلَفَهُ يَنْظُرُ لَعَلَّ مَرْكَبًا قَدْ جَاءَ بِمَالِهِ فَإِذَا بِالْخَشَبَةِ الَّتِي فِيهَا الْمَالُ فَأَخَذَهَا لِأَهْلِهِ حَطَبًا فَلَمَّا نَشَرَهَا وَجَدَ الْمَالَ وَالصَّحِيفَةَ ثُمَّ قَدِمَ الَّذِي كَانَ أَسْلَفَهُ فَأَتَى بِالْأَلْفِ دِينَارٍ فَقَالَ وَاللَّهِ مَا زِلْتُ جَاهِدًا فِي طَلَبِ مَرْكَبٍ لِآتِيَكَ بِمَالِكَ فَمَا وَجَدْتُ مَرْكَبًا قَبْلَ الَّذِي أَتَيْتُ فِيهِ قَالَ هَلْ كُنْتَ بَعَثْتَ إِلَيَّ بِشَيْءٍ قَالَ أُخْبِرُكَ أَنِّي لَمْ أَجِدْ مَرْكَبًا قَبْلَ الَّذِي جِئْتُ فِيهِ قَالَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَدَّى عَنْكَ الَّذِي بَعَثْتَ فِي الْخَشَبَةِ فَانْصَرِفْ بِالْأَلْفِ الدِّينَارِ رَاشِدًا
"An Israeli man asked another Israeli to lend him one thousand Dinars. The second man required witnesses. The former replied, 'Allah is sufficient as a witness.' The second said, 'I want a surety.' The former replied, 'Allah is sufficient as a surety.' The second said, 'You are right,' and lent him the money for a certain period. The debtor went across the sea. When he finished his job, he searched for a conveyance so that he might reach in time for the repayment of the debt, but he could not find any. So, he took a piece of wood and made a hole in it, inserted in it one thousand Dinars and a letter to the lender and then closed (i.e. sealed) the hole tightly. He took the piece of wood to the sea and said. 'O Allah! You know well that I took a loan of one thousand Dinars from so-and-so. He demanded a surety from me but I told him that Allah's Guarantee was sufficient and he accepted Your guarantee. He then asked for a witness and I told him that Allah was sufficient as a Witness, and he accepted You as a Witness. No doubt, I tried hard to find a conveyance so that I could pay his money but could not find, so I hand over this money to You.' Saying that, he threw the piece of wood into the sea till it went out far into it, and then he went away. Meanwhile, he started searching for a conveyance in order to reach the creditor's country.
One day the lender came out of his house to see whether a ship had arrived bringing his money, and all of a sudden, he saw the piece of wood in which his money had been deposited. He took it home to use for fire. When he sawed it, he found his money and the letter inside it. Shortly after that, the debtor came bringing one thousand Dinars to him and said, ‘By Allah, I had been trying hard to get a boat so that I could bring you your money, but failed to get one before the one I have come by.’ The lender asked, ‘Have you sent something to me?’ The debtor replied, ‘I have told you I could not get a boat other than the one I have come by.’ The lender said, ‘Allah has delivered on your behalf the money you sent in the piece of wood. So, you may keep your one thousand Dinars and depart guided on the right path.’ “
Sahih al-Bukhari (2291)
- Always supplicate to Allah to make it easy to settle the debt. From Abu Said al-Khudri RA, he said: One day the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) entered the mosque. He saw there a man from the Ansar called Abu Umamah. He said: What is the matter that I am seeing you sitting in the mosque when there is no time of prayer? He said: I am entangled in cares and debts, Messenger of Allah. He replied: Shall I not teach you words by which, when you say them, Allah will remove your care, and settle your debt? He said: Why not, Messenger of Allah? He said: Say in the morning and evening:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ غَلَبَةِ الدَّيْنِ وَقَهْرِ الرِّجَالِ
"O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from care and grief, I seek refuge in Thee from incapacity and slackness, I seek refuge in Thee from cowardice and niggardliness, and I seek in Thee from being overcome by debt and being put in subjection by men."
He said: When I did that Allah removed my care and settled my debt.”
Sunan Abu Daud (4/353)
May Allah save us from debt and make it easy for us to settle our debts. Amin.