Istaghna, Relieving Debt, False Spirituality
Issue 821 » December 19, 2014 - Safar 27, 1436
Al-Alaq (The Clot) - Chapter 96: Verses 6-7
The verb istaghna is used to denote an excess of self-confidence in man. Istaghna suggests the basic meaning of being rich or wealthy, the root being GH-N-Y.
Every reader of the Quran must know that it constantly emphasizes the idea of God being 'rich', ghani, in the sense that He is rich enough to stand all alone, i.e. that He is absolutely independent and self-sufficient. Now in the case of man, the assumption of such self-sufficiency betrays the lack of a sense of creatureliness; it is nothing but presumptuousness and arrogance, involving as it does the denial of God as the Creator. Istaghna is the word for this kind of presumptuousness. It literally means 'to consider one's self rich', and consequently 'to put unbounded confidence in one's own power'.
"Ethico Religious Concepts in the Quran" - Toshihiko Izutsu, pp. 150, 151
"Whoever alleviates [the situation of] one in dire straits who cannot repay his debt, Allah will alleviate his lot in both this world and the Hereafter." [Muslim]
Relieving one's debt is an act that is beloved to Allah - and has obvious implications for the strength of the community. There are basically two ways by which one can relieve a person's debt and gain the blessings mentioned in this hadith. First, the loaner can wait until the impoverished debtor has the means to repay the debt. In fact, this is an obligation commanded by Allah. It is not right for a Muslim to demand money back from a person who sincerely cannot afford to pay back [Quran 2:280].
A second option is to reduce the debt or to forgive the debt completely. This hadith also includes giving the debtor charity or a gift to help pay off the debts. One may also extend another loan to the debtor so as to pay off the current loan and have more time to pay off the new loan.
There are numerous hadith related to this topic that also demonstrate the emphasis that Islam places on such behaviour among people. For example, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) also said, "There was a trader who used to give loans to the people. If he noticed that one was in straitened circumstances, he would tell his boy [working for him], 'Excuse him so that Allah may overlook [and forgive our sins] for us.' Therefore, Allah overlooked [his sins] and forgave him." [Bukhari, Muslim]
Al-Bukhari and Muslim also recorded that the Prophet stated, "A man died and he was spoken to [about his deeds] and he said, 'I used to have business with the people and I would give time to the rich to repay and reduce the debt of the poor.' Therefore, he was forgiven."
The Prophet also stated, "Whoever would be pleased to have Allah save him from a distress on the Day of Resurrection should then relieve one in straitened circumstances or completely remove his debt." [Muslim]
Al-Qari points out that the reward for this kind of act is true regardless of whether the debtor was a non-Muslim or a Muslim.
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, pp. 1316 - 1318
There is a sense of spirituality in which one feels he or she can attain to the Reality without tending to the responsibilities and obligations of the Sharia. This is misleading phenomenon that spreads because of its appeal: spiritual sensation without any moral obligations. A person on this path may do as he or she wills and take solace in pseudo-sensations. This virulent trend seizes people and whisks them away from the truth, although they feel quite content. Islam does not call people to unreasoned faith. It demands that a person learn authentic knowledge, which buttresses true spiritual growth. This spirituality is protected by Sharia, just as a shell protects its fruit. If one removes the husk, the ear is exposed and it begins to rot. A person who tries to attain spirituality without the Sharia will eventually destroy his soul and become, in essence, a false person. There are people who outwardly don the mantle and comportment of spiritual enlightenment, but who are filled with diseases of the heart.
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, p. 168