3543– Monday, August 19, 2019 — Muhammad and the Christian Money Lender

koran

My name is Muhammad.  I was born in 570 CE.  My father died the year before I was born.  My mother died when I was only six years old.  I was raised by a succession of family members until I was in my teens.  I was then sent to live with my uncle Abu Talib.  My uncle was a merchant and it was hoped that I could learn a commercial trade from him.   We traveled far and wide over many of the trading routes between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  When I was eighteen, I decided that I had learned enough from my uncle and that it was time to go out on my own.  This story is about how I became an independent trader.

arabic rugs

It was a beautiful sunny morning in early March.  I had decided to walk to the market place in Jeddah near where I was staying to see what wares and goods were for sale.  It had become my intention to buy and sell rugs.  I loved the beauty and craftsmanship that went into an Arabian rug.  I could always feel proud that these were my products and that I was making the world a more beautiful place by sharing these fine Arabian rugs with others.  I never lied to my clients and I never made false or exaggerated claims to any people.  I was given the nickname “al-Amin” meaning faithful or trustworthy.

I was walking around the market place perusing the various wares of the other merchants.  In one of the alley ways I noticed a booth with a sign that read: “المال للإقراض “ or “Money for Lending.”  Suddenly, I had an idea.  If I could borrow some money, I could afford to buy a few more rugs.  Typically, I was short of money to buy enough rugs for a trip.  It would be much more worthwhile going on a caravan with enough rugs for my potential buyers.

The_Moorish

I walked up to the booth and greeted the merchant.  “Ahlan wa Sahlan”, I said.   He replied: “Ahlan wa Sahlan, my name is Musa.  I am a Christian money lender and I am happy to make your acquaintance.  How can I help you?”

I thought about his question for a brief second.  “I would like to borrow some money to help finance my rug business.  I can only afford a few rugs now but if I had more money, I could buy some extra rugs.”

The money lender looked at me very carefully and then answered: “It will take two things before I can give you some money.  The first is the collateral for the money that you need.”

“I am not familiar with the term collateral Sir,” I responded. “What is collateral?”

“Well, it is something that you give me so that if you fail to pay me back the money that I lend you, I will be able to sell your collateral and recover my money.  It might be some jewelry or gold or rugs that you will provide me to keep until you repay me.”

“Mr. Musa, I do not have any collateral that I can give you.  I only have my good name.  I am known far and wide as an honest merchant who never cheats anyone.  I always ask a fair price for my goods.  People call me ‘al Amin’ because I always pay my debts and I am very trustworthy.”

“Hmm” said Mr. Musa.  “I guess I can ignore the first requirement for my money since you have such a good honest reputation.  Now all we need to agree on is the interest that you will pay me for the loan.  Would you agree to pay me back at five percent per month of the total amount that I lend you?

“Mr. Musa, I do not understand this interest. What is the interest for?”

“It is my profit or commission for helping you with my money.”

“Sir, did you not say that you are a Christian and are not Christians followers of Jesus Christ?”

“Yes, young man, I am a Christian and I am a believer in Jesus.  But what does Jesus have to do with us doing business.”

“Well sir, I thought Jesus taught his followers to help the poor and needy.  Did he not say, ‘Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back?’ Then why Mr. Musa would you want to take money from me for helping me?”

“Young man, you do not understand the ways of the world.  Many things are spoken by the prophets, but one does not always live by their words.  In a perfect world, I suppose one could follow the path trod by Jesus, but Jesus did not live in our times.  If you do not feel that my terms are fair, then you do not have to borrow my money.  Truth be told, there are not many other money lenders in this bazaar who will lend you money at any better rates.”

“Mr. Musa, I am very disappointed in the Christianity that you profess.  I think that this idea of interest is very unneighborly and even seems to me to be greedy.  I think a religion should not allow such greed to exist.  If I were establishing a religion, I would make it a sin to charge interest to help others.”

“O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubling and quadrupling (the sum lent). Observe your duty to Allah, that ye may be successful.”  — Qur’an (3:130

Muhammad went on his way and left the merchant looking puzzled and scratching his head.  “There goes a man who will never amount to anything” thought Mr. Musa.

“The invention of money opened a new field to human avarice by giving rise to usury and the practice of lending money at interest while the owner passes a life of idleness.” — Pliny the Elder

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” — Mark 10-25

 

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