Islamic Studies

On Student Loans: Gems of Advice from Dr. al-Basyouni al-Azhari

Asalamu alaykum,

Sh. Basyouni of Boston is a real undercover gem. He was first is in his class in the college of Dawa al-Azhar, and while defending his his doctoral dissertaion the proffesor said to him, “Your title is dawa in the light of Sura al-Anbiyah, but your topic has covered the entire Qur’an and left nothing to be uncovered!”

I would advice those who live in the Boston area to take this person as a serious resource for understanding Islam and building one’s personality. He is very active with MAS and we hope that he will be used more in the USA so people can take benefit. Here are his thoughts on the issue of taking loans for one’s education. The point of discussion was: is education a nessesity and if so does the axiom, “Necessities permit the forbidden” apply?

The answer: [thanks to Sister ‘Aisha for asking the Sheikh]

As-Salamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Alhamdulillah I visited Shaikh Basyouni at his office today before ‘Asr and asked him a few questions, among them the issue of the Interest-bearing Student Loan. This is what he said:

  • Dealing with interest in any way (whether receiving or paying) is not permitted
  • If it is for a necessary education or knowledge i.e. a necessity then it may be allowed by several scholars
  • There are differences between the levels of education that qualify as “necessary”
  • It may be necessary to have a bachelors degree
  • It may not be necessary to have a Masters or a PhD.
  • In general he said: “Do not put yourself in a position to take on something that is not agreed upon by the scholars”

Who decides if it is necessary?

  • Sometimes the community decides
  • If we need the specific major we may guide and direct some people towards it
  • Sometimes the individual decides, with TAQWA
  • They must ask themselves, “Do I really need it as a necessity or is it something extra for myself?”

He added something very valuable that hasn’t been discussed so far. He added the emani, rabbani, mutaqqee perspective (it may have been mentioned but I may have been neglectful in perceiving it)

He said: “If you leave something you need for the sake of Allah, because it is doubtful, Allah will give you something better. With this intention, Allah will make things easy.”

He also added another important point. He said, “This need can also be met if we become united as a community and have a plan and encourage qualified people to sponsor one or two people to pursue the majors that are needed. This is the BEST solution. This is what is meant by Takaaful and can sometimes be taken from the Zakat al-Maal if it affects our growth as a community, or helps the society at large under the name of Islam/da’wah.”

Jazakum Allahu Khairan


MAS Boston

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • I think it would be agreed that, for example we need more muslim lawyers in America, but it is impossible to earn a law degree without loans (average tuition is about $30,000 a year, even at public schools, not including cost of living etc). In this case it is not possible for the community to choose just 2 or 3 individuals to pursue the degree as we need hundreds or even thousands of muslim lawyers. Would this be considered necessary?

  • In this case it is not possible for the community to choose just 2 or 3 individuals to pursue the degree as we need hundreds or even thousands of muslim lawyers. Would this be considered necessary?

    I think that the logistics of the “community scholarships” idea could be worked out more, allowing more than 2 or 3 people to pursue their degrees; it is, however, a great idea, and it’s exciting to see that it’s legitimately being discussed on the scholarly level. Perhaps at the major Islamic conferences (ISNA, MAS/ICNA, TDC) this can be a topic of discussion, and within the next few years we will see a Muslim Scholarship Fund for undergraduate and graduate studies. As someone who’s in school right now, I definitely would appreciate it.

  • Salam wrt. thank u for everything akhi the dua and phone call, my phone was off. May Allah bless u and yours. please continue dua for my family. wasalam

    Faisal , your bro

  • As salaamu ‘alaykum,

    I agree with Abdel-Rahman that developing these type of funds for scholarships or no-interest loans should be a top priority of Muslim organizations. This issue has been known to be very important for some time and in the meantime countless Muslims have engaged in the serious sin of riba. Among these are many who really did not wish to do so, but so no “practical” way out. On the individual level, we should strive to have more taqwa, but as a community we have to make it easier for people to do the right thing especially when they would do so if you showed them the way.

    As to Mohammad’s point about lawyers, this leads to the fact that in certain key areas, we have to go far beyond just the scholarships issue to address many other serious long term planning issues. One can say that we need a lot more Muslim lawyers, but the fact is that as we speak there are many Muslim lawyers in the United States, and most of them in their professional lives are not dealing with so-called “Muslim issues” which are the ones that we think we need all the lawyers for. A large percentage of the Muslims who need legal assistance cannot pay for it themselves. If we want Muslim lawyers to service the community, we need to fund organizations that can hire them to do legal work that is needed by the community and if we want to attract the best talent we have to pay those lawyers competitively with what they could get in other legal jobs. We also have to provide opportunities for Muslim lawyers who want to work in these areas to train and develop experitise in those areas.

    If you look at high profile Muslim legal cases, you will most often find non-Muslim lawyers representing our brothers and sisters. There are many reasons for this, but it is not accidental nor is it because there are no Muslim lawyers. It is for more complex reasons which require well thought out plans and strategies to address them.

    MaShaAllah there are many many Muslim lawyers just like there are in many other fields who do some work for free or who take less money to work for causes they believe in, this is sadaqah on their part as individuals but it is not a good plan for sustainable high functioning communities.

    Allaah knows best.

  • med school is $40,000 a year! I need a get rich quick plan fast!

    btw do Islamic student loans exist?

  • I am seriously struggling with this. I am extremely scared of taking out additional student loans to finish my Bachelors degree.(I already have several which were taken to finish my A.A.) My mother is insistent that I take out the loans, and hope for forgiveness, and pray that opportunities arise which allow me to pay them off quickly or have them forgiven through non profit work. I do not want to displease my mother…but I honestly think the loans are not wise. I have no way to pay back the loans I already have, and the economy is so bad, and my job pays so little I will never be able to afford to support a family or travel and teach, which is something I really wish to do…That being said I cannot argue that student loans are a necessity because I am not starving or destitute in any way, I am just not getting anywhere

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