The pragmatic position of Moroccan jurist Ahmed Raissouni, head of the International Union of Muslim Scientists, on a microcredit scheme, set up by financial institutions and presented to King Mohammed VI in early February to help young investors, sparked controversy among the Islamists of the Kingdom.
Over the weekend, the former head of the Unity and Reform movement (MUR) said the loans introduced by the “Intilaka” program are “Sharia-compliant”. “Obviously, the program is neither commercial nor lucrative like the banks did. The interest rate is very low and provides derisory profit for banks and other institutions, ”Raissouni said in a fatwa he made public. According to him, “this approach is welcome”.
Thus, Raissouni estimated that if young people and entrepreneurs “have no other source then they can take out this loan”.
Moroccan salafists want Raissouni to “go back” on his fatwa
However, Raissouni’s “pragmatic fatwa” was not well received by Salafists in the Kingdom. Hammad Kabbaj, a Salafist close to the Justice and Development Party (PJD), criticized the Islamist’s “overlapping” fatwa.
He said he was “surprised” to see the opinion on the interest rate “go from a pure prohibition” of Islam to a practice “in accordance with Sharia” for Raissouni. “This interest rate is part of a savage and capitalist system (…) and is imposed on states and corporations”, argued Kabbaj.
The Islamist thus called on Raissouni to “reconsider and revise” his fatwa, given that “usury, even with an interest rate of 0.5%, remains a prohibited practice”.
For his part, the Moroccan Salafist Hassan Ali Kettani affirmed that “the fatwa of Dr Ahmad Raissouni, may God forgive him, does not go hand in hand with religious texts or the reports of Islamic jurists”. “I hope he will reconsider it,” he added.
On his Facebook page, Hassan Ali Kettani also shared several opinions of Islamologists, discrediting Raissouni’s recent opinion on loans.
Loans at “profitable” rate
For his part, Mohamed Talal Lahlou, professor of Islamic economics and also close to the PJD, published an article on Howiya Press, responding to those “who tried to justify the loans”.
He said that a rate of 2% is “considered a very normal and profitable rate”, explaining that the institutions which grant these loans seek profit.
For him, “these loans are intended to promote the national economy”, while the explanation of its advantages, as presented by Raissouni, is a “kind of normalization of what is prohibited” by Islam, a- he added.
He denounced the reasoning, which “increases the power of an authoritarian and usurious system”, having “plunged the world into wars, financial and banking crises”.
So far, only Mohamed Abdelouahab Rafiki, also known as Abu Hafs, has supported Raissouni’s fatwa. On his Facebook page, he even called it “advanced stage” emanating from a “conscious voice”.
“I hoped that this advice would initiate a deliberate and objective discussion of modern banking transactions and its relation to the traditional concept of usury, and not just to consider these loans,” he added.