Regular Social Gatherings: The Wrong Way And The Right Way
A regular social gathering is a common activity performed around the world, especially among women. These types of gatherings have been well known in the Arab world since the 9th century of Hijriyah and were carried out by Arab women such as Jum’iyyah al-Muwazhzhafin or Al-Qardhu at-Ta’awuni.
During the gatherings, all members will contribute a certain amount of money on a regular basis (usually once a month) and then will take turns at winning an aggregate sum of the money or goods accumulated for that month. Monies are collected monthly (or during any specified period) until all of its members get their money back.
For example, one group gathering consists of 10 people. Each member contributes for $50 USD per month. If one of the members receives the sum of money or goods each month, the gathering will end for 10 months and then each member is entitled to earn the amount of $500 USD. However, if everybody agrees to entitle two members each month, with a shorter period for, let’s say, 5 months, then each member will earn $250 USD. When someone accepts the sum of money/goods in the first month, as a consequence, for subsequent months he/she has to continue paying the ‘debt’ owed up until the end of the period or until all members receive the money that they are entitled to. Conversely, if a participant gets the money/goods during the last period, he/she would have to give accounts to the members of the group until the end of the period.
How are regular social gatherings viewed in Islamic law?
There are several opinions among scholars concerning its legality. Some scholars said that social gatherings are not halal. Among scholars who forbid it are Sheikh Prof. Dr. Shalih bin Abdillah al-Fauzan, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdillah Alu Sheikh (mufti of Saudi Arabia) and Sheikh Abdurrahman al-Barak. The reasons are:
First, each participant in this social gathering just hands over the money with a conditional debt contract i.e. they will lend money with condition of getting debt from other participants. It is a debt that took advantage (qardh jarra manfaatan). While the scholars agreed that all debts which take benefit are haram and usury as declared by Ibn al-Mundzir in the book of al-Ijma’, page 120, and Ibn Qudamah in al-Mughni 6/346.
Second, Islam prohibits debt as a means of taking advantage of people in debt.
Third, in a social gathering there is a requirement contract in the transaction. So it is like two sales and purchases in one transaction (bai’atain fi bai’ah) which is prohibited by the Prophet (PBUH).
In contrast, a group of scholars who stated that a social gathering is permitted are: a fatwa from al-hafizh Abu Zur’ah al-‘Raqi (d. 826), (see Hasyiyah al-Qalyubi 2/258) fatwa of majority of board members majlis great scholar (Hai’ah Kibaar al-Ulama) Saudi Arabia, among them is Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Baz (former mufti of Saudi Arabia) and Sheikh Muhammad ibn Salih al-Uthaymeen and Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdurrahman Jibreen. The reasons are:
First, social gathering is allowed by shari’a because it helps to relieve debtors. Debtors can utilize the money and later he/she will return it in accordance with the amount of money that is taken without any addition and subtraction. This is known as a debt (al-qardh al-mu’tad) that has been already allowed under nash shari’a and consensus of the scholars.
Second, “Basically, the legality of the transaction and muamalah is lawful and allowed” (Sa’dudin Muhammad al Kibyi, al Muamalah al Maliyah al Mua’shirah fi Dhaui al Islam, Beirut, 2002, p: 75).
Third, Ibn Taymiyyah said in Majmu ‘al-Fataawa (29/18): “There shouldn’t be a forbidden muamalah that is needed by a human at present, unless if there are arguments of the Qur’an and Sunnah about its prohibition.”
Fourth, Hadith of Abu Darda’ (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
“What is lawful by Allah in His Book, it is lawful (halal), and what is unlawful by Him, it is unlawful (haram). As for something that is not mentioned, it is considered a giving then accepts His gift, because Allah does not forget about something. Then he read the word of Allah SWT (…..And never is your Lord forgetful) – Surah Maryam: 64 – “(Reported by al-Hakim, and he said its isnad is saheeh and approved by Imam Adh Dhahabi).
Therefore, a regular social gathering is allowed as long as it has an element of cooperation, a mutual help or a way to help people who need money, does not reduce money of the debtor/borrower at all nor add money/benefits of the creditor/lender, no one accrues loss, there is no gambling, and no usury (which will double the money received beyond its dues) .
As mentioned in the Holy Qur’an:
“……And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and transgression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty” (Surah Al Maidah: 2)