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Leasing one’s premises to conventional banks

Leasing one’s premises to conventional banks and aiding in sin

atm machineQ: I recently purchased a property in partnership with two friends. Many prospective tenants have requested that the property be leased to them, including a bank. I refused to accept a bank as a tenant as I always understood it to be wrong. However, my partners have received a ruling that it is permissible to have a bank as a tenant. The ruling states that though according to other Imaams it is impermissible, however Imaam Abu Hanifa (Rahmatullah Alayh) has allowed it. I am now confused. Please clarify this issue for me. It will also be appreciated if you could state the ruling with regard to the following:

  1. Can the premises be let out to an insurance company, liquor store or betting outlet?
  2. Is it permissible to have an ATM on one’s premises?
  3. If the tenant did not disclose the details but later trades in impermissible items, is the income permissible?
  4. I would appreciate if you could explain the reasons for interest being so abhorred and detested in Islam.

A: Your question refers to the permissibility or impermissibility of leasing one’s premises for an impermissible activity. In order to fully understand the Shar’ee ruling (primarily pertaining to leasing to conventional banks, as well as all other activities mentioned in your question) in its proper context, it is necessary to first understand the underlying Shar’ee principles pertaining to aiding in sin.

In the Noble Qur’an Allah Ta’ala declares:

وَتَعاوَنوا عَلَى البِرِّ وَالتَّقوى وَلا تَعاوَنوا عَلَى الإِثمِ وَالعُدوان

“Assist one another in righteousness and piety, and do not assist one another in sin and transgression”

In another verse the declaration of Sayyiduna Moosa (Alayhis Salaam) is related:

قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَآ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَىَّ فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِّلْمُجْرِمِينَ

Hazrat Musa (Alayhis Salaam) said: "O Allah! On account of You bestowing Your grace upon me, I shall never be an assistant and support for the sinners."

From the above verses it is clear that aiding any act of sin is impermissible. The important question nevertheless is: What constitutes “aiding in sin” in terms of the Shari’ah. Is a remote action, that indirectly through a series of other actions eventually become the means of a sin, included in the abovementioned prohibition, or is it restricted to only direct assistance in committing a haraam act? The fuqaha have categorised this into various categories and explained the ruling of each category. 


Categories of aiding sin

Primarily there are two ways of aiding sin:

  1. اعانة – Facilitating the commission of a sin.
  2. تسبب – Becoming the cause for the commission of the sin.


اعانة Facilitation

With regards to aiding in sin in the course of trade, facilitation could occur in one of the following three ways: