IS BUYING AIRTIME ON CREDIT FROM PHONE OPERATORS RIB’A?
This issue is one of the modern challenges to the average Muslim. Majority of evidence based scholarly opinions on this issue are complimentary & not contradictory. This is a modest attempt to simplify & reconcile these evidences In sha Allah.
Dictating what is halaal and what is haraam is the right of Allaah alone. And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, “This is lawful and this is unlawful,” to invent falsehood about Allah. Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed.” Q16:116.
The Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhiwasallam) said: “When the judge issues a ruling, if he strives to work it out (ajtahada) and gets it right, he will have two rewards, and if he issues a ruling and strives to work it out but gets it wrong, he will have one reward.” (Agreed upon).
WHAT IS RIBA? Riba means an increase in a particular item. The word is derived from a root meaning increase or growth. Allah says “Whatever you pay as interest so that it may increase (li yarbu) the wealth of people does not increase (fa la yarbu) in the sight of Allah” [30:39], i.e., it does not increase or rise in status before Allah. Riba takes place when 2 parties exchange same currency/good with the same currency/good without abiding by the Islamic conditions of exchange. So, if gold is sold for gold, Islam stipulates that the exchange should be done hand to hand and that the items or goods should be of the same quality. Whoever gives more or asks for more has engaged in riba. If he sells a saa‘ of wheat for two saa‘s (of the same commodity), even if it is hand to hand, he has engaged in riba. The same applies to lending; they give money as a loan provided that it will increase the money when they get it back. Such transactions are undoubtedly riba. Whoever regards Riba as permissible is guilty of kufr. https://islamqa.info/en/22339.
CALL CREDIT. The person who buys the call credit, buys a service to call phones at fixed rates where he pays a given amount of Dirhams or Riyals or dollars per minute, so it is permissible for the company to sell a call credit valued at 100 Dirhams, for example, for 150 Dirhams or more, and this is not interest on loan; rather, it is buying and selling on deferred payment where the extra is a fixed charge (service charge or increase in selling price on account of deferment); both of which are permitted in Islam provided the conditions are met as in this case.
What should be taken into account (in contracts) is its reality and meanings not its words and constructions. This is in reality a sale & not a loan even though the network providers might have called it a loan, credit or borrowing. It is not a loan or borrowing with interest of any sort because we do not return back to the network provider airtime with extra airtime. It also lacks the usual attributes of interest based loans e.g. collaterals, penalties for late payment etc. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: Bareerah came to me and said: “I drew up a contract of manumission with my master stating that I would pay nine waqiyaha, one waqiyah each year.” [A waqiyah is a weight of silver etc]. If the purchaser is late in paying the instalments, it is not permissible to make him pay extra, whether or not this is arranged as a prior condition, because this is a form of forbidden ribaa. Same as the air time purchased, if the buyer did not pay for the loan service (airtime credit) on time there is no increase in price, penalty etc. Tap links for proofs that it is permissible to do deferred payment (instalments) & raise the price of a product in return for deferred payment (instalments) & its sharee’ah conditions https://islamqa.info/en/13973, https://islamqa.info/en/1847.
It is also similar to the permissibility of an interest free covered or non-covered credit card as explained below. Buying airtime in this manner is neither exchanging MONEY FOR MONEY NOR SAME GOOD FOR SAME GOOD unlike the case of an interest based NON- COVERED CREDIT CARD, where one is exchanging same thing e.g. where you use the bank’s money on your credit card when you have no money in your account (same currency /money for money) and paying extra money on it as interests. The International Islamic Fiqh Council; member of OIC (not the so called fiqh council of North America) on non-covered credit cards (i.e., a card covered by money pre-deposited in the card account) concludes that it is not permissible to apply for or issue non-covered credit cards if interest is stipulated, even if the card applicant is determined to pay within the free period. It is only permissible to use credit cards that are free of things that are forbidden in sharee’ah, such as charging interest for late payments, or charging a percentage of the money withdrawn etc, because that comes under the heading of riba which is haraam. However, if the bank charges a set fee when issuing or renewing the card as a fee for the services offered (allowing you to use the money in the credit card), and covering only the cost of those services, there is nothing wrong with that. It is permissible to issue non-covered cards if there is no condition of paying interest on the original loan. Further details https://islamqa.info/en/97530
Ruling on renting that ends with a promise of ownership, based on the first payment and other fees tap link. https://islamqa.info/en/100797.
IN CONCLUSION, BUYING AIRTIME ON CREDIT & PAYING EXTRA IS NOT RIBA. IT’S A SET CHARGE FOR A CREDIT SERVICE RENDERED FOR A DEFERRED PAYMENT AT AN AGREED FIXED FEE. And Allah knows best.