Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
As a principle, it should be remembered that, the permissibility or impermissibility of employment in a particular firm or company basically depends on two things:
1)The nature of the job must be lawful (halal), meaning if the work entails something that is prohibited in Shariah, such as posing for nude picture-taking, serving alcohol or recording and calculating interest transactions, etc, then this type of work will be unlawful.
The reason for its prohibition is that, the work itself has been prohibited in Shariah. And due to this, even if the salary was paid from a Halal source, the work will still remain unlawful.
2)The salary or income that one receives must also be from a Halal source. If the work itself is lawful (halal), but the salary is paid from unlawful and impure money, such as stolen or interest money, it will still be unlawful to accept that job.
Keeping the above two points in mind, the ruling with regards to working in a bank depends on exactly what the job consists of.
Employment at a bank that entails direct involvement with interest based transactions, such as the job of a manager, cashier, clerk, etc will be unlawful (haram).
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) cursed the one who accepted usury, the one who paid it, the witness to it, and the one who recorded it. (Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 22, Number 3327).
In another Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) invoked curse (la’na) on the receiver of interest, the payer of interest, the scribe and the two witnesses. And he said: “They are the same” (i.e. in sin, m). (Sahih Muslim)
Thus, the warning of the Messenger of Allah is very severe. The one who is directly involved with interest transactions in any way, shape or form, such as writing or calculating the transaction will earn the curse of Allah Almighty and his beloved Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace).
Therefore, one must avoid accepting a job at a bank, which consists of being involved in interest transactions and dealings. It is unlawful (haram) to help and assist others in their interest-based dealings. One must decide between temporary worldly gains and the curse (la’na) of Allah Almighty and his Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace).
If a person is already employed at a bank, then he is advised by the scholars not to leave his job immediately, rather he should look for a permissible job elsewhere and when he succeeds in obtaining one, he should leave the employment at the bank.
The important point here is that one must exert all possible ways and means in order to a find an alternative job. If one puts in the effort and is willingly ready to accept comparatively reduced benefits, then there is no reason why a suitable job is not found. (See: Contemporary Fatawa by Shaykh Taqi Usmani, P. 280-281).
However, if the employment at a bank is such that it does not have a direct involvement whatsoever with interest based transactions, such as the job of being a guard, cleaner or cook, etc, then this type of job will be lawful although superior to avoid.
As for the income received on such jobs is concerned, scholars mention that the money stored in a bank is not all interest money, rather the cash stored in the bank (and from which the salary is given), comprises of the depositors depositing their money in various accounts, capital put in by the owners of the bank and also interest money. In fact, the portion of interest money is usually less in comparison to the other two types of income.
Therefore, the salary received from the bank is a mixture of unlawful and lawful wealth of which the majority is lawful. As such, it would be permissible to accept this money as income provided the actual job is lawful. (See: al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya: 5/343).
In conclusion, it will be unlawful to employ one’s self in jobs at a bank (or any other place) that have a direct involvement with interest-based transactions. However, if the job has no connection with interest dealings whatsoever, then it would be permitted to take this job, although detested.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK
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