Consequently, there are many thousands of Muslims who have not been able to go to university since September 2012, when the current £9,000 based regime came into effect, and this number is growing each and every year.
So what’s halal about this – it seems to be dressing up the existing ‘haram’ loan in a ‘halal’ wrapper?
The shariah treats a donation based contract differently to a compensatory contract. Put simply, it is possible for a prospective student to receive a donation from a fund set up to fund tuition fees, and to agree to make future contributions to that fund even if the value of the future contributions is more or less than the amount received. This only works if the contract is truly donation based not compensation based.
There is a fatwa on the Al-Qalam website which explains the underlying Islamic rationale in more detail.
But what about the price point being the same. Surely a ‘halal’ (permitted) product must lead to a different repayment schedule?
Not necessarily. Sometimes it is the underlying process and not the end result which determines whether something is halal or not. To give an example, a chicken burger from a McDonald’s in Dubai may be halal to consume, whereas the very same burger, with the same taste, appearance etc. would not be halal to consume in a McDonald’s in the UK. Having said this, using an interest based benchmark for determining the price would be disliked though not impermissible.
Some Muslim students I know are not bothered in the slightest about the ‘interest’ issue – are you making a fuss over nothing here?
It is certainly true some Muslims are not concerned about this issue. It is also true some Muslims are not going to university solely because of this issue, and the government, on page 8 of their consultation paper, accepts ‘there is some evidence that this may be the case’. In our experience, most Muslim students sit in-between these two positions, and, just like with the dilemma faced when buying a house to live in via a mortgage, may feel compelled to take up a student loan even though this is done with a heavy heart because of the interest issue.
The scholar I follow says it is permissible to take an interest based loan, because getting an education is more important. Why the need then to develop an alternative model?
As with most matters, there is a range of scholarly views on this matter. Whilst there is certainly a discussion to be had on the merits of these positions, we believe the primary focus here should be on assisting those students who are currently effectively being denied the opportunity to go to university. All of us will accept that we should have equality of opportunity in this regard, hence we request everyone support this campaign.
The government is not able to guarantee to keep your details confidential. However, we believe taking part in this campaign will not lead to adverse consequences. We believe it is important for everyone to get involved with such exercises, as we will all be affected by the policy decisions that are taken as a result of this campaign.
But this campaign will let the government know who the ‘practicing’ Muslims are, and this may cause us problems in the future?
We believe we are very fortunate to live in a democratic, pluralist society where our rights are safeguarded by the law and courts. If there was any attempt made to disadvantage people who took part in this campaign, which we believe is highly unlikely, then our response should be to assert our rights under the law as British citizens.
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