Q: Is it permissible to work in the tax department of the HMRC which is likely to have some involvement in interest based transactions?
I enquired from HMRC whether or not throughout the role there is any interest related transactions such as charging or taking interest, I got the following reply
“In respect of charging interest by law interest can be charged as part of a compliance settlement. As a Tax Professional you would be expected to negotiate this settlement and calculate the Tax, interest and penalties due under the legislation. You personally do not charge or receive interest but apply the legislation to the situation in your role as a Civil Servant and payment is made to the Exchequer.
I am not familiar with the detail of Sharia law but Muslim colleagues I have asked state there is a difference between applying the legislation under the law of the land as an HMRC employee and personally charging and receiving interest and as such it doesn’t impact on their religious beliefs”.
الجواب حامدا ومصليا ومسلما ومنه الصدق والصواب
A: It is not permissible to negotiate a tax settlement wherein one is also calculating the amount of interest payable under legislation. This falls under the direct purview of the well-known Hadith narrated by Imam Muslim and others in which the scribe of riba is cursed.
The understanding of some of the Muslim colleagues of your correspondent that “there is a difference between applying the legislation under the law of the land as an HMRC employee and personally charging and receiving interest and as such it doesn’t impact on their religious beliefs” is incorrect. Commentators on this Hadith have clearly stated that the Hadith in which the scribe and witnesses of riba are cursed, amongst others, relates to the scribe who prepares the document to evidence the transaction of riba and the witnesses thereto. This is exactly the role that has been described. The prohibition is not simply related to only one who personally charges or receives interest but extends beyond that to those that are directly involved in assisting in the contract. However, as explained by commentators on this Hadith, it does not relate to the subsequent recording and accounting thereof once the contract has been concluded.
That said, the portion of the job that does not involve the calculation of interest to be charged does not suffer from this irregularity and is permissible provided there is no other reason for prohibition.
ففى فتح البارى: وهذا إنما يقع على من واطأ صاحب الربا عليه فأما من كتبه أو شهد القصة ليشهد بها على ما هي عليه ليعمل فيها بالحق فهذا جميل القصد لا يدخل في الوعيد المذكور وإنما يدخل فيه من أعان صاحب الربا بكتابته وشهادته … (4/314)
وفى إكمال إكمال المعلم للأبّى: والمراد بالكاتب كاتب لوثيقة وبالشاهد المتحمل … وإنما سوى بينهم فى اللعنة لأن العقد لم يتم إلا بالمجموع. (4/279)
Mufti Zubair Butt
Al Qalam Shari’ah Panel Chair