Questionable work for a company may fall into one of the following three categories:
(a) Institutions which trade with Islamically permissible items like computers, cars, medicines, etc, but deal with interest, like putting money in banks and getting interest from them or financing projects by taking interest bearing loans from banks, etc.
Even though money of such institutions is mixed, it is Insha-Allah permissible to work for them, but it is better to look for an alternative if at all possible. For work to be permissible, some scholars put conditions saying most of its earnings must be halal, etc.
In any case, this reminds one of a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ with some weakness: “A time will come when nobody will be safe from consuming riba (interest). If he does not consume it, he will be touched by some of its dust”. (Abu Dawud, Nasai, Ibn Majah)
(b) Second type of institutions are those whose dealings are based on riba transactions like banks, insurance companies, etc. It is forbidden to work in such companies as the Prophet ﷺ said: “Allah has cursed riba, the one who consumes it, the one who deals with it, the one who writes it, and the two witnesses” (Muslim).
The prohibition is clear if one actually writes, processes, or witnesses to interest based contracts. But what about being a guard, or a software developer, etc for such an institution? Meaning, what if a person does work which does not actually involve writing up or processing interest based contracts?
Some scholars outright forbid these jobs as they consider such work a form of cooperation in sin based on the verse: “Help you one another in righteousness and piety, but do not help one another in sin and transgression.” (Quran 5:2)
Other scholars do not consider this work to be expressly forbidden, but generally advise to look for alternatives without quitting.
(c) Third type of institutions are those whose dealings are completely haram such as selling alcohol, flesh of swine, etc. It is forbidden to work in such companies since they deal with prohibited items. As a rule, if Allah prohibits something, its value or price is also prohibited.
One of the contemporary scholars wrote:
“…under the compulsion of unavoidable necessity, the Muslim may seek temporary employment in such activities to the extent of what is required, but he should in the meantime be searching for other gainful employments until Allah opens a way for him, for indeed Allah does open the door for those who sincerely seek to avoid what is haram.”
It is a reality that economies of Muslim countries are based on interest. Some economies are so dependent that unless they obtain a interest bearing loan from IMF or World Bank, they can not even pay the salaries of their government employees! A modern challenge for Muslims is to create a viable and practical alternative. There is simply no substitute to having strong riba-free economies.
As for government jobs, please keep one rule in mind: a person is not responsible for where the government obtains the money from, its beyond one’s control. Some or most of it may be from interest bearing loans. Furthermore, the Companions did business with Jews of Madina without delving into their source of income and it was well-known that Jews of Madina dealt with riba and it was a substantial source of their income.
Allah knows best.
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