Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: Assalam alaikum.
What is the ruling on donating while in debt?
Answer: Walaikum assalam,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.
Debts are a trust, and their repayment falls under the general Divine call: “Truly, Allah commands you to return trusts to their rightful owners.” [Qur’an, 4.58]
In general, there are two types of debt:
(1) debts that are immediately due;
(2) debts that are deferred or not immediately due.
It is an error to give in charity when doing so would either delay debts that are immediately due, or result in inability to pay deferred debts on time. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned that, “It is wrongdoing for one with wealth to delay repayment.” [Bukhari and Muslim] And, as Ibn Abd al-Barr (Allah have mercy upon him) put it in his commentary on the Muwatta’. “And wrongdoing is prohibited, whether small or great.” [al-Istidhkar]
Most of the scholars considered delaying repayment to be a major sin—particularly when it hurts or harms the other party.
With deferred debts, it is recommended in the Prophetic sunna to hasten to repay such debts—to clear one’s dues, as part of one’s avidness to fulfill the rights of others, and as part of preparedness for death.
However, this can be balanced with giving in charity—to attain the rewards promised those who give, and in fulfillment of the social obligation (fard kifaya) to support deserving causes and needy individuals. After all, Allah Most High describes the righteous believers as being those who, “In their wealth there is a known right, for the needy and the deprived.” [Qur’an, 70.24-25] This encompasses the personally obligatory duty of zakat, and the communally obligatory charity, and the recommended charity. [Abu’s Su`ud and othes]
And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.