O you who have believed, do not consume usury, doubled and multiplied, but fear Allah that you may be successful. -- Qur'an 3:130

Question: What does "doubled and multiplied" means in the context of usury in Qur'an 3:130?

I'm unclear under what circumstances this would be meaningful. I found some tafsir, but they didn't clarify what this means, e.g.:

... by increasing the amount to be repaid when the loan period comes to an end ... Tafsir al-Jalalayn

... Among this is the loaning of one thing, demanding twice as much in return, and asking from you seven hundred times its amount, ad infinitum. ... -- Al Qushairi Tafsir

The latter one even reads as if only large quantities of interest are forbidden, but I don't think that's accurate.

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is more of a translation limitation. There is no equivalent in the English language that can be directly used in this context. The phrase in Arabic أَضْعَافًا مُّضَاعَفَةً uses what is called al-hāl for ad'āfan (Arabic: أضعافا), and al-na't for mudā'afah (Arabic: مضاعفة).

Al-hal (a condition, basically) is always considered singular in the Arabic language, even when coming in a plural form (as is the case in this verse). So this word is referring to the original condition of riba (usury) of repaying a higher sum than originally owed at a specific date.

Al-na't in this verse is a description of al-hal when it repayment is not done on time and the rate (or the repayment sum) is increased as a result. It comes to fortify the concept of plural for a singular hal word.

So, the verse is referring to forbidding both forms of riba: the initial repayment term if the sum to be repaid is higher than the sum lent, and the subsequent increase(s) in repayment if one is unable to fulfill the initial repayment terms.

This technique in the Arabic language is quite often used in the Qur'an. Al-Ma'idah 5:73 is talking about the Christian concept of trinity by saying: "They have certainly disbelieved who say Allah is the third of three." Third of three means either one of three options (hypostasis of the Father, hypostasis of the Son, hypostasis of the Holy Ghost, or any combination thereof), rather than solely as all three being collectively referred to as one god.

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