As far as I know, the prohibition of riba al-fadl is agreed upon by the four major Sunni schools. However, there does appear to be a clear difference of opinion as to exactly what goods are considered susceptible thus.

As far as I know, the Hanafi school has extended the general meaning of "silver for silver, gold for gold, barley for barley, wheat for wheat, like for like"; rather than limiting it to only the products named, the "like for like" principle is applied to any good that can be traded by weight or measure.

Is this a correct understanding? Can and should it apply to, literally, any good (as I have trouble conceiving of any good that can't be either weighed or measured)? If not, what are the limits?

  • Why Hanafi school only? is there something special? did you hear that they differ, or just because you follow this mathhab? Feb 3 '13 at 17:05
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    @TamerShlash This question was spawned from a (now deleted) comment thread wherein I was informed that my understanding of riba al-fadl is not as universal as I had assumed. I mostly just want to clarify exactly what the Hanafi position is as that is the one I originally learned (my community is predominantly Hanafi, even though I personally don't follow any particular madh'hab)
    – goldPseudo
    Feb 3 '13 at 17:12

According to Imam Abu Hanifa, the common factor in the like-for-like examples is that they are all sold/traded either by weight, or by volume. As such, only goods which are traded accordingly are susceptible to riba al-fadl; it would therefore be permissible to trade in unequal amounts any goods where the inequality is, for example, measured by counting or measured by length.

The majority opinion throughout the Hanafi school is that, when evidence exists thus, measure must be according to those means of measurement approved by the Prophet. For example, gold or silver — at the time measured by weight — could not be traded by counting or by volume, even if that is the custom of the land the trade takes place in. Whether or not any particular good is considered ribawi is based on its status at the time of the Prophet, even if these original means of measurement are no longer in practice.

However some scholars disagree — this is the position held by Abu Yusuf (one of the students of Imam Abu Hanifa) — and rule that equality of measure is to be according to whatever measurement is standard according to the local custom.

Also, given that non-fungible goods are not (typically) traded by either weight or volume, it also stands to reason that this would only apply to fungible goods.

In short, just because a good can be measured or weighed (which, as OP states, would apply to pretty much any physical good ever) doesn't mean that it's automatically ribawi; what matters is that it is a good that is actually traded according to volume or weight.

  • Could you add an example? Are you saying I can give you a snowboard of one length in direct exchange for a shorter one...without riba as snow boards aren't measured in length?
    – Pureferret
    Apr 4 '14 at 18:22

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