How I Left Riba
I am a 36 year old British Muslim working in London. I work for a technology company and serve customers in the finance, legal, and insurance verticals.
About ten years ago I came to London because I started working for a major bank. I came into a sales role selling risk loans and second mortgages. Within a few years I was promoted rapidly through the ranks. Life was good and I was making a great living. I was a single twenty-five year old manager with a new sports car and I had just manged to stump up the deposit for a three bedroom property on an interest-only mortgage.
I had everything that I could wish for. Everything was perfect. Well, kind of…
I was riddled with guilt every day. Every customer that shared why they were borrowing money trusted me with their problems and listened to my advice. I was paid to convince them that a loan was the answer. I would lend them money knowing that the expensive insurance and high rate would cripple them in years to come. Not a good feeling. It played on my mind most days. I felt like a thief. I couldn’t understand it even though what I was doing was legal and compliant. I didn’t feel proud of what I did and the burden was getting bigger with each passing day.
The customers would be really happy when they would first come to see me. Often sharing how they would be using the money. It was interesting to learn about all the reasons people borrowed money. It was sad too. You would hear about various issues and circumstances that led people to borrow money. The reasons for a loan were endless. I would argue that there were alterative solutions to the challenges that were trying to be addressed by borrowing money. However stating my personal views would mean a conflict of interest with my employer.
I would see the same customers again and again over the ten years I was with the bank. It was terrible seeing others getting deeper and deeper into financial difficulty. One customer I was told even committed suicide. I saw my customers', friends’, and acquaintances' lives perish before my eyes. Divorces, repossessions, difficulties making payment due to being overcommitted. Some others could not manage their commitments due to unexpected illnesses.
By now I had seen enough. I hated seeing this and being part of it – I wanted to be the good guy: open, honest, and respectful. I wanted out.
I had been trying to get out looking at other types of work for years. For some reason it would never work out. I was fearful as I had my own mortgage and commitments. I was stuck and my conscience would not give me a break.
I started to change my life, praying more, being more careful with my money. I abstained from my previous desires, and saved money until I was able to pay off all my debts. In parallel, I tried to move within my company into non-sales roles. But they did not want to let me go.
By now it was 2009 and we were well into the credit crunch. I received the inevitable email inviting the whole branch network to a hotel in London. They took us into a room and let us all go – just like that. I lost my status and ten years of work was gone. Everything I had ever worked for had gone.
While I was shocked, I felt emotions of freedom. I changed my thinking…I had been blessed and given an opportunity to do something different.
For the most part I was happy, but how can you be truly happy when you are on the brink of unemployment.
For weeks thereafter, every recruiter I spoke to turned me down. I even started looking at banking jobs as I still had a mortgage and commitments that I needed to make. Things were looking bleak.
I tried tirelessly to get a job. It was not happening. My parents saw that I was not in a good place and reassured me when I was losing my nerve.
Then it happened…
I met a lone recruiter who listened to my story and connected me with a CEO of a small American start up that was opening up an office in the UK. To cut a long story short, I became their Europe-Middle East-Africa consultant. Alhamdulliah!
I flourished within the company and made more than I had ever made financially, but this time in a Halal, guilt-free way. I believed in myself and I believed in God. I had finally found a way out of the bank. But I still had an interest-bearing mortgage. Finally, I made the decision to sell my house so I could buy a property using Islamic finance - my wife played a big role in that decision. So this year I officially became 100% Riba free!
Being free of Riba feels great. The guilt and anxiety that had previously plagued my mind every day has disappeared. My chest feels lighter, I am able to focus on the other areas of my life that needed focusing on. I have been promoted four times in the last twenty four months. And I have taken up new hobbies like the Sunnah of archery. Best of all, my wife respects me and my family give me their approval as they saw the concerns that I had ten years ago and witnessed how I turned intention into action to go from a negative place to a more positive place.
I have made other changes too. I'm much more patient with others who have not found their way yet. I judge others less and I try to help people on the path that I have been following.
I sincerely hope this article inspires others to listen to their heart more. It will help you to reach your full potential. I believe true success comes down to the individual decisions we make each day.
It is so important that I will say it again. Please listen to your intuition and take your time to overcome situations. Sometimes it takes a decade to change things. Patience, gratitude, and a good intention are all needed in a journey of positive change and Baraka.
Mohamed, London, UK
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