Is working for a bank unacceptable, regardless of the department or nature of job?
I was your student at LUMS and am currently working in Canada. The nature of my job is not related to banking, although there are many openings for high-paying jobs in the banks in my area. I wanted to ask if it is really unacceptable to have a job in any department of a bank regardless of its nature. Is the current interest-based banking system comparable to riba?
Banks normally operate on interest, and since interest is prohibited by the Almighty, taking it and cooperating with the one who takes it are both considered unacceptable. The latter possibility has been condemned in hadith and the condemnation is understandable. Since most of the jobs in the banking sector come within the scope of cooperating in the act of taking interest, it seems that, in most cases, working for the conventional banks at the moment should not be in the list of options a good Muslim should be considering.
Your act of settling for a less lucrative job compared to the ones available in the banking sector is most certainly an act of piety that will bring you reward in the hereafter and, insha’Allah, barakah in this world as well.
However, there are two areas where you can still work in the banking sector without, hopefully, earning the Almighty’s displeasure. You can join a conventional bank in designing and promoting a product that is completely riba-free. Many banks are interested in making available diversified possibilities of investment to their clients. There is no harm in joining them in the development of products that are not un-Islamic, provided you are not simultaneously involved in promoting other, interest-based products. Likewise, many conventional banks have also started taking keen interest in introducing Islamic products in their range of investment opportunities. I see no harm in joining them in such initiatives as well, provided you are convinced about the acceptability of such products. Similar is the case of completely Islamic banks, which I am sure have started appearing the Western world as well.
I am advising an investment bank here in Pakistan on the manner it should go about in its attempts to Islamise its operations. I am getting some benefits from them in return. I know that the bank at the moment is based more on riba-based products than riba-free ones. However, because my role with them is primarily in an an Islamically acceptable area, I hope the Almighty will not regard my taking of those benefits as unacceptable.