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Seminar: Riba and Usury: Islamic and Christian prohibitions for a common cause?

  • CMCS 109a Iffley Road Oxford, England, OX4 1EH United Kingdom (map)

James Bergida
DPhil Candidate, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford


The Great Recession continues to prompt soul-searching about ethical deficiencies in the financial sector. The search for inspiration in addressing these deficiencies has drawn attention to modern Islamic banking. Noteworthy among the principles behind this growing industry is Islam’s prohibition of riba, a ban widely understood to cover modern interest. The prohibition of riba is often compared to the prohibition of usury within the Christian tradition. These comparisons raise hopes for an Islamo-Christian contribution to the ethical renewal of the financial sector.

This paper considers to what extent there is overlap between the Islamic prohibition of riba (as defended by proponents of modern Islamic banking) and the Christian prohibition of usury (as articulated in the Bible and patristic tradition).