Can Muslim working in a conventional bank?

A question from our Muslim fellow:

Hi! I was a banker, I left my job to avoid riba and haram money.
Could you please enlighten me about this?

Non-Muslims can save money, borrow money, and use Islamic Bank’s services; they can even work there. Islamic Banking is quickly expanding around the world, not just in Islam-majority nations, but also in non-Islamic countries such as the United States, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. There is a tremendous growth of Islamic Finance and Banking, although they are not Islamic countries. Non-Muslims account for 15% of Islamic Bank customers in Malaysia. This obviously demonstrates the importance of Islamic banks among non- Muslims.

Although Muslims are the major customers of Islamic Finance providers, there are some reasons for non-Muslims to join as well. Islamic Finance services are not only competitive, but they might even be more appealing than conventional ones.

Alhamdulillah for the guidance, Allah put in your heart.

No. Muslims can not work in conventional banks which are based on riba, interest. According to Islam, Riba is a major sin. Riba is considered to be the 12th major sin in Islam. For instance, working in alcohol companies or pork product producing firms is stated to be haram. When it is fully based on riba, how can working in conventional banks be halal? No matter in what position wheter you are a manager or just a cashier, working at conventional banks is not allowed in Islam.

Working in a bank can be allowed depending on what kind of bank it is. For instance, working in banks which are not interest-based is allowed. However, if the bank receives its most income from interest transactions, it would be better to avoid working for such banks.

Some scholars prohibit working at conventional banks regardless of any role. Other scholars prohibit only certain roles that directly involve riba transactions and allow other roles that do not involve riba transactions. However, the majority of Muslim scholars advise that committed Muslims should avoid working in a place that brings them closer to haram activity.

Here is one of the Muslim scholars view about the issue of Muslims working a conventional banks:

According to Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam, the permissibility or impermissibility of employment in a specific firm or company is based on two factors:

1- The nature of the job must be permissible (halal). It means that if the job comprises doing something prohibited by Shariah, it will be unlawful (e.g., selling haram food or beverages)
2- The salary must originate from a Halal source. Accepting a job when the work is permissible (halal) but the salary is paid with unlawful and impure money, such as stolen or interest money, remains prohibited.

Employment at a bank that requires direct involvement with interest-based transactions; such as a manager, cashier, clerk, or other similar position, will be unlawful (haram)

Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud narrated that; the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) cursed the one who accepted usury, the one who paid, the witness to it, and the one who recorded it. (Sunah Abu Dawud)

Hadith from Sahih Muslim mentioned that; the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) invoked curse (la’na) on the receiver of interest, the payer of interest, the scribe, and the two witnesses. And he said: “They are the same” (i.e., in sin).

If a person is currently working in a conventional bank, scholars advise that he should not leave his job right away; instead, he should search for a permissible position elsewhere. If he finds one, he should leave his job at the bank.

However, suppose the work within the conventional bank has no direct interaction with interest-based transactions, such as being a guard, cleaner, or cook, for example. In that case, this type of job is acceptable, but it is preferable to avoid.

Scholars point out that the money held in a bank is not entirely made up of interest money. Rather, the cash stored in the bank (and from which the salary is paid) is made up of depositors depositing their money in various accounts, capital put in by the bank’s owners and interest money. In reality, when compared to the other two sources of income, interest money is typically lesser.

As a result, the bank remuneration is a combination of unlawful and lawful money, whereby lawful money is dominant. As a result, accepting this money as compensation would be permissible as long as the nature of the job is permissible.

Allah knows best