2:275 On the other hand are those who eat Riba (usury), in greed of money, run around like someone who has been bitten by a snake. They claim that trade is like usury. But God has permitted trade and forbidden usury. One to whom the clear Admonition has come from his Sustainer, must abstain from taking usury forthwith. What he has taken in the past, he may keep and his judgment rests with God. As for him who returns to usury, such are the companions of the Fire wherein they shall abide.
Trade is allowed because it generates profit or loss on commerce with the risks shared, hence it is in the interest of the lender to make sure they are investing in sound businesses and not wholly relying on someone to make them money regardless of the consequences [interest charges, usury].
The “riba is usury only” and “interest up to certain fixed levels is allowed” has been written about by a number of scholars over the years. The world is being run by money markets that have resulted in economic depressions and wholesale job losses because the pursuit of money drives economies, not what goods and services are really needed by all of us, in order to maintain ‘economic growth’! The money markets result in one persons gain [including bonuses] and another’s loss. Hence, I have always understood riba to mean any amount on top of the initial capital that is pre-arranged as an interest charge, fixed or otherwise, low or excessive; a Quranic zero tolerance to money from money.
Looking at the preceding verses to 2:275, we see:-
2:272 Your responsibility (O Messenger) is only to show them the Right Way (and not to make them walk it). He has established Rules for attaining Guidance. (O People) Whatever good you give benefits your own ‘selves’ when you spend for the sake of God. Any charity you give will be repaid to you, without the least injustice. [God's Laws for Guidance: 2:2, 2:26, 4:88, 5:46,
7:52, 13:27, 14:27, 20:123, 27:2, 28:50, 31:3, 39:3, 40:34, 40:74]
2:273 And give to the needy who are suffering in the Cause of God and cannot emigrate and to those who are unable to go about the earth in search of livelihood. One, who is unaware of their condition, might think they are free from want, because they abstain from begging. But you can recognize them by certain signs though they do not beg insistently. Whatever good thing you spend on them, God is Aware of it.
2:274 Those who spend their wealth on the needy, by night and by day, secretly or publicly, have their reward with their Sustainer. They shall have nothing to fear or regret.
Our wealth is to be given in the first instance as a gift to people to help them to help themselves; there is no monetary return for this, we give the money away.
73:20 Most certainly, (O Messenger!) Your Lord is fully Aware that you stay up working two thirds of the night, one half of it, or one third of it, together with some of your companions. But God has designed the night and the day, and He knows that you and your companions will not even keep count of your vigil. So He turns to you in kindness. Inculcate, then, as much of the Qur’anic teachings in their hearts as you may do with ease. He knows that in time some of you may be ill, and others have to travel seeking God’s bounty. And others who will have to fight in the Cause of God. Therefore, recite and convey as much of the Qur’an as may be easy for all. You have to establish the Divine System and set up the Just Economic Order. And lend unto God a goodly loan. Whatever good you send forth for your ‘selves’ you will find with God, better and more excellent in reward. And seek the protection of forgiveness of God that He absolves all imperfections. Certainly, God is Forgiving, Merciful.
Secondly, the above has ‘loans’ that are given to help others which are returnable. However, there is no mention of making money from the loan by way of interest; the “reward” is from Allah which means that you have ‘invested’ your money to help society, which helps create and maintain a just social system without the problems of rich and poor, the haves and the have not’s.
The following also says that those who cannot repay loans should not be harassed but given time to do so, or else they should be written off.
2:278 O You who have chosen to be graced with belief! Be mindful of the Divine Laws and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if you are really believers.
2:279 And if you do it not, then know that you are at war with God and His Messenger. But, if you mend your ways, simply take back your capital without interest. Inflict not injustice and you will not incur injustice.
2:280 If a debtor is in difficult circumstances, let there be postponement to a time of ease. And if you give up the loan entirely as charity, it is better for you if you only knew.
2:281 And be mindful of the Day when you will be returned to God and every ‘self’ will be paid what it has earned, and they will not be wronged.
From the above we can see that money should be given to help others without extra return on top of what we give, or else given as a charitable donation; there should be no making money from money, no trade in money, no usury and no interest of any sort.
Regarding the salt water we live in, two wrongs do not make a right so taking loans with interest is contributing to a corrupt system. However, when there is no alternative, when society is not Quranic based, then we can accept a little wrong in order to live. This is in line with the Quran when it says we can eat haram food when no alternative is available. This is only when absolutely necessary and we should all try to help develop a just economic system to stop us having to pay interest [there is no ‘get out of gaol card’ for having interest paid on our deposits, so this is not allowed under any circumstances].