It took A. Ali at least six years to get the right kind of loan to buy a house. It wasn't because his credit score was bad. It was his faith.
Islam prohibits Muslims from dealing in conventional credit and taking or giving Riba, or interest, in any form. So, Ali kept paying rent until HSBC introduced Shariat-based loans in New York in 2002.
"We were renting. Our rent was much more 25 (percent) to 30 percent more than the regular mortgage, if we had taken it. But we waited for many years," said Ali. "It was like throwing money down the drain."
Ali moved to Syracuse in 1994. At the time, there were no institutions in New York that provided Islamic finance products based on co-ownership of property.
The Quran explicitly says that one who takes interest income is at war with Allah. It is as important as Zakat, or charity, which is mandatory, said Imam Taqiuddin Ahmed, the director of the Islamic Society of Central New York, 925 Comstock Ave.
"It is a sin. It is very, very serious," he said.
Ahmed provides counseling to Muslims who are planning to buy a house and directs them to go to institutions that have Islamic financing options. If there are none available, he directs them to keep paying rent.
"There is no ground for you to buy on interest. When it is the matter of life and death, then we allow," he said, giving an example of how he would allow a Muslim to eat pork, which is considered Haram, or sin, if there is nothing else available. "But eat little, only to keep yourself alive, and then search for other options," he said.
The same, he said, applies in the case of a loan.
The Quran made Riba unacceptable to provide for fairness in transactions and to avoid loan-sharking. But in the modern world, it means rejecting anything that promises a guaranteed return, including mortgages, credit cards and stocks.