When I first began to reflect upon this topic I realized that I didn’t have any Qur’anic scripture or hadith that immediately popped into my mind either in support or opposition to it. I did, however, remember a Bible scripture about Jesus (may peace be upon him) chasing the money-changers out of the temple in Jerusalem and it made me want to research further. Today there are countless religious based organizations and businesses within Judaism, Christianity and Islam, some of them earning income through the spreading of religion and some of them not. My question becomes, if the prophets of old (may peace be upon them all) were to visit the earth today and witness the business practices of the believers, would they be pleased and praise Allah Ta’aala or would they cry out in prayer against it while chasing the business men and women away?
Although I do not know the answer to that question, I have been able to discover in scripture that the earning of an income is lawful and recommended. The Holy Quran states in Surah As Saff 61:10-11:
“O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment?”
“That you believe in Allah and His Messenger (PBUH), and that you strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives: that will be better for you, if you but know!”
Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi writes in his article entitled Business Ethics in Islam:
The Prophet was chosen by God to be His last prophet at the age of 40. Before that he was very much involved in business. He was born in Makkah, frequented by caravans from Syria in the north and Yemen in the south. The Prophet would join these caravans and that is how he traveled to Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and many other places in Arabia. Some historians have also suggested that he probably traveled to Iraq and Ethiopia.
From his early age, he was involved in commerce. He had a good reputation as a hardworking, truthful businessman. It was due to this reputation that Khadijah, a wealthy businesswoman, hired him to work for her business.
The Holy Quran also says in Surah Al Kahf 18:7:
“Verily! We have made that which is on earth as an adornment for it, in order that We may test them (the mankind) as to which of them are best in deeds.”
Then again in Surah Al Baqarah 2:261 it is mentioned that:
“The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah is as the likeness of a grain; it grows seven ears, each ear has hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.”
As Muslims we should adhere to ethical standards in business and it is recorded that the Prophet emphasized honesty and kind dealings with customers. In Al Tirmidhi he said, “The truthful and honest merchant is associated with the Prophets, the upright and the martyrs.”
And in Al Bukhari it is written that he said, “God shows mercy to a person who is kindly when he sells, when he buys and when he makes a claim.”
The hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) contains a wealth of instruction concerning business and trade. Chapter 34 of Al Bukhari is dedicated to the topics of Sales and Trade and Chapter 31 of Al Muwatta is titled Business Transactions. Some of the major principles of fair business dealings according to Islam as mentioned in Dr, Siddiqi’s article are provided below:
1. No fraud or deceit, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “When a sale is held, say, “There’s no cheating” (Al-Bukhari).
2. Sellers must avoid making too many oaths when selling merchandise. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “Be careful of excessive oaths in a sale. Though it finds markets, it reduces abundance” (Muslim).
3. Mutual consent is necessary. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “The sale is complete when the two parties involved depart with mutual consent” (Al-Bukhari).
4. Be strict in regard to weights and measures. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “When people cheat in weight and measures, their provision is cut off from them” (Al-Muwatta). He told the owners of measures and weights, “You have been entrusted with affairs over which some nations before you were destroyed” (Al-Tirmidhi).
5. The Prophet forbade monopolies. “Whoever monopolizes is a sinner” (Abu Dawud).
6. Free enterprise, the price of the commodities should not be fixed unless there is a situation of crisis or extreme necessity.
7. Hoarding merchandise in order to increase the prices is forbidden.
8. Transaction of haram items, such as intoxicants, are forbidden.