Business Ethics In Islam
As Muslims, we have to adhere to ethical standards, not only in business but also in all aspects of life. Both business and ethics are interrelated. There is a reference to this point in the Qur’an: For you in the Messenger of Allah is a fine example to follow. (Al-Ahzab 33:21).
It is worthy stressing here that when Muslims stick to ethics in their daily lives, they will become good examples to emulate in today’s world. They will help rectify some aspects of the distorted image about Islam in today’s world and thus they will become worthy ambassadors of their religion.
Allah Almighty says: And to the Madyan (Midian) people (We sent) their brother Shu’aib. He said: “O my people! Worship Allah, you have no other ilah (god) but Him, and give not short measure or weight. I see you in prosperity and verily, I fear for you the torment of a Day encompassing. And O my people! Give full measure and weight in justice and reduce not the things that are due to the people, and do not commit mischief in the land, causing corruption.“ (Hud 11:84-85)
Prophet Shu`aib (peace be upon him) was a great prophet of Allah. He was sent to the people of Madyan around the time of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). Prophet Shu`aib was sent among a people who were very much involved in business. These people were very proud of their business acumen and success, but they were dishonest. He told them to observe ethics in business. They became very angry with him and told him, “Don’t mix religion with business.” The Qur’an tells us that Allah’s punishment came upon those people and only Prophet Shu`aib and his followers were saved.
It is indeed important that every man must adhere to ethical standards in business. Business and ethics are not separate, rather they are interconnected. Allah says in the Qur’an:“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad, peace be upon him) you have a good example to follow . . .” (Al-Ahzab 33:21).
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was an ideal human being in every respect. He was the best teacher, preacher, and guide; the best statesman, lawgiver, judge, diplomat, negotiator of treaties, and military commander; the best family man, a good husband, a compassionate father and grandfather, a good neighbor, and friend of his people. He was also a very honest and successful businessman.
Prophet Muhammad was chosen by God to be His last Prophet and Messenger at the age of 40. Before that he was very much involved in business. He was born in Makkah, which was a popular trade center in Arabia. Caravans from Syria in the north and Yemen in the south used to pass by Makkah. Prophet Muhammad would join in these caravans. It is reported that he traveled to Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and many other places in Arabia in these caravans. 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, honest, truthful, and very successful businessman. It was due to this reputation that Khadijah, a wealthy businesswoman, hired him to work for her business. Many people in Makkah had asked for her hand and worked for her, but they either cheated her or she was not satisfied with their work. Finally, she found Muhammad (Before the declaration of Prophethood) and she asked him to work for her. He made several business trips on behalf of her and was very successful. She was impressed with his work as well as his impressive personality, they later got married.
The Prophet emphasized that honesty and kind dealings with customers are the secrets of success in business. He said, “The truthful and honest merchant is associated with the Prophets, the upright and the martyrs” (Al-Tirmidhi 1130). “God shows mercy to a person who is kindly when he sells, when he buys and when he makes a claim” (Al-Bukhari 1934). Prophet Muhammad gave many teachings on business and economic issues, he covered almost every aspect of business and economics. Here are only a few major principles of fair business dealings according to Islam.
1. No fraud or deceit: the Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “When a sale is held, say, “There’s no cheating“ (Al-Bukhari 1974).
2. Sellers must avoid making too many oaths when selling merchandise. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “Be careful of excessive oaths in a sale. Though it finds markets, it reduces abundance” (Muslim 3015).
3. Mutual consent is necessary. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “The sale is complete when the two involved depart with mutual consent“ (Al-Bukhari 1970).
4. Be strict in regard to weights and measures. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “When people cheat in weight and measures, their provision is cut off from them” (Al-Muwatta’ 780). He told the owners of measures and weights, “You have been entrusted with affairs over which some nations before you were destroyed” (Al-Tirmidhi 1138).
5. The Prophet forbade monopolies. “Whoever monopolizes is a sinner” (Abu Dawud 2990).
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, is forbidden.
Role Of Business Ethics Today
Business people and their corporations need to be reminded about their role and responsibilities. The following issues need special attention today:
Globalization should mean that all people are considered to comprise one family. The resources of the Earth are not only for us, we share this biosphere with other species, and so we take care not to waste or destroy them.
We should use the Earth’s resources with great care and should remember that we have a duty to leave this world in a better condition for the generations to come after us. Businesses should promote ethical and moral behavior in their corporations, as well as in the world at large. People involved in business should always be honest, truthful, and fulfill all promises and commitments. We must eliminate fraud, cheating, and cut-throat competition.