Business and Tawhidic Paradigm
Fahid Fayaz Darangay
“Oh you, who believe, when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday, hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah and leave off business” [Al-Jumu’ah (62):9].
“It is no crime in you if you seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrim)” [Al-Baqarah (2):198].
“A truthful merchant will be raised on the Day of Judgement together with the truthful and martyrs.” [Hadith reported by At-Tirmizi and Al-Hakim from Abi Said]
Business is an economic activity which stems from the need for exchange between agents – consumers and the producers. This need arises because of various factors. Among them are included the inability of any one consumer to produce all that he need; the specialization and division of the benefits of large scale production; and the use of money as medium to facilitate exchange.
Business from the Islamic viewpoint is an activity which is very much encouraged because it forms ninety percent of sustenance. According to hadith quoted by Al-Ghazali “ (Encouraged) upon you is business, for in it is nine out of ten of sustenance”. This particular hadith may be reconciled by considering business or trade as an activity of exchange.
Exchange can be between goods and goods, goods and services, services and services, goods and money, and services and money. If exchange is meant here, then only transfer payments will not be included or would form the remaining ten percent. All receipt such as zakat, voluntary sadaqah and inheritance are not earned and hence considered as transfer payments. These transfer payments should form a much smaller proportion of total incomes out of exchange.
However, despite its significance, business has been considered by Al-Quran to be very tempting activity which can lead one to delay or even forget to remember Allah.
Verse 9 of Surah Al-Jumu’ah specially calls man to leave off business and any other activity when the call for Friday prayer is proclaimed. Why did Allah specifically mention business or “al-bai’” instead of other forms of activity in pursuit of sustenance. Verse 198 of Al-Baqarah permits the pursuit of material wealth through trade during pilgrimage. It is not only the fifth pillar of Islam but it also signifies a special ‘ibadah’ which requires one to keep away from many worldly matters.
For example, Allah says: “For Hajj are the months well known. If anyone undertakes that duty therein, let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj. And whatever good you do (be sure) Allah knows it. And take a provision (with you) for the journey. But the best of provision is right conduct. So fear Me, O you are wise”. Indeed the best of provisions one should bring Hajj is none other than right conduct, which is instilled by the fear Allah. Yet Allah has permitted us to seek His bounty including through trade during the Hajj itself.
The Hadith emphasizes the requirement of being continuously mindful of Allah when one indulges in trade. Again it is not trade per se that is being emphasized here but the proper conduct of trade.
These verses of the Quran and hadith exemplify the fact that business in itself is no doubt permissible and encouraged. However, in each case, it is associated with some strong injunction to be mindful of Allah, in the conduct of that business. The permissibility of business is not singled out. The main reason being that pursuit of wealth through trade or business, as evident in the modern world, is an activity which is most rewarding and satisfying. The return or profits from business is always in cash. One is able to satisfy himself at the end of the day counting the cash he earns through the day’s hard work. As such one tends to delay going for prayers if his business is crowded with potential customers.
Like economics, when business is synthesized with ethics, it will definitely bring about change. Since, in most instances, the temptation is too great to indulge oneself in malpractices, breach of trust, embezzlement and mismanagement of funds, it is therefore incumbent upon businessman to know the Islamic rules of business before indulging oneself in it. But the most important factor that could improve the ethical standards of businessman is through Tawhid.
(NOTE: Concluded from The Role of Ethics in Economics and Business-By Prof. Datuk Dr. Syed Othman Alhabshi)
(The author is currently pursuing Masters in Financial Economics from Madras School of Economics, Chennai)