Monthly Archives: May 2015

Islamic Business Ethics in a Nutshell

Islamic Business Ethics

It is sometimes said that “business ethics” is an oxymoron. How can one do business and still be an ethical person? Isn’t business all about self-interest, greed and making exuberant profits?

Yes, it is true that the physical, earthly dimension of a human is based on two main characteristics: greed and anger. The former attracts whatever it perceives to be beneficial and the latter repels whatever it perceives to be harmful.

But the spiritual, heavenly dimension consists of mind and conscience which have the potential of controlling the elements of greed and anger. One whose spiritual powers control the physical powers is indeed an ethical person; and one who lives life only by the elements of anger and greed has not actualized the potential of soaring from the worldly level to the heavenly level.

Adding the adjective “Islamic” to “business ethics” might surprise some. But one has to realize that Islam is more than just a religion in the spiritual sense of the word; it is a way of life. Even the secular aspects of life are greatly influenced by spiritual values.

There is no difference between the sphere of worship and the sphere of business; Islamic laws govern the family life of Muslims well as their social conduct.


The foundation of Islamic business ethics depends on delineating the purpose of human life. When Adam and Eve as well as the Satan were sent down to the earth, Almighty God declared:

“All of you get down from the Garden to the earth, some of you being the enemies of the others, and there is on the earth your abode and the necessities of life for a fixed period of time.” (The Qur’an 2:36)

“All of you get down from the Garden. Once you are on the earth, the guidance will certainly come to you from Me, and then whoever follows My guidance there will be no fear for them nor shall they grieve. But those who do not follow My guidance, who disbelieve and reject Our revelation, they are the inmates of the Fire, in it they shall abide”. (2:38-39)

The Qur’an further tells us that this earth and its surrounding atmosphere have the resources for us to sustain our lives on it:

“Allah is He who created the heavens and the earth, and send down the water from the sky with which He brought forth fruits as sustenance for you. He made the ships subservient to you so that they may flow in the sea with His command. He (also) made the rivers subservient to you, and He made the sun and the moon-which are persistent (upon their course) – subservient to you, and He made the night and the day subservient to you. (In short,) He gave you all that you asked Him. If you count Allah’s blessings, (they are so many that) you will never be able to number them – (but still) the human is very unjust (and) very ungrateful!” (14: 32-34)

These verses clearly state the followings:

• This earth is our abode.

• This earth and its surrounding atmosphere have the resources to sustain our lives on it.

• Divine guidance will come to us and we are expected to follow it.

• Satan is our enemy and will try his best to misguide us.

• The life on this earth is for a fixed time only.

• The hereafter is the final destination. Whether the final destination will be blissful or painful depends on whether or not we follow the divine guidance.

So a human being is a creation of God, a citizen of this earth, surviving by wisely using its natural resources alone or with the, cooperation of fellow humans. Human interaction may be pictured as following:

Your Relationship with God, Earth & Others

As a creation of God, a human being is expected to obey the Divine commandments in relation to the self, to fellow humans, and also towards the earth. We cannot forget the satanic temptations that overwhelm many people.

This three-way interaction defines the perimeter of Islamic ethics in the business sphere. The guiding principles in these interactions are:

1. Obeying the Divine commandments. (2:38 above)

2. Dealing with others on the basis of justice and fairness. “O you who believe! Be upright for the sake of Allah, in testifying for fairness: and do not let the hatred of a people urge you to be unjust, be just (since) that is closer to piety. Fear (from displeasing) Allah, verily Allah is Aware of what you do.” (5:8)

3. Being moderate in one’s personal life and in the use of natural resources.“O you who believe! Neither forbid the (use of) good (things) that Allah has allowed for you nor exceed the limits because Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.” (5:87)

(Source: Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, ISLAMIC BUSINESS ETHICS (Canada: Al-Ma’arif Books, 2006), pp. 5-8.)

M&M Question and Answer #2


Q) What are the conditions of a Seller and a Buyer?

A) There are six conditions for the Sellers and Buyers:

1) They should be Baligh (reached the age of puberty).
2) They should be sane.
3) They should not be impudent, that is, they should be squandering their wealth.
4) They should have a serious and genuine intention to sell and purchase a commodity.
5) They have not been forced to sell and buy.
6) They should be the rightful owners of the commodity which they wish to sell.

Source: “Islamic Law: Raising Awareness on Fiqh and Ulamaa

Qur’anic Paradigm of Personal Finance

Qur'anic Paradigm of Personal Finance

“By the means of what Allah has given you, seek the abode of the Hereafter, while not forgetting your share of this world. Be good [to others] just as Allah has been good to you, and do not try to cause corruption in the land. Indeed Allah does not like the agents of corruption.” (Qur’an 28:77)

Elements of the Qur’anic Paradigm of Personal Finance:

1. Seeking the abode of the Hereafter as the primary goal in life;

2. Utilizing all the means provided by God for the pursuit of that goal while not forgetting one’s share of this world;

3. Rendering service to fellow creatures;

4. Avoiding the transgression of bounds or “causing corruption in the land.”

Financial Story #1: A Man Who Asked for Help

Story #1: A Man Who Asked for Help

Reviewing his own painful past full of afflictions, he recalled how the bitter days slipped away, the days he was not even in a position to provide the daily meals for his wife and innocent children. He laid musingly on how a few words, which had pricked up his ears for three times and animated his spirit, deviated the course of his life, and rescued his whole family from poverty and calamity overwhelming them.

He was one of the Holy Prophet’s Companions; poverty and indigence had upper hand on him.

One day amicably reaching the dead end, after consulting with his family, he decided to go to the Holy Prophet (s), what his wife had suggested, to expose his situation and ask him for financial assistance. With this intention he came out of his house, yet did he not offer his request, the following words fell upon his ears:

“We help whoever demands us for assistance, but Allah preserves the needs of those who feel enriched and refrained from stretching out their hands before someone else.”

He returned back home without uttering a single word. He found himself again to face the awful silhouette of the poverty overshadowing his dwelling place. The next day, he rejoined compulsively the assembly of the Holy Prophet (s) with the same intention. He heard the same words from the Holy Prophet (s):

“We help whoever demands us for assistance, but Allah preserves the needs of those who feel enriched and refrained from stretching out their hands before someone else.”

He returned home once again without putting forward his request. For the third time, he saw himself indulging in the jungle of poverty, debility, misery, and helplessness; he decided to go to the assembly of the Holy Prophet (s) in order to put forward his intention. Once again the lips of the Prophet (s) moved and the same words were repeated, invigorating the heart and giving the certainty to the spirit.

This time, by hearing those words, the man felt more confidence and perceived that he had found the key of his problem. He went out with more assured steps, thinking: “I will never ask for someone’s help. I will rely on Allah and take advantage of the energy and the capacity which exists in my own self, and I will pray to Him to make me succeed in what I will undertake to do and enrich me.”

He thought what kind of job would be suitable for him to look for. In such circumstances, he decided to go to the desert, gather some firewood and sell them. He went and borrowed an ax, then he left for desert. By gathering the firewood and selling it, he relished the result of his own toil. He continued working hard for the following days until he managed to buy an ax, a beast of burden, and the other means of work with the gained money. He continued working till he gained a capital and owned the servants. One day the Holy Prophet (s) met him. While having the smile on his lips, he (s) said:

“We will help whoever demands us, but Allah preserves the needs of those who feel free from want.” (Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 139 (Al-Qina’a); Safinat al-Bihar (Qana’a).)

Source: Murtada Mutahhari, THE NARRATIVES OF THE VERACIOUS, Story 2.

Financial Lessons of the Story:

1. Trust in God (tawakkal ‘alallah);

2. Preservation of one’s self-esteem and personal integrity;

3. Utilization of one’s energy and talent to earn for a living;

4. Identification of one’s niche – what one can do best and passionate of;

5. Investing in things that would further earn income – “an ax, a beast of burden and the other means of work.”