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Ethical guidelines in Business


Some general guidelines govern the Islamic code of ethics with relation to both one’s daily life and business conduct. Muslims are required to behave Islamically in their business dealings because Allah Himself is witness to their transactions:

In whatever business you may be, and whatever portion you may be reciting from the Qur’an and whatever deed you may be doing We are Witnesses thereof when you are deeply engrossed therein. [Al Qur’an 10:61]

Here are some key business principles that Muslims should follow.

Be Honest and Truthful. Honesty and truthfulness are qualities which a Muslim business person should develop and practice in himself. Truth, for example, has a self-reinforcing effect. In a hadith reported in Sahih al Bukhari.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man continues to tell the truth until he becomes a truthful person. Falsehood leads to al fujuwr (i.e. wickedness, evil-doing), and al fujuwr (wickedness) leads to the (Hell) Fire, and a man may continue to tell lies till he is written before Allah, a liar.” [Hadith No. 8.116]

Honesty and truth is especially important for Muslim business persons because of the need to make a profit and the temptations to enhance the attributes of their product of service during a sales pitch. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

The merchants will be raised on the Day of Resurrentction as evil-doers, except those who fear Allah, are honest and speak the truth. [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Darimi]

Keep Your Word. In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

If you guarantee me six things on your part I shall guarantee you Paradise. Speak the truth when you talk, keep a promise when you make it, when you are trusted with something fulfill your trust, avoid sexual immorality, lower your gaise, and restrain your hands from injustice.” [Ubadah Ibn al Samit, Ahmad, Bayhaqi]

Love Allah More Than Your Trade. We must love Allah even if we have to sacrifice everything else. Allah warns in the Qur’an, which is translated to mean:

Say, “If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that you have gained; the commerce in which you fear a decline; or the dwellings in which you delight – are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause -then wait until Allah brings about His Decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious.” [Al Qur’an 9:24]

Deal with Muslims before Dealing with Non-Muslims. In a sound hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) hired a polytheist as a guide at the time of his migration from Makkah to Madinah, thus entrusting him with his life and money. The people of the tribe of Khuza’ah, who included both Muslims and non-Muslims, acted as scouts for the Prophet (peace be upon him). In a hadith reported by Sa’d, the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Muslims to seek medical treatment from al Harith Ibn Kaldah, who was a disbeliever. [Abu Dawud, Hadith no. 3866] However, as As Sayyid Sabiq pointed out, if a Muslim physician is present, one should seek his or her treatment and not turn to anyone else. The same applies when one has to entrust a person with funds or deal with him in business. [Fiqh-us-Sunnah 4, 6.a, paragraph 4.]

Be Humble in how You Conduct Your Life. Muslims must not lead a life of extravagance, and must exhibit good-will in any transactions among themselves.

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities: but let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good-will: nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful. [Al Qur’an 4:29]

Use Mutual Consultation in Your Affars. In describing the characterstics of those who will receive higher and more permanent gifts from Him, Allah stresses the importance of consultation.

Those who hearken to their Lord; and estrablish regular prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation, who spend out of what we bestow on them for sustenance. [Al Qur’an 42:38]

Do Not Deal in Fraud. Businessmen should avoid duplicity. They should treat others in the same righteous and fair manner that they themselves would like to be treated.

Woe to those that deal in fraud those who when they have to receive by measure from men exact full measure. But when they have to give by measure or weight to men give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account? [Al Qur’an 83:1-4]

Do Not Bribe. Businessmen may sometimes be tempted to offer bribes or baqshish in order to persuade another party to give them special favours or to allow them to get away with dishonest practices. The practice of bribery is forbidden in Islam.

The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) cursed the one bribes and the one who takes bribes. [Abd Allah ibn Amr ibn Al As, Abu Dawud, hadith no 3573]

Deal Justly. The general principle that applies across all transactions including those pertaining to business is that of justice or ‘adl. Allah emphasizes this point in the Qur’an:

Deal not unjustly, and you shall not be dealt with unjustly. [Al Qur’an 2:279]

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