It was narrated on the authority of ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amir that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
A Muslim is a brother of his Muslim brother and it is unlawful for a Muslim (the seller) if there is a defect in the goods sold, not to point it out or show it to his (Muslim) brother (the purchaser). (Ibn Majah)
Prophet Muhammad starts the hadith by highlighting our brotherhood in Islam and hence reminding us of the mutual ethics that it entitles; one of them being fairness in trade.
It is unlawful to sell defected goods without the knowledge of the buyer, as the Prophet mentions. Yet we see many Muslim sellers taking this issue lightly by not checking their products regularly to remove expired ones, or selling them with defects they are aware of without informing the buyer, etc. Defected and/or soon expired items should be pointed out with reduced prices.
This is a serious issue, since as a Muslim living in the West, and like many other Muslims, I prefer buying halal products and occasionally oriental ones too; and if I can’t trust the Islamic stores for that…then where will I head?
The Prophet pinpoints that there is never a blessing in a deceitful transaction. Prophet Muhammad said:
The seller and the buyer have the option (to revoke the sale) as long as they have not separated (or he said, ‘until they separate’). If they speak the truth and make things clear, they will be blessed in their sale. If they conceal and lie, the blessing of their transaction will be obliterated. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) rebukes unlawful dealings of traders:
Traders are wicked people.” The companions asked: “O Messenger, has Allah not permitted business?” The Messenger replied: “Of course He has declared trading lawful. But they (i.e. the traders) will swear by Allah and do evil, they will not speak but tell lies. (Ahmad)
Even the idea of stocking products (when in shortage) and selling them for higher prices to exploit the dire need for them, i.e. black marketing; has been mentioned in the Sunnah and is strongly prohibited.
How evil is a black marketer! He is upset when he finds out that prices are decreasing, and is happy when he hears they are increasing. (Al-Bukhari)
Absence of Ihsan (Excellence)
I believe one of the reasons behind deception in transactions is that poverty in many Islamic countries makes many sellers think it is fine not to be truthful in trade as they “can’t afford it,” although they tend to forget that God will not give them blessing in haram (unlawful) money.
Another cause behind cheating in trade is the absence of Ihsan (excellence) in our dealings. Although this is a significant Islamic trait, many Muslim families forget to plant its seeds in their kids and they grow up to think it’s “smart” tricking others without their knowledge.
When Prophet Muhammad was asked about Ihsan (excellence), he answered:
It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
If we were to implement only this Prophetic hadith in trade (and all our other dealings) it would be more than enough. Have we forgotten that God is always there, watching all our actions? Is it because we have lost much of our fear in God that we have stopped watching our behavior; acting distrustfully? Would the early Muslims act that way?
The following was a transaction between Prophet Muhammad and one companion:
It is mentioned that Al-‘Adda’ ibn Khalid said:
“The Prophet Muhammad wrote for me, “This is what Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, has purchased from Al-‘Adda’ ibn Khalid, a sale from one Muslim to another, with no hidden defect, no taint and no wickedness (gha’ila ) (i.e. in the slave sold.)” Qatada said: “Gha’ila means fornication, theft and being a runaway.” (Al-Bukhari)
The Spread of Islam in Southeast Asia and Africa Through Muslim Tradesmen
It is disheartening to see the current situation of many Muslim tradesmen when we compare it to that of our Muslim ancestors’ and how their noble manners inspired people they came in contact with through trade to embrace Islam.
“As was the case in most of the areas to which Islam spread, peaceful and voluntary conversion was far more important than conquest and force in spreading the faith in Southeast Asia.
Almost everywhere in the islands of the region, trading contacts paved the way for conversion. Muslim merchants and sailors introduced local peoples to the ideas and rituals of the new faith…” (The Spread of Islam to Southeast Asia: Islam from the Beginning To 1300: 2002)
“The adage: “Actions speak louder than words” was well embodied in the Islamic history, namely the spread of Islam in many non-Muslim countries – like parts of Asia, Africa and Europe – through the good conduct of Muslim merchants who came into commercial contacts with the people of those countries…
In the year 1500, the historian Anthony Reid notes that Islamic influence was present in coastal ports of Sumatra, Java, and Malaysia. Southeast Asian peoples came into direct contact with Muslim traders who had been not just to India, but also to Arabia. Arabic scholars also came to Malaysia and Indonesia, facilitating information about the new religion.
The successful spread of Islam in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines owed much to the introduction of the Noble Quran and other Islamic books and references…
In West Africa, as was the case with Southeast Asia, it was traders who introduced Islam, and many rulers accepted it first, followed by others..
In East Africa, traders had spread Islam down the coast by the tenth century, and it gradually developed further in the following centuries…” (The Role of Merchants in Spreading Islam)
The Reward of Honesty in Trade
So, what would you do if you knew Prophet Muhammad would be entering your store?
Would you quickly search for all the expired products and throw them out? Or clean like crazy all the moldy fridges?
Please fear God and watch what you sell and always remember the reward God has in store for you:
The truthful and honest tradesman will be with the prophets, truthful persons and martyrs on the Day of Judgment. (At-Tirmidhi)