Fundamental Law of Business Dealings
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ إِلَّا أَن تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً عَن تَرَاضٍ مِّنكُمْ ۚ
O you who believe, do not devour your wealth among yourselves by false means, unless it is trade conducted with your mutual consent. (An-Nisā’, 4:29)
This is the fundamental law of Islam for all financial dealings. It declares all exploitation unlawful and stipulates two conditions for the acceptability of financial dealings. A) It should be a fair trade and B) it should be with free mutual consent. Trade includes sales, rentals, and employment of labor. It excludes interest transactions, since it is exchange of money for time and not for any valuable property. Deception and coercion also invalidate a transaction. All financial laws of Islam are governed by this fundamental law. Consent is so important that even charitable donations collected through pressure techniques are impermissible in Islam.
Today most marketing aims at precisely the opposite goals, whereby exaggerating the virtues and hiding the defects are considered acceptable marketing practices. Worse, creative marketing makes a virtue of such deceptions, equating successful exploitation with smartness. It is a travesty that business schools in the Muslim world today teach the same “sciences” and feel good about spreading “education.”
Unhealthy Rivalry: Feminism and More
وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوْا مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۚ لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا اكْتَسَبُوا ۖ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا اكْتَسَبْنَ ۚ وَاسْأَلُوا اللَّهَ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا
Do not covet something in which Allāh has made some of you superior to others. For men there is a share of what they earned, and for women, a share of what they earned. Pray to Allāh for His grace. Surely, Allāh is All-Aware of everything. (An-Nisā’, 4:32)
This āyah was revealed in response to questions regarding disparity between men and women. Sayyidah Umm Salamah, the mother of believers, looking for an explanation, observed: “Men take part in battles and we do not. We do not take part in combat so we can become martyrs. Also our share in the inheritance is half theirs.” According to another report from ʿIkrimah some women said “We deeply desired that Allāh would let us participate in battles so we would get the same reward as men.” According to another report a woman was concerned that since women have half the share in inheritance and are given half the weight as witnesses in many cases, they would also get half the reward of men for all good deeds.
Lest anyone influenced by feminist ideology jump into confusion here, women were not seeking equal rank in the family or tribal hierarchy; they were rather concerned about rewards in the Hereafter. They wanted to make sure they would get equal wages of piety for equal piety. And they were assured, here as well as at many other places in the Qur’ān, that the rewards for good or bad deeds are the same for men and women.
While we are encouraged to compete with each other in performing good deeds, we should not get carried away with the idea of competition. Feminism is the result of taking competitiveness to extremes by seeking everything for women that applies to men. This is its foundation and this foundation is being demolished in no uncertain terms here.
If men are superior in some respects (like physical strength) so be it. That is Allāh’s plan. If they are given the sole responsibility for earning a living for the family and therefore are given a bigger share in the inheritance in most circumstances, so be it. Their abilities are not the same. Their spheres are not the same. But within their sphere, ultimately everyone will get the rewards based on their own effort and ability. If they listen to this āyah, women will be content being women and will lead happy lives.
But the message is not to be limited to its immediate context. It is general and applies to all unhealthy rivalry. We have not been created equal in our appearance, skin color, physical strength, talents, and abilities. We should not waste any time comparing ourselves with others and lamenting our disadvantages in any of these things. We submit to the Will of Allāh in everything that is beyond our control. But we try to do the best in areas where we have been given freedom of action. And we seek Allāh’s grace and mercy all the time.
Most of the psychological problems in the world would go away if we followed this one gem of advice.
Conflicts of Interest: Justice in the Face of Love
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ ۚ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allāh, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allāh can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (the truth) or decline to do justice, verily Allāh is well-acquainted with all that you do. (An-Nisā’ 4:135)
Under normal circumstances many people can be just. But Islam commands its followers to be just even in the face of strong conflicting emotions. In dealing with other human beings, two major impediments to justice are love and hatred. This āyah teaches us to overcome the first impediment when we are dealing with our closest relatives or even ourselves. Here is the resolution from the Qur’ān of the perennial conflict between self-interest and justice. Be just, even if it is against your narrowly defined self-interest or that of those very close to you.
Ignorant people think they are protecting their self-interest by being unjust to others. Their decision to be just or unjust may be based on a cold calculation of self-interest. But real faith in Allāh elevates one beyond that narrow-mindedness. This āyah reminds us that the real protector of interests of all people is Allāh and He will protect us when we follow His command to be just. The justice demanded by Islam permits no favoritism. The second impediment to justice is discussed in the next juz.