Business, trades and professions laws in Islam
By: Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
Your Business A: Five Types of Laws
Islamic laws are of five types: obligatory (wajib), recommended (mustahab), discouraged (makruh), permissible (mubah) and forbidden (haram). Business, trades and professions in Islam would also fall into these five categories.
(a) On an individual level: it is obligatory to maintain yourself and your family so any legitimate job that fulfills that obligation for you is obligatory for you.
(b) On a social level: any trade, business or profession which caters to the essential needs of the society is obligatory in the sense of wajib kifai.(Wajib kifai means an obligation which is upon the entire community but if one person fulfills it, then the obligation is lifted from others; however, if no one fulfills it, then the entire community is responsible. This is opposite of wajib ‘ayni in which each person has to fulfill that obligation, e.g., salat).
For example, the medical profession (especially female doctors, dentists, and gynecologist’s), religious profession, teaching, journalism, youth and family counselling are wajib kifai. In the Western context, in order to create a Muslim community in this society, it is wajib kifai to provide those facilities without which the community would not be able to maintain its Islamic identity.
Muslim communities should establish scholarship programs and endowment funds, and further support such existing organizations that encourage Muslim youths to go for higher studies in disciplines which are required for the Muslims in the West.
Remember what lmam 'Ali (a.s) said, "Knowledge is better than wealth. Knowledge guards you, while you have to guard the wealth. Wealth decreases by spending, while knowledge multiplies by spending, and the results of wealth die as wealth decays.....”
2. Mustabab /Recommended: any profession or business that is not essential but useful for yourself and the society. For example, a food business that makes halal food more easily available to Muslims or physical fitness facilities which adhere to the shari'a laws.
3. Makruh/Disliked: it is makruh to involve oneself exclusively in the profession of butcher, or the trade of selling shrouds (kafan), statues of living things, etc.
4. Halal/Permissible: any trade or profession that is permissible but not essential for the society.
5. Haram/ Forbidden: A list of specified kinds of professions and trades will be listed below.
1. Wajib kifai means an obligation which is upon the entire community but if one person fulfills it, then the obligation is lifted from others; however, if no one fulfills it, then the entire community is responsible. This is opposite of wajib ‘ayni in which each person has to fulfill that obligation, e.g., salat.
Your Business B 1) Haram Business and Trade
1. Intoxicating Drinks
Almighty Allah says, “They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say, ‘In both of them there is a great sin and profits for men, but their sin is greater than their profits’.” (2:219)
It is haram to deal with intoxicating drinks in any shape or form: selling, buying, using it as rent or payment for a job, etc.
It is haram to sell grapes and dates to a customer who buys them for making intoxicant drinks.
It is haram to rent out a real estate property for making, selling or buying intoxicants.
Question: Can I buy a building in which one of the tenants operates a liquor store or a pub?
Answer: You may buy the building but must terminate the lease of that particular tenant as soon as possible based on the agreement (i.e., immediately or at the renewal time).
It is haram to rent out a vehicle for transporting intoxicants.
It is haram to work for a company that produces such drinks, in any form of job: as a driver, worker, accountant, guard, typist, etc.
It is not permissible for a Muslim to sell or serve intoxicating drinks, or even to wash the glasses used for that purpose. Wages from such work are unlawful.
Question: Can I work as a cashier in a grocery shop that also sells alcohol?
Answer: Your job as a cashier is okay; however, a portion of your salary representing the percentage of work for selling alcohol will be illegitimate.
Similarly, it is not permissible for a Muslim artist, calligrapher, designer, web-designer, printer, or publisher to prepare and promote an advertisement for intoxicating drinks. This would amount to promoting immorality, and it is not permissible even if that Muslim is going to lose future business from such customers.
Muslims are not allowed to buy intoxicating drinks for their customers at business lunch or dinner party.
The Prophet said, “Allah has cursed the intoxicating drinks, he who squeezes it out [from grapes], he who plants [grapes, etc. for intoxicants], he who drinks it, he who serves it, he who sells it, he who buys it, he who earns from it, he who transports it and he to whom it is transported.” 1
Methyl Alcohol: The above ruling applies to intoxicating drinks. Therefore, intoxicants that are not made for human consumption are not covered by prohibition or ritual impurity (najasat). For example, methyl alcohol (also known as wood spirit) is not najis and is a valid commodity for trade because it is used for industrial solvents, and for making synthetic rubber, chemicals, rubbing alcohol, inks, dyes and stains, antifreeze and other similar products.
Similarly, the alcohol found in perfumes is pure and permissible for use as well as trade.
2. Animal Products
i. Pig and its byproduct it is haram to deal in pigs and their byproducts in all forms: even selling or serving pork to those who consider it permissible in their religion is not allowed. This prohibition also applies to delivering food items which have pork in them such as pizza, etc.
However, selling, buying or using soaps made of pigs' fat is permissible; of course, it is najis and one must purify the hand or body after using that soap. Similarly, selling, buying or using toothbrushes or paint brushes that contain bristles made from pig's hair is permissible except wherever ritual purity (taharat) is a condition. So if someone uses such a toothbrush, then the mouth will become najis, and it will become pure by taking the toothbrush out and getting rid of the remaining toothpaste from the mouth.
ii. Animal products from an animal that was slaughtered Islamically (zibh): it is permissible to deal in such products.
i. Animal products from an animal that you know was not slaughtered Islamically:
(a) Parts with no feeling (e.g., hair, feather, fur, bone, horn, beak, nail. and teeth): it is permissible to trade in them.
(b) Parts with feelings (e.g., skin): it is not permissible to trade in them.2
iv. Animal products whose method of slaughtering is unknown or doubtful:
(a) From Muslim merchant or Muslim market: it is permissible to trade in them.
(b) From a non-Muslim:
• if there is a probability of Islamic zibh: it is permissible to trade in them;
• if there is no probability of Islamic zibh: it is not permissible to trade in them.3
3. Other ‘Ayn Najis
Other ‘ayn najis items (like human or animal stool, urine, blood, semen) can be a legitimate business commodity provided there is a reasonable use for them . For example, the dung of farm animals can be used for the purpose of using it as manure; blood of animals for use as a dye, etc.; blood of human beings for transfusion into a patient who needs it.
Mutanajjis items: Mutanajjis means an item that becomes najis by coming into contact with a wet 'ayn najis. It means, "Acquired impurity" as opposed to 'ayn najis which means "inherent impurity".
It is permissible to deal in mutanajjis items if there is a permissible use for it. For example, if lamp oil becomes najis, it can still be used to light the lamp.
4. Hoarding Common Food Items
''Hoarding" means storing an item that is in demand with the hope that its price will increase. It is haram to hoard the common food items that are low in supply and high in demand. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said, “None hoards the food items except the sinner.”4 Under an Islamic system, the government has the right to force such a merchant to sell the food items at the fair market value.
According to some Shii scholars, it is also recommended to refrain from boarding any non-food commodity that is considered as a necessity of life for people.
5. Tools and Machines for Haram Purposes
Manufacturing or dealing in items, tools or machines that are exclusively used for haram purposes is absolutely forbidden. For example: gambling machine, idols, etc.
Similarly, it is forbidden for a Muslim builder or contractor to build a place of worship for non-Muslims in a non-Muslim country.
Question: Is it permissible to work as a cashier in such a convenience store that also sells lottery tickets?
Answer: Selling lottery is haram. However, working as a cashier in a convenient store is not haram even though it is haram to sell lottery tickets. (The implication is that even thought the cashier's job is legitimate but that portion of the salary which represents the percentage of work done in selling lottery tickets will not be considered legitimate.)
However, there is no problem in dealing in machines of dual- or multi-purpose nature which include haram purposes but are not exclusively used for such things, like radio, television, etc.
1. Al-Majlisi, Biharu ‘l-Anwar, vol.79, p.126; al-Hindi, Kanzu ‘l-‘Ummal, hadith no.13191.
2. However, according to Ayatullah Sistani, it is permissible to trade in such items with non-Muslims based on the principles of “raf’u ‘l-yad”. According to Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi also this is permissible since he does not consider the hide or byproducts slaughtered (even in a non-Islamic manner) as najis/ritually impure.
3. However, according to Ayatullah Sistani, it is permissible to trade in such items with non-Muslims based on the principle of “raf’u ‘l-yad”.
4. As-Saduq, Man la Yahduruhu ‘l-Faqih, vol.3,p.169