Real Estate in Islamic Economics
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) held real estate as one means of earning important funds. They also persuaded their followers to buy and keep real estate, preferring real property to ‘silent’ properties (i.e. currency).
Real estate contributes to construction and improvement of derelict lands. It thus can be a means of production when used as a farm or an orchard, a means of service and aid when used as a dwelling place, or a place of offering commercial services when used as a hotel, hospital, or commercial shop. Real estate, therefore, plays a vital role in human life in general.
A view at the narrations reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) shows that they laid stress on a number of aspects concerning real estate:
(1) Real estate helps achieve a livelihood and guarantees commercial work and reciprocal movement. Therefore, it is better than ‘silent’ property.
Through a valid chain of authority, Shaykh al-Kulayni has reported on the authority of Murazim that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) advised Musadif, his servant, saying: Betake yourself a building or a farm. When one is exposed to a misfortune or a conflict, one becomes readier to make self-sacrifice if one realizes that there is something left for the dependents to live on.50
Through a valid chain of authority, Shaykh al-Saduq has reported that Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) used to say: No legacy is worse than silent property…it must be transferred into estates; i.e. in gardens or houses.51
(2) There is a moral and spiritual aspect in acquiring real estates which is associated with selflessness and altruism. To put in plainer words, the possession of a piece of real estate can bring comfort that there is security for one’s family members; as a result, this can be encouragement to sacrifice oneself for the sake of one’s faith if the need arises, given that individuals of the virtuous community have always been objects of pursuit and persecution by the tyrannical ruling authorities. This aspect has been confirmed by the previously mentioned report of Murazim.
(3) The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) cautioned their followers against selling their real estate unless they wanted to substitute it with a better piece of real estate. They therefore encouraged their followers to hold real estate because it is blessed and brings about sustenance and good fortune unlike ‘silent’ money, which is unblessed and diminishes in value.
Referring to this fact, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are reported to have said: The financial return on an estate is unblessed unless it is used to purchase another estate.
Musmi’ has reported that, seeking the advice of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), he said, “I have a land that many are asking me to sell and offering good prices.”
The Imam (‘a) answered: Abu-Sayyar, know that whoever sells water and mud (i.e. land or estate) but does not put its financial return in some other water and mud has verily lost his money in vain.
Musmi’ said, “May Allah accept me as ransom for you! I will sell it at a good price and purchase a larger plot of land.”
The Imam (‘a) answered, “If so, there is no objection to selling it.”
According to another narration, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are reported to have said: A purchaser of real estate will be granted sustenance, but the seller of it will be deprived of blessing.52
(4) It is more highly recommended to purchase various estates in different places rather than in one place, as has been confirmed in the aforementioned report of Mu’ammar ibn Khallad from Imam al-Ridha (‘a).
As a distinctive feature, real estate assets are so blessed that they are free from suspicion and legal and moral confusion, which can accompany merchandise, transactions, or even manual professions.
50. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 5:92, H. 5; al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi’ah 12:44, H. 3 as quoted from the previous reference book.
51. - Sayyid al-Borojerdi, Jami’ Ahadith al-Shi’ah 17:136, H. 8 as quoted from Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 5:91, H. 2, 7 & Shaykh al-Saduq, man-la-yahdhuruhul-faqih 3:170, H. 3642.
52. - Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 5:92, H. 6, 8, 4.