Wisdom of the Prophet (pbuh)

Halal or Haram...How Do You Earn Your Living?

The Message of the Prophet Shu'ayb

The people of Madyan were from the early Arab tribes that had settled in the area between Hijaz and Palestine. They were known for their prominence in business activities, and their town was a commercial center for passing caravans.

This community, lacking faith in Allah and in the reckoning of the Hereafter, had fallen into sin, especially as might be expected, into cheating and injustice in their business dealings. So widespread was this that it was considered the norm in society. No one questioned this apparently successful and prosperous way of life.

So to the Madyan people Allah sent their brother, Shu'ayb. He said, "Oh my people, worship Allah. You have no god but Him. And do not subtract from the measure and the scale. Certainly I see you in prosperity, and I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing day." (Qur'an 11:84)

Shu'ayb also pleaded, "Oh my people, fulfill the measure and weight with justice and do not deprive people of their due, nor spread evil on the earth intending corruption. That which Allah has left (lawful) is best for you, if you were believers." (Qur'an 11:85-86)

Shu'ayb's message was straight to the point. He not only condemned the obvious sin of cheating in business, but he also warned against depriving people of things that were theirs by right. This had a wider and more general meaning, including not only measurement, price and estimate, but also non-material concepts such as appreciation and respect. Shu'ayb (pbuh) emphasized an order from Allah including all that is just and good, anything due to a person for any reason should not be withheld. He stressed that failure to give anyone his due would result in bad feelings which would harm personal and social relationships.

Because of their rejection of Allah, the order was given for the destruction of the transgressors. They were taken by the punishment of a black cloud, a violent blast and a final earthquake. (These three things have been said to have occurred simultaneously and perhaps indicated a volcanic eruption, but Allah knows best). Turning away from the terrible spectacle of devastation before him, Shu'ayb could only say, "O my people, truly did I deliver to you the messages of my Lord and advise you, so how could I grieve for a disbelieving people?" (Qur'an 7:93)

The Message of Prophet

Muhammad Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was also entrusted with messages concerning fairness in business, halal earnings, and honesty towards our brothers. "May Allah have mercy upon the man who is generous while selling, and also generous in buying and demanding his balance from people.

The Prophet (pbuh) said, "No one has ever any food which is better than which he had earned through working with his hands. And verily Allah's Nabi (prophets) Dawood (pbuh) used to eat that which he earned with his hands."

In today's world of high technology, electronic commerce, and the fast pace and open life style of the westernized countries, it can be a temptation difficult to avoid when confronted with the opportunity to earn a living in a haram way. We see much the same problems in the course of business as did the Prophet Shu'aib and Prophet Mohammed (pbut). Everyone desires economic security for themselves and their families, but at what price?

The Prophet (pbuh) said "Both legal and illegal things are obvious, and in between them are (suspicious) doubtful matters. So whoever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may commit a sin, will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal; and whoever indulges in these (suspicious) doubtful things bravely, is likely to commit what is clearly illegal. Sins are Allah's Hima (i.e. private pasture) and whoever pastures (his sheep) near it, is likely to get in it at any moment."

Can we say that we never cheat anyone in business? Do we sell items that have been forbidden to us? Do we lie to make a sale? Do we give fair weight and measure to our employers by working to the best of our ability?

Indeed it is challenging to see those around us with the wealth of this world while perhaps we struggle to make ends meet, but this has been addressed numerous times in the Qur'an and Hadith as a guide for us.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said the following:

"Richness does not lie in the abundance of worldly goods, but richness is the richness of the soul (heart, self)."

"Allah's Mercy be upon that person who acts generously when he sells, generously when he buys, and generously when he reclaims a debt due to him."

"Refrain from swearing oaths excessively when selling."

"Indeed, the trader who is both honest and trustworthy in both word and deed will, on the day of Qiyammah (Day Of Judgement), arise with the Prophets of Allah and the righteous elders and the martyrs."

"May Allah keep safely that believer who is a hardworking tradesman, who cares not what clothes he wears."

"For every person who earns anything halaal, which he either eats himself or whereby he clothes himself or clothes anyone else of Allah's creation, that shall be written as a deed of charity."

"To earn a halaal livelihood is compulsory after the completion of other obligatory acts."

"Whosoever, in the evening, is exhausted through his work, he has all his sins forgiven by that evening" (assuming his work is halaal)."

"If you people should put your trust in Allah (tawakkul) as you should, He will grant you sustenance in the same manner as He grants the birds who go out in the morning with empty bellies and return in the evening with bellies full of food."

"Whomsoever cares not how his earnings are, Allah will not care through which door he enters Hell."

"That body will never enter paradise which had been nourished with foods from haram sources."

"It is more acceptable for me to return (to its owner) one dirham which is of doubtful origin that to give one hundred thousand dirhams in charity."


The Islamic Bulletin
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September 1999
Jamada 1420
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