A Positive Business Ethicist


In the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times.

With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times

Parts: Intro  I

Why do Muslims love the Prophet Muhammad (saw)?

Because he promoted positive business ethics as a fair trader, even before becoming a Prophet.

At the time of the Prophet (saw), the city of Makkah- given its central location and the site of the annual pilgrimage- was one of the great centers for trade and commerce.  Caravans from Syria arrived from the north and Yemen from the south.  As a young adult, the Prophet (saw) accompanied his caretaker Abu Talib on his business trips to these and other surrounding areas, and quickly became a fair trader in his own right.

Positive business ethics may sound like a paradox, but it was supremely defined in the actions of Muhammad (saw) the trader.  Although the notion still exists in the present day, the overwhelming majority of us view corporations, wealthy business owners, and the 1% as greedy, power hungry, and unethical in their road to the top.  The wealthiest businessmen are thus envied- and perhaps this jealousy is what forces us to view them with contempt- even if a few among them are honest.

As a fair trader who utilized positive business ethics, the Prophet (saw) enjoyed profit in the honesty of his labor and the admiration of his fellow colleagues.  Due to his numerous fair dealings and upright reputation, he quickly earned the nickname “Al-Amin” or, “the trustworthy.”

While its no secret that corruption, greed, and shady business practice exist in today’s world, these concepts were not alien to the businessmen of Makkah at the time of the Prophet (saw).  It is in this sea of businessmen that the Prophet (saw) stood out as  “Al Amin” and was hired for a business trip to Syria on behalf of a wealthy widowed business women, Khadijah (ra). Accompanied by an employee of Khadijah (ra), the Prophet (saw) returned with more profits than she was accustomed.  In addition, he was described by her employee as a man of good character, honesty, deep thought, and sincerity. These beautiful personality traits are what ultimately attracted her to him and their relationship subsequently blossomed into marriage.

The importance of fairness in business transactions carried on into his years as a Prophet, as evidenced by books of hadith entitled “Sales and Trade” and “The Book of Transactions.”  He encouraged the sale of only the best goods in the market:

Ibn Umar (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (saw) forbade the sale of fruits until they were clearly in good condition, he forbade it both to the seller and to the buyer. (Sahih Muslim Book 10, Number 3665)

He further encouraged his community by praying for Allah’s mercy on them, provided they followed the following business model, as narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah (ra):

Allah’s Apostle (saw) said, “May Allah’s mercy be on him who is lenient in his buying, selling, and in demanding back his money.” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 34, Number 290)

The Prophet (saw) further promoted positive business ethics when stating, as narrated by Abu Sa’eed al Khudri (ra):

“The honest, trustworthy merchant will be with the prophets, truthful, and martyrs.” (Tirmidhi)

Muslims love the Prophet (saw) because he taught fairness in business practice while laying out guidelines that would lead one to this end.  His support for positive business ethics coupled with his own practice of it serves as an example of one who is true to his word through action.  Lastly, we are reminded that even in the split second we want to advertise something as better than it is, to sell something for excessively more than it is actually worth, or to try and make a “quick buck” by taking advantage of someone, that the axiom of business ethics remains true in Islam as well: honesty is the best policy.

Sources:

http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_1101_1150/business_ethics_in_islam.htm

The Sealed Nectar

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