Islamic Ethics, Commerce and Business

The Muslim ethical system has four sources: the Quran, the sayings and behaviour of Prophet Mohammad (saw), the example set by his companions, and the interpretations of Muslim scholars of these sources. These provide an entire socioeconomic system that guides the behaviour of Muslims. The system stresses the importance of human well-being and good life, religious brotherhood and sisterhood, socioeconomic justice, and a balanced satisfaction of both the material and the spiritual.

In economics, Islam supplies a practical programme that includes detailed coverage of specific economic variables such as interest, taxation, circulation of wealth, fair trading and consumption. Islamic law, which is obtained from the sources listed above, covers business relationships between buyers and sellers, employers and employees and lenders and borrowers.

Islam teaches Muslims to be moderate in all of their affairs and Islam recognizes the contribution of individual self interest through profit and private property to individual initiative, drive, efficiency and enterprise. However, profit is not the chief motive.

Since Islam places a greater emphasis on duties than on rights, social good or the benefit of the society as a whole, not profit, should guide Muslim entrepreneurs in their decisions. The argument underlying this stand is that if duties are fulfilled by everyone, then the individual self interest is automatically controlled and the rights of all are protected.

The Quran provides a balanced view of human motivation; desire for wealth and propensity for greed and selfishness in humans are recognized. However, since business has to be conducted within a social context, Islam introduces rules to control these desires, as well as guide the behaviour of all parties involved accordingly, business success is judged not in material terms, but rather by the degree to which the Muslim is able to comply with Allah’s rules.

Business is one of the acts of devotion to Allah. We are granted opportunities to bring ourselves closer to Allah. We are granted opportunities to think and getting ourselves ready to uphold the shariah (rules) and the characters of Allah.

Business is an arena to seek “taqwa” (fear of Allah). While prayers (salat) are the specific occasions to renew our pledge and intention, to do post mortem on our past deeds, and to renew our hope to live and die to seek “taqwa” and to be a servant to Allah, business on the other hand is the manifestation of such prayers to widen, extend and expand the activities of the shariah of Allah.

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