Islam's teachings about honesty in business and at job
Dear brothers and sisters,
In our last khutbah, I spoke about the significance of respecting one’s parents, about remembering Allah SWT’s command to keep them happy and to always pay them our respect. In today’s khutbah, I want to continue our discussion regarding Huqooq-ul-Ibad and I want to focus on another aspect of our life... our life at work & our finances. Specifically, I want to talk about what Islam has to say about how our conduct needs to be when doing a job... showing business integrity and honesty while selling goods, offering services or when trading. All of us spend a major part of our lives working at a job or business to fund our needs and wants in this life. Most of us spend five days on average every week to work and then some if it is needed just so we can earn some money or some sort of financial gain to get our bills and loans paid. Hence, it's only understandable that Islam brings finances up into conversation and talks about guidelines that
should advocate our behavior surrounding money. Judging by the large list of literature available, it's safe to say Islam has gone more than out of its way to talk about showing integrity when offering goods or services to someone and lays heavy emphasis on keeping things halal (permissible and honest) at work or business. This is the reason why Islam condemns the practice of Usury (Arabic/Urdu: Riba) because the intent of that practice is to increase the wealth of the lender through unfair practices. Usury, by definition, is any clause that unfairly favors the lender and takes advantage of the one receiving money, e.g., in the form of high interest. This makes the rich richer and the poor poorer and hence, it has been strongly condemned as a practice. In several places in the Quran. E.g., in Surah Al-Imran [3:130], Allah SWT says:
O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubling and quadrupling (the sum lent). Observe your duty to Allah, that ye may be successful. An even stronger tone against Usury has been used in Surah Al-Nisa [4:161] where Allah SWT says: and [for] their taking of usury while they had been forbidden from it, and their consuming of the people's wealth unjustly. And we have prepared for the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. Islam is vehemently against having money concentrated into one pair or group of hands, that’s why not only Islam is against Usury (Arabic/Urdu: Riba), it also is a major advocate of Zakat and has made it obligatory on all middle to rich class Muslims. Allah SWT has commanded, in several places, that if we are a believer, then established prayers and give Zakat, almost always alongside each other. One cannot be a Muslim if they pray but do not give Zakat or gives Zakat but do not establish prayers, both are equally important in our faith as Allah SWT says in Surah Tauba [9:5]
But if they repent and establish prayers and pay Zakat, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Zakat, as I have mentioned before in my earlier khutbahs, is not wealth or income tax because unlike them, it's not levied on how much a person earns or what a person owns but instead is levied on what a person saves. Basically, if one is above the poverty line that Islam has established and if he/she can maintain that status for a full fiscal year, then Zakat is due on any surplus money left at the end of that year or any profits made minus all the taxes, pay-outs and investments. Generally speaking, that person is to pay about 2.5% minimum of that amount or value that is in surplus. This way not only does the money keeps flowing into the economy, It also incentivizes for people to not
horde or concentrate money into one place, taking it out of circulation. Also, because its generally given to those in need such as the poor or the needy, it forces the rich to keep themselves informed about those surrounding them and inadvertent, those who need financial help... maybe among the family, friends, neighbors or even strangers. Together, these two practices create new jobs in the market, allow financial well-being of the entire community instead of the privileged few and create a sense of goodwill in the community. And finally, to say the least, Islam is not at all ambiguous about the fact that we’re to keep things
honest and fair at work or business. Apart from the issue of Usury or the practice of Zakat, Allah SWT has told us to make sure that we stay true to our word if something has been promised as part of a verbal or written contract. And that those who don’t keep their end of the bargain, Allah SWT does
not shy away in taking a strong stance against those people and what they do. Allah SWT says the following in the first six ayahs of Surah Al Mutaffifin [83:1-6]
"Woe to those that deal in fraud,..." “those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure ” “but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.” "Do they not think that they will be called to account ” , on a Mighty Day when (all) nations will stand before the Lord of the Worlds These first six ayahs of Surah-e-Mutaffifin are an open threat by Allah SWT to those who think they can get away by giving less than what has been bargained or promised for while taking full payment. Allah SWT has said that if they think they can get away with it, clearly, they are mistaken because
everything will be accounted for in the day of judgement and that there will be no running away then.
Dear Brothers and sisters,
To summarize today’s khutbah, lets recap on the three things we have hit today. One, don’t practice Usury (Arabic: Riba) because that’s a practice specifically mentioned in the Quran to avoid and has been regarded as unfair. Two, give Zakat because among many things, it makes sure that wealth does not get concentrated into one group of people. Three, make sure that we never short-hand anyone when it comes to offering services, goods or money... essentially making sure that we provide whatever was advertised. There is a reason why prophet SAW, and his companions alike, used to access someone’s character
by asking if a person can be trusted with money or business. E.g., it’s narrated in several traditions that among the many reasons Hazrat Khadija RA considered before marrying prophet SAW, even though he was poor while she was not, she was told by her servants who accompanied prophet SAW about how honest and smart he was with her money when he conducted her business on her behalfas the head of her trading caravan towards Syria. Similarly, according to a hadith of Umar RA from al-Sunan al-Kubrá 19769, regarded as Sahih, it is narrated (in summary):
“When a man had given his testimony about an individual to Hazrat Umar RA, he had asked three questions to judge the person in question. He asked that individual whether the man in question was his neighbor, whether he had travelled with him and whether he had conducted any financial business with him. When that individual failed to say “yes” and replied no to all three questions, Umar RA told the individual who had come forward “You do not know him.” (Key idea: business dealings).
The main take away here is that it is reflective on a person’s character of a person on how they conduct themselves at work or in business and whether they make sure they keep things halal, (meaning fair and permissible) or not. I’ll end today’s khutbah by isolating one example from the Quran, if I have to, that highlights the importance of being honest when conducting business, after which I don’t think there should remain any doubt about how serious of an offense it is to be deceitful or to commit to fraud or resort to unfair practices when it comes to finances. I want to highlight the story of one of the lesser known
prophets of Allah SWT... Hazrat Shoaib AS. In summary, it is mentioned in Surah Al-Hood (Surah 11), that Shoaib AS was sent towards the people of a region called Median. And among the many issues Medianites had, they used to worship idols and that they used to resort to unfair business tactics. They would fraud people of their money, they would cheat people by selling them inferior quality products than what was promised, they would ask a price for a measure of goods but would deliver only a fraction of that measurement and worse, they would resort to arrogance and denial over their unfair practices when pointed out. After
repeated plea from Hazrat Shoaib AS over the course of decades, except for a handful of believers, the people of Median did not budge and instead, threatened him and antagonized him severely. In the end, Allah SWT passed his verdict on that region and told Shoaib AS and his believers to leave Median before morning because Allah SWT had ordained a major catastrophe (Arabic/Urdu: Azab) onto the disbelievers who were left behind. The Quran describes that event that the earth beneath these people shook and that the entire place left afterwards was as if it was never inhabited... everything disappeared. Such was the wrath of Allah SWT on those who worshipped idols and were unjust in their financial practices.