Lesson 7 (Honesty in monetary dealings)

Chapter No.: 

Uprightness and honesty in monetary dealings forms a vital part of the fundamental teachings of Islam.

The Quran as well as the Traditions of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) are emphatic that a true Muslim is he who is honest and upright in his business and monetary transactions, keeps his word and fulfills his promises, shuns fraud and avoids deceit and perfidy, encroaches not upon the rights of others nor takes part in wrongful litigation, does not give false evidence, and abstains from making dishonest money as from usury and graft.

Whoever is not free from these vices is, according to the Quran and the Traditions, not a true believer but a renegade and a worthless transgressor.

We now proceed to examine some of the relevant Quranic verses and Traditions. A short verse of the Quran says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُمْ بَيْنَكُمْ بِالْبَاطِلِ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً عَنْ تَرَاضٍ مِنْكُمْ وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا ()

O ye who believe! Eat not up each other's property by unfair and dishonest means. (4:29)

The verse forbids Muslims against all unclean and corrupt means of making money, such as, dishonest trading, embezzlement, gambling, speculation and bribery. Then there are verses in which these hateful practices are dealt with one by one.

For instance, a severe warning is given in the following verse to traders who cheat in weighing:

وَيْلٌ لِلْمُطَفِّفِينَ () الَّذِينَ إِذَا اكْتَالُوا عَلَى النَّاسِ يَسْتَوْفُونَ () وَإِذَا كَالُوهُمْ أَوْ وَزَنُوهُمْ يُخْسِرُونَ () أَلَا يَظُنُّ أُولَئِكَ أَنَّهُمْ مَبْعُوثُونَ () لِيَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ () يَوْمَ يَقُومُ النَّاسُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ()

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) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds. (83:1-6)

In the same way the under mentioned verse exhorts Muslims to be very particular about their trusts and about other people's rights.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا

Allah doth command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due. (4:58)

At two places in the Quran a chief distinguishing feature of Muslims is said to be that they are:

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَانَاتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَاعُونَ ()

Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants. (23:8)

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used often to say in his sermons:

"Remember, there is no faith in him who is not trustworthy; there is no place for him in religion who cares not for his pledged word or promise."

Another Tradition says: "The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he is false; when he promises, he fails; and when he is trusted, he plays false."

Condemning those who cheat in business the sacred Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said, "He who cheats is not of us. Deceitfulness and fraud are things that lead one to Hell."

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) of Allah once came upon a heap of corn in the market of Medina and thrust his hand into it. His fingers felt damp. On being asked, the trader replied that rain had fallen upon it. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) observed, "Why did you not then keep (the wet portion of) it above the dry corn, so that men may see it? He who deceives is not one of us."

Thus, traders who deceive by showing to customers a false sample or by concealing from them the defects of the article they offer for sale are not true Muslims in the judgment of the holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and, Allah-forbidding, they are going to end up in hell. Another Tradition says:

"The seller must explain to the buyer the defects, if any, in the quality of the article offered for sale. Should this not be done, the seller will permanently be caught in the wrath of Allah (according to another narrator the exact words are, 'he will always be cursed by the angels')."

In short, all manner of deceit and dishonesty in business is prohibited in Islam. It has been proclaimed to be an act worthy of unqualified condemnation. The holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has expressed his strong dislike for those who do so. He has said that he will have nothing to do with them; they do not belong to him. Likewise, bribery and usury, although they might be practiced by mutual consent and agreement, are totally disallowed to Muslims and those who are guilty of them have been condemned squarely in the Traditions. A well-known Tradition on usury reads:

"The curse of Allah rests on him who offers loan on usurious terms, and on him who receives, and on those who are witnesses to the transaction, and on the writer who writers the deed thereof."

As for bribery, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has, in a Tradition, "condemned alike the giver of bribes, and the taker of brides in deciding cases".

A Tradition goes even to the extent of saying that, "If a person made a recommendation for anyone in a just matter and the gratified party gave him something as a gift (in return for it) and he accepted it then he committed a grave error (meaning that it, too, is a form of bribery)."

Worse still is the unsurpation of another's property by force or fraud or dishonest litigation. We have it on the authority of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) that:

"Whoever occupies land belonging to another unjustly will be sunk into the ground along with that plot of land on the Doomsday till he reaches the lowest layer of the earth.

"He who acquires the property of a Muslim unjustly by taking a false oath (before an Officer) is debarred by Allah from entering Paradise and the Fire of Hell is made inevitable for him", On hearting it a Companion is reported to have asked, "Even if it be a minor thing?" The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is said to have replied, "Yes, even if it be a twig of Pilo (a plant which grows wild. Its twigs are used for cleaning the teeth).

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), again is reported to have warned a person who was very fond of entering into litigation with others in these strong words, "Remember, he who will obtain the property of another by swearing a false oath will appear as a leper before Allah (in the Day of Judgment).

"Whoever laid his claim on a thing that was not his is not of us. He will do well to reserve a place for himself in the hell."

It is narrated that one day, after the morning prayers the holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) stood up and said thrice with great feeling that, "Perjury has been made the equivalent of Polytheism."

Ill-Gotten Wealth

Money or property, which is acquired through unfair means, as we have just indicated, is positively unclean and unlawful and anyone who makes use of it and spends it on his needs does himself a great harm. As the sacred Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has warned, his prayers will not find acceptance with Allah, his supplications will not be answered, his petitions will not be granted, and in case he does good deeds they will avail him nothing. In the Hereafter, there will be no share for him in the special favours and good graces of the Lord.

A Tradition says: "If a person earns or acquires anything through dishonest means and then gives away a part of it in charity, his act of charity will not be accepted, and if he will spend from it on his needs there will be no auspiciousness or real prosperity in it, and should he leave it behind to his descendants on his death it will serve for him as hell's provision. Believe it, Allah does not erase evil with evil (i.e., charity and salvation). One impurity cannot remove another; it cannot make it pure.'V

And another:

"Allah is pure Himself and He accepts only offerings that are pure."

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), at the end of the Tradition also narrated the story of a man "who undertakes a long and tedious journey (to supplicate to Allah at a haloed place) and arrives (at his destination) in such a state that his hair is disheveled and his body is covered from head to foot with dust. He throws up his hands towards the heavens and cries out, "O Lord! O my Preserver!' but his sustenance if of the impure and he has been brought up on what is polluted; how can his prayer be granted when such is the case?"

The above amply demonstrates that when a person draws his livelihood from impure means his prayers no longer remain worthy of being answered. Yet another Tradition of the holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) reads:

"If a person buys a cloth for ten dirhams (unstamped piece of silver which was current in Arabia of those days as a coin. Later it was altered into a round form and stamped. Its value is uncertain) and one of them is tainted (i.e., it has been earned dishonestly), none of his Salaah will be accepted by Allah as long as he wears it."

And, here is one more:

"The flesh gathered on one's body by means of unclean earning deserves to be thrown into the Fire".

Brothers If we have the tiniest spark of faith left in our breasts we must make up our minds, once for all, after hearing these Traditions, that whatever poverty and hardship we may have to endure in the world we will never care to make a single penny from unclean and dishonest sources and will always content ourselves ith what we earn through honest lawful means.

Clean Earning and Honest Trade

Just as Islam has condemned all unclean and unlawful means of making money as wicked and sinful and denounced all profits derived from them as filthy and devilish, in the same way it has proclaimed great virtue in seeking one's livelihood honestly and in engaging oneself cleanly in trade or profession. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said: "To earn a clean living is also a duty next only to the prescribed duties of the faith." "The cleanest food is that which has been earned by the labour of his hand. Indeed, Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) David used to work with his own hands for the food he ate."

"The trader who plies his trade cleanly and honestly will rise in the hereafter in the company of Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam)'s saints and martyrs.

Kindness and Compassion in Monetary Dealings

Islam has laid great stress on honesty and truth fullness in trade and other monetary dealings and described profound virtue and excellency in it. It has declared it to be a means of gaining nearness unto Allah. Islam, likewise, enjoins on us to be kind and avoid harshness and severity in our monetary transactions and has promised great spiritual advantage in it also. We will reproduce two of the Prophet's Traditions here:

"Blessings of Allah be on him who is mild and gentle in his business transactions and in the realization of his dues."

"Allah will protect him from the agonies of the Day of judgment who allows respite to a poor and indigent servant of His in the payment of his debt or writes off the debt (altogether or a part of it)."

These Traditions are meant for merchants and other wealthy men from whom people borrow money in the hour of their need. As for the borrowers, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to urge them to do their best to pay back their debts quickly lest they die in a state of indebtedness, with the claim of anyone lying unsettled on their heads. How strict the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was in this regard can be imagined from the following Traditions:

"If a person is killed in the path of Allah then all his sins will be forgiven (by virtue of his martyrdom). But if he owes anyone anything even martyrdom will not secure his release from it."

"By the lord in whose power lies the life of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), if a person falls a martyr in the path of Allah and returns to life and is killed again in the path of Allah and returns to life and is killed again in the path of Allah and returns to life only to be killed once more in the cause of Allah and there is still a debt outstanding against him, (until it is settled) even he will not be able to enter Paradise".

These two Traditions are quite sufficient to show what great importance Islam attaches to monetary affairs and the rights of men. May Allah grant us the wisdom to understand their delicacy and significance and to make it our constant endeavour to assure that the claims of no one are left unsatisfied by us!