Q&A: Business "Opposition"

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Question:

In the current economic climate, many businesses are barely trying to keep afloat. Therefore, the competition between businesses is fierce. During a discussion among a group of Muslim businessmen, some mentioned their strategies to “kill off” the competition. Many other “happenings” in the market place were also mentioned. However concerns were also raised in the discussion about the permissibility of some strategies. Kindly comment on what is permissible or prohibited from among the following issues:

“Poaching” experienced staff or agents from the opposition; Making secret contact with competitors’ staff (and sometimes also paying them) in order to ascertain prices and other confidential information; Wielding one’s influence with suppliers to prevent them from supplying competitors; Luring competitors’ customers with better offers; Deliberately pushing up prices by bidding against competitors at auctions, ...etc... etc. (question summarised)

 

 

Answer:

The key word in your question is “MUSLIM businessmen”. Since they are MUSLIM first and businessmen thereafter, at the outset some fundamental aspects are mentioned so that the issues could be understood in the correct perspective.

Some  of  the  most  important  aspects  that  a  MUSLIM businessman  must  remember  at  all  times  are  the following:

  • Business is an ibaadat (act of worship) provided it is done according to the dictates of Shari`ah. Furthermore, the honest and truthful trader will be raised with the Ambiyaa (A.S.), the Truthful and the martyrs on the Day of Qiyaamah. 

  • One’s sustenance is pre-destined by Allah Ta`ala. One will NEVER be able to earn a cent more than what is decreed, nor will anyone be able to decrease a cent from that which is meant to reach one.

  • Conducting one’s business according to the commands of Allah Ta`ala will be a means of great barakah and one’s earnings will become a true blessing. Transacting against the dictates of Deen will destroy the barakah. When the barakah is destroyed, such wealth becomes a curse and a means of great misery. The wealth itself will ruin one’s peace and happiness. 

  • Business is a means to acquire one’s necessities of life. It is NOT the object of one’s life. Hence, a MUSLIM is not greedy for wealth, nor does he hanker after it. He makes a reasonable, moderate effort and places his trust in Allah Ta`ala alone to provide for him.

 

INTENTION

Having understood the above, now consider the aspects you have raised. A fundamental factor to remember in this regard is “intention”. Any impermissible act or transaction will obviously remain prohibited despite the best intention. However, if an act is essentially permissible but done with the WRONG intention, though the act will technically be valid, one will nevertheless be sinful due to the evil intention. One will also be deprived of any barakah in that transaction. For instance, to offer one’s goods for sale to anyone who is willing to buy it is completely permissible. Every person is at liberty to buy from whomsoever he wishes. However, if the intention of offering goods at a better price is to lure customers away from the “opposition” in order to stifle him or drive him out of business, such an intention is evil and sinful. The same applies with advertising a vacant post and offering the job to whoever is interested. However, if one deliberately targets the staff of one’s “opposition” in order to weaken him is sinful, though the employment in itself is valid. As for trying to prevent suppliers from supplying one’s competitors, such action generally emanates from sheer malice or pure greed. Can one hold back what Allah Ta`ala has decreed for the next person??? If not, then why should one involve oneself in such sinful and futile acts???

Bidding with no intention to buy but to merely push up prices is impermissible. Likewise, all types of fraud, bribery, corruption, deception and deliberate misrepresentation are totally forbidden. It may sometimes appear that one is gaining by employing such wrongful strategies. The reality is that not a single cent more is earned. Instead one is merely destroying the barakah in one’s wealth.

 

“OPPOSITION”

You would have noted that the word “opposition” in this brief answer has been placed in inverted commas. This is meant to highlight the reality that one Muslim cannot be the “opposition” of another. A Muslim businessman has colleagues and “fellow businessmen”. Thus he loves for his fellow Muslim businessman what he loves for himself, since such well-wishing is a requirement of Imaan. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported to have said: “None of you is a Believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself (Muslim).” Every businessman who is a MUSLIM first, will make dua for the prosperity of his fellow Muslim and support him in whichever way possible.

 

PUREST WEALTH

By way of conclusion, it is appropriate to mention the following Hadith, which is very relevant to our discussion. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported to have said: “The purest of wealth is the wealth of the trader, provided that he does the following: When he speaks he does not lie; when he promises he fulfils the promise; when something is kept with him as amanat (in trust) he does not misappropriate the trust; if he buys something he does not (unnecessarily) find fault with the item (in order to try and drop the price); when he sells anything he does not exaggerate in praising it; when he owes money he does not procrastinate in paying and when he is owed money he does not (unduly)pressurise the debtor” (Ma’ariful Qur’an; vol.2, pg.379).

May Allah Ta`ala enable every Muslim to conduct his business as a MUSLIM FIRST .... and in the true spirit of Islam.
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