Fiqh of Business

What is the Best Way to Earning a Living?

الحمد لله و الصلاة و السلام على رسول الله و بعد
These classes are based upon the commentary of the eminent Shaikh Atiyya Muhammad Saalam, given in Masjid an-Nabawi, in Madinah al-Munawwrah.
كِتَابُ اَلْبُيُوعِ  بَابُ شُرُوطِهِ وَمَا نُهِيَ عَنْهُ مِنْهُ
Chapter: Conditions of Business Transactions and Those that are Forbidden

The Hadith:
?عَنْ رِفَاعَةَ بْنِ رَافِعٍ ( أَنَّ اَلنَّبِيَّ ( سُئِلَ: أَيُّ اَلْكَسْبِ أَطْيَبُ
قَالَ: { عَمَلُ اَلرَّجُلِ بِيَدِهِ, وَكُلُّ بَيْعٍ مَبْرُورٍ } رَوَاهُ اَلْبَزَّارُ، وَصَحَّحَهُ اَلْحَاكِمُ.

Narrated Rifa’a bin Rafi’: The Prophet alayhi salam was asked, ‘What type of earning is best?’ He replied, “A man’s work with his hand and every business transaction which is free from cheating or deception.” [Reported by Bazzar and Hakim graded it Saheeh]

The Explanation

The author rahimallahu mentions that the Prophet alayhi salam was asked about the best form of income.

What is the best form of income?

Some scholars state that all forms of income are essentially based on three: agriculture, business, and manufacturing. These three are have growth, and development of raw materials and advancement of them. A farmer places a seed of wheat in the earth, and it becomes 7 plants, in each plant is 100 seeds. One seed grows to become 100 seeds. Likewise business, a person purchases a product for 10, and sells it for 12, this is growth. Likewise cotton, he takes it and weaves it, and sews the threads, and like this raw materials develop at the hands of the manufacturers. Each in his way. And in every stage of this production, the Ummah benefits.

Thus, the foundations of earning are these three. Then the ulema differ, which one is best? Farming or business. Some say, Allah put Baraka in 100 parts, and sent one part on the earth, and saved 99 for the Day of Judgment. The one part that he sent to earth, 99% of it is in business. And the rest is in manufacturing, farming, and other things. What is strongest amongst the scholars is that the best form of income is farming, since from it mankind benefits, as well as animals, and birds, all of them benefit from the work of the farmer. And some say, there is another form of earning, which actually is based on earning income by one’s hand (similar to farming) which is earning booty through je had fee sabilillah. And others say, je had is work done by hand, and therefore is not outside of the forms of earning mentioned.

Why were they asking about the best form of income?

Because they knew that having a good pure income would be healthy for the body, and helpful in obeying Allah. When Saad asked the Prophet alayhi salam, “Make dua to Allah to make me one whose dua’ is answered.” What did the Prophet reply to him? Make a lot of Salah at night? Fast a lot during the day? Give Sadaqa?

No, he said, “Make your earnings pure.”

And the other hadith, about a person disheveled and covered with dust, raising his hands up into the sky, saying: “O my Lord, O my Lord!” The Prophet alayhi salam said, “How can his dua be answered and his food is from haram sources, and his clothing is from haram sources?” Thus, consuming forbidden provision, and its forbidden nature, acted as a barrier between him and the answering of his dua. Thus, it was appropriate of the Sahabah to ask about the best form of income. And naturally, they did not ask about the best form of income except to seek it out and practice it.

What was the response?

“The work of a man by his hands…”

The word ‘rajul’ or ‘man’ is a description that is common, and does not imply the exclusion of others. Since a woman is included likewise, such as if a woman worked at home knitting and selling the things she knitted, or weaving, and in the old days women used to weave at home. And in the country side, women would sew garments and sell them. If a woman has work, for her likewise, the best form of income is what she does by hand. And if we look at those who do not do work, Umar said of them, “I used to see a young man and he would impress me, then I would ask about his work, and if it was said he has none, he fell in my eyes.”

And another point regarding those who deal in usury and interest, he does not do any work by his hands. He sends his money to go work at the expense of the people. He does not work, he does not farm, do business, nor manufacture. And the Prophet of Allah Dawud what did he used to do?

He used to provide for himself by earning with his own hands. What was his job?
“Wa alanna lahu al-hadeed” “We taught him the manufacture of iron.”

He was a Prophet, king, he did not depend on his kingdom or what was in his treasure troughs, rather he worked by his hands. And I believe every person can experience this, an office worker at the end of the month when he receives his paycheck, he feels a sweetness, it is his right, and in exchange for the sweat of his forehead, he feels its sweetness in spite of that because it is the work of his own hands. And if a person came to you and gave you 10 riyals, here’s a gift, would you feel its sweetness like that of work by your own hands? No. Because you have not exerted any effort in exchange for the gift. Even though it is halal.

A person who does not earn by his own hands, who inherited a large sum of money, you find that he consumes without even feeling it, he does not even realize the type of food he is eating. Unlike a person who works hard and works, no matter what type of work it is. As it is said, there is no embarrassment in working, embarrassment is in extending one’s hand to beg. And in the Prophet’s Masjid, there are those whom I consider stars, not humans, in the morning each of them has their belt on working in the vegetable market. But if it was between Maghrib and Isha, you would think that they were brilliant candles. Clean, kempt, honorable, present for the dars, I cannot find more words. He works, earns by his hands, and does not wait for the generosity of the people. Thus, the best form of earning is the work of a man by his own hand.

Some societies consider some types of work lowly, such as amongst the Arabs the Hajjam or the barber, in some cultures an occupation may be considered ugly, but in other societies it is not so. Repairing shoes…etc.

This depends on the culture. But as long as it saves him from begging from people, it is honorable. And if this hadith in the beginning of this chapter, is to indicate that the best type of work is by one’s own hands, how much does this hadith bring an end to wasting spare time, since every person wants the best earning, so he will go and search, and work as much as he can. The percentage of unemployment will decrease, which the civilized world complains about today. And the earning of a man by his hands, includes earning in any way, such as through speech, by guiding, by moving, digging the ground, manufacturing, etc, it is earning.

Thus, the Prophet alayhi salam was asked about the best type of earning, and he said, “The earning of a man by his hands…and every business transaction that is (mabroor) free of cheating and deceit.” This refers to what type of earning? Selling is it not by using his hands, he goes, brings the products, places them in the store, if they run out he brings more, he works with his hands and legs. But selling is specially mentioned. Mabroor refers to the sale that is free of cheating, free of deceit. Free from exploiting the ignorant, and free from exploiting situations. With fools, those who do not know the market. It should not be that if someone is ignorant, raise the prices, but if he is clever, you treat him with manners. No. He himself makes his sale mabroor.

If he is asked for a certain brand of product, that currently is common amongst people, and the customer does not know the difference, so he gives him a brand other than what is requested, since the customer does not know, this is not mabroor. This is cheating. The sale that is mabroor, first and foremost, the type of product being sold is permissible. 
And the price does not take advantage of the week and ignorant, he treats all people the same. There might by some slight variation amongst people, he decrease for this one 1%, or increases 1% for that one, this makes up for that, this is not gross fraud. He does not see the need of the person, and even though he has the product says, I do not have it, but if you want I can get it for you but it will cost more. He finds that the person is in need, and if he were to give it to him right away, the customer would bargain, so he says, it is not available. But I can get it from some business men for more. And likewise, he does not entice the sale by swearing oaths.

He swears an oath that it is perfect, good, new, so on, its price is good, I am giving you a low price, why all this? And if a businessman is known in a town for having a truthful tongue and an honest price, he would be the source of trust amongst the people. And if a person is known for the opposite, …beware of so and so…why?

“The honest businessman is with the Prophets and truthful…”

The sale that is mabroor can have a general meaning too, like the worker in his work, who does honest work with his hands. If he is hired to work one day, he does not waste the day coming and going, and find a way out of work. He goes to pray ‘Asr, and instead of making Wudu, he relaxes, why this? Any type of sale, being honest means sincerity, and not cheating, and sincere advice for Allah, and all believers, in that product or others.

And likewise the purchaser, he must be honest in buying, and not bring forged currency, and say, this is a simpleton seller, he does not know the difference between forged and real currency, and presents it to him. If he gives him a 500 bill, the seller does not know the difference between forged and authentic. It must be from both sides, the buyer and seller.

The Hadith:

وَعَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اَللَّهِ -رَضِيَ اَللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا-; أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ رَسُولَ اَللَّهِ ( يَقُولُ عَامَ اَلْفَتْحِ, وَهُوَ بِمَكَّةَ: { إِنَّ اَللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ حَرَّمَ بَيْعَ اَلْخَمْرِ, وَالْمَيْتَةِ, وَالْخِنْزِيرِ, وَالْأَصْنَامِ. فَقِيلَ: يَا رَسُولَ اَللَّهِ ! أَرَأَيْتَ شُحُومَ اَلْمَيْتَةِ, فَإِنَّهُ تُطْلَى بِهَا اَلسُّفُنُ, وَتُدْهَنُ بِهَا اَلْجُلُودُ, وَيَسْتَصْبِحُ بِهَا اَلنَّاسُ?
فَقَالَ: ” لَا. هُوَ حَرَامٌ “, ثُمَّ قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ( عِنْدَ ذَلِكَ: ” قَاتَلَ اَللَّهُ اَلْيَهُودَ, إِنَّ اَللَّهَ لَمَّا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْهِمْ شُحُومَهَا جَمَلُوهُ, ثُمَّ بَاعُوهُ, فَأَكَلُوا ثَمَنَهُ } مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah: I heard Allah’s Messenger alayhi salam saying in the year of the Conquest, while he was in Makkah, “Allah and His Messenger have forbidden the sale of intoxicants, dead animals, swine, and idols.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what about the fat of a dead animal, for it is used for greasing ships, greasing the hides of animals, and for lamps?” He replied, “No, it is unlawful.” Allah’s Messenger then added, “May Allah curse the yahood, when Allah Most High declared the fat of such animals unlawful they melted it, then sold it and devoured its price.” [Agreed upon]

The Explanation:

Pay attention to this order, the author began this Chapter with a hadith encouraging the best earning, the work of one’s hands, the honest sale. Work of one’s hands, includes farming, manufacturing, and business. But due to its special status, he mentions the honest sale, encouraging people to earn from permissible means. Then he begins with this hadith that corresponds with the title, “Chapter: Business Transactions, Section: Conditions of Business and that which is Forbidden.”

Where are the things that are permissible then?

It is not mentioned, why? Because the rule amongst the scholars is that amongst all things, the default is that it is permissible. Everything that grows from the earth, or comes from the ocean, or falls from the sky, or grows on trees, all of that, the default is that it is permissible, as long as there is no prohibition mentioned.

While in terms of worship, the default is that all forms of worship are forbidden, unless there is permission. You want to pray Isha at the time of Maghrib? It is forbidden, until the permission comes. You want to pray Isha five Rakaahs? It is forbidden. How many do we pray? That which we were given permission. 4. Fajr prayer, 2. Increasing is forbidden. And so on.

The default of things is permissibility, and the default of acts of worship is impermissibility. Then when the default of things is permissibility, it is thus permissible to sell all things, except that for which a text has indicated its prohibition. Now, do we need explanation of what is permitted to sale, or explanation of what is not permitted to sell? That which is not permitted to sell. Thus the title, The conditions and what is forbidden to sell. And Allah knows best.