Islamic Business Ethics

Once al-‘Ala ‘ bin Ziyad al-Harithi, a companion of Imam ‘Ali (a.s) became sick. The Imam went to visit him. After greeting him and inquiring about his health, when the Imam noticed the vastness of al-“Ala’s house, he said:
“What will you do with this vast house in this world, while you need this house more in the next world? Of course, if you want to take it to the next world, then you should entertain guests in it, be charitable to the relatives, and discharge through it the dues as they should be discharged. In this way you will be able to take it to the next world.”13
Let me conclude this section with an advice of a saint that I learnt from my late father:
“Son, if you want to be a fly, be a fly which sits on sugar; but, for God’s sake, don’t be a fly which sits on honey. Because a fly sitting on sugar leaves it the moment it wants; but a fly which sits on honey becomes imprisoned in it, unable to leave it and dies miserably.”14
C. Seeking Livelihood
Islam is not an exclusively otherworldly religion. It strongly emphasizes that you work hard to fulfill the needs of yourself, your family, and to help others. A Muslim is expected to be financially independent.
Working hard to earn your livelihood is not in any way reprehensible in slam. The lives of our Prophet and the Imams of Ahlul Bayt clearly encourage us to hard work for our financial independence.
The Prophet himself engaged in trade and business when he lived with his uncle Abu Talib. He was in charge of the trade caravan of Lady Khadija who later became his wife. lt is well known that Imam ‘Ali emancipated a thousand slaves from the earnings of the toil of his own hands.15
‘Ali bin Abu Hamzah saw lmam Abu’1 Hassan al-Kazim (a.s) working in his farm while his feet had become dirty with mud. He went forward and said,
”My life be ransom for you! Where are your men?”
The Imam said. “O ‘Ali, those who were superior to me and my father have worked with their own hands in their farms.”
‘Ali asked, “Who can that be?”
The Imam said, “The Messenger of Allah. Amiru ‘1- mu’minin, and all my forefathers; they have toiled with their hands and this is the tradition of the prophets, the messengers, their successors and the good people.”16
Muhammad bin al-Munkadir used to think that Imam Zaynu ‘1-‘Abidin (a.s.) could not have left a successor as good as himself until he met Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s). While strolling once on a hot summer afternoon outside Medina, al-Munkadir saw Imam al-Baqir soaked in sweat and tired from working on his farm. Al-Munkadir said to himself, “Praise be to Allah! An elder from the elders of Quraysh at this hour of the day in this state of seeking livelihood for this world- I should surely admonish him.” He went to the lmam and after greeting him , said:
“May Allah reform you-an elder from the elders of Quraysh at this hour of the day in this state of seeking worldly sustenance? What do you think of yourself if death comes to you in this state?”
Imam al-Baqir said, ‘If death comes to me in this state,then let it come because I am in the state of obedience to the Almighty Allah by which I intend to make myself and my family independent of you and the people. I would indeed fear if death came to me while I was in the state of committing a sin.”
Al-Munkadir said, “You have spoken the truth; may Allah shower His mercy on you! I intended to admonish you but am the one who stands to be admonished.” 17
‘Abdu ‘1-A’la once saw Imam Ja’far as -Sadiq (a.s) in Medina on a very hot afternoon and said to him.
”May I be your ransom! With your status in the eyes of Almighty Allah and your relationship with the Messenger of Allah, you are exerting yourself [for your worldly needs] on such a day?”
Imam said, “O ‘Abdu ‘l-A’la, I have come out seeking the sustenance so that I may be independent from people like you.”18
Imam Ja•far as-Sadiq (a.s): “The person who works hard for his family is like one who fights in the way of Allah.”19
Imam ar-Rida (a.s): ‘The person who seeks the blessings of Allah to maintain his family has more rewards than one who fights in the way of Allah.”20
Imam as-Sadiq: “Verily Allah, the exalted and high, dislikes long sleeps and long idle times.”21
Imam al-Baqir: “I strongly dislike the person who is lazy in his worldly affairs because one who is lazy in the affairs of his world is lazier in the affairs of his hereafter.”22
The Prophet: “Accursed is the person who puts his burden on the people.”23
When the verse
“And whoever fears Allah, He will find a way out [for him] and provide for him from sources he never thought of,”
Was revealed, some people went to their homes and got busy in worship and said, “Allah will take care of us.” When the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) came to know about it, he sent for them and said,
“What has caused you to behave in this manner?”
They said, “Allah [in the verse recently revealed to you] has guaranteed our sustenance, therefore we have devoted ourselves to worship.”
The Prophet said, ”Whosoever does like this, his prayers will not be answered. I urge you to go out and seek [your livelihood]…” 24
“Learn three characteristics from the crow,” said Imam as-Sadiq (a.s):
“1. It conceals its act of cohabitation;
“2. It rises early for seeking sustenance;
“3. It is [always] alert.”25
1. Hadi as-Sabzwari, Sharhu ‘l – Asmai ‘l-Husna, vol.1 (Qum: Basirati, n.d.)p.139
2. Sayyid Radi, Nahju’l-Balagha, instruction no.27
3. Nahju ‘l-Balagha, saying 131
4. Al Kulayni, al-Furu’mina’l-Kafi, vol.5, p,71; al-Hurr al-Amili, Wasa’ilu sh-Shi’ah, vol.12, p. 16
5. Al-Fu’ru, vol 5, p.72; Wasa’ilu sh-Shi’ah, vol.12, p.17
6. As-Suduq, Man la Yahduruhu ‘l-Faqih, vol 3 ( Tehran: Daru ‘l-Kutub al-Islamiyya, 1367 A.H) p.94
7. Ibid.
8. AI-Furu, vol. 5. p. 72
9. Tahdhib, vol. 6. p. 327.
10. In an interview in USA Today, 2 July 2002.
11. Wasa’ilu’ sh- Shi’ah, vol. I I , p. 597.
12. At-Tusi, Tahdhibu ‘l-Ahkam,vol.6 ( Tehran: Daru l’Kutub al-Islamiyya, 1365 AH [solar]) p.327-8
13. Nahju ‘1-Balagha. Sermon no. 209.
14. S.S. Akhtar Rizvi, Inner Voice (Dar-es-salaam: BMM , 1989) p. 58
15. This has also been narrated by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s). See Al -Furu ‘,
vol. 5, p. 74.
16. Man la Yahduruhu ‘1-Faqih. vol. 3, p. 162
17. Al •Furu ‘, vol. 5,p. 73.
18. Ibid, vol. 5,p.74.
19. Ibid, vol. 5,p. 88
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid, vol. 5,p. 84.
22. Ibid. vol. 5, p. 85.
23. Ibid, vol 5, p.72; vol.4, p. 12.
24. Ibid, vol.5.p. 84
25. Man la Yahduruhu ‘l-Faqih, vol. 1. p.482

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