Quran and Hadith on Economics
Islamic Worldview in Qur’an
Consistency of curiosity urges us to now spend brief moments to read what Allah has himself said about existential questions in His last direct message on earth. The message invites thinking, reflection, introspection and summarizes the monotheistic worldview.
i) – Reflection on Nature, Ecology, Design, Complexity & Meaning
“In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships that sail the ocean bearing cargoes beneficial to man; in the water which God sends down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death, scattering over it all kinds of animals; in the courses of the winds, and in the clouds pressed into service between earth and sky, there are indeed signs for people who use their reason.” (Al-Baqarah: 164)
“It is He who made the sun radiate a brilliant light and the moon shed its lustre, and ordained for it stages so that you may learn to count out the years and [to make other such] reckoning of time. God has not created all these without a purpose. He makes plain His revelations to men of understanding. In the alternation of night and day, and in all that God has created in the heavens and the earth, there are signs for a God-fearing people. (Younus: 5-6)
“It is God who enables you to travel on land and sea. And when you are sailing on ships and rejoicing in the favourable wind, a storm arrives, and the waves surge upon those on board from every side and they think they are encompassed, then they make a fervent appeal to God, saying in all sincerity, ‘If You deliver us from this, we will surely be of the thankful.’ But when He has delivered them, they begin, wrongfully to commit excesses in the land. O you men, your excesses only affect your own selves. Have the enjoyment of the present life. Then to Us you shall return; and We will inform you of all that you have done. The life of the world is like the water which We send down from the sky, and which is absorbed by the plants of the earth, from which men and cattle eat. But when the earth has taken on its finest appearance, and looks beautiful, and its people think they have it under their control, then by day or by night, Our command comes to it and We convert it into a field of stubble, as if nothing had existed there the day before. Thus, We make plain Our revelations for those who reflect.” (Younus: 22-24)
“It is He who has made the night dark for you so that you may rest in it, and the day a source of light. Surely, there are signs in this for a people who listen.” (Younus: 67)
“There is not a living creature on the earth but it is for God to provide its sustenance. He knows its dwelling and its [final] resting place…” (Hud: 6)
“On the earth are diverse tracts, adjoining one another: vineyards and cornfields and groves of palm, the single and the clustered. Their fruits are nourished by the same water; yet We make the taste of some excel that of others. In this also are signs for people who understand.” (Al-Ra’D: 4)
“It was God who created the heavens and the earth. He sends down water from the sky with which He brings forth fruits for your sustenance; He has made ships subservient to you, so that they may sail across the sea by His command; and has subjected the rivers to you. He has also subjected to you the sun and the moon, both steadfastly pursuing their courses. He has subjected to you the night as well as the day; He has given you all that you asked of Him; and if you try to reckon up God’s favours, you will not be able to count them. Truly man is very unjust, very ungrateful.” (Ibrahim: 32-34)
“We have spread out the earth, and set upon it firm mountains and caused everything to grow in due proportion. We have provided therein a means of livelihood for you and for all those creatures for whom you do not provide.” (Al-Hijr: 19-20)
“He created the heavens and the earth for a true purpose. He is exalted above anything they associate with Him. He created man out of a [mere] drop of sperm: yet he shows himself to be openly contentious! He has created cattle for you: from them you derive food and clothing and numerous other benefits; how pleasant they look when you bring them home in the evenings and when you take them out to pasture in the mornings. They carry your loads to places which you could otherwise not reach without great hardship—surely, your Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (Al-Nahl: 3-8)
“God sends down water from the sky and with it revives the earth when it is dead. There is truly a sign in this for people who listen. There is also a lesson for you in cattle. From the contents of their bellies, from between the dung and blood, We give you pure milk to drink, pleasant for those who drink it. From the fruit of the date palm and the grapes, you derive intoxicants as well as wholesome food. Surely in this there is a sign for men of understanding. Your Lord inspired the bee, saying, ‘Make your homes in the mountains, in the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then feed on every kind of fruit, and follow the trodden paths of your Lord.’ From its belly comes a drink with different colours which provides healing for mankind. Indeed, in this there is a sign for people who give thought.” (Al-Nahl: 65-69)
“Do they not see the birds held poised in the vault of heaven? Nothing holds them up except God. Truly, there are signs in this for those who believe. God has made your houses places of rest for you and made tents for you out of cattle hides, which are light for you to carry, both when you are travelling and when you are staying in one place. He provides for you from the wool and fur and hair of cattle, household goods and articles for use for a time.” (Al-Nahl: 79-80)
“Your Lord is He who causes the ships to move onward for you across the sea, so that you may go in quest of His bounty: He is most merciful towards you. When danger threatens you at sea, you call upon Him, and forget all others you are used to invoke. But when He brings you safe to land, you turn away from Him. Man is ever ungrateful.” (Al-Isra: 66-67)
“It is He who has laid out the earth for you and traced routes in it and sent down water from the sky. We have brought forth every sort of plant with it, so eat and graze your cattle. In this, there are signs for men of understanding. From the earth, We have created you and We will return you to it, and from it We shall bring you forth a second time.” (Taha: 53-55)
“Do not those who deny the truth see that the heavens and the earth were joined together and that We then split them asunder? And that We have made every living thing out of water? Will they still not believe? We set firm mountains upon the earth lest it should sway under them, and We placed therein passages for paths so that they might find their way. We have made the heaven a well secured canopy; yet still they turn away from Our signs. It is He who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, each gliding in its orbit.” (Al-Anbiya: 30-33)
“Then, We placed him as a drop of fluid in a safe place, then We developed that drop into a clinging form, and We developed that form into a lump of flesh, and We developed that lump into bones, and clothed the bones with flesh. Then We brought him into being as a new creation—glory be to God, the best of creators—after this you shall surely die. Then you will be raised up again on the Resurrection Day.” (Al-Mu’minun: 13-16)
“We sent down water from the sky in due measure and lodged it in the earth—but if We please, We have the power to take it away— We have produced palm-groves and vineyards for you, in which there are abundant fruits for you; and you eat these, also a tree growing on Mount Sinai which produces oil and a condiment for those who eat it. You have a lesson in livestock. We provide you with drink from what is in their bellies, and you have many other benefits from them; some of them you eat, and you ride on them as you do in ships.” (Al-Mu’minun: 18-22)
“He it is who has multiplied you on the earth and to Him you shall all be gathered: He is the One who gives life and causes death and He controls the alternation of night and day. Will you not then understand?” (Al-Mu’minun: 79-80)
“As for those who deny the truth, their works are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty traveller thinks it to be water, but when he comes near, he finds it to be nothing. He finds God there, who pays him his account in full. God is swift in His reckoning.” (Al-Nur: 39)
“God created every creature from water. Some crawl upon their bellies, others walk on two legs, and others walk on four. God creates what He pleases. He has power over all things.” (Al-Nur: 45)
“Surely, whatever is in the heavens and on the earth belongs to God. God knows well what condition you are in. On the Day when they return to Him, He will declare to them all that they have done. God has full knowledge of all things.” (Al-Nur: 64)
“It is He who sends the winds as heralds of His mercy and We send down pure water from the sky, so that We may bring life to a dead land; and slake the thirst of Our creation; cattle and men, in great numbers.” (Al-Furqan: 48-49)
“Who created the heavens and the earth and sends down water for you from the sky, by which We make luxuriant gardens grow—you could never make such trees grow in them— is it another deity besides God? No indeed, but they are a people who equate others with Him. Who is it that made the earth a stable place to live in? Who made rivers flow through it? Who set mountains upon it and placed a barrier between the two seas? Is there another deity besides God? Indeed, most of them have no knowledge.” (Al-Naml: 60-61)
“Do they not see how God originates creation, then reproduces it? That surely is easy for God. Tell them, ‘Roam the earth and see how He originated creation. Then God will bring into being your second life. God has power over all things.” (Al-Ankabut: 19-20)
“He brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living. He gives life to the earth after its death, and you shall be raised to life in the same way.” (Al-Rum: 19)
“The two water reservoirs are not alike. The one is sweet, thirst quenching, and pleasant to drink from, while the other is salty and bitter. Yet from each you eat fresh fish and extract ornaments to wear, and in each you see the ships ploughing through the waves so that you may seek His bounty and so that you may feel thankful.” (Fatir: 12)
“Did you not see how God sent down water from the sky with which We bring forth fruit of diverse colours? In the mountains there are streaks of various shades of white and red, and jet-black rocks; in like manner, men, beasts, and cattle have their diverse hues too. Only those of His servants, who possess knowledge, fear God. God is almighty and most forgiving.” (Fatir: 27-28)
“It is God who has given you the earth for a resting place and the heavens for a canopy. He shaped you, formed you well, and provided you with good things. Such is God, your Lord, so glory be to Him, the Lord of the Universe. He is the Living One. There is no deity save Him. So pray to Him, making religion pure for Him [only]. Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe!” (Ghafir: 64-65)
“It is God who provides livestock for you, some for riding and some for your food: you have other benefits in them too. You can reach any destination you wish on them: they carry you by land, as ships carry you on the sea. He shows you His signs; which then of the signs of God will you deny?” (Ghafir: 79-81)
“Among His signs is this: you see the earth dry and barren, but when We send down on it water, it stirs and swells: most surely He who gives it life is the giver of life to the dead; surely He has power over all things.” (Fussilat: 39)
“We shall show them Our signs in the universe and within themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that your Lord is the witness of all things? Yet they still doubt that they will ever meet their Lord. Surely, He encompasses all things.” (Fussilat: 53-54)
“Among His signs are the ships sailing like mountains on the sea. If He willed, He could bring the wind to a standstill and they would lie motionless on the surface of the sea—truly there are signs in this for anyone who is steadfast and grateful—” (Al-Shura: 32-33)
“His is all that the heavens and the earth contain. To God shall all things return.” (A’al-e-Imran: 109)
“The sun cannot overtake the moon, nor can the night outpace the day: each floats in [its own] orbit.” (Yaseen: 40)
“Do they not see that, among the things which Our hands have fashioned, We have created for them cattle of which they are the masters, We have subjected these to them, so that some may be used for riding and some for food? And they have (other) benefits from them, and they get (milk) to drink, will they not then be grateful?” (Yaseen: 71-73)
“Have they not observed the sky above them and marked how We have built it and adorned it, leaving no flaws in it; We spread out the earth and set upon it solid mountains and We brought forth from it all kinds of delightful plants, as a lesson and reminder for every human being who turns to God; and We have sent down from the sky blessed water with which We have brought forth gardens and grain to be harvested, and tall palm-trees with their thickly-clustered dates, as a provision for human beings; and by [all] this We bring dead land to life. Such shall be the Resurrection.” (Qaaf: 6-11)
“Do they not see the birds above them spreading and closing their wings? None save the Merciful sustains them. Surely, He observes all things.” (Al-Mulk: 19)
“From the rain clouds, We send waters pouring down in abundance, so that We may bring forth thereby grain and a variety of plants, and gardens dense with foliage.” (Al-Naba: 14-16)
“Say, ‘It is He who has scattered you on the earth; and it is to Him that you shall all be gathered [on the Day of Resurrection].’” (Al-Mulk: 24)
“… You will not find any flaw in the creation of the Gracious One. Then look once again: can you see any flaw? Then look again and again. Your gaze will come back to you confused and exhausted.” (Al-Mulk: 3-4)
“He causes the break of day, and has made the night for rest and He made the sun and the moon to a precise measure. That is the measure determined by the Almighty and the All Knowing. It is He who has set up for you the stars so that you might be guided by them in the midst of the darkness of land and sea. We have made the signs clear for people who want to understand.” (Ana’am: 96-97)
“It is He who sends down water from the sky. With it We produce vegetation of all kinds; out of green foliage, We produce clustered grain; and from the date-palm, out of its sheath, We produce bunches of dates hanging low. We produce vineyards and olive groves and pomegranates, alike yet different. Look at their fruit as He causes it to grow and ripen. In this are signs for people who believe.” (Ana’am: 99)
“There is not an animal that moves about on the earth, nor a bird that flies on its two wings, but are creatures like you. We have left out nothing in the Book—they shall all be gathered before their Lord.” (Al-Ana’am: 38)
“It is God who sends forth the winds as harbingers of His mercy, and when they have gathered up the heavy clouds, We drive them on to a dead land where We cause rain to fall, bringing out all kinds of fruit, just as We will raise the dead to life. Perhaps you will take heed. Vegetation comes out of good land in abundance by the will of its Lord, but out of bad land only scantily. Thus We explain Our signs in diverse ways for those who give thanks.” (Al-Ara’af: 57-58)
“[O Men!] Are you more difficult to create than the heaven which He has built, by raising its vault high and fashioning it flawlessly, and making its night dark and bringing forth its morning light, and the earth which He spread out, after that bringing forth from it its water and its pasture land, and making the mountains firm: [all this] as a means of sustenance for you and your animals?” (Al-Naziat: 27-33)
“Let man reflect on the food he eats. We let the rain pour down in torrents and then We cleaved the earth asunder. We make the grain grow out of it, and grape vines and vegetables, and olive trees and date palms and burgeoning enclosed gardens and fruits and fodder as provision for you and for your cattle to enjoy.” (Abas: 24-32)
“Do they never reflect on the camels and how they were created, and on the sky, how it is raised aloft, and on the mountains, how they are firmly set up, and on the earth, how it is spread out?” (Ghasiya: 17-20)
“Have We not spread the earth spaciously, and raised the mountains like supporting poles? We created you in pairs, and gave you repose in sleep, and the night as a cover, and made the day for earning a livelihood.” (Al-Naba: 6-11)
“He has laid out the earth for His creatures. On it are fruits and palm-trees with sheathed clusters [of dates], and grains with their husk and fragrant plants. Which of your Lord’s blessings would you deny?” (Al-Rehman: 10-13)
“Were they created out of nothing, or are they their own creators? Did they create the heavens and the earth? No! They have no faith.” (Toor: 35-36)
“He has sovereignty over the heavens and the earth. All affairs will return to God. He causes the night to pass into the day and the day to pass into the night. And He knows all that is in the hearts of men.” (Al-Hadid: 5-6)
ii) – God is the One and Has No Partner
“All those you worship instead of Him are mere names you and your forefathers have invented, names for which God has sent down no authority: all power belongs to God alone, and He orders you to worship none but Him: this is the true faith, though most people do not realize it.” (Yousuf: 40)
“Have you not heard of him who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord because God had bestowed the kingdom upon him? Ibrahim said, ‘My Lord is the one who gives life and brings death.’ He answered, ‘I [too] give life and bring death!’ Ibrahim said, ‘God brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up yourself from the west.’ …” (Al-Baqarah: 258)
“In this way, We showed Ibrahim Our kingdom of the heavens and the earth, so that he might have certainty of faith. When night descended on him, he saw a star. He said, ‘This is my Lord!’ Then when it set he said, ‘I do not love things that set.’ When he saw the moon rise and spread its light, he said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set, he said, ‘If my Lord does not guide me, I will be one of the misguided people.’ Then, when he saw the sun shining, he said, ‘This is my Lord! This is the greatest of all!’ Then when it set, he said, ‘My people, I disown all that you worship besides God. I have set my face with singleminded devotion, towards Him who has created the heavens and the earth, and I am not one of the polytheists.’” (Al-Ana’am: 75-79)
“He [Ibrahim] looked up at the stars. And said, ‘I am sick,’ so they turned their backs on him and went off. He turned to their gods and said, ‘Do you not eat? What is the matter with you that you do not speak?’ Then he turned on them, striking them down with his right hand. People came rushing towards him, but he said, ‘How can you worship things you carve with your own hands, when it is God who has created you and all your handiwork?’” (As-Saffat: 88-96)
“Before this, We gave Ibrahim his guidance. We knew him well. When he asked his father and his people, ‘What are these images to which you are so devoted?’ They replied, ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ Ibrahim said, ‘Indeed, you and your fathers have been clearly misguided.’ They said, ‘Have you brought us the truth or are you jesting?’ Ibrahim replied, ‘Your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, who created them, and I bear witness to that. By the Lord, I will devise a plan against your deities after you have gone away and turned your backs!’ He broke them all into pieces, except for the biggest one of them, so that they might return to it [for enquiry]. ‘Who has done this to our deities? He must be a wrongdoer.’ Some said, ‘We heard a young man, called Ibrahim, talking about them.’ They said, ‘Then bring him here in the sight of all the people, so that they may act as witnesses.’ They said, ‘Ibrahim, was it you who did this to our deities?’ He answered, ‘Rather this biggest one of them did it. Ask them, if they can speak.’ Then they turned to one another and said, ‘It is you yourselves who are in the wrong,’ then they hung their heads, and said, ‘O Ibrahim! You know they cannot speak.’ Ibrahim said, ‘So, do you worship something instead of God that can neither benefit you nor harm you?” (Al-Anbiya: 51-66)
“God is He who created you, then provides for you, then will cause you to die and then bring you back to life. Can any of your ‘partners’ do any one of these things? Glory be to Him and exalted be He above anything they associate with Him!” (Al-Rum: 40)
“People, here is an illustration. So listen carefully. Surely, those whom you invoke other than God cannot create even a fly, even if they were all to combine together to do it, and if a fly should snatch anything away from them, they cannot recover it from it. Both are indeed weak, the seeker and the sought.” (Al-Hajj: 73)
“God has not taken to Himself a son, nor is there any other deity besides Him; otherwise, each god would have walked away with what he had created. They would surely have tried to overcome one another. Glory be to God, above all that they ascribe to Him.” (Al-Mu’minun: 91)
“Those you call on besides God cannot create anything. They are themselves created. They are dead, not living; nor do they know when they will be raised to life. Your God is the One God. As for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, their hearts refuse to admit the truth and they are arrogant. God surely knows what they conceal and what they reveal. He does not love the arrogant.” (Al-Nahl: 20-23)
“Those whom you call on besides God are but creatures like yourselves. Call upon them, then, and let them respond to you, if what you say is true. Have they feet to walk with? Have they hands to hold with? Have they eyes to see with? Have they ears to hear with?…” (Al-Ara’af: 194-195)
“Those whom you call on besides Him have no power to help you, nor can they help themselves.’” (Al-Ara’af: 197)
“Say, ‘Have you thought about those you call upon apart from God? Show me what they have created on the earth. Or do they have a share in the heavens? Bring me a Book revealed before this or some other vestige of knowledge, if you are telling the truth.’ And who is more misguided than one who invokes, besides God, such as will not answer him until the Day of Resurrection, and who [in fact] are not even aware of his call.” (Al-Ahqaf: 4-5)
iii) – Origin of Human Life and its Purpose
“We have created you: why then do you not accept the truth? Have you thought about [the semen] that you discharge— did you create it or did We? It is We who have ordained death for all of you; and We cannot be prevented from replacing you by others like yourselves or changing your forms and re-creating you in forms that you know nothing of. You have certainly known the first creation. Why, then, do you not take heed? Have you thought about what crops you plant? Is it you who cause them to grow or do We? If We so pleased, We could turn your harvest into chaff. Then you would start lamenting, ‘We are ruined, nay, we are deprived [altogether].’ Have you considered the water that you drink? Is it you who cause it to descend from the clouds, or do We? If We so pleased, We certainly could make it salty. Why, then, are you not grateful?” (Al-Waqiya: 57-70)
“Say, ‘He is God, the One, God, the Self-sufficient One. He does not give birth, nor was He born, and there is nothing like Him.’” (Al-Ikhlas: 1-4)
“Blessed is He in whose hand is the Kingdom: He has power over all things; He created death and life so that He might test you, and find out which of you is best in conduct. He is the Mighty, the Most Forgiving One.” (Al-Mulk: 1-2)
“Most certainly We will try you until We have discovered those among you who strive their hardest, and those who are steadfast, and will test your record.” (Muhammad: 31)
“Every soul shall taste death; We test you with both good and bad [circumstances] as a trial. To Us you shall return.” (Al-Anbiya: 35)
“Say, ‘We believe in God and what was revealed to us; and what was revealed to Ibrahim, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants, and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the [other] prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them. It is to Him that we surrender ourselves.’” (Al-Baqarah: 136)
“And vie with one another for your Lord’s forgiveness and for a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been prepared for the God-fearing, for those who spend, both in prosperity and adversity, who restrain their anger and are forgiving towards their fellow men—God loves those who do good works.” (A’al-e-Imran: 133-134)
“Do not walk proudly on the earth. You cannot cleave the earth, nor can you rival the mountains in height.” (Al-Isra: 37)
“It was not in play that We created the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them.” (Al-Anbiya: 16)
“As for those who fear their Lord in the unseen will have forgiveness and a rich reward. Whether you speak in secret or aloud, He knows what is in every heart. How could He who created not know His own creation, when He alone is the Most Subtle in His wisdom and the All Aware? It is He who has made the earth subservient to you, so traverse its regions and eat its provisions. To Him you shall all be resurrected.” (Al-Mulk: 12-15)
“On the Day when every human being will find himself faced with all the good that he has done, and with all the evil that he has done, many will wish that there were a long space of time between himself and that [Day]. God admonishes you to fear Him, but God is compassionate towards His servants.” (A’al-e-Imran: 30)
“Do they not know that God knows all that they conceal and all that they disclose?” (Al-Baqarah: 77)
“Should We treat the true believers and the wrongdoers alike? What ails you? How ill you judge! Have you a Scripture that tells you that you will be granted whatever you choose? Or do you have Our solemn oaths, binding upon Us till the Day of Resurrection, that you shall have whatever you yourselves decide?” (Al-Qalam: 35-39)
“By the sun and its rising brightness and by the moon as it follows it, and by the day as it reveals its glory and by the night when it draws a veil over it, by the sky and how He built it and by the earth and how He spread it, by the soul and how He formed it, then inspired it to understand what was right and wrong for it. He who purifies it will indeed be successful, and he who corrupts it is sure to fail.” (Al-Shams: 1-10)
“Read! In the name of your Lord, who created: created man from a clot [of blood]. Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful One who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know. Yet man behaves arrogantly, because he thinks himself self-sufficient: truly, all will return to your Lord.” (Al-Alaq: 1-8)
“[On the Day of Resurrection], Whoever has done the smallest particle of good will see it; while whoever has done the smallest particle of evil will see it.” (Al-Zalzalah: 7-8)
Environmental Ethics in Quran and Hadith
If we want clean air, fresh water and proper sanitation for ourselves, then we must also like these things for others living in the present age as well as those who are to come in this world in the next generations. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that a Muslim is one who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol 1, Book 2, Hadith No. 9).
The realization of the enormous value of nature and environment even if it is in no one’s private ownership is vital for fostering a culture of care and responsibility towards the environment. Qur’an refers to nature as ‘Ayat’ (signs). Affirmative actions towards preserving and conserving environment are needed as a culture for achieving environmental sustainability. Islamic philosophy of life provides the necessary impetus and deterministic rewards for affirmative action towards promoting positive externalities in the environment. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever plants trees, God will give him reward to the extent of their fruit.” (Musnad, Vol 5, Hadith No. 415).
Climate change and environmental degradation is a slow and cumulative process. To protect environment, the efforts also need to be cumulative and consistent. A self-centric secular worldview encourages the self-centric use of private property resources. However, even small things done collectively and consistently can have a larger effect. The two-worldly view of life in Islam encourages socially responsible behaviour as one of the prime determinants of salvage in the life hereafter. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith No. 12491).
Qur’an informs that other species also praise and thank the Creator for the blessings. Qur’an says: “Do you not see that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth – the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind?” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Hajj:18). The single source of creation as encapsulated in the concept of Tawheed undermines the tendency to feel ‘fittest survivors’. It brings humility, congeniality and peaceful co-existence with other life in the environment. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to human beings”, and that: “Kindness to animals was promised rewards in life hereafter.” (Mishkat al-Masabih; Book 6; Chapter 7, 8:178).
In another narrative, the Prophet (PBUH) was asked whether acts of charity even to the animals were rewarded by Allah or not. He replied: ‘yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive.’ (Sahih Muslim, Book 26; Hadith No. 5577).
Killing animals for fun or mere sport is strictly disallowed in Islam. In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) created inviolable zones known as himā and haram, in which resources were to be left untouched. Himā applies particularly to wildlife and forestry and usually designates an area of land where grazing and woodcutting are restricted, or where certain animal species are protected.
Almost half of the food goes wasted while on the other hand, one out of every nine people in the world suffers from hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Islamic principles discourage conspicuous consumption on luxuries. The Qur’an says: “But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-An’am:141) When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) saw Sa’d performing wudu, He (PBUH) said: “What is this? You are wasting water.” Sa’d replied: “Can there be wastefulness while performing ablution?” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) replied: “Yes even if you perform it in a flowing river.” (Ibn-e-Maja, VI, Hadith No. 425).
Even with finite resources, we can still do much better in reducing hunger, malnourishment, child mortality and deaths from easily curable diseases. This requires a transformation of self-centric self-interest view of life into self-cum social-centric one. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Among the three types of people with whom God, on the Day of Resurrection, will exchange neither words nor look at is the one who possesses an excess of water but withholds it from others. God will say to him: Today, I shall withhold from you my grace as you withheld from others, the excess of what you had, but which you did not create.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 3, Book 40, Hadith No. 557).
Islamic Teachings Related to Economic Enterprise
Qur’an urges Muslims to show kindness, generosity and benevolence to their fellow human beings. Allah says in Qur’an: “… Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near to kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side and the wayfarer (you meet) …” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 36). Qur’an says in another place: “So give to the kindred his due, and to Al-Miskin (the poor) and to the wayfarer…” (Al-Qur’an, Ar-Rum: 38). Feeding orphans and poor is regarded as highly virtuous acts (Al-Qur’an, Al-Balad: 12-16) in Qur’an. Qur’an exhorts Muslim to look after orphans and treat them with kindness and generosity (Al-Qur’an, Al-Fajr: 17-20), work honestly in their property (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 220) and avoid oppressive treatment (Al-Qur’an, Al-Dhuha: 9) as well as refrain from harsh behaviour (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maoon: 2). Qur’an strictly prohibits usurping the endowments of orphans (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 2).
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declared that the best charity is to spend (in charity) while you are healthy, aspiring, hoping to survive, and fearing poverty, and not delaying until death comes to you (Sunan Abu Daud, Book of Wills, Vol 3, Hadith No. 2865). Allah wants the believers to avoid miserliness (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 37). Instead of enjoining miserliness, Islam urges Muslims to help one another in good acts and endeavours (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 2).
Since Islam only accepts pure altruism, it promises numerous incentives for it in its two-worldly view of life. Several verses in Qur’an promise due reward for pure altruism (Al-Qur’an, Al-Tauba: 121; Al-Qur’an, Fatir: 29; Al-Qur’an, Al-Hadid: 7). In several other verses, spending in charitable ways for the sake of Allah is compared to a good loan which Allah will repay with a manifold increase (Al-Qur’an, Al-Hadid: 11; Al-Qur’an, Al-Hadid 18; Al-Qur’an, Al-Taghabun: 17; Al-Qur’an, Al-Muzzammil: 20). In several Ahadith also, Muslims are encouraged to spend so that Allah also spends on them with His blessings (Al-Bukhari, Book of Commentary, Vol 6, Hadith No. 4684).
The Islamic teachings encourage striving for Halāl means of earning as long as the other duties, such as worship to Allah are performed (Al-Qur’an, Al-Jumuah: 10) and impermissible means and ways of earning are avoided, such as interest (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 276), bribery (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 188), fraud (Al-Qur’an, Al-Mutaffifeen: 1-4), gambling (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 90), theft (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 38), business of intoxicants (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 90) and prostitution (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nur:19), for instance. In general, barring the above exceptions, the Qur’an allows mutually beneficial and consensual exchange (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 29). As per Islamic texts, endowments bestowed by Allah are to be used for material goods as well as for societal causes to earn Falah (well-being in both worlds). Prophet (pbuh) said: “The truthful and trustworthy businessman will be in the company of Prophets, saints and martyrs on the Day of Judgment.” (Jami-al-Tirmizi, Vol 3, Chapter on Business, Hadith Number 1209).
Islam discourages idleness, dependency and unnecessary exit from the labor force. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “For one of you to go out early to gather firewood and carry it on his back so that he can give charity from it and be free of need from the people, is better for him than to ask a man who may give that to him or refuse. Indeed, the upper hand (giving) is more virtuous than the lower hand (receiving), and begin with (those who are) your dependants.” (Jami-at-Tirmidhi, Vol 2, Chapters on Zakāt, Hadith Number 680). In another Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) explained: “The upper hand is better than the lower hand, and the upper hand is the one that spends, and the lower hand is the one that asks.” (Sunan Abu Daud, Vol 2, Book of Zakāt, Hadith Number 1648). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that begging is not lawful for the rich and physically fit except for the one who is severely poor or in perilous debt (Jami-at-Tirmidhi, Vol 2, Chapters on Zakāt, Hadith Number 653).
Islamic teachings make a distinction between permissible and impermissible goods. Qur’an says “… Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth…” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 168). For instance, Islam forbids intoxicants (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 219), the meat of dead animals, blood and flesh of swine (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 173). In financial services, Islam forbids interest (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 276) and gambling (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 90), for instance.
In the Islamic jurisprudence, we also come across a hierarchy of needs. Imam Al-Shatibi has categorized human needs into three groups; i) Dharuriyah (necessities), ii) Hajiyah (conveniences) and iii) Tahsiniyah (refinements). In the hierarchical structure of needs given by Al-Shatibi, necessities include such activities and things that are essential to protect i) Imān (faith), ii) Nafs (life), iii) Māl (wealth), iv) Aqal (intellect) and v) Nasl (progeny). Thus, Islam recognizes physiological as well as aesthetic needs but requires moderation in consumption.
Endowment inequality and relative abundance of one or the other type of resource in this world among people does not provide any basis of superiority in Islamic social framework. It is only meant to test thankfulness, patience and fairness in interpersonal and socio-economic relations. Qur’an says: “Is it they who would portion out the Mercy of your Lord? It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in this world, and We raised some of them above others in ranks, so that some may employ others in their work. But the Mercy (Paradise) of your Lord (O Muhammad – PBUH) is better than the (wealth of this world) which they amass.” (Al-Qur’an, Al Zukhruf: 32)
Qur’an says: “And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them, the splendour of the life of this world that We may test them thereby. But the provision (good reward in the Hereafter) of your Lord is better and more lasting.” (Al-Qur’an, Taha: 131).
Islam allows trade, but cautions against unfairness, exploitation and deceit. Qur’an says: “Do not devour one another’s property wrongfully, nor throw it before the judges in order to devour a portion of other’s property sinfully and knowingly.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 188). In another place, Qur’an says: “Do not devour another’s property wrongfully – unless it be by trade based on mutual consent.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 29)
Islamic teachings related to commerce also strongly recommend fairness in trade dealings. Qur’an says: “And measure full when you measure. And weigh with an even balance. This is better and its end is good.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Bani-Israel: 35). In another place, Qur’an says: “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?” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Mutaffifin: 1-4). Furthermore, Islam also emphasizes on fulfilling contractual obligations in mutual exchange. Qur’an says: “O you who believe! Fulfil [your] obligations”. (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 1)
Islam allows profit motive and using the profits for consumption and further investment. However, it discourages accumulation for the purpose of hoarding. Qur’an says: “They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Tauba: 34).
Islamic teachings related to commerce denounce taking oaths for deceiving others. Qur’an says: “You resort to oaths as instruments of mutual deceit, so that a person might take greater advantage than another; although, Allah puts you to the test through this. Surely, on the Day of Resurrection, He will make clear the truth concerning the matters over which you differed.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nahl: 92).
In commercial undertakings, Islam encourages documenting the terms of the agreement to mitigate the risk of moral hazard. Qur’an says: “O Believers! Whenever you lend money for a particular period, write and someone among you must write it justly. And the one who can write must not refuse.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 282).
Islamic principles of trade allow credit transactions and debts but condemn defaulting on loans. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Any who takes out a loan, having resolved not to pay it back, will meet Allah as a thief.” (Sunan Ibn-e-Maja, Vol 3, Chapters on Charity, Hadith Number 2410).
Islamic principles of trade allow mutual bargaining to achieve the best result for oneself but recommend gentleness and softness in executing deals so as to avoid the zero-sum game and undue advantage. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “May Allah’s mercy be on him who is lenient in his buying, selling, and in demanding back his money [or debts].” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol 3, Book of Sales, Hadith Number 2076).
In selling goods, it is highly recommended that deceit is avoided in making and selling or products. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “It is not permissible for a Muslim to sell his brother goods in which there is a defect without pointing that out to him.” (Sunan Ibn-e-Maja, Vol 3, Chapter on Business Transactions, Hadith Number 2246).
In another Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “The seller and the buyer have the right to keep or return the goods as long as they have not parted or till they part; and if both the parties spoke the truth and described the defects and qualities [of the goods], then they would be blessed in their transaction, and if they told lies or hid something, then the blessings of their transaction would be lost.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol 3, Book of Sales, Hadith Number 2079).
Deceit in contracts to get an unfair advantage is strongly condemned in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Whoever takes a false oath to deprive somebody of his property will meet Allah while He will be angry with him.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol 3, Book of Watering, Hadith Number 2356).
Islam encourages the price discovery process to be natural and without any frictions and hindrances. To ensure that price is determined competitively without information asymmetries, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) forbade a town dweller to sell on behalf of a Bedouin and to artificially inflate prices (Sahih Muslim, Vol 4, Book of Marriage, Hadith Number 3459). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) forbade intercepting traders until they reach the markets with their goods. (Sahih Muslim, Vol 4, Book of Financial Transactions, Hadith Number 3821). Furthermore, in bidding for goods, assets or businesses, overbidding without having a genuine intention to buy (Al-Najash) is prohibited.
Speculative trades inflate prices and lead to artificial price bubbles and crises when these bubbles burst. To foster genuineness of trades and diminish the speculative motives, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “He who buys food grain should not sell it until he has taken possession of it.” (Sahih Muslim, Vol 4, Book of Financial Transactions, Hadith Number 3836)
In contemporary production processes, often labor is employed to produce the goods. In labor management and relations, Islam, unlike capitalism, gives due protection and credit to labour. To highlight the importance of fair treatment of labor, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “I will be a foe to three persons on the Last Day: one of them being the one who, when he employs a person that has accomplished his duty, does not give him his due.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol 3, Book of Hiring, Hadith Number 2270). On timely remuneration to labor, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Give the labor his wage before his sweat dries”. (Sunan Ibn-e-Maja, Vol 3, Book of Pawning, Hadith Number 2443)
In another Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Those are your brothers [workers under you] who are around you; Allah has placed them under you. So, if anyone of you has someone under him, he should feed him out of what he himself eats, clothe him like what he himself puts on, and let him not put so much burden on him that he is not able to bear, [and if that be the case], then lend your help to him.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol 3, Book of Manumission, Hadith Number 2545).
Islamic Teachings Related to Consumption and Spending
In describing human’s nature, Qur’an mentions that humans are generally hasty (Al-Qur’an, Al-Isra: 11), miserly (Al-Qur’an, Al-Isra: 100), impatient (Al-Qur’an, Al-Ma’arij: 19) and have a love of wealth (Al-Qur’an, Al-Aadiyat: 8). Humans have desire to consume positional goods and indulging in conspicuous consumption (Al-Qur’an, Al-Takaathur: 1-2). According to Islamic texts, human instinct prefers goods which serve survival needs as well as other wants which serve non-survival needs (Al-Qur’an, Aal’-Imran: 14). The story of Jews asking Moses (pbuh) for a variety of food (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 61) also hints at the desire for variety in consumption bundles and diminishing marginal utility. In a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “If Adam’s son had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys, for nothing fills his mouth except dust (of the grave)…” (Al-Bukhari, Book of Ar-Riqaq, Vol 8, Hadith No. 6436). This also hints at the instinctive desire of humans for non-satiated preferences. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “The heart of an old man remains young with regards to two things: Love of life and wealth.” (Al-Muslim, Book of Zakat, Vol 3, Hadith No. 2410).
However, we shall see how Islamic teachings prescribe guidelines for moderating these instincts and inculcating empathy in conduct and behaviour.
Islamic teachings make a distinction between permissible and impermissible goods. Qur’an says “… Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth…” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 168). Islam forbids intoxicants (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 219), the meat of dead animals, blood and flesh of swine (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 173). In financial services, Islam forbids interest (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 276) and gambling (Al-Qur’an, Al-Maida: 90), for instance. On some occasions, even lawful goods become impermissible, such as during the time of fasting (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 183). Fasting in Islam is prescribed for Muslims to make them become God-fearing by restraining their desires and achieving moral consciousness. Nevertheless, Islam does not approve monasticism (Al-Qur’an, Al-Hadid: 27).
Instead of being miser and spendthrift, Islam wants Muslims to have moderation in their consumption, both with respect to contemporaneous consumption as well as inter-temporal consumption. Allah in Qur’an says: “And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Isra: 29). In another verse, Qur’an says: “And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Furqan: 67). In a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Spend according to your means; and do not hoard, for Allah will withhold from you.” (Al-Muslim, Book of Zakah, Vol 3, Hadith No. 2378). Islam expects Muslims to avoid being spendthrift and extravagant. Allah in Qur’an says: “… Waste not by extravagance. Verily, He likes not those who waste” (Al-Qur’an, Al-An’am: 141). In another verse, Allah in Qur’an says “…Spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Isra: 26).
Islamic principles recognize consumption externalities and counter them by explicitly cautioning against envy, egoism and pride. Instead of consuming positional goods and indulging in conspicuous consumption, Islam wants Muslims to observe humbleness and shun pride (Al-Qur’an, Al-Isra: 37; Al-Qur’an, Luqman 18). Qur’an says that Allah does not like prideful boasters (Al-Qur’an, Al-Hadid: 23).
Islam also does not approve of envious behaviour. Qur’an says: “The desire for piling up of worldly things diverts you until you reach the graves.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Takaathur: 1-2). Instead, Qur’an prescribes “… Do not covet the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on some of you than others…” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Nisa: 32).
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Envy consumes good deeds just as fire consumes wood, and charity extinguishes bad deeds just as water extinguishes the fire.” (Sunan Ibn-e-Maja, Chapters on Asceticism, Vol 5, Hadith No. 4210). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) educated Muslims to be like none except the one who is given the knowledge of Qur’an and the one who spends in charity (Al-Bukhari, Book of Virtues of the Qur’an, Vol 6, Hadith No. 5025). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised: “Look at the one who is at a lower level than you, and do not look at the one who is above you, for that may keep you from scorning the blessings of Allah.” (Al-Muslim, Book of Asceticism, Vol 7, Hadith No. 7430)
Qur’an educates Muslims that wealth will not last forever (Al-Qur’an, Al-Humazah: 1-3). Wealth and children are only a trial (Al-Qur’an, Al-Taghabun: 15). The temporary nature of this worldly life and material dispensation is eloquently summed up by Qur’an as follows:
“Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw…” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Hadid: 20). In one Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Richness is not in having many possessions, but richness is being content with oneself.” (Jamai-at-Tirmidhi, Chapters on Zuhd, Vol 4, Hadith No. 2373).
Islam does not recognize impure altruism to satisfy ego and to achieve fame and recognition (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 264; Al-Qur’an, Al-Maoon: 6). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised anonymity and secrecy in charitable giving such that the right hand does not know what the left hand is giving (Al-Muslim, Book of Zakat, Vol 3, Hadith No. 2380). Allah says of the ideal believers in Qur’an: “And they give food, in spite of their love for it to Miskin (poor), the orphan, and the captive. (Saying): ‘We feed you seeking Allah’s countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you’.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Insaan: 8-9). Qur’an urges believers to spend what they love in order to achieve righteousness (Aal’-Imran: 92), spend throughout their lives (Al-Qur’an, Al-Munafiqun: 10) and the ideal is to spend whatever is beyond their needs (Al-Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 219).