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Islamic Business Guidance

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Islamic Business Guidance

Avoiding unnecessary disputes, and sealing a deal with peace of mind

Life is a rollercoaster, filled with ups and downs. Life is a test, full of surprises and challenges. As surprising as life can be, many things in life are inevitable. One of these things is the reality of struggling.

Day-to-day we face various struggles. Simple struggles like the struggle of waking up after a hard day, and not-so-simple struggles, like the struggles of earning a living, or the struggles to maintain a relationship. Sometimes we bravely advance conquering the struggles we face, and at other times we are left defeated and overcome. Whatever the case, in a life perfectly designed for testing us, the struggles remain.  

That being said, it must be noted that many of the struggles of life are avoidable. Very often, the struggles we face are direct consequences of poor personal choices and short-sightedness. Humans in their nature, are short-sighted and inclined towards immediate benefits. As a result, they are left feeling broken and depressed. To save us from all these ‘unbearable’ and ‘heart-breaking’ situations, Allah Ta’ala has blessed us with guidance.

In the guidance of Allah Ta’ala and the ways of our beloved Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), there is a healing for our broken spirits, direction for all that concerns us, and hope for an optimistic future.

Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا (الأحزاب/ 71)

Translation: “And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, has already attained success, a great success

Every action that is done in accordance to the guidance of Allah Ta’ala and the teachings of his beloved Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) is an action that will lead to happiness and success, and every word that is uttered in accordance to the guidance of Allah Ta’ala and the teachings of his beloved  Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) is an utterance that will lead to happiness and success. Success and happiness in every aspect of our lives, lies in following the commandments of Allah Ta’ala, in the ways shown to us by his beloved Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him).

Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُخَفِّفَ عَنْكُمْ ۚ وَخُلِقَ الْإِنْسَانُ ضَعِيفًا (النساء/ 28)

Translation: Allah wishes to lighten your burdens, for human beings have been created weak”

Humans have been created with weakness in their nature. The strength in man is confined by limits and weakness. The senses in man are confined by limits and weakness, the logic of man is confined by limits and weakness, and even the stress and burden that man can bear is confined by limits and weakness. There is only so much that man can bear. Allah Ta’ala is well-aware of our nature and weakness. Allah Ta’ala wishes to lighten the burdens of man. For this reason, we have been blessed with the Holy Qur’an, and for this reason, we have been blessed with a role-model (Peace Be Upon Him):

وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ (الإسراء/ 82)

Translation: “And we have revealed such a Qur’an, in which there is a healing (a healing for our broken spirits, a healing for our physical bodies, a solution for all our problems), and a mercy for those who believe”

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ (الأنبياء/ 107)

Translation: “And we have only sent you (Oh Muhammad!), as an expression of our mercy to the worlds”

Islam, being a complete and practical way of life, acknowledges that financial dealings with one another is a necessary component of life. Allah Ta’ala out of His mercy, to lighten our burdens, and to decrease the stresses we may have to face, has granted us guidance.

Working hard to earn one’s livelihood is a matter of honour. There is plentiful encouragement found in Shariah to work hard and earn a livelihood. The Qur’an and Hadith are filled with the virtues of such people.

Islam teaches us to be honest in our dealings, sincere in our work, and to create ease for people wherever possible. However, this does not mean that a person must force himself to incur a loss, and neither does this mean that he is forced to enter any deal that he is not fully content with.

As a person working hard to earn a living, trying to make ends meet, one of the most difficult challenges one can face, is dealing with a difficult client/customer. After having gone out of your way with sacrifice, time, and effort to provide a service or product, not receiving a payment can be really testing. Here are some practical guidelines that may be adopted where appropriate, to ensure safety and protect oneself from avoidable loss:

1)    Only accept a deal when you are completely satisfied

Allah Ta’ala guides us in the Qur’an

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُمْ بَيْنَكُمْ بِالْبَاطِلِ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً عَنْ تَرَاضٍ مِنْكُمْ (النساء/ 29)

Translation: “Oh believers, do not wrongfully consume wealth amongst yourselves but rather do so in a rightful manner, through mutual agreements and business dealings where both parties are content with the transaction

Allah Ta’ala has given guidance to only do business with one another in a manner where both parties are content and happy to go through with the transaction. When you are completely satisfied with a deal, when you believe it will prove to be profitable, when you are satisfied with the conduct of the customer, and you feel secure about the payment, only then should you go through with a deal.

There are various prevalent methods that can be used to help achieve that satisfaction and peace of mind.

1-    Pay Attention to the customers behaviour:

Very often, just from the customers behaviour, it is easy to notice hesitancy, lack of interest, unhappiness with the cost, doubts about the service you provide and so forth; pay attention to these things. With on the spot transactions, this may not be so much of an issue however, with transactions that include future payment, this could prove to be problematic. If a customer’s attitude is already like this before even having to pay, it is far more likely for them to argue over, or even try to avoid payments in the future.

2-    Do some form of a background check and know who you are dealing with:

Wherever you doubt the customer’s ability to pay for the service, you may do some kind of a check or take some kind of an assurance to be sure that they can pay, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a detailed credit history check. This can help save you from unnecessary trouble right from the start.

For dealings involving future payments, keep sufficient details to contact the customer when/if required. This can include the person’s name, number, e-mail address, home address, emergency contact etc.

3-    Take partial payment in advance:

You can agree with the customer to take some of the payment at the onset, to help cover costs etc. and take the rest of the payment after the job is complete. Although this is more suitable for costly deals, you may do this wherever you feel appropriate.

If a customer agrees to this, it is a good indication for the future payment also. If you are reliable and good at what you do, customers will be willing to give a portion of the payment in advance like this.

4-    Learn from people and experiences:

If you know others that provide similar services, and you are aware that they have previously had bad encounters with particular customers, in regard to payments etc., learn from them. Avoid dealing with such people completely or take precautionary steps to prevent yourself from falling into the same trap.

If you yourself have had bad experiences with a particular customer before, don’t repeat the same mistake. Either completely avoid dealing with that customer again or handle things in a different manner to save yourself from harm.

Keeping these things in mind should help getting through a deal with peace of heart and mind. Always remember, you are not forced to deal with every person, and you are not forced to provide your services to every customer. Dealing with late or missing payments can cost you a lot of time and money. Until you are not content and confident with the deal,  you are at liberty to avoid it. 

2)    Be crystal clear in your dealings:

Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا، يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ (الأحزاب/ 70-71)

Translation: “Oh Believers, be conscious of Allah, and be clear in your communications. If you do so, Allah Ta’ala will correct all your matters to your benefit”

Allah Ta’ala has given us guidance to be clear with one another whenever we communicate. This includes being clear in all our dealings and transactions also. There should be no beating around the bush, everything should be clearly stated, and nothing should be left ambiguous. 

There are various areas where clarification is needed and various ways these things can be clarified.

1-    Clearly state the price and what you will be charging for:

Both parties should be fully aware of the price and exactly what is being paid for. If the customer bargains with you that’s fine, however before concluding the transaction, clarify what you both agreed upon.

If you have fixed your prices and are not willing to bargain the price any further, let the customer know. Also explain to the customer what service you will be providing so there are no later disputes on the job being left incomplete etc.

2-    State payment terms in a visible and clear manner:

If it is an immediate payment that is fine, otherwise clearly mention when you would like the payment to be made. If you would like to be paid promptly, you shouldn’t just leave it in the hands of the customer or client to decide when to pay, it should be mentioned with your terms and conditions, for example. “Payable within 30 days”. Alongside this, explicitly lay out the process that you will be following for late or delayed payments or what will be done if something is left uncollected etc.

3-    Clearly mention what payments you will accept and not accept:

If you will only be accepting cash for example, this should be clearly noted to the customer before finalising the deal. This will allow the customer to properly decide whether they will be able to pay or not. Future payment issues can be prevented like this.  

4-    Be firm on your payment terms:

Occasionally it is fine to excuse someone however, generally you should be firm on your terms and conditions. If you are not firm on these issues, unfortunately people will take advantage of you. It is in human nature to take such leniencies and flexibilities as an excuse to delay and be lax about things. Even if at some point, due to some reason, you do happen to excuse a person, kindly remind them that your terms and conditions have not changed.

By keeping our dealings absolutely clear and transparent like this, we will be saved from many harms lying around the corner. Allah Ta’ala has promised, that our dealings will prove to be beneficial for us when conducted with such transparency. Although it is better to have all these details present in writing, they may also be verbally clarified with the customer/client.

3)    Keep dealings documented in writing:

Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنْتُمْ بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ (البقرة/ 282)

Translation: “O you who believe! When you deal with each other in transactions involving future obligations, till a fixed term, set it down in writing

وَلَا تَسْأَمُوا أَنْ تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَىٰ أَجَلِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَادَةِ وَأَدْنَىٰ أَلَّا تَرْتَابُوا ۖ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلَّا تَكْتُبُوهَا ۗ وَأَشْهِدُوا إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ (البقرة/ 282)

Translation: “And do not be reluctant on writing down contracts, regardless of how big or insignificant you may feel the contract to be. Putting your contracts down in writing, is a more just method in the sight of Allah Ta’ala, and it is more suitable for establishing evidence and removing doubts. However, if you conduct an immediate transaction among yourselves, then there is no need for you to record it, but still, it is advised to call upon witnesses when a deal is finalized”

The first part of the verses deals with transactions involving future payment or future consideration, and the second part deals with on-the-spot transactions.

Allah Ta’ala has given us guidance to write down our transactions, specifically transactions that involve future payment or future consideration. This includes writing down all rights and obligations arising from the deal/contract.

Having things written down, not only protects you, but it also protects the customer. You may literally have the transaction handwritten if you wish, otherwise there are many easier methods available today like typing it out and printing the document, or having readily available forms that just need to be filled out, or even a basic receipt system with a copy for yourself. 

4)    Remind the client/customer:

Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَىٰ تَنْفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (الذاريات/ 55)

Translation: “Continue to remind. For certainly reminders benefit the believers”

Allah Ta’ala has given us guidance to remind one another. Although this verse is not specifically related to business transactions, we can take from this verse that humans need to be regularly reminded on matters. Humans are forgetful in their nature, and so may occasionally just simply forget. Help them by giving them a reminder. This can be done verbally in a polite manner, or even through various other methods that are used today like setting up reminder messages via phone, or alert emails, invoice updates etc.

A key thing to remember when doing this is that ‘business is business’. Getting paid is not a personal issue. Ignore the awkward nature of the task and chase payments in a gentle, but firm and professional manner. No reasonable customer should feel offended by such a reminder.

5)    Speak politely:

Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

وَقُلْ لِعِبَادِي يَقُولُوا الَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَنْزَغُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ عَدُوًّا مُبِينًا (الإسراء/ 53)

Translation: “And tell My servants that they should speak in the most kindly of manners. Verily the devil is always ready to stir up discord between men, for verily he is an open foe to man”

Allah Ta’ala has given us guidance to be kind in our speech. At all times our good character must be maintained. Even if the client isn’t well mannered themselves or does make a mistake, try to keep yourself composed and solve the matter in a gentle manner. Soft words can soften hearts harder than rocks, and harsh words can harden hearts softer than silk.

Again, this does not mean that you must let people take advantage of you or that you must give up your rights. Don’t be hesitant to ask for your payment, but ensure it is done in a cordial manner. Try to even be friendly and polite in your invoices etc. This will make it a lot easier to have difficult conversations in a friendly way, and it will also mean less chance of a customer avoiding you if they are having financial issues and are too embarrassed to say they can’t pay you immediately etc.

6)    Remain considerate:

Allah Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (المائدة/ 13)

Translation: “But pardon them and bear with them. Indeed, Allah loves those who are kind and considerate

وَلْيَعْفُوا وَلْيَصْفَحُوا أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَنْ يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ، وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (النور/22)

Translation: “Rather let them forgive and overlook, do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? Allah is Forgiving, Merciful

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (التوبة/ 120)

Translation: “Verily, Allah does not let any person’s kindness or favour go to waste

Allah Ta’ala gives us guidance to overlook things and remain considerate. Whilst taking all methods to ensure yourself safety on a deal, also remain considerate. If a person is sincerely going through a hard time, and they have an acceptable excuse, be considerate and discuss/make suitable changes to the transaction. Keep hope in Allah Ta’ala and know with certainty that your kindness will not be wasted.

7)    Turn to Allah Ta’ala

Allah Ta’ala says in the Quran:

وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ (غافر/ 60)

Translation: “And Allah you sustainer has proclaimed, call upon Me, I will respond to you

Allah Ta’ala gives us guidance to call out to him and ask him. Allah Ta’ala is the one who can take care of all our needs and solve all our problems, be it financial or anything else. Turn your gaze and attention towards Allah Ta’ala and call out to him. Never forget that Allah Ta’ala has complete control over the hearts of people, he can change their hearts as he wishes. Allah Ta’ala can make a person whose heart was set on causing you trouble, and not paying you, to turn. Allah Ta’ala can even inspire a person with an inclination to come to you for your services, even if they had no previous thought of coming to you. Definitely, Allah Ta’ala is the changer of hearts. Submit yourself to his obedience, hand your problems over to him, and be certain of his response.

These are some broad guidelines, based on clear principles. Following these guidelines in an appropriate manner, will be a means of benefit for both the provider and client. It will be means of avoiding unnecessary disputes and financial stress.

Islam teaches commercial morality on the highest plane and yet in the most practical manner. It considers the bargains to be made, the evidence to be provided, the doubts to be avoided, and the duties and rights of all parties. Integrity and righteousness in worldly matters is not just a mere matter of convenience or policy, but a matter of god-consciousness and religious duty. Even our every-day transactions are to be carried out as in the presence of Allah Ta’ala.

May Allah Ta’ala grant us all the correct understanding, may he grant us the ability to accept his guidance, and may he give us the strength to follow the footsteps of his beloved Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) in every aspect of our lives. Aameen.

And Allah Ta ‘āla Knows Best

Bayazeed

Student – Darul Iftaa

UK

 

The Messenger of Allah said, "When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen."
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]