Keep Your Financial Transactions Clean
“O you who believe, do not devour each other‘s property by false means, unless it is trade conducted with your mutual consent. Do not kill one another. Indeed, Allah has been Very Merciful to you.” (4:29)
The verse I have just recited in front of you is about a very important area of Deen (religion) which is keeping one’s Ma’amlat (financial transactions) clean. Unfortunately, we have almost completely excluded this very important aspect of Deen from our lives. We have restricted Deen to a few Ibadah (acts of worship) like Salah (Namaz), Saum (fasting), Hajj, and Zakat, but when it comes to buying and selling, we behave as if it is not even a part of Deen. If one looks at the commandments of Shariah as a whole, only one fourth are about Ibadah (acts of worship) and three-fourths are about Ma’amlat (financial transactions) and Ma’ashrat (ways of living with each other).
Three Quarters of Deen Lies in Ma’amlat
There is a famous book of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) called Hidayah which is taught in almost all religious seminaries. This book contains all the laws of Shariah from cleanliness to inheritance. There are 4 volumes of this book. The first volume is about Ibadah (acts of worship) in which the laws about cleanliness, Salah (Namaz), Zakat, Fasting, and Hajj, have been described. The other three volumes relate to Ma’amlat (financial transactions) and Ma’ashrat (ways of interacting with each other). This gives us some indication that one fourth of Sharia’s laws relate to acts of worship while three quarters relate to financial transactions and how we relate to other people.
Ma’amlat Affect Acceptance of Prayers
Allah Ta’alah has deemed Ma’amlat (financial transactions) so important that if a person is not mindful of Hara’am (unlawful) and Halal (lawful) in their monetary dealings, then this also affects the acceptance of their acts of worship. Even if they meet the mandatory requirement of performing those Ibadah (acts of worship), they do not receive the eternal rewards and blessings from those Ibadah, and their prayers are not accepted. In a Hadith, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said that there are many people who debase themselves in front of Allah, in that their hair are scattered, they beg and cry while praying, “O Allah! Please grant me this or that”. They pray very meekly but their food is Hara’am (unlawful), what they drink is Hara’am, what they are wearing is Hara’am, and their whole body has been raised on Hara’am income. How can such a person’s prayer be accepted?
Repenting for Violating People’s Rights
It is easy to do repentance (Taubah) and atonement if a person has made mistakes or been negligent for Ibadah (acts of worship). For example, if a person was negligent of offering Fard Salah (Namaz) in his life, then he can start offering Qaza Salah. If he then becomes sick he can leave a will that if I die before I can offer all my Qaza Salah, then Fidyah (recompense) be paid against the remaining Salah from my inheritance. On the other hand, if a person has stolen money from someone or taken it from them by force or against their will, then regardless of how much repentance he does, his sins will not be forgiven until and unless the person whose money he had taken forgives him.
Hazrat Thanvi Re and Emphasis on Ma’amlat
For this reason, when training someone in the way of Tasawuf (internal purification) and Tareeqat Hazrat Thanvi RE used to place the greatest emphasis on Ma’amlat (financial transactions). He used to say that if he found out about any of his disciples that they did not complete Zikr (recitation of Allah’s name) or Nawafil (non-obligatory Salah) as advised, he felt sad and told them to perform it as advised. But if he heard about any of his disciples that they had embezzled some money or defrauded someone, he got extremely angry.
Tasawuf and Railway Ticket
There was a disciple of Hazrat Thanvi RE who he had allowed to take Bait (بیعت) from other people in Tasawuf. Once he had travelled to come to meet Hazrat Thanvi. He also had his young child with him. He introduced his child and requested Hazrat Thanvi RE to pray for his child. Hazrat Thanvi RE prayed for the child and just as part of conversation asked how old the child was. He replied that the child was 13 years old. Hazrat Thanvi RE asked him that while travelling on the train whether he had taken half or full ticket for the child. He said that he had bought half ticket for the child. Hazrat Thanvi RE asked, “Why did you buy half-ticket for him when the railway law says that a child over 12 has to travel on a full ticket?” He said, “Hazrat, I know the law says that a child over 12 has to travel on a full ticket but as he looks very young, I bought a half ticket for him.” Hazrat Thanvi RE replied, “Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Elaihe Rajeon (To Allah we belong and to Whom we shall return). It seems like you haven’t even begun to develop the most basic understanding of Tasawuf (internal purification). You have not even realized that your son’s traveling on half-ticket was Hara’am (unlawful). You stole half a ticket’s fair from railway. This is theft, and whoever engages in theft cannot be a Sufi. Therefore, you are not allowed to supervise disciples in Tasawuf anymore.”
Even though he was doing his acts of worship, his recitation of Allah’s name, his prayers, but because of this error of judgment that he didn’t buy a full ticket for his son as he should have, Hazrat Thanvi RE canceled his permission to take Bait (oath of allegiance) from people. Hazrat Thanvi RE always advised all his disciples that if you are travelling by train, and are carrying more luggage than the railway company entitles you to, then get your luggage weighed and pay the extra charge. Hazrat himself once went to the railway station to travel by train. He took his luggage to the office where baggage was weighed and joined the queue. By chance the guard for that train came and recognized Hazrat Thanvi RE. He asked, “Hazrat! What are you doing here?” Hazrat replied that he was waiting to get his luggage weighed. The guard said, “You do not to get your luggage weighed. I am going in the same train, so it is okay.” Hazrat Thanvi RE asked him, “How far will you go with me?” He replied, “I will go up to such and such station.” Hazrat asked, “And after that?” The guard said, “Another guard will board the train at that station. I will tell him that it is your luggage and not to inquire about it.” Hazrat asked, “And after that?” The guard said, “He will go up to such and such station and there your journey will end.” Hazrat said, “No! My journey won’t end there. I have another destination after that which is my grave and the Aakhirah (the Hereafter). Which guard will accompany me there? When I am asked the question on the Day of Judgment as to why did I travel on government’s train without paying the full fare due for my luggage and stole money from the government, who is going to answer that question on my behalf?”
The Effect of Hara’am (Unlawful) Income
People kept many teachings of Hazrat Thanvi RE but this teaching that not even a single cent of Hara’am (unlawful) income should be mixed with our income, has somehow been neglected. These days we are involved in so many Hara’am transactions that it does not even occur to us that these transactions are against the commandments of Shariah. If we steal, or defraud, or lie, to get even a small amount of income, then that income is Hara’am. And when that income becomes mixed with our other property, then its curse and negative effect also spreads to the rest of our income. Then we eat from that income, and make our dresses from that income, which spreads the effect of Hara’am to our whole life. And because we have lost our sensitivity to effects of Hara’am income, we can’t even notice what effect it is having on our life.
The Two Types of Hara’am
The reason committing sins is getting easier for us and we don’t find many sins as abhorrent as people did previously, is because Hara’am (unlawful) income has become mixed with our property. Then there is one type of Hara’am income which everyone knows is Hara’am, for example, taking bribes, earning interest, gambling, stealing someone’s possessions or defrauding them, etc. But there is a second kind of Hara’am income about which we are not even aware that it is Hara’am.
Ownership Should Be Absolutely Clear
The Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) has taught us that financial transaction should be absolutely clear, whether they are between siblings, parents and children, or spouses. Similarly, ownership of wealth, property, and even every household item, should be absolutely clear, whether a particular item or property belongs to the father, or the son, or husband or wife. In a Hadith, the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said, “live like brothers but conduct your transactions like strangers”. For example, if a brother is taking loan from another brother for business, it should be formally recorded that it is a loan and will need to be returned after so many days.
It is commonplace in our society that in family businesses no one knows who owns what, or owns what percentage of the business. If father and sons are doing business together, it is never formalized whether the sons are working as partners or employees, or are just helping their father out. Wealth and businesses keep growing but ownership is never clarified. And if it suggested to them that they should clarify ownership and in what capacity everyone is working, then they say what is the need for such clarification between brothers, or between father and sons. But when they get married, have children, and then one spends more in marriage and the other spends less, or one builds a house while the other hasn’t as yet, then conflicts start that one brother has taken more and I have been given less. And if by chance the father dies in this situation, then the disagreements become unsolvable.
Inheritance Should Be Distributed Immediately
When a person dies, Islamic law dictates that their inheritance should be distributed immediately among heirs. It is Hara’am (unlawful) to delay distributing inheritance. But in our society what happens is that when the father dies, the eldest son takes over the business, and the helpless daughters don’t get anything. They don’t even know what their rights are. Sometimes ten or twenty years pass in this situation. Other family members sometimes have added their capital to the same business, or one of the heirs has died too. Then after years when their children grow up, then the conflicts over control of business start. When these conflicts escalate to the extreme then they go to the Mufti sahib to find out what their rights are. But after decades how it is possible to find out in what capacity were the sons working with the father, were they shareholders or employees, because the rights under inheritance law change under those circumstances.
Building a Family House
Or for example, when the family house was being built, father provided some capital, some capital was provided by one son and some by the other son. But no one kept a record of who contributed how much, or whether what they contributed was as a loan, whether they wanted to buy a share of the house, or whether they were just helping the father out. The house gets built and the whole family starts living in it. When the father dies, or some other dispute arises, then the ownership of the house becomes an issue. Then everyone wants a share of the house. If they are religious minded, they go to a Mufti to find out how much their share would be in the house. But when they are asked whether any records were kept who contributed how much, and with what intention, then there is no answer. This is because people do not follow the teaching of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) when it comes to Ma’amlat (financial transactions). People find it easy to read Nawafil (nonobligatory Salah), pray Tahajjud, do Zikr (recitation of Allah’s name), but find it much more difficult, or unimportant, to follow the teachings of Islam about financial transactions. This can lead to eating Hara’am (unlawful). When a person doesn’t even know how much their share was, and how much the other person’s share was, then it raises doubt whether what they have been taking from the common pool of income is within their share and is Halal or not.
Calculation of Inheritance Should Be Done Immediately
If, after the death of a person, someone else consumes anything from their inheritance before it has been distributed, in the absence or without the permission of one of the adult inheritors, or if one of the inheritors is an underage child, then what they consumed would be Hara’am (unlawful) for them. That is why Shariah dictates that inheritance should be distributed as soon as a person has passed away, or at least the calculation of who will receive how much should be done the same day. Sometimes it takes time to disburse property or capital because of legal processes, but the calculation should be done the same day. Then if some expenses are to be incurred, it should be clear which inheritor’s share they are being drawn from, and can only be done with that inheritor’s permission. It is not allowed under Shariah to keep spending from a person’s inheritance after their death and before the inheritance’s distribution. Not following these rules can lead to lots of conflicts and disputes later on.
Tasawuf and Financial Transactions
Imam Muhammad RE was a pupil of Imam Abu Hanifah RE. He has written many books. Someone once asked him, “Hazrat, you have not written so many books but haven’t written any book on Tasawuf (internal Purification) and Zuhud (not having love for Dunya[material world]).” Imam Muhammad RE replied, “How can you say that I have not written any book on Tasawuf? The book I have written about rules of buying and selling is a book on Tasawuf.” What he meant was that Tasawuf actually means following the Shariah fully, and properly following the Shariah cannot be complete without following the rules about buying and selling.
Using Others’ Property without Permission
Similarly, it is Hara’am (impermissible) to use another person’s property without their permission. However, if a person is certain that the other person would have been happy and would have permitted happily that this person uses their property or belongings, only then it would be permissible for them to use the other person’s property. However, if there is any doubt that the other person would have been unhappy in this situation, regardless of whether it is one’s real brother or one’s father, it would not be permissible to use their possessions. In a Hadith the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, لا يحل مال امری مسلم الا بطیب نفس منه “The property of a Muslim is not Halal (permissible) for you unless he gives it to you happily.” In this Hadith, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم has not used the word permission, rather has used the word طیب نفس which translates as ‘happiness of heart’. It means that just taking permission is not enough, rather such permission should have been given happily. Only then it is permissible to use another person’s belongings.
Pressurizing People for Donations
Hazrat Thanvi RE used to say that it is not Halal to take donations from anyone for societies and Madrassahs under duress. For example, if someone starts collecting a donation publicly and one person sees other people give donations, then they might feel under pressure that what people would think if they didn’t give a donation. If they then give a donation under such circumstances, it would not be with their ‘happiness of heart’ and therefore would not be Halal.
Keeping Halal Separate from Hara’am
Therefore, one should always keep this principle in mind that if an item belongs to someone else, it is not Halal (permissible) to use it until and unless its owner happily gives permission to us to use it. It does not matter whether the owner of that item is our brother, our father or our spouse, it is still not allowed to use their property without their permission. If we neglect this principle then Hara’am can creep into our income. A person may think that they do not take bribes, do not take interest (usury), do not steal, and therefore, their assets are 100 percent Halal. But sadly, they do not realize that if they keep using other people’s belongings without their permission, it would lead to mixing of Hara’am with their Halal income. And Hara’am capital destroys Halal income too.It destroys its blessings, and its benefit for the person. Hara’am income pulls a person towards sins, and harms their spirituality. That is why financial affairs should be kept clean and transparent so that there is no confusion later on. The ownership of all property and belongings should be very clear. However, as per the Hadith of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, once the ownership is clear people should live like brothers and if someone asks to use one of our belongings we should let them use it.
Building Masjid Nabvi and Not Taking Land for Free
When the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم migrated to Medinah one of his first priorities was to build a mosque there. He saw some empty land which he liked for that purpose. When he inquired who the land belonged to, he found out that it belonged to the people of the Abu Najjar tribe. When people of Abu Najjar heard that the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was thinking of building a mosque on their land, they came to the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and said, “O Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم. It is our good fortune that the mosque be built on our land. We gift this land to you so that you build the mosque here.” The Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “No! I won’t take this land for free. Tell me the price and I will buy this land from you.”
Love for Allah, Hate for Allah
It means that if a person loves someone, they love them for the sake of Allah, and if they are angry with someone, they are angry with them only for the sake of Allah. May Allah Ta’alah grant us this blessing that all our relationships are solely for the sake of Allah. However, this anger should be under control so that it is expressed only within the confines set by Allah Ta’alah, and should not go beyond it.
Putting Pressure for Building a Mosque
While elaborating upon this Hadith, Islamic scholars have written that as the people of Bani Najjar were donating this land willingly, it would have been permissible to take it for building the mosque, it wouldn’t have been a sin. But as this mosque was going to be second greatest mosque in Islam after Masjid Hara’am, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم did not like taking this land for free. Otherwise, it would have become a precedent for people in the future that whenever a mosque is to be built, people need to give their land for free, rather than that land being bought. And also, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم wanted to make it clear that it is not correct to put pressure on people for building a mosque.
Giving His Wives Expenses for the Whole Year
Similarly, the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to give the expanses for the whole year to his wives at the beginning of the year, and left it to them how they wanted to spend it. They were also the wives of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and had no love of Dunya (material world) in their hearts. They kept spending on charity all the time. They kept only what they needed and gave the rest away in charity. But the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم set a 75 example of giving his wives the expenses of the whole year in the beginning of the year.
In summary, the core principle in the Quranic verses and the Ahadith above that we have been neglecting is keeping all of one’s financial transactions completely transparent and within the dictates of Shariah. Every transaction should be clean, and there should be no ambiguity in it. It is difficult to keep one’s income and expenses under control without it. May Allah Ta’alah make us understand both the nature and the importance of one of these most important components of Islam, and to act upon it. Ameen
وَ اٰخِرُ دَعْوٰىهُمْ اَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِیْنَ۠