Aspects Of Islamic Faith -101: Ensuring
Fairness In Business Transactions
Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals
Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave clear
instructions about business deals. When we look at
these instructions we realize that they are always
looking to ensure fairness to both buyer and seller,
and to maintain a friendly atmosphere in the market
place. Take the following Hadith as an example.
Abdullah ibn Umar quotes the Prophet as saying: "Do
not sell fruits until they clearly appear to be sound.
Do not sell fruits on the trees in exchange for ones
on the ground."
Abdullah adds: "I was informed by Zayd ibn Thabit that
the Prophet later made an exception in the case of
selling the fruits of a tree dedicated for personal
use in exchange for ripe dates, but made no other
exception." (Related by Al-Bukhari)
This Hadith relates to a situation that existed in
Madinah at the time of the Prophet, but it also
applies to similar situations that may exist
elsewhere. The Arabs at the time relied heavily on
dates for their staple diet. They ate dates when they
were fresh, or when they have been ripened and dried.
Dates can be preserved by simple drying, and they can
keep for a long time. As they were the main
agricultural produce in their environment, they needed
to have clear guidance on how to conduct their
The first point in the Hadith is the prohibition of
selling fruits on the trees until it has been
ascertained that the fruits are sound. The reason for
this prohibition is the fact that the seller could
later argue that the fruits became rotten, or that
some disease affected the tree and spoilt the fruits.
Apparently several complaints were put to the Prophet
because of such claims.
To prevent disagreements and ill feelings, the Prophet
prohibited this type of transaction because it is
difficult to estimate the worth of the produce on the
one hand and, on the other, it is impossible to know
what may happen to it before it is ready to pick. When
the fruits are seen to be clearly sound, and there is
little that could go wrong with the produce, then
selling them is perfectly permissible.
The other type of prohibition the Prophet makes is
selling the fruit of the date tree, before it is
picked, for dates on the ground. This prohibition is
due to the discrepancy that may occur. To start with,
it is very difficult to estimate the weight or the
measure of fruits on the tree. Secondly, fresh dates
or grapes are heavier than dried dates and raisins. So
it is extremely difficult to maintain fairness in such
The Prophet, however, later made an exception in the
case of a tree which the farmer has dedicated for his
own family's use. As such, it is different from the
rest of the trees in the farm. The exception allows
selling the fruit of such a tree, whether dates or
grapes, for dates or raisins on the ground, provided
that an allowance is made for the difference in weight
because of dryness.
We need to point out that the Hadith mentions that the
exception applied to dates only. However, scholars
considered other types of produce that are normally
dried and stored, such as grapes, which make raisins
and sultanas, and wheat or cereals. These are needed
for everyday use.
Therefore, an easier transaction meets a common need.
Other fruits that may be covered by leaves and differ
in size and quality, such as citrus fruits and
apricots, cannot be included in this exception.