What is the Islamic ruling for some seller that has certain practises such as putting physical things, for example, rice, shillings, salt and others to ensure sale for their business?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Business and sustenance in Islam
Business is a noble work in Islam in an effort for seeking sustenance. Islam encouraged all Muslims to seek sustenance through business. Allah SWT states in the Quran:
فَإِذَا قُضِيَتِ الصَّلَاةُ فَانتَشِرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَابْتَغُوا مِن فَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَاذْكُرُوا اللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.”
Surah al-Jumu’ah (10)
Ibnu Kathir said: Allah prohibits buying and selling after the adhan and commands them to assemble in prayer, then Allah permits them to disperse on earth to seek Allah’s bounty. See: Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim (8/183)
Imam al-Baghawi said: That is, after the completion of the prayer, then, disperse on earth to do business and settle your affairs. See: Tafsir al-Baghawi (8/123)
Allah SWT also states:
وَآخَرُونَ يَضْرِبُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَبْتَغُونَ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّـهِ ۙ وَآخَرُونَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ
“And others travelling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the cause of Allah,”
Surah al-Muzammil (20)
Ibnu Kathir said: (Among others, they are) the ones that are travelling to seek Allah’s bounty through trade. While others are busy with something they consider more important which is fighting for Allah’s sake. See: Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim (8/331)
In a hadith from al-Miqdam, the Prophet PBUH said:
مَا أَكَلَ أَحَدٌ طَعَامًا قَطُّ خَيْرًا مِنْ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ مِنْ عَمَلِ يَدِهِ وَإِنَّ نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ دَاوُدَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام كَانَ يَأْكُلُ مِنْ عَمَلِ يَدِهِ
"Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than that which one has earned by working with one's own hands. The Prophet of Allah, David used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor."
Sahih al-Bukhari (2072)
The Prophet Muhammad PBUH himself was directly involved in the business. Even his great companions such as Uthman bin Affan and Abdul Rahman bin Auf were involved in business.
However, the business run must follow the guidelines and ethics that have been set in Islam. Every effort made must not transgress the limits that Islam has set. Among them is, a seller is asked to avoid anything that could lead to shirk towards Allah SWT in an effort of seeking sustenance and profit in business.
The Ruling for Placing Certain Objects to Ensure Sale
In answering the question that arises, placing physical objects to attract customers and ensure sales is in discord with Islamic teachings. This is due to the fact that someone’s dependence would move to the objects rather than towards Allah SWT. It’s a superstitious practice that could lead to shirk and association of Allah with other objects.
In Islam, this discussion is often linked to al-tamimah (talismans). Placing or putting physical objects in business premise with the hope of attracting customers and ensuring sales, falls under the usage of talismans. In a hadith from Ibn Mas’ud R.Anhuma, the prophet PBUH said:
إِنَّ الرُّقَى وَالتَّمَائِمَ وَالتِّوَلَةَ شِرْكٌ
“Indeed, charms, talismans and ‘tiwalah’ are shirk.”
Sunan imam Ahmad (3615), Sunan Abu Daud (3883) and Sunan Ibnu Majah (3530)
Imam al-Munawi said: The usage of talismans is considered shirk because it means someone believes that it can bring influence (ta’thir) and this leads to shirk towards Allah SWT.
Al-Tibi said: Shirk in this hadith means when someone believes that it (the charm, talismans and tiwalah) has the power to give effect (in influencing/change something) and this contradicts the reliance and dependence towards Allah SWT. See: Faidh al-Qadir (6/121)
In a hadith from ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir, he heard the Prophet PBUH said:
مَنْ عَلَّقَ تَمِيمَةً فَلاَ أَتَمَّ اللَّهُ لَهُ وَمَنْ عَلَّقَ وَدَعَةً فَلاَ وَدَعَ اللَّهُ لَهُ
“Whoever relies on talismans, surely Allah SW will not save him from the talisman. And whoever wears charms, surely Allah SWT will not complete the charm.”
Al-Baihaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (20090), Al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (7501) and Ibn Hibban (6096)
In another hadith, the Prophet PBUH said:
مَنْ تَعَلَّقَ شَيْئًا وُكِلَ إِلَيْهِ
“Whoever relies on something, surely he will be left to it (the thing he relied on).”
Sunan al-Tirmizi (2072)
Ibn Al-Athir as written by Syeikh Mulla Ali Al-Qari said: Whoever relies on something for himself as protector, talisman, and the like and secondly, believes that all of that can benefit or prevent harm for him, surely, he will be left under its care. Which means he will be left with the things he used as a protector. See: Mirqat al-Mafatih (7/2882)
Syeikh ‘Atiyyah Saqar in his fatwa mentioned: “Whoever believes in superstition such as kokka wood (as talisman that protects) can avert shaytan and Iblis, increase sustenance and cure illnesses, it is a form of shirk for all that is Allah’s one and only right.”
Indeed, to gain multi-fold of profits is through hard work and effort not by placing certain objects. However, with hard work and real effort with taqwa and reliance towards Allah SWT, it will bring great profits in return. Allah SWT states:
وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّـهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مَخْرَجًا ﴿٢﴾ وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ
“And whoever fears Allah - He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him.”
Surah al-Talaq (2-3)
Ibnu Kathir said: It means, whoever has taqwa for Allah and obey all His commandments and avoid all His prohibitions, Allah will make a way out for him and give him unexpected sustenance. That is, from ways that he couldn’t even imagine. See: Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim (14/31)
The Prophet PBUH once said:
أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ , اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَجْمِلُوا فِي الطَّلَبِ ، فَإِنَّ نَفْسًا لَنْ تَمُوتَ حَتَّى تَسْتَوْفِيَ رِزْقَهَا , وَإِنْ أَبْطَأَ عَنْهَا ، فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَجْمِلُوا فِي الطَّلَبِ ، خُذُوا مَا حَلَّ ، وَدَعُوا مَا حَرُمَ.
"O people, fear Allah and be moderate in seeking a living, for no soul will die until it has received all its provision, even if it is slow in coming. So, fear Allah and be moderate in seeking provision; take that which is permissible and leave that which is forbidden. "
Sunan Ibnu Majah (2144)
As a conclusion, putting physical things such as rice, shillings, salt and others to ensure sales or to attract customers is considered superstitious beliefs and could lead to shirk towards Allah SWT.
Avoid everything that is superstitious and shirk in our effort to seek blessed sustenance. On another hand, always recite the verses of the Quran and pray to Allah to bless us with sustenance and manifold profits in our business.
We would like to recommend istighfar as many times as possible and ask for Allah’s forgiveness as stated in the Quran:
فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا ﴿١٠﴾ يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا ﴿١١﴾ وَيُمْدِدْكُم بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ أَنْهَارًا
“And said, 'Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers. And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers.”
Surah Nuh (10-12)
May we always be guided in practising the true Islamic teachings and kept away from going astray and I pray to Allah for halal and blessed sustenance from Him for all of us. Amin.