Uprightness and honesty in monetary dealings forms a vital part of the fundamental teachings of Islam, says Moulana Manzoor Naomani.
The Qur'an as well as the Traditions of the Prophet are emphatic that a true Muslim is he who is honest and upright in his business and monetary transactions, keeps his word and fulfill his promises, shuns fraud and avoids deceit and perfidy, encroaches not upon the rights of others, nor takes part in wrongful litigation, does not give false evidence, and abstains from making dishonest money as from usury and graft. Whoever is not free from these vices is, according to the Qur'an and the Traditions, not a true believer but a renegade and a worthless transgressor.
We now proceed to examine some of the relevant Quranic verses and traditions. A short verse of the Quran says:
"Oh ye who believe! Eat not up each other's property by unfair and dishonest means." (4:29)
The verse forbids Muslims against all unclean and corrupt means of making money, such as, dishonest trading, embezzlement, gambling, speculation and bribery. Then there are verses in which these hateful practices are dealt with one by one. For instance, a severe warning is given in the following verse to traders who cheat in weighing:
"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- on a Mighty Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds." (83: 1-6)
In the same way, the under mentioned verse exhorts Muslims to be very particular about their trusts and about other people's rights.
"Allah doth command you to render back your trust, to those to whom they are due."(4:58)
At two places in the Quran a chief distinguishing feature of Muslims is said to be that they are:
"Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants."(24:8)
The Prophet often used to say in his sermons:
"Remember, there is no faith in him who is not trustworthy; there is no place for him in religion who cares not for his pledged word or promise."
Another tradition says:" The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he is false, when he promises, he fails; and when he is trusted, he plays false."
Condemning those who cheat in business the sacred Prophet has said:
"He who cheats is not of us. Deceitfulness and fraud are things that lead one to Hell."
The Prophet of Allah once came upon a heap of corn in the market of Medina and thrust his hand onto it. His fingers felt damp. On being asked, the trader replied that rain had fallen upon it. The Prophet observed,
"Why did you not then keep (the wet portion of) it above the dry corn, so that men may see it? He who deceives, is not one of us."
Thus traders who deceive by showing to customers a false sample or by concealing from them the defects of the article they offer for sale are not true Muslims in the judgment of the Holy Prophet and, God-forbidding, they are going to end up in hell. Another tradition says:
"The seller must explain to the buyer the defects, if any, in the quality of the article offered for sale. Should this not be done, the seller will permanently be caught in the Wrath of Allah (according to another narrator the exact words, ‘he will always be cursed by the angels')."
In short, all manner of deceit and dishonesty in business is prohibited in Islam. It has been proclaimed to be an act worthy of unqualified condemnation. The Holy Prophet has expressed his strong dislike for those who do so. He has said he will have nothing to do with them; they do not belong to him.
Likewise, bribery and usury, although might be practiced by mutual consent and agreement, are totally disallowed to Muslims and those who are guilty of them have been condemned squarely in the traditions. A well-known tradition on usury reads:
"The curse of Allah rests on him who offers loan on usurious terms, and on him who receives, and on those who are witnesses to the transaction, and on the writer who writes the deed thereof."
As for bribery, the Prophet ) according to a tradition, "condemned alike the giver of bribes, and the taker of bribes in deciding cases."
A tradition goes even to the extent of saying that,
"If a person made a recommendation for anyone in a just manner and gratified party gave him something as a gift (in return for it) and he accepted it, then he committed a grave error (meaning that it, too, is a form of bribery)."
Worse still is the usurpation of another's property by force or fraud or dishonest litigation. We have it on the authority of the Prophet that:
"Whoever occupies land belonging to another unjustly will be sunk into the ground along with the plot of land on the Doomsday till he reaches the lowest layer of the earth."
"He who acquires the property of a Muslim unjustly by taking a false oath (before an Officer) is debarred by Allah from entering Paradise and the Fire of Hell is made inevitable for him." On hearing it a Companion is reported to have replied, " Yes, even if it be a twig of Pilo (a plant which grows wild. Its twigs are used for cleaning the teeth).
The Prophet again, is reported to have warned a person who was very fond of entering into litigation with others in these strong words, "Remember, he who will obtain the property of another by swearing a false oath will appear as a leper before Allah (on the Day of Judgement).
"Whoever laid a claim on a thing that was not his is not of us. He will do well to reserve a place for himself in the Hell."
It is narrated that one day, after the morning prayers the Holy Prophet stood up and said thrice with great feeling that, " Perjury has been made the equivalent of Polytheism."