Within the framework of the 21st Session of the OIC Independent Standing Committee on Human Rights, which started on Sunday, 01 Dhul Quidah 1444, corresponding to 21 May 2023 at the Hilton Hotel in Jeddah, H.E. Prof. Koutoub Moustapha Sano, Secretary General of the Academy, delivered a speech on the Islamic Perspective of Commercial Activities and the Role of Islamic Heritage in Preserving Rights and Human Rights. The following is an excerpt from His Excellency’s speech:
As a blessed Ummah, its early scholars and forefathers in the fields of belief, jurisprudence, principles and objectives, have left us this unifying legacy that contains everything that comes to mind, including solid foundations capable of directing financial and business calamities, addressing current developments in terms of gain and acquisition, and streamlining the forms and patterns that occur in contracts, obligations, rights and transactions. In reality, it is not a great effort or difficulty, but an assimilation of these principles, a digestion of these rules, and a commitment to the fundamentals and principles, away from all forms of betrayal.
The role of our intellectual heritage in preserving rights, protecting property, encouraging productivity and celebrating creativity and innovation has been confirmed by our wise laws which consider the preservation of money as one of the legitimate objectives and five necessary interests (self, religion, offspring, money and reason) which all legislations have agreed on the need to preserve from any violation or arbitrariness; Moreover, the great law has linked the fulfillment of the commitment to a good set of acts of worship, such as zakat, awqaf, charity, wills, among others, to the necessity of its existence, availability, growth and stability.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the rules that govern and control business are given special attention and a striking presence in the Qur’an and Sunnah as a guide, orientation and rationalization. It is also not surprising that these provisions include a security barrier and a good set of legal controls that make wealth and business a building block and one of the means to preserve human rights, especially the right to dignity and a decent life. These sharia controls prevent money from becoming a tool for sabotaging, eliminating or confiscating human rights.
Doing business is part of the religion, like prayer, zakat, Hajj, and others, based on the word of the Almighty (Say: “Indeed, my prayer, my sacrificial rites, my life and my death are for Allah, the Lord of the worlds”); and because of the wisdom of the noble Shari’ah, the texts contained in financial transactions are flexible texts that allow for Ijtihad and innovation in order to keep up with the developments and changes that occur in financial transactions in general and in business in particular.
While Islam recognizes man’s innate love for money and encourages him to seek it (It is He who has tamed the earth for you – so walk among its slopes and eat of its provisions – and to Him belongs the resurrection), it restricts this love and imposes controls on earning and owning money through business. Among the most important of these are: the pursuit of honesty and trustworthiness, which are considered two reasons for obtaining a blessing in money, and the honest and trustworthy merchant with the prophets, the truthful and the martyrs (both sellers have the option as long as they do not separate if they are honest and clear, they will be blessed in their sale, and if they conceal and lie, the blessing of their sale will be wiped out). Honest partners in the presence of God according to the Qudsi hadith: (I am the third of the two partners as long as one does not betray the other).
In order to preserve these two important controls, the stern warning and the sure threat have been addressed to those who lie in financial transactions. Abu Dharr, may God be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There are three people to whom Allah will not speak on the Day of Resurrection, will not look at them, and will not sanctify them, and their torment will be painful. The Messenger of Allah repeated and Abu Dharr said, “May they be lost and condemned.” He added, “The one who lets his garment hang below his ankles, a salesman who tries to sell his goods by means of false oaths, and the one who reminds people of what he has given them.”
Among the important controls that the Shari’ah obliges one to observe in business affairs is that of avoiding cheating and deception, as it has been proved in the Sunnah that a man, peace and blessings be upon him, passed a patience of food and put his hand in it, so that his fingers got wet. He said, “What is this? What is this, O owner of the food? The Messenger of God, may the prayers and peace of God be upon him, said, “Why don’t you put it on the table? Why don’t you put it on top of the food so that people can see it because of our cheating, then it is not from us). Among the important controls that must be observed in commercial affairs is tolerance in transactions so that the seller does not exaggerate in the goods and the buyer does not underestimate the price (may God have mercy on the man who is tolerant if he sells, if he buys, and if necessary), and among the important controls is that of keeping away from monopolization and not exploiting the needs of the people, especially during crises and disasters, monopolizing products and goods until they are no longer needed and the need arises, and then selling them at double prices.
Moreover, it is not possible to list all the controls here. Therefore, we conclude by saying that our heritage is full of events and testimonies about the commitment of Muslim merchants to respect these controls in their business activities, which had a considerable impact on the spread of Islam and the call to Islam, as well as on the acceptance of non-Muslim societies to embrace it. As their words were consistent with their actions and behavior, they were role models in their dealings with others, especially in financial transactions, which had a positive effect on spreading the tolerance, moderation and justice of Islam on earth.
On this basis, the Ummah is called upon today more than ever to clarify and care for these rights through collective Ijtihad, which is represented in the present era by its largest institution, the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, as an intellectual and scientific body comprising the eight schools of Islamic law followed by Muslims worldwide. Through seminars, conferences, workshops and forums aimed at raising awareness of the importance of adhering to Shariah controls in business. It is worth mentioning on this occasion that the Academy has taken an early interest in financial transactions, studying, investigating, rooting and clarifying them, studying their problems and discussing their recurring and evolving problems in order to guide and pay them so that they become free from the means of earning that confiscate human rights and infringe on his dignity, such as usury, fraud and monopoly. This great mission is evident in the resolutions and recommendations of the Academy which are considered a unanimous consensus in this era, and nearly one hundred (100) resolutions on various issues related to financial transactions to facilitate the activities of financial institutions and banks in the OIC Member States.
In conclusion, we hope that this blessed session of the Commission will achieve its objectives, and may Allah reward us and the Ummah with the best reward, the host country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the care and attention it gives to the joint Islamic action, may Allah grant the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to achieve its objectives.
We only wish for a good reformation as much as we can, and we only succeed with the help of Allah, it is on Him that we rely, and it is to Him that we will return”.
A group of official bodies and organizations concerned with human rights participated in the session.