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Posted By Topic: Should you be suspicious of all merchants by default?

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28-04-2011 @ 6:07 PM    Notify Admin about this post
Abul-'Abbaas Moosaa ibn John Richardson (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Posts: 1280
Joined: Sep 2002
In the Name of Allaah, the Most Merciful...

I would like to offer an answer to the question raised: Should you be suspicious of all merchants by default?

The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) is the one who spoke generally about merchants, saying:

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"Indeed the merchants, they are the disobedient ones!"

The Companions asked, "But hasn't Allaah made business transactions permissible?"  

So he (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam) clarified:

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"Of course!  However, they speak and lie, and they make oaths and incur sin (by breaking them)." (1)

He (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam) went to the market once to admonish them directly, saying:

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"Indeed merchants will be sent forth (from their graves) on the Day of Standing as disobedient people, except for those who feared Allaah (by observing His legislation) and dealt (with the people) fairly and honestly." (2)

Reflect about how the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam) spoke generally about merchants.

I would like to remind you (or inform you if you did not already know) that in Arabic the istith-naa' (exceptions from generalities) are a smaller group from the majority, as a base rule.  Meaning you do not say:  I know all the brothers on this list, except most of them.  Rather, you say: I know all the brothers on this list, except Fulan and Fulan (mentioning a minority), or: ...except a few of them, or: a handful, or the likes.

So to understand that the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam) exempted the majority of the merchants from the negative generality by saying, "except those who feared Allaah and dealt fairly and honestly" is a violation of the context and the language of the hadeeth, and Allaah knows best.


Further, the books of fiqh in different math-habs even mention rulings about people who got cheated in business dealings and requested their rights from the courts... A common ruling mentioned is that he should be asked if he compared prices and prepared himself to do business by knowing the market.  If not, they may rule that he may not receive his claim in some cases due to his own failure to gain enough basic obligatory knowledge to avoid being scammed!

Meaning: The idea of the marketplace being a place of cheating and deception is well founded in the texts and in the books of fiqh, so how could someone enter the marketplace without being critical and investigative?

[If it is said] But there are hadeeths praising honest merchants!?

These are encouragements that do not affect the general ruling laid down by the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam).

[If it is said] But some of the Companions where known to be merchants, like Abdur-Rahmaan ibn 'Owf, 'Uthmaan ibn 'Affaan, and others!?

These are clearly from the exempted minority, those who dealt with piety, fairness, and honesty.  May Allaah be pleased with them.

[If it is said] But I know many good merchants...!?

If they are truly good merchants dealing with honesty and fairness, then they are from the exempted minority, and their actions and dealings remove them from the base rule.

[If it is said] But the majority of the Muslim merchants I know are good honest people!?

If you mean in a specific place where knowledge and practice is predominant, then this could be the case.  But i don't think anyone could say this as a general statement about today's market places in the Muslim lands (even if we played a blind eye to the hadeeths mentioned)!  The texts mentioned are about the merchants in the time of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam), in the very best generation of people!  So what about the people living in our time.

[If it is said] Islaam was spread to some places by honest merchants who represented their religion well...!

These are from the exempted minority, again their actions and dealings testifying that they were not fujjaar (disobedient or wicked).


Didn't the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam) give us his example by investigating the grains of the merchants before buying them, by digging down under the surface of the product and checking it from the bottom layer?!  When he discovered the hidden defective grain below, he asked about it and remarked in the famous hadeeth in the Saheeh:

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"Whoever deceives (others) is not from us."

Could the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) have been excessive?  Could he have been too suspicious or overly critical of his Muslim brothers?  Could he have misunderstood his own words and misapplied them?


When one reflects on the points raised above, important insight into another well known hadeeth can be actualized!  That is: how the marketplaces deserve another general ruling of negativity, from his statement (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam):

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"The best of all places are the masjids, and the worst of all places are the marketplaces." (3)

So back to the question: Should you be suspicious of all merchants by default?  By default, yes, as the guidance of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam) clearly indicates, while you must exempt those whose actions exempt them from this generality.

And Allaah knows best.


(1) Collected by Ahmad (3/428), al-Haakim (2/6-7), and others.  Al-Haakim considered its chain authentic, and Ath-Thahabee did not object.  Al-Munthiree called it hasan, and Al-Albaanee said, "It is as they (Al-Haakim and Ath-Thahabee) said."  Refer to: Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah (#366, 1/707-708).

(2) Collected by at-Tirmithee (1/228), Ibn Maajah (2/5), Ibn Hibbaan (#1095), al-Haakim (2/6), and others, as mentioned by Al-Albaanee in Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah (#994, 2/693).  At-Tirmithee called it hasan-saheeh, and al-Haakim called it saheeh.  Al-Albaanee called it hasan, and then he mentioned a witnessing narration for it in the Saheehah (#1458, 3/441-442) to strengthen it further.

(3) Collected by Ibn Hibbaan (#1599), at-Tabaraanee, and al-Haakim.  Al-Albaanee called it hasan in Saheeh al-Jaami' as-Sagheer (#3271, 1/620).

ibn John

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