Monetary Dealings And Social Conduct

The teachings covered under the two titles of Muamalat (monetary dealings) and Muasharat (social conduct) appertain to the needs and urges of our material and social existence, and it is a great blessing of God that by providing rules and regulations with respect to them. He has elevated them into means of gaining access unto him in this world and of earning his reward in the hereafter. By Muamalat we mean affairs which have a monetary aspect to them, such as, business transactions, debt, contract, service and labour, and the other term. Muasharat, is applied to the behaviour we give countenance to in our dealings with those with whom we come into contact either permanently, as with parents, husbands, children, brothers, sisters and other relatives, and neighbors or temporarily, as, for instance, fellow travelers in the course of a journey, or office or business colleagues and partners.

These spheres of human activity command, like morality, a place of great significance in religion. In fact, from one point of view, they may be said to be matters of highest importance because they involve the keenest struggle between the Divine will and one's own inner impulsion. Let us take an illustration. In business, the profit-motive appears to demand, and the bidding of the heart also often is, that we should exploit every situation to the best of our advantage and make as such money out of every transaction as we can without giving a thought to ethics or morality, but the verdict of God's religion is that whatever happens, even if it leads to total loss and bankruptcy, there must be no wavering from the path of truth and integrity and the law Divinely ordained for the occasion. Similarly, in the sphere of social behaviour, there is frequently a tussle between what God wants and our natural instincts desire. Thus, it is in Muamalat and Muashrat that man's loyalty to God is put to the severest test.

Furthermore, these departments have a bearing on the rights of man also. Prayer and fasting, although they make the fundamentals of religion, and, in view of this, rank only next to the affirmation of faith, are exclusively the rights of God, and who ever neglects them sins against him alone. Transgression in respect of them is not incapable of condemnation by the Lord, in his Infinite Mercy, if suplication is made to him with proper humility and earnestness. But where duties appertaining to monetary affairs and social behaviour are concerned, it is vastly different. In their case, neglect would amount to sin both against God and man, and, we know, how niggardly we human beings can be when it comes to forgiving and forgetting. The aggrived among us are not likely to forego their pound of flesh on the last Day. A Tradition of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) says :

"Some people will take with them from here a large stock of virtue earned through deeds like prayer fasting, charity and alms-giving, but their conduct in relation to social and monetary affairs will be poor they will have aggressed against someone's rights, wounded the feelings of somebody, indulged in back biting and, so on. When they will arrive at the place of Reckoning, on the last day, those against whom they have been guilty of those transgressions will rise up in petition and appeal to God for justice. The Almighty God will them do justice and deliver his Judgement : their good deeds will be taken away from them and transferred to the aggrieved parties, and when these will not suffice, the sins of the aggrieved parties will be forced down upon them and, ultimately, they will be thrown into the hell."

It is on account of this, perhaps, that the correction and reformation of one's conduct in money matters and in the matter of social responsibilities has been described clearly in a Tradition as a more worthy act than the carrying out of prayer, fasting, charity and alms-giving. This Tradition has been reproduced in Mishkat Sharif on the strength of Tirmizi and Abu Dawood and its narrator is Abu Darda (Razi Allah-o-Ta'ala) who tells that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) once enquired of him, "May I tell you something that is superior even to Roza, Sadqa ? "Do, please", replied Abu Darda (Razi Allah-o-Ta'ala). Whereupon, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, "it is the setting right of mutual relations and of one's conduct where the monetary factor is involved. Faultiness of Muamalat and Muashrat is a razor that shaves from the roots (not the hair,but faith)."

Yet, the blunt truth is that even in the fairly devout religious circles adequate attention is not paid to the right ordering of life in these spheres with the result, in Muamalat and Muashrat, the conduct of those of us whose state as regards the various duties of worship is pretty good falls short of the standard laid down by Islam. In these circumstances, it is palpably foolish to expect our prayers to be heard and supplications to be answered.

In Mishkat Sharif it is reported from Abdullah bin Omar (Razi Allah-o-Ta'ala) on the authority of Musnad-i-Ahmed, that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) once remarked that, if a person buys a cloth for ten Dirhams, and out of them one is tainted (i.e. it has acquired by unfair means), none of his Namaz will be acceptable to God as long as he wears the cloth". It is further reported that after Abdullah bin Omar (Razi Allah-o-Ta'ala) had narrated the Tradition he put his fingers to his ears and proclaimed before those present : "May I turned deaf if I have heard not the Prophet (Peace be upon him) say these words."

To quote another Tradition in the same vein, it was said by Prophet (Peace be upon him) that, "God is pure himself, and accepts only offerings that are pure. " Then, after urging upon the people the need to earn a clean livelihood, he related the following parable, "A man undertakes a long and tedious journey (to supplicate to God at a sacred place) and arrives (at his destination) in such a shape that his hair is dishevelled the body is covered from head to foot with dust; he throws up his hands towards the Heaven and cries out, 'O Lord !, O my Preserver! but his sustenance is of the impure and he has been brought up on what is polluted how on earth can his prayer, then, be granted?

The inference, clearly, is that the petition of a person whose business or professional conduct is not clean and above board and who lives on dishonest income will never be granted by God even though he travels a thousand miles to beseech him at a halved place. Yet another Tradition runs to the effect, "A body that has been reared on unlawful sustenance shall not gain entry into the Heaven."

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) has expressed his strong resentment against those who indulge in unfair practices in business. He painly has refused to have anything to do with them. It is related from Abu Huraira (Razi Allah-o-Ta'ala) in Saheeh-i-Muslim that the sacred Prophet (Pease be upon him) once heap and to pass by a heap of grain (which a trader had piled up). The Prophet (Pease be upon him) trust his hand into the happened it was discovered that under the surface the grain was moist. On being questioned, the trader explained that it had been caught in the little shower that had fallen. The Prophet (Pease be upon him) said, "Then why did you not place the wet grain on the top so that buyers could know that it was not dry? " And to this he added the reprimand: "Whoever deceives in buisness is not mine."

On the social plane, the Holy Prophet is equally severe on those who do not live upto the Islamic conception of polite behaviour. " He who is not respectful to his elders", he says, "and affectionate to those who are younger to him is not one of us." 3 It will, thus, be seen, in the light of Ibn-i-Taimiyah's dictum referred to in the previous chapter, that to behave with respect towards those who are younger in age is a religious and legal necessity in Islam, although it is purely a matter of social intercourse.

At the base of all cultural refinement and gentleman-liness there lies the two fold principle; firstly, never to wound any one's feelings, and, secondly, to do one's best (within the four corners of the Shariat, naturally,) to bring him solace and comfort, to fulfil his rights and to keep him well pleased, as may be his due. The degree of excellence required by Islam in this connection can well be imagined from the under-mentioned Tradition of the Prophet (Peace be upon him):

"When three persons are sitting togather, two of them should not start a conversation between themselves, leaving the third alone (it might hurt his sentiments and make him feel neglected); they should wait for a four person to join in, who can keep him company. Then they can go to some other place and have their talk."

Unfortunately, however, we have now sunk so deep in the abyss of moral and social degradation that we seem to derive pleasure from inflicting pain and sorrow upon others. We can, indeed, never attain perfection in our faith or can our living ever become genuinely Islamic until we brought about a big improvement in our conduct in the domains of Muamalat and Muasharat.

We will now call a halt to this chapter. Like morality, Muamalat and Muasharat have also been elaborated upon in proper detail in Islam Kiya Hai. For a more thorough study of them the reader is referred to one of the standared collections of the Tradition.