Business ethics are generally accepted to be the set of moral values and corporate standards of conduct that exist in a business organization. What this means varies from one organization to another. In large companies, corporate lawyers define the business ethics of a company with specific interest in staying within the bounds of the law. Business ethics also vary from one person to another. Those who conduct business can have decidedly different ethics and widely differing definitions of what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes the dividing lines between what is moral and immoral become blurred. This can lead to ethical dilemmas.
Trying, in a business scenario, to decide between one action and another is often problematic. This is why countries have laws and regulations pertaining to businesses and why business organizations often design codes of behavior, or ethical standards, that members adhere to. In the modern world the business arena is often rife with ethical dilemmas and without regulations situations could have widely differing outcomes. Those conducting businesses have to deal with many situations that need ethical standards as guidelines. These situations include, but are not limited to, sexual harassment, bullying in the workplace, gender or racial discrimination, conflicts of interest, misuse of assets, and environmental pollution.
Moral and ethical behavior is a thread running through Islam. It is designed for all people, in all places and in all times and insists on good behavior at all times. Thus as laws and regulations change from country to country, organizations to organization, Islamic standards remain fixed. Fairness, justice, respect, and honesty are part of Islamic behavior and not restricted to business dealings, having said that, however, business affairs, earning a livelihood and trading are important concepts in Islam. A Muslim must take honesty and fairness into account in all his dealings not just in business, and he does so because he knows that God is watching and will judge people according to their deeds.
Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, is our greatest role model. Apart from being a Prophet, lawgiver, statesman, military commander, and family man, he was also a very successful businessman. It is his teachings that Muslims follow knowing that we cannot displease God by doing what Prophet Muhammad taught. God did not leave us alone to stumble about trying to understand how to live a good life; He gave us the Quran and Prophet Muhammad to guide us to a good outcome both in the Hereafter and also in our life in this world. If we follow the principles and guidelines of Islam, we will be honest and just in all our dealings, including business dealings. A general principle in Islam is that all things are permissible except those that are forbidden. This is in regard to everything on earth that pertains to humankind, their lives, and livelihood. And when combined with Islam’s ethical and moral code it gives the Muslim a sense of responsibility and accountability in all aspects of life.
Before prophethood Prophet Muhammad was a businessman, a trader. He worked from a young age for his uncle, Abu Talib, and his first contact with his future wife Khadijah was when she employed him, because of his honesty and integrity, to manage her caravans. Islam recognizes trade, or business, as it is known today, as an integral part of human life. When Prophet Muhammad was asked the best way for a person to earn their living, he replied working with their hands and honest trading. Thus the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad contain many references to trade and advice about how to conduct business. We are able to examine that advice and find that it is applicable today as it was 1400 years ago.
Prophet Muhammad emphasized honesty and kindness in all business dealings. He said, "The truthful and honest merchant is associated with the Prophets, the decent, and the martyrs." And, "God shows mercy to a person who is kind when he sells, when he buys, and when he recovers a debt."
Buying and selling is a way for a person to make a living, support his family and support his community through his charity. It is something that most people are involved in at some point in their lives. And even shopping and bargaining for your purchases at the local market means that you are engaged in business. Prophet Muhammad bargained, but he would never try to undermine the real value of the item. And the merchant should not try to cheat the buyer into paying more than an item is worth.
Prophet Muhammad advised the traders to be righteous, honest and to give charity. "The two parties to a transaction have the option of canceling it until they part. If they are honest and disclose any defects, their transaction will be blessed, but if they lie and conceal defects the blessing of their transaction will be erased." He also realized that engaging in trade often put people in situations where God is far from the forefront of their minds. He said, "Oh merchants, selling involves idle talk and oaths, so mix it with charity."
Prophet Muhammad forbade a well-known marketplace trick of telling people a higher price had been offered for something in order to raise the price and encourage the sale.6 He wanted the believers to known for their honesty and generosity and urged people to give a little more when weighing and measuring. And he counseled those who were owed money or goods to be lenient and even let the debtors off their debts if the circumstances warranted it. Fairness, kindness, honesty, and generosity were traits he encouraged. He said, "Whoever wants God to save him from the calamity of the Day of Resurrection should give more time to someone in financial difficulties or absolve him."
 Imam Ahmad
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
 At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood and others
6 Saheeh Al-Bukhari
 Saheeh Muslim
Business ethics in Islam includes the prohibition of usury, or what Islam calls riba. Islam’s rejection of usury is absolute, and this alone is often used as an example of Islam’s so-called backwardness. However, as we shall see, usury and its prohibition is as appropriate today as it was when Islam confirmed God’s dislike for a practice that is designed to steal money from those who can least afford to lose it.
In Western countries, usury is defined as the practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest that are usually in excess of the legal rate. It is thought of as the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans that unfairly enrich the lender. Originally, however, usury meant interest of any kind and Islam still uses that definition.
In Islam, usury is known as riba which means excess, and in Islamic law, it refers to an extra guaranteed amount paid or received over and above the principal amount loaned or in exchange of a commodity. Islam says that usury is a grievous sin. Charging interest is not allowed; it is not considered a morally righteous business practice. And usury (riba) also includes usurious trade practices such as the simultaneous exchange of goods of unequal quantity or quality.
God understands the human being well and has outlined in the Quran and through the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, the correct way to conduct business, including how to lend money. There is such a thing as ‘the good loan.’ This is the loan by which one intends to show kindness to a fellow human being and do him a favor. It does not involve taking interest. Some good business practices were discussed in part 1.
"…God has permitted trading and forbidden usury (riba)…" (Quran 2:275)
"Oh you who believe! Fear God and give up what remains due to you from usury if you are true believers." (Quran 2:278)
Islam has forbidden usury in all its forms due to the great deal of harm it inflicts on the individual and society as a whole. Usury causes an unequal distribution of wealth and resources and widens the gap between the rich and poor. It concentrates the wealth in the hands of a few people or corporations and is not used for the general good of the community. Prophet Muhammad cursed the one who consumes usury, and the one who pays it, the one who writes it down, and the two who witness it, and he said, they are all the same.
An Islamic society is based on brotherhood, empathy, kindness, and justice, thus if a person is in need of money or a loan, someone with excess money should fulfill his need for the sake of neighborly relations, community cohesion, and for the sake of God. Islam treats those who deal with usury very severely because it encourages a system based on selfishness, exploitation, and oppression. In Western societies where interest-based banking is the norm, the affluent people are often not inclined to help the needy; they are usually more concerned with their own desires. Those who deal in interest-based loans outside the financial institutions are often referred to as loan sharks because they enforce payment by means of violence and intimidation.
Other prohibited business methods include deception, gambling, and the sale of forbidden goods and services. Gharar can be roughly translated to deception, uncertainty, and risk. It is a concept in Islam that is used to measure legitimacy and involves hazardous or risky investment or sales. It pertains to short selling, selling commodities of uncertain quality, gambling, and contracts not drawn up in clear and legal terms. Gharar is prohibited because of the injustice and deceit it involves. Prophet Muhammad, when speaking against selling birds in the sky, fish in the water, or the unborn calf in the mother's womb, was asked if it was permissible to sell something to someone else before he had actually purchased it. He replied, "Do not sell something that is not with you."
Activities, where a person wins or loses something by chance (gambling), are prohibited because they give rise to enmity and hatred, and cause hostility between the winners and the losers. Trading in (buying or selling) good and services that are forbidden is also prohibited. This includes swine, intoxicants, prohibited foods, and items of idolatry. Trading in these items promotes and encourages their use.
Surely, God and His Messenger have prohibited the sale of wine, the flesh of dead animals, swine and idols.
"O you who believe! Surely drinking alcohol, gambling …. are an abomination of Satan’s handicraft. Therefore, avoid them so that you may be successful." (Quran 5:90)
Storing goods especially foodstuffs in the hope that it will become scarce and sell for a higher price is also a practice forbidden in Islam. Prophet Muhammad calls those who plan and behave like this, sinners. He said, "A merchant who hoards goods in order to raise the price is a sinner."
Islamic banking works within the guidelines of the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad. From the beginning of Islam and throughout the Middle Ages Islamic banking took care of business and trade within the Islamic world and beyond. It arguably provided some of the principles for the system of Western banking that developed around Spain and the Mediterranean. To earn money without using interest Islamic banks use equity participation schemes. This means that if a bank lends money to a business, the bank will not charge interest but will instead take a share of the profits. If the business fails or does not earn a profit, the bank also fails to benefit.
Believers living outside Muslim majority countries have until recently found it difficult to manage their finances in an Islamic way. Now, however, there are over 300 Islamic banks in 51 different countries. In addition to this many western banks have opened branches that use Islamic principles, often in order to strengthen their exposure to the fast-growing Islamic finance market.
There are now more choices however always bear in mind the Islamic emphasis on doing the right thing. If knowing what is right and wrong in regards to finances and business practices becomes confusing, nowadays we are able to consult Islamic financial advisors, local scholars and, reputable internet sites. Understanding Islamic business ethics helps us make good, and permissible, financial decisions.
 Saheeh Muslim
 Abu Dawood
 Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
 Saheeh Muslim
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