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Islamic Management: A New Option for Business Empowerment

By Muhammad Shafeeque

May 19, 2016

He it is who has made the earth subservient to you (i.e. easy to walk, to live and to pursue agriculture on); so walk in the path thereof and eat of his provision. And to him will be the resurrection' [Qur'an, Sura 67:16, Al-Mulk].

Wealth is an inevitable element in human life. Almighty Allah calls on people to work hard to attain the highest wealth. Islam expounds vividly on the need to undertake migration in search of wealth. If we lack sources of prosperity in our native home we can travel to other lands. Islam imbued in people the ambition to acquire maximum riches for securing a peaceful life. Allah explores the value of money in the verse [Qur'an, Sura 4:6, Al-Nisa] 'And give not to the immature your property which Allah has made a means of support for you'

When Allah says to deny money to immature people the value of money is recognized. Wealth is a person's backbone. How is it possible to stand without the backbone? From the term 'Khiyama', used in describing wealth, we elucidate that wealth is a backbone which helps a person to stand straight [1].

If we do not accumulate wealth we may meet many obstacles and hindrances:

1] Wealth is the foundation for a person's pride.

2] How can we meet our mandatory obligations without wealth?

3] Begging destroys a person's holy faith.

4] How can we meet our obligations to our relatives [2]?

There is a common tradition and belief among conventional Muslims that Sufism is something that eliminates one's life with one's relatives. People begin to call a person 'Sufi' for avoiding family duties. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, banned these illegal habits. He said 'it is sinful to not feed the family of those for whom feeding them is compulsory'[3].

Thus, certain Sufis exploited the spiritual concept of Islam. Morally, this led to extra conflict between family members. Scandalous events explored in media are the remnants of this attitude. By contrast, we affirm that it is obligatory for parents to offer moral education to their children.

Begging is a not a motive in the Islamic creed. Once, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal was asked by one of his fellow-Muslims, 'Can we go to Mecca without any preparations? If so, how can we live?' He replied 'indeed, we will trust in God, otherwise we will meet the doors of begging'. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal changed the tone slightly and said, 'it is not the behaviour of a Tabi [member of the Successors, the generation of Muslims that came after the Prophet and his Companions.] There is an equivalent paramount importance for both entrusting and employment'[4].

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said 'those who feed their families in expectation of the contentment of God, for them it is indeed a benefaction'. We can be jealous of wealthy people in terms of their capacity for expenditure. Therefore, wealth is an immense favour if one spends it in a worthy manner.

Dissipation of Wealth

It is stated in Islamic jurisprudence that the dissipation of the wealth is a sin. There is a common perception that the wasting of money is corruption.

In India, people often used to go abroad, leaving their homes unsecured. This activity is considered a great offense in Islamic law. According to Islamic jurisprudence, it is mandatory to appoint a trustee to inspect the home daily [5]. This all conveys the message that the dissipation of wealth is not acceptable within the Islamic moral code and is strongly prohibited. We can therefore say empirically that wealth is an essential element of Islam and acquiring wealth is a worthwhile thing.

The Study of Financial Management

Nowadays, management science is the basis for a heated debate among the world's intellectuals. Rising with the evolution of industry, it has been extended and we see many academic departments dealing with management studies. In this context, it is important to examine Islamic ideologies concerning financial management and other management studies.

Islam provides two conditions for handling of financial dealings – maturity and consciousness. According to Islamic jurisprudence, a child is not allowed to interfere economically with the wealth of his father. It is mandatory for the governor of a village to block the child from all economic interventions [6]. If the child reaches the age of maturity and awareness, he can become involved in any dealings. Sheikh Zainuddin Al-Makhdoom (India, 15th c. CE) quoted the definition of 'Rushd' in his famous volume of jurisprudence, Fa'th ul-Mueen. He said 'Rushd is goodness in both wealth and faith'[7]. It is obligatory for one to avoid activities that destroy the fairness of one's personality. One should do business in a manner where there is no excessive loss.

Waste is the main reason behind global economic depressions. Currently the world faces a great economic downturn. Rich people are exhausting their money by means of extravagance. This opens a path for unbalanced income distribution. Islam has provided doctrines for the defence of the poor and to ensure equivalent income distribution.

Islamic Management

There is a prominent and citation of our beloved Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, 'all are leaders and all will be questioned about their companions'[8].

This statement has many psychological aspects. It stands powerfully against the inferiority complex of an individual. It may lead the mentality of people to turn toward optimistic thoughts. And finally it praises the people by ensuring 'you all are leaders'. It declares that all have duties and responsibilities. If a person has no commerce or career, then he is still a leader of his family. Islam provides many management principles which can be seen directly or indirectly in Holy Scriptures. The famous business theorist Henri Fayol's fourteen principles [9] of management can be found in the sacred texts of Islam. Europeans combined those views of management and formed a special field for studies in business management.

Three Fundamental Tools for Business Development

Even when a business reaches its pinnacle of excellence, the owner endeavours to increase its profit by adding more capital. Here, Islam provides three fundamental tools for perfection of an enterprise:

1] Interest in and passion about the progress of the company: A person lacking interest and basic ideas about the running of a business cannot go forward in a business field. A son who has no vision about his father's business will not able to continue the business in a profitable manner. Here it is important to recognize the interest of the employees in the company. Their mentality of sacrifice is the basis of a company's success. Beyond exaggerated external expressions, an owner wants to enter in the deep core of the employee's being. Only then will the employees show passion and interest for the company.

2] Patience:

Patience is the bedrock of success in business. We can see illustrations from the prophetic life that explores the need of patience in business. Khadija, may Allah be pleased with her, intended to wed the Prophet after observing several qualities in him. Great progress in business was one such reason. When we scrutinize the chronicles of the Prophet's affairs, we can see that patience was one of the major strategies for his commercial agility. Sometimes traders in that time were compelled to see many officials to get a simple permission to conduct business. Patience plays a vital role in overcoming such hurdles. In the case of the Prophet, he wanted to travel from Mecca to Syria for his business dealings. Lacking a developed infrastructure, the trip was not at all effortless for Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Here patience helped him to surmount difficult situations. The autobiographies of eminent business entrepreneurs comprise a great heritage of bitterness and patience.

According to Islamic doctrine, securing money is not an offense. If people spend money for the sake of God it is an advantage in the hereafter. The supreme companions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, like Abu-Bakr Siddiq, Usman Ibn Affan and Abdurrahman Ibn Awf, may Allah be well-pleased with all of them, were rich people. The Prophet's intimate friend Abu-Bakr Siddiq spent most of his time in markets, helping the Prophet both mentally and financially.

Islam inspires and encourages the beneficent qualities of a person. For maintaining equivalent income distribution, Islam provides mandatory almsgiving (Zakat). If the people show a positive approach towards Zakat, the world may be rescued from the fragilities of poverty. According to the primary jurisprudential source in the Shafi'i legal school, the Tuhfatu'l Muhtaj li Sharh Al-Minhaj, written by the great scholar and jurist Ibn Hajar [10th c. CE], it is mandatory for a person to help another searching for hospitality[10].

Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, said 'there are obligations in your wealth to the poor'[11]. This statement vividly expounds the necessity of benefaction. Those who hoard money are described as brothers of Pharaoh in Islamic texts [12]. A classical proverb states 'those who give will only gain'.

3] Continuous Effort:

Consistency is important. Laziness must be expelled from the minds of those who labour. A better manager wants to be a model for his employees. In Islamic history, we can see that the Prophet was a charismatic leader for the followers. He taught the religion through the examples of his life.

To develop a team spirit, it is mandatory for the owner to consider the employees as close friends. According to psychologists, knowing names is a positive stroke to build confidence in team strength. Jokes which do not diminish others are also needed for building a better management.

Here we have great illustrations from the Prophet's life. Anas, may Allah be well-pleased with him, was the servant and attendant (Khadim) of Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him. During his entire time of service he never felt that he was a servant. He said 'the Prophet never asked me, why you do this, and not that?'[13] This is not contrary to the modern management principle of dealing with employees. If we show friendship toward employees, then they will understand our dissatisfaction without any order.

Here the Prophet stands as a precedent for a better style of management. Further, one of the concepts of Karl Marx is acceptable. He never defined the capital of a company as land, machines and buildings alone. But he called the efforts of labour a form of capital. Indeed, this approach will empower the team spirit of the company. Therefore, wages play an important role in the progress of a company, as it is defined as part of the capital of the company. Even though Muslims oppose the ideologies of Marx, this may be recognized as good. Once the Prophet said, 'no one asked me anything to which I would say no'. There were solutions for all problems presented to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Five Tips of Khadija, May Allah Be Well Pleased With Her, For Better Management

When the angel Jibril, may Allah be well pleased with him, brought revelation, the Prophet shivered and was frightened. He reached home and said to Khadija 'please wrap a cloth over my body'. At that time Khadija replied, 'And by Allah, he will not harm you. I saw five valuable traits in you'[14]. These five traits are pillars to which a manager should hold closely to sustain his business successfully.

1] Ensure Family Relationships

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, helped his family both physically and economically. Regarding business, developing firm relations among employees is very significant.

2] Nothing Is Impossible

Nothing was impossible in the practical world-view of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Once Napoleon said 'there is no word "I can't, I can't" in my dictionary'. So a positive attitude toward our abilities is indispensable in business management.

3] Employ The People

The Prophet always intended to bring employment to those who have no work to uplift their families. In business it is crucial for the manager to help the employees by giving special benefits and bonuses so that they may show a high commitment towards the company.

4] Respect the Guest

Once, Mecca was a world-famous city where peasants and traders sheltered for years. In such a context, the Prophet loved to treat the guest with maximum celebration, food, and love. Similarly, in business, behaviour towards the consumer is a crucial element for profit maximization. The quality of a product may be determined from the behaviour of the salesman.

5] Help Those Who Encounter Natural Disasters

We come to see many natural disasters which have completely wrecked the living standard of a community. The Prophet always stood in the front ranks of those helping people who encountered disasters. In business, helping the poor will bring a positive image for the company.

[1] Exegesis Razi by Imam Razi, may Allah be well-pleased with him.

[2] An Islamic Reading of Economics, by Cherushola Abdul Jaleel Saqafi, p. 15.

[3] Saheeh Muslim, Babu Al Sadaqah.

[4] Glimpses from the Lives of the Tabiy, section on Abu Hanifa, may Allah be well-pleased with him.

[5] Tuhfatu'l Muhtaj li Sharh Al-Minhaj by Imam Ibn Hajar, may Allah be well-pleased with him, part 4.

[6] Fat'h ul-Mueen of Sheikh Zainuddin Al-Makhdoom, may Allah be well-pleased with him, p. 249.

[7] Fat'h ul-Mueen of Sheikh Zainuddin Al-Makhdoom, p. 231.

[8] Al Bidayat ul-Hidaya of Imam Ghazali, may Allah be well-pleased with him, p. 69.

[9] Fourteen Principles of Henri Fayol, p. 128.

[10] Tuhfatu'l Muhtaj li Sharh Al-Minhaj of Ibn Hajar, Babu Al Sadaqah, part 3.

[11] Saheeh Bukhari, Babu Al Sadaqah.

[12] An Islamic Reading on Economics by Cherushola Abdul Jaleel Saqafi, p. 78.

[13] Glimpses from the Lives of the Sahaba, section Anas, may Allah be well-pleased with him.

[14] Sayyid ul-Bashr by Kodambuzha Bava Musliyar, p. 34.

Muhammad Shafeeque is enrolled in a special intensive program in classical Islamic studies from Madeenathunnoor College of Islamic Science, Kozhikode, Kerala, India. His areas of interest are Quranic science, translation, theology, jurisprudence, and contemporary Islamic thought.