1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet

Selling It!

Sayings and Deeds of the ProphetNowhere is Islamic law applied more selectively than in commercial transactions. To do as Muhammad demands would completely cripple the modern economy. Take money, for instance.

Narrated Abu Al-Minhal:

I used to practice money exchange, and I asked Zaid bin Arqam about it, and he narrated what the Prophet said in the following:

Abu Al-Minhal said, "I asked Al-Bara bin Azib and Zaid bin Arqam about practicing money exchange. They replied, 'We were traders in the time of Allah's Apostle and I asked Allah's Apostle about money exchange. He replied, 'If it is from hand to hand, there is no harm in it; otherwise it is not permissible.'"

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Some of what Muhammad had to say about buying and selling is benign, but these are the exceptions.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The swearing (by the seller) may persuade the buyer to purchase the goods but that will be deprived of Allah's blessing."

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Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:

A person came to the Prophet and told him that he was always betrayed in purchasing.

The Prophet told him to say at the time of buying, "No cheating."

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Muhammad would control every aspect of the selling and buying of goods, as he did with everything he came in contact with, often to the point of absurdity. There was no macro-economic thinking behind the lawmaker’s decrees. From the Prophet's experience, the type of bartering that occurred around him was what was done everywhere; it was a micro-economic perspective perfectly suited for the ultimate micro-manager. All that needed to be done was to modify trade and commercial practices from the time of ignorance, the world before Islam, to his and Allah's liking. In the process, he made how people bought and sold stuff 1,400 years ago the equivalent of revealed truths, therefore timeless and unchanging.

An example of how Muhammad’s obsession with believers not earning interest completely changed the nature of barter, many would say for the worse, much worse if Islamic law was uniform in its application.

Narrated Umar bin Al-Khattab:

Allah's Apostle said, "The bartering of gold for silver is Riba, (usury), except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount, and wheat grain for wheat grain is usury except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount, and dates for dates is usury except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount, and barley for barley is usury except if it is from hand to hand and equal in amount."

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For a religion with global ambitions it is quite incredible how parochial its founder was in promulgating immutable laws. What is even more incredible is that his followers, Islamists in particular, would have us believe, by force and under threat of extermination if necessary, that these laws, the sayings and examples of a Dark Age trailblazer, if strictly applied will lead to a perfect world.

What if the world economy was subjected to Islamic economic laws? For one thing, futures markets would be a thing of the past. It would also be impossible, without breaking the law, for individuals, companies, even government to negotiate large scale sales of staples such as rice, wheat, corn … anything for that matter, on behalf of producers.

Narrated Ibn Umar:

The Prophet said, "He who buys foodstuff should not sell it till he has received it."

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Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet forbade the selling of foodstuff before receiving it. I consider that all types of sellings (sic) should be done similarly.

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Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:

Allah's Apostle forbade the sale called Habal-al-Habala which was a kind of sale practiced in the pre-Islamic period of ignorance. One would pay the price of a she-camel which was not born yet …

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It would mean the end of food wholesalers. Say goodbye to the modern supermarket.

Narrated Tawus:

Ibn Abbas said, "Allah's Apostle said, 'Do not go to meet the caravans on the way (for buying their goods without letting them know the market price); a town dweller should not sell the goods of a desert dweller on behalf of the latter.'"

I asked Ibn Abbas, "What does he mean by not selling the goods of a desert dweller by a town dweller?"

He said, "He should not become his broker."

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It would mean the end of electronic commerce, e.g., internet and purchases made over the phone.

Narrated Haklm bin Hizam:

The Prophet said, "The buyer and the seller have the option of cancelling or confirming the deal unless they separate."

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Why Muhammad would insist that food purchases made from a passing caravan could not be resold on the spot is a mystery to this twenty-first century consumer. 

Narrated Nafi:

Ibn Umar told us that the people used to buy food from the caravans in the lifetime of the Prophet. The Prophet used to forbid them to sell it at the very place where they had purchased it (but they were to wait) till they carried it to the market where foodstuff was sold.

Ibn Umar said, "The Prophet also forbade the reselling of foodstuff by somebody who had bought it unless he had received it with exact full measure"

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Nowhere is the micro-management obsession of Muhammad more evident than in his insistence, at the risk of a beating, that if you bought perishables without first insisting on them being measured, i.e., weighed before your eyes, you must take them home—where I assume you had a scale of some sort—and confirm for yourself that the measure was accurate. What about modern pre-wrapped food that is weighed at the factory where it is packaged?

Narrated Ibn Umar:

I saw the people buy foodstuff randomly (i.e. blindly without measuring it) in the life-time of Allah's Apostle and they were punished (by beating), if they tried to sell it before carrying it to their own houses.

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The merchant in Muhammad is everywhere evident in his obsessions with weights and measures.

Narrated Ibn Umar:

The Prophet forbade Muzabana; and Muzabana is the selling of fresh fruit (without measuring it) for something by measure on the basis that if that thing turns to be more than the fruit, the increase would be for the seller of the fruit, and if it turns to be less, that would be of his lot.

Narrated Ibn Umar from Zaid bin Thabit that the Prophet allowed the selling of the fruits on the trees after estimation (when they are ripe).

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Muhammad’s backyard was not so much a world of farmers as a world of traders and herders. He did not even know how date growers went about their business until he left the desert trading hub of Mecca for the oasis city of Medina; he was scandalized to discover that date-bearing palms were artificially pollinated, and ordered the practice stopped. He re-instituted the practice the following year after date production plummeted, but insisted it be done when he wasn’t present. Of course, this did not mean he could not regulate the sale of the fruits of date-palms that were not pollinated the old-fashioned way.

Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:

Allah's Apostle said, "If someone sells pollinated date-palms, their fruits will be for the seller, unless the buyer stipulates the contrary."

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This exposure to date production, his experience as a merchant and his access to the Creator’s expert advice all meant that Muhammad was comfortable telling growers and consumers when and how dates should be traded. Dates being a staple of the Arab diet and a favourite of God’s spokesperson meant that the vast majority of hadiths about fruits and vegetable refer to dates. A word you should get familiar with, which you will now frequently encounter, is ‘Sa’ as a unit of measurement. It is a unit of measurement described by Wiki as “The oldest accurate information about it is that of the qafiz of Hajjaj which equaled one Sa' of the Prophet's (4.2125 Litres)."

Narrated Aisha:

The family of Muhammad did not eat two meals on one day, but one of the two was of dates.

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Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet allowed the sale of the dates of Araya provided they were about five Awsuq (singular: Wasaq which means sixty Sa's) or less (in amount).

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One reason why religious scholars are in such great demand:

Narrated Ibn Umar:

Allah's Apostle forbade Al-Muzabana, i.e. to sell ungathered (sic) dates of one's garden for measured dried dates or fresh ungathered grapes for measured dried grapes; or standing crops for measured quantity of foodstuff. He forbade all such bargains.

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You cannot sell dates that are still on the tree; then again, maybe you can. You may need to consult a religious scholar familiar with date cultivation to avoid sinning here.

Narrated Abu Bakhtari At-Tai:

I asked Ibn Abbas about Salam for (the fruits of) date-palms. He replied "The Prophet forbade the sale of dates on the trees till they became fit for eating and could be weighed."

A man asked what to be weighed (as the dates were still on the trees).

Another man sitting beside Ibn Abbas replied, "Till they are cut and stored."

Narrated Abu Al-Bakhtari: I heard Ibn Abbas (saying) that the Prophet forbade ... etc. as above.

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Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:

Allah's Apostle said, "Do not sell fruits of dates until they become free from all the dangers of being spoilt or blighted; and do not sell fresh dates for dry dates."

Narrated Salim and Abdullah from Zaid bin Habit "Later on Allah's Apostle permitted the selling of ripe fruits on trees for fresh dates or dried dates in Bai-l-Araya, and did not allow it for any other kind of sale."

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What about fruits that do not turn red when ripe?

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah's Apostle forbade the sale of fruits till they are almost ripe. He was asked what is meant by 'are almost ripe.' He replied, "Till they become red."

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Even in the trading of dates, you had to be sure you were not circumventing Allah’s prohibition against earning interest. Again, Muhammad came to the rescue for those unclear on the concept.

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle appointed somebody as a governor of Khaibar. That governor brought to him an excellent kind of dates (from Khaibar).

The Prophet asked, "Are all the dates of Khaibar like this?"

He replied, "By Allah, no, O Allah's Apostle! But we barter one Sa of this (type of dates) for two Sas of dates of ours and two Sas of it for three of ours."

Allah's Apostle said, "Do not do so (as that is a kind of usury) but sell the mixed dates (of inferior quality) for money, and then buy good dates with that money."

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Narrated Abu Said al-Khudri:

Once Bilal brought Barni (i.e. a kind of dates) to the Prophet and the Prophet asked him, "From where have you brought these?"

Bilal replied, "I had some inferior type of dates and exchanged two Sas of it for one Sa of Barni dates in order to give it to the Prophet to eat."

Thereupon the Prophet said, "Beware! Beware! This is definitely Riba (usury)! This is definitely Riba (Usury)! Don't do so, but if you want to buy (a superior kind of dates) sell the inferior dates for money and then buy the superior kind of dates with that money."

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Muhammad’s knowledge of trade practices during the Dark Ages, in what we now call the Middle East, was undoubtedly unparalleled. However, his knowledge of animal husbandry, or the science of breeding and caring for farm animals, while undoubtedly superior to that of farming, could not have been as comprehensive. What he knew about the care and feeding of domesticated animals, apart from the camels in the caravans he was part of, seems to have come from a short stint as a shepherd, which was, according Muhammad, a rite of passage for all of those selected to speak on God’s behalf.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Allah did not send any prophet but shepherded sheep."

His companions asked him, "Did you do the same?"

The Prophet replied, "Yes, I used to shepherd the sheep of the people of Mecca for some Qirats."

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We only have Muhammad’s word that he worked for a short time as a shepherd in the nearly grassless, inhospitable desert in which Mecca is situated. Then again, if you can’t trust a messenger of God to tell you the truth, who can you trust? As can be expected, the hadiths concerning the sale of livestock are very much about what grazed in the Prophet’s neighbourhood and what sold at his local market. Note the use of dates in arriving at a fair exchange in the following hadiths about the sale and disposition of camels and sheep that need milking:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Don't keep camels and sheep unmilked (sic) for a long time, for whoever buys such an animal has the option to milk it and then either to keep it or return it to the owner along with one Sa of dates."

Some narrated from Ibn Sirin (that the Prophet had said), "One Sa of wheat, and he has the option for three days."

And some narrated from Ibn Sirin, "a Sa of dates," not mentioning the option for three days. But a Sa of dates is mentioned in most narrations.

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Narrated Abdullah bin Mas'ud:

Whoever buys a sheep which has not been milked for a long time, has the option of returning it along with one Sa of dates; and the Prophet forbade going to meet the seller on the way (as he has no knowledge of the market price and he may sell his goods at a low price).

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Transfer of ownership of a pregnant camel must await the birth of its offspring.

Narrated Abdullah:

The people used to sell camels on the basis of Habal-al-Habala. The Prophet forbade such sale. Nafi explained Habalal-Habala by saying. "The camel is to be delivered to the buyer after the she-camel gives birth."

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Rules for traders in precious metals:

Narrated Abu Bakra:

Allah's Apostle said, "Don't sell gold for gold unless equal in weight, nor silver for silver unless equal in weight, but you could sell gold for silver or silver for gold as you like."

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Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

Allah's Apostle said, "Do not sell gold for gold unless equivalent in weight, and do not sell less amount for greater amount or vice versa; and do not sell silver for silver unless equivalent in weight, and do not sell less amount for greater amount or vice versa and do not sell gold or silver that is not present at the moment of exchange for gold or silver that is present.

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Real estate agents will not love the following:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet forbade two kinds of dressing; (one of them) is to sit with one's legs drawn up while wrapped in one garment. (The other) is to lift that garment on one's shoulders. And also forbade two kinds of sale: Al-Limas (“A sale in which the deal is completed if the buyer touches a thing, without seeing or checking it properly”) and An-Nibadh (“A sale in which the deal is completed if the seller throws a thing towards the buyer giving him no opportunity to see, touch or check it”).

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The advantage of being the nearest neighbour if you covet your neighbour's home and he puts it up for sale:

Narrated Amr bin Ash-Sharid:

While I was standing with Sad bin Abi Waqqas, Al-Miswar bin Makhrama came and put his hand on my shoulder. Meanwhile Abu Rafi, the freed slave of the Prophet came and asked Sad to buy from him the (two) dwellings which were in his house.

Sad said, "By Allah I will not buy them."

Al-Miswar said, "By Allah, you shall buy them."

Sad replied, "By Allah, I will not pay more than four thousand (Dirhams) by installments."

Abu Rafi' said, "I have been offered five hundred Dinars (for it) and had I not heard the Prophet saying, 'The neighbor has more right than anyone else because of his nearness', I would not give them to you for four-thousand (Dirhams) while I am offered five-hundred Dinars (one Dinar equals ten Dirhams) for them."

So, he sold it to Sad.

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Another advantage of being a close neighbour occurs when your neighbour is in a gift-giving mood but does not have enough gifts to go around.

Narrated Aisha:

I said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have two neighbors and would like to know to which of them I should give presents."

He replied, "To the one whose door is nearer to you."

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Mixing it up!

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle forbade the selling of things by a town dweller on behalf of a desert dweller; and similarly Najsh (to offer a high price for something you do not care for simply to deprive someone else of it) was forbidden. And one should not urge somebody to return the goods to the seller so as to sell him his own goods; nor should one demand the hand of a girl who has already been engaged to someone else; and a woman should not try to cause some other woman to be divorced in order to take her place.

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Arranged marriages can provide a novel way of settling disputes, including one about mineral rights after a sale.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "A man bought a piece of and from another man, and the buyer found an earthenware jar filled with gold in the land.

The buyer said to the seller. 'Take your gold, as I have bought only the land from you, but I have not bought the gold from you.'

The (former) owner of the land said, 'I have sold you the land with everything in it.'

So both of them took their case before a man who asked, 'Do you have children?'

One of them said, 'I have a boy.'

The other said, 'I have a girl.'

The man said, 'Marry the girl to the boy and spend the money on both of them and give the rest of it in charity.'"

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You can probably buy and sell gold jewelry but wearing your purchase may be out of the question.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet forbade the wearing of a gold ring.

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Narrated Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle wore a gold or silver ring and placed its stone towards the palm of his hand. The people also started wearing gold rings like it, but when the Prophet saw them wearing such rings, he threw away that golden ring and then wore a silver ring.

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Wearing gold bracelets may also be inadvisable because of what tran-spired in one of Muhammad’s dreams.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "We (Muslims) are the last (to come) but (will be) the foremost (on the Day of Resurrection)."

Allah's Apostle further said, ''While sleeping, I was given the treasures of the world and two golden bangles were put in my hands, but I felt much annoyed, and those two bangles distressed me very much, but I was inspired that I should blow them off, so I blew them and they flew away. Then I interpreted that those two bangles were the liars between whom I was (i.e., the one of San'a' and the one of Yamama)."

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More items for which there is limited trade among believers.

Narrated Hudhaifa:

The Prophet forbade us to drink out of gold and silver vessels, or eat in it, and also forbade the wearing of silk and Dibaj (silk cloth) or sitting on it.

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