Duties of a Muslim Trader

Deen (Religion) is Not Limited to the Masjid
Since the Muslim Ummah (global community) has gone into decline, like some other religions we have limited Deen to a few rituals only. As long as we are in the Masjid or are praying at home, we do remember that Allah Ta’alah and His Messenger have given us some commandments to follow. But as soon as we go to our workplace, to the bazaar, or to other practical aspects of life, we completely forget that Islam has given some commandments that we are supposed to follow at our workplace and in the bazaar too.
Enter Islam Completely
The verse of the Holy Quran that has just been recited says;

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ادْخُلُوا فِي السِّلْمِ كَافَّةً (۲:۲۰۸)
“O’ you who believe, enter Islam completely…” (2:208)

It shouldn’t be that we are a Muslim only when we are in the mosque, and we completely forget about how Allah Ta’alah wants us to behave when we are at home, at our workplace, and in the Bazaar. We should be a Muslim everywhere.
Qarun and His Wealth
In the following verse Allah Ta’alah has addressed Qarun who was a very wealth person at the time of Hazrat Musa AS (Moses). He was so rich that while mentioning his wealth in the Quran Allah Ta’alah has said,

“Indeed Qarun was from the people of Musa, then he rebelled against them. And We had given to him such treasures as their keys would weigh too heavy for a strong group of people.” (28:76)

Allah Ta’alah gave him some commandments through Hazrat Musa AS which have been mentioned in the following verses. While this was an address to Qarun but the commandments actually apply to every wealthy person.
Allah Ta’alah’s Advice to Qarun
Allah Ta’alah gave the following four advices to Qarun;

“And (1) seek the (betterment of) the Ultimate Abode with what Allah has given to you, and (2) do not neglect your share from this world, and (3) do good as Allah did good to you, and (4) do not seek to make mischief in the land.” (28:77)

“What Allah has given to you?”
In the first part of the verse Allah Ta’alah doesn’t say that seek betterment through what you have, and rather says that seek betterment through what Allah has given to you. This is the main difference between the attitude of a Muslim and a nonMuslim towards his own wealth. A non-believer believes that that whatever wealth he has accumulated is a result of his own endeavours. He has earned it through his own efforts. Therefore, he have the full right to spend it as he wishes. No one else has the right to tell him how to spend it or not to spend it.
As narrated in the Holy Quran, Hazrat Shuaib’s (AS) people had said to him,

“They said, ‘O Shuaib, does your Salah (prayer) command you that we should forsake what our fathers used to worship or that we should not deal with our wealth as we please? You pretend to be the only man of wisdom and guidance’.” (11:87)

What they seemed to be saying was why are you telling us not to measure less, be just, think about Hara’am (unlawful) and Halal when earning wealth. What right have got to tell us how we should conduct our businesses? This is our wealth, our property, we will earn it and spend it as we wish.
All Wealth Belongs to Allah
This is the capitalist mentality that this is my wealth, I will spend it as I wish. But Allah Ta’alah says in the Holy

“To Allah belongs what is in the heavens and what is in the earth…” (4:131)

Everything in this world and in the heavens belong to Allah Ta’alah. Allah Ta’alah has granted some of it to us. That is why it has been said that seek Aakhirah (Hereafter) through what Allah Ta’alah has given to you. It hasn’t been said that seek Aakhirah through your wealth.
All Our Wealth has been Granted to Us by Allah
So, we should always keep it in our minds that whatever we have, our wealth, our property, our bank balance, our factories, they all belongs to Allah Ta’alah. It is true that we worked hard to attain these, but how many people are there who worked equally hard or harder but could not achieve the same degree of success? There are many people work very hard to increase their wealth but are never able to do so, unless Allah Ta’alah wills it. A Muslim should always be mindful of this fact.
Attitude towards One’s Wealth
There are three differences between the attitude of a Muslim and a non-believer towards their own wealth.
The first is that a Muslim thinks that whatever he owns has been granted to him by Allah Ta’alah, and is a blessing from Allah Ta’alah. On the other hand, a non-believer believes that whatever he has earned is through his own efforts alone.
The second difference is that it is the duty of a Muslim to use his wealth to make his Aakhirah (Hereafter) better. While earning this wealth, and spending it, he should ensure that he does it in a way which pleases Allah Ta’alah, so that his wealth becomes an instrument of Deen (religion) for him, and helps him make his Aakhirah better. If a person is mindful of following Allah Ta’alah’s commandments both when earning his wealth as well as spending it, his Dunya (material wealth) becomes Deen for him.
The third difference is that a Muslim also earns an income and spends it, just like a non-believer does, but he is always mindful of Allah Ta’alah while doing so. If a person conducts his business with two intentions; the first that Allah Ta’alah has assigned me some rights that I need to fulfil, rights of my own self, my wife, my children, my parents, and that I am doing this business to fulfil all those rights, and the second that by conducting this business I am trying to fulfil a need of my society and fulfil the needs of the people by making this process easy and affordable for them, then all his business will become Deen (religion) for him. If a person conducts his business with these two intentions in mind, and at the same time adopts only Halal ways of conducting business and avoids Hara’am income, then all his business will become Ibadah (acts of worship).
The Two Types of Businessmen
In a Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said;

“A trustworthy and truthful businessman will be with the Prophets, Siddiqeen (those who are always truthful) and Shuhada (martyrs) on the Day of Qiyamah (Doomsday).”

However, if a businessman does not care about Hara’am and Halal, then in another Hadith the Holy Prophet ﷺ said,
“Traders will be raised as sinners on the Day of Qiyamah (Doomsday) except that trader who fears Allah (adopts Taqwah), adopts piety, and is truthful.” If a businessman does not have these three attributes, then he will be counted among sinners on the Day of Qiyamah.
The first step is correcting one’s intention ( ّنّ ت), and the second step is distinguishing between Hara’am and Halal in one’s practice. A Muslim is not a complete Muslim if he is only a Muslim in the mosque, but once he gets out of the mosque he doesn’t care whether the business he going to do is within the boundaries set by Allah Ta’alah or not. If a Muslim is conducting his business without any regard to his income being Halal or Hara’am, then the warning given in the second Hadith above will apply to him.
The Second Advice
Upon reading the above somebody might have thought that Islam is telling us to stop doing business, and we are being told to give up Dunya (material world) altogether, not focus upon our worldly needs, and to focus exclusively on the life after death. To correct that impression Quran Karim advises in the very next sentence;

“…and do not neglect your share from this world,” (28:77)

It means that we are not being told not to do business or earn wealth, what we are being told is to do it within the limits set by Allah Ta’alah, and to always be mindful whether our income is coming through Halal or Hara’am means.
Dunya is not the Ultimate Goal
Even though Islam allows Muslims to engage in money making activities but it has also been emphasized that the main purpose of a Muslim’s existence is not to earn money. That is the difference between a believer and a non-believer that for a nonbeliever the primary concern in life is to ensure that one has enough money at every stage of life. However, Quran and Hadith tell a Muslim that you are allowed to earn money but it is not the primary purpose of your existence.
Everyone has to Die One Day
No one knows how much longer they have got to live. Our life could end today, it could end tomorrow. There are people who deny the existence of God, but no one has ever been able to deny the existence of death. This is one fact of life on which whole of humanity agrees, that all of us have to die one day. And if we are a Muslim, we believe that there will be another life after this one, and that life will be for ever.
Do Good to Others
In the third sentence of this verse Allah Ta’alah says;

“…do good as Allah did good to you…”

It means that just like Allah Ta’alah has blessed us with this wealth, we are now expected to share it with those less fortunate than us. In this verse, initially we were commanded to differentiate between Halal (permissible) and Hara’am (unlawful), and to refrain from accumulating wealth through Hara’am means. It then tells us that even about that wealth that we have accumulated through Halal means, we should not adopt an attitude that I have gathered it by my own efforts alone, and it is exclusively for me to decide how to spend it. Rather we should use it to do good to others by spending it on Zakat (compulsory charity), Sadaqah and Khairat (non-obligatory charity).
Do Not Create Discord
In the fourth sentence Allah Ta’alah has commanded us;

“do not seek to make mischief in the land.” (28:77)

It means that people should not usurp other people’s rights using their power and wealth. They should be mindful of other people’s rights.
If a Muslim businessman follows these four pieces of advice, then all his wealth and his commercial activities become instruments of Deen for him, and on the Day of Qiyamah (Doomsday) he will be with Prophets, Siddiqeen (people who are always truthful), and Shuhada (martyrs). And if he doesn’t, then all his commercial activities will not bring him any good and will become a source of punishment for him.
What Change Can One Person Bring?
These days a lot of people think and say that unless the whole society and the system change, what change can an individual bring? And how can an individual follow the four commandments given above unless the whole society changes? It is important to remember that a society is nothing but a collection of individuals. If all of these individuals keep waiting for the society to change before they will change, then the society will never change. All major societal changes in history have started with one person, who then influenced some more people to change, and then these people lead a change in whole society.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ Brought the Change Alone
When the Holy Prophet ﷺ came into this world the society was at rock bottom in terms of morality. If at that time he had also thought that the whole society is going in the wrong direction and what would an individual be able to do, then we wouldn’t be here today as Muslims. He faced the whole society’s anger and opposition and still kept preaching the truth. He faced lots of difficulties, had to make many sacrifices, but he endured them all. And it is the result of his steadfastness that Islam, which started from one person, spread to the whole world. If he had also thought like us that there is no point in trying to change myself until the whole society changes, then nothing would have changed.
We are All Accountable
Allah Ta’alah has made us all accountable for our own actions. It is Fard (compulsory) for every Muslim to try to correct their own behaviour, regardless of what other people are doing. May this talk motivate us to find out more about what commandments Allah Ta’alah has given us in the area of commerce, business, and financial transactions. May Allah Ta’alah bless both our Dunya (material world) and Aakhirah (Hereafter).

وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين