Does Islamic etiquettes matter?

October 3, 2019

By Dr Hanudin Amin

WHEN a breadwinner has short of supply for kinds of seafood, vegetables, chicken and other kinds of stuff, a marketplace becomes commonplace for him to visit in acquiring those necessities.

By definition, a marketplace is a commerce site that enables a seller to sell his goods to a buyer who then pays the price of the goods in return. Price and good are two counter values that do exist in the marketplace.

Besides it, it does offer an avenue for sellers to sell quality products and hence extending more choices to buyers without compromising their financial returns.

Theoretically, there are unethical manifestations that have occurred among petty traders but under their consciousness out of negligence and rapacious.

These include the manipulation of price via weighing tools and price discriminations tailored according to ethnicity and gender, to mention some.

In a small scale, you may find some people did not cover their awrah and there exists a commingling between men and women that leads to an evil temptation at the expense of harmony and happiness.

This warrants a new perspective to close the gap. For this purpose, I offer two questions to be answered as follows:

Question #1 – What are ethical deeds that can be promoted by buyers?

Question #2 – What are ethical deeds that can be promoted by sellers?

One may mindful that there should be Islamic etiquettes when entering a marketplace but somehow they are not clearly understood by Muslim buyers and sellers.

Their practices are viewed to be the same as their conventional peers and for that, it’s neglected. It is a secular mechanistic when a seller assumes his religion is gone separately with his profit-taking activity when undertaking a business deal.

Consequently, can a marketplace hold the significance of Islamic ethical values (e.g. probity and uprightness)? To hold their significance, I offer Islamic perspectives of etiquettes, where a marketplace comes into play. The details are provided.

On one hand, there are six Islamic manners that can be practised by buyers when entering the market for obtaining their sustenance like kinds of seafood, fruits and vegetables, to mention some. These include but are not limited to:

ETHICS # 1 – ALLOWING YOUR LEFT FOOT WHEN ENTERING THE MARKET. A consumer should enter the market by his left foot that is the steps on the earth via his left foot. Beforehand, he should pray to God for protection and being blessed at all times. The market is an open place for satans and their progenies to guide consumers astray.

ETHICS # 2 – CONSIDERING YOUR BASIC NEEDS FIRST. Goods bought by a consumer are those defined as a need instead of want. A wise buyer always makes a list of items to provide clarity before visiting the market. It’s a shopping list indeed. There is a situation where a basic good becomes “want” when he still has the supply of it at home. One should buy goods that are in need and has a scarce supply to curb wastages. The buying should not be seduced by desires but out of his family needs, which are essential for well-being.

ETHICS # 3 – PROTECTING YOUR EYES FROM EVIL LOOKING. A man should avoid looking at a woman who is not his wife or mahram and vice versa. Otherwise, “eyes of adultery” are built and there is nothing good of it but malfeasance. A market like a wet market is visited by both men and women in which a satan enticement, for instance, is afraid, to be of occurrence. Yet but more importantly, the first look is allowed out of recognition but the second look is not as it unlawfully gives sexual pleasure and gratification.

ETHICS #4 – RESTRICTING YOUR TIMES. Don’t stay longer at the marketplace. A consumer who looks for fish, fruits and vegetables should use his time productively to dodge the hangout and the intermingles between the same gender that promotes gossips. One should not talk about the useless but the price of the bought goods, the quality and the negotiation.

ETHICS #5 – SAFEGUARDING THE AWRAH OF YOUR SPOUSE. If there is no pressing requirement, a breadwinner has a better option to go alone to buy their pieces of stuff for a week or a month without his wife. If there is a compulsion, however, he might bring along her wife provided the awrah is covered Islamically whilst the adornments are confined accordingly.

ETHICS #6 – NEGOTIATING THE PRICE FAIRLY. If you have an aptitude financially, it is better to pay the full price without asking for a discount, and such an ‘effort’ is relatively an act of sadaqah. Sometimes, you will earn extra fish when you are meeting a right fishmonger and such an act is viewed sadaqah by the latter. The act of bargaining the price is tolerable among needy or poor folks out of ill-fated financial capacity.

Contrariwise, sellers can practise six Islamic manners when selling their goods at the market but are not confined to:

ETHICS #1 – CIRCUMVENTING PRICE DISCRIMINATION. A seller should sell the same price to all customers without discriminating them. A seller who lies and discriminates the price of the same good for different customers will face a temporary boycott. Worse comes to worst, a permanent boycott may follow at the expense of consumer loyalty.

ETHICS #2 – CLEANLINESS OF A STATION. A seller should ensure that he wears a proper dressing for dignity and confidence to allow improved demand of his sold goods. The same thing goes to the hygiene of his station for attraction and re-visit by buyers.

ETHICS #3 – BE TRANSPARENT TO EVERYONE. A seller should ensure all goods sold are good in quality and free from any defects. If any, they are sold at discount with written reasons. This means that low and high-quality goods are separated according to the station, price or discount. Information about the sold goods is explained cogently.

ETHICS #4 – FRIENDLY BUT ISLAMIC. Be good to buyers at all ages and ethnicity without comprising his dignity and personal values. Talk straightly about the transactions, price and quantity. If possible, a seller converses lucidly with a buyer until the latter makes a purchase.

ETHICS #5 – SIDESTEPPING ANY FAKE ADVERTISEMENTS. A seller should avoid any fake promotions that have evil intentions to lure consumers to make a purchase. Any acts of promotions should be honest, accessible and valid which in turn can lead to the second visit of consumers in their forthcoming purchases for ongoing sales.

ETHICS #6 – SAY NO TO RACISM. In a multicultural society, one may interact with others who are different in terms of ethnic, colour, slang and appearance that lead to racism if his attitude is of misleading, where negativity captures in his soul and explains through his conversation. Respect people as who they are.

Needless to say, unethical practices like the manipulation of weighing tool and the mixture of good and bad quality of products are of occurrence at small scales at the marketplace and I constantly believe that the Malaysian sellers or the Malaysian petty traders have put convincing measures in selling their goods Islamically for the Almighty’s blessing. In the majority, they are the best sellers.

Lastly, I regularly believe that the Malaysian buyers should be Islamic at all times and do not ask ` much discount from a seller in buying an article but amply, asking once only. It is worth noting that the marketplace is peaceable, congruence and lively when Islamic etiquettes are brought into play. By all means, we can make a difference.

*The author is an Associate Professor at the Labuan Faculty of International Finance, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Labuan International Campus. He has a PhD from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in Islamic Banking and Finance (PG310163). He can be contacted at hanudin@ums.edu.my. 

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