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Ethics of Muslim Businesses

Muslim businesses are often cluttered and unhygienic.It is the utmost desire for Muslims to want to support their fellow business owners, but not when you’re totally getting ripped off – people can be naive, but they are not that stupid. Muslims do have their own families to take care of, bills to pay, college funds to keep alive, and expenses all around, and that is something all people need to keep in mind.

Muslim businesses are often cluttered and unhygienic.So we’ve all been there: the one Halal meat store in the community…you know, the one with the cluttered aisles, exotic fruits, and that interesting freshly-slaughtered meat smell that can be found in every corner of the store. And then we’ve also been to the other store, the local grocery store: Randall’s, Kroger, or the nearest Wal-Mart, the cleaner, more organized grocery store. Sure, you can’t buy meat there, but it just seems a little nicer to be there, even the people in the uniforms who smile and even annoyingly ask you over and over again, “How can I help you?”

Let’s be honest here, Muslims try to get away with a lot of things when it comes to their businesses that they shouldn’t be getting away with. Have you seen those ridiculously overpriced South Asian wedding dresses? We all know how much it really takes to make that outfit, and how much the little kids are getting paid to make it. Those rotting vegetables hidden under a layer of fresh ones? You know what I mean. And the time the cashier refused to give you correct change and pretended he didn’t speak a word of English? World businesses spend loads of money on creating air fresheners to spray in their stores that have been proven to be pleasant to customers in order to lure them in, but we think we can do just fine with the fresh meat stench. Then, of course, there are the unhygienic practices, making Muslim stores generally a very unpleasant experience.

Of course we should support our Muslim businesses, and our Muslim businesses should support their communities as well! As such, Islam has given clear cut rules on how to behave as well as do business with your fellow Muslims. Just as any business person would not like to be tricked or cheated for their money, any customer would not like to be as well. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: “The person who deceives a Muslim believer in buying or selling (things) is not of us.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 103, p. 80)

It is not only about business and money; rather, the question of Akhlaq comes into play. The golden rule: treat others how you wish to be treated. Why is that when it comes to money, even as Muslims, those with the most perfect faith and code of ethics are the most devious? Unfortunately, it is a supply and demand world out there, but Allah will hold accountable those who help to drive people away from Halal. Imagine a young college student living away from home and now having to do all the meat shopping on their own. Already a young, exploring mind, “nobody is watching” attitude, and now a budget and learning to spend money on top of that, this college student just may realize and make the decision that if he can buy some boneless chicken for a lovely 99 cents a pound, compared to the boneless chicken at the Halal meat store (which is in the middle of nowhere) selling for $5.99 a pound…the possible outcomes of the situation are often unfortunate.

It is the utmost desire for Muslims to want to support their fellow business owners, but not when you’re totally getting ripped off – people can be naive, but they are not that stupid. Muslims do have their own families to take care of, bills to pay, college funds to keep alive, and expenses all around, and that is something all people need to keep in mind.

We are toying with people’s faith when we become greedy. Let us remember that Islam came to Southeast Asia through Muslim merchants and traders, who impressed the locals with their upright character and morals. At the very least, If Muslim business owners do not set examples and set the bar for a successful, customer-happy business, then Muslims business owners are not doing their job.

As communities, we need to start by creating small, successful businesses that are doing clean, Halal business – no cheating allowed. When intentions are pure and for the sake of helping others and Islam, Allah will make a business successful. It is common sense that if a person cuts good deals, is completely honest in his/her transactions, follows the guidelines of cleanliness as prescribed by Islam, and has good manners with his/her customers, word spreads very fast! (Have you heard of the new Halal steakhouse in Houston called Veranda? Amazing!)

It will require an effort from both sides – the suppliers and the demanders. The next time you go to a Muslim business, and something is just not right, find a kind way to share your thoughts and do some Amr Bil Ma’ruf – an email, a phone call, or a nice letter. Maybe some solutions or ideas in the thoughts will help. If you want to lead by example, give your own business a shot! We could definitely use a nice 24-hour gym that follows Islamic rulings, or better yet, a few good stores that sell women’s Hijabi clothing at less than NY prices!

About Madiha Zaidi

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  • JH

    This a very important topic that tends to be very sensitive. I’ve seen both sides of the argument and trust me, there are some great , clean, and friendly stores run by Muslims! They may not always be the crowd attractor since people lean towards more globalized brands. However, there are those hidden gems!

    There’s also a more “personal” factor with smaller stores, you can request specific items and they’ll do their best to help you.

  • Fatimah5

    Good for you for pointing out the obvious elephant in the room! Those stores seriously need to clean up their act. We got lucky, in our city there is this one really spotless halal meat store – but I have never seen another one like it anywhere.

  • PinkMuslimah

    Ahh, darn, I can’t like it twice.