By Amina Salau
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
For a lot of entrepreneurs, the aim of starting a business venture is to provide sustenance for them and their family. Some want to add value to the society. As Muslims, our businesses can provide sustenance for us and also add value to the Muslim Ummah (nation or community) in the following ways:
Pay zakah (obligatory charity)
Prophet Muhammad (sa) said that a Muslim should work with his hands, benefit himself, and also give in charity from what he earns. (Bukhari) This charity applies to both zakah and sadaqah (voluntary charity), and the hadith is evidence that we are expected to give back to the community from our earnings.
Imagine that every employed Muslim, including business owners, pays his or her zakah in full and whenever it is due. I believe that the Muslim community will be more than able to provide relief for the poor, the ill, and the refugees all around us.
Give sadaqah (non-obligatory alms)
It is possible that a small business does not have the minimum amount required to be eligible to pay zakah. Sadaqah is most preferred in this situation. We are encouraged to give out of the little that we have and use our wealth to seek the home of the hereafter (Qur’an 28:77)
Even those business owners who are eligible and paying zakah are encouraged to give out sadaqah, either in cash or kind, to help those in need. Remember that alms do not have to be in cash. A business that sells food can give out alms by offering free food to the poor or giving them discounts.
Use your services for the Muslim community
The Muslim community relies on people who give their time and resources for the propagation of Islam. From people who take care of the local mosques, to people that lobby for the government, someone is actively trying to advance the cause of Islam.
There is no one in the community who cannot be of benefit to Islam. Have a look at your business, either the products you sell or the services offered. How can you help Islam with them?
Mentor other Muslims
Almost every entrepreneur has another entrepreneur that he or she looks up too. It could be for motivation, guidance, or support. An experienced business owner can be that person for other Muslims. Allow people to learn from you and share your knowledge freely. These days, this is easier to do with so many means on the Internet. You can organize webinars or start a blog.
A business owner may also take younger ones under his or her tutelage by allowing them learn directly from the day to day operations of the business. Whichever way you choose, the most important thing is to use your knowledge and experience to benefit other Muslims. The more Muslims who are enlightened and empowered to create businesses, the better it is for the image of Islam.
Use your business as a form of dawah
It is common for non-Muslims to judge Islam by the actions of Muslims. Whatever people see us do is what they believe to be the teachings of Islam. How is your business representing Islam?
Remember that rules of trading, as laid out by the Sharia (Islamic law), should guide a Muslim’s business. Do not cheat other people by advertising something and selling a different thing. Do not enslave people in the name of employment and make them work for dismal wages and under poor conditions.
We should also remember that riba and usury are forbidden under Sharia as is the sale of pork, alcohol, and other forbidden items.
A Muslim’s business enterprise is as good an ambassador of Islam as the owner itself, and as long as we are committed to propagating Islam through our own selves, we should also keep trying to use our businesses for the good of Islam.
Amina Salau is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s issues in Islam
© IIPH 2016