Assalamualaikum Sh. Sajid. From an Islamic Transactions perspective, how would the calls towards boycotting products be viewed?
وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته
:باسم الله والحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، أما بعد
From an Islamic perspective trade is seen as a means (waseelah) towards achieving different ends (maqaasid). We all trade as a means of aquiring a required benefit, as oppossed to just trading for the sake of it.
Based on this the Shariah applies the rules of the latter upon the former accordingly. Thus generally, if the outcome of the trade is a permissible one, the means towards that outcome will also be considered permissible. However if the outcome of the transaction is considered impermissible in islam, then the means that would eventually lead to that forbidden outcome will also be considered forbidden.
The concept of trade as we have covered together in previous posts, articles and courses was cited as being from the permissible matters (in Arabic: Mubaah), and the scholars of Jurisprudence methodology catagorise Mubaah practices as based on the outcomes they lead to into four catagories, as explained eloquently by ibn alQayyim (rh), as follows:
1. A Mubaah act which leads to an impermissible outcome, such as selling a tool to a person who clearly intends to use it in an illegal way. Whilst the act of selling a tool is originally considered as Mubaah, in this circumstances it would be considered forbidden due to it being a means to a confirmed harmful & forbidden outcome.
2. A Mubaah act which is done in order to achieve an outcome which the Shariah has stepped in and singled out as impermissible, such as marrying a divorcee (which is normally Mubaah) if done in order to make her permissible (Halal) for her former spouse. Due to the impermissible intent behind this act, the marriage which would normally constitute a permissible means under usual circumstances, would now be considered forbidden.
3. A Mubaah act which experience shows that if done, then in most cases greater harm will come into being, such as the Shariah forbidding Salaah at the rising or setting of the sun, so as not to give the impression that Islam has practices similar to the norms of the idolators giving their ritual of offering prostrations to the sun at the time of dawn and dusk. Whilst Salaah is permissible as a means to worship Allah Almighty, an exception, given the sensitivity of the outcome, was implemented.
4. A Mubaah act which may lead to a harmful outcome, but experience shows that the benefits of the act outweigh the harms, and that in most cases an impermissible end being achieved is negligible, such as the Shariah citing as permissible (Mubaah) for a person intending marriage to look at a female for the sake of marriage.
This final category carries a base ruling of Mubaah, but can be escalated to recommended (Mustahhab) and even obligatory (Waajib) depending on the levels of harm the Mubaah act works against and dispels.
With regards to the current discourse, and the topic of boycotting, category 4 above applies especially if it would entail the provision of the necessary pressure which would lead to changes in policies oppressive to Muslim minorities becoming reduced or dissolved.
Based on the fact that oppression is forbidden, and assisting the oppressed is from the mandates of the Shariah, it could be said that a trade/financial boycott (if executed properly and proven to be effective) which works against the spread of oppression, in the event of oppression being confirmed, is recommended and may even become compulsory, especially if given that for every product being boycotted, there are several other alternatives which meet the needs of the market.
Some have queried the harm created on businesses innocent of the actions of those whose activities are the reason for the boycott.
This is a fair comment, and in response to this I would argue that harm has not been created by the consumer, but rather market risk has been realised by the seller. The element of market risk is not foreign in concept to all self-regulated markets, in which buyers have complete choice and autonomy in terms of the quantities of products purchased, and brand loyalty. In addition, and given globalization, a boycott may incentavise the market to leverage its potential and apply the necessary pressure required in order to dispel oppression and help normality reign once again.
And Allah knows best.
Sh. Dr. Sajid Umar
29/10/20 – 12/03/1442AH