General Islamic Topic Islamic Economic

What Islam Say about Lying for Marketing Purposes?

Is lying permitted for marketing purposes in business or to promote something?

Marketing according to Philip Kotler is any human activity that fulfills needs and wants through the process of trade [Philip Kotler is a writer for American Marketing and also a professor at Northwestern University.]

According to Business Dictionary marketing includes four main elements:

  • identification, selection, and development of a product
  • determination of its price
  • selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place
  • development and implementation of a promotional strategy

Among the purposes of marketing is to introduce a new business to consumers through products that are produced from the business. It is for this purpose that businessman does marketing, they want to introduce the product or item for sale to consumers. Marketing is also done to increase profit from one quarter to the next.

To achieve this purpose, some businesses lie to consumers through words or writings on social media. It may be in the form of fictional social media stories, such as household stories, or accidents that are made up. There are also businesses that employ people to give fake reviews or hire people to visit the company’s site to appear as though they are famous and many more forms of deception.

Regarding this problem, this article will explain the Islamic perspective on this issue.

The ruling of marketing (in general)

Islam permits any form of buying and selling (trade) as long as it does not involve riba (usury and interest). Allah states (which means):

“But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest.” [Al-Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 275]

From this verse, the ruling for marketing is permitted according to fiqh (which means):

Medium (to achieve something) will take the ruling of the maqasid (intention).

The ruling of Najsh

There is a practice in the trade that is prohibited by the Prophet which is called najsh [agitator]. Najsh means someone that purposely offers a high buying price even when he has no intention of buying. The purpose is to drive the price up so that others will buy it at a higher price. Najsh literally means hide, for the action of the person is hiding his real intentions.

This act is prohibited according to a hadith by Abdullah bin Umar, he said (which means):

“Allah’s Messenger forbade Najsh. (If a sale happened the trade is valid)” [Refers Sahih al-Bukhari (2035) and Sahih Muslim (1516)]

If there is proof of the planning between the seller and najsh (the person that purposely offers a high buying price with no intentions to buy), both of them have committed what is prohibited.

It’s a form of deceit by the seller and the buyer has a right to claim khiyar (the choice to forfeit the dealing). If there is no proof that the seller and najsh plan anything, then the buyer has no right to claim khiyar for it is his own carelessness in buying [See al-Fiqh al-Manhaji, (4/15-16)].

Honest Businessmen’s Standing in Islam

Generally, Islam emphasizes honesty in every aspect of life. However, there are Quranic and hadith evidence that mentions about honesty in trade. Some examples of them are (which means):

“And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance.” [Al-Quran, Surah al-Rahman, verse 9]

Syeikh Tantawi commented on this verse saying that it affirms the sanctioning of justice and prohibits any transgression. This order is to be implemented in all aspects of life especially in establishing weight (trade or business transaction) which often happen between people.

As a reward for honesty in business, merchants will not only gain manifold profit in this world, earning the trust of his customers but also special rewards in the hereafter as mentioned in a hadith from Rifa’ah, he said: (which means):

One time when he went with the Messenger of Allah to the Musalla, and he saw the people doing business so he said: ‘O people of trade!’ and they replied to the Messenger of Allah turning their necks and their gazes towards him, and he said: “Indeed the merchants will be resurrected on the Day of judgement with the wicked, except the one who has Taqwa of Allah, who behaves charitably and is truthful.'” [Refers Sunan al-Tarmizi (1210)]

‘Behaving charitably’ in this hadith refers to the situation of when doing business. Other than that, Islam uplifts honesty specifically to traders by raising their standing. This is stated in a hadith from Sa’id al-Khudri, the Prophet said (which means):

“The truthful, trustworthy merchant is with the Prophets, the truthful, and the martyrs.” [Refers Sunan al-Tarmizi (1208)]

Deceitful Businessmen’s Standing in Islam

Islam is very firm in any form of deceit. This leads to Allah’s anger and it is clearly shown as there is a dedicated surah in the Quran that denounces deceitful people in Surah Al-Mutaffifin. Allah states (which means):

“Woe to those who give less [than due],”

Then in the same surah, Allah states clearly (which means):

“But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss.”

Another firm warning in this matter comes from a hadith from Abu Hurairah, the Prophet said (which means):

“Whoever bears weapons on us are not one of use and whoever are deceitful are not one of us.”

Fuqaha’ hold the opinion that the phrase not one of us is not meant literally. It does not mean that someone is no longer a Muslim, but it shows that it is not the behaviour of a Muslim to be deceitful. See Tuhfah al-Ahwazi (4/544)

Conclusion

From the discussion, it can be concluded that:

  • Marketing is permitted in Islam if it is free from anything that is prohibited
  • Honesty in business is a noble character in Islam and that it is so important that special standing of honest businessmen is stated in paradise
  • Deception (or any form of a lie) is prohibited in Islam in all aspects of life especially in business

May Allah protects us all from anything that is prohibited and gives us understanding in practicing His religion. Amin.


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