Contributed by The Muslim Vibe
We’ve all seen the pictures; empty shelves and people fighting to stock up on everything from soap to toilet paper to food.
Panic buying is a symptom of a dysfunctional society, pervaded with individualism and short term thinking. Those who buy up packs of disinfectant in the hope to slow the transmission of Covid-19 are aware that others need it just as much, yet do not consider their needs as equal to their own. To use a phrase, ‘So long as I’ve got mine’.
This is all without realising, that without others having access too, the one who hoards is more likely to become infected, not less as the other goes without disinfectant. This is a reflection of the political, economic and moral systems we live in, which have produced people to think and act in this way.
Islamic Law has since its inception included the topic of monopolisation and price-fixing called al-Ihtikar ????????. Scholar Muhammad Jawad Mughniyyah states: “The Muslim community have in their entirety agreed on the prohibition of monopolisation as an idea; this is from textual evidence and it being rationally abhorrent in the principle of organising life in such a way that repels harm from being occasioned, from the prohibition of greed and wrongfully withholding, is rationally indigent, looked down upon, and goes against the right of maintaining ones honour and the command of being soft hearted.
“And even if we were to close our eyes to (the principles of) honour and soft heartedness, there would be upon us numerous religious principles which would necessitate the prohibition of monopoly and manipulation; amongst them would be the principle ‘Islam does not occasion harm’, ‘repelling corruption has priority over bringing social good’ especially if the corruption is widespread whilst the public good in limited to individuals. Also the principle of ‘that which is most important precedes what is less important’ and ‘the compulsion of protecting the human person’.
And so it is upon Islam and the Muslims to demonstrate that it is the ugliest form for loansharks and opportunistic people who are lurking amongst amongst regular folk (to take advantage of them).”
Before the Muslim can export this to others, he must be aware his own ethical and legal responsibilities and be a manifestation of these himself. He must understand his role in developing society and how selfishness and exploitation leaves all people impoverished, not just those who miss out on essential items.
In this short series we will explore the following questions:
1) What are the textual evidences prohibiting hoarding? This
will help the reader to appreciate how Islam spoke of this matter 1400
years ago, being so anticipative and detailed in its resource and
2) What exactly is prohibited from being hoarded? Is it just food and water, or only essential items when those needs arise, like in the event of a Coronavirus?
3) How does Islam respond to the hoarder? Can the hoarder be forced to sell what he has bought and if so at what price and to whom?
4) How do we mould our social response during the Coronavirus pandemic to that of the highest examples in Islamic history? What examples of epidemics and famines have the early Muslims endured and what can we learn from them?