Should Muslim Entrepreneurs be driven by different principles?
According to almost all start-up publications, almost anyone can become an entrepreneur. Many entrepreneurs are driven by passion, some by money, but almost everyone we have spoken to highlight hard work and patience as being key to their success. Whether selling Islamic products online in your own Islamic store or selling islamic books, islamic clothes, islamic art or hijabs at a stall, working for yourself is the first step towards becoming an entrepreneur. But should a Muslim Entrepreneur be any different?
I am going to throw it out there; anyone can become an entrepreneur if they want to. If they have the passion, patience, the idea and the drive, there is nothing stopping them from embracing the uncertainty, excitement and rewards of entrepreneurship, InshaAllah. For Allah, nothing is impossible.
However, being a Muslim entrepreneur is different, or at least it should be. It means you should adhere to the principles of Islam in your business practices. That is the difference of being a Muslim entrepreneur over an ordinary one.
Everything begins with your intention
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him) said:
“Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended. […]”
(Bukhari and Muslim)
So starting your business should be with the right intention. As Muslims we should always seek the reward in the next life. A Muslim entrepreneur should not do anything to jeopardise that. This does not mean that one should not seek and enjoy the goodness in this life.
And your Lord says: “Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer):
(Quran Al-Ghafir 40:60)
Every time we plan on something, we should ask Allah’s help. Nothing happens without Allah’s knowledge and his command and dua is the most powerful tool available to a Muslim. Pray Tahajjud, do Qiyam (the late night prayer) and ask Allah’s help in achieving success in your venture.
Once the right intention is determined make istikhara (the prayer where you ask for guidance) and make a lot dua so that Allah makes this venture possible for you. Ask Allah that if it is good for you, for Allah to make it easy for you and if it not, for Allah, through his mercy to keep it away from you. But a Muslim entrepreneur knows that rizq (sustenance) is written and will be content if the venture does not lift off for that is Allah’s will. That level of faith and patience is what makes a Muslim entrepreneur far more resilient, by the will of Allah.
Planning, planning, planning
In business, making proper plans and following them through is essential. But what plans should you be making? A business plan is not only important but also essential to put things into perspective. But the plan itself is not the start nor the end of the business; it is a tool of guidance to drive your business and its sales, marketing and financial strategy.
This is the most difficult part in being a successful entrepreneur. Having a great plan and sticking to it. But do not be too rigid; markets change and you need to be prepared to change and adapt with it. Your plans should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound) and include a step-by-step approach on how to achieve them. So it is very important to regularly check your achievements against your objectives.
As a Muslim entrepreneur your business plan will also help you check your business objectives against your intentions and it would be a good idea to write down your intention in the plan to reflect upon later. We are human and make mistakes and change our intentions. Sometimes we change it for the better, perhaps because we have found another way to benefit someone. But sometimes our worldly instincts change it for the worst and your business plan should remind you of your intention and bring you back on track.
We are one Ummah. We should never do business when it means harming somebody else. It is a really important point to remember:
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
So we should also always be helping others in business as far as we can, not just Muslims but humanity at large. Why? it will become clear when we reflect upon the next hadith:
“The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.”
A Muslim has a duty to his neighbour; to the poor and needy, the orphan, the traveller, the sick and the destitute whether they be Muslims or non-Muslims. To be the best of people, a Muslim entrepreneur should seek to benefit the largest of people.
Working in the way of Allah (fisabilillah) & Charity
This is a specialty amongst Muslims, and I have never encountered this with non-Muslim clients. Since you are a Muslim, and your highest goal is to reach the satisfaction of your lord, then why should you work to earn money? Is not good deeds the best currency? It happens from time to time that clients want you work for free, since “all in this world is going to perish”
There is a simple answer to that. Best things in life maybe free, but your rent, bills and taxes are not. As a Muslim entrepreneur, you cannot tell your landlord or the cashier in the grocery store that you are not paying because you want them to have good deeds. That they should give you the items “fiisabilillah”. This was not a custom amongst the sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them), the companions of the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him). They were successful businessmen and women. They gave in charity in abundance from what they had.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said;
“Pay the worker his wages before his sweat has dried.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
I take two lesson from this: firstly, A Muslim entrepreneur does not need to work for free and secondly, you need to pay your employees, contractors and freelancers fairly and on time.
Of course this does not prohibit free work. As a Muslim you can always donate your work to help others, but this is something done freely, out of choice, not because others expect it from you. It is encouraged as is a donation from your profits, over and above your compulsory zakat (compulsory charity). Allah reminds us that:
“Those who spend their money in the night and in the day, secretly and openly, they will have their reward with their Lord, there is no fear over them nor will they grieve.”
(Quran Al-Baqarah 2:274)
The principles a Muslim entrepreneur should follow, some may say is just good business practice. However, these are lost on many enthralled in the capitalist, money driven system. Islam sets a higher moral threshold that encourages trade but at the benefit of humanity, the environment and the world rather than at its expense.
Entrepreneurship is encouraged, indeed our own beloved prophet was a trader as were majority of his companions and some of the most influential scholars after them.
This article was inspired by an article written by Coding Owl Designs