Consumer Rights in the Ahadeeth
Islam emphasises the need to protect not only individual welfare but also the welfare of the society at large. Therefore, in Islam, the right of a person to create wealth is balanced with the need to consider how this transaction affects the welfare of the other party. This includes the protection of consumer rights, which is extended to both Muslims and non-Muslims. In actual fact the concept is embedded within one of the Maqasid al-Shariah or the Essential Values which the Shariah seeks to protect and preserve, i.e. Hifz al-Deen which means the protection of religion and Hifz al-Mal which means protection of property.
A very common practise today is the despicable act of lying and withholding information in order to make a sale.
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَرَّ عَلَى صُبْرَةٍ مِنْ طَعَامٍ فَأَدْخَلَ يَدَهُ فِيهَا فَنَالَتْ أَصَابِعُهُ بَلَلاً فَقَالَ ” يَا صَاحِبَ الطَّعَامِ مَا هَذَا ” . قَالَ أَصَابَتْهُ السَّمَاءُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ . قَالَ ” أَفَلاَ جَعَلْتَهُ فَوْقَ الطَّعَامِ حَتَّى يَرَاهُ النَّاسُ ” . ثُمَّ قَالَ ” مَنْ غَشَّ فَلَيْسَ مِنَّا ”
While passing by a seller, Allah’s messenger ﷺ once came upon a heap of grain and when he put his hand inside it, he felt some dampness. He asked the owner, why is this dampness? The owner replied, rain had fallen on it, O Allah’s messenger. The Prophet ﷺ said; why did you not put the damp part on top of the heap so that people might see it, then he ﷺ said; “whoever cheats is not from us (Muslims)”. Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1315
Sellers have the responsibility to disclose any defect or shortcoming in the merchandize enabling the customer to make an informed decision and should not twist the facts to misguide or confuse the buyer.
In the contemporary shopping markets and malls, traders have very rigid returns, exchange and refund policies, some of them allow only a few days to return and some do not refund even though the items are in good conditions. As part of good consumer practices, Islam asks traders to give the customer right to return the goods.
من أقال نادما بيعته أقال الله عثرته يوم القيامة
Allah’s messenger ﷺ said, “Whoever accepts back what he had sold to a Muslim, Allah will forgive his faults”. (Abu Dawood)
Islam allows consumers to return the goods even though the items are in a good condition. In fact each consumer is given three days return policy called a khiyar which would enable consumers to return any product to the vendor, even when there is nothing wrong with the product.
Hoarding is another corrupt practice which is used to artificially inflate the prices, whereas Islam tells us that prices should be determined purely by demand and supply function. Allah’s messenger said none withholds goods till the price rises but a sinner (Muslim). Once prices rose to a higher level in Madinah and people came to the Prophet ﷺ saying; Allah’s messenger prices have risen high, fix them for us. Allah’s messenger replied, “Allah is the One who fixes prices, who withholds, gives lavishly and provides. And I hope that when I meet Allah, none will have any claim on me for injustice regarding blood or property.” (Al-Bukhari) This Hadith indicates that arbitrary fixing of prices is prohibited because it may cause loss to businessmen on one side and on the other it creates a made-up famine.
Loans and debts are norms of trade which Islam fully supports. However, loans should never become a tool for exploitation and that is why interest of all sorts are prohibited. In addition, the Holy Qur’an calls for giving enough time to a debtor to repay his loan in case of difficulty. Allah says in Surah Baqara,
وَإِن كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَىٰ مَيْسَرَةٍ ۚ وَأَن تَصَدَّقُوا۟ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
“If there is one in misery, then (the creditor should allow) deferment till (his) ease, and that you forgo it as alms is much better for you, if you really know.” (Qur’an, 2:280)
Allah’s messenger said a person would be called on the day of resurrection and he would not have any good deeds except that he had instructed his servant to show leniency to those who were in financial difficulty. Allah the exalted would say, I am more entitled to this attribute, so he will forgive all his sins (Muslim). But is should also be pointed out that the debtor should also endeavour to repay his obligation timely and sufficiently.
Very importantly, to protect the transacting parties from conflicts, the Noble Qur’an calls for writing down the transaction done on credit or future obligation.
“O you who believes, when you transact a debt payable at a specified time, put it in writing, and let a scribe write it between you with fairness.” (Qur’an, 2:282)