The out­break of Coro­n­avirus has made many peo­ple change their behav­iour.  We have all seen images of emp­ty super­mar­ket shelves, peo­ple pur­chas­ing absurd quan­ti­ties of food and san­i­tary prod­ucts. Busi­ness­es have also tak­en to increas­ing prices. From an Islam­ic point of view, such behav­iour has been con­demned. Addi­tion­al­ly, there are sig­nif­i­cant eco­nom­ic impacts on the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble.

Islam is a com­plete way of life. Hence, just as empha­sis has been placed on wor­ship, empha­sis has also been placed on social ethics and social deal­ings which includes busi­ness and trade. Hon­esty in busi­ness and truth­ful­ness in trade are much empha­sised by Rasul­lu­lah ﷺ. Islam has denounced, in the strongest pos­si­ble terms, all sorts of deceit­ful deal­ings and ille­gal prof­its. It has dis­al­lowed all trans­ac­tions not based upon jus­tice and fair-play. Rasul­lu­lah ﷺ while rep­ri­mand­ing the dis­hon­est deal­er, said: “Whoso­ev­er deceives us is not one of us.” (Mus­lim)

The Holy Qur’an has stressed the impor­tance of fair­ness in busi­ness: Prophet Shuʿay­bعليه السلام  when advis­ing his peo­ple on fair and hon­est trade said:

وَلَا تَبۡخَسُواْ ٱلنَّاسَ أَشۡيَآءَهُم

Do not defraud the peo­ple by reduc­ing their things” (Al Shu’araa 183). 

(means, do not short-change them. ” Ibn Katheer)

Prof­i­teer­ing, espe­cial­ly in times of scarci­ty, is indeed an evil act, it is a form of zulm/oppression, which is strict­ly for­bid­den. In a Hadith Qudsi record­ed by Imam Mus­lim RA Rasul­lu­lah ﷺ has said that Allah the Exalt­ed and Glo­ri­ous states: “Ver­i­ly I have made oppres­sion unlaw­ful for Me and for My ser­vants too, so do not com­mit oppres­sion.”  Hoard­ing which results in suf­fer­ing for the oth­ers is also pro­hib­it­ed in Islam, whether this hoard­ing is intend­ed for per­son­al use or for prof­i­teer­ing. Rasul­lu­lah ﷺ has warned:  ‏

مَنِ احْتَكَرَفَهُوَ خَاطِئٌ

He who hoards is a sin­ner. (Mus­lim)

It was nar­rat­ed that ‘Umar bin Khat­tab said:

عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَنِ احْتَكَرَ عَلَى الْمُسْلِمِينَ طَعَامَهُمْ ضَرَبَهُ اللَّهُ بِالْجُذَامِ وَالإِفْلاَسِ ‏

I heard the Mes­sen­ger of Allah (ﷺ) say: ‘Who­ev­er hoards food (and keeps it from) the Mus­lims, Allah will afflict him with lep­rosy and bank­rupt­cy.“ ‘
(Sunan Ibn Mājah, Chap­ter on Busi­ness Trans­ac­tion)

The true Mus­lim is he/she who is a source of mer­cy and com­pas­sion for his fel­low mankind, as can be under­stood from the nar­ra­tion of Nasai: Rasul­lu­lah ﷺ has said, “The Mus­lim is the one from whose tongue and hand the peo­ple are safe; and the believ­er is the one from whom the peo­ple’s lives and wealth are safe.”

Those busi­ness­es that are prof­it­ing from the Coro­n­avirus sit­u­a­tion and over­charg­ing must under­stand the evil­ness of their actions and seek for­give­ness from the peo­ple they have wronged and from Allah Almighty. The spir­it of the Mus­lim should be as under­stood from the nar­ra­tion of Adab al-Mufrad that, Rasul­lu­lah ﷺ has said: “A believ­er is the broth­er of anoth­er believ­er. He pro­tects him against loss and defends him behind his back. He is not the one who robs him and ben­e­fits from him in his/her time of dis­tress and suf­fer­ing. Describ­ing the Mus­lim Rasul­lu­lah ﷺ said:  The Mus­lim is the broth­er to the Mus­lim, he does not cheat him, lie to him, nor deceive him… (Tir­mizi).

So those busi­ness­es who are com­mit­ting an act of injus­tice and sin by ben­e­fit­ing from this Coro­n­avirus cri­sis; fear Allah Almighty and fear the con­se­quences of the here­after. Our pious Pre­de­ces­sors used to say: “pity the per­son who pur­chas­es the val­ley of ‘Vayl’ (In Hell)) by tak­ing a sin­gle extra grain which does not belong to him” (Al Kabaa’ir-62nd Major sin). A ‘sin­gle grain’ is prob­a­bly less than a pen­ny; from what we are hear­ing the shops up and down the coun­try are tak­ing ‘Pounds’ unjust­ly; what cat­e­go­ry of hell fire will that result in? May Allah Almighty pro­tect human­i­ty from the hell fire and those acts that lead to the hell fire. Aameen.

The Eco­nom­ic Case Against Hoard­ing

The Com­pe­ti­tions and Mar­kets Author­i­ty (CMA) has stat­ed that it will act against busi­ness­es that charge excess prices.

CMA Chief Exec­u­tive Andrea Coscel­li said:

We urge retail­ers to behave respon­si­bly through­out the coro­n­avirus out­break and not to make mis­lead­ing claims or charge vast­ly inflat­ed prices. We also remind mem­bers of the pub­lic that these oblig­a­tions may apply to them too if they resell goods, for exam­ple on online mar­ket­places.”

Both con­sumers and busi­ness­es should bear in mind the fol­low­ing points:

When you hoard, the vul­ner­a­ble pay more for neces­si­ties.

Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing exam­ple:

Zaid goes to the shop and buys 10 bags of rice. Amr who owns the shop sees that cus­tomers like Zaid want a lot of rice so if he charges £5 more for each bag so that he will make more mon­ey. But cus­tomers like Zaid already have all the rice they need. Anoth­er per­son, Khalid, then walks in.  Khalid can­not afford to buy 10 bags in one go. With his wages, he can only buy a sin­gle bag. He sees the price has gone up by £5. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it’s too expen­sive for him, but he still needs to feed him­self and his fam­i­ly. If you hoard, you are direct­ly impact­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble.

When busi­ness­es raise prices, they take essen­tials from where they are need­ed the most.

Busi­ness­es will want to buy as much stock as they can from sup­pli­ers because they are mak­ing more prof­it from the high­er prices. Because of this, sup­pli­ers will increase prices to make more mon­ey from busi­ness­es. This will make it more dif­fi­cult for hos­pi­tals, char­i­ties and food banks to pur­chase essen­tial food and san­i­tary prod­ucts. Insti­tutes like these do not have mon­ey to spare. Again, if you hoard, you are harm­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble.

Emp­ty shelves do not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that there is a short­age

The mas­sive increase in peo­ple buy­ing from shops means that the shops are not able to restock and re-shelve fast enough to keep up with the demand. As of yet, the spread of Coro­n­avirus has not sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect­ed food sup­ply chains, and the Gov­ern­ment is work­ing close­ly with super­mar­kets to con­tin­ue food sup­ply. This means that you do not have to hoard.

When you hoard, you dri­ve the spread of peo­ple catch­ing the virus.

If shelves are emp­ty in one shop, peo­ple will trav­el to dif­fer­ent shops instead. This increas­es the risk of spread­ing the virus. Addi­tion­al­ly, hoard­ing san­i­tary prod­ucts also spreads the virus. To stop the spread, we all have to main­tain hygiene, not just one of us. If you hoard, you might be con­tribut­ing to the spread of the virus.

Con­clu­sion

The Islam­ic case against hoard­ing is very clear. This should be enough for any believ­er to stop such behav­iour. There are sig­nif­i­cant eco­nom­ic impacts of hoard­ing as well. To stop this from harm­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble, both con­sumers and busi­ness­es need to adopt eth­i­cal behav­iour. This is incum­bent upon us all dur­ing these dif­fi­cult times.

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Social Ethics, Deal­ings, Busi­ness and Trade in Islam v2