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Piety before Profit


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Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) was an illustrious Taabi‘ee and the founder of the Hanafi mazhab. He was born in the year 80 A.H. and passed away in the year 150 A.H.
Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) would spend the majority of his time in the worship of Allah Ta‘ala and the service of the knowledge of Deen. However, he was also a cloth merchant. He would use the profits earned to support his household, students of Deen and other ‘Ulama who were engaged in the service of Deen.
Being a personification of Deen and the sunnah, the piety of Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) was also reflected in his business dealings and the manner in which he conducted his trade. Below are two incidents which highlight the Islamic values he displayed while conducting business:
 First incident:
On one occasion, Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) sent a consignment of goods to his partner. Since the consignment included a cloth with a defect, he alerted his partner of the defect and instructed him to ensure that he revealed the defect to the customer before selling it. However, when the partner sold the cloth, he forgot to reveal the defect to the customer. Furthermore, he did not know the identity of the customer (so there was no way of contacting the customer and rectifying the mistake).
When Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) learnt of what had transpired, he gave the entire income from the sale of the consignment, which was thirty thousand dirhams (silver coins), in charity. Furthermore, (since his partner had not displayed the desired level of caution,) Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) terminated the partnership. (Al-Khairaatul Hisaan pg. 44)
Second Incident:
A woman once came to Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah), looking to purchase a silken cloth. When he showed her a certain cloth, she said to him, “I am a weak woman, and it is amaanah, so please sell me this cloth for the amount that it cost you.” Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) immediately said to her, “Take it for four dirhams.”
The woman could not believe that Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) was prepared to sell her the silken cloth for such a low price, and thus exclaimed, “Do not joke with me, as I am an old woman!” Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) explained to her, “I purchased two cloths (together, for one price). I sold one of the two cloths for a price which covered the entire capital besides four dirhams. Hence, this cloth now remains with only four dirhams of the capital amount outstanding (i.e. I made so much of profit from selling the first cloth, that to cover my cost, I now only require four dirhams. Hence, the second cloth now only cost me four dirhams).” (Taareekhu Baghdaad vol. 15, pg. 494)
1. Imam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) was worried and concerned about honesty and transparency in business dealings, hence he did not want a defective item to be sold to a customer without him being made aware of the defect, as this is impermissible. Thus, when the defective item was sold without the customer being alerted to the defect, he gave the entire income in charity. Though it was not necessary for him to give this entire amount, he did so in order to secure the pleasure of Allah Ta‘ala.
2. When Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) saw that his partner did not display the desired level of concern and caution, he immediately terminated the partnership. He feared that to remain in partnership with such a person would be detrimental to his Deen. Hence, the concern for his Deen came first – before the concern for business and money.
3. When a Muslim conducts business and trade, his intention should not merely be to make money. Rather, together with making the intention to support his family with halaal livelihood, he should also intend to use his business to support and help people who are in need of assistance. In this manner, one’s business will become a means of earning reward from Allah Ta‘ala. Hence, when the old woman approached Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullah) for help, he immediately assisted her. Though it resulted in him losing out on abundant profit, he knew that the reward that Allah Ta‘ala would bestow him with would be worth far more.
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