The Character of Merchants

A large number of individuals in society are grouped under the heading of merchants. This group includes a wide spectrum of occupations, from shopkeepers to small businesses and street vendors. In the societies where people abide by the morality of ignorance, people who are called as merchants share some common features like many other groups of professions.

As with many other characters of ignorance, that which most influences the character of the merchants in the society of ignorance is, again, the values of materialism. Majority of these individuals tend to be middle-income earners, and are of character types dedicated to acquiring wealth no matter what because they live by the values of ignorance and fail to abide by the Qur’an. That is because it is only possible for them to earn respect and to gain a name for themselves if they become wealthy. This is due to the fact that, in a society of ignorance, being wealthy is more highly valued than morality. When it comes to money, it makes no difference how ignorant, or impolite a person is. Material means may always open all sorts of means.

For this reason, the majority of merchants living by the criteria set by the ignorance seek ways to earn money and their whole being becomes consumed with the desire to make money.

Surely there is no harm in making effort to acquire financial gains. However meanwhile, he should keep in mind that it is Allah Who is the actual owner of wealth and possessions, that Allah renders whoever He wills well-off or poor, and that there is wisdom in this. He should be contented with what Allah grants, and demand wealth merely to earn Allah’s good pleasure and approval. Besides, he should put his possessions, which are again Allah’s blessings, into best use in the path of Allah. When this is not the case, a person may develop a selfish and self-seeking character. For this reason, the character of merchant in the society of ignorance lacks any high ideals, or any broader concerns for the lot of humanity. Their sole aim is to become rich. They usually become overly opportunistic; and, the more they can exploit others, the more clever they think they are.

As a result, as would be expected, many regard merchants as being a form of occupation for the dishonest and fraudsters. Of course, among them you could find honest individuals, who adopt the morality of Islam, and follow the commands of the Qur’an; it is certainly not necessary for merchants to compromise their morals. The fraud and dishonesty expected of them is the result of the absence of religion in an ignorant society. For example, many merchants in such a society would not hesitate to sell damaged merchandise without properly informing the client. And, because their conscience does not bother them to do such a thing, they make it a regular mode of operation. They buy defective goods and sell them to customers at the normal price. The other merchants in the area know what these people are doing, but turn a blind eye because they regard it as a requisite of business practice. For some of them, their idea of a customer is a one they can swindle. However, Allah has commanded in the Qur’an that all should be honest in business:

Give full measure when you measure and weigh with a level balance. That is better and gives the best result. (Surat al-Isra’, 35)

He said, “He has wronged you by asking for your ewe to add to his ewes. Truly many partners are unjust to one another—except those who believe and do right actions, and how few they are!”... (Surah Sâd, 24)

Throughout the history of these societies of ignorance, there have been those who refuse to obey Allah’s commands; they act unjustly and consistently cheat others. Allah has warned them through His messengers. Allah informs us in the Qur’an of the warnings offered by the Prophet Shu’ayb (as) to his people:

And to Madyan their brother Shu‘ayb. He said, “My people, worship Allah! You have no god apart from Him. Do not give short measure and short weight. I see you prospering and I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing Day. My people! Give full measure and full weight with justice; do not diminish people’s goods; and do not go about the Earth, corrupting it. What endures with Allah is better for you if you are believers. I am not set over you as your keeper.” (Surah Hud, 84-86)

But, in general, because of their moral turpitude, members of a society of ignorance have failed to heed these warnings. For this reason, they experience anxiety in this world, and will be called to render account of their actions in the world to come. In the society of ignorance people with such characters will tend to be unscrupulous when it comes to making a profit. Such a tendency is also discernible among clerks. In compliance with the morality pervasive in the society of ignorance, they will resort to anything in order to sell something to customers. They will go on at great length, lying to convince a customer to buy an outfit that is otherwise unattractive on him or her.

They respect most those rich businessmen, and are, in their own way, honored to have the opportunity to serve them.

As is the case with some people in a society of ignorance, they are aware of the teachings of Islam. However, in spite of this, they disregard its commands and prohibitions, devoting themselves solely to the pursuit of profit.

In addition, they are highly ambitious, and will go to all sorts of extremes to earn money. However, they are not disposed to obeying the commands of Allah, Who has created them and provided them everything they have gained. In several verses of the Qur’an, He has warned them, and all others of a similar disposition, about becoming so caught up in this world that they forget the one to come.

You who believe! Do not let your wealth or children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. Whoever does that is lost. (Surat al-Munafiqun, 9)

Say: “If your fathers or your sons or your brothers or your wives or your tribe, or any wealth you have acquired, or any business you fear may slump, or any house which pleases you, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and struggling in His Way, then wait until Allah brings about His command. Allah does not guide people who are deviators.” (Surat at-Tawba, 24)

But, the difference of believers and their superiority in the Sight of Allah is right at this point. Although they too would have to devote much of their day to working to earn money, they do so to win Allah’s favor, and spend it in His cause. Moreover, no matter what they do, they never neglect their prayers, or forget to remember the Afterlife. In compliance with the command of Allah, they always treat others justly, as they deserve to be treated, never infringing on their God-given rights. In the Qur’an, Allah relates to us the virtue of this character:

Not distracted by trade or commerce from the remembrance of Allah and the establishment of prayer and the payment of alms; fearing a day when all hearts and eyes will be in turmoil. (Surat an-Nur, 37)

2012-01-21 02:53:28

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