This overview opens by setting out the importance of earning a lawful income and then breaks down the principles that ensure that our earnings are Halal. Finally the overview concludes with the Hanifi view on lawful (halal) job roles involving unlawful (haram) items and / or industries.
Why is Halal employment important?
Allah (swt), the All Merciful, has created the earth for the provision of humans, however in order for us to benefit, we must all toil and labour through employment and enterprise.
“Seeking halal earning is an obligation after the obligation.” (Baihaqī)
Allah (swt) has made the lawful and the unlawful clear through the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Of the core criteria determining our fate in the hereafter is if our earning and spending, is compliant with Allah’s shari’ah, as the following well known hadtih reminds us.
“The two feet of the son of Adam will not move from near his Lord on the day of Judgement until he asked about five (matters) about his life: (1) His time – how he spent it; (2) His youth – how he utilised it; (3) His wealth – how he earned it; (4) And how he spent it; (5) How he acted upon the knowledge he acquired.” (At Tirmidhi)
The paramount importance of earning and spending halal is personified in the narration of the dishevelled man. A needy, oppressed traveller, dishevelled and with his hands raised, in a prime position for the acceptance of his dua, as the following hadith illustrate.
“Three supplications are responded to: the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveller, and the supplication of the father for his child.” (Bukhari)
“Many a person with disheveled hair is turned away from the doors [whereas Allah holds him in such high esteem] that if he were to swear by Allah, Allah would fulfill that for him.” (Muslim)
“Your Lord is munificent and generous, and is ashamed to turn away empty the hands of His servant when he raises them to Him.” (Ahmad)
However despite the dishevelled man’s state indicating receptivity of an accepted supplication (Dua), it is instead rejected, as the hadith recorded in Sahih Muslim relates.
Then the Prophet (SAW) mentioned a traveler on a long journey, who is disheveled and dusty, and he stretches forth his hands to the sky, saying:
“O my Lord! O my Lord!” – While his food is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, his clothing is unlawful, and he is nourished unlawfully; how can he (expect to) be answered? (Muslim)
This hadith highlights the sheer importance of earning and subsequently spending in a lawful (Halal) manner, as this will fundamentally determine the acceptance of our worship and ultimately determine our fate in the afterlife (Akhira).
Principles for Halal Employment
The principles below set out how we can ensure our employment and earnings are lawful (Halal)
For any job and income to be lawful (Halal) the following prohibitions within Shari’ah must be avoided.k
- There must be no element of Riba (Interest) in the involved in the role or industry.
- There must be no involvement with prohibited (Haram) items such as alcohol, tobacco, pornography or pork etc.
- All contracts must avoid:
- Excessive uncertainty (Gharar) i.e. insurance contracts
- Speculation (Maysir) i.e. gambling
- Conditional sales (Two sales in one) i.e. the purchase of a home with the condition that home insurance must aklso be purchased.
All industries and occupations that avoid the above prohibitions will be deemed as lawful occupations and any income received will be lawful, as long as contracts are properly fulfilled.
Cases of lawful (Halal) job roles involving unlawful (Haram) items or industries
The following examples illustrate job roles which are themselves lawful (Halal), however the role involves dealing with unlawful (Haram) items or industries.
- Taxi driver transporting passengers to a premise for alcohol consumption i.e. pub, bar or liquor store
- A supermarket assistant checking out alcohol, pork or tobacco
- A delivery driver transporting pork
- A cleaner working in an Interest based bank
- An IT professional working in an Insurance company
In the case in which a job role is of itself permissible, however the role involves dealing with prohibited items or industries, as in the examples above, the following two positions apply.
Position 1: “According to the principles of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah, if a Muslim is an employee in a prohibited sector and only performs a permissible function, such employment will be permitted and any remuneration received will also be lawful.” – Mufti Zubair Butt
Position 2: “According to the principles of Imām Abū Yūsuf and Imām Muḥammad a normally permissible job role performed in relation to or within a prohibited sector is not permitted as it amounts to assisting in sin and therefore any remuneration received will also be deemed as unlawful (Haram).” – Mufti Zubair Butt
In respect of the above positions, the superior and more cautious position aligns with the opinion of Imām Abū Yūsuf and Imām Muḥammad, in which a Muslim should avoid taking up employment in the prohibited sector, even if it involves only a permissible function.
Whilst one should always try utmost to adhere to this superior position, it would appear that, for Muslims living as minorities in the west, there is a capacity to adopt the position of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah.
Source of funds used for employee remuneration
In the case where the above position Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) is adopted, the permissibility of the income will also depend on the source of funds used to pay an employee.
If the majority of the funds of the employer are sourced from permissible sources then the income received will also be permissible, an example of this is a cleaner in a supermarket that sells only a few unlawful (Haram) sandwiches.
If, however, all or the majority of the funds of the employer are sourced from impermissible sources than any remuneration received will be unlawful (Haram), an example of this is a cleaner in an interest based bank.