Due to the current global financial crisis there is increasing interest in the Islamic Economic System, the most comprehensive book on this topic is 'The Economic System of Islam' by Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani. However as people have many questions relating to the Islamic rules of trade we will be posting related extracts from the draft translation of the Fiqh masterpiece 'The Islamic Personality, Volume 2' by Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani.
The selling of advance credit (As-salam)
Selling that which one does not own and that whose ownership has not been accomplished is forbidden due to the ahadith concerning that. The ahadith came generally including all sales of that which is not owned or whose ownership is not completed. He (saw) said:
لا تَبِع ما ليس عندك
“Do not sell that which you do not have” (narrated by Ahmad).
And he said to Uttab bin Usayd:
إنهَهُم عن بيعِ ما لم يقبضوه
“Prohibit them from selling that which they have not taken possession of.”
However these general evidences have been specified in other than the sale of advance credit. As for advance credit sale, the Shar’a has excluded it from the prohibition and permitted it. He (saw) said:
من أسلَم فليسلمْ في كيل معلوم ووزن معلوم إلى أجل معلوم
“Whoever pays in advance for something, then he should for a specific measure and a specific weight and for a specific period” (narrated by Al-Bukhari).
The “salam” is the “salaf” with two “fatha” in weight and meaning. It is the one who delivers present compensation for a described compensation as surety for a period i.e. advance money as price for a good he will possess after a time for a specific period. The advance credit sale is a category of sale which is contracted according to what a sale is contracted, and by the word “salam” and “salaf”. And it is (also) said “aslam” and “aslaf”. The same conditions are considered as in a sale.
The transaction of people in salam and tasleef takes place because they are in need of it particularly the farmers and traders. The owners of crops and fruits need expenditure for themselves and upon it to complete what these crops and fruits require of work. Money could become scarce such that they do not have it, so they sell their produce before it emerges for an advance price which he takes possession of immediately in the contract session (majlis al-‘aqd) upon the condition of delivering the good to the buyer when the imposed period falls due. The trader would sell the goods not with them for a specific period which they would determine, and they take possession of the price immediately in the contract session upon condition of delivering the good when the imposed period becomes due.
The permissibility of advance credit sale is established by the Sunnah. It is narrated from ibn Abbas (ra) who said:
من أسلف فليسلف في كيل معلوم ووزن معلوم إلى أجل معلوم
“The Prophet (saw) came to Madinah and they would pay in advance for fruits for one or two years so he said: Whoever pays in advance, let him pay in advance for a specific measure and specific weight for a specific period” (narrated by Muslim).
From Abdurahman bin Abza and Abdullah bin Abi Awfa who both said:
كنا نصيب المغانم مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وكان يأتينا أنباط من أنباط الشام فنسلفهم في الحنطة والشعير والزبيب إلى أجل مسمى، قيل: أكان لهم زرع أو لم يكن؟ قال: ما كنا نسألهم عن ذلك
“We used to acquire booties with the Messenger of Allah (saw) and there would come to us the Nabatheans of the Nabatheans of Sham. So we would pay them in advance for wheat, barley and raisins for a specific period. He said: I said: Did they have crops with them or did they not have crops with them? They both said: We would not ask them about that” (narrated by Al-Bukhari).
And in a narration:
كنا نسلف على عهد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وأبي بكر وعمر في الحنطة والشعير والزبيب والتمر وما نراه عندهم
“We would pay in advance at the time of the Messenger of Allah (saw), Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) in wheat, barley, dates and raisins to a people who did not have it with them” (narrated by Abu Dawud).
All these are clear evidences for permitting advance credit sale. As for what are the things in which salam is allowed, and what are the things in which it is not permitted, this is clear in the hadith and Ijma'a. This is because the salam is buying that which is not owned and buying something over which ownership has not been completed, and they are both prohibited. Salam was excluded for them by a clear text so it specified the prohibition in other than that. Accordingly it is necessary that the thing in which salam is valid be clearly stated. Upon returning to the texts we find that Salam is permitted in everything that is measured and weighed just as it is permitted in everything counted. As for permitting it in what is measured and weighed, this is due to what is established in the hadith of ibn Abbas. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
من أسلف فليسلف في ثمن معلوم ووزن معلوم إلى أجل معلموم
“Whoever pays in advance in dates let him pay in advance for a known price and a known weight for a specified period.”
And in another narration of ibn Abbas who said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
من أسلم فليسلم في كيل معلوم ووزن معلوم إلى أجل معلوم
“Whoever pays in advance in something then he should pay for a known measure and a known weight for a known period” (narrated by Al-Bukhari).
This indicates that the money which is delivered is in what is measured and weighted. As for its permissibility in the counted (things), the Ijma'a has contracted upon the Salam in foodstuff being allowed. This Ijma'a has been transmitted by ibn Mundhir. Al-Bukhari narrated and said: Shu’bah related to us and said: Muhammad or Abdullah bin Abi Al-Majalid informed and said:
إنا كنا نسلف على عهد رسول الله وأبي بكر وعمر في الحنطة والشعير والزبيب والتمر
“Abdullah bin Shaddad bin Al-Hadi and Abu Burdah differed over advance credit sale so they sent me to ibn Abi Awfa (ra) so I asked him and said: ‘We would perform advance credit sale (salaf) in the time of the Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr and Umar in wheat, barely and dates.”
This indicates that foodstuff is permitted. Foodstuff is not devoid of being measured, weighed or counted so the rule is related to all that foodstuff which is measured, weighed or counted just like taking possession is related to it in its being of that which needs taking possession of and just as it is related to riba of excess (riba al-fadhl) in its being riba if there is excess in the measure or weight or count. So salam is also related to it in its being foodstuff which is measured, weighed and counted. In the hadith is a text upon the permissibility of the measured and the counted but it did not mention the counted (thing). The Ijma'a over the permissibility of foodstuff makes the counted (thing) included in the Salam.
However it is necessary that the things paid for in advance are exact in description like Jurani wheat, Birni dates, Egyptian cotton, Indian silk, Turkish figs and exact in measurement or weight like a Syrian sa’a, an Iraqi pound and the kilo and litre i.e. it is necessary that the measure or weight be known and described.
Just as it is obligatory for the category for which the advance is paid be known, similarly the sale must be for a period and it must be a known period. Salam is not valid immediately, but rather it is necessary that the period be made a condition due to the Prophet (saw)’s statement:
من أسلف فليسلف في كيل معلوم ووزن معلوم إلى أجل معلوم
“Whoever pays in advance for something, then for a known measure and a known weight for a known period.’
This indicates that the period is a condition for the validity of salam. However where it is immediate and no period is determined then it is not called advance credit sale because that which makes it Salam and salaf is the bringing forward of one of the compensations and delaying the other. It is necessary that the period be known due to the Prophet (saw)’s statement: “for a known period.” Specifying the period is only for a period which in itself does not differ such as a month, year, six months or to such and such date in a way that there is no great difference over it like Eid al-Adha or to Ramadhan. Similarly it is valid that the salam be to the (fash) النصارى وصومهم ى of the Christians and their fasting as this is known and does not differ. A minor difference is forgiven. Every period is allowed to be delayed until without difference between a nearby or a remote period. However the word “period” (ajal) has an indication which is acted upon according to the terminology of the people over its indication. If they consider that an hour is not considered therein but rather it is from the type of immediate (sale), and if they consider it a period thereupon the hour is considered a period like the year is considered a period.
Similarly it is necessary that the price be known due to his (saw) statement: “Then let him pay in advance for a known price.” It is not permitted except that the price be handed over immediately in the contract session, so if the contractors separate before the entire price is taken possession, then the whole contract is invalidated. This is because advance sale in the Arabic language with which the Messenger of Allah (saw) addressed us is something being given for something i.e.. Money is given in advance for a good taken afterwards. So if one does not pay for what he ordered in advance (aslaf) then he has not paid in advance for anything; he has merely promised that he will pay in advance. Were he to pay some of the price, whether a little or most of it, then the advance sale is valid in what he gave possession of and void in what he did not give possession of. The seller taking possession of the price from the buyer is a condition for the validity of Salam. As for the existence of the sold good during the sale, it is not a condition. Salam is permitted in what is present and what is not present when the Salam is contracted, and with the one who has something with him and the one without anything. This is because the Prophet came to Madinah; they would pay in advance for fruits for a year or two. It is known that fruits do not remain for this period and the Messenger did not prohibit them from one year or two but rather consented upon that for them. Hence it is permitted to pay the price of the good to be delivered after a specific period considered a period, whether the good exists or not. However it is a condition that there should not be in the price excessive fraud; rather it is obligatory that the price be according to the market during the sale contract similar to the deferred period, not the delivery of the good. This is because the Salam is a sale and excessive fraud is forbidden in all sales so the Salam in included within it. Just as it is haram for a good to be taken possession of immediately for a deferred price via excessive fraud, similarly it is not permitted to sell a good to be taken possession of in the future for a price to be taken possession of immediately via excessive fraud, therefore fraud in salam is haram. If fraud appears in the Salam then its rule is the rule of fraud in sale; for the deceived, there is an option. If he wishes, he can annul the sale and if he wishes he can execute it. It is not for him to take the difference between the price of the real good and the price with which it is bought. However this option is established upon two conditions. Firstly, the absence of knowledge at the time of the contract. Secondly, the deceitful surplus or deficit which the people do not لا يتغابن (taghabun) over its like. Clear fraud is evaluated by the evaluation of the trader so what they consider is fraud develops into and what they do not, is not.