Is International Trade Permissible in Islam?

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Is International Trade Permissible in Islam?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is permissible to make trade with non-Muslims. We can prefer Muslims if there are Muslims who buy and sell the same things. However, in terms of religion, it is permissible to make trade with and to go into partnership with Jews, Christians and non-Muslims.

Allah does not forbid relations and attitudes like partnership, having good neighborhood relations, ordinary friendship and giving them food. Allah orders us to treat non-Muslims well and to act in accordance with the criteria of justice in relations with them. (al-Mumtahina: 60/8).

“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” (al-Mumtahina, 8.)

Our religion has never cut relations with non-Muslims saying they are unbelievers; it has acted together with them regarding several issues that are not connected with belief.

It is possible for a Muslim to act together with the members of other beliefs or faithless people regarding some issues that are not related to belief and to have civilized relations with them. It is natural for people who live on the same land or the same world to exchange ideas regarding some issues from time to time and to have commercial and political negotiations.  It may take place both between nations and individuals because a person may have no belief but he may have some humane qualities. He may have some acts that do not originate from his unbelief. For instance, he may do something good for the humanity; he may have some good characteristics.

Our religion has not cut relations with non-Muslims completely. It has shown us ways of having relations with them based on some criteria due to living in the same world with them.  

Saying ‘I am the enemy of a person who agonizes a zimmi (non-Muslim living in Islamic country)’ (Kashfu’l-Khafa, 2: 2341), our Prophet (pbuh) ordered Muslims to protect the rights of non-Muslims and not to agonize them.  

The criteria that those explanations show are like the interpretation of the verses that we have mentioned. All kinds of transactions with the People of the Book are regarded legitimate and permissible as long as they are not haram. As a matter of fact, our Prophet (pbuh) bought thirty sa’ (half the load of a camel) barley from a Jew called Abu Shahma on account and left his iron armor as a pledge. (Muslim, Musaqat: 24: Ibn Majah, Ruhun: 1.)

The following judgments are made from the hadith above:

1) It is permissible make trade with the People of the Book.

2) The property that the People of the Book have belongs to them.

3) It is regarded permissible to buy and sell things that are not haram to other unbelievers that are not from the People of the Book.( Nawawi, Sharhu Sahih Muslim, 11: 40.)

The Quran is not a book that addresses only a certain century or time. It maintains its freshness and youth as if it is sent down again in each century. Therefore, the judgments and decrees of its verses are valid until the Day of Judgment.   

On the other hand, it cannot be said that there is a difference between the People of the Book that is mentioned in the Quran and the People of the Book that live today; it cannot be said that the People of the Book living at that time are better than the People of the Book living today. As a matter of fact, the People of the Book that lived during the time of the Prophet are qualified as rebellious and disobedient in a verse:

“Say: "O People of the Book! do ye disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps) that most of you are rebellious and disobedient?"(al-Maida, 59.)

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