Generally, ethics are the application of values to human actionsand behaviours. In lslam, ethics deal with issues of right and wrong, moralityof conduct and relationships in marketplace.
Ethics are moral standards thatgovern human conduct and individual relations with others. Islamic ethics arefounded on four interrelated concepts: ihsan, relationship with others, equityand accountability. These set the framework for ethical conduct and behaviour. Thephilosophy of ihsan implies goodness and generosity in inter action andconduct, be it at a personal or organizational level.
Ihsan is a commonly heldphilosophy which closely shapes individual and group interaction withinorganizations. As projection goodness and generosity ihsan, practically andspiritually, encompasses mercy, justice, forgiveness, tolerance andattentiveness. These aspects are related to the second element which is succinctlyarticulated by the Prophet Muhammad’s saying: ‘Al-din al-muaamala’ (religion isfound the way of dealing with other people) That is, judging whether any actionor conduct is right or wrong must stem primarily from its benefit to people andsociety.Stating it differently, the philosophy of ihsan treatsrelationships and interaction as primarily personal, non-discriminatory, andbeneficial beyond self and immediate interests. In the Qur’an (49:13) states,”The noblest of you in the sight of God is the best of you inconduct.” The Prophet Muhammad underscored this when he defined the obligationsof the faithful in terms of relationships to others and with a responsibilityto: ‘feed (the poor) and offer salutation to whom you know and to whom you do not know.’ In themarketplace, the Prophet underscores the necessity of sincere and pleasant conduct:”May god have mercy on the person who is generous when he buys and when hesells and in what he demands.
” Human considerations,therefore, in the marketplace, take a priority in matters related to organizationalconduct and exchange. According to the Quran (2:148). “To each is a goal towhich God turns him: then strive together towards all that is good.” This non-discriminatoryaspect, in terms of exchange, implies a fair and equal treatment of all playersthe marketing process. The Qur’an (49:13) explains, “O mankind! We createdyou from a single (pair) of male and female and made you into nations and tribesthat you might know each other….” Knowing each other implies not only a questfor familiarity but also an exchange process.
It is in this exchange processthat neither coercion nor deception is sanctioned. This is exemplified by thesaying of the Prophet, ‘The buyer and the seller have the option (of cancellingthe contract) as long as they have not parted, then if they are both truthfuland transparent, their transaction shall be blessed, and if they conceal andtell lies, the blessing of their transaction shall be obliterated.’Furthermore, the goal of the exchange must be beneficial to all participantsand to society at large. The Prophet elevates selflessness to the level offaith in stating, ‘None of you has faith unless he loves for his brother whathe loves for himself’ and ‘Every good deed is charity.’ This along with Quraninstruction (49:13) is expected to lead to harmonious relations among playersin the exchange function resulting in smooth transactions and operations.Equity constitutes a necessary element in the workplace to ensurethat social welfare is strengthened and fairness is not overlooked. It isreported that an Arab woman questioned the fourth Muslim Caliph, Ali (598-66lCE), because her food allowance was equal to that of a non-Arab female, Heinformed her, ‘I looked in the Qur’an and did not find a preference for thesons of Ismail Arabs over those of Isaac Jews’ (quoted in Glaachi, 2000,p.39).
Nevertheless, differences do exist in knowledge and capabilities. TheOur’an (46:19) states ‘And to all are degrees according to their deeds’ and(39:9) say: “Are those equal, those who know and those who do notknow?” In marketing, this implies that while corporations should treatcustomers equally regardless of where they are residing, customers in theircapacity to buy, spend and perceive marketing messages, among others, aredifferent These differences must be capitalized on in order to optimize serviceto customers and meet the demands of multistakeholders (influential actors whohave an interest in the actions of a company).The fourth foundation of Islamic ethics is responsibility. TheQur’an clarifies that what one does is solely his/her responsibility and no oneshould be held responsible for the mistakes of others (17:15): ‘No bearer ofburdens can bear the burden of another.
‘ In the context of marketing,responsibility primarily centers on avoiding cheating and misleading others.For this reason, Islamic ethics prohibit hiding known defects. The Prophetinstructs, ‘A seller must not sell an item to a buyer without stating itsdefect’ ( quoted in Raghib, 1995. p.341).
Furthermore, decoy shoppers (thosewho bid on a product to induce a potential buyer to pay a higher price andelicit interest in the item or who intentionally lure a consumer to select aproduct over others) are prohibited as evidenced in the instructions of theProphet: ‘Decoying in sales is prohibited’ (quoted in Raghib, 1995. p.341).