Getting ‘Tayyib’ with it – Islamic Ethics of a Consumer
By Munawwara Gani, Sound Heart Clinic
Munawwara Gani looks at what’s tayyib and what’s not, from buying to selling and picking up from a shelf she talks us through the good stuff.
The word ‘Tayyib’ encompasses many meanings relating to something being pure, wholesome and good. In the Qur’an when Allah talks about consuming halal, he couples it with Tayyib meaning that what we eat or consume or purchase should have a purity to it in that from the start to the end, the product is not only halal, but has been sourced without harm, injustice or oppression. In the Qur’an, Muslims are ordered by Allah to eat that which is Halal (permissible) and Tayyib (good and pure). Whilst most of us are conscious whether or not our food is halal e.g. whether our meat is slaughtered according to Islamic Law, very few of us investigate whether our food is i) good and pure ii) whether it has been traded ethically or not iii) whether any person or animal has been exploited or treated unfairly during its production. Allah has mentioned these ethics for us beautifully in the Qur’an where He says: “Give full measure and full weight in justice, and wrong not people in respect of their goods” [Qur’an, chapter 11, verse 85] and He also says: “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy” [Qur’an, chapter 2, verse 168].
Losing Sight of the Islamic Ethics of Buying and Selling – a root cause?
It is very easy to lose sight of the ethics of buying and selling when we are not aware of the root causes or when society provides a false impression of what really happens behind the scenes. To understand why, we need to look at it on two levels; 1) the business level 2) the consumer level. On the business level, the ethics of buying and selling is the responsibility of those individuals who are exchanging goods in order to make it available to the consumers. For example coffee beans. If a farmer [producer/seller] is producing a certain number of tonnes of coffee beans to sell to a buyer, that buyer will then sell it to a company, at each of these levels there are responsibilities to uphold.
On the consumer level, we do not get to witness the dealings of buying and selling, that happens behind the scenes and the most we know or are concerned with is the price of the product on the shop shelf. We are surrounded by a lot of products, the shelves never get empty and they are continuously stocked up. Consequently, we want more and we are constantly mesmerised by the cheap offers, buy one get one free, buy two get the third free which continue to fuel our demand for more. We as consumers never get to experience or realise that somewhere down the line, someone is being unjustly affected by our desire for more and cheaper products. This can change if we are more aware and conscious about how food is produced, what is required to produce food, the level of waste that occurs due to our consumerist behaviour.
One of the greatest problems on our planet that results from us as consumers is the level of food waste that occurs. Every year, the world wastes or bins nearly 50% of the food it produces despite that all this food is actually edible! That’s basically around 1.3 – 2 billion tonnes of food. Shockingly, nearly 1 billion people go hungry to bed every day and this food could easily feed all these people that go hungry. The world has enough food to feed everyone, but not everyone has enough food to eat. The root issue here is that if we had Islamic ethics in buying and selling and indeed the ethics of not being wasteful, we could eradicate hunger today.
The most important action that can be done that requires very little effort is education. The more we are aware of what happens behind the scenes for farmers, how deals are done, unethical practices at the end of the companies who make the most profits, the demands from supermarket chains, how our consumerist demands drives the whole scene, and particularly the ethics taught in the Qur’an as a preventative measure the more we will go a long way in achieving change against market forces of supply and demand.
How to start today – MADE in Europe
MADE in Europe are the first Muslim youth led charity on campaigning on poverty and injustice. We feel it is very important that we equip our future generation of young people with the tools and the knowledge to campaign and stand up against poverty and injustice from the root in order to break the cycle of poverty which we see all over the world. Giving financial charity is important, but without tackling the problem at its core means that we will continue to give money into a never ending hole. The alternative option that should go hand in hand with giving charity, is to understand why poverty and injustice is happening and look at ways in which we can campaign and change policies that continue the injustice we see today. We want our future generation to be the leaders against these issues with truly Islamic solutions.
If you want to make a difference and a change, contact MADE in Europe and we can provide various toolkits on campaigning on these issues as well as material/resources that can be used, and advice on making change happen. We are always happy to hear from our audience and welcome any questions, support or opportunities to keep the cause MADE, and indeed Islam stands for continuing for generations to come.
Munawwara Gani has been working in education for nearly 16 years, she is also the founder of Sound Heart Clinic delivering workshops across the UK.