Amateurism v/s Professionalism

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We live in a world of advanced specialization and expertise. To understand certain complex subjects, we are compelled to have recourse to specialists. These people have spent years studying the subject. As an example, for an eye problem, we need the advice of an optician. Heart specialists receive patients suffering from heart disease. A patient with a skin allergy will not go to an ENT centre; he will rather see a dermatologist. For religious advice, it is obvious that learned specialist in that field will be consulted. For giving private tuition to our children, we become very selective in seeking a teacher and our choice is more distinguished and rational. It is of course a duty to seek the right education and the right Islamic source.

Amateurism can lead us astray. The only difference is that, in this case of religion, the loss will be eternal. The Prophet of Allah (saw) has said: “Verily, education is faith. One must be cautious about the knowledge one acquires about faith.” (Tirmizi). In the time of the Prophet of Allah (saw), his companions had recourse to him (saw) and to a few learned specialists. At that time, the prophet (saw) had forbidden knowledge acquired in an amateur way.

According to a narration from Abu Dawood, it is reported that, on one occasion, the companions had been on an expedition. One of them was seriously wounded in the head. During his sleep, he had a wet dream which made ghusal compulsory on him. In view of his head wound, he sought the advice of his companions about resorting to tayammum. They advised him against it and so he washed his hair with water. Following on this amateur advice, he took his bath and died. On learning of this anecdote, Prophet Muhammad (saw) became angry and blamed them: “Why hadn’t they sought advice from somebody else if they did not have the right knowledge? To blot out ignorance, it is sufficient to ask.” (Abu Dawood)

Questions are asked about new modes of financing particularly Ijarah Muntahia Bittamleek. One must understand that Allah T’ala has made lawful, profits from companies and business, and unlawful, interest. Hence, Islamic finances are beneficial to those who deal in agreeable profits and not on fixed interst basis. But amateurism has the tendency to mix both issues. The Qur’an states about amateurism: “This, because they say: trade is quite like interest.” (2:275). Allah Ta’ala corrects this amateur attitude thus: “Therefore Allah has made trade lawful and interest unlawful.” (2: 275). Alternatives to the interest system are the different types of trade; Murabahah, Mudharabah, Ijarah and Musharakah.

Murabahah means buying to sell with a profit. Mudharabah means investing in any capital undertaking. It is like unsecured ordinary shares. Musharakah means a partnership program in a limited liability Company where investment is linked to the contribution of shareholders. Ijarah means rent. Ijarah Muntahia Bittamleek means rent with unconditional option to acquire movable property after payment of rent.

Acquiring moveable property by means of Ijarah is very simple. You seek a lending company advising it of your intention about the moveable property and its estimated price. Let us take an example of a car worth Rs 300, 00. Once your application has been approved, the company will inform you by letter of the payment of rent and installments. Once papers are signed, the said company will buy and take possession (qabzah) of the car. Only then will you enter into the Ijarah Mutahia Bittamleek contract. The company will rent out to you the car for a period of three years for a monthly rent of, say, Rs 11 000. At the end of that three year period, you will have the option to buy the vehicle at minimal cost.

The advantage in this transaction is that no interest is involved and the terms of qabzah and payment of rent are islamically observed. Such an opportunity does not exist in Reunion Island, Malagasy Republic or even the Comoro Island. Let us not therefore allow ourselves to be influenced by amateurism. From the professional standpoint, Ijarah transactions are ethically far above all other modes of financing available in our market.

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