The Quran and Consumer Protection

The Quran is the divine revelation given by Allah to Prophet Mohammed through angel Gabriel. Thought to be composed around the 632 AD, the Quran has one of the most effective, efficient and enforceable tenets that benefit consumers.

Apparently consumer protection had been a topic of contemplation in the wise minds of men in the pre-Mohammedan era in the Arabian Peninsula. Islam arrived in India in the 7th century and has played a very influential role in Indian consumerism ever since.

The story of how Islam came to India is an apt illustration of what Islam preaches when it comes to trade practices. In 624 AD, during the life of prophet Muhammed, one of his disciples Malik Bin Deenar came to Kerala.

He started trading with the locals in a stark contrasting pattern; one filled with honesty, ethics and genuine concern for the consumer (buyer). The impressed locals informed the local king Cheraman Perumal, who summoned Malik to his court room to understand why his practices were different from other traders. There Malik informed him that he was a follower of Islam and all his honest principles were derived from the teachings of prophet Muhammed.

The story goes on that the impressed king Cheraman Perumal became the first Indian to convert as a Muslim, and thereafter he left for his hajj to Mecca. The message of the story is that the emphasis that Islam placed on honest and ethical practices was impressive enough to win the heart of a king himself along with several followers.

For a Muslim businessman, there is no other way than to satisfy a consumer. Even if the market and economic forces drive down the profits, he still has to ensure his consumers are satisfied. According to Islam, profits are just means to keep the business alive; the end is consumer satisfaction.

Unlike other religious texts, the contrast of the Quran is that it is very specific about what can and cannot be done while conducting trade practices. The Quran is also stringent in imposing the harshest punishments on those who resort to unethical practices.

The Quran is very verbal about the importance of contracts. In 5:1, the Quran quotes “The almighty says… O you who believe! Fulfill your contracts”. The concept of standardized weights and measures was well advanced in the Islamic society. Chapter 83, verses 1 to 3 goes, “Woe to those that deal in fraud; Those who when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.

Do they not think that they will be called to account?”. Chapter 17, verse 35 further elaborates “Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance that is straight; that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination.”

Today, in the day of hoarding for artificially manipulating the prices, it’s noteworthy that the Quran prohibits storage of food grains for more than 40 days with the idea of gaining prices. It is amazing that a literary miracle written over 1400 years ago had the insights on post modern consumer concepts such as standardization / calibration of measures, anti-hoarding principles for the supply chain, contractual law, and necessity for transparency / accountability in the macroeconomic system of a nation.

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