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Imam Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani on earning a livelihood: seven excerpts from his Kitab al-Kasb.

The Author of Kitab al-Kasb (1)

He is the mujtahid (2) Imam, the great jurisconsult of 'Iraq, Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad b. al-Hasan b. Farqad al-Shaybani. His father was of the people of Harasta (a town or suburb to the east of Damascus, Syria), and emigrated to 'Iraq, where Muhammad was born to him in Wasit (ca.131/748). His father then took him to Kufa and raised him there. From an early age he manifested profound intelligence and exemplary character, and he was a strong, healthy and handsome boy.

He learned the Qur'an and Arabic language, attended classes on hadiths, and, when he was fourteen years old, began studying with Imam Abu Hanifa. He remained with him for four years, receiving instructions in fiqh (jurisprudence) and hadith, after which he completed his education in fiqh under the guidance of Qadi Abu Yusuf (d. 182/798), may Allah have mercy on them all. He also learned from other great scholars of the time in Kufa, Basra, Madina and al-Sham (Syro-Palestine), including Imam Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 161/778) in Kufa, Imam al-Awza'i (d. 157/774) in Syria and Imam Malik (d. 179/795) in Madinah, with whom he studied for three years. (3)

Eventually he became the foremost jurisconsult of 'Iraq after Qadi Abu Yusuf, his scholarly accomplishments became widely known, which attracted many gifted and accomplished students to him from far and wide. Among some of his more prominent students were Imam Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i (founder of the Shafi'i legal school), Asad b. al-Furat al-Qayrawani (d. 213/828) (liberator of Sicily and documenter-compiler (mudawwin), of the Maliki legal school), and Shaykh Sahnun (d. 240/854) (the narrator-compiler of the Mudawwanah), and many others. He was also, indirectly, a great influence on Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 855/241) (founder of the Hanbali legal school), for he was once asked, "From whence did you acquire these legal subtleties?," whereupon he replied, "From the books of Muhammad b. al-Hasan." (4) Among his prominent students too were Abu 'Ubayd al-Qasim b. Sallam (d. 224/838), the celebrated author of Kitab al-Amwal (Book of Wealth), an early work on what we might now term as macro-economics or public finance. (5)

Imam Muhammad passed away in 189/804 in Rayy, Persia. (6) It is reported that he was seen weeping on his death-bed. When asked the reason, he said, "What if Allah Most Exalted makes me stand before Him and asks, 'Muhammad! What brought you forth to Me? Jihad in My way? Or the pursuit of My good pleasure?' What can I reply?" (7) Someone dreamt of Imam Muhammad after he passed away and asked about his condition, whereupon he said that he was forgiven because of his learning. (8)

He left behind a legacy of many valuable and well-received scholarly works, (9) largely in the field of hadith and fiqh based on the principles laid down by Imam Abu Hanifa. These include Kitab al-mabsut or Kitab al-asl, (10) al-Jami' al-saghir, (11) al-Jami' al-kabir, (12) al-Siyar al-saghir, (13) al-Siyar al-kabir, (14) al-Ziyadat, (15) and Ziyadat al-ziyadat. (16) He also compiled a book of traditions, Kitab al-athar, (17) in which he narrated mostly from his main teacher, Imam Abu Hanifa, and from about twenty other teachers. (18) Kitab al-kasb, recently translated into English, is considered to be the last work he wrote before he passed away. (19)

Perhaps one of the reasons for the wide appeal of the Kitab al-Kasb (20) (and also perhaps of his other works) is the fact that the author was no ivory-tower, armchair jurisconsult, but one who was concerned about grounding his legal conclusions not only in textual evidence (nusus) but also in the everyday realities of political, social and commercial life. It is reported of him that he used to go out to visit the dyers (sabbaghun) in order to be able ask them personally about their work and their transactions among themselves. Shaykh al-Kawthari documented this report in his biography of Imam Muhammad, Bulugh al-Amani, and commented in admiration:
   Look at this great mujtahid, how he did not make do with what he
   possessed of knowledge of the Book and the Sunnah, and the opinions
   of the Companions and Followers, and others of the jurisconsults of
   all the lands.... but rather saw himself to be in need of being
   familiar with the manners of transacting (wujuh al-tac amul) among
   the practitioners of the trades (arbab al-sina'at), and the
   difference between the manners of the old custom (al-'urf al-qadim)
   and those of the fresh new custom (al-'urf al-hadith al-tari'),
   that his words might be secured from errors in any aspects that
   pertain to the explication of the rulings of the Divine Law
   (al-Shar'). (21)

Kitab al-Kasb

Kitab al-Kasb (22) (=The Book of Earning a Livelihood) is, in itself, (23) a small booklet expounding on the imperative of earning a livelihood for those who are able to do so, and the various juristic and ethico-moral dimensions in respect thereof. The book is dictated along the traditional (athari) rather than strictly juristic (fiqhi) approach to the topic, and hence each legal position expounded on is supported by adducing one, two or more Prophetic hadiths or reports (athar) and narratives (akhbar) from the Companions and the Followers, as well as relevant verses from the Holy Qur'an. (24)

The book was narrated and transmitted from the author by his student Muhammad b. Sama'a al-Tamimi, (25) and it is this narration and transmission which formed the basis of the commentary (sharh) on it by the learned and erudite Imam al-Sarakhsi. (26) His commentary exhibits a remarkably nuanced commonsensical and rational approach toward balancing the different juristic interpretations of the traditions and reports with a meticulous care to present as objectively as possible the views of opposing legal positions before embarking to refute them and to argue for the accepted Hanafi legal position. I personally find this lovely blending of traditional and rational argumentation (al-istidlal wal-ihtijaj bil-manqul wal-macqul) to be very intellectually appealing, thereby keeping at bay much of the inevitable tedium that tends to set in during the careful, measured pace of translating a classical Arabic text, or any serious, scholarly text for that matter.

One major difficulty noted by many scholars who study al-Sarakhsi's commentary on the Kitab al-Kasb is the fact that it is quite a delicate task to tease out al-Shaybani's original wordings from the much more profuse wordings of the commentator himself. That task of teasing out and disembedding one from the other will definitely warrant a careful separate study and research in itself, which obviously I have not attempted to undertake here. However, in most cases, whenever al-Sarakhsi starts a sentence by, say, the words "He says (qala)," we can be quite confident that the sentence is attributable to al-Shaybani himself, and it is thereby put in quotation marks in the translation to differentiate it from the other sentences of the commentator. Other aspects of the commentary, such as the rebuttal of the Karramites, clearly point to issues and controversies that only arose during the time of al-Sarakhsi (d. 483), who flourished some two and a half centuries after the passing away of al-Shaybani. (27)

Although many readers would deem the Kitab al-Kasb to fall under the purview of the formal discipline now known as economics, al-Sarakhsi actually informs us that Imam Muhammad wrote it to expound on the meaning of asceticism or detachment from the world (al-zuhd). He originally planned to write a long work of one thousand chapters or sections on the topic, but due to a sudden illness which overtook him, he only managed to complete a small portion of it, which is the Kitab al-Kasb. It was his first composition on the subject of prudence (al-warac) and abstinence (al-zuhd), and the manner in which such praiseworthy character traits are to be steadfastly safeguarded from corruption through the unavoidable vexations, tribulations and temptations of working for one's livelihood.

Here we have a work that explains how economic discipline can and should find its meaning and purpose within the ambit of spiritual discipline. Shaykh 'Abdul Fattah Abu Ghudda, Allah be well-pleased with him, considers this operative embedding of prudence and abstinence into the every-day mundaneness of earning a living to be a grand idea on the part of Imam Muhammad:
   This is a lofty and subtle thinking (fikrat 'aliya daqiqa) on the
   part of Imam Muhammad, for he has embarked on expounding on the
   crux of abstinence and prudence (ra's al-zuhd wal-wara'), which is
   wholesome livelihood (tib al-maksib). Allah's is his achievement
   and with Allah is his reward (li-Llahi darruh wa 'ala Allahi
   ajruh). (28)

Thus one closes the book and comes away with the profound realisation that the operational test of true abstinence and prudence--or true inner worth and spiritual discipline in general--lies in the way one conducts oneself through the every-day trials, tribulations, temptations, worries and vexations of working for one's sustenance, whether by trading in goods and merchandise, working for a wage, or practicing a craft.

Earning a Livelihood as a Service to Communal Solidarity

In a nutshell, a person is prudent and abstinent when he takes care to work in a wholesome enterprise (al-kasb al-tayyib) in order to provide for his needs and the needs of his family and dependents, and, if there is surplus, to provide therefrom for the poor and needy in his community, while at the same time, avoiding the illicit, the abhorred, and the questionable, and turning away--as far as possible--from materialistic covetousness, and from indulging in an overtly opulent lifestyle that one may avoid casting rancour into the hearts of the poor. Only then can his whole life be a life of solidarity with the poor, and of total worship in humble devotion to his Creator, to Whom he shall be returned, and to Whom he shall be accountable for all the blessings and enjoyments bestowed on him in temporal earthly life. Hence in this regard, earning a livelihood in relation to the devotional life is as the ritual purification (al-tahara) in relation to the canonically prescribed prayers (al-salat)--the one is seen to be dependent on the other, and the two are thereby integrated into a seamless whole.

We may extend and expand on this reflection to come to the necessary insight that observing personal, individual worship ('ibadat) is not sufficient in order for a person to live a fully Islamic life--or to realise Islam as a complete way of life--unless at the same time he takes care to cultivate the interpersonal transactional relationship (mu'amalat) required to support it; thus the inextricable linkage between fard "ayn (individual duty) and fard kifaya (communal duty), and between personal devotion and social relation, so nicely alluded to by Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani with his statements, "In earning a livelihood there is the meaning of cooperation in acts of devotion (fil-kasb'mana al-mu'awana 'ala al-qurab)," (29) and "Permissible earning is in the category of cooperation in acts of devotion and obedience (al-kasb al-halal min bab al-mu'awana 'ala al-qurab wal-ta'at)." (30) Hence, in order to observe cibada, we need to cultivate an appropriate mu'amala to support and nurture it; the one simply cannot do without the other. (31)

Translated Excerpts from Al-Shaybani on Earning a Livelihood

There are quite a few published editions of the Kitab al-Kasb. I surveyed four of them, namely the one embedded in Imam al-Sarakhsi's encyclopedic thirty-volume fiqh compendium, Kitab al-Mabsut, the one prepared by Dr. Suhayl Zakkar, the one by Dr. Ahmad Jabir Badran, and the one by Shaykh 'Abdul Fattah Abu Ghudda.

I find the last two to be the most reliable, but Abu Ghudda's edition is clearly the basis for the later Badran edition, which quite openly acknowledges its indebtedness to the earlier edition, especially with regard to the collation of a number of different manuscripts, and hadith documentation. (32) Although in the end I opted for Abu Ghudda's edition on which to base my translation --not least because he was a well-known, authoritative scholar of hadith and fiqh (and also because I had already started to use it before coming across Badran's edition)--readers may occasionally find in the Badran's editon useful, informative annotations to the text not found in the Abu Ghudda's edition.

Shaykh Abu Ghudda has meticulously documented and evaluated all the prophetic traditions narrated in the Kitab al-Kasb, except for the very few which he could not trace in the standard, published sources. In my translation, I have omitted repeating in to Abu Ghudda's detailed documentation and evaluation of these traditions and reports, and limited myself to only mentioning the source of a tradition in general, such as Muslim or al-Bukhari or al-Tabarani, while referencing to Abu Ghudda's detailed documentation in the footnotes for the benefit of more serious and scholarly readers who may want to pursue the sources of the hadiths further by directly consulting his Arabic edition of Kitab al-Kasb.

I have also found myself benefitting immensely from Shaykh Abu Ghudda's other annotations to the text, and have gladly made use of them in my translation with proper referencing to the relevant page or pages and footnotes in his edition. In the relatively few places in the text where he was silent, and where I deem annotations to be warranted in order to render the text more understandable to readers, I have rendered those annotations myself, but on the whole I have left the translation lightly annotated.

To render the translation more readable I have omitted the use of square brackets altogether, and only used round brackets throughout. Bracketted transliterated Arabic terms indicate terms or words already found in the original Arabic text, while bracketted English words or terms are my own to render the whole sense of the sometimes terse and pithy expressions in the original more accessible to readers, but I should hope that I have kept these to the barest minimum.

Excerpt 1: The Ranks of Earning and Their Legal Rulings (Maratib al-kasb wa ahkamuha) (33)

Earning is of several ranks. (The first is) the level (of earning) which is indispensable for everyone. This means that earning by which a person can lawfully strengthen his spine (ma yuqimu bihi sulbuh) is individually incumbent on everyone, for the discharge of the obligatory duties (iqamat al-fara'id) cannot be attained except by it; and that by which the discharge of the obligatory duties are attained is (in itself) obligatory. If he thereafter does not strive to earn more than what is necessary, he is at liberty (f sa'atin) in respect thereof, because of the statement of the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, "Whoever enters upon morning in peace over his flock (sirb) and healthy (mu'afan) in his body, having food for his day, it is as though the entire world has fallen into his possession." (34)

The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said to Ibn Hubaysh, (35) may Allah be pleased with him, advising him, "A morsel (luqmah) with which you assuage your hunger, and a piece of cloth (khirqah) with which you conceal your shame (36) (saw'ah), and if there is (also) for you a shelter (kinn) which shelters you, then (all) that is good; and if there is for you a riding animal (dabba) which you ride, then it is most excellent (fa bakhin bakhin). (37)

This is when he is not in debt (dayn), (38) but if he is in debt, then it is mandatory on him to earn an amount that pays off his debt, because paying off debts is incumbent on him as a personal duty (mustahaqqun 'alayhi 'aynan), (for) the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "Debts are to be paid off (al-dayn maqdiyy)," (39) and by earning this is attained.

Likewise if he has dependants like a wife and small children, then it is personally obligatory for him to earn an amount that is sufficient for (upkeeping) them (qadr kifayatihim), because providing (al-infaq) for his wife is incumbent on him (mustahaqq 'alayh), (for) Allah Most High says, Keep those women in the manner you live, according to your means (al-Talaq: 6) which means, "provide for them according to your means," and this is in the reading (qira'ah) of Ibn Mas'ud, may Allah be pleased with him.

Allah Most Exalted, Most Glorious, says, And it is the responsibility of the father to provide them (40) with food and clothing properly. No soul is burdened beyond its capacity (al-Baqara: 233). He, Most Exalted, Most Glorious, says, And let one whose provision is limited spend of what Allah has given him (al-Talaq: 7). This duty is most surely fulfilled with earning. The Prophet, may Allah bless and gives him peace, says, "It is sinful enough for a person to neglect those whom he is responsible to support." (41) Hence safeguarding oneself (al-taharruz) from committing sins (al-ma'athim) is an obligation.

The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "Verily, your soul has a right over you, and your family has a right over you, so give to each right owner (dhi haqqin) his right." (42) However the obligation to the latter is lower (in degree) than to the former, (43) for the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says "... then (feed) those whom you support." (44) If he earns more than that which he stores for himself and for his dependants, then he is at liberty to do so, for it is narrated that the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, had food for his dependants stored up for a year, after he had (earlier) forbidden that, (45) according to a narration that he, may Allah bless and give him peace, said to Bilal, may Allah be pleased with him, "Give away O Bilal, and do not fear any decrease from the Owner of the Throne (al-'arsh)." (46) The later (hadith) abrogates the earlier.

If he has impoverished elderly parents (abawan kabiran mu'siran), he is obliged to earn enough to provide for them because providing for them is a binding duty on him even if he is destitute as long as he is able to earn. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said to a man who came to him and said, "I wish to fight in the path of Allah (al-jihad) with you." He said, "Do you have parents?" He said, "Yes." The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, said, "Return to them and fight,"47 that is, earn and provide for them.

Allah Most High says, And keep company with them courteously in this world (Luqman: 15). It is not keeping courteous company to leave them both to die starving when he is able to earn; however, this is lesser than the previous case in obligation, because of what has been narrated in a hadith that a man said to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless and give him peace, "I have one dinar with me." The Prophet of Allah, may Allah bless and give him peace, said, "Spend it on yourself." He said, "I have another one." The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, said, "Spend it on your dependants." He said, "I have (yet) another one." The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, said, "Spend it on your parents (walidayka)." (48)

As for non-parents among the unmarriageable kin (dhaw al-rahim al-mahram), it is not obligatory for a person to earn to provide for them, because providing for them is not a binding duty on him except in the case of one who is affluent (illa bi iHibar sifat al-yasar), but it is recommended (yundab) to earn and provide for them, strengthening the ties of kinship (silat al-rahim); and this is something recommended (mandub) by the Law. The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "There is no good in one who does not like (to have) wealth in order to thereby connect ties with his kinfolk, and to thereby honor his guest (dayf), and to thereby be beneficent to his friend (al-sadiq)." (49)

The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, said to 'Amr b. al-'As, may Allah be pleased with him "I desire for you a desire of wealth (arghabu laka raghbatan min al-mal)," until he said (the words), "The most excellent virtuous wealth (al-mal al-salih) is for the virtuous man who renews relations with his kinfolk." (50) The severing of kinship is prohibited as supported by the statement of the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, "Three things are suspended by the Throne (al-'Arsh): blessings (al-ni'ma), trust (al-amana) and kinship (al-rahim). Blessings say, 'I was shown ingratitude and not appreciated'; trust says, 'I was betrayed and not nurtured'; and kinship says, 'I was severed and not joined.'" (51)

The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "The joining of (bonds) of kinship prolongs (one's) lifespan, while the severing of kinship takes away blessing from (one's) lifetime." (5) 2 And the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says in what he narrated from his Lord, Most Exalted, Most Glorious, "I am the Benevolent (al-Rahman), and these are the wombs (wa hiya al-rahimu); I derived for them a name from my name, so whoever joins (ties of) kinship, I shall join him, but whoever cuts (ties of) kinship, I shall cut him (off)." (53)

There is something in the neglect to provide for kinfolk which leads to the severance of kinship (qati'at al-rahim); hence it is recommended to earn in order to provide for them.

Excerpt 2: Permissibility of Earning to Amass Wealth though Safety Lies in Not Doing So (Jawaz al-kasb li jam' al-mal ma'a kawn al-salama fil-imtina' min dhalika) (54)

Thereafter the matter becomes broadened (muwassa') for him, so if he wishes he earns and amasses wealth, and if he wishes he desists (from doing so), for some of the (pious) Predecessors (al-salaf), may Allah Most High be merciful to them, amassed wealth and some did not, and thus we know that both ways are permissible.

As for accumulation (al-jam'), this is due to what was narrated from the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, (that he said), "Whoever seeks what is permissible (halal) of the world with temperance (muta'affifan) shall meet Allah Most High with his face like the moon (al-qamar) on the night of the full moon (al-badr); and whoever seeks it with conceit (mufakhiran) and excess (mukathiran) shall meet Allah Most High while He is angry at him." (55) This shows that accumulating wealth in a moderate way is allowed. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, used to say in his supplication, "O Allah, render my sustenance most bountiful during my old age and toward the ending of my lifespan." (56) And so it was, for it was accrued for him, toward the end of his life, forty lactiferous sheep (shatan halubatan), Fadak, (57) and a share in Khaybar. (58)

As for abstaining from amassing wealth, this way is also permissible because of the narration (hadith) of 'A'isha from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless and give him peace, "If there were for the progeny of Adam two dales (wadiyan) of gold, he would wish to (add to) that a third one, and the belly of Adam's progeny will not be filled up except by dirt (al-turab); and Allah relents to those who repent." (59) It was said (by some), that this (hadith) was among what was recited in the Qur'an in the chapter of Yunus (Jonah), during the second or third bowing (of the prayer, al-ruku'), then its recitation was abrogated (intasakhat tilawatahu) and (only) the narration remained (baqiyat riwayatahu). (60)

The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "Perished be wealth!" And in a narration, "Perished be the owner of gold and silver." (61) The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "The accumulators (al-mukthirun) are destroyed except he who says, 'Thus and thus (hakadha wa hakadha),'" (62) that is, he gives away in charity (yatasaddaq) in every respect. The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "Satan says, 'The owner of wealth shall not be saved from me with respect to three things: either I will render it attractive in his eyes and so he will amass it unlawfully, or either I shall render it despicable in his eyes and so he will give it away unlawfully, or either I shall render it lovable to him and so he will retain what is due to Allah from it." (63)

In this there is clarification that abstaining from amassing wealth is safer, and there is no blotch ('ayb) on those who choose the path of safety.

Excerpt 3: In Earning There is the Meaning of Cooperation in Acts of Devotion (Fil-kasb ma'na al-mu 'awana 'ala-l-qurab) (64)

(Imam) Muhammad, may Allah have mercy on him, then explains that in earning there is the meaning of cooperation (al-mu awana) on acts of devotion (al-qurab) and obedience (al-ta'at), (65) regardless of the nature of the earning. (66) He says to the extent that in the (work of the) ropemaker (fattal al-hibal), (67) the maker of jugs (al-kizan) (68) and earthen jars (al-jirar), and the work of the weavers (al-hawaka), there is cooperation on acts of devotions and obedience (to Allah), for it is not possible to perform the prayer except by (first performing the ritual of) purification (al-tahara), and this requires a jug (al-kuz) with which to pour water, a leather bucket (dalw) and rope (risha) with which to draw water (from the well), and requires the covering of (one's) nakedness (al-'awra) for performing the prayer which is only possible by the work of the weavers (al-hawaka). (69)

Thus we know that all of that are among the means of cooperation (asbab al-ta'awun) on rendering obedience (iqamat al-ta'at), and this (fact) was indicated by 'Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, in his statement, "Do not revile the world, for the most excellent mount of the believer is the world to the hereafter (la tasubbu al-dunya, fa ni'ma matiyyat al-mu'min al-dunya ila al-akhirah)."

Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, when a man asked him about the best of deeds after belief, said, "Praying and eating bread." The man looked at him as one taken aback (kal-muta'ajjib), and so he said, "If it were not for bread, Allah Most High would not have been worshipped." This means that by eating bread, a person is able to keep body and soul together, and is thereby enabled to render (religious acts) of obedience.

Excerpt 4: Permissibility of Lowly Earnings (Ibahat al-makasib al-daniya) (70)

The legal position of the vast majority of the jurisprudents jumhur al-fuqaha'), may Allah Most High have mercy on them, is that all the (different types of) earnings (al-makasib) are the same with respect to permissibility (al-ibahah).

Some of the ascetics (al-mutaqashshifa) said, "It is not allowed to undertake earnings that are considered to be lowly (al-dana a) in the custom of the people ('urf al-nas) except when in dire circumstance ('inda al-darura), (71) due to the statement of the Prophet, blessing and peace be on him, "It is not for the believer to demean (yudhill) himself." (72) The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, (also) says, "Verily, Allah Most High likes noble things (ma'ali al-umur), and He dislikes inferior ones (safsafaha)." (73) The inferior (al-safsaf) is that which demeans a person due to its baseness (khissa).

Our argument (hujja) for that (74) is the statement of the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, "Among the sins are sins that cannot be expiated (yukaffir) (even) by fasting and prayer (al-salat)." And it was said (to him), 'And what will expiate them, O Messenger of Allah?" He said, "Vexations (al-humum) in earning a livelihood (al-ma'isha)." (75) The Prophet, may Allah Most High bless and give him peace, (also) says, "Seeking the permissible (talab al-halal) is like the battling of the warriors. Whoever retires in the evening worn out (bata waniyan) in seeking the permissible, retires as one who is forgiven." (76) The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "The best of actions (afdal al-amal) is earning to provide for dependents," (77) without differentiating between the various types of earning.

(Even) if there was nothing in earning except abstinence (al-ta'affuf) and independence (al-istighna) from asking (al-su'al), it would (still) have been recommended, for the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "Asking (78) is the worst resort of the servant (al-su'al akhir kasb al-'abd)," (79) that is, he remains in his debasement (yabqa fi dhillatih) until the day of resurrection.

The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, said to Hakim b. Hizam, may Allah be pleased with him, or (he said) to someone else, "An earning in which there is diminishment in status (naqs al-martabat) is better for you than that you ask from people, regardless of whether they give you or refuse you." (80)

Moreover, the disparagement (al-madhamma) in the custom of the people is not connected to earning (as such) but to betrayal of trust (al-khiyana), (81) breaking promises (khulf al-wa'd), swearing false oaths (al-yamin al-kadhiba), (82) and to the meaning of miserliness (ma'na al-bukhl).

Excerpt 5: Types of Earnings (Anwa al-makasib) (83)

Earnings are four types: hired employment (al-ijara), (84) commerce (al-tijara), agriculture (al-zira'a), and craftsmanship (sina'a). All these are equally permissible according to the vast majority of the jurisprudents, may Allah Most High have mercy on them.

Excerpt 6: Agriculture is Not At All Reprehensible (85) (al-Zira'a laysat madhmuma mutlaqan) (86)

Some (87) say that agriculture is reprehensible due to what was narrated that the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, saw something of the implements of plowing (alat al-hiratha) in the house of a people, and he said, "None of these enters a people's house except that they become debased (ma dakhala hadha bayta qawmin illa dhallu)." (88) The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, was asked about the statement of Allah, the Great the Sublime, If you obeyed those who scoff, they would turn you back on your heels (Al 'Imran: 149): "Is it (about) (al-ta"arrub)?" He said, "No, but it is agriculture (al-zira a)." (89) Al-ta 'arrub is dwelling in the desert (sukna al-badiya) and abandoning emigration (tark al-hijra). (90)

'Abdullah b. 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "When you buy and sell on credit (tabaya'tum bil-'ina), and pursue the tails of oxen (adhnab al-baqar), you shall become (so) lowly until you are coveted (by your enemies, yutma' fi-kum)." (91)

Our argument for this (92) is what was narrated that the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, "farmed in al-Jurf." (93) The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "Seek sustenance in the bowels of the earth (khabaya al-ard)," (94) meaning (seek sustenance by) farming. The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, (also) says, "The farmer (al-zari') is trading (yutajir) with his Lord." (95) The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, used to own Fadak and a share (sahm) in Khaybar, and his food (qut) toward the end of his lifetime was from there. (96)

'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, used to own a piece of land in Khaybar called Thamgha. (97) Ibn Mas'ud, al-Hasan b. 'Ali, and Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with them, used to own agricultural lands (mazaric) in al-Sawad. (98) They farmed those lands and paid their land tax (kharaj). Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them both, used to have farmlands in al-Sawad and other places.

The interpretation (ta'wil) of the narrated traditions (al-athar al-marwiyya) (99) is that these refer to the situation when all the people become preoccupied with agriculture and turn away from fighting in the path of Allah (al-jihad) so much so that their enemies covet them. (100) All this (meaning) is narrated in the previously mentioned hadith of Ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with them both, who said, " ... and you abstain from fighting in the path of Allah (qa adtum an al-jihad), and you become debased (dhalaltum) until you are coveted (by your enemies)."

But as for when some of them occupy themselves with jihad and some with farming, then in the vocation of the farmer there is assistance for the fighter (al-mujahid), while in the vocation of the fighter there is defence (daf'un 'an) of the farmer. The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "The believers are as a building (bunyan); parts of which fortify the other." (101)

Excerpt 7: Is Commerce Superior Or Farming? (al-Tijara afdal am al-zira a) (102)

Thereafter, our teachers (mashayikh), may Allah Most High have mercy on them, disagree on (the relative merits of) commerce and farming. Some of them say that commerce is superior because of the statement of Allah Most High, And others traveling the land seeking the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the sake of Allah (al-Muzammil: 20). The meaning of "traveling the land" is commerce, and Allah gives precedence to it in mention over jihad, which is the hump peak of the religion (sanam al-din) and the way of the Messengers (sunnat al-mursalin).

Because of this, 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "Indeed, that I die between the flanks of my camel (bayna sha'batay rahli) (103) while traveling the land seeking the bounty of Allah is more to my liking than to be killed fighting for the sake of Allah." (104) The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "The trustworthy merchant (al-tajir al-amin) is with the noble virtuous people (al-kiram al-barara) on the day of Resurrection." (105)

Most of our scholars, may Allah Most High have mercy on them all, are of the view that farming is superior to commerce because it is of wider benefit (a'ammu naf'an). For through the vocation of farming is produced that by which a person fortifies his backbone (106) and derives strength to render obedience (to Allah). The Prophet said, "The best of people is he who is most beneficial to people (khayr al-nasi man huwa anfa'u lil-nas)," (107) hence to be occupied with what is more generally beneficial is superior.

(Farming is also better) because charitable giving (al-sadaqa) in farming is also more manifest, for the people, animals (al-dawabb) and birds (al-tuyur) inevitably (la budda) partake of what is earned by the farmer, and all that is (counted as) charity for him. The Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace, says, "Never does a Muslim plants (gharasa) a tree (shajara), and a person or animal or bird partakes of it, except that it becomes for him a charity."108 And in a narration (riwaya), "What the afiya eat of it becomes for him a charity." The 'afiya are birds which go out searching for their sustenance and then return to their nests (awkar).

When it is in the custom of people (adat al-nas) to belittle earning that is lacking in charitable giving (al-tasadduq) like the vocation of weaving (al-hiyaka) even though it partakes of assisting in the performance of the prayer, then we know that earning which involves more charitable giving is superior.

As for the interpretation of what they have commented (ta allaqu)--(with regard to the fact that) it has been narrated from Makhul and Mujahid, may Allah Most High have mercy on them both, that the meaning of "traveling the land (al-darb fil-ard)" refers to the quest for knowledge (talab al-'ilm)--we say concerning it that that is superior, for (Imam) Muhammad, may Allah Most High have mercy on him, has (already) pointed to that in his statement, "The quest for earning is obligatory just as the quest for knowledge is obligatory." (109) Therefore the comparison of this with that is proof that (the dictum) "the quest for knowledge is obligatory" is higher in rank than the other.

(1.) Much of this section on the life and works of al-Shaybani is based on Shaykh Abdul al-Fattah Abu Ghudda's introduction to his excellent edition of the Kitab al-Kasb, which is in turn based on, among others, Imam al-Kawthari's biography of Imam al-Shaybani, Bulugh al-amani fi Sirat al-Imam Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani, and earlier classical biographical dictionaries, such as al-Dhahabi's Siyar a'lam al-nubala' See Abu Ghudda (ed.), Kitab al-kasb (Aleppo: Maktab al-Matbu'at al-Islamiyya, 1417/1997) (henceforth "Abu Ghudda"), 11 ff.

(2.) One qualified to exercise independent ijtihad or competent to "infer expert legal rulings from foundational proofs within or without a particular School [of jurisprudence]"; see the glossary in Gibril Fouad Haddad, The Four Imams and Their Schools: Abu Hanifa, Malik, al-Shaffi, Ahmad (London: Muslim Academic Trust, 2007), 451-452 and 458.

(3.) The version of Imam Malik's al-Muwatta narrated by Imam al-Shaybani has been translated beautifully into English; see The Muwatta' of Imam Muhammad, trans. Abdussamad Clarke and Mohammed Abdurrahman (London: Turath Publishing, 2004).

(4.) Translated as Reliance of the Traveller by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Beltsville, Maryland: Amana: 1997), 1077 x257.

(5.) Ugi Suharto, Kitab al-Amwal: Abu Ubayd's Concept of Public Finance (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 2005), 34-35, and 213 n. 39.

(6.) Keller, Reliance, 1077 x257. Rayy is at the outskirt of present-day Tehran.

(7.) Haddad, Four Imams, 15.

(8.) Ibid.

(9.) A lucid overview of his corpus of writings is given in the editor's introduction to Hasan b. Mansur Awzjandi al-Farghani Qadi Khan, Sharh al-Ziyadat (of al-Shaybani), ed. Qasim Ashraf Nur Ahmad (Beirut: Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-'Arabi, 2005), 51-58.

(10.) Ed. Abu al-Wafa al-Afghani, 5 vols. (Beirut: 'Alam al-Kutub, 1990).

(11.) See the commentary on it by Imam al-Sadr al-Shahid 'Umar 'Abd al-Manara al-Bukhari al-Hanafi, Sharh al-Jamii al-saghir, ed. Salah 'Awwad Jumu'a Abdullah al-Kubaysi (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, 2006).

(12.) Abu al-Wafa al-Afghani (ed.), (Hyderabad: Lajnah Ihya' al-Ma'arif al-Nu'maniyya, 1937).

(13.) Edited, translated and annotated by Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi as The Shorter Book on Muslim International Law: Kitab al-Siyar al-Saghir by Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani (Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute, 1998).

(14.) See al-Sarakhsi, Sharh al-Siyar al-Kabir, 4 vols. (Hyderabad, 1916-1917); see also Majid Khadduri's useful and detailed study, The Islamic Law of Nations: al-Shaybani's Siyar (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1966), 41-57.

(15.) See the commentary on it by Hasan b. Mansur Awzjandi al-Farghani Qadi Khan, Sharh al-Ziyadat, ed. Qasim Ashraf Nur Ahmad (Beirut: Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-Arabi, 2005).

(16.) See the commentary on it by Imam al-Sarakhsi, al-Nukat: Sharh Ziyadat al Ziyadat li al-Shaybani, ed. Abu al-Wafa' al-Afghani (Beirut: 'Alam alKutub, n.d.).

(17.) The Kitab al-Athar of Imam Abu Hanifa, Narrated by Imam Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani, trans. Abdussamad Clarke (London: Turath Publishing, 2007).

(18.) Further details are in the editor's introduction to Muhammad al-Shaybani, Kitab al-Kasb (al-Iktisab fil-rizq al-mustatab), ed. Ahmad Jabir Badran (Cairo: Markaz al-Dirasat al-Fiqhiyya wal-Iqtisadiyya, 2004) (henceforth "Badran"), 72-83. See also Haddad, Four Imams, 15. A critical account, though dated, of his life and works is Khadduri, Islamic Law of Nations, 22-40 passim.

(19.) See Suhayl Zakkar (ed.), Risala fil-kasb (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1997), 18.

(20.) Badran, 141-142.

(21.) Abu Ghudda, 47-48; Badran, 140-141.

(22.) Full English translation with notes by Adi Setia, The Book of Earning a Livelihood (Kuala Lumpur: IBFIM, 2011).

(23.) That is, if considered apart from the much more lengthy commentary of Imam al-Sarakhsi in which it is embedded. Abu Ghudda (21) says that the original text of the Kitab al-Kasb is not extant, and that what we now have is a version that is embedded in its commentary by al-Sarakhsi, who, unfortunately, does not differentiate between the original text and his commentary on it.

(24.) Zakkar, Risala, 27.

(25.) He is the learned Imam, Qadi of Baghdad, Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad b. Sama'ah b. 'Ubaydallah al-Tamimi al-Kufi, student and companion of Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani. He was born in 130/747 and passed away in 233/848, and thus lived to the ripe old age of 103 years (Abu Ghudda, 60, 65-66; and Badran, 168-169 n. 2).

(26.) He is the Grand Imam Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Abi Sahl Abu Bakr al-Sarakhsi (of Serakhs in present-day Turkmenistan), student of Imam Abu Muhammad 'Abd al-Aziz al-Halwani, and author of the thirty volume work on Hanafi jurisprudence, al-Mabsut. He passed away in Fergana (in present-day Uzbekistan) in 483/1090. For more on him, see Keller, Reliance, 1093 x319; see Abu Ghudda, 59-60, and Badran, 166-167 n. 1.

(27.) Abu Ghudda, 21. Al-Sarakhsi has embedded his commentary on the Kitab al Kasb in his encyclopedic fiqh compendium al-Mabsut, and it constitutes a book (kitab) of its own in volume thirty of the Mabsut (That is, vol. 30, 269-321 of the edition prepared by Abi 'Abdillah Muhammad 'Hasan al-Shafi'i', and published in 31 volumes in Beirut by Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 2001).

(28.) Abu Ghudda, 20.

(29.) Ibid., 136.

(30.) Ibid., 164.

(31.) See Adi Setia, "Mu'amala and the Revival of the Islamic Gift Economy," Islam & Science (Summer 2011), 67-88.

(32.) Badran, 148-149.

(33.) Abu Ghudda, 121-131.

(34.) Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-mufrad (Abu Ghudda, 122 n. 1).

(35.) Abu Ghudda (122 n. 2-3) discusses in some detail on the actual identity of this Companion.

(36.) That is, private parts of the body.

(37.) Narrated in Majma' al-zawa^id, and by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat (Abu Ghudda, 123 n. 2).

(38.) That is, this level of earning should suffice for a person when he is not indebted to anyone.

(39.) Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah (Abu Ghudda, 123 n. 3).

(40.) That is, to provide for the mothers and children.

(41.) Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud and al-Hakim (Abu Ghudda, 124 n. 4).

(42.) Narrated by al-Bukhari and al-Tirmidhi (Abu Ghudda, 124 n. 5).

(43.) That is, you are first obliged to provide for yourself and then for your family or your dependants.

(44.) That is, begin with feeding your own self and then those who are depending on you for provisions. Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari and by Abu Dawud al-Sijistani in Masa'il al-Imam Ahmad (Abu Ghudda, 125 n. 1).

(45.) Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim (Abu Ghudda, 125-126 n. 2).

(46.) Narrated by al-Tabarani (long discussion in Abu Ghudda, 127 n. 1).

(47.) Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim (Abu Ghudda, 128 n. 1).

(48.) A hadith similar in meaning but different in wording is narrated by Abu Dawud (Abu Ghudda, 128 n. 3).

(49.) Narrated by Ibn Hibban (Abu Ghudda, 129 n. 1).

(50.) Narrated by al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak and Ahmad in al-Musnad (Abu Ghudda, 129, n. 2).

(51.) Al-Suyuti in al-Jami' al-Saghir traced it to al-Bayhaqi in Shu'ab al-iman (Abu Ghudda, 130, n. 2).

(52.) Narrated by al-Quda'i in Musnad al-Shihab (Abu Ghudda, 130 n. 3).

(53.) Al-Haythami in Majma' al-zawa'id says it is narrated by al-Bazzar in Kashf al astar (Abu Ghudda, 130-131, n. 4).

(54.) Abu Ghudda, 131-136.

(55.) Narrated by Abu Nu'aym in al-Hilya and al-Bayhaqi in Shu'ab al-iman (Abu Ghudda, 131, n. 1).

(56.) Narrated by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat (Abu Ghudda, 132 n. 1).

(57.) A rich and prosperous garden oasis to the north of and near Khaybar; on its surrender to the Muslim army following the capture of Khaybar, see Martin Lings (Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din), Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (Kuala Lumpur: A.S. Noorden, 1983), 267-268.

(58.) An oasis about two hundred and fifty kilometer from Madina.

(59.) Narrated by Ahmad in al-Musnad (see long discussion in Abu Ghudda, 133 n. 1).

(60.) See long discussion in Abu Ghudda, 133 n. 1.

(61.) Narrated by Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad (Abu Ghudda, 134 n. 1).

(62.) Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad (Abu Ghudda, 135 n. 1).

(63.) Narrated by al-Tabarani, Muslim, al-Nasa5i and al-Tirmidhi (Abu Ghudda, 135 n. 2).

(64.) Abu Ghudda, 136.

(65.) That is, helping one another toward piety and devotion to Allah.

(66.) That is, so long as it is permissible (halal).

(67.) Literally, twiner of ropes.

(68.) Jugs of clay or tin.

(69.) That is, covering one's nakedness requires cloth which is produced by the weaving of the weavers.

(70.) Abu Ghudda, 136-140.

(71.) That is, when one is hardpressed to earn a living and there is only lowly work available.

(72.) Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Ahmad (Abu Ghudda, 137 n. 1).

(73.) Narrated by al-Khara'iti in Makarim al-akhlaq, al-Tabarani, al-Hakim, and al-Bayhaqi (Abu Ghudda, 137 n. 2).

(74.) That is, for permissibility of lowly earnings.

(75.) Narrated by al-Tabarani, al-Haythami, Abu Nu'aym (Abu Ghudda, 137 n. 3).

(76.) Al-Suyuti in al-Jami' al-Kabir traces this hadith to al-Bayhaqi in Shu'ab al-iman, and it is also found in Kanz al-'ummal; Abu Ghudda confirms it to be a weak hadith (71-72 n. 3).

(77.) Narrated by Ibn Lal and al-Daylami as documented in al-Suyuti's al-Jami' al-saghir (Abu Ghudda, 138 n. 1).

(78.) That is, begging.

(79.) That is, asking or begging from people should be the last (akhir) resort after all else fails, like trying but failing to find work, or being debilitatingly handicapped; it can also mean that asking and begging from people is the most debased (akhir) form of work for a person. Abu Ghudda says that this is a mawquf hadith which is only linked up to a Companion, namely, Qays b. 'Asim al-Minqari al-Tamimi (see long discussion in Abu Ghudda, 138-139 n. 2).

(80.) A mawquf hadith actually linked to 'Umar b. al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him (Abu Ghudda, 139 n. 1).

(81.) Also breach of faith or deception.

(82.) Also false swearing or lying under oath.

(83.) Abu Ghudda, 140.

(84.) That is, to allow oneself to be hired to do a job or to render a service in return for a fee, wage, or payment.

(85.) That is, not demeaning or looked down upon.

(86.) Abu Ghudda, 140-146.

(87.) Probably in reference to some jurisprudents.

(88.) Narrated by al-Bukhari (see long explanation of this hadith in Abu Ghudda, 140 n. 1).

(89.) Mawquf hadith, linked up to 'Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated by Ibn Abi Hatim and documented in al-Durr al-Mantthur (Abu Ghudda, 142 n. 2).

(90.) Reference here is to the life of the bedouin.

(91.) Actually a marfu' hadith, narrated by Abu Dawud, Ahmad and al-Dulabi (Abu Ghudda, 142 n. 4). A marfu' hadith is a hadith which is linked back to the Prophet, may Allah bless and give him peace. As explained by Abu Ghudda (143 n. 4), al-'ina is that a person sells to another a merchandise on credit up to a certain term, and then the seller buys from the buyer the same merchandise in cash at a spot price that is lower than its credit price. By this transaction the buyer on credit obtains ready money for selling the same thing in cash back to the original seller, but what the former has owed to the latter is more than the ready money he received. So on the one hand the original buyer gets ready money, and the original seller gets more profit by selling on credit rather than in cash. This is also a roundabout way to lend money on interest, hence Abu Ghudda says, "This is a stratagem among the stratagems of usury (hilah min hiyal al-riba)!" See also the definition in Sa'di Abu Jayb, al-Qamus al-Fiqhi: Lughatan wa Istilahan (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1988), 270; and in Muhammad 'Imarah, Qamus al-mustalahat al-iqtisadiyya fil-hadarat al-Islamiyya (Beirut: Dar al-Shuruq, 1993), 399-400. "Pursuing the tails of oxen" refers to farming and plowing the land, that is, agricultural activities.

(92.) That is, for saying that agriculture is not at all lowly or reprehensible.

(93.) Narrated by Ibn Zabalah; according to Nur al-Din al-Samhudi in Wafa' al-wafa bi-akhbar Dar al-Mustafa, al-Jurf or al-Juruf is a place in Madina, about three miles in the direction of Sham (Syria) (Abu Ghudda, 80 n. 1).

(94.) Narrated by Ibn 'Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq, al-Daruqutni in al-Afrad, al-Bayhaqi in Shu'ayb al-iman (Abu Ghudda, 143 n. 2).

(95.) Abu Ghudda (143 n. 3) says he has not come across this hadith.

(96.) See long exposition in Abu Ghudda, 132-133 n. 2.

(97.) Narrated by al-Bukhari (Abu Ghudda, 144 n. 2).

(98.) By al-Sawad is meant the Sawad of Iraq (Sawad al-'Iraq). The term sawad refers to every place on which there are farms and villages, or to rural agricultural regions in general.

(99.) That is, the preceding Prophetic hadiths and traditions of the Companions which apparently disparage involvement in farming and agriculture.

(100.) That is, have plans for attacking, raiding and conquering them.

(101.) Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim (Abu Ghudda, 146 n. 1).

(102.) Abu Ghudda, 146-148.

(103.) That is, to die on the camel saddle.

(104.) Narrated in al-Suyuti's al-Durr al-mantthur, and in Kanz al-'ummal (Abu Ghudda, 72 n. 1).

(105.) Narrated by Ibn Majah, al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak, al-Tirmidhi (Abu Ghudda, 146 n. 4).

(106.) That is, gives strength to his body.

(107.) Narrated by al-Quda'i in Musnad al-Shihab (Abu Ghudda, 102 n. 1).

(108.) Narrated by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and al-Tirmidhi (Abu Ghudda, 147 n. 2).

(109.) That is, at the beginning of section 2; see Setia, Book of Earning a Livelihood, 6.

Adi Setia is Coordinator, Worldview of Islam Research Academy (WIRA), and Director, Titiwangsa Advisory Group (TAG). E-mail:
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