Selling what is forbidden

Q591 :If you happen to own articles which are not permissible or desirable for Muslims to use, such as gold watches, silk clothes, valuable sculptures, video films, paintings, cameras, etc., is it permissible to sell them to non-Muslims? Should the price of such articles be given to charity? Furthermore, what should we do with cinema houses, night clubs and similar buildings if we happen to own them? A friend of mine sold his cigarette plant to another Muslim investor. How is his action viewed?

A591 : Let me start by quoting you this authentic Hadith related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others. Abdullah ibn Umar reports that his father, Umar ibn Al-Khattab once saw a striped suit being sold. He said to the Prophet: "Messenger of Allah, you may wish to buy this suit to wear on Fridays or to receive delegations." The Prophet answered: "Such a suit is only worn by a person who has no share in the hereafter." Later the Prophet was sent a number of suits of the same type, and he sent one of them to Umar. He went to the Prophet and asked him: "How could I wear this when you have said about it what you did?" The Prophet said: "I have not given it to you to wear, but to sell it or to give as a gift." Umar sent it to a relative of his in Makkah before the latter adopted Islam. Perhaps, it should be explained that the suit in question was made of silk or, at least there was a substantial portion of silk in it. That was the reason for the description by the Prophet of those who wear such a suit. It is well known that Muslim men are not allowed to wear silk. The Hadith serves to explain that it is perfectly permissible to sell silk, although it is forbidden for Muslim men to use. The point is that whatever is permissible to use is permissible to sell. Muslim women may wear garments made of silk, and make other uses of silk material. The Prophet told Umar that although he may not wear that suit, he is free to sell it or to give it as a gift to a non-Muslim. There are certain articles which are forbidden to sell, such as pigs, the flesh of an animal which died by natural causes, blood (other than for transfusion), wines and intoxicants. It is also not permissible to sell articles when we know that the buyer wants to use them for something forbidden. Having explained that, may I look at your list of articles. What applies to silk, as in the Hadith quoted above, is equally applicable to gold watches and jewelry. Sculpture is forbidden in Islam, because it is associated with pagan idolatry. It is perfectly permissible to sell a camera and decent paintings or films. If someone happens to own a night club or a cinema or a similar place and he wants to lead a more acceptable type of life, he can convert them into a more legitimate use. If he has a night club which is the scene of forbidden activities, it is not lawful to sell it to someone who will continue to use it for the same sort of activities, even if he is not a Muslim. If one does not have the necessary capital to convert it to, say, offices or residential apartments, he may be able to sell it to someone who will do such a conversion. He may persuade the municipal council to convert it to a public library or a school [or a community hall] or a place of any other permissible activity. As for the case of your friend who sold the cigarette plant, I am afraid that his action cannot be sanctioned by Islam. What he should have done is to convert the plant to producing something legitimate. As you are probably aware, an ever increasing number of scholars are pronouncing a verdict of total prohibition on cigarettes and all types of tobacco smoking or chewing, now that it has become established beyond any shadow of doubt that tobacco causes considerable damage to the health of the smoker and those around him. Those machines in the plant which could have no other use may have been dismantled so as to use any useful parts which could have a legitimate usage. It is unacceptable from the Islamic point of view to sell a cigarette factory to someone who will continue to produce cigarettes. Health authorities in almost all countries are running campaigns to increase people's awareness of the harmful effects of smoking. How could it be permissible, then, for a Muslim to continue to produce such a harmful product? On the other hand, if a Muslim owns a tobacco plantation or a field which he uses for growing tobacco, he should immediately stop this activity and use the land for growing a wholesome product. It is sad to see fertile lands in poor countries used for growing tobacco when they can very easily be used to grow crops or fruits. In the first case, the land is used to damage health while in the latter the land can be used to reduce poverty and hunger.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )