Profit maximization or service to God?
The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines Marketing as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” It follows from this definition that the customer is central to marketing. It is the customer’s requirements that determine the entire focus of a business. However customer needs come in a wide variety of choices and are as diverse as customers themselves. What type of customer requirements should a business fulfil is determined by a business often in conjunction with the legal or ethical framework governing it. While customer needs are the centre-point of conventional marketing, in Islamic marketing it is not the customer, but the Creator whose good pleasure is sought by the Marketer first and foremost. Thus profit maximization is not the ultimate goal of trade in Islam (Al Serhan, 2011).
Islamic marketers are those marketers that apply the principles of Islam to the marketing function rather than pursue profit maximization by any means possible.
Law, Ethics and Revelation
When it comes to business transactions, there are two categories. Transactions that are legal, and one’s that are not. Some are legal, but not ethical, such that although there is no law barring such a business, people do not consider it to be the right thing to do. Ethics and legislation both have one thing in common. Both are man-made. Laws are what parliament
or government decides upon, while ethics is what society considers as acceptable. To be noted that ethical norms and legislation are not permanent. A law of today can be repealed by a legislative body of tomorrow. Similarly, what is ethical in one society is not necessarily
in the other.
Many equate the word ethics with religion, however the etymology of the word gives a different picture (Albuquerque, 2010). Moreover, ethics also vary with time. In the past it was considered unethical for women to go out to work, but not today. So we see that both, ethics and legal rules vary according to time and space. Both are a product of the human mind, and do not claim perfection.
This is where Islamic marketing comes in uniquely. Muslims believe that the rules to govern business in Islam are not the product of human minds, but are revealed by God. As such they are not restricted to time or space. Believers of one generation are to follow the same God given rules as believers of a previous era. These rules are applicable in any society and within any given time or era. Since God is the one who has given these rules, they are permanent and immutable as the definitive guide to human behaviour. Islam is called Ad-Deen in the Qur’an (3:19), a term which is loosely translated as religion or faith. However these English counterparts do not convey the full essence of the word. Deen encompasses every sphere of human activity, whereas some may argue that religion is concerned mostly with matters like dogma, creed, ceremony, worship and festivals. Whereas some may think that going to one’s place of work is a non-religious act and going to a place of worship for an observance a religious one, in Islam there is no distinction between the two. When a believer conducts his business or profession under the guidelines
revealed by God, then his economic affairs are an act of Ibadah (Servitude, worship).
Deen Al Islam is concerned with not only the spiritual life and salvation of its adherents but also their worldly and economic affairs. It has a finely tuned set of rules governing all aspects of life (Al Serhan ) How a believers buy and sells goods and services is also within the domain of Deen Al Islam. How wealth is managed, and acquired and shared with others, the Qur’an is not silent about such matters, but discusses them at great length. Thus all actions undertaken by Muslims are acts of worship (AlSerhan, 2011)
The Islamic marketing mix
If marketing involves the management of 7 Ps, namely product, price, promotion, place, people, processes and physical evidence. (Wilson & Gilligan, 2005) and Islam applies to all spheres of human life, including economics, then it should be made clear what type of products are within the remit of Islamic marketing? How are they to be priced? What type of
promotion is to be pursued? How are goods and services to be distributed? Are there any rules governing the role of people involved in the marketing function by what processes and in the acceptable physical environments? Answers to such and Qur’anic guidelines that apply on the marketing mix, need to be seen before affiliating any marketing project with Islam.
I will be speaking on WHY ISLAMIC MARKETING IS ABOUT PRINCIPLES AND NOT PROFITS? at the 4th Global Islamic Marketing Conference (GIMC4): “Visionary Marketers Building a Better World”, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, 29-30 May 2013.