Social Media: Use it, Don’t Abuse it!


How Islamic marketers can harness the potential of social media without causing offence?

Paper presented at 8th Global Islamic Marketing Conference, Alanya Turkey May 2, 2017

THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION

It would be no exaggeration to say that nowadays many of us spend a significant amount of time every day staring at a small-lit screen on our smartphones. Apart from revealing our anxieties to us, this also tells us that we are in the middle of a social media revolution. The addictive nature of this medium implies that people are really stuck to it, and this poses great opportunities that marketers are ever ready to exploit.

Social media networking is a more recent phenomenon. Just go back a few years and marketing was a different ball game altogether. In those days, say for example, if a small cause related outfit aspired to promote their cause in front of an audience of millions, it would have to do a lot of hard work and require substantial amounts of money.

Imagine that you have a cause close to your heart that you wish to share with others and you are looking for an audience in a city that you intend to visit. To get your message across to the residents of that city you would require physical travel, booking of venue, spending money on print or electronic advertising, payments for billboards, and hoardings for announcing your presence. You would labor hard to woo the local press and do much more. All this would requires mega amount of funds, and energy which individuals, inspired by a charitable cause, often do not have at their disposal.

But that was then, and this is now. Gone are the days when billions would be needed to reach out to people, even across international borders. Now connection with millions of people is merely a few clicks away.

THE FEATURES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

With the social media revolution, a level playing field has been created, and in-roads are being made by smaller organizations that are in-tune with its power. With meaningful messages and a very small investment of time, Islamic marketers can make themselves heard and be responded to by millions across the globe. Social media allows those striving for Muslim causes to not only engage with, but also considerably influence a relevant audience, all with a small handheld device! Harnessed properly, it has the potential to capture hearts and minds. A global phenomenon, with billions of people on it, the absence of any cause-related organization or individual from social media networking will result in oblivion from the public eye. Some prominent features of social media networking include:

  1. Interactivity

Interactivity is at the center of social networking sites. It enables ongoing dialogue rather than monologue and facilitates interaction between users by actively involving them.

  1. Community-led

Social media networking is communal. It allows a number of individuals to be connected virtually, radically diminishing the constraints of time and space and allowing the formation of a community centered on common interests. Thus families, friends, work colleagues, fans, customers all form their own communities engaging in conversations that flow around their connections.

  1. Relatively low cost

In comparison to other traditional forms of marketing, social media provides a relatively low-cost solution to engage with customers in different parts of the world. For organizations that do not boast large budgets, social media is an ideal choice for customer outreach and interaction.

  1. Free speech

Social media is a relatively democratic medium, which facilitates freedom of expression. Initially there was little or no censorship, however legislation is increasingly tightening its grip on social networks regarding what gets posted online. But as it is a network of individuals communicating in real time, who say whatever it is they wish to say, freedom of expression is not that easily curtailed using this medium.

  1. Influential

In recent times social media networking sites facilitated a number of political movements. Through this medium, leaders are able to influence and goad people to action. The Arab spring, the Turkish Military coup and the US elections are prime examples in which social networking sites played a key role in moving people to take action.

  1. Global

According to recent reports, nearly one third of the world’s population or about 2.34 billion people regularly use social media. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.86 billion monthly active users. Getting on social media truly means going global and marketing across borders.

  1. Addictive

Social networks are habit forming and massively addictive. People spend a lot of time online often to the detriment of other day-to-day tasks. Social media has the propensity to disrupt lives of users. Sites create content that is meant to draw users and advertisers in turn profit from people’s vulnerabilities. Its appeal to emotion and functionality to share information at a deeply personal level draws people to social networking and makes it addictive.

  1. Immediacy

Why wait long on the phone for customer service representative to shuffle you back and forth to another colleague or pay for the ordeal when you can simply tweet your query and get a quick response. Immediacy is one of social media’s greatest features as it allows things to get done quickly.

 TACKLING SOCIAL MEDIA ABUSE

While social media has given an opportunity to smaller organizations and individuals to reach out to massive audiences, it has also attracted unscrupulous elements that exploit its potential for their vested interests. There are many forms of abusive behavior that one encounters online. Prominent of them are:

  1. Online Deceit

It is commonplace to discover fake news, fake social networking accounts and fake followers. There is also identity theft and fraud. Increasingly social networking sites are being used to defraud and lie to people. In contrast to such behavior Muslims marketers are to be honest and truthful in their presentation for such is exhorted to, tremendously in Islam’s holy text, the Qur’an.

“…and speak words of appropriate justice.” (33:70)

“..and avoid false statement.” (22:30)

“So he (the devil) made them fall, through deception…” (7:22)

Acting on these commandments, it is unlawful for a Muslim marketer to engage in any form of deceptive practices using social media networking sites or otherwise.

  1. Plagiarism

Increasingly texts and images are plagiarized from websites and blogs and styled as one’s own creation without giving due credit to the original creator. The online world is rife with copyright violations and plagiarism, especially when committed by individuals who are in jurisdictions where laws do not exist to tackle this theft. Creators spend much time and energy to create intellectual property only to discover later on that someone has stolen their ideas and is now styling it as his own! In contrast the Qur’an counters the problem of stealing other people’s creation when it receives a pledge from believers about not stealing:

“O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah , nor will they steal..” (60:12)

  1. Hate Speech

One frequently encounters online harassment in the form of cyber bullying and abusive commentary when perusing the likes of micro blogging platforms like Twitter. Also common are incidents of racist, misogynous, defamatory and hateful commentaries online. The Qur’an forbids such when it instructs Muslims against using offensive names:

“..nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith” (49:11)

Defamation and slander are clearly forbidden in the divine text:

“Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and-backbiter.” (104:1)

“..neither defame one another..” (49:11)

Hate speech is curtailed by instructing that people should speak good words to each other and not words that sow seeds of dissent:

“And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them. Indeed Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy.” (17:53)

  1. Bombardment with unsolicited messages

Many marketers shoot themselves in the foot when they resort to spamming i.e. by repeatedly sending unsolicited messages to users of social networking sites. In contrast, the Qur’an commands Muslims to respect peoples right to privacy and not to enter their space without permission.

“And if you do not find anyone therein, do not enter them until permission has been given you. And if it is said to you, “Go back,” then go back; it is purer for you. And Allah is Knowing of what you do.” (24:28)

Legislation is now increasingly being implemented to counter the misuse of social media, but for Muslims, divine guidance is the check on behavior, which is far more important than worldly legislation. To be embraced willingly rather than being enforced by an external authority, there is plethora of guidance in Islam’s holy text, the Qur’an on acceptable behaviors. Such Qur’anic guidelines relate with social media marketing behaviors and inform Muslim marketers about the parameters within which they are to operate.

A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO SOCIAL MEDIA

As with other marketing media, Muslim marketers should not have a reactionary approach with social media but a planned one. A strategy that identifies organizational capabilities and matches them with market opportunities should be developed, which should then be operationalized.

  1. Research the customer

Muslim marketers should investigate who their target audience is, what are their needs and demographics, the devices they use and the networking sites they subscribe and tailor their content around all of these factors.

  1. Your content should add value

Social media content should not be posted for its own sake but it should add value for the users. It should give some sort of a solution to a problem such that the social media account is seen as a useful tool and resource by the user that helps him or her in daily life.

  1. Use visuals

Images tell more of a story than just text. Communicate visually with your customers by adding good-looking images, and visuals. Images process quickly and people are drawn to them. This way your social media content becomes more responsive than simply posting dry text.

  1. Embrace Diversity

Social media transcends countries and cultures. Islamic marketers should incorporate cultural diversity in their content so that it relates to everyone who is connected with them.

  1. Tell stories

It is vital to avoid technical jargon, complex numbers, facts, figures and statistics that strain the mind. Instead simple yet captivating stories around products and services should be narrated. People have a short attention span on social media and aren’t always geared for straining the minds with complexities but relate more to stories and narratives than numbers and formulae.

  1. Facilitate Sales

Muslim marketers should not have a social media presence to showcase their products and services but it should also facilitate the actual purchase process. They should not hesitate to ask for the sale and give calls to action to the users and the guidance required for making a transaction.

  1. Use video and Audio

Previously videos were the sole domain of video-blogging sites like YouTube, but now almost all social media networks have video featured on them. A more recent phenomenon is the live video feature. Along with text and images, video and audio leave a more lasting impression on customers.

 

  1. Improve Continuously

Social media is a dynamic medium that evolves continuously. Social networking sites keep adding new features. This requires Islamic marketers to keep abreast with the changes and continuously strive to improve their social media presence for their users.

 

CONCLUSION

Social media offers an amazing opportunity to Islamic marketers to connect directly with their customers, engage in real-time conversations, and vitally to hear the perspective of the customer about their organization and its environment. It is vital that Muslims embrace social media marketing with a strong customer focus and a sound marketing strategy. However, while social media brings tremendous and exciting opportunities for Islamic promoters, there are also challenges that the improper or uninformed use of this media poses to their cause. It is expedient that their marketing methodology be informed by God’s guidance and they must ensure that while developing and implementing a social media presence, no divine injunction is violated. Only with such an approach will they qualify as Islamic marketers.

 

REFERENCES

Al-Qur’an: Electronic Mos’haf Project http://quran.ksu.edu.sa

“Nearly One-Third of the World Will Use Social Networks” (E-Marketer, June 30 2016) https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Nearly-One-Third-of-World-Will-Use-Social-Networks-Regularly-This-Year/1014157

Statista: “Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 4th quarter 2016 https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

“Tackling Nasty Trolls isnt Censorship its Common Sense” (Telegraph, June 25 2016) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/25/tackling-nasty-trolls-isnt-censorship-its-common-sense/

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kashif Shahzada MBA, MCIM, DipM, Chartered Marketer is a consultant with a specialism in working with faith communities. He is the chief executive of Natmark, a consulting firm based in Karachi, Pakistan. He blogs at KashifShahzada.com Twitter @KashifShahzada

Shopping Mania


THE reason why many of us do not wish to face reality is because it is painful. Reality hurts. It sheds light on areas which we want to keep in the dark.

Like the child who cries and screams because he cannot have his way is offered ice cream to calm him down, we adults too seek objects to soothe our pain. A sweet treat to distract us from the bitterness that is reality.

There used to be alcoholics, but thanks to the more recent emergence of ‘in your face’ capitalism, they have been sent to the back benches by the shopaholics. Their kind gets an inexplicable high by stuffing shopping carts mindlessly. With a condition unique to the wealthier class, they fall prey to the cunning of businessmen who fully exploit their surplus wealth and lack of self-control.


Islam calls for a balanced and moderate approach to consumption.


Lured to mega shopping malls by advertising, they return home with stuffed plastic bags, laughingly dismissing their excess as ‘retail therapy’. But little do they realise that such sugar-coating deludes them. ‘Buy one get one free’, ‘special offers’ and ‘seasonal discounts’ are the baits that lure shopaholics to harm themselves. But we must understand that their behaviour does more than bring harm just to their own person, for their compulsion panders not only to their innate desires and insecurities, it also correspondingly brings misery upon their near and dear ones and the environment at large.

What started off as an occasional misdemeanour slowly transforms into a habitual offence, and a fully mature addiction with special thanks to gigantic stores, credit cards and 24/7 advertising. The creed of capitalism contains no compassion, for its policy is to take no prisoners. There is only one interest that it pursues, and that is profit. It influences us to buy, shop, and hoard aimlessly, paying little attention to the utility and genuine need of things and the side effects of such compulsive behaviour.

Excessive shopping adds to clutter in the home, a strain on our finances, and a usurping of time that could be spent with family and friends. By shopping recklessly and impulsively, we clutter our lives with unnecessary items that add little value to our practical existence and merely occupy space and take up our time. The availability of easy credit makes us overlook the ramifications of impulsive spending and makes us fall headlong into the debt trap.

We need to free up our time and space by reducing our possessions, and make it a rule to buy only that which is necessary. Shopping should be a moderate affair. If it is developing into a serious compulsive habit, then it is time to step on the brakes and take action. Reduce, recycle, reuse should be our daily mantra.

Let us switch off this never-ending soap opera of commercialism for a moment and hearken to the call of Islam for a balanced and moderate approach to consumption. Take some time out to reflect on the Quran and you will discover its exhortations to manage your finances astutely, remain within the budget, save for a rainy day, and check impulsive spending. According to the Holy Book, consuming for the sake of consumption alone is a trait of kufr (disbelief): “…Those who reject Allah will enjoy (this world) and eat as cattle eat…” (47:12). Spendthrifts are not in good company, we are clearly warned: “Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful” (17:27)

That moderation should be the rule in the spending behaviour of a believer is the glaring rejoinder: “Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute” (17:29).

Moreover, surplus wealth is not meant to be blown away on frivolities but to be shared with those less fortunate: “….They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs” (2:219).

Alms are mandatory and excessive spending is to be curtailed to meet the ideal that wealth: “…may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you…” (59:7)

The addiction of shopping brings temporary happiness, which is short-lived and attached to sadness. If owning material possessions attained happiness, the rich would have always lived very happy lives. But this is definitely not the case. Like others, the rich have their fair share of sorrows. So the formula for happiness definitely lies somewhere else. The discipline of Islam provides a moderate approach to consumption. When followed it results in happiness, harmony and balance.

First published in DAWN dated 21 April 2017

8th Global Islamic Marketing Conference, Alanya, Turkey


ISLAMIC MARKETING 1

Islamic Marketing


THE BURDEN OF BUSINESS

Business has left a heavy burden on society. Nowhere is this true but in the times we live in. Business was meant to create wealth, trade in goods and services, provide employment and contribute to the betterment of society, but is this truly so? Just look around yourself and ask this question. Businesses, whether small or large engage in activities that harm people as well as the planet. There is a stark difference in what they claim to be and what they really are. What you read or see about business in advertisements, or PR releases and what they actually do behind the scenes is not the same. As outside observers, academics and students merely skim the surface of the business world, but if you are practically in business, it is then that the harsh reality of the business world will be dawned on you. Step into the business world practically, and it is then you will see what it is all about. Don’t just see the glossy advertisements!

WHEN MARKETING IS ALL ABOUT PROFIT?

Marketing is basic to business. It is not the domain of Marketing departments, but in fact is what business is there to do. From knowing customer needs, to making goods and services to fulfilling demand. From financing and pricing to distribution and delivery. From employing people, to running the shops where customers interact. Managing the supply chain from A to Z. Each and everything that a business does falls within the domain of marketing. It does all this to pursue its main goal of profit. This is the crux of the matter and the line of thinking among most business owners out there. They do whatever they do in order to make profit. And this mind set is also officially documented. According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Marketing is defined as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. It follows from this definition that satisfying customers needs for profit is central to marketing and thus will be the entire focus of a business.

To pursue profit, businesses will often resort to all possible means. Tax evasion, forming cartels, environmental pollution, even racism and slavery. The list is endless. Some are even formed for the very purposes of colonizing other countries, and engage in warfare. In fact there are businesses, very large in size, that would go bust if there were peace on earth! Imagine what they wouldn’t do to ensure that the fire of conflict is always kept kindled!

But times, they are changing. Today’s customers are now a complex phenomenon. Customer needs come in a wide variety of choices and are as diverse as customers themselves. What type of customer requirements should a business fulfill is determined by a business often in conjunction with the legal or ethical framework governing it. With new technologies like social media and Internet, business conduct is within the knowledge of consumers within seconds, and news of misdeeds can spread all over the globe like wildfire. Now businesses also need to convince customers that they are ethical entities. Their offerings are healthy, beneficial and non exploitative. There is a movement for fair trade and green business in the world. This is good news, specially for Muslim owned businesses, because the values that such customers require are pre-existing in the Islamic revelation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONVENTIONAL AND ISLAMIC MARKETING

While customer needs are the centre-point of conventional marketing, it is argued that 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.

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 and 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 2011) How a believer buys 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).

MANAGING THE MARKETING PROCESS IN THE LIGHT OF ISLAMIC VALUES

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? Let us explore some orders revealed in the Quran and then see their application on the marketing process:

INNOVATE

The Quran orders believers to study the workings of the physical word around them. Not only the physical world, but also the cosmos, as all have been created for a purpose. Forces of nature are to be harnessed and for this their constant study is required.

“And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect.” 45:13

Thus the believers are described as those who do not sit idle but:

“.. reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth..” 3:191

This shows that believers are supposed to be scientists and innovators. They are not to be content on the status quo of knowledge, but strive to make new discoveries and inventions which have benefit and utility for mankind.

TRADE BY MUTUAL CONSENT

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly except it be a trade amongst you, by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. 4:29

Trade should be by mutual consent. Situations where the consent of either party is not gained or is manipulated by some manner would not constitute a permissible transaction. Consumption of property without other people’s consent is prohibited. This is a widely encompassing rule and covers a lot of areas like theft, fraud, deception, robbery etc.

FULFILL CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

“And fulfill [every] covenant. Indeed, the covenant is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.” 17:34

It is absolutely vital that contractual obligations made by a Muslim business are met, whether such contracts are made with customers or suppliers. As the verse points out, meeting one’s contracts is a matter inquired about in the here after.

DEAL JUSTLY

“Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you. Indeed, Allah is ever Hearing and Seeing.” 4:58

Justice and fairness has to be in each and every sphere of business activity. A Muslim business has to deal justly with suppliers, with employees, with customers and with shareholders as well as the public at large.

SUPPLY HALAL AND TAYYAB

A business operated on Islamic principles supplies what is Halaal (lawful) to consume and not Haraam (Unlawful). Obviously an Islamic business cannot run a pub or a casino, as such is prohibited in God’s revelation. The utility and benefit of products and services that are supplied also needs to be considered. Products have to be Tayyab. This is an important point to understand. The Qur’an requires of believers to consume that which is not only Halal but also Tayyab. The Arabic word Tayyab is contrasted in the Qur’an with Khabees:

“As for the good (TAYYAB) land, its vegetation cometh forth by permission of its Lord; while as for that which is bad (KHABEES), only the useless cometh forth (from it). Thus do We recount the Signs for people who give thanks.” 7:58

Thus in above, Tayyab is something productive and beneficial, while Khabees is what is useless. This explains that Muslims should market those products and services that fall in the category of being Tayyab and have utility and benefit for the consumer, without being futile or harmful.

We must note that in certain religious circles a lot of emphasis is laid on a product being Halal, but not on whether it is Tayyab. But to be kept in mind that Quranic order is for consuming Tayyab, and not just Halal. We may ask, is meat of inferior quality, though prepared through Halal slaughter method qualifies itself as being Tayyab?

DO NOT REDUCE WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

A business should provide its customers what it has paid for and not deprive them in any manner:

“And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” 11:85

“Give just measure, and cause no loss (to others by fraud). 26:181

Thus honest and transparent transactions should be the hallmark of Islamic marketers

DO NOT COMMIT FRAUD

“Woe unto the defrauders: Those who when they take the measure from mankind demand it full, But if they measure unto them or weight for them, they cause them loss.” 83:1-3

In an Islamic business, fraud should not exist in any stage in the business processes. Whether dealing with suppliers, internal customers (employees), external customers, shareholders or the public.

DO NOT BRIBE

“And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].” 2:188

An Islamic marketer will not engage in bribery.

DO NOT STEAL

“..that they will not steal..” 60:12

Theft is a broad term. It involves taking away what belongs to others without their knowledge. All forms of theft are thus prohibited.

DO NOT WASTE

“..But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.” 6:141

Waste is not just of inventory. Waste of space and time along with materials is also what clogs up supply chains, reduces profit margins and causes inconvenience to stakeholders. Quranic rules require that waste be eliminated from business operations.

DELIVER WHAT YOU CLAIM

“O you who believe! why do you say that which you do not do?” 61:2

A business making tall claims but not delivering on them can never be called an Islamic business, as believers only promise what they can deliver and never more.

HIRE STAFF THAT IS CAPABLE, TRUSTWORTHY AND DIVERSE

Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy.” 28:26

The word “Qavi” and “Ameen” occur in the above verse. “Ameen” is trustworthy, while “Qavi” is having strength and capability. It is not enough to hire staff that is honest, it should also be capable of doing the job. Diversity is a key theme in the Quran, which does not favour any racial or ethnic group but considers all mankind as a single community.

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” 30:22

Thus a Islamic business should also employ a diverse workforce. The above principles are applicable on business processes as follows:

1. PRODUCT

A product is anything that can be offered to customers to satisfy a want or need. Hence products are what customers receive in return for a payment. Applying Islamic principles on products, we realise that they need to be innovative, Halaal (permissible), and Tayyab (beneficial, healthy, useful). As waste and environmental harm is prohibited. They should be beneficial and useful for for all mankind and not cater to the needs or lavishness of a few only. It is vital that products are genuine and original and not fake.

Scientific innovation has to be at the heart of any Islamic business organisation. scientific research and innovation used to be a regular feature in the Islamic world, and we have record of quite a few inventions attributed to Muslims. This also shows that Islamic marketing is not about Muslims consuming what others have produced, but for them to be at the forefront of latest innovative production methods.

2. PRICE

Price is the amount that a customer has to pay in order to receive a product or service. A central theme in the Quran is that the resources of the world are meant for all mankind. No group is to be deprived of the earth’s resources as God has created it for all.

O mankind! worship your Lord, Who hath created you and those before you, so that ye may ward off (evil).” 2:21

“Who hath appointed the earth a resting-place for you, and the sky a canopy; and causeth water to pour down from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you. And do not set up rivals to Allah when ye know (better).” 2:22

In the above we see earth’s “fruits as food for you.” are for all mankind, thus any arrangement which deprives any member of the human race from the earth’s resources is against the spirit of the Qur’an. This leads us to the principle that when pricing products, it should be ensured that products are within the reach of all consumers and not so high so as to exclude any category. The producer is allowed to demand the compensation of his labour only, and nothing in excess:

And that man hath only that for which he maketh effort.” 53:39

Thus Quranic principles impacting on the pricing of goods and services require pricing in a fair and just manner, and allow for remuneration of labour put in by business owners and employees.

3. PLACE

Distribution involves making a product available in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity, while keeping storage, inventory and distribution costs to an acceptable level.

Islamic principles require that distribution should not be wasteful, not cause environmental pollution. Illegal and unethical distribution activities like hoarding, smuggling, fraudulent pricing practices like under invoicing, and other corrupt means of business such as bribery are all prohibited for a business working on Islamic principles. Strict adherence to contractual obligations with one’s dealers and agents is mandatory according to Qur’anic law.

4. PROMOTION

Promotion is the manner in which a business conveys to customers what it does and what it offers. There are numerous Islamic principles that apply on promotion, and their application makes it mandatory for a business to be honest and upfront when advertising itself. Fraudulent advertising or promotion with deceptive claims are thus prohibited. Advertising should not be excessive, and should not be unsolicited or invade on people’s privacy. There should be no sexism and stereotyping.

5. PEOPLE

A business governed by Islamic principles employs a workforce that is knowledgeable, capable, trustworthy and diverse. The workers are never to be oppressed but always granted their due rights, as Zulm (oppression) is never allowed by God. Welfare of employees is thus a key component of Islamic marketing.

6. PHYSICAL EVIDENCE

There are also certain ethos that need to be considered when designing the premises of your business or wherever customers come into contact with your product and service. Husn (beauty) and Zeenah (adornment) being emphasized in the Qur’an require that the premises be aesthetic along with being functional.

“Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world. Thus do we detail Our revelations for people who have knowledge.” 7:32

There should be no wastefulness or excess. Accessibility is vital, as Quran teaches that all mankind should benefit from earth’s produce, therefore disabled, elderly and other customers who face any form of mobility issues should not be barred but be able to easily access a business premises governed by Islamic principles. The doors of the business should be open to all, and all segments should be welcomed.

7. PROCESS MANAGEMENT

A business run on Islamic principles does not rely on slave labour in any part of its supply chain. It has to ensure that supply chain management from outsourced factories does not rely on labour acquired from victims of human trafficking and slavery, for slavery has been forbidden by the Qur’an in clear terms:

It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given the Scripture and wisdom and the prophet hood that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah.” 3:79

All procurement should be inclusive and transparent. Smaller traders should be given a chance to supply into the supply chain and larger businesses should not be allowed to have a monopoly. Working conditions in outsourced factories should be humane, and not pressurized to cut corners in order to meet orders of larger customers. Given the Qur’an command “and do not waste”, it is vital that waste, whether it is of material, of time or of space should be eliminated from the operations of the business. A business truly run on Islamic principles will have a smooth work flow, without bottlenecks. Customers should not be made to suffer or be left stranded but serviced quickly.

CONCLUSION – 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.