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FaithPractice

Is Hoarding Permissible in Islam?

Many of us first witnessed hoarding in action during the Covid pandemic. Learn more about the Islamic viewpoint on hoarding.

Many of us first witnessed hoarding in action during the Covid pandemic. Learn more about the Islamic viewpoint on hoarding.

Recent events like the global pandemic and disruptions in supply chains of essential commodities have resulted in people hoarding and panic buying essential items like food, cleaning products and medicine. Some people purchase scarce items in order to sell them at an extortionate rate. This leaves the most vulnerable in society, including the elderly and young children, without access to basic necessities. Islam not only prohibits hoarding but also considers it a major sin. There are numerous verses of the Quran and traditions which admonish those who are greedy and warn of the severe consequences in the next life.

Hoarding is the purchase and warehousing of large quantities of a commodity by a speculator with the intent of benefiting from future price increases.1 According to Muslim jurists hoarding is prohibited if and when the following conditions are met:

  1. The goods are essential commodities which are of immediate need to people.
  2. There is a shortage of supply of those goods.
  3. The individual involved in hoarding purchased the items as opposed to manufacturing them.2

The root cause for hoarding is due to greed, and it occurs when people forget the spiritual dimension of commerce and the social benefits of trade. The Quran and hadith allow people to engage in buying and selling but remind people to be fair in their dealings with one another.3

The Quran says:

So give just measure and weight, do not defraud people of their property, nor spread corruption in the land after it has been set in order.”4

In another verse, God encourages distribution of wealth, so it does not become perpetually distributed amongst the rich ones of the society.5

Similarly, the Prophet is reported to have said,

No one hoards but he is in error.”6

It is also narrated from Imam Ali:

“But bear in mind that a good many of them are intensely greedy and are inured to bad dealings. They hoard grain and try to sell it at a high price and this is most harmful to the public. It is a blot on the name of the ruler not to fight this evil. Prevent them from hoarding, for the prophet of God had prohibited it.”7

Muslim scholars’ rule on the prohibition of hoarding by relying on the specific narrations8 and the general principle “nobody should be harmed or cause harm to others” (lā ḍarara wa lā ḍirār) that prevents people from engaging in any activity that causes harm to others.9 Hoarding (with the above mentioned conditions) inevitably, falls under the category of causing harm to the needy and hence the principle could be invoked. Some scholars have limited the prohibition of hoarding to food items only based on a very restrictive understanding of the reports that specifically mention food.10 However, there are other reports that extend the prohibition of non-consumable goods.11 Taken as a whole, it is possible to say that the reports were preventing hoarding something that it of immediate need of the people. As such, this could include medicines, tissue papers, soaps and detergents, sanitizers etc. Moreover, a believer is encouraged to be altruistic as the Quran praises those who let go of their needs so others can benefit.12

References

[1] Adam Hayes, the definition of hoarding.

[2] al-Shawkānī, Nayl al-awṭār (Beirut: Dār al-Jīl, 1973), 5:334-338. It should be noted that the third condition can be justified only in the instances when the person manufacturing stores for personal use and not with the intention of future sale on high prices.

[3] Quran 2:275; Sunan al-Tirmidhī, hadith no. 1209: The truthful, trustworthy merchant is with the Prophets, the truthful, and the martyrs.

[4] Quran 7:85.

[5] Quran 59:7.

[6] Musnad Aḥmad (Beirut: al-Risāla, 1416), 25:37; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (Beirut: Dār al-fikr) 5:56.

[7] Nahj al-balāgha, letter no. 53

[8] For an extensive list of reports see Mīzān al-ḥikma, 1: 666.

[9] Hadith an-Nawawi, 32.

[10] Nayl al-awṭār 5:262.

[11] Musnad Aḥmad (Beirut: al-Risāla, 1416), 25:37; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim (Beirut: Dār al-fikr) 5:56.

[12] Quran 59:9.

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