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How to be an Entrepeneur

How to be an Entrepeneur

Issue 76 January 2011

Whilst the ultimate desire for any Muslim is success in the Hereafter, the Qur’an also teaches prayers for success in this world. Before beginning a new series on Global Muslim entrepreneurs, emel looks at the attributes that a Muslim entrepreneur should be striving for in their business.


Faith in Trade

The Qur’an has many verses extolling the virtues of trade, and the Prophet has said that nine-tenths of all rizq (material provision) is derived from commerce. He himself led trade missions to al-Sham, including for the businesswoman Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (later to become his wife). Extensive trade networks created a medium through which Islam spread peacefully, initially through the merchant class and then into the general population. Indeed, it can be said that trade flows within the veins of the Islamic culture and narrative. Given that commerce is crucial for a thriving country, with small businesses today providing the engines that power economies - creating jobs, fuelling growth and transforming communities - it is vital that young Muslim entrepreneurs take up the mantle of commerce, and begin to harness the faith-based enthusiasm for trade.


Win Win

The best deals are when the principle of ‘Win, Win’ is adhered to. Both parties should come out of a deal feeling happy. If one party feels they have given too much, or not received enough, then it is not a good deal. The ability to make such a deal requires the development of mutual respect and care. The Prophet said, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,” and such an attitude in business will lead to a positive reputation.


Business plan

Writing a business plan will allow you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your idea and clearly assess and evaluate the proposition. Whilst the Qur’an reminds us that “God is the best of planners”, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan; indeed, the Prophet was clear that people had to fulfil their responsibilities towards stable action, reminding his followers to, “Have faith in God and tie up your camel.” A business plan, however sketchy, is essential to the entrepreneur. For a start-up, it should look at the projected outgoings and projected income; and give a best guess assessment of “break even”.

Success and Failure

Success is generally defined in terms of achieving goals, acquiring wealth, having prestige, status, and power; however, there is a reason why the muezzin calls out “Come to success” when he calls people to prayer; for the success of any individual is ultimately their capacity to worship God. The Qur’an says, “I have only created jinn and mankind that they may worship Me.” As this is the purpose of human beings, success can only be through this. That is not to say that the pursuit of worldly success is wrong, it’s just that one has to recognise that it is not our ultimate purpose. In addition, whilst recognising that provision is from God, for the Qur’an says, “And God provides provision to whom He wishes without any account”, the Prophet made clear that believers had to “Spread out your goods and services, and seek provision from your Lord.

Want and Need

Often, business models are about creating want and desire in the consumer. Advertising is the public face of that, and billions of pounds are spent on marketing that is not necessarily connected to substance. The business model of a Muslim entrepreneur has to be more than creating consumer goods based upon consumer desire, and projects with social – not just economic – utility should be supported. Businesses that provide social enrichment and don’t just satisfy consumer desire, but rather build social capital are long-term winners.


Keep it Halal

The Prophet said, “When God prohibits a thing He prohibits the price of it as well,” meaning that one cannot trade in forbidden things. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, pork products, pornography, etc are all obviously prohibited ways of earning a living. The Prophet also forbade transactions involving unspecified quantity, so for example one cannot sell ‘fish in the river’, ‘birds in the air’. A Muslim entrepreneur should refrain from hoarding items hoping to make a higher profit at a later date; and selling items based upon fraudulent claims is also forbidden, as is of course, dealing in usury.


Brand values

Big business always talks about “brand values”, but what is good for the corporate also holds true for the small enterprise. In addition to finding the unique selling point (USP) of your brand, Muslim entrepreneurship should have trust, justice, and integrity at the core of their brand values. The Qur’an reminds the believer that “justice is closest to God consciousness” and tells the reader to “Give full measure and full weight in justice, and wrong not people in respect of their goods” and “Oh you who believe! Eat not up each other’s property by unfair and dishonest means.”  Add ihsan, excellence, to the brand for “God has prescribed excellence in all things”, and the Muslim entrepreneur is well on the way to creating a long-lasting, sustainable brand.



Islam is profoundly about mizan, balance; and the Qur’an describes the Muslim community as “a middle nation to act as witnesses unto mankind, and the Prophet to act as a witness unto you.” As such, there should be balance in all things, including entrepreneurship. Therefore, a Muslim entrepreneur should establish balance between work and family life, between profit and sustainability, between passion and pragmatism.

Going Green

There are natural synergies between the Muslim Lifestyle Economy and the ethical lifestyle economy. Muslim entrepreneurship needs to have the vision to perceive those synergies and then implement them. The Qur’an describes humanity’s stewardship of this world, and those in business have a great responsibility to make sure their products and services are sustainable from an environmental as well as commercial perspective.


To read more of our finance articles, click here



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