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And Life is Not Only about Maximizing Profits, it is about the Common Good

I had a good chat just now with some close friends from Singapore. Some are capitalizing on the gold iPhone craze, seeking to maximize profits by selling to those who are tuned in, rather irrationally, to buying technologies without having a real need for it.

We talked about the conflict between maximizing profits against ensuring that whatever we buy and sell must lead to personal and the common good. The discussion had no real resolutions but it is clear to those who advocate the profit driven stance that we can buy and sell whatever in as long as those things are “halal” and that both parties in the transaction agree on the terms and price. Sounds simple but that is not all.

When I raised the issue about ethics, that even Mcdonalds is halal but it is not necessarily good, there was a brief silence. We moved on to talk about soccer – topic that is perhaps more ethical than selling iPhones and toys at exorbitant prices.

Being here in capitalist New York makes me think a lot about how greedy we can be. We buy and sell things that we and our buyers don’t actually need. And yet, we are fine with that without thinking about the implications of our deeds.

I sometimes wonder how someone like Abdul Rahman bin Auf became so rich in his time that he could finance much of the work of social improvement and the message of Islam. Did he sell toys and other unnecessary things? Or it is the Fact of History that when business is done not only for the maximization of profits and greed but more for the betterment of mankind, God would shower those who engage in trade abundant blessings from avenues they never could imagine. Something for us to think about.

 

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikegk/2777836103/sizes/s/in/photostream/

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