Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
Is it lawful to work at the check-out counters in a supermarket that sells both lawful and unlawful products?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him.
Working at a store that trades in mostly lawful business is permissible, providing that your duties don’t directly assist in sinning. If you can relegate the unlawful transactions to others (non-Muslims) or arrange with your employers not to be involved in unlawful transactions, you should do so. If you cannot deflect unlawful tasks, you should seek alternative employment and leave the current job as soon as you find it.
For as long as you actively seek alternative employment, your income (assuming you cannot fulfill your basic needs without it) is lawful because of the necessity.
If finding alternative employment is unbearable or impossible, there are alternative views from other Schools.
General Rule of Employment
It is unlawful to help anyone in any manner in committing a forbidden act. Allah says, “And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.” [Quran, 5:2]
There are many ways to earn a lawful income, but this may require some time and effort. Whoever fears Allah (The Compassionate and Merciful) He will grant him provision and help him, as Allah says: “And whoever fears Allah – He will make a way out for him. And will provide him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” [Quran, 65:2-3]
We encourage you to seek lawful employment that is free from unlawful matters. Try to practice caution in this regard, for whoever strives to avoid dubious matters will protect their religious commitment from shortcomings and their honor from slander. Anyone who falls into doubtful matters will soon fall into the prohibited.
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whoever guards against the doubtful matters, will protect their religious commitment from shortcomings and their honor from slander, but whoever falls into that which is doubtful, will [inevitably] fall into that which is unlawful, like a shepherd who grazes his flock around prohibited land; he will soon graze in it.” [Bukhari; Muslim]
And he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which causes no doubt.” [Tirmidhi; Nasai]
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.