Are Superiority Claims in Advertising Permissible?
Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
Many products nowadays are marketed as “The Best” or “No. 1” even though we know Allah is The Best and Number 1.
Is it permissible to purchase and use these products, or is it Shirk?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
May Allah bless and guide you in your beautiful concern to ascribe Divine characteristics to Him alone.
Being “The best” is an open-ended concept and is not one of the uniquely Divine Names and Attributes. This means that other beings/things can be “the best” within a non-divine context. For example, a person can be the best at a particular sport because it is an entirely human endeavor, and Allah knows best.
Uniquely Divine Names and Attributes
It is prohibited to ascribe names and attributes that only belong to Allah to others. For example, only Allah is God, al-Rabb, al-Rahman, etc.
Allah says, “Allah has the Most Beautiful Names. So call upon Him by them, and keep away from those who abuse His Names. They will be punished for what they used to do”. [Quran, 7:180]
Difference Between Absolute and Relative Ascriptions
There is a difference between absolute and relative ascriptions. In product advertisements, “the best” is generally understood to mean “the best of this kind of product”, for example. Using the term “the best” (in this manner) is not a problem.
If the term is used in an absolute sense, for example, “this is the best without exceptions. No one and nothing beats it.”, This absolute form of the advertisement claim is an unnecessary exaggeration, deceitful, and false. Allah knows best.
Moderation in Praise
Muslims should avoid excess or exaggeration in praising, which leads to lying. According to Imam Ghazali (Allah have mercy on him): “Among the forms of lying that are unlawful but not serious enough to stigmatize their perpetrator as legally corrupt is the customary exaggeration of saying, ‘I’ve told you a hundred times,’ or ‘asked after you hundred times.’ and so forth since one does not thereby intend to inform the other how many times it has been, but only to indicate that it has been too many.
In such cases, if the speaker, in fact, has only asked after the other but once, he is lying. However, if he has asked after him many times, considerably more than what is generally accepted, he is not sinning by saying it, even if it has not been a hundred times.
There are intermediate degrees between these two at which the exaggerator becomes a liar.” [Nawawi, al-Adhkar]
The proof that exaggeration is sometimes permissible and not considered lying is the hadith related by Bukhari and a Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
“(…) as for Abu Al-Jahm, his stick never leaves his shoulder, while Mu‘awiya does not own a thing,” it is understood that the latter owned the garment he was wearing, and the former set his stick aside when he slept and at other times. And Allah alone gives success. [ibid.]
I pray that this is beneficial, and may Allah guide 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.