Question: As’salamu Alaikum warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh, I want to inquire about the fiqh of selling services as a teacher. I entered into a deal with someone to teach two kids in a price that was less than what I wanted to charge or normally charge. However, I agreed to it without setting a time frame or duration of services. Later, I regretted the deal terms as I realised the task at hand is time-consuming, and I am charging less and giving energy. I agreed because I needed money.
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I hope you are doing well, insha’Allah. Thank you for the question.
Cancellation of the Service Agreement
It is not permissible for you to cancel the service agreement notwithstanding the reasons that you have mentioned in your question. Being coerced into agreeing to a paltry sum is not a valid reason to cancel the contract. Coercion of this nature – needing the money – falls into the ambit of ikra khafiy (hidden coercion). An example of ikra khafiyy is when you sell your car to somebody due to his insistence and persistence. If you submit to his insistence (to sell the car) the sale is valid and binding, and you have no recourse to cancel.
Likewise, in your case, despite your circumstances, the service agreement is binding. For our mutual enlightenment, the ijara (service agreement contract) is one of the most binding contracts in Islamic Contract Law. According to the Shafi’I school of thought, if access to the contracted service (ma’qud alay) is not impaired, the contract stands and is binding upon both the lessee as well as the lessor (Mughni al-Muhtaj).
The financial condition of the lessor has no bearing on the contract and is completely extraneous. It is very much like purchasing something thinking that is being sold at a fair price. Later you discover that the item was overpriced. The sale is binding notwithstanding.
We should do our best to deal with our fellow Muslims in the best possible manner— in a manner that promotes unity and fosters love and brotherhood. Our dealings should not create divides and result in disunity.
In our local Cape Town Muslim community, there is a tendency for Muslims to avoid dealing with Muslims in terms of trading and services. They would much rather deal with non-Muslims. There are several reasons for this in our local experience. One reason is that Muslims are generally ignorant of the fiqh of mu’amalat (commercial dealings). At times filled with misplaced indignation, a person would argue for his “haqq” whilst the truth lies with the defendant.
The agreed-upon service must be known to both the lessor and lessee. Employing a person to teach knowledge (ilm) is valid when the student and the content are pre-determined. If while teaching the teacher discovers the competency level of the student is below average, he is given the khiyar (option) to either cancel or continue. The above provides you with reasonable recourse to cancel the agreement as opposed to the reasons stated above obviously if it is relevant.
May Allah make all your affairs easy and reward you for ensuring that your dealings are Sharia compliant.
All the very best.