What Are the Conditions of Written Agreements in Trade?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

Throughout the “Book of Trade” in “Reliance of the Traveller,” conditions for many dealings such as trade, rent, commissions, hire, etc., include a spoken offer and acceptance. For all of the things mentioned in that section, do written agreements also suffice? And what are the conditions of such written agreements, since making spoken agreements becomes very difficult during online or remote transactions?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him, forgive us for our shortcomings, and alleviate our difficulties, Amin.

Contemporary Shafi’i scholars overwhelmingly adopt the view of Imam Al-Nawawi, that the spoken offer and acceptance is not a condition. Written agreements are more precise than mere indications (which they also allow) and are, therefore, a fortiori permissible, and Allah knows best.

Trading Without a Spoken Offer and Acceptance (Mu’ata)

Regarding Mu’ata, which is giving the seller the price and taking the merchandise without speaking, as when buying something whose cost is well known, Bajuri notes:

“Nawawi and a group of scholars have adopted the position that sales conducted by it (mu’ata) are valid for all transactions that people consider sales since the determining factor therein is the acceptance of both parties, and there is no decisively authenticated primary text stipulating that it be spoken, so common acknowledgment (‘urf) is the final criterion (as to what legally constitutes acceptance).” [Hashiya al-Shaykh Ibrahim al-Bajuri]

The category of mu’ata also includes sales conducted online or through vending machines (provided it is clear what one is buying before one puts the money in the machine).

I pray this is of benefit.

[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 pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.