Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalam alaykum
According to the Amazon Website, Amazon Prime is a a subscription service where “Members receive benefits which include free fast shipping for eligible purchases, streaming of movies, TV shows and music, exclusive shopping deals and selection, unlimited reading, and more.”
One can use this service to avoid paying for shipping costs and obtain reading material (and not use the other services). Is it permissible to subscribe to this service for a monthly fee if no purchases are made? Is this a corrupt transaction in the Hanafi school in the scenario that one is paying for a potential service?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
No, subscription to a service which offers free shipping and a host of other matters is not a form of corrupt service contract (ijara fasida) because there is a defined benefit which is received for a specific sum and period, regardless of whether or not it is actually used.
Rental contracts (ijarat) are considered corrupt in the absence of conditions of validity (shurut al-sihha). This means that contractual soundness assumes: (1) the presence of mutual agreement, (2) specification of the actual usufruct, (3) specification of price and (4) specification of the period of service.
It is possible that there is some level of uncertainty (gharar) within the contract, given the fact that the benefit isn’t actually received until you buy something requiring shipping, but this is slight, acceptable and doesn’t lead to dispute between the contracting parties. Otherwise, (1) any uncertainty with respect to shipping may be subsumed within the other benefits which are clearly known and received, or (2) we can argue that the benefit is received, namely, that you’ve paid for free shipping and it is now immediately available to you.
(al-Majalla (Articles: 448 – 457))
Please also see this answer.
And Allah Most High knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.