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Muzara‘a

The early day economy of Medina was overwhelmingly rural and had an agrarian base. The Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) was mainly concerned with the development of new lands. He accepted the prevalent mode of land cultivation with certain modifications. His main interest was to lay down a just law of land tenure.

There has been a lot of controversy among different schools of fiqh about the legality of muzara‘a. On the prohibition. permissibility continuum we find varying shades of opinion. Generally speaking, there are a number of traditions which explicitly prohibit muzara‘a. Pro­ponents of these traditions argue that the muzara‘a was originally banned by the Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) but the later day fuqaha’, due to their pragmatism and circumstantial expediency rationalised its legality.


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The other schools permit some forms of muzara’a and not the others. They quote some of the traditions of the Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) in their support.

The protagonists of muzara’a (mainly Hanafites) quote another set of traditions which explain the context of prohibition. According to them the prohibition of muzara‘a was not general but concerned only those contracts which contained some unjust clauses. According to them the traditions which prohibit muzara’a do not state the legal position but only induce people to share their surplus land with others as a matter of Ehsan. Another interpretation is that these traditions do not contain the entire position. The narrator either forgot a part of the instructions of the Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) or did not quote the entire context. This position becomes clear if we look into another set of traditions which explains the context of the former traditions. In the latter traditions the Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade muzara‘a because the contract provided for the produce of a specific piece of land (nearer to the water source) for the landlord and the produce of the other piece of land for the tenant. Such a contract could lead to an unjust position, for the tenant may not get anything or very little from his side of the land. So the Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) intervened and declared such a contract void. On the analogy of this decision the Hanafite jurists have declared certain forms of tenancy illegal, keeping the institution as such lawful. Whatever the status of traditions quoted by this school, their contention makes sense at least on following grounds:

First, it is logically consistent with the Islamic law of ownership to permit some form of muzara’a because according to the law of ownership women and minor children can own land and if we prohibit all forms of muzara‘a it would tantamount to denial of property rights to them.

Second, the prohibition of muzara‘a comes in conflict with the Islamic law of inheritance. On the death of a person the property of the deceased is distributed among his relations, among whom may be women, children, aged and invalids. If we prohibit muzara‘a it would deprive them from deriving usufruct from any land which they may inherit. Thus one law (i.e. law of inheritance) may be granting a right of ownership on land while the other law (prohibition of muzara‘a) may be withdrawing that land.

Third, the Islamic commercial law has not placed any quantitative limit on the acquisition of an article, be it movable or immovable. If we prohibit muzara‘a, the law of tenancy would clash with the civil law which permits purchase of land to any extent.

Fourth, the legal structure of Islam permits an individual to retain, without any quantitative limit, all the lawful possessions, pro­vided he pays the obligatory dues on them. He is not obliged to donate a part of his possession compulsorily, except that he is required to pay zakah if the possessions exceed the nisab and remain with the individual for a year. The contention that muzara‘a is unlawful because the Holy Prophet (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) advised people to donate the surplus land comes in conflict with the overall legal structure of Islam. There­fore, these traditions would be construed to mean only voluntary and discretional transfer by way of Ehsan.

Lastly, Islam has permitted participation of labour and capital in its commercial law. The muzara‘a is also a form of this participation. The prohibition of muzara‘a would contradict the general permission of association of capital and labour.

The above position illustrates that the muzara‘a is lawful in Islam. But we have listed all groups of traditions on the subject. The reader may disagree with the above opinion in the light of the text of these traditions.

Al-Muzara’a

1) ‘Amr reported that Mujahid said to Tawus: “Come along with me to lbn Rafi‘ b. Khadij in order to listen from him the hadith transmitted on the authority of his father (pertaining to the renting of land) from Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam).” He (Tawus) scolded him and said: “By Allah, if I were to know that Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) had forbidden it, I would have never done it. But it has been narrated to me by one who has better knowledge of it amongst them (and he meant Ibn ‘Abbas) that Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) said: ‘It is better if a person lends his land to his brother (for cultivation) than that he gets recognized rent on it’.”

Ibn ‘Abbas reported Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “If one among you left out land to his brother, that is better for him than if he receives such and such (the definite thing).” Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) said: “It is haql, and in the parlance of the Ansar it is Muhaqala.”

Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “He who has land, it is better for him that he should let it out to his brother.”

2) Tawus reported that he let out his land on rent, whereupon ‘Amr said: “I said to him: Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman, I wish if you abandon this renting of land, for they alleged that Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade mukhabara.” He said: ‘Amr, one who has in­formed me has the best knowledge of it among them, (he meant lbn ‘Abbas). (He said) that Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) did not prohibit it altogether, but said: “Lending of land by one among you to his brother is better for him than getting a specified amount of produce from it.”

3) Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “He who has land should cultivate it or lend it to his brother, but if he refuses, he should retain his land.”

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbidding muzabana, and huqul Jabir b. Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) said: Muzabana means the selling of fresh dates for dry dates and huqul is the renting of land.

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Mes­senger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbidding muhaqala and muzabana.

Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) having forbidden muzabana and muhaqala. Muzabana means the buying of fruits on the palm trees and muhaqala is the renting of land.

4) Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade leasing of land, and selling ahead for years and selling of fruits before they become ripe.

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) having forbidden the renting of land.

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “He who has land should cultivate it himself, but if he does not cultivate it himself, then he should let his brother cultivate it.”

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reported some of the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) had surplus of land. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) said: “He who has surplus land (in his possession) should cultivate it, or he should lend it to his brother for benefit, but if he refuses to accept it, he should retain it.”

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) having forbidden taking of rent or share of land.

Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “He who has land should cultivate it, but if he does not find it possible to cultivate it, or finds himself helpless to do so, he should lend it to his Muslim brother, but he should not accept rent from him.”

Sulaiman b. Musa asked ‘Ata’: Did Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “He who has land should cultivate it himself, or let his brother cultivate it, and should not give it on rent?” He said: “Yes.”

Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) having forbidden mukhabara.

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) heard Allah Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) saying: “He who has surplus of land should either cultivate it himself, or let his brother cultivate it, and should not sell it.” I (the narrator) said to Sa‘id: “What does his statement ‘do not sell it’ mean? Does it imply ‘rent’? He said: “Yes.”

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported: “We used to cultivate land on rent during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) and we got a share out of the grain left in the ears after threshing them and something unspecified. Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) said: ‘He who has land should cultivate it or let his brother till it otherwise he should leave it’.”

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported: “We used to get land (on rent) during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) with a share of one-third or one-fourth of the produce from the land irrigat­ed with the help of canals. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) stood up (to address) and said: ‘He who has land should cultivate it, and if he does not till it, should lend it to his brother, and if he does not lend it to his brother, he should then retain it.”

Jabir reported: I heard Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “He who has (surplus) land should donate it (to others), or lend it.”  This hadith has been narrated on the authority of A‘mash with the same chain of transmitters, but with a slight change of words.

Jabir b. ‘Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbidding renting of land. Bukair (one of the narrators) said: “Nafi‘ reported to me that he heard Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) saying: “We used to give land on rent; we then abandoned this practice when we heard the hadith of Rafi‘ b. Khadij.”

5) ‘Amr reported: I heard lbn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) saying: “We did not see any harm in renting of the land but as the first year was over Rafi‘ alleged Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) having forbidden that.” This hadith has been narrated on the authority of ‘Amr b. Dinar with the same chain of transmitters but (in) the hadith transmitted on the authority of ‘Uyainah (the words are): “We abandoned it (renting) on account of that.”

6) Nafi‘ reported that Ibn ‘Umar rented his land during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) and during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and that of ‘Umar and that of ‘Uthman (Allah be pleased with them) and during the early period of Mu‘awiya’s caliphate until at the end of Mu‘awiya’s reign, it reached him (lbn ‘Umar) that Rafi‘ b. Khadij (Allah be pleased with him) narrated (a hadith) in which (there was a decree) of prohibition by Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam). He (Ibn ‘Umar) went to him (Rafi‘ b. Khadij) and I was with him and he asked him, whereupon he said: Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) used to forbid the renting of land. So lbn ‘Umar abandoned it, and subsequently whenever he was asked about it, he said: “Rafi‘ b. Khadij alleged that Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade it.”

Nafi‘ reported: I went to Rafi‘ b. Khadij in the company of Ibn ‘Umar until he (Ibn ‘Umar) came to him at Balat (a place near Prophet’s Mosque at Madina) and he (Rafi‘) informed him that Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) had forbidden the renting of land.

Nafi‘ reported that Ibn ‘Umar (Allah pleased with him) used to rent the land, and that he was conveyed the hadith transmitted on the authority of Rafi‘ b. Khadij. He (the narrator) said: “He then went to him along with me.” He (Rafi‘) narrated from some of his uncles in which it was mentioned that Allah’s Apostle (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade the renting of land. Ibn ‘Umar then abandoned this practice of renting. This hadith has been narrated through another chain of trans­mitters.

Salim b. ‘Abdullah reported that ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) used to give land on rent until (this news) reached him that Rafi‘ b. Khadij Ansari used to forbid the renting of land; Abdullah met him and said: “Ibn Khadij, what is this that you narrate from Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) pertaining to renting of land? Rafi‘ b. Khadij said to ‘Abdullah: I heard it from two uncles of mine and they had participated in the Battle of Badr who narrated to the members of the family that Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade the renting of land. ‘Abdullah said: “I knew it that the land was rented during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) but he might have said something new in this connection (in regard to prohibition of renting) which I failed to know. So he (Abdullah) abandoned the renting of land.”

7) Jabir reported: “The Messenger of Allah (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade the leasing of uncultivated land for two or three years.”

Traditions referring to Prohibition of Specific Cases

8) Rafi‘ b. Khadij reported: We used to give on rent land during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam). We rented it on the share of one-third or one-fourth of the (produce) along with a definite quantity of corn. One day a person from among my uncles came to us and said: “Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade us this act which was a source of benefit to us, but the obe­dience to Allah and to His Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) is more beneficial to us. He forbade us that we should rent land with one-third or one-fourth of (the produce) and the corn of a measure, and he commanded the owner of land that he should cultivate it or let it be cultivated by other persons) but he showed disapproval of renting it or anything besides it.

Rafi‘ b. Khadij (Allah be pleased with him) reported: We used to give land on rent, and we rented it on one-third or one-fourth share. The rest of the hadith is the same.

Rafi‘ (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Zuhair b. Rafi‘ (who was his uncle) came to me and said: “Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade a practice which was useful for us. I said: “What is this? (I believe) that whatever Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) says is absolutely true.” He (Zuhair) said that he (the Holy Prophet, Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) asked me: What do you do with your cultivable lands?” I said: “Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam), we rent those irrigated by canals for dry dates or barley.” He said: “Don’t do that. Cultivate them or let them be cultivated (by others) or retain them yourself.”

Hanzala reported that he heard Rafi‘ b. Khadij (Allah be pleased with him) saying: We were the major agriculturists of the Ansar and so we let out land (saying): “The produce of this (part of land) would be ours and (the produce) of that would be theirs.” But it so happened that at times this (land) gave harvest, but the other one produced nothing. So he (the Holy Prophet, Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) forbade this. But so far as the payment in silver (dirham, a coin) is concerned, he did not forbid.

9) Rafi‘ b. Khadij reported: “We used to sell corn while in ears during the period of Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam). Some of my uncles came to them and reported Allah’s Messenger (Sall Allah-o-alaihe wa sallam) as saying: “He who has a land, should not give it on rent for a prescribed amount of food-grain.”

 

Source: Economic Teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): A Select Anthology of Hadith Literature on Economics, Muhammad Akram Khan. Republished with permission.