One of the most important things in a Muslim’s life is not going about business as usual while being ignorant of his or her Creator’s rules and regulations. This is true for all his or her actions, including the business they run, and that would include how he or she advertises and promotes his or her products or services.
It is easy for Muslim business owners to get lost in unethical practices that are deemed standard in advertising. Since a Muslim’s goal is not just success in this world, we must keep the ultimate success in the hereafter in our consciousness at all times.
As a disclaimer to this article, we would like to say that we are not scholars by any means. However, we believe that as Muslims we are the best Ummah (nation), only if we remind each other of the good and discourage bad practices.
You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.Quran 3:110
Also, one of our values is Ihsan, excellence. So we practice this and encourage our clients to do the same. Excellency includes ethical practices!
What’s Wrong With Today’s Advertising
There is nothing inherently wrong with advertising. It benefits Muslim consumers, for example, introduces them to new products or services which they may have never heard of. The problem is with the tactics being used when advertising.
Gallup polls that measure honesty/ethics in professions consistently rate advertising very low.
Advertising the way we see it today has come under criticism from both Muslims and Non-Muslims.
One of the things that keep coming back is the fact that advertising has embraced deception and manipulation as a common tactic. This is achieved by overpromising or misstating product features, benefits, or performance. Some advertisers go even further and stage rigged contests or conceal harmful attributes of their products.
One stubborn issue that never seems to go away is how advertisements depict women. From objectifying to stereotyping them. Since there is a general consensus that ‘sex sells’, it’s hard to see how this is going to stop any time soon.
Islam teaches that living a modest life and remembering the creator brings about true happiness:
Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!Quran 13:28
Advertising today exploits the raw animalistic appetite in humans for status, vanity, lust, pleasure, and convenience. When these animalistic desires become the main goal of a person and are not achieved, it leads to stress and anxiety.
Advertisement copy today is not designed to appeal to a person’s intellect. It is emotions that make people buy and some advertisers take advantage of this. It’s a known fact that big brands have psychologists working for them who help them tape into the consumer’s emotions, desires, fears, and anxieties.
Introducing Islamic Advertising Principles
Advertising today has become a target for criticism due to the fact that some advertisers stretch the truth while others go all out and lie. There are those who target kids with inappropriate content, those who use extreme nudity, and the list goes on.
At Muslim Ad Network we believe that Islamic advertising principles can be considered as a potential solution to unethical advertising practices. In a 2016 paper called A Collection of Islamic Advertising Principles, the authors explored this possibility after researching available literature given by various religious and academic scholars.
They came to the following conclusion:
It can be postulated that if these principles are applied most of the problems in, and related to contemporary advertisements can be curtailed.”
What Islamic Advertising Principles are Based on
The problem with ethics and moral standards is that they are relative in the secular world. They lack anchorage and there is no legislative law nor a watching body that ensures implementation.
On the other hand, in Islam, Tawhid (the fundamental belief that God is one and that there is only one God) is the basis and the anchor that keeps Muslim’s actions in check.
This one God demands that the actions of a Muslim – including trade and advertising – are free of deception or any other act that is undesirable Islamically. A Muslim’s relationship with this one God should be pure, but equally important is the relation of that Muslim with his or her fellow human beings. Deceiving consumers with false claims, for example, is a breach of the latter.
For Muslims, moral conduct in their daily lives is part of their devotion. Revealed teaching provides moral certainty and a set of standards to which the entire community of believers can adhere.A Collection of Islamic Advertising Principles
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What the Islamic Advertising Framework Looks Like
Whereas you find great differences across the globe in what is ethical and what isn’t; on what is deceit, extreme nudity, and so on, Islam has a singular source of deriving moral standards and ethics.
It is a religion with a complete socio-economic blueprint that is derived from the Quran and the Sunnah ( reports on the sayings, actions, and approvals of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him).
According to the authors of A Collection of Islamic Advertising Principles, scholars have extracted the following ethical framework for advertising and promotion:
- It should not exploit the basic instincts of consumers and should avoid provoking desires that can never be fulfilled.
- It should be based on truth and completely reveal all product attributes.
- The product should not be haram neither should it be harmful.
- It should advocate consumption as a form of worship and promote moderation in the same.
The above rules are derived from the Islamic principles pertaining to halal (permissible) and haram (not permissible).
The Guidelines We Should All Follow When Advertising
The research paper – A Collection of Islamic Advertising Principles – in conclusion, shares the following guidelines for advertising and promotion:
- Do not propagate wasteful practices or overspending.
- Do not use women or use nudity to gesture sexual appeal in order to lure the audience.
- Do not depict celebrities or attractive models as if they use the product when actually they do not.
- Be honest and do not be deceptive or hide any facts that the customer should know.
- Don’t use any false assertions (also includes pseudo research), unproven accusations, concoctions, and make-up testimonials.
- Don’t use any false promises which are not intended to be delivered.
It may seem hard for some readers to start avoiding some of the things that we mentioned as unethical in this article. That is why a befitting conclusion to this article is the following hadith:
start targeting muslim consumers
Abu Ad-Dahma’ said: We came to a man from the people of the desert and asked him: Did you hear a Hadith from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)? He said: I heard him saying: “You will never leave something for the sake of Allah, but Allah will give you something better in return.”Narrated by Ahmad