It’s the quintessential hallmark of a successful entrepreneur.
Perception, when reinforced with sound reasoning, cogent logic, solid research, objective judgement, invaluable counsel and most importantly sincere dua, can make for an unassailable force in a Muslim businessman’s entrepreneurial repertoire.
Why is perception so significant?
Because it is innate.
Because we have been created with the affinity for goodness and purity, and it is towards this that a positive mind is unceasingly drawn.
Human beings inherently have this capacity.
A true Muslim inherently and with the guidance of Allah, has this capacity.
And it is this capacity that also makes him a true Muslim Entrepreneur.
The capacity and capability to perceive the best and most genuine business ventures out there, and to claw at them the minute he is presented with such an opportunity so much so that he is able to solidify a stable and secure financial platform that will yield him substantial long term results.
So how would you distinguish between a wise business investment, and a foolhardy one?
It comes down to perception once again.
Perception backed by reasoning, logic, research, judgement, counsel (Ma’shoora and Istikhara) and dua.
What is a good business deal?
It’s pretty obvious. But let’s touch on it anyway.
A good business deal is one that is insightful, strategic and 100% in compliance with the teachings of our ultimate role model, Muhammed (PBUH).
What does it entail?
Truthful and transparent strategies that allow you to build a sustainable long term revenue venture.
Let’s delve into a good business deal’s flipside now: scams.
What is a scam?
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (8th Edition), defines a scam as “a clever and dishonest plan for making money”.
Pyramid schemes such as Traffic Monsoon, PrimeBuy Network and Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM), ponzi schemes, email scams, telephone scams, MLM scams by companies such as Avon and ACN.
Ring a bell?
We’ve all heard of them, and we shudder in trepidation of ever being trapped by one.
But that harsh reality is that too many of our Muslim brothers and sisters have been ensnared by these pernicious and pervasive schemes that cause a rampant economic instability, resulting in social and financial anguish in the community.
Is it as ruthless and conniving as it sounds?
It most certainly is!
How has our Muslim community been affected by scams?
- Financial blow: The most obvious repercussion of a scam. This is usually in the form of large investments, most often, life savings of individuals who have put their heart and soul into making money. Investments vary from a few thousands to staggering millions.
- Social distress: Most scams such as pyramid and ponzi schemes rely on you bringing into the business, as many people as possible, with the promise of more financial benefits as you increase your recruitment. So what happens when the the con masters pull the wool over your eyes and make their getaway? It leaves you having to give answers to all those you recruited into the scheme. And this is most often your family and your friends. And that’s not fun. At all.
- Social Stigma: This is linked with social distress. To put it simply and bluntly, no one will ever have much confidence in any future ‘money matters’ that you may initiate.
- Distrust in business ventures: Once bitten, twice shy. Muslim brothers and sisters who have been affected by such scams tend to view all business ventures with a skeptical lens. They welcome the traditional workaday man’s nine to five job security, and become content with being a slave to the system rather than focusing on ways of attaining financial freedom using genuine and halal opportunities.
Is this the right move though?
While it is essential to keep our eyes peeled and do our research about every business venture, we should not shut down all opportunities to financial freedom. Afterall, who doesn’t want to be financially free?
So it comes down to playing it smart. It comes down to, once again, perception. Backed by reasoning, logic, research, judgement, counsel (Ma’shoora and Istikhara) and dua.
Let’s delve into some of the fundamental elements that a scam comprises.
The makings of a scam: How to identify a scam.
- It’s always too good to be true
The opportunity comes in with a bang. With promises. Many promises. And assurances. You are invited to invest your money with the promise of seeing it convert into millions within a period of time. How? Well, that’s the part that you’re not sure about. But you jump in anyway. Because it’s the hype. And well, everyone’s doing it.
- Smart targeting
Scammers are all out for the grab. They know that they can’t hoodwink the expert businessman. They also know that they have no need for those who have absolutely no money. So whom do they target? The working middle class. Why? Because they are the lot out there that do have a decent (but not thriving) bank account. And they are the ones out there who desperately want to step up the economic ladder.
- Smart investment options
After targeting their prey, the scammers pounce. How? By advertising their venture enticingly, and more importantly, by having very reasonable and sometimes even unspecified investment amounts. For instance, for a working class individual with a decent savings, a sum of £10 – 20,000 although is a lot, would certainly be worth an investment into a ‘good’ business. This acts as the hook which scammers use to lure their bait.
- Minimal tasks
Think about it. All scams that we’ve ever heard of involve simple, mindless activities that even a two year old can do. Take Traffic Monsoon for instance. What did the millions of duped people have to do during the period they were ‘being’ deceived? Just click a button. Watch ads and click a button. Yes, a two year old definitely could do that!
- A mere idea and no end product
This has been a common trait of MLM scams. MLM, or Multilevel Marketing, is a widely used business strategy that sales companies use to expand their clientele. It does so by encouraging their distributors to recruit more distributors, with the incentive of receiving a percentage of their recruit’s sales as commission.
MLM in its true and core essence offers a fair enough deal. However, scammers have managed to infiltrate this business strategy as well. How do they do this? By getting distributors to invest in starter kits (And other such mini investments), and recruiting more distributors with an idea, and not an actual product, being their selling point. This leaves the entire chain of ‘distributors’ eventually in the lurch, and with just an intangible ‘claim’ and no final outcome in their ventures.
- Cash only transactions
This is the most rudimentary ploy of a business con artist. Although in this day and age, scammers have even found ways to outsmart and outmaneuver banks and economic systems, this old school method of scamming is one that is still widely prevalent.
- More focus on recruitment rather than a business model
If a business venture seems to be more about recruitment and benefits of recruitment, it’s important to get your guard up. Think about it practically, how can a business thrive when it’s all about amassing people and their money, and there is no product or business model in sight?
- Demand for more money
Once you have sunk your feet well into the venture, you are approached for more investments. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of money. It can also be in the form of purchasing inventory or a more expensive business plan ‘within’ the module you are already in.
- Pressure to make an instant decision
Most legitimate companies give you the luxury of mulling over their proposal. They allow you to do your research and discuss your plans with family and friends. Scammers may not be as patient. They would insist that you make a decision at that very moment, and if you didn’t you would ‘lose the offer’. Don’t fall for such tricks. Every decision you make requires thoughtful pondering. That is your right.
Let’s take a moment now. And pause. I bet you’re thinking “But all the business ventures that are being promoted have these features!”
But what’s important are the differentiating factors.
What is a legitimate business opportunity?
- A viable business model
Those who present the business opportunity to you will do so with a proper explanation of exactly what the business entails. This could be in the form of products, franchises, etc. Ideally, you should be able to have a good grasp of the holistic vision of the business. And if it’s a vision that you perceive as halal, logical, feasible, and profitable, then you know you’re on the right track.
- Reasonable and realistic promises
A reasonable promise is one that just makes sense. A legitimate business venture will promise you of a certain range of revenue that you may expect, and how soon you may expect it. But these claims are reasonable. You won’t be able to make ten times your investment in two weeks. That’s neither practical, nor pragmatic. A minimum of six months is what it requires for any business to bring in returns. Anything sooner than this could either be the workings of a team of Einsteins or a team of scammers, so keep your eyes open on this!
- There is work involved. Substantial work.
No business can thrive without manpower (And computer power in this age!). So a business venture that promises easy money with absolutely no work (or barely any work) involved is most certainly ‘fishy’. A legitimate opportunity would certainly make your life easier, but it would not make it devoid of having to “work” for the business. While we would all love to just put our feet up and have money flowing into our bank accounts, that just doesn’t gel with our Islamic teachings either, which encourages us to work for our living. Good entrepreneurs use their entrepreneurship skills to leverage the talents and abilities of those who are a part of their business venture, and put it to good use. Scammers on the other hand don’t care about leveraging skills and talents. For scammers, it is all about amassing money and people, with no importance being given to solid hard work, bestowed talents and honed skills.
- Transparent money transactions
All money that is exchanged throughout the venture is documented, contains invoices and is completely in compliance with the secular law, and more importantly, the Islamic law. You always have the option of pulling out of the venture if it displeases you, with no concerns about your investments as you are certain of a refund if you request it.
- Considers humanity
Your human needs are met. You may be offered reasonable payment plans. You are able to fearlessly approach those in authority and communicate your thoughts, concerns and suggestions with them. It’s not a closed off system. It’s a system that embraces human needs and appreciates human differences.
- Payments are restricted to the initial agreement
With a legitimate business venture, there are no unexpected payments, nor demands to purchase inventory and what not. You agree upon your investment, you agree to the hours of work you put into the venture and you’re done. Anything additional is not binding upon you, unless it is upon mutual consent.
- It is run by a reputable organisation
Who runs this venture? And more importantly, what do they have to lose if they do end up being scammers? If the organisers of your business venture are renowned businessmen, and have proved to exhibit credibility based on previous business ventures, it would be a positive sign. Have they helped others grow their businesses? Have they always been pillars of support and advice? Or are they known for being shady and showing a lack of transparency?
You can also take a moment do do some background research such as checking if the company is legitimately registered, exploring their website, and checking the FCA register and Companies House Website. These are clear indicators of whether or not a company is legit.
- Is it halal?
For us, as Muslims, this is the number one priority in ANY business venture. No matter how amazing a business opportunity maybe, if it isn’t in compliance with the Islamic laws of finances (and General Islamic laws as well) then it just won’t work. How can we be sure of the “Halal-ity” of the business? Well, we are blessed to be in an age where access to scholars and fatwas is becoming increasingly simple. Simply consult a scholar presenting him with all the nitty gritties of the business venture.
- Do they fear Allah?
Here is a classic case of the cliche, last but certainly not the least. Anyone who has taqwa and fears Allah will know that he will be obligated to answer Allah for all his actions in dunya. In Islam, Allah has promised His infinite mercy upon mankind for the wrongs that they commit in dunya, the wrongs pertaining to the worship of Allah . But with regard to dealings with other human beings, Allah will be Al- Adl; he will be just. And there is no escaping the justice of Allah on the Day of Qiyamah. True believers understand the reality of this. So, would any true Muslim, take on such an insidious venture of scamming an entire community of people? Would anyone dare to put themselves in such a precarious position in the sight of Allah?
How can we avoid falling into the waiting bank accounts of scammers?
Counsel (Ma’shoora and Istikhara)
- Research how to identify a scam. The information you have been reading so far covers just the basics. Delve further. Learn, study and be wary.
- Learn what a legitimate business model offers. Bear in mind, it may have many similarities to what scammers implement (they are clever after all!), but train yourself to notice the nuances that set the two apart. It may not be obvious, but use your skills of perception.
- Understand the vision ahead. A business model without a vision is like a house without its foundation. Is the vision one of positivity and philanthropy ? Or is it just materialism and dunya oriented pleasure? Does it promote giving back? Does it promote unity? Use your skills of reasoning and logic to arrive at these answers.
- Study the model that is offered to you. It may not always make sense. But does the business model seem to be in line with the vision. Use your judgement. Does it all make sense? It’s not essential for it to make perfect sense, but do you have a sound enough understanding?
- Counsel those who are more learned that you are. This is a vital sunnah that can streamline our success. If you have concerns about the Islamic validity of the business, counsel a scholar. If you have concerns about the business aspect of it, speak to an entrepreneur. Remember, there are bigger things out there that we just may not understand. Having the perspective of someone more knowledgeable can definitely alleviate our doubts and either propel us towards the venture or away from it.
- Counselling of the highest form however, lies in the invaluable gift if istikhara. As Muslims, Allah has blessed us with direct communication with Him. No intercessors, no third party. Just you and your Allah. Turn to Him, and you will be guided.
- Dua and reliance on Allah. As Muslims, in any endeavour, we need to first do our part, and then trust in Allah. Anas (ral) reported that a person asked the prophet (PBUH), “Should I tie my camel and have Tawakkul (trust in Allah) or should I leave her untied and have Tawakkul.” The prophet (PBUH) replied, “Tie her and have Tawakkul.” (Hasan) [Jami At-Tirmidhi].
So we do our part. We do our research, make our judgements and seek counsel, ensuring that we are in a constant state of dua all along. Because ultimately, success lies only in the will of Allah.
As brothers and sisters in Islam, it is paramount that we become forces of upliftment for one another. Forces that propel one another towards good, and join hands to thwart evil.
Do we not want to be among those people who, on the day of judgement, are blessed with the shade of Allah’s throne? How can we do that? By loving one another for the sake of Allah. By loving for your brother (or sister), what you love for yourself.
This is one of the ethos that we at Muslim Entrepreneurs Network staunchly believe in. And this was the compelling and collective force that brought together four like minded people, the two Haroon’s and the two Mirza’s: Harun Rashid, Haroon Qureshi, Rocky Mirza and Com Mirza. We are stubborn believers of forward motion, and no one being left behind.
So why have we penned out all this information?
So that you understand what is.
And what isn’t.
As for scammers, well, we’re too smart for them.
And we’re too smart to let our brothers and sisters fall prey to them.
Together, we are an invincible force to be reckoned with.