بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
Sheikh Suleiman Anwar has received many inquires/questions about selling products that one does not actually own. Many of the questions/inquires where in relation to buying and selling on the internet.
It is not permissible to sell anything that is not owned by the seller, or for which the owner has not given him/her permission to sell. In other words, it is permissible to sell a product(s) only if he/she owns the product, or if the owner of the product has given him/her permission to sell it.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: If you buy something, do not resell it until you possess it.
He (ﷺ) also said: The condition of a loan combined with a sale is not lawful, nor two conditions relating to one transaction, nor selling what is not in your possession.
He (ﷺ) also said: Do not sell that which you do not have.
Moreover, logic dictates that if one is not allowed to sell a product without possessing it first, then it is certainly more problematic to sell something one does not even own.
However, as the owner of the product(s) is entitled to grant permission to anyone he wishes to sell his product(s), the seller may sell the product (he does not own) when he/she has the owner’s permission to do so. There is absolutely no evidence form the Quran and/or the Sunnah that an owner of something cannot appoint or have another sell his product(s). And, this was practiced during the time of the Prophet (ﷺ).
It would be unjust (and therefore prohibited) to give the buyer of a product the false impression that the seller owns something he/she does not actually own, and therefore depriving the buyer from doing business where the product is actually owned by the seller and available for sale. It would also be unjust (and therefore prohibited) to sell something that does not belong to you, without the permission of the owner.
There is another potential problem: one who does not own or in possession of a product, does not know what is the state or condition of that product. The Prophet (ﷺ):
It is not allowed for a muslim to sell to his brother goods which are defective, except that he explains or reveals it to him.
Also, Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. (4:135)
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ خَوَّانًا أَثِيمًا
Verily, Allah does not like anyone who is a betrayer of his trust, and indulges in crime. (4:107)
Furthermore, not owning the product could easily result in defaulting on the delivery of the product to the buyer, as there are no guarantees that the product is actually available. Therefore, having the permission by the owner of the product to the seller of the product is essential to make it a just/fair transaction, and therefore permissible.
Given what is mentioned above, it is obligatory that the person buying and selling products on the internet (which he/she does not own or is in possession of) receive permission from the owner to sell his/her merchandize. It is prohibited to sell anything not owned by the seller without the permission of the owner.
The following part of this fatwa is applicable strictly to women, who by the command of Allah are required to stay in their homes (except for when it is absolutely necessary to leave their homes), and who have no husband or mehrem man (blood relative not eligible for marriage) financially supporting them. Allah says:
وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ
And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance… (33:33)
It is also obligatory upon the women buying and selling products on the internet, which she does not possess, but for which she has received permission to sell (from the owner), to inform his/her buyers that she is not in possession of such product(s), and cannot offer guarantees of its availability/delivery or that the product(s) are free of defects. If she does not have permission from the owner to sell his/her product(s), the transaction is prohibited (haram). Not abiding by this would be sinful, and therefore under the threat of punishment from Allah.
And Allah knows best…