Thursday, January 22, 2009

Islam and Marketing

Since I have a presentation tomorrow for which I haven't even chosen an article, research work to be done for API, more than 20 marketing articles to be discovered and analysed and tens of chapters to be read before the end of this month, it is natural that I do anything but what I am supposed to do.

So here goes an article which I had written in BBA II for the Iqra Society. Hope you like it!

''In this rapidly industrializing world, where science never ceases to create new wonders, where the fashion and film industries flourish and where markets introduce hundreds of new commodities, services and even brands to consumers each year, hence prosper, it is a pity that the general ethical, moral and religious standards move quite in the opposite direction. Of course, it would be unjust to blame only one factor for this deterioration of humanity because one evil gives birth to the other and hence, creates a whole web or rather cycle of anti-social elements. These factors definitely vary in their intensities and so do their magnitudes. And these elements are so deeply entwined that it becomes a complex task to distinguish the merits and demerits of one from the other’s. Furthermore, the chore becomes even more challenging when an attempt is made towards improving these moral conditions by classifying phenomena into ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. In such an event when logic fails to define these relative issues and where consensus is desired, Islam, in my opinion serves as the rope that ties humanity together.

As Muslims, we must seek and are in fact accountable to improve the conditions of whatever areas of life we dwell in. Today, we are business students and tomorrow will bring us a lot of opportunities to prove ourselves one way or the other. Apparently, we usually do study about application of ethics in the corporate world but the theories get lost somewhere in the struggle to stand out amongst one’s peers and to impress one’s superiors. In such events it is only the fear of Allah and the Hereafter that guides one to the right way. For many ‘marketing’ may be the key-word. Yes, I see marketing as a pillar today which supports businesses unconditionally and goes to any length to promote the product at hand no matter what. Hence, it is the duty of the individuals behind shaping the marketing industry. Islam can and should be used as the sole guide for it is in my opinion ‘extremely moderate’ (perplexed???)

There are many modes of marketing, several of which, fortunately, have still not found their way into our country. However, the ones those exist are misleading enough and need to done something about. Below, I have tried to put how many aspects of advertisements and other marketing techniques go against Islam, hence, are socially, morally and ethically wrong, even if we fail to recognize them as so.


And cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when ye know (what it is). 

(Verse 42, Chapter 2(Surah Al-Baqara)) 

Normally salespersons blow the positive points of the product at hand out  of proportion. Apart from the exaggeration, advertisers deliberately leave out the undesirable features. The verse above asks to strike balance among all the facets of the subject telling all the facts in the right proportion. Hence, it would also inform consumers about the adverse effects of the product and save many users from health problems and other hassles.


Advertising agencies are created to advertise and only advertise. Had they had any ethical values, curses such as cigarettes, drinks, etc would never be portrayed in such a positive manner which lures our youth into trying them and into even further evils. However, the brainchild behind a successful ad himself knows the harms and avoids it. The models too, who apparently make huge claims about products do not themselves believe in it. Hence, their claims are nothing but out right lies.

Most loathsome is it in the sight of God that you say what you do not do! 

(verse 3, Surah 61( Surah Saff))

Allah hates hypocrisy. Naturally, if we stick to the right path, we won’t even have the need of using these sinful tricks.


We saw earlier that the advertising industry is blind and does not care about its methods. Furthermore it does not even care about the nature of product it sells. In fact, even in a Muslim country like Pakistan, we do see advertisements of contemporary banks, on our television sets, in spite of the fact that Riba (usury) has been declared a major sin.

That they took riba (usury), through they were forbidden and that they devoured men’s substance wrongfully – We have prepared for those among men who reject faith a grievous punishment.” 

(Verse 161, Chapter 4(Surah Ni’sa))

In fact, foreign channels, which we frequently watch, also advertise drinks, haraam edibles and other forbidden things.Repeated exposure to such advertisements can if not make us use these products, at least lessen our resistance towards them, ultimately carrying us away from Islam which asks to condemn the wrong according to our capacities.


One of the worst features of marketing today is violation of the limits prescribed by the Quran and Sunnah regarding Hijab. Today, we hardly find a billboard, a tv ad or poster without an attractive woman. The westerners, in the name of art, culture and ‘liberalism’ make their mothers and daughters’ beauties public to be view and ‘enjoyed’. And hijab is not just limited to the extent we cover our bodies up to. According to the our Prophet (PBUH) it has six basic conditions :

1. The extent should be covered (from naval to the knee, for man and the whole body except the face, hands and feet, for women)

2. The attire should not resemble that of some opposite religion.

3. The attire should not resemble that of the opposite gender.

4. The clothes should not be close-fitting and reveal the figure.

5. The cloth should not be translucent.

6. A Muslim’s robes should not reflect worldly honour.

However, almost all of these conditions are violated in advertisements and go unnoticed because we have incorporated them in our lives and become habitual. In fact, the advertising/ modeling industry has recently affected our minds so much that many men today have started adopting feminine characteristics in their attires in the name of ‘metro sexuality’.

Furthermore, it must be noted that hijab is not just restricted to clothes. A Muslim is required to display decency is his body language, while interacting with the opposite gender and even in solitude. However, today we see transverse waves coming from the ad industry.


Marketing obviously has modes other than television ads as well. Today corporations look out for prominent social events like seminars, conferences and even graduation ceremonies or corporate dinners and if approached in a convincing way grant huge sums of money as sponsors. The aid is primarily given so that the sponsors may get a chance to advertise themselves and share the credit for the success of the event. It must be noted that these events though do have a sensible vision but are so much draped by unnecessary worldly pomp and show that it becomes unpleasant in the sight of Allah.  The speakers or chief guests if coming from off station areas are kept at 5-star hotel rooms with costs more than what is required. The interior of the venue is so decorated that violates all the rules of simplicity and humility taught to us by Islam. Definitely, the marketing sector is not to be completely blamed here. As, previously mentioned, this corruption is more like a cycle than any thing else.


The prophet said, "From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, 'Return to us tomorrow.' Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection."

No. 5226 (The Book of Drinks), Sahih AlBukhari

Most may think that an advertisement without music will be lifeless but it is not so. Today, we can easily capture natural sounds and with sound editing softwares, (without manipulating the original piece) enhance its pleasant features. For instance, Peace TV, a 24-hour Islamic channel, owned by the IRF (Islamic Research Foundation) uses sounds of waves, birds, water, etc to make their presentations attractive. It also extracts portions from Nasheeds.


We usually see that negative elements have more permittivity than positive ones. Hence, one wrong act supports the other which may be even worse. Social sectors, specially the ones that deal directly with masses of people, just as the marketing industry have very spontaneous and long lasting effects on people.

However, as Muslims it is all up to us how we set our priorities.

“O my people! This life of the present is nothing but (temporary) enjoyment: it is the Hereafter that is the Home that will last.” 

(verse 39, Chapter 40, Surah Mu’minun)

 May Allah bless with guidance all those who seek it. Ameen.''