Question # 425: Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh, Is it permissible for a Muslim to work as a marketer for a gym, in which the job tasks include creating advertisements for the gym using picture of men and women not properly covered (wearing American gym attire)? Jazakallah khair
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Some do’s and don’ts of Advertising/ Marketing in general from the Islamic perspective are:
- Intention should be to acquaint people with features of the product/service (brief and to the point);
- Honest disclosure of the reality (fault, if any) of the product without any exaggeration or over-praising, which might encourage the viewer to buy it;
- It should not condemn or belittle others’ products/services;
- It should not contain calling people to be extravagant;
- It should not violate the sanctity of the pure shari’ah (haraam products, accompanied by music and singing, showing women, showing men without covering ‘awrah);
- It should not be so expensive that the consumer has to pay towards the cost of the advertisement.
Next, in principle, it is permissible to work as marketer, but with reference to your question and the point 5. mentioned above, creating advertisements for the gym using picture of men and women without covering their ‘awrah is forbidden for it will propagate the spread of fornication and adultery in the society by inciting people’s desires. Nonetheless, if you are in a dire necessity for earning your sustenance, it is permissible to do this job, but as soon as you find another permissible job, you are obliged to leave it immediately.
Long Answer: [Before we answer the question, we will discuss the do’s and don’ts of Advertising/ Marketing in general from the Islamic perspective.] The idea of advertising in order to attract business is one of the modern ideas that cannot be regarded as being exempt from the general Islamic principles governing transactions. But because, in many cases, this method of attracting business has gone too far, we have to mention these general principles in detail, paying special attention to the aims of Shari’ah and correct etiquette. This includes the following points:
- The businessman must have a good intention when advertising, i.e. his intention should be to acquaint people with the advantages of his goods or services, to draw their attention to things they did not know about them, and to provide other information that they may need about them.
- He must always be honest in his advertising; what he says must reflect the reality of the product or service. Honesty is an essential fundamental in all dealings, but especially in selling. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: The two parties engaged in a transaction have the choice of either going ahead with the transaction or canceling it, until they part. If they are open and honest, their transaction will be blessed for them, but if they conceal things and tell lies, that will destroy the Barakah (blessing) of their transaction. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim), from the hadith of Hakeem ibn Hizaam). One of the essential means of being honest is to avoid over-praising a product or service or exaggerating about it, for this could go beyond the bounds of being open and honest. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: Try not to praise products to one another (Al-Tirmidhi), i.e., the vendor should not praise it in order to encourage the one who hears him to buy it, so that the only reason he buys it is what the vendor says. Some of the scholars counted praise of a product for what it is as a kind of insane or senseless speech from which people should refrain. The guideline here is that the vendor should refrain from saying anything which could later result in regret on the part of the purchaser.
- The vendor should avoid any kind of cheating and deception in his advertising; i.e., he should not make the product appear more attractive than it is, or conceal its faults, or praise it in terms of characteristics and features that it does not have. All of this is haraam, as stated above.
- A vendor’s advertisement should not include any condemnation or belittling of any other person’s products or services, and it should not try to cause harm unjustly to others. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: None of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and by Muslim, from the hadith of Anas ibn Maalik). The guideline here is that if something would cause him distress if it were done to him, he should not do it to others. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: There should be no harm and no reciprocating of harm. (Narrated by Ahmad and by Ibn Maajah from the hadith of Ubaadah ibn Saamit).
- The advertising should contain nothing that calls people to be extravagant or to spend too much, because these are things that are forbidden in Islam. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “…and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He likes not Al-Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance). (Soorah al-Anaam, 6:141) “But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayaateen (devils) (Soorah al-Israa, 17:26-27)
- The advertising should contain nothing that violates the sanctity of the pure shari’ah, such as advertising haraam things or being accompanied by things that are not allowed, such as music and singing, or showing women, and so on.
- The advertising should not be so expensive that the consumer has to pay towards the cost of the advertising. It should be brief and to the point, concisely describing the product or service without going to extremes that may cause the price to be raised.
[With reference to the point 6. mentioned above,] in Islamic shari’ah, one of the principles of permissible business [or employment] is that it should not be something by means of which Allah is disobeyed, so it should not be a means of sinning or lead to falling into haraam. When Islam forbids a thing, it also forbids everything that may lead to it or help with it, and Islam enjoins blocking all the means that lead to it. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Help you one another in Al‑Birr and At‑Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment” (Soorah al-Ma’idah, 5:2)
(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on similar topics)
[As regards to working as marketer, in principle this is permissible; but,] with regard to [creating advertisements for the gym using picture of men and women without covering their ‘Awrah], it is forbidden … as they propagate for the spread of fornication and adultery, so one must avoid them as they spread corruption and evil [fornication and adultery] and incite one’s desires. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “Indeed, those who like that the crime of illegal sexual intercourse should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter.” (Soorah an-Noor, 24:20)
[Based on the above,] it is not permissible for you to take this job unless you are in a dire necessity, like for the purpose of earning your sustenance and the like. In which case, it becomes permissible for you to do this job due to the dire necessity. However, as soon as you find another permissible job, you are obliged to leave it immediately.
(Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.