ON THE (VARIOUS) ASPECTS OF MAKING
1. The real meaning and explanation of sustenance and profit.
Profit is the value realized from human labor.
IT SHOULD B E KNOWN that man, by nature, needs something to feed him and to provide for him in all the conditions and stages of his life from the time of his (early) growth to his maturity and on to his old age. "God is rich, but you are poor." 1 God 2 created everything in the world for man and gave it to him, as indicated in several verses of the Qur'an. He said: "He created for you everything that is in the heavens and on earth. He subjected the sun and the moon to you. He subjected the sea to you. He subjected the firmament to you. He subjected the animals to you." 3 (The same idea is indicated in) many (other) passages of (the Qur'an), Man's hand stretches out over the (whole) world and all that is in it, since God made man His representative on earth.
Every man tries to get things; in this all men are alike. Thus, whatever is obtained by one is denied to the other, unless he gives something in exchange (for it). When (man) has control of himself and is beyond the stage of (his original) weakness, he strives to make a profit, so that he may spend what God gives him to obtain his needs and necessities through barter. God said: "Thus, ask God for sustenance." 4
(Man) obtains (some profit) through no efforts of his own, as, for instance, through rain that makes the fields thrive, and similar things. However, these things are only contributory. His own efforts must be combined with them, as will be mentioned. (His) profits will constitute his livelihood, if they correspond to his necessities and needs. They will be capital accumulation, if they are greater than (his needs). When the use of such accruing or acquired (gain) reverts to a particular human being and he enjoys its fruits by spending it upon his interests and needs, it is called "sustenance." The Prophet said: "The only thing you (really) possess of your property is what you ate, and have thus destroyed; or what you wore, and have thus worn out; or what you gave as charity, and have thus spent." 5
When (a person) does not use (his income) for any of his interests and needs, it is not called "sustenance." (The part of the income) that is obtained by a person through his own effort and strength is called "profit." For instance, the estate of a deceased person is called "profit" with reference to the deceased person. It is not called "sustenance," because the deceased person has no use for it: But with reference to the heirs, when they use it, it is called "sustenance."
This is the real meaning of "sustenance" among orthodox Muslims. The Mu'tazilah stipulated for the use of the term "sustenance" that it must be possessed rightfully. Whatever is not possessed (rightfully) is not called "sustenance" by them.6 Wrongfully acquired property or anything forbidden was not admitted by them as something that could be called "sustenance." Yet, God sustains him who acquires property wrongfully, and also the evildoer, the believer as well as the unbeliever. He singles out whomever He wishes for His mercy and guidance. (The Mu'tazilah) have arguments for their theory of "sustenance." This is not the place to discuss them fully.
It should further be known that profit results from the effort to acquire (things) and the intention to obtain (them). Sustenance requires effort and work, even if one tries to get it and ask for it in the proper ways for getting it.7 God said: "Thus, ask God for sustenance." 8 The effort to (obtain sustenance) depends on God's determination and inspiration. Everything comes from God. But human labor is necessary for every profit and capital accumulation. When (the source of profit) is work as such, as, for instance, (the exercise of) a craft, this is obvious. When the source of gain is animals, plants, or minerals, (this is not quite as obvious, but) human labor is still necessary, as one can see. Without (human labor), no gain will be obtained, and there will be no useful (result).
Furthermore,9 God created the two mineral "stones," gold and silver, as the (measure of) value for all capital accumulations. (Gold and silver are what) the inhabitants of the world, by preference, consider treasure and property (to consist of). Even if, under certain circumstances, other things are acquired, it is only for the purpose of ultimately obtaining (gold and silver). All other things are subject to market fluctuations, from which (gold and silver) are exempt. They are the basis of profit, property, and treasure.
If all this has been established, it should be further known that the capital a person earns and acquires, if resulting from a craft, is the value realized from his labor. This is the meaning of "acquired (capital)." There is nothing here (originally) except the labor, and (the labor) is not desired by itself as acquired (capital, but the value realized from it).
Some crafts are partly associated with other (crafts). Carpentry and weaving, for instance, are associated with wood and yarn (and the respective crafts needed for their production). However, in the two crafts (first mentioned), the labor (that goes into them) is more important, and its value is greater.
If the profit results from something other than a craft, the value of the resulting profit and acquired (capital) must (also) include the value of the labor by which it was obtained. Without labor, it would not have been acquired.
In most such cases, the share of labor (in the profit) is obvious. A portion of the value, whether large or small, comes from (the labor). The share of labor may be concealed. This is the case, for instance, with the prices of foodstuffs. The labor and expenditures that have gone into them show themselves in the price of grain, as we have stated before.10 But they are concealed (items) in regions where farming requires little care and few implements. Thus, only a few farmers are conscious of the (costs of labor and expenditures that have gone into their products).
It has thus become clear that gains and profits, in their entirety or for the most part, are value realized from human labor. The meaning of the word "sustenance" has become clear. It is (the part of the profit) that is utilized. Thus, the meaning of the words "profit" and "sustenance" has become clear. The meaning of both words has been explained.
It should be known that when the (available) labor is all gone or decreases because of a decrease in civilization, God permits profits to be abolished. Cities 11 with few inhabitants can be observed to offer little sustenance and profit, or none whatever, because little human labor (is available). Likewise, in cities with a larger (supply of) labor, the inhabitants enjoy more favorable conditions and have more luxuries, as we have stated before. 12
This is why the common people say that, with the decrease of its civilization, the sustenance of a country disappears. This goes so far that even the flow of springs and rivers stops in waste areas. Springs flow only if they are dug out and the water drawn. This requires human labor. (The conditions) may be compared with the udders of animals. Springs that are not dug out and from which no water is drawn are absorbed and disappear in the ground completely. In the same way, udders dry up when they are not milked. This can be observed in countries where springs existed in the days of their civilization. Then, they fell into ruins, and the water of the springs disappeared completely in the ground, as if it had never existed.
God determines night and day.13